Photo Friday #18

Climbing out of the car, I headed towards the footpath and away from the main road. Less than a minute of walking brought me away from civilisation, and into a colourful meadow, buzzing with life. Bright flowers could be seen in every direction; bees steadily making their way around, dipping into the sweet nectar on offer. Butterflies flitted around the meadow and, upon closer inspection, lots of little insects darted between the grasses.

Making my way through the tall vegetation, spiders scuttled away from my feet as I headed towards the river. Once out of the meadow, I was surrounded by trees. Bird calls were louder and more frequent here, the high pitched warning of an intruder ringing in my ears. I walked quietly and slowly, looking into the trees along the riverbank, hoping that the birds would get used to my presence. My goal? To find a kingfisher. I had seen the striking, blue bird twice before – both times, the bird simply being a flash of blue as it flew past me and down a river. I had heard that there was a resident kingfisher here, and had seen many photographs from other people. Having had no luck on my first visit, I was hoping this would be the special one.

As I neared ‘Kingfisher Gate’, something caught my eye. Sitting on a small branch, hanging over the river, was a very plump looking object. I snapped a quick photo, realising that yes, it was a kingfisher!

Slowing down, I kept my eye on the bird as I made my way around a huge bush, hoping that I would get a better view from the other side. I was not disappointed! This bird was eyeing me, though not showing any signs of distress, as I made my way forwards getting as close the the river’s edge as possible. I sat down, pushing vegetation out of my way so I could get a clear view. Sitting still, I watched and happily snapped away, not believing my luck. I believe it was a juvenile, though possibly on the older end of the scale! Whilst it’s coat was a lovely, bright blue, it’s feet were very dull and you could just see a little white on the end of it’s beak – both signs of a young kingfisher.

The sound of small feet padding along the floor disrupted the silence, and the kingfisher flew high up into the trees. Once the dog had passed, I spotted the kingfisher again, this time nearer and easier to photograph. I managed to watch for a little longer, before it decided to move on and settle somewhere else.

Wandering back down the river, and towards the meadow again, I reflected on just how lucky I had been. I did not expect it to be so easy. Coming home from university for the summer, and hearing about this place, I had set myself a goal to photograph a kingfisher. It is June, and that goal is complete! Now I will just have to go back, again and again, in the hopes of getting to watch more behaviours and capturing them. Until next time…

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Matka – An expedition to Finland. Part #3.

imageThe last bit of our expedition was very different to what we had imagined. Looking online, Rovaniemi looked lovely and interesting. In reality, it was just like any other city in England!
Due to the time that we went, the tourist trips were mostly shut. Too late for winter, too early for summer! After walking around on the first morning, we headed into tourist information and managed to book ourselves onto a snow shoeing tour. It was fun but not as difficult or ‘extreme’ as expected. The guide that we had was brilliant, and told us so much information about the area, about Finland and his experiences. Rovaniemi was very warm, and had no snow. We drove out of the city about half an hour away and had knee deep snow in places!

Rovaniemi itself had some really pretty parts, but also some not so nice parts. Just like any city, right? This river was huge, and parts were still frozen from the winter, and there were also chunks of ice just floating around! We saw one traditional Finnish restaurant in Rovaniemi, but it was just so expensive that we didn’t have the money for it.

On our second day, we visited the Santa Village, as advised by the guide! It’s what most people come to Rovaniemi for… Due to the season, it was a little disappointing. The gift shops and buildings were lovely, but I guess the place just looks so much better in the winter and in the evening. I am glad that we went though, because otherwise I’d just be regretting it!

One thing that I loved, and this was the same in Helsinki (airport!), was the packaging designs in the supermarkets! Everything for kids just looked so cute! I actually saved a couple of cartons/wrappers to put in my travel journal.

Last but not least, Rovaniemi was covered in all kinds of cool graffiti. The images really helped to brighten up the area, and I loved seeing them. I’ll just let the photos do the talking…

So, that was the end of our expedition. To get back to Kajaani for our flight, we had to get two trains and it was around a 5 hour journey. Not too fun, but with a good book and nice scenery it’s all fine! Here’s a wagtail seen at Kajaani station! It came so close – clearly used to people!

