Tony McLean's East Yorkshire Wildlife Diary

Wildlife photography in East Yorkshire

Archive for the tag “Winter”

Seeing the light

Aurora - Nyvoll fish-farm

I was sat in a bar in Alta a few night’s ago slowly savouring a rather expensive beer and casually re-reading Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice & Men’ on my iPad. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity of reading this short but beautifully written novella, I would highly recommend doing so. Essentially, it’s about loneliness and it reflected my mood perfectly.

It was early in the evening and outside the ice-covered streets were dark and empty. The bar was almost empty too and there was little opportunity for my favourite pastime of people watching. A tall Norwegian man entered the bar, dressed in a thick overcoat and white Aran sweater. He was alone and he appeared to be a visitor rather than a resident. I watched him as he ordered a beer and take a seat at the far end of the bar. He drummed his fingers on the wooden table as he scanned the room for someone to engage in conversation. I didn’t really wish to chat so I lowered my head and continued to read and sip my beer.

After five minutes or so, the man shuffled across and asked me in Norwegian if I wished talk. I didn’t want to be rude so I quickly explained that I was from the UK and didn’t speak his native language and hoping that this would suppress his desire to continue. It didn’t. He spoke excellent English and went on to tell me of the reason he was in Alta. It turned out that he was a marine biologist and was marooned in Alta for the night, waiting to catch an early flight the following morning to Tromso and then onto another trawler.

He told me about various boats that he had worked on and places around the world that he had visited. I said very little; just asking sufficient questions so as not to be rude and listened while he told me about his passion for sea-fishing and all things marine. He reached into his coat pocket and produced a postcard that he had written to his daughter and confessed that he much preferred ‘old-fashioned’ postcards to e-mail and any other form of digital communication.

He was a pleasant man and keen to talk about his job. My knowledge of fishing was rather sketchy so I asked him about a fish-farm that I had photographed earlier that week. I opened my iPad and quickly flicked to a photograph and asked him for an explanation of the strange blue lights. He patiently explained that these blue LED lights were commonly used in aquaculture in the Northern Hemisphere. Apparently, he said, and pointing towards his crotch, these blue lights artificially extended the photoperiod and masked the shortening day length that preventing the physiological processes that initiate gonad development. This in turn led to an increase in their growth rate. I was suitably impressed though admittedly, a little uncomfortable at his rather graphic gesture. He asked me whether I would like another beer but I declined, wished him goodnight and a successful trip.

I pondered on the significance of these strange blue lights as I walked slowly back up the hill to the guesthouse. It seemed to me that physics behind the emission of the blue lights was essentially the same as that which produces the phenomena we know as the Northern Lights i.e. electroluminescence. A quick internet search and a few minutes reading confirmed my suspicions.

The following evening, I had another opportunity to photograph a salmon farm, this time just outside Nygoll. Now better informed, I wanted to make another image that better encompassed my recently acquired knowledge. After several minutes of trial end error I finally ended up with the photograph at the head of this post.

Well, I’m sorry to say that I shall be leaving Alta tomorrow and heading home. I have enjoyed my trip immensely and have had the opportunity of making some wonderful photographs. However, if you asked me to nominate my favourite image from my whole trip it would have to be this image. Not because this aurora is by any means spectacular but because of the contrasting lights and their common physics.

One blue, artificial and constant—designed by man to provide food for a luxury market; the other green, celestial and ephemeral.

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The Quiet Road to Nyvoll

Aurora over Nyvoll

Yesterday, I found myself scouring the map for a new area to explore. The weather forecast was distinctly unpromising; a short break in the cloud cover was promised at around 1:00 am but there would be a stiff breeze from the south-east. I had been festering for most of the day and I needed to get out.

The coastal road to the small fishing town of Nyvoll looked interesting. It was a cul-de-sac but that didn’t matter, at least it should be quiet and away from the main E6 with its thundering trucks. Satisfied that I had a plan, I grabbed my gear and set off north at around 8:00 pm. After some twenty miles, I turned west on to the 883 and followed the narrow road along the fjords through several small hamlets.

