More Wildlife from BWC

After Flicking through my unedited photos from BWC I found a few more with potential, which I’ve uploaded above. I need to get a little better at using the light settings on my camera and move away from auto ISO. At the moment I’m doing a fair amount of editing, mostly on photos that are too dark or cloudy. I can’t help but feel sometimes that I set myself too many tasks at once and end up with nothing done, but I suppose that’s to be expected when you have multiple creative hobbies and are a master of none.
Ironically I still really want to start re-learning an instrument and get into filming and video editing as well. It will be paramount to pace myself over the next couple of months if I’m going to get anything finished (as opposed to starting a hundred things, getting burned out and finishing nothing).

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Amsterdam

I’m back from Amsterdam! And it turns out I went at one of the best times of the year.
Amsterdam in the winter is beautiful, albeit cold. The patron saint of the city is St. Nicholas (in case you didn’t know, that’s the man behind the story of Santa Claus.) And they definitely go all-out for the Christmas season. Many of the shops and cafés are decorated beautifully with fairy lights, some with a more Seasonal theme than others, but all fully embracing a warming and festive spirit.
I managed to make it there in time for the lights festival: The city and canals are temporarily illuminated by intricately designed light displays, many of which are installations designed by artists. There’s even a canal boat tour specifically for viewing the lights, where you can plug in some headphones and hear the stories behind the artwork as you pass them by. (In my photos above I included one light display, Souvenir by Eric Kessels)
The food in Amsterdam is delicious, particularly if you’re a fan of fresh bread and various cheeses – most of the restaurants are steakhouses or serve pub grub including burgers/pizza/pasta, and although there are some sushi bars and Japanese grills they are slightly more expensive if you’re on a budget. The food is perfect for cold weather comfort-eating, but we did struggle for variety and fruit/veg portions. If you are planning a visit soon, I suggest bringing some dried fruit!
The museums are fantastic, if a bit pricey: Rijksmuseum, full of artwork, sculptures and culture; Bodyworlds, a museum of anatomy, hosting dozens of real preserved human specimens; The Secret Church of Our Lord in the Attic, a historic hidden church; and the Van Gogh museum, hosting hundreds of works by the artist himself. All of these are worth visiting, as well as the historic home of Anne Frank.
You can usually find discount vouchers at your hotel or one of many attraction booking shops around the city, you can also do money saving deals when you buy tickets for more than one attraction at a time, which is worth the effort.
Amsterdam is architecturally one of the prettiest places I’ve visited. The canal houses and boats are for the most part decorated intricately, and if you’re nosy like me and enjoy looking through windows in the evening you can see that design, art and creativity are at the core values of many residents. Amsterdam is crawling with live music, book markets, galleries, the world famous flower market packed with nature, and plenty of street art; providing a rich culture and liveliness to an already active city of cyclists and pedestrians. The city also has a cosiness to it, with cafes and bars on every corner, usually full by lunch time (it’s common to see people out having a beer with lunch even on weekdays) and despite this, it remains a fairly calm and serene atmosphere up until later in the evenings.

If I were to go again I’d like to visit in summer and do some cycling, It’s generally cheaper (and more comfortable in cold winters) to get the tram around the city, but there are some fantastic cycle routes around Old Holland for those who enjoy a more active approach, and I’d love to check those out.

Mammals at the British Wildlife Center

Another set of photographs from the British Wildlife Center!
If you read my previous post from BWC you’ll be aware that I attended two of the center’s photography days, (Owls day and Mammals day).
The weather was really good on the mammals day aside from some dampness, it had clouded over a little and allowed for some nice even and soft lighting for shooting.
The red squirrels and foxes were the most challenging animals to shoot; The squirrels were fast and hyperactive, and the foxes were quite shy and remained mostly covered by long grass until prompted out with snacks from the keeper. The Otters were a real highlight of the day, being very playful and curious little animals (bigger than I thought they would be, probably about the size of a spaniel with shorter legs and a longer tail). One in particular would sporadically come over and nudge my camera with his nose.
Polecats also have a lot of personality and were very social with one another and excited to see visitors.
Overall I was quite uplifted by how happy the animals are at the BWC; having previously visiting zoos and feeling actually quite bad about humanity afterwards because of how bored and miserable some of the animals looked, it’s clear to see that the British Wildlife Center is a different environment entirely, with an apparent emphasis put on the animals’ well-being and happiness, conservation and education. You can read more about the BWC and when you can visit on their website (click here).

Birds at the British Wildlife Centre

For my birthday this year I visited the British Wildlife Centre on a pair of photography days. They run the photography days throughout the year and it’s basically a great opportunity for budding wildlife photographers to get some great close-up shots of the animals outside of their enclosures.
These shots are from the first day, which was exclusively for photographing the owls. I got some of what i consider to be my best-ever shots, including a shot of barn owl, (Kevin), blinking with his nicitating membrane which can be seen above, it makes his eye look bluish as opposed to black/brown. Also the final shot of a chirpy little owl named Leo, mid-screech.

St James Park, London.

This series is from a day at St James Park, London.
The park is one of the best spots for wildlife in central London. The birds and squirrels will happily eat out of your hands and although they can be quick and jumpy, they are easily captured by the novice wildlife photographer. I headed down there on a sunny day with my DSLR and a bag of unsalted cashews, and captured some of my best shots yet.
One of the bonus highlights was the pigeons. Although a lot of Londoners have a dislike for the “rats with wings” (I never understood this either, rats are adorable) the pigeons are very friendly birds, and cute up close with bright orange eyes and varied colours and patterns. In St James park they will comfortably perch on your arms and shoulders while you feed them. The squirrels are a little more shy, mostly hiding in bushes and trees, darting out at the promise of a few nuts and approaching you with caution before placing their front paws on your palm as they pick up their reward, and then scamper off a few feet to eat peacefully. The waterbirds are great as well, On previous trips I have seen groups of ducklings and an endangered white-headed duck paddling around in the rivers, but unfortunately that was before I bought my DSLR. I’ll definitely be heading back to the park in the future.