Overall, the expedition was an amazing experience and I’m so happy to have had the chance! I would definitely visit Martinselkosen and the Boreal Wildlife Centre again. Lovely people, place and predators! Next time I’d maybe look at another place in the Arctic Circle – probably wouldn’t bother with Rovaniemi again! Although, Santa’s Village would be great in the winter. Hope you enjoyed looking at these photos!

Photo Friday #17

I was planning on putting up part 3 of my expedition today, but this week I just haven’t looked at my photos at all. I’ve been at home for the first time in what feels forever and I’ve just been enjoying the down time and being with my boyfriend/family. The rest of my expedition photos will be up next Friday though!

Anyway, here’s an orange tip butterfly that I photographed on the morning on my animal behaviour exam. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a photograph of one before. Didn’t have my macro lens, unfortunately, but I did have the 7D. I’m really going to miss that camera over summer. After using the university 7D for well over a month now, almost continuously, it feels so strange using my 500D. When I use my own, it feels too light now, and all the buttons are in the wrong place! I really cannot wait to upgrade.

Matka – An expedition to Finland. Part #2.

imageAfter visiting Martinselkosen Eräkeskus Wildlife Centre, we headed towards the Boreal Wildlife Centre. There was a two hour drive between the two, with this place being further South. This meant that there was less snow in the area and more green forest! This place was really pretty.

On the first day/night, we just explored a little and relaxed. We were actually so tired that we slept quite early, and set an alarm for 11pm to get some night shots! I really wanted to do a timelapse but it just didn’t work out. I’ve just never managed to get a good quality timelapse… How do you do it?! Anyway, this night was brilliant. We ended up seeing a tiny glimpse of the Northern Lights! It was only a bit of green in the sky (which was hardly visible to the eye but could be seen in camera) but it was so awesome. Green, purples and pinks… The sky was pretty!

Our small glimpse of Northern Lights!

The next morning we did some more exploring. Walking in the woods and just taking in the beautiful scenery. I took so many tree photos here.

Also managed to see and photograph a red squirrel and brambling. The red squirrel had funny colouring! Body mostly grey, white chest, red tail, red paws and red face/ears! It was cute though.

After lunch (3pm in both of these centers) we headed out for our first night in the hide. This hide gave us a very wide an open view – a lot different from the trees and the swamp in the first place. We were waiting for 4-5 hours for the first bear to appear but, once one had arrived, two more quickly followed. There was one bear that had a white patch on it’s back and I think it looked awesome! Whilst we were waiting for the bears, we just had lots of ravens in sight.

The area had lots of left over animal bones…

And lots of ravens.

Now for the best bit… The morning of our second stay in the hide, we saw two wolves! Yes, wolves! We felt so lucky because the guide had told us that the wolves would constantly patrol their territory and as a result they would only pass through the hide area once every 7/8 days. They didn’t stay for very long, but I’m happy that I managed to get some photographs! It was an incredible sight.

Phew, that was a long one, wasn’t it? Next Friday post up is Rovaniemi!

Matka – An expedition to Finland. Part #1.

Well I guess it’s time I started talking about my expedition to Finland, right? If you’re new or just passing by, you may be a little confused here. I’m in my second year of university (and it’s almost over!) and for one module I had to plan an expedition. Now this could be anywhere in the world, but due to finances, we chose Finland. I say that as if it isn’t an amazing place but it was, and is a brilliant country to visit. I’m really happy to have experienced the things that we did, and I would definitely go back! Just next time it would be cool to see the summer or the winter… The spring is a relatively quiet season, with not much happening for visitors! As you may have realised from the title, I’m going to do this in three posts.