There was very little traffic so I drove slowly, stopping occasionally to get out and stare at the cloudy sky for any signs of auroral activity. The narrow road wound its way along the coast, with the sea on one side and steep hills and granite cliffs on the other. I noticed that many of the houses were still adorned with colourful Christmas lights; whose occupants seemed in no hurry to dismantle their festive illuminations.

About a mile south of Nyvoll I reached a long tunnel. It was two miles in length and fitted with an automatic roller shutter door at each end. I paused, waiting for the traffic lights to change and watched huge door slowly open to reveal the dimly lit interior of the unlined tunnel. Once through the tunnel I could see the lights of Nyvoll in the distance. I trundled on, passing a small pier of the ferry terminus and all too suddenly, the end of the road. I got out of my car for a few minutes and looked around at the small harbour with the dark sea and the feint blue lights of a small salmon farm.

Curiosity satisfied, I craved the warmth of my car once again and headed back the way I had come. Just short of the tunnel, I stopped once again and saw a dim green glow behind the clouds. I grabbed my tripod and camera and set up on the edge of the shore. The wind was quite strong and I had to place my hands on the legs of my tripod in order to subdue the vibrations.

After about twenty minutes of standing in one spot (I was hesitant to leave my equipment exposed to the wind) there was a break in the clouds and I managed to make four, eight-second exposures of the sky and harbour scene before returning to the comforting warmth of the car.

The return trip was pretty uneventful except for a beautiful red fox that ambled across the road in front of me. I stopped, but by the time I had grabbed my camera from the floor of the passenger seat, it had disappeared into the cold night. Pity, as this was the third fox I had seen in as many days. I smiled, wished it well and drove slowly back to Alta.

Saturday night in Alta

Alta - Cross

Yesterday it snowed. I knew from the weather forecast that there would be little chance of photographing the aurora, so apart from a little essential food shopping, I festered. At this time of the year daylight is scarce. The polar nights are long and it is far too easy to succumb to a morbid malaise.

I struggled to find the enthusiasm to venture outside. I alternated between surfing the net on my iPad and staring at the falling snow through the window. Eventually, I gave myself a proverbial ‘kick up the arse’, stuffed my Mono with its 35 mm lens into my pocket and strolled into town.

It didn’t seem like a Saturday night. The snow-covered streets and city centre were deserted. I wandered around for an hour, stopping briefly to take the occasional photograph and shaking the snow from my jacket and camera. Strange I know, but it was actually quite fun. Finally I decided it was time for a beer. I found one bar that was open and relaxed in the warmth over a couple of very expensive beers.

The place appeared to be patronised by the over thirties so I guess that I did feel rather conspicuous. I stayed for an hour or so until the bar became busy and a rather large lady, whose laugh resembled the call of a Kookaburra, became too much to bear. I wandered back through the streets to my bed and some very strange dreams.

Alta - Globe

Alta - Off-shoot

Alta - Spectacle

Alta - Two cars

Alta-Street Lights

Trapped…

Aurora over frozen-lake

I arrived in Alta on Monday at 1:30 in the morning. The flight from Oslo had been delayed by three hours and I was tired of travelling and ready for bed. Luckily, Bente the owner of the guest-house, had very kindly stayed up to welcome me. After a brief conversation, I dumped my bags on the floor and retired for the night.

The next morning I awoke with the familiar symptoms of a bout of Diverticulitis. This was not good news. I was a long way from home and the thought of spending part of my vacation in hospital was not part of my plan. The weather was also unseasonably warm. I struggled back to the airport to pick up my hire car and then spent the next couple of days lying on my bed and feeling decidedly sorry for myself.

Yesterday was New Year’s eve and I was feeling marginally better. I looked at the local weather forecasts and it didn’t look inspiring. High winds and partial cloud cover until 8:00 pm then fully overcast for the remainder of the night. I knew that the optimum time for an aurora display is usually between the hours of 10:00 pm to 3:00 am. Maybe I should stay in bed or read a book? Ignoring these doubts, I packed my gear and a flask of coffee and headed north along the E6 towards Hammerfest.

The road was quiet as I drove carefully out of Alta and up the winding pass onto the high plateau. It was already 6:30 pm and I could see the clouds pouring over the mountains from the west. I stopped at a lay-by and peered at the sky. I could make out some weak aurora in the moon-lit sky. I retrieved my camera equipment from the car and set up my tripod on the edge of the road and made a few 8 second exposures of the sky above a frozen, snow-covered lake.

