Persistence pays off in field work

A roe doe. Picture by Kevin Murray.
A roe doe. Picture by Kevin Murray.
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Morpeth Camera Club

Kevin Murray, an avid wildlife photographer, gave an amazing presentation of his work at Morpeth Camera Club on November 1.

A puffin in flight on the Farnes. Picture by Kevin Murray.

A puffin in flight on the Farnes. Picture by Kevin Murray.

A member of Alnwick and District Camera Club, he said the past ten years had been a hard learning curve in achieving his ambition to master wildlife photography, before showing images of birds and animals through the seasons.

Beginning with seabirds in spring on the Farnes, there were beautiful shots of puffins and sand eels.

With the bird population being low early in the season, Kevin could photograph individuals with few background distractions. Getting down to their level, often lying down for long periods in all weather and early in the day with low light, achieves fine feather detail, especially on white birds. Shag, terns, gannets, guillemots, razorbills and herring gull were included.

An ongoing seven-year project on red squirrels followed, with Kevin explaining that although there had been a national decline in population, numbers had increased in some local areas.

With a hide, props such as mossy branches placed to encourage them to approach, a pond for reflections and a bank of moss for foreground, we were treated to shots of squirrels in snow, feeding, perched on fungus and in flight between branches. Kevin even provides wild hazelnuts for them.

He told us how difficult it was to focus on them to achieve the right depth of field. Often he will pre-focus and wait for the squirrel to settle on the right spot.

The pond also attracts willow tits, coal tits, blue tits, jays and woodpeckers.

A three-year project on roe deer followed, with examples of the deer’s progression through the seasons, from antlers in velvet to moulting, fawning, and rutting.

The process of gaining the deer’s confidence by calling them leads to the point where they become so curious that they approach. This resulted in beautiful shots of sunrise silhouettes with back lit rimlets, fawns, and red deer rutting and foraging.

Kevin entertained the audience with humorous anecdotes of his experiences when out on photo shoots.

He continued with photographs of hares preening, stretching and posing, but he has yet to capture the classic boxing shot.

In minus 22C conditions in the Cairngorms, there were shots of capercaillie and grey partridge, hedgehogs, a kingfisher and sparrow hawks.

Kevin explained how he obtained his image of a slow worm. He unravelled a strand of wool from his sweater and attached it to a long twig to form a fishing line. The slow worm, assuming it was dinner, shot up and Kevin got his perfect shot.

Chairman Glyn Trueman thanked Kevin for a superb insight into field craft.

In a question and answer session Kevin explained his methods of calling the deer, how his lens choice has to be the most versatile for varying conditions, and how he sets up a hide. He said location-wise, Druridge Bay is one of the best locally.