The journey from London to Helsinki was pretty uneventful. Once in Helsinki, we had a long 5 hours waiting time ahead of us as our next flight to Kajaani was in the evening. A lot of this time was spent wandering around the airport, trying to figure out the floor system and finding the supermarket and cheap food. We managed to find a pizza place (first meal in Finland was a cheese pizza – I know…) and then settled back down in front of our gate. The flight to Kajaani was also uneventful. It was a small plane, and when we arrived at Kajaani airport it was a little strange! The area where we picked up our bags was tiny. The airport only actually had one gate I think!

Our first port of call was Martinselkosen Eräkeskus Wildlife Centre, located in Suomussalmi. We were picked up by the guide and another visitor, and then driven two hours up north. It was nearing midnight at this point, but we were looking out of the car windows, trying to stay awake, and managing to see a few Arctic hare on the journey as well as getting a tiny glimpse of green in the sky! It just felt so surreal.

The place itself was really pretty, and I took a lot of snowy tree photos! On the first day we managed to explore a little before heading out to the big hide. The area in which we were staying was very deserted – no houses around and lots of forest. On site, we saw plenty of bullfinch, chaffinch and tits, as well as a few woodpeckers and a red squirrel. We also spotted some big paw prints on our walks, but obviously no sights of the bears during the day 😉

I have never seen so many Bullfinch in one place!

How cute is this little cabin?!

To get to the hide we went in a 4×4, and then on a snow mobile ‘sleigh’ for the final bit. I’m not going to lie, that bit scared me! First impressions of the hide were that it was huge! I knew it had bunk beds in, but it really was huge. We had been inside the hide for less than 5 minutes, and the guides were still putting food outside, when the first bear turned up. It was ridiculously easy this night… Overall we saw four different bears and even managed to see them all at once. It was incredible, and as I said, super easy. It kind of felt too easy…

The bear on the right was definitely the most photogenic…

Pretty river!

I really loved all the forest around us.

The second day was also spent exploring. We managed to find a really pretty river, which looked very strange against all the white snow. In the evening, we went into another hide for a night! This hide was a lot smaller, and was meant for two people. We had three of us squeezed into it! Fine for the evening, but sleeping was something else! We were very squished and had extremely sore hips the next morning… Anyway, this time we were waiting for at least 4 hours before we got our first bear sighting! Very different to the first day’s experience, right? We also saw four bears on this night, and I’m guessing that they were the same ones from the first night – we were actually only a few hundred metres away.

Mr Photogenic again 😉

That was our time at Martinselkosen Eräkeskus! The next part will show our time at the Boreal Wildlife Centre and I will post it next Friday!

Photo Friday #14

It’s Friday already?! Today I’m heading back up to Carlisle for my last weekend at work before I go to Finland. Just 4 days until I’m heading down to London for the flights!

Here’s another guest Photo Friday guest post – I’ll get right into it!

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Hello I’m Louise and I currently study Wildlife and Media at the University of Cumbria. I have a keen interest in horses and wildlife and after university I hope to join an existing equine photography business, photographing wildlife in my spare time, working my way up to start my own business. Here are a selection of my equine and wildlife photos:

1. Great Spotted Woodpecker – I took this photo last summer when at home when I spotted an active woodpeckers nest very close to a children’s park. As we walk the dog past this tree every afternoon I saw the pair of great spotted woodpeckers regularly and even saw the young poke there heads outside! I spent ages looking up at the trees fascinated by the close encounters with these woodpeckers and I hope to see them around again this summer.

2. New Forest Foal – A photo from last summers day trip to the New Forest! This picture was taken in Lyndhurst and I only came across it this year (after picking out a few favourites from the 200+ pictures I came home with last year). The foal didn’t seem to fussed at all by my presence just dozed the whole time!

3. Natural Environment – Again a photo from last summers day trip to the New Forest! This was taken in Beaulieu and was the first stop for the trip, one of my first pictures from the new forest…happens to be one of my personal favourites.

4. Early Rise – Taken last summer, I was out the door at 4am in the morning for this and am very pleased I managed to see about 4 foxes this morning! Certainly gets the adrenaline going, this is my favourite from the day, I heard a rustle coming from behind the bushes so stunk up on the fox…snapped a picture held eye contact for a couple of seconds and then off popped the fox….I then turned around to see another fox behind me, caught me by surprise anyway!

