How I battled the elements to capture Scotland's wildlife on camera
I love photography and I love wildlife.
So what better way to combine my passions Done with the photography expedition where I would hopefully learn what it takes to get great shot of brilliant creatures like the osprey, pine marten, and the illusive red squirrel.
Armed with some of the best photography equipment around, my trip would take me 600 miles from down here in London
Right the way up the country, to the Cairngorm National Park, in the heart of the Scottish Highlands.
Stopping off of course, at the Tebay Services farm shop, for some really rather excellent biscuits.
After about nine hours of driving, it's time to get familiar with the cottage.
So there's a car outside of course, in the rain, safely in the rain.
And there's a kitchen, we have a living room with sofas and chairs.
Lovely conservatory in here We're right in the middle of the forest here as well.
And a Scottish Field magazine with chickens.
Downstairs bedroom, single bed and a desk.
Looks like here is the router so this bed is where I'm gonna get the strongest signal.
Strongest being the operative work because it probably of course it has Strongman Popeye on the bed.
Ooh, I can play Twister by myself.
And look at all these VHSes, Scotch VHSes, JVC and Memorex.
What we got here?
BBC's Pride and Prejudice on VHS.
En suite, two single beds, bathroom.
And there's a twin room with a, looks like a goose and a Care Bear and some sort of psychedelic elephant.
So there we go.
There's the upstairs.
I might not use the upstairs.
It has occurred to me slightly that The guy staying alone in a cabin in a forest, is a horror movie setting which is being really rather overdone.
I think it'll be fine.
I guess, I hope.
In order to be prepared for any [INAUDIBLE] situation that might occur, I brought a big stack of equipment with me.
Look at it all.
Cannon 6D, 5D3, wide angle lens, macro lens, sigma, 150 to 600 [INAUDIBLE], Canon's, massive Well it's a Canon isn't it.
My 70 to 200 and a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod to keep everything still.
So I'm up, got coffee, it's 3:30 in the morning, I've got to meet the photographer at 4 o'clock where we're going to go and then get into his hide and hopefully find some ospreys, he did tell me last night over the phone that there is a chance that cuz we have a lot of rain The hide might actually been flooded in which case if we go in it, we will drown, it's horribly early in the morning, it's not quite day light outside yet and [UNKNOWN] like less of a good idea that it did last night given that I'd only have about Maybe two hours' sleep.
I'm off to a hide next to a lake in the nearby town of Aviemore.
Little more than a ditch in a ground, this hide will hopefully let me get closeup shots of the ospreys without them being alerted to my presence.
I've been in here a couple of hours now.
The light is terrible so I'm having to use Awful settings so my shots aren't coming out very well.
We've had a few birds trying to grab some fish from the lake, but they're not doing a great job of it.
And I've not doing a great job of capturing them, which is a disappointment.
The weather is only getting worse, it's raining.
See how cloudy it is?
Which means it's not only unusually dim, it's just this horrible, gray, light.
There's no controlling when the birds show up, of course.
So my morning involves a lot of waiting, And waiting and waiting.
So far this morning this is certainly one of the best shot's I've got.
[UNKNOWN] this guy.
You can see reasonably sharp on the eye but had to use such a abnormally slow shutter speed and a high iso that It's just not that great.
And the light is just nothing like what I pictured it would be.
Just two days ago the weather was completely different, they had this gorgeous golden light, it was bright.
They showed me some of the photos that people got from there and they looked stunning, this lovely backlight to the birds.
Pin sharp, great colors.
It looks amazing, it could not be any more different just two days later which is extremely frustrating.
Cuz the weather forecast over the next few days doesn't look like it's going to pick up so I think my opportunities for those Beautifully lit dramatic shots.
They're gonna be a bit limited.
Also I'm a bit too tall for this hide and I keep banging my head on these struts.
Day one has been a disappointment to say the least.
The rain is still Coming down hasn't stopped all day.
I have been looking for the shelter I have got nothing particularly impressive and sadly nothing am even remotely pleased with considering how much effort I've gone to to come here.
In my head I'm already writing a story about how failure is okay and what you can Still learn from this sort of thing, at the end of the day I'm still expected to write this article with paid plenty of money for me to be here in this cottage for a week, I've gotta write something.
Tomorrow morning I'm heading to, there is a cafe in the middle of a forest, which has A good reputation for having a variety of different birds and red squirrels feeding right outside.
They know I'm gonna be there from about 5 o'clock.
They don't even open until 10 o'clock, so I've got pretty much the full reign of the place for a few hours before people start showing up.
So really hoping I can get some good shots there Failing that, my lifeline will be the hide I'm booked into on Sunday evening where I'm hoping to be able to get some nice shots of badgers and pine marten.
But even then if it's raining that hard, which it's currently forecast to, They may not even show up at all, so that could be several hours of me sitting in a box in the woods in the dark in the middle of the night for literally no good reason.
Here's hoping the weather improves after a decent night sleep.
I have another pre-sunrise start, but this time I'm off to a local cafe that's known for its visiting birds and squirrels.
And for it's cake.
I got some fair shots from the cafe, but poor light meant that nothing looked brilliant.
As I ventured up to the Grassmoor, it was clear that the weather was only going to get worse.
I'm having really no luck whatsoever, very disappointing.
Don't quite know what I'm going to do.
There goes my hood, fantastic.
I am drenched and my hair is looking awesome.
I guess I'm just gonna have to wait and see.
Very, very bad times indeed.
