Another year with Fotobuzz, part deux.

By Tom Dullage 217 | 02-01-2016

Having only made it to June, in part one, I have now sorted a few more pictures, which I hope will complete the story of my 2015 photography year.

As part of our Fotobuzz Farnes weekend, a number of us elected to stay on for Sunday evening and Monday morning, to take part in a landscape workshop, led by Andrew. Sunday evening saw us gathered on the beach, next to Bamburgh Castle, under instruction to go and look for detail in the landscape and not to focus just on the castle. Some stunning photographs were taken, by a very enthusiastic group of Fotobuzzers.

On Monday, we spent the morning on Holy Island, with some more challenges, set by Andrew. These sessions really get the creative juices flowing, after that initial "I haven't a clue what to do!" Below is a zoom burst shot of a rusty mooring ring that I found on the rocky shore. Another new technique and one I intend to try again, given a suitable subject.

One of my personal projects was to try to document the year at my local Wildlife Trust nature reserve, at Heysham. I volunteer with the trust on Thursdays, as often as possible, and occasionally at weekends and other days, if needed. It has proved to be a very fulfilling activity, with lots of variety, that is also helping me to learn about my local wildlife.

I spent a happy, if at times frustrating, hour or so trying to photograph hoverflies in flight on one of the woodland paths on the reserve. The picture below is one of the more successful attempts, which I have used on a business card. Taken hand held, manual focus, ISO 800, 1/1250 sec at f6.3, with my Nikon 28-300 lens at 300mm.

In July, Pauline and I spent a couple of nights on Skomer, not a Fotobuzz trip, but very much inspired by the Farnes trips. The big advantage of Skomer is being able to stay overnight, which means I could take advantage of early morning and late evening light, with very few other visitors present. Certainly a great experience and one that we both want to repeat.

The picture below was taken, ironically enough, around mid-morning, in pretty dull light, but it does illustrate another advantage of Skomer, namely the Camomile flowers that provide a great background for the Puffins.

Jumping forward to late September, I was looking for inspiration for the black and white Fotomission. Big cats seemed a likely subject, so off we went, once again, to South Lakes Safari Zoo, where I took pictures of birds and animals that might look good in monochrome. There were a number of possibles,but, in the end, I opted for a nice, natural looking picture of a Jaguar, which, I'm very pleased to say, was judged a runner up, by our mentors, Andy and Andrew. Another candidate for the competition was the picture below, quite dramatic, with lovely direct eye contact, it was very difficult to decide which to enter!

In October I spent a great day in Derbyshire, on a one to one workshop with Alex Hyde. Those of you who were at the Fotobuzz conference will remember the brilliant presentation by Alex. My project on the nature reserve has involved quite a bit of macro work, as there are more plants and insects about, most of the time, than larger subjects. It was Andy who urged me to contact Alex about a workshop, when I mentioned, during the Farnes weekend, that I was doing quite a bit of macro, but felt that much of it was resulting in record shots.

After some time spent indoors, with Mantids and a Scorpion, among other subjects, Alex took me to a nearby woodland, where we spent quite a bit of time photographing a couple of different fungi, the one below is a Porcelain Fungus. Alex showed me how to use off camera flash and reflectors, mixed with natural light, resulting in some stunning images.

As I've mentioned previously, one of the delights of Fotobuzz is the contact with other members and the opportunity for meet ups with some of them. I would never have dreamt, a couple of years ago, that I would be travelling half way around the world for such a meeting, but, thanks again to Fotobuzz, Pauline and I met my fellow buzzer, Victoria, and her husband, Dean, in New Zealand! We had been hoping to visit New Zealand for a number of years and I had talked, via the lounge, to Victoria, about the possibility.

As it happened, Victoria was coming to the UK in 2014 and we were able to meet at a Fotobuzz workshop at the British Wildlife Centre, in Surrey. We had a brief meeting, before the workshop, at a nearby pub, where Victoria presented me, and fellow buzzer Howard, with lots of tourist information and a tea towel map of New Zealand, as well as giving us lots of useful advice about a possible New Zealand trip.

Victoria left us in no doubt that she would be very put out, if we didn't spend some time with her and Dean, when we came to New Zealand!

So, when Pauline and I finally made the trip, arriving late in October, we spent a very pleasant few days staying with Victoria and Dean on their farm, at Coopers Creek, near Oxford. Victoria showed us around the farm and we spent several early morning sessions stalking Brown Hares, among other things. The picture below was taken during one such session, thanks, Victoria!

In all, we spent 6 weeks travelling, on both North and South Islands and, in addition to the first few days, we spent another, unplanned, weekend with Victoria and Dean. The last few days of our trip, at the beginning of December, were spent on the Banks Peninsula, where we had an amazing boat trip in Akaroa Harbour, seeing Orcas and Hectors Dolphins, one of the highlights of our holiday. The Dolphins put on quite a show for us, as you can see from the picture below.

One final picture, for no better reason than that I like Snow Leopards, especially cubs! It is another photograph, though, that I wouldn't have got, in my pre-Fotobuzz days. Largely due to what I've learned here, about photography and animal behaviour, through workshops and articles by Andy and Andrew, I was able to anticipate the cub climbing the tree and get set up, so that I was ready when it got into this position and looked straight at me. What a stunning animal and a very special moment.

Well, that brings me to the end of my 2015 review, I hope you've enjoyed it. Not everything I've done, photographically, has been with or about Fotobuzz, of course, but I do sincerely believe that my two years of membership have had a huge, positive, impact on my photography. Not just my photography, though, the community spirit and opportunity to interact with fellow members all over the UK and on several continents has made these last two years really special and I look forward to more of the same in 2016.

If you want to improve your photography and meet like minded people, in a friendly and relaxed community, you couldn't do better than joining us, so I hope I'll be meeting lots of new members soon!



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