5. By the sea – Taken at Maryport in Cumbria on a day trip out whilst family were visiting me at university!. I spotted a large group of oystercatcher by the seas edge and couldn’t resist laying down and shuffling closer to get a few snaps.

6. Seal – Who could resist this face? Taken on a day trip to the Farne Islands, this seal popped its head out the water and kept its eye on the boat (either posing or wondering what the hell we were all doing). I used a 5DMark 2 borrowed from the university for this photo along with my own 300mm.

The majority of photos are taken on my own Canon 500D with a f.4, 300mm.

If you like my photos feel free to check more out at either : http://www.louisegroomphotography.co.uk or http://www.facebook.com/louisegroomphotography

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So yep, Louise is on my university course and well, aren’t these photos awesome!

(Interested in doing one of these posts? Contact me!)

Photo Friday #12

I visited Talkin Tarn earlier this week – it’s such a great place to walk around. I saw so many different birds (including treecreepers and woodpeckers – yes more than one!) and the sun was a lovely addition to the day. It was still quite windy, but there’s nothing better than just walking outside and sitting, watching the nature around you.

Anyway, this week I’m going to ask for something from you. I want to start featuring photographers on my ‘Photo Friday’ posts. Now I’m not asking for you to be a professional; it doesn’t matter if you have a simple compact camera or a fancy DSLR, I just want to showcase different photos and have a few words from the photographer! I’m looking to include all kinds of photography. You’ll have noticed that the photos I post are mainly wildlife related, and I know that doesn’t interest everyone. I thought that by doing this, I can reach out to a broader audience and hopefully help some other photographers out!

If you’re interested, comment below, tweet me (@katehlouise) or send an email to katie_halsall@yahoo.co.uk and I’ll get back to you with more information!

Photo Friday #11 – Natural Lighting Tips

imageIt’s finally Spring (officially!) and this is my favourite time for photographing. The days get longer, the sun starts to appear and the air outside is warmer. After a long winter, plants are gaining life again and blooming, the birds are singing and the air is swarming with creatures large and small.

Here are some tips to help you use natural light when out photographing! These tips can be applied to any kind of photography really, whether it’s animals, flowers, fashion, architecture etc… Lighting is one of the most important things in photography, and getting this right will help your photographs stand out.

#1 Choose your time of day.
The sun creates different lighting at different times of the day. A photography taken at sunrise will look different to one taken in the middle of the day. Now this all depends on what you want your photograph to look like. Sometimes you won’t have the time to pick and choose when you’ll take photographs, but if you do, think wisely! You may have heard of ‘blue hour’ or ‘golden hour’.

‘Blue hour is the time just before the sun has risen and just after the sun has set. On a clear day, there’s enough light in the sky to take photographs without needing external lighting, and it gives photographs a cool blue look. This is the time just after the sunrise and just before sunset in which the light becomes softer and more ‘golden’. A lot of photographers love this time of day, and it can look lovely if that’s what you’re going for. At other times, a harsh midday sun may put across the message that you want. I found two photos that I took in the ‘golden hour’, though in both instances the sun was behind the subject (back-lit). The one on the left created a huge flare, and the one on the right made the subjects a little dark. Nevertheless, you can see the colours! Just google ‘golden hour’ and you’ll find tons of beautiful photographs!

#2 Know the sun.
Not literally, of course! Despite what a lot of people seem to think, bright and sunny days are not always ideal. The sun causes harsh shadows which can be difficult to get rid of, though a fill in flash will help in that situation. Now when photographing it’s key to keep an idea of where the sun is at.
+ Front-lit: The sun is behind you, give light to the front of your subject.
+ Back-lit: The sun is in front of you, giving light to the back of your subject.
+ Side-lit: The sun is at the side.
A front-lit subject will have even lighting, though this can sometimes make the subject look flat so you’ve got to watch out for that! A back-lit subject will give it a silhouette look. A side-lit subject will show the textures and give the photograph depth – it can sometimes look quite dramatic. My favourite lighting would be at dawn/dusk, or on an overcast day. Clouds are a photographer’s best friend – they diffuse the sunlight and create a softer light effect. Below: left is back-lit, right is side-lit.

