Category Archives: reports

Birds of the Swedish Winter

The amazing goshawk which delighted the photographers in front of their hide photographed by Robin Lowry during the NaturesLens Golden Eagles of the Swedish Winter Photography Holiday

Ok, let me start by talking about the elephant in the room for the 2020 Birds of the Swedish Winter tour! On this holiday, the golden eagles did not visit us, even though they were in the area. There could be a few reasons why this may have happened. We know that one of the male area eagles had gone missing & we believe it may have sadly died. We are patiently waiting to see when another young male eagle takes over its territory. Also, the weather could be some of the reason too, by not being cold enough. The temperature was above zero for a lot of the time, which is too warm for some of the eagles that live in this area to be hungry to come in & feed. There are around five different golden eagle nest sites within this territory. With so many potential eagles to visit, it was extraordinary not to see any at all here on this trip. Sadly, the eagle not showing up has happened only once before around 8-9 years ago during the 35 years Conny has been monitoring & watching the eagles, so it’s uncommon for this to have occurred.

NaturesLens plan this trip for when the eagles are the most likely to come down to the hides which are early March.
Previously, during the 2019 holiday the eagles turned up every day, & on some days they turned up once in the morning & again in the afternoon.
There is a silver lining to our seemingly ‘bad luck’ though. With no eagles coming in, other wildlife started to turn up in abundance. We had a mighty female goshawk with us for a good couple of hours, red squirrels would visit every morning, & we had one of the closest encounters with a red fox, the likes of which only happens once in a blue moon!
Let’s get back to my blog about this tour of actually seeing & taking incredible images of the wildlife in a snowy landscape of Northern Sweden.
Our journey started in London, a few of us met at Heathrow airport for our flight to Stockholm & the connecting flight to Skellefteå & finally on to our accommodation by car. The journey went without a hitch, well almost! One of our guest’s bag didn’t arrive at Skellefteå airport, but fortunately, he had his camera bag with him, sadly he had a few items missing. I managed to sort everything out for our first photographic day, & the next day his bag was at the house we were staying at, so all was good. This is one of the duties of a guide, to make sure we help & take as much stress out of a trip as possible when things sometime don’t go according to plan!
Day One – This was spent photographing anything that moved. It was good to get it out of everyone’s system! But during the latter part of the day when everyone was more relaxed, I noticed a big ‘wildlife shaped’ object had arrived. Too small for an eagle but large enough to be a raptor. As I looked closer, I could see it was a Juvenile female goshawk that had flown in. Wow! We gently took a few images as she fed – you can see these below but also above at the top of this blog posting. She came closer, & she was with us for almost 2 hours in the end. What an encounter, & that doesn’t often happen at all!
After that, it was time to get picked up, taken back to the house & for us to be treated to a home-cooked meal. Bedtime was soon upon us as we had an early start of 4.30 am for breakfast & to be in the hide by around 5.15 am before it got light. The hide is heated, & it was my job to make sure everyone was nice & toasty & to stoke the fire on occasions to make sure it was warm enough which would be the pattern for the rest of our trip.
Day Two – Once in the hide at around 5.15 am, we waited for the sun to rise. It wasn’t long before we were treated to a very friendly red squirrel that would sit & eat, then move around & appear somewhere else nearby, giving us some great opportunities for beautiful images. Approximately 10 am the snow started to fall, & we began to get some ‘Christmas card’ images of the smaller birds, like the fantastic bullfinch & great spotted woodpeckers. Then we had our most memorable encounter of this trip—a stunning red fox.
The fox stayed a distance away to start with, which is normal. In the wintery landscape with the snow falling, the red fox was looking incredible, & everyone had a massive grin on their face. Then the fox started to move towards the hide.
This is very uncommon. In fact, the last time a fox came close to the hide was December 2019! Everyone got some unique close-ups which hardly anyone else gets, so day two was awesome!
Once back in the house having our evening meal, the conversation was all about the fox! It was soon bedtime because again we had an early start of a 4.30 am breakfast & then a short trip in the car to the hide so we would be in there by 5.15 am.

Days Three & Four – Both days were sunny days warm for Northern Sweden, about 1 or 2 degrees above freezing. We were still hopeful an eagle would show up, but alas this is wildlife, & nothing can be guaranteed. We were treated to the red squirrel again, this time as the sun rose.

This gave the images a beautiful warm glow against the snowy floor. Another species which is hard to predict if it will be around is the grey-headed woodpecker.
Both the male & female, which are not always common to see here, put on an excellent show for us by moving from an old birch tree to other areas giving us great views & photographs.
There were also lots of bullfinches, greenfinches, willow tits, great tits, blue tits, great spotted woodpeckers, red poles & jays to keep us occupied too. We decided to try & get some of these smaller birds in flight which is much harder than eagles! We all had some success, & with the amount of activity from the birds, there was always something to photograph. We stepped outside to capture images of the starry night sky from the house we were staying in on a clear evening after dinner too.
After day 4 in the hide was over, & again the day was filled with lots of active wildlife to photograph throughout the whole day, it was back to the house to have our last evening’s lovely home-cooked meal & discuss the entire trip. It’s fair to say that everyone did have a fantastic time, even though it was slightly disappointing the eagle didn’t show – well it did on a trail cam the day we were leaving. Leaving the area knowing this was bitter/sweet. Still, at least a female golden eagle is doing fine, & myself & the guests didn’t mind as we had had some extraordinary encounters, not many people get to experience. There is always next year, I guess!
Join Conny & Robin, both veterans of the Swedish Winter, both members of the NaturesLens guiding team, from the 2nd-7th March 2021 in Skellefteå on this 5-night photography holiday to Sweden.
You will spend full days in the hides, making the most of the changing light conditions throughout the day to take the most spectacular photographs of the visiting wildlife.