Still dissatisfied, I returned to my car and continued along the road. I passed an automatic snow barrier and a short distance further, the road was partially blocked by a small avalanche. I continued on for a short distance and was met with a snow-plough and a completely blocked road. The high winds were sweeping snow across the carriageway and any further progress was impossible. I turned around and headed back towards Alta.

A few hundred yards in the distance I could see red-lights flashing on the automatic barrier as it swung vertically down into its closed position. I don’t know why but at that point, I thought of the famous scene of Indiana Jones in the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Unfortunately, real life is not like Holywood and I didn’t make it.

I got out of my car to see if there was a manual release for the barrier but no such luck. I poured myself a coffee and listened to the radio and cursed myself for venturing out on such an inhospitable night. I scoured the horizon for approaching headlights but it appeared that most sensible folk were all at home on this last evening of the year. About an hour later, I could see an approaching vehicle.

A tow-truck came to a halt on the other side of the closed barrier and the owner approached my vehicle. He was surprised to see me and asked me why I was not celebrating with my friends at home on New Year’s eve. Once he established that I from the U.K. and on holiday he must have concluded that this was just normal eccentric British behaviour. We chatted about football and he made quick call on his mobile and within minutes the flashing lights ceased and the barrier swung open. I thanked him for his troubles and wished him a Happy New Year.

I arrived back in Alta just in time for the New Year celebrations. Fireworks lit the sky and it seemed that everyone was outside welcoming in the New Year. Bente very kindly asked me if I would like to join the party but I politely declined. I’d reached my limit to the excitement for one evening. A couple of cans of beer later and I was fast asleep.

Ice-fishing adventure, Alta – Norway

Hauling the sled

Who would have thought that ice-fishing on a frozen lake at -15 C would be so much fun?

I’ve just returned to the warmth of my guest-house after spending the morning fishing, a few kilometres south of Alta, with my guide Børre from the local tour company Glød. I was picked up around 10:00 am from the town centre and we chatted as we drove the short distance to a snow covered golf course—a rather surreal location surrounded by frozen, fresh-water lakes.

Sunrise near Alta

Although the sun had not risen above the horizon it had turned the tops of the surrounding peaks a beautiful salmon pink. Børre gave me instructions on how to put on my snow shoes; not an easy task wearing gloves in the sub-zero temperatures. It felt very strange and distinctly unnatural walking with enormous plates of plastic strapped to my feet; I guess that I walked like a young girl trying on her mother’s high-heeled shoes for the first time!

Børre turned out to be an experienced and confident outdoorsman. He even has his own Husky & sled and explained that he much preferred that method of transport to the modern, noisy snowmobile. Although a native of Alta, Børre had travelled extensively and had just returned from an extended trip to Svalbard, an island between Greenland and Norway. It is famous for its Polar bears and thanks to its duty free status, a place where a bottle of Vodka is cheaper than a litre of milk.

Børre was playing the role of the ‘Husky’ today. I stumbled along in his wake as he effortlessly hauled a bright orange plastic sled on a harness behind him. He pointed out some reindeer tracks in the snow and the point at which a recent dog-sled had almost overturned, as I fumbled with the controls of my camera with numb fingers in the cold, clear mountain air. After a couple of kilometres we reached our destination; a huge twenty-foot teepee constructed of birch spars covered with canvas, with a hole at its apex.

The tent

Drilling the hole

We removed our snow-shoes and Børre and I strode out onto the surface of the frozen lake. Using a huge auger, he drilled a six-inch diameter hole through the thick ice. He handed me a tiny fishing rod and what looked like a large metal ladle with holes in for preventing our hole from freezing-over again.

Børre returned to the tent to light a fire and cook our lunch, whilst I sat on ‘Rudolph’, his affectionate term for an old reindeer hide, and dangled my plastic maggot in the vain hope of enticing a trout or perhaps an arctic char or two. I guess I must have looked like the proverbial garden gnome as I sat patiently and and waited for a bite.