#3 Take advantage of shadows
On a harshly lit day, shadows can save your shot. They can add interest (as in the photo on the left) but they can also give you a good evenly lit photograph (as on the right). The photo on the left was taken on a really bright day, however the bird was in the shadow on the trees – no harsh sunlight was getting to it. The resulting lighting looks even – though possibly a little flat! The frog photo right at the top was also taken in harsh sunlight, however the pond was hidden away, and was in a shadow.

I really hope these tips have helped you with lighting! Please, any questions ask me!

Photo Friday #7

This week is a post of ‘firsts’. There are so many different animals in Britain, but obviously some are more abundant in specific areas and you may not actually see them all that often. Since living in Cumbria, I’ve seen so many different species that I never really noticed back home. The main one being the otter – I don’t believe they are in my area back home as we don’t have a big enough river close by. (Being, in my little town!) Anyway, the animals here are ones that I can find back home, but I’ve just never managed to get photos of before. I finally managed to do so this week! None of the photos are ‘brilliant’ but I’m pleased with them.

The common frog… As I was walking to university one day, and walking through the park, I noticed a splashing in the corner of my eye. Closer inspection showed a few frogs in the small pond. I went back the next day to get some photos! Really pleased with these, though I do want to go again to better ones!

Photograph Frog. by Katie Halsall on 500px

Photograph Peeping. by Katie Halsall on 500px

Another one is the Dipper. They’re great to watch! It’s quite funny to see a bird in the water, and swimming around like a duck… Unfortunately my photos of that were focused on the water and not the dipper…

Photograph Dipper. by Katie Halsall on 500px

Photograph Dipper. by Katie Halsall on 500px

And finally, the Blackbird… Strangely enough, this is my first photo of a blackbird in which it looks recognisable. I find them really hard to photograph as they move so quickly! They seem to be more wary of humans than other birds I’ve photographed…

Photograph Blackbird. by Katie Halsall on 500px

Photo Friday #6

This week I thought I would show some of my bird photos. I was never really ‘into’ birds before I came to university. Since starting however, I love nothing more than sitting down to watch and photograph birds! (With my favourites being Robins of course… I actually saw one today on my walk, as well as two dippers and one that I couldn’t
I.D!)

PLEASE DO NOT PIN ANY OF THESE PHOTOGRAPHS ONTO PINTEREST. THANKS!

Who would have thought that the magpie had such a beautiful blue in it’s feathers?
Magpie by Katie Halsall on 500px.com

The first bullfinch that I managed to photograph, and I was super happy with it.
Bullfinch by Katie Halsall on 500px.com

A lovely little blue tit.
Blue Tit by Katie Halsall on 500px.com

A fairly well camouflaged chaffinch.
Untitled by Katie Halsall on 500px.com

I managed to get this grey heron in two different places this day. It was also the first time I had seen one at such a close distance (I was only about 5 metres away!) and first one to photograph!
Grey Heron by Katie Halsall on 500px.com

Grey Heron by Katie Halsall on 500px.com

This photo of a starling murmuration was taken in really low lighting so I converted it to black and white and really loved the old look that it has.
Murmuration by Katie Halsall on 500px.com

These starling photos were taken at the Stone Henge… Yep! The first one won a small university competition and got into their exhibition, and the bottom one won me first place in a Waterstones photography competition! The second is a little too bright and edited, but I have the actual winning copy on my hard drive – I’m just too lazy to swap it!
Untitled by Katie Halsall on 500px.com

Marching. by Katie Halsall on 500px.com

Well, there you go! As of now, birds are my favourite thing to photograph though insect/macro is a close second! I’m dying to get photos of kingfishers – I’ve only ever seen two and they were both blurs!


  • I am 21 years old, currently studying Wildlife and Media at University and blogging about life, stationery, Filofax, fitness and more.

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