10 inspiring images of the White Horses of the Camargue

An inquisitive stallion walks up the beach as photographed during the NaturesLens White Horses of the Camargue Photography Holiday

I wanted to share more images from our White Horses of the Camargue photography trip in September 2018 to give everyone an idea of the sort of photographic opportunities available. You’ll notice that I haven’t included any images of the frenzy of white horses running towards you with water splashing everywhere. The point of this blog post is to demonstrate what else can be achieved.

A group shot of these stunning horses is a definite must-have. The reflection shot was taken at sunrise using a Canon 1Dx Mk 2 & Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM at ISO 640, f/7.1, 1/250s, -1ev at 80mm. As the horses started to move towards us, I changed settings because I wanted a tight group shot. For those of you interested in my settings, this shot was taken at ISO 1000, f/8, 1/500s, 0ev at 300mm.
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White Horses of the Camargue Photography – A Minimalist Approach

A silhouette of a rearing stallion photographed during the NaturesLens White Horses of the Camargue Photography Holiday

I led our Wild White Horses of the Camargue photography holiday back in September 2018. This is one trip where big lenses are not required. In fact, the combination of a wide angle lens coupled with a mid-zoom lens such as a 70-200mm or a 100-400mm is perfect.

I had packed my 16-35mm & 70-200mm, but at the last minute, I decided to ditch both lenses in favour of my Canon EF 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 L IS USM Lens. I bought this lens back in 2010 because I hated changing lenses & wanted something that would give me a wide range of focal lengths.
The Canon EF 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 L IS USM Lens is known as Canon’s travel lens due to its incredible flexibility, but it wasn’t popular due to its weight & the fact that it was a push/pull zoom. I am a huge fan of the push/pull zoom; in fact, my go to lens was the original Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens before I (reluctantly) upgraded to the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Telephoto Lens. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about the original 100-400mm, but I never experienced any of the issues described with my lens so I guess I must have been the lucky owner of one of the few good ones.
I found it incredibly liberating travelling so light & throughout the trip, I fell in love with the Canon EF 28-300mm all over again. In my opinion, this lens is even more versatile than the Canon EF 100-400mm since it covers most of the most commonly used focal lengths in a single lens & with an aperture of f/3.5 at 28mm, it also works very well as a non-dedicated macro lens. And let’s not forget the enormous advantage of not having to change lenses in the middle of a photo shoot!
The Canon EF 28-300mm Lens turned out to be the perfect lens for this White Horses of the Camargue photography trip. I was able to capture clean shots of the horses at 300mm, as they ran towards us in the salt marshes & the sea before they kicked up too much spray. The push/pull system allowed me to easily adjust my focal length right back up to 28mm as the horses ran past us.
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A 2018 visit to the fantastic Spanish Birds of Calera

A Lesser Kestrel Having A Scratch On The Rooftop Of A Derelict Farm Building Image Captured During The 2018 Spanish Bird Photography Holiday In Calera

Spring of 2018 saw me spending two weeks in Spain. The first week was for the Eagles & Raptors photography holiday in the Sierra Morena Mountains. The second week saw me travelling to Madrid to collect the next group of clients & then on to Calera y Chozas for the NaturesLens Spanish bird photography holiday.

The Natureslens photography tour to Calera has been running for a few years now & always offers a wide variety of birds to photograph on the plains & the mountains close to the area.  2018 was my first visit here after taking over guiding from the incredibly talented Dan Trim. Having seen his images from the previous trips he led for NaturesLens, I couldn’t wait to see them for myself.
Calera y Chozas is just two hours drive from Madrid & is an area with many locations for photographic opportunities. In previous years, when David, Pui Hang & Dan have led trips there, the bar had been set high with images of Azure-winged Magpie, bee-eater, black kiteblack vultureblack-winged kitecuckoogreat bustardgreat grey shrikegriffon vulturehoopoe, kestrel, lesser kestrellittle owlred kite & red-legged partridge & more all being captured. Continue reading

Georgia’s thoughts on our Winter Wildlife of Japan photography holiday

Early morning in Rausu sees the eagles greet the fishing fleet captured NaturesLens during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

Hi! I’m Georgia Wilson. It wasn’t my idea to attend the NaturesLens Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday … that belonged to my eagle mad husband, Graeme. Complicated photographic gear makes my eyes glaze over. So why, you may ask, would I consider going?

