Yorkshire Photo Explorer

Birds of Prey workshop

I enjoy going on photography workshops to try and improve my photography skills, learn from the professionals and photograph animals or birds I don’t see in the wild. Recently I was seeking a birds of prey workshop in the local area and came across one based in Oxenhope, West Yorkshire run by Paul Miguel. With its focus on British birds of prey, photographed in the local surroundings, it sounded ideal.

The day began with a briefing on the itinerary and any requests for specific birds. A kestrel was high on my list as I’ve seen many of them, but never got a great photo. Paul spent some time learning each participants’ skill levels and experience so that tutoring could be tailored to the individual during the day. We then headed out to photograph our first subject, a peregrine falcon. I liked the heather surroundings, which hid the perch well. This will look great in the summer when the heather is in flower. It was also a good introduction to composition and framing.

Next up was Murphy the merlin. Such a beautiful bird and one I’ve never seen in the wild. We started off with him perched on the end of a wall, before moving him to a branch. He was very well behaved and perched so that you couldn’t see the jesses.

The next bird was my favourite, the kestrel. He was slightly less well behaved than the merlin, but I still managed a few shots on a gate that I was pleased with.

Continuing with static shots, Spud the little owl provided the next entertainment and photography opportunities. They’re such characters, especially when you get the stare!

We photographed Spud on a wall, allowing the chance to get some blurred foreground and background photos, before we moved onto the classic signpost shots.

Tiffin the kestrel was then introduced for our first flight photography opportunity. The idea was to get him to hover over us. Things didn’t go according to plan though, as Tiffin took off as a wild kestrel flew over – and an aerial battle ensued.

After eventually retrieving Tiffin, we did manage a couple of hovering and flight photos. When I’ve seen kestrels in the wild, they’ve always been quite high up, so I enjoyed the chance to photograph him not far above our heads. I was pleased with how they came out.

Last up before lunch was a long-eared owl, who perched in a nearby tree. Luckily the light was good, so despite the branches we could still get good shots with a low ISO. He was very insistent that he only looked in one direction, so we had to move around to see his face through the tree.

The afternoon was dedicated to flight photography. First up was Willow the red kite. I’ve seen lots of red kites in the wild, especially at Harewood, but the benefit of this set up was the proximity. I ended up changing to a 24-70mm lens, as I didn’t really need anything longer. The red kite photos are my favourite set from the day.

We then had Millie the raven. She was a challenge to photograph, as the sun had some out by this point and it was hard to get the right exposure. She was also quick and hopping around. I didn’t manage any in-flight photos, but I liked the static shots.

Finally, to end the day we had two owls – an eagle owl and a barn owl. I found these flight photos quite challenging, so I didn’t get many useable shots, but it was all still good practice.

Here are some more photos from the birds of prey workshop (click on an image to enlarge):

Practicalities
Location Oxenhope, West Yorkshire
Website http://naturephotographycourses.co.uk/wildlifephotographyworkshops/birds-of-prey-photography-courses/
Notes for next time
  • More practice for the flight shots
  • Remember to try portrait and close-up shots (variety of photos)
  • Practice with manual settings

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