It really is just awful out there.
The rain isn't stopping at all.
It's freezing cold, my hands feel numb.
It was just supposed to be summer.
Scotland and I greatly differ on our definition of summer.
The weather looked a bit brighter on the morning of day three, so I went back to the hide for a second attempt to capture the amazing ospreys on camera.
We've got better weather, it's still gray, but it's the light is much, much better.
So I've already had a few good shots coming out, nothing Spectacular but so much better than I was getting the other day.
Luckily my perseverance was paying off.
The brighter lights meant I was getting sharper shots of the birds with the action nicely frozen.
That's a bit more like it.
With the good set of shots in the bag, I went back to the molds from yesterday to get some proper photos of the lovely red grass.
What a difference today makes though, it's not raining, it's not as cold, there's a lot more of light, I'm getting much better photos.
I haven't got as many.
Wildlife shots so far as I hope to get, so I kind of want to basically fill the blank.
Literally fill the blank pages of the magazine with kind of anything of interest.
So I've come down to the side of the lake.
I found this nice Line of rocks coming out, which I thought would make a really good shot for a long exposure.
So I've got my LEE big stopper filters attached on the tripod, of course.
And I've got my remote release doing a bulb exposure about a minute to hopefully get some nice, silky smooth water and maybe even some movement in the clouds.
Although there's not a lot of wind, so these clouds aren't moving.
All that much but we'll see what we get.
And the day just gets better and better.
The sun came out and I was able to take off my three jackets.
I've been out and about all over the place.
I've been over a car bridge Long exposure stuff with the river tumbling underneath it.
And now I've parked up at the end of this trackway, and I'm on my way down to Loch Var.
This small fishing house I've been told about, which could make me some really nice shots.
And we may see some wildlife down there, we may not.
It may just be about seeing the nature and getting sort of general Landscape shot.
Either way I don't mind, because it's a beautiful place we're walking down.
Sky's blue, sun shining, it's going pretty well now.
It's amazing to think that this is Scotland not somewhere in Canada.
Somewhere else luxurious.
And yesterday it was chucking it down with rain.
Windy as all hell and I couldn't get anything.
And today this.
It's now about half five.
I've been on the go a long time.
Haven't really eaten, so it's definitely dinner time I think.
I think I've earned it.
The question is what to have?
Beef, I think beef, steak,
It's my last evening.
This is Sunday.
Today, I've been out up the mountain which has been great.
I've been spending quite a lot of time actually going through all the photos I've been taking back in the cottage.
Had a nice lunch and now I'm getting ready to go to the high in the middle of the forest, where I'm hoping Just need some badges and pine marten.
I've certainly got some decent shots of other things so far.
So it would be kind of like a nice extra to have if it works out.
It's got to be in there for about nine, and I think she'll be there until certainly past midnight if not 2:00ish.
So it's gonna be a late one.
but I'm driving Back to London and won't go until tomorrow.
It's about 600 miles so might need a few strategic naps in service stations on the way so that I'm not too tired to make the distance.
But yes been a good- it's been a good trip.
Wanting to hide.
I barely have time to prepare my equipment before the first pine martin family made their appearance.
There are pine martins feeding right in front of me.
These are pine martins, wild pine martins.
And with very little care.
And it's early, about half past nine, but here they are.
There's three of them.
That looks like the mother, and two kittens as they're called.
[SOUND] One, two.
I was wrong, we've got four, there's two there, you can see on the table.
running off two more.
There they go, away up that path.
So that really was incredible.
Well, I've been here about 15 minutes.
The guide had left to hide, within 5 minutes of him having left I look out the window and there's four, four Pine Martins already here, already feeding.
I thought I'd be waiting here a good couple of hours before I maybe saw one if there's any guarantee of them arriving at all, and within minutes there's four there.
It's absolutely incredible and such a joy to see them this close.
It really is amazing.
Now I'm just seeing over in the distance there's a whole group of wild deer.
And I'd love to get some photos of those guys around here, but I am somewhat stuck, as it were, in this hide.
If I leave now at any point, even just to nip outside to go to the toilet, I'll disturb the wild life, they'll hear the noise, they'll catch my scent, and it will mean that not only will they disappear now, but they definitely won't come back for the rest of this evening.
The people who operate this hid have to be very strict, that once you're in, you're in.
There are now four Badgers two outside here.
Two on the other side, so wherever I choose to stand, gonna see the badgers.
Such amazing little things.
Seeing them up close like this is fantastic.
Badger does not care that I'm this close.
He can definitely see me, I'm sure.
He can probably smell me as well, they've got amazing senses of smell.
But he's far too focused on the nuts on the ground.
This badger is probably about a foot and a half from me look there's my hand, there's the badger.
So it's now twenty past three in the morning and I'm just leaving the hide.
It is super early, or super late, I suppose I should say.
And knowingly I do have a nine hour drive to do today back to London but I may have to a have a bit of a sleep first.
It's been a good night though and well worth it, got some great shots of the Pine marten and the badger both species put in great appearances 3:20 am.
I don't know what I was thinking.
Thanks to multiple copies stops along the way, I did it eventually make it back to London in one piece.
I did learn a lot of important lessons on the way.
I can go to a stunning location with some of the best camera equipment around, but if the weather doesn't play ball then you're going home with nothing.
Thankfully though, I did have some success and it was because of the knowledge I gained from the local guide.
As well as my own shear perseverance and battling through the element.
That I thankfully came a way with many of the shot when I set out to get.
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