Well, I’ve never been to Japan & I like being out in the wilderness areas. I love observing animals & birds in their natural habitat … probably more to the point, I have a spirit of adventure. The thought of being on a boat in the middle of pack ice sounded fun. So with that thought in mind, I agreed to go.
Some wouldn’t consider me as a serious photographer because I only used a Canon Powershot SX720 HS, which has 40x optical zoom & HTC One XL phone camera. However, that thought didn’t stop me from trying to get the most out of my little cameras.
For this trip, I wanted to keep things simple. I set the Powershot on automatic, so the camera made all the technical decisions. I was in charge of the framing. The photos below, just a selection from over 300o, are just as they were taken … no ‘doctoring up’. BTW, the cameras were handheld, i.e. no tripod or monopod. & I think the photos are a testimony to what a fine camera the Canon Powershot is.
Moral of the story … you don’t have to have the expensive photographic equipment to enjoy this trip. All you need is a spirit of adventure & imagination, plus a sense of fun; if you go with the flow, you’ll have a wonderful time.

Georgia herself, bringing a special kind of Aussie bubbliness to the tour captured NaturesLens during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Mount Fuji captured NaturesLens during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday The mountainous landscape of Hokkaido in Winter captured NaturesLens during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday The red crowned cranes at their roosting site near Tsuri captured NaturesLens during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Perfect moon captured NaturesLens during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Close up of one of the red crowned cranes of Akan captured NaturesLens during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday A trio of whooper swans sleep on the thermal waters of Lake Kussharo captured NaturesLens during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Early morning in Rausu sees the eagles greet the fishing fleet captured NaturesLens during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday One of Hokkaido's red foxes pauses as he crosses the snow captured NaturesLens during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

This trip to see & photograph the Winter Wildlife of Japan was a bazillion times better than any written description could convey. I lost count at the number of jaw-dropping experiences I had … the sunrises, sunsets, every changing light to watch a living painting unfold, surreal, elegant, mystical.

Blend this with the graciousness of the Japanese & their culture … PLUS a small group of quirky travel companions … all perfect ingredients to create a trip that I will remember forever.

Photograph the Winter Wildlife of Japan for yourself

To photograph the charismatic winter wildlife of Japan for yourself, join David Miles & Ian Roberts, members of the NaturesLens guiding team, in Japan during February 2019 for a trip lasting 13 nights; this photography holiday will offer you the opportunity to capture images of the red-crowned crane, snow monkey, steller’s sea eagle, white tailed sea eagle, whooper swan, plus more; the NaturesLens Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday is offered on a half board, non-shared room basis, & costs £5249 per participant, but there are several early-bird places available priced at £4999.

All the details of the  Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday are available on the dedicated event page.

Sorcha’s view of the land of the Wild Brown Bear

A portrait of one of the juvenile wild brown bears photographed during the NaturesLens Wild Brown Bears of Finland Photography Holidays

I was very excited waiting for the day I was to head off to on an adventure to see &, hopefully, capture some images of the wild brown bears of Finland for myself. I had previously spent a wonderful weekend with NaturesLens on their “Birds of Prey Workshop” prior to going abroad, this was primarily to help hone my, admittedly, very basic photography skills when it comes to wildlife & the capture of images of nature.

After this taster I was keen to get going on my wild brown bear trip & to try out my newly acquired skills. The time soon came & I was in this wonderful boreal location where wild brown bears were to be found & it was just beautiful; watching the sun rise, set & rise again in a few hours in the land of the “midnight sun”, lakes with mist gathering & the white balls of cotton grass seeds swaying in the breeze.

One of the large male wild brown bears up close to one of the hides photographed during the NaturesLens Wild Brown Bears of Finland Photography Holidays Continue reading

Tigers of Bandhavgarh Photography Holiday Report

One of Bandhavgarh's tigers stares straight down the lens photographed on the 2017 Tigers of Bandhavgarh Safari Holiday

In late April/early May I completed two back-to-back Indian trips. The first being our Tigers of Bandhavgarh Safari Holiday. I always look forward to our annual trip to photograph tigers & this year was no different, apart from the fact that I was more excited than usual.

We took a break from Bandhavgarh in 2016, so I couldn’t wait to get back there. I can honestly say that I have never been more excited about going back to what I consider to be my second home.

We have been visiting the park for 7 years now & have gotten to know its residents very well. Along with the drivers & guides who have become our friends, we have mourned the loss of favourite tigers & celebrated the birth of new cubs.

The spot where three tiger brothers have made home their island in the middle of one of the watering holes photographed on the 2017 Tigers of Bandhavgarh Safari Holiday

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Wolverines & Brown Bears of the Taiga Forest

A wolverine stood on the edge of the Taiga Forest amongst a field of cotton grass

It was not all about big Brown Bears during the Finland Photography Holiday in the Taiga Forest; we had opportunities to see other species too & this included the rather rare & elusive Wolverine!

A wolverine stood on the edge of the Taiga Forest amongst a field of cotton grass

Once abundant in numbers, the wolverine is now a scarce animal due to over-hunting. However, it was certainly one of the main highlights from the Wild Brown Bears of Finland Photography Holiday.

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