Børre setting-up the tiny fishing rod

An hour our so later, I was summoned back to the tent for lunch of poached salmon and hot coffee. The fish was cooked to perfection and poached in little foil parcels with finely chopped red peppers, tomatoes and onion-grass which we ate with a wooden fork and was quite delicious! The strong black coffee, poured from an old soot-blackened pot that hung above the fire, was very welcome too. We talked about the traditions of the indigenous Sami people and mourned the loss of the traditional skills of fishing and hunting. It was good to see that Børre was doing his best to prolong these skills and educate the younger generation of northern Norway.

Børre cooking lunch

Leaving Børre to tidy up, I retraced my steps to my hole in the ice. Another twenty minutes of fishing and it was time to leave. The sky was still clear but the wind had picked-up and it had gotten noticeably cooler. This was indeed a unique experience and one I would recommend to anyone visiting this area. Børre was an excellent guide and teacher and like most Norwegians I met during my short trip, was highly intelligent and spoke perfect English.

Note: no fish were harmed (or caught) during the duration of this trip!

Please feel free to ‘click’ on any of the above images to see a larger (2048 pixel wide) version.

Photographing the aurora – Alta, Norway

Aurora - Langfjord, Norway

It’s almost a month now since I returned from a wonderful trip to Alta in Norway. I travelled there alone with the sole intention of photographing the Northern Lights. In hindsight, I was extremely lucky. The conditions during my short stay were almost ideal with clear, star-studded skies almost every night during my ten day stay. I don’t believe that the weather over there has been quite as good since returning to the U.K. I guess those ancient Norse Gods must have been smiling down on me.

Perhaps some of you are wondering why on earth I chose Alta in Norway to spend two weeks of my well-earned, annual vacation? I suspect that privately, even some of my friends think I’m border-line certifiable. Well, there is sound (sort of) logic behind my decision. Let me explain…

Last year, I travelled to Iceland with my Squiver friends and enjoyed the experience. Even though we only got to see the northern lights on one evening, it was spectacular. Far better than the best fireworks display you’ve ever seen and without the smoke and the crowds! Perched precariously on steep and loose glacial moraine and watching the light-show unfold was an amazing experience but one I admit, for which I was totally unprepared. I fumbled with my camera controls in the inky blackness and failed to get a sharp focus on the stars. I struggled getting an adequate exposure and had no time to explore alternative compositions. I was so very envious of my Canadian friends to whom this was second nature and who effortlessly snapped away and produced some absolutely stunning images. I was angry with myself but at the same time, I was hooked!

So, during the past twelve months, I’ve been surfing the web, searching for a location that would be both accessible and scenic and with a stable climate, clear nights and with good prospects of an auroral display. The small city of Alta in the arctic circle appeared to fit all of the above criteria. It was further north than the popular Norwegian city of Tromso and and more importantly to me, it attracted far fewer tourists. Personally, I hate being distracted by large numbers of other photographers all getting in each others way and spoiling my images with the light from their head-torches.

I stayed at the wonderful Baarstua Guesthouse, some fifteen minutes from the centre of Alta. The owner Bente lives in a beautiful family home right opposite the guesthouse and was extremely helpful throughout my stay, giving me plenty of advice and organising taxis and car rental. There is no doubt that Norway is expensive but staying at this guesthouse, equipped with its own small kitchen, enabled me to survive within my budget. I even hired my car from the local franchise of ‘Rent-A- Wreck’.

Aurora streams - Alta

I pre-booked a couple of evening ‘aurora hunts’ through a local adventure company Glød, before I visited Norway. This turned out to be a wise move. The local knowledge and experience of the two guides Anton and Katrina, proved invaluable and gave me the confidence to hire a car and explore the landscape by myself for the remainder of my trip.

Winter in northern Norway is cold. I experienced a range of temperatures from an almost tropical -10 C down to -35 C near Suolovuopmi! You need to dress for the conditions. A down-jacket, insulated boots and thermal underwear are essential. Handling your camera in such temperatures can be difficult. I have never yet found an ideal pair of gloves that would give me the necessary tactility and insulation. At temperatures below -20 C, your skin will begin to freeze in minutes. I thought I’d escaped without injury until small blisters appeared on the pