This is the year penguins will fly.

Posts tagged “wildlife photography

A Trip to Whipsnade!

At the beginning of the week my friends from work and I went on a trip to Whipsnade Zoo!

This was the first time i’d ever been to Whipsnade, despite living in Bedfordshire for 4 years whilst at University, and I was super excited to see all the animals!

We started by stopping by for some lemur breakfast. The Lemurs jumped about everywhere and walked along the barriers at the sides of the path, often hitting us with their tails, as they munched away at their food. I didn’t really know a lot about lemurs and so was very excited to learn new things, including the fact that the smallest lemur is the same size as your little finger! How crazy is that?!?

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Afterwards we moved on to the chimps who also happened to be having breakfast! They were so cheeky and mischievous, especially one who kept stealing everyone else’s food. The dominant male got angry at the cheeky chimp for trying to steal food off him which led to a comical display from the cheeky chimp who threw himself on his back like he was playing dead. Sometimes the food would also fall into the moat next to their island and then the chimps showed off their intelligence by picking up sticks to hit the food towards them.

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Then we wandered to see some white rhinos and I learnt why they’re actually called white rhinos! It’s all to do with a misunderstanding on the Africaans use of the word ‘wijde’ which was in reference to this species wide mouth, but it sounded rather like ‘White’ and so the White Rhino got it’s name. The Black Rhino was named to be opposite despite neither being particularly different colours.

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We wandered about looking at the various animals and we’re extremely impressed with all the different enclosures, the paddocks were huge and decorated beautifully too, the illusive wolves had a gorgeous forest, the penguins had probably the best pool view i’ve seen and all the animals had lots of things to keep them busy throughout the day.

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A Mara, one of the free roaming animals in the Zoo.

We saw a brown bear go swimming which was wonderful to see. It bumbled through the forest and I was running along side ready for the perfect shot, my friend was hoping it would go in the water and so we all waited with bated breath. The bear was snuffing the air and definitely took it’s time, but eventually went into the cool waters and I got some adorable photographs of it having a nice soak.

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We also saw the sealion show, they were great at showing just how agile and amazing they are, they told us the difference between sealions and seals, how they train them for the vets and also how we can help them in the wild. It was really interesting as well as being pretty cool to watch.

We also saw the talk at the animal farm where they brought out many different cute, fluffy creatures for us all to stroke including baby rabbits, ferrets and pygmy goats! They even flew an owl around our heads which hovered right in front of our faces! It was so cool!

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We even took a stream train ride through the park! This is feel was rather overpriced for how long the journey was, but it was really rather fun! We not only learnt about the animals we passed but also about the steam engine we were riding. It’s definitely a fun way to go around and see the animals, i’d recommend it at least once, but maybe not more than that.

We carried on walking around seeing all sorts of different animals, but our feet were getting weary and it was nearly closing time so we wandered over to the gift shop. However the gift shop was closed before we even got there! We were not very impressed by that fact, but decided it was probably for the best anyway as we all needed to save money.

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I spent the rest of the afternoon at a friends house playing with her pet snake and eating far too much rubbish.

I had such a fun day, took so many lovely pictures and can’t wait to go again!

Claire x

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The Importance of Understanding your Camera and Sloth Babies!

I’ve always had real trouble with photography in low light situations and always blamed it on my old camera, plus they always say that light is a photographers best friend! But sometimes good lighting is just not possible, especially when not based in a studio.

I recently took my camera to work with me to take pictures of all the cute baby animals we have running around at the moment. I was getting quite frustrated at my camera not being able to cope with the light levels in the perfectly lit room, no matter how much I changed my shutter speed and aperture I just couldn’t get a clear, well lit photograph of the sloth and its baby (see attempts below). But there was an old gentleman, and regular at the zoo, who then told me about ISO.

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Both unfortunately blurry and dark. 

I had heard of ISO but had always thought that it would seriously reduce the quality of my photographs, something which is of course true if you’re not using it properly, as I wasn’t. After hearing his brief explanation I decided to change my settings and finally got some good photographs! I just wish i’d played with it earlier on in the day.

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I did get a couple of good shots on a low ISO

Well since that day I’ve done a bit of research into ISO so I can learn exactly what it is and how to use it.

So what exactly is ISO?

ISO is the speed of the film, not to be confused with frame rate but instead it’s how sensitive the film would be to light. So a Low ISO would correspond to an insensitive film that would require more light to create a good quality image, whereas a High ISO would be a far more sensitive film needing less light for the same image quality. But even though you may need a higher ISO in certain situations, the higher ISO does also create grainier images and so it is best to keep the ISO as low as possible for the shot.

Of course if using a Tripod for a still subject it would be fine to use the lowest ISO possible, but for handheld camera work and moving objects it’s best to experiment to find the perfect balance between brightness and noise in the photograph.

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It really is so important to understand all the workings of your camera, I’ve had mine for nearly 7 years and I’m only just learning how to really get the most out of it! I plan to carry on learning about all aspects of photography and hopefully it will improve my photographs, in fact i think it already is!

But it’s not only understanding your camera, it’s also understanding your subject so I also plan to study the animals i’m wanting to take photographs of as well. There’s not all that much known about sloth babies, as they have about an 80% mortality rate in just the first week of being born, and a lot of that percentage is from the mother dropping them! I believe this is the first sloth baby in our zoo for around 50 years. So not only is the sloth baby proving to be vital research for myself into the animal kingdom, but also for the keepers who are learning new things about how they develop, grow and learn too! It’s all very exciting.

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I plan to take my camera to work again very soon and experiment more with the ISO settings, plus i want to get even more adorable photographs of various animals!

Claire x


Finding Hidden Beauty

I don’t have many lenses for my camera but the ones I do have I really love to play around with.

Other than the lens that came with my camera I have a macro lens and a telephoto lens. I want to focus on the macro lens for this post.

It was the first lens I ever wanted, I’ve always been fascinated by the beauty macro lenses can show you that you may not other wise see. I have always loved to watch nature documentaries and marvelled at the stunning shots of the tiny creatures and patterns that aren’t quite so easy to see with the naked eye.

I love the glimpse of pollen and shape of the stamens in this shot although think I could have improved my focus just a little bit.

Unfortunately I don’t often get my macro lens out, but when I do I am always over the moon with the pictures that I can create with it.

A few days ago I went to Golders Park near Hampstead Heath, London. It’s a gorgeous park with so much to see and do including a little zoo with a wonderful collection of exotic (and not quite so exotic) animals…but more on that in another post.

On my wanders around the park I found this group of Crocus flowers in the middle of the grass. I just couldn’t help but whip out my macro lens and get down on my hands and knees! I loved how the colours really stood out, the bright white petals against the rich green of the grass and the vibrant orange inside.

The bold colours were what caught my attention first, but only when I started snapping did I really notice all their interesting patterns.

I really must have looked crazy twisting and turning to get all sorts of different angles but I didn’t care, I was lost in the moment trying to find these little plants’ hidden treasures.

I realised this is something I do a lot with photography, I get so obsessed with finding the perfect angle for a striking composition that I really don’t care how I look, but I guess it pays off as I am really proud of these shots!

I was delighted to find this bud with it’s unusual shape and pattern.

This bud (above) is probably my favourite shot of the flowers, although maybe not the best technically. I just love the unusual shape and the bold purple stripes running down the petals. These are the kinds of things I want to start showing more of in my photography, the unusual things you wouldn’t normally pay attention too.

It’s always been my thinking that a photographers job is to bring out these moments of beauty that you wouldn’t usually notice. Whether it be the way a man looks at his wife, a dramatic landscape where the weather conditions are just perfect, a deer resting in the sun, no matter the type or style of photography it’s job is the same.

Of course it can also be used to bring out shocking truths, such as an image of a young refugee in a war torn country, but I believe these can even have a certain kind of beauty to them. The beauty doesn’t have to be in the subject of our photo’s, but also in our reaction to them. They can bring forth emotions that we never knew we had or teach us something valuable.

This, I believe, is the sign of a true photographer.

I know I have a lot to learn until I can get to that point, but I hope that someday my photographs will also cause others to stop and think. Whether it’s marvelling at the beauty of the object, or thinking deeply about their own beliefs on the subject, I want my images to really create a lasting impression.

Probably my best composed shot of the day. I love the petal shapes and the bright orange stamens against the simple green background.

I will keep shooting and experimenting and hopefully, one day, i’ll reach my goal.

What do you think is the sign of a true photographer?

Claire x


Mums Garden

Last weekend Ash and I went up north to visit my mum as I had a dentist appointment and I wanted to visit my grandma who is having a pretty rough time in hospital.

Whilst there I took advantage of my mums bird friendly garden. It’s rare that I get a chance to see so many birds (other than pigeons) so close, not having a garden at my flat, and so I grabbed at the opportunity to have so many birds so easy to see!

The first day really showed me how much I had to learn! I took so many pictures but just kept being too slow as I was chasing them around with my camera lens.

The only kind of photo’s I could successfully manage on the first day, distanced and back lit on the bush they liked at the back of the garden.

I was a little disappointed in myself and was told off by my boyfriend as usual. I always get annoyed with myself when I can’t do something perfectly straight away and he always has to remind me that everything takes practice and motivate me to not give up. This is most definitely one of my biggest flaws so thank goodness I have Ash to kick me into gear every time!

So with Ash’s stern words fresh in my mind I tried again the next day!

The best photo from the second day and the bird isn’t even in focus! The only one I did actually get in focus and not blurred was one of a bird bum.

This time I actually watched the behaviour of the birds and figured out that the blue and great tits were hanging out on a bush near the back of the garden, watching for danger. They would only fly forwards onto my mums magnolia tree once they had deemed the garden safe and then watch out for danger yet again before flying to the bird feeder and darting back to the bush.

Just watching made it so much easier to predict where they were going to land as I soon figured there was one, very well placed, branch in particular which they loved to land on before feeding.

Not on ‘the’ branch but I still managed to capture this cute little blue tit before the light faded too much!

Unfortunately by the time i’d figured this out it was already getting dark and I am without a tripod for the moment which meant all of the photo’s we’re shaky and dark.

The next day was my last day and I was determined to get some good shots. I positioned myself on the floor next to the sofa, army style, and waited.

It didn’t take long for the birds to appear.

On the bush at the back of the garden

Aren’t Blue tits just the cutest little balls of fluff!?

First the blue tits and great tits made their appearance and I managed to get a few good shots of them on that one branch. But then more and more birds started to appear, flying backwards and forwards from the feeder.

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So delicate with their eating.

A chaffinch about to take off

There were gold finches, chaffinches, a pigeon (of course, they’re everywhere), and even a few sparrows! Sparrows are unfortunately in trouble in the UK and are at Red status so I feel quite privileged to have seen some. The numbers are now rising in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but unfortunately still in trouble in the UK. They’re such pretty little birds too! They may not have bright colours but their flecked patterns more than make up for it.

One of four Sparrows I saw. Such pretty feather patterns. 

Two  gorgeous Goldfinches.

I sat there well past the time I was wanting to leave for the long drive back to the south, completely mesmerised by the gorgeous birds that visited the garden, and all for a few simple seeds.

All too soon I really did have to drag myself away, but I have learnt a lot from those short 3 days and hope to improve even more before my next visit.

The stunning chaffinch

The Iconic Robin

Have you got any birds visiting your garden?

Claire x


365 Project – Days 33 – 39

On the 3rd of feb i took a few pictures of some terracotta warrior statues I bought from China. I’m hoping to make a nice item from them for my shop.

On the 4th I took some more pictures of my products wrapping, this time showing the inside too.

The 5th saw me realise I could fit into the skirt I had made, despite it being designed for children, and so I thought I’d model it to give an idea of how it looks on. Just a shame that I had bad lighting, no tripod and no one to take it for me. I’m not the best with timers.

On the 6th I saw what a week of no work would do for my hands as my nails and skin looked lovely for the first time in years! I really cannot wait to get a new job.

On the 7th I was in the north. I thought the trees in my mums’ garden looked pretty cool silhouetted against the darkening sky.

On Saturday the 8th I took Ashley to Blacktoft Sands where we saw lots of marsh harriers hunting.

Today I took pictures of the birds in my mums garden. There were a few blue tits and great tits, it’s just a shame they didn’t come closer.

My photography is definitely improving, but I still have a long way to go!

Claire x


Blacktoft Sands – RSPB Nature Reserve.

Blacktoft Sands is a nature reserve run by the RSPB near my home town. I am up north visiting my mum and so Ash and I thought we would go for a visit.

I haven’t been there for years, not since I was a child with my sister and my grandpa, but I have some very fond memories there. One of my favourites been the time we saw a rare Bittern! Unfortunately my grandpa had just popped off to the loo and missed out, he wasn’t too happy. I hope to see one again someday so I can take some photographs but unfortunately they are extremely endangered.

Today was very cold and bitter, plus my car is in for repair so we had to get one of the very few buses there (i dont know how people get around without a car anywhere outside of london).

We got there and were greeted by a nice guy who somehow talked us into RSPB membership, not that hard as it is something i’ve been considering for a while. I even got a good book for free!

The first hide we went to had a good view of lots of ducks and a couple of coots. There seemed to be a Marsh Harrier flying about in the distance as well. We soon decided to move onto the next hide though, to find something new. As much as I like ducks, they’re not exactly uncommon.

Some ducks flying overhead.

We did manage to see some of the marsh harriers a bit closer up. They were hunting and were a delight to watch dance and weave above the reeds, hunting for small creatures to feast upon. Marsh Harriers are actually quite rare and were once endangered in the UK, there was apparently only 1 breeding female in the country in 1971! However now their numbers are on the increase, and this is more than evident at blacktoft sands where we saw at least 5 in the short time we were there!

Unfortunately we didn’t see many other animals in our short time there, although there were meant to be good sightings of the birds of prey coming in to roost later on. We most definitely want to go back again, maybe when i have my car back so that we can stay for a bit longer. I feel I need an even zoomier (technical word i know) lens to really take the photographs i want to be taking. But alas money probably wont allow so i’ll have to make do for now. I still managed to get a few nice photographs and now hope to be visiting lots of RSPB reserve during the next year so I can take lots of photographs.

Until then, here are a few photographs from my mums garden I took the other day. She has some lovely birds visiting including some stunning blue tits and several tree sparrows, who’s numbers are also currently in trouble in the UK. It’s a shame my photography skills aren’t quite up to par yet as these creatures are too quick for me to capture well and I’m having trouble with focusing, as well as still getting to grips with manual shooting, but i shall keep practicing. If only I had a garden at my house!

Probably my best photo of the blue tit and yet the camera focussed on the branch in front! Next time I think I may have to focus manually as the branches just confuse my camera.

One actually in focus and he’s showing his bum to me. 😦

A pair of blue tits in one of our bushes

Tree Sparrows – My shutter speed was set too fast and so the photo came out too dark which is why it’s looking grainy after brightening it. Definitely need to remember to keep an eye on the meter.

Probably my best picture of the day and it’s of a pigeon…

Better luck next time i guess!

Claire x


Sparkly Infinity Scarf

I have a new endeavour to go hand in hand with my wildlife photography in progress and so set out to Alexandra Palace to see the fallow deer that will be featuring in it. Unfortunately they had all disappeared! I assume they are inside and away from this bitter, cold weather, but it was quite a disappointment. I do have some ideas for what I can do with some other creatures, though, whilst I wait for their return.

So as not to waste our trip, I got Ash to take a few photographs of me in my newest creation! A sparkly, flowery, cosy infinity scarf! It really was very warm and cosy.

The outer fabric is the same as with my cape, and beautiful black, shimmering fabric I just adore. Hopefully I can buy more of it soon as I’ve more or less run out!

The inner fabric is a gorgeous, silk-like fabric which feels lovely against the skin and features a pretty flower design.

The scarf can be worn in the depths of winter with a thick coat to keep you nice and toasty warm, but it is also a good match with a simple t-shirt in slightly warmer weather.

I wore it with a plain black top, and big black waisted belt finished with this gorgeous blue skirt. I felt that the flower patterns in the skirt and scarf complimented each other well, plus I am just in love with this skirt (a bargain £3 from Primark!)

As it was a rather cold day I also wore tights with knee length socks to keep my legs warm, and these adorable fluffy boots!

Finally I finished the outfit off with some earrings I made for myself ages ago (more like I loved them so much I couldn’t bare to part with them). The blue matched perfectly and the chain drops gave a sense of elegance to the outfit.

My make-up was simple. Just a light pink on my eyes with some winged liner and a hint of pink on the cheeks and lips.

Hopefully the Fallow deer will return soon, but for now you can find this scarf listed in my shop right here

Have fun!

Claire x


New Year, New Start.

I know this is something which is said every year, but for the first time I feel like it is actually true for me.

This year will be so much bigger and better than last year and it really will be a new start! I’ve just moved house, far bigger and better than the last place and I actually have a place I can call an office (I will have to take photographs soon!). After 2 years I finally seem to have a way out of the day job, which was only meant to be temporary in the first place, and seem to have bagged a job which actually excites me and makes me happy to go to work. And I’m more determined than ever to make The Penguin Theory a success.

Last year i’m afraid I only managed to reach one of my goals, but luckily I think that goal will be crucial for success this year. I am finally a lot more organised than I’ve ever been in my life, keeping to deadlines, sorting out paperwork, keeping notes in my diary. There is still a lot of improvement to be done but i don’t think myself or my family have ever seen or expected me to be quite so diligent.

I thought I should have some goals for this year as well, but this time maybe actually manage more than one. I decided to narrow it down to 5 big goals of things that definitely have to happen.

1) Make The Penguin Theory more successful 

Regularly update my blog and other social media. make an item and/or go on a photography adventure every week. Make more sales on Etsy and at craft fairs. I don’t have to be living off it (although that would be nice) but i definitely want to make visible progress.

2) Get a Job I actually enjoy

I need a day job to fund my penguin theory adventures (unfortunately) but whilst I can’t survive of The Penguin Theory for the moment, I should at least be in a job I enjoy. My current job was never meant to be permanent and yet i’ve been there for almost two years.  It’s time to move on to something I can look forward to everyday and I think I may have already found it! A couple of months ago I worked at Legoland for a week and loved every second of it. It’s a longer commute but so much more enjoyable which makes it an obvious choice for me. Not only are the hours more regular but they’re actually during the day!  The only problem is that Legoland closes for a few months every year as a lot of the rides cannot be operated during the winter months. I am still trying to decide if I should keep the pub job for 1 day a week so that I can definitely have work in the winter or just to quit altogether and hope that I can find a temp job or make enough money through penguin theory for the winter months.

3) Go travelling

I want to go on holiday and explore somewhere I haven’t been before. In all honesty even somewhere in the UK would be fine, but it would be amazing to go abroad.

4) Enter Wildlife Photographer of the Year

It’s something I’ve always been fascinated with and in these last few months i’ve realised that I really do love to take photographs. I’ve always followed Wildlife Photographer of the Year and seen the exhibitions whenever possible. This year I’m determined to enter. It doesn’t matter if I don’t win, or even get a mention, I just need to try.  I will most definitely be viewing the exhibition at the Natural History museum this year as well.

5) Pay off Debts and Start Saving

I wont lie, the end of this year has been horrendous money wise. Ash, unfortunately, had to leave university as we couldn’t afford for him to continue and with this difficult time in the job market he had to rely on me for a few months, the problem being that minimum wage is barely enough to cover my costs. Luckily I had a lot of savings but they are completely wiped now and we’ve even had to borrow money from my mum and our housemates. But now that Ash has, not one but two jobs ,we are slowly paying everyone back and can hopefully build up some savings between us again.

So did you reach your goals for last year and what are your goals for this year?