Return to the BWC

I was so impressed with what I saw at the centre and also with the general atmosphere of the place that I decided to go back as soon as I could. This time though there was no meet up, so I had to get from train station to centre on my own power.
It was a great morning, misty, but not too cold and the sky promised a cloud free day! I could have snapped many shots along the way, but as I had little idea of where exactly the centre was I didn’t want to risk slowing down on the way there.

And after wandering round the area for an hour I found myself a back at the train station! There were no brown signs to the place – so I was lost! I looked on the map and made for the local library – not too far off – under the hope that even if the staff did not know the way there would be a local OS map there for me to use. Luckily the librarian knew the way and an hour later (one hour late ;)) I made it to the centre – a bit out of breath, but the walk did me good (though I hasten to add that the major rout there is along a long stretch of main road with no provision for pedestrians. There is a footpath locally though which will cut off a good chunk of this road and its advisable to take that rout.

Anyway back to the important things – firstly there was a difference – Milo was in residence!

f4, ISO 400, 1/40sec

A hand reared barn owl who sits in the entrance/dining area and greets the guests. He enjoys being stroked and even does a funny little dance (sort of shuffling from foot to foot – I need a 5DM2 to capture it!). Makes a difference to get a hands on feel at the zoo!


Well after being otter mad last time, it was the turn of the foxes. However they were pretending to be cats today

f5, ISO 200, 1/1000sec

f4, ISO 100, 1/640sec

f5.6, ISO 100, 1/320sec
Though like all sleeping animals – if you can get the right angle on them it can make a shot 🙂

And speaking of pretending – this fox was trying to be a wolf!
f4, ISO 200, 1/400sec
That or he has an itch!
Not a natural low-key shot this one, but the background areas were dark, so I boosted the blacks to get a low-key effect.

With promise of food though (dead chicks in this case), the foxes awakened and began hunting the blue bucket of food!

f5.6, ISO 100, 1/200sec
A bit more space on the left – in the direction the fox is facing – would have been nice in this shot

f5, ISO 100, 1/200sec

f8, ISO 100, 1/50sec
Risky shot since any movement from the fox would have blurred at that speed; and without lens IS in use handshake would also have blurred the shot. However going for f8 was worth it to get so much depth to the face – their long faces need that smaller aperture and greater depth of field.

IMG_1851contrast mask
f4, ISO 100, 1/640sec
A shame that I got the focus slightly wrong – its just missed the eyes in this shot, however I still very much like this one. I have also used a contrast mask on this shot to selectively soften the whites of the shot. One can make a contrast mask using one of the following guides and I consider it well worth experimenting with. Its effect is similar to that of shadows and highlights, but I prefer the contrast mask overall.
Contrast mask

f4, ISO 100, 1/320sec
One of my most favourite shots – close distance and a wide aperture combined to give a great blurred background and tack sharp results in the fox – that they eye is just facing the camera is the winning part!
I also used a contrast mask on this shot as well as adjusting the hues. In the hue editing I set the colour to Cyan and selectively desaturating the cyan all the way and it removed a slight cyan (blueish) colouring from the whites – making them much more white.

IMG_1406b2 copy
f5, ISO 100, 1/320sec
One of my problem shots – this is a crop from a larger version and I think the biggest distraction, for me, is the that the left eye is so much darker than the right. With the lighting all coming from the right one could only have used fillflash to boost the lighting in the shadowed areas – exposing for the darker side would be risking blown highlights on the right side. If given the choice I find it much easier to work a darker area into a shot than a blown out area.

f6.3, ISO 100, 1/100sec
Proof that good exposure is not all that there is to photography. The back end being hacked off as it is a big distraction and breaks the composition of the shot – one could crop this shot to try and restore the balance to it. Ideally one would get it right in the field – its always best to avoid cropping at much as possible – but of course not to avoid using it if the occasion demands it.


And first up is a bleached grey squirrel!

f5.6, ISO 100, 1/160sec
Ok it’s not really bleached – it’s an albino grey squirrel. This was a very tricky shot, not only because of the fact that the pen was rather dark, but more because squirrel enclosures tend to have very fine gauge wire over them which means your lens has to be right up to the cage to get a shot without bars in it. I was lucky that he was sleeping and let me take the shot

f5.6, ISO 400, 1/60sec
As you can see, even on a bright day, I have had to use a high ISO in the squirrel enclosure because of all the shade – it makes for tricky shooting since they are such active creatures (remember there is also the fine gauge wire to deal with as well).

f5, ISO 400, 1/80sec

f4, ISO 400, 1/160sec

Sometimes we are handed fantastic sights to shoot – either in the zoos, the wild, the garden etc… Often we only get one shot at these sights and its always a pleasure to just be able to see and record the slight – getting it recorded really well is a fantastic thing. Sadly sometimes we fail;

f4, ISO 400, 1/400sec
At these ISOs one needs to get the focus right – otherwise details get hit hard by noise. I was operating at a wide aperture since he was running all over the place, so I was trying to capture the motion – then he paused for a split moment in this pose – and my focus hit his chest and missed his eyes and face. A great shame, but still a shot that I am proud to have taken.


f8, ISO 100, 1/40sec
Again going for more facial depth at a close up angle with a bird – this kestrel is great he/she will fly and perch right up close – downside is that its in a corner and its very easy to get the bars showing through behind – one could remove them from the shot though with some time in editing.

f7.1, ISO 100, 1/30sec
Not quite sure, but I think that the background is the result of the mesh between me and the bird.

f4, ISO 100, 1/400sec


f5.6, ISO 100, 1/400sec


f5, ISO 100, 1/500sec

f5.6, ISO 100, 1/160sec

f5, ISO 100, 1/320sec

Playful little creatures – I think I might have boosted the reds a bit strong on these three shots – but still they came out really well I think.


f5, ISO 200, 1/1600sec
This is a rare shot (for me at least) getting the depth of field to cover the whole animal as it has without having a fully clear background. I really like this shot and its one of the few of the deer that I have taken which I am happy with.

f5.6, ISO 200, 1/800sec

f8, ISO 200, 1/320sec

f8, ISO 200, 1/400sec

Well in the last 3 shots you can see a repeating pattern where my shooting has failed in framing the scene. I was trying to get as close to the head and antlers as I could, but I just did not have the reach. I should have cut back and got the legs and backend of the deer in the shots – that would have been better.
One thing I did get right (and it took me all day to) was to remember to use ISO 200 rather than 100 – the noise difference between the two on my camera is not that much and in a good exposure ISO 200 is perfectly usable. Using it over ISO 100 gives me more shutter speed to work with – an important component in wildlife photography – since whilst one can work with a noisy and/or underexposed shot, one cannot do anything with unintentional motion blur.

And that was the trip – a good second trip and I got some great keepers from it. A few things I need to brush up on, but overall a great success.
Link to flickr set for this day


One Response to “Return to the BWC”

  1. Amazing! I am an avid nature enthusiast and really would love the opportunity to take some great photos like these.

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