Somewhere I've been meaning to visit for a long time. I'm ashamed to say up until now it's been a go-through to get to the Isle of Mull. This trip was a step in the right direction at putting this right. It's a beautiful place, and the surrounding area is stunning. Making one trip to the area doesn't do the place justice, and it won't be the last time I visit.
Oban is known as 'The Gateway to the Islands'. The name Oban itself literally means “little bay”. It's a fitting description as there are many trips you can take to the surrounding islands, most notably Mull. But the place has so much more to offer, especially if you're interested in the outdoors and, like me, wildlife...
I’d been introduced to Robert Cruickshanks of ‘Ootmahoosewindae’ (if you’re interested in watching Pine Marten, I’d strongly recommend getting in touch - www.ootmahoosewindae.com).
While my main focus would be at night with camera traps, I’d also hoped to see and photograph them at sunset. Pine Marten are crepuscular and, in the long summer days, sometimes venture out in daylight. Unfortunately the activity of the Pine Marten had dropped a little in the week leading up to my visit and, as such, they didn’t show during the day while I was there - such is the chances you take when working with wildlife!
Despite this we had plenty of visits from the Pine Marten at night. Robert is an all-round nice guy and helped me out an awful lot with setting up the camera traps. An extra pair of hands is always welcome!
Shutter speed - anywhere between 1/100sec. to 30 seconds (depending on how much ambient light you want in the image).
Aperture - anywhere between f/8 and f/16 to ensure sharpness.
ISO - usually around ISO800 or ISO1000 (or higher for star scapes) so I can keep the flashes on a lower power, allowing for faster recycle times.
Flashes - on manual power anywhere between 1/8th - 1/16th usually, depending on the distance.
The key thing to remember is natural light sources come from above (i.e. the sun or moon), so always put the flash above your subject. Obvious when you think about it!
The photo above was actually taken on my last night in Oban, and is part of the same series as the opening shot of this blog. It took 3 nights to get the image I was happy with, but that was more my trial and error than the Pine Marten not playing ball.
The plan was to explore the area that Alasdair looked after for photographic potential. Alasdair is looking to set up short breaks in the area for both photographers and outdoor enthusiasts alike, so watch this space!
Still… I found some sturdy rocks to place the camera on to get some long exposures of the river. At least I’d remembered a polarising lens!
I knew from looking up Philip’s hide prior to the trip that there was lots of opportunities to work with different lenses to photograph them. While I do like close-up shots, I’m trying more and more to think a little differently and showing the animal’s environment. Just like with the Pine Marten series above, this is what I wanted to achieve with the Red Squirrels. Philip’s hide was the perfect place in which to do this as it overlooks Loch Craignish and a beautiful landscape either side.
I still like the one above, more for the oak tree branch though!
There are more images from my time with the Red Squirrels in the gallery page, quoted earlier in the blog.
The visits from the Pine Marten were far more fleeting than the first night, and the image above is the best from the series.
On reviewing the images on the back of the camera, I was also surprised to see a Hedgehog had found the set-up as well. It was great to add another species to the collection and, more importantly, great to see a Hedgehog! Sadly the species is in desperate need of our help, and their numbers are rapidly declining.
If you live in an area where Hedgehogs are known, and you have a fence around your garden, please leave a small hole to allow them to pass through. While females will stay in a garden and find food, males travel large distances and, without passages to get from garden to garden, they’re restricted. Also, they’re lactose intolerant so don’t leave anything out that will affect them. You can buy specially designed Hedgehog food which doesn’t cost a lot, and leaving a small dish of water works wonders.
I had seen on Facebook a friend had posted some images of Pine Marten in daylight not too far from where I was, albeit a 3hr drive away. I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss so, on one day on the trip, I made my way across to Perth and then north to Mark Johnson's newly built hide. There are some fantastic photos of Pine Marten coming from the hide and anyone wanting to see them should look it up on Facebook or via his website;
My luck wasn’t in unfortunately - I think it was getting late in the season to see them during the day. It was late July after all. However, a pair of kits did show for about 5mins at roughly 9.45pm. ISO’s were high and shutter speeds were low, but I’m happy with these two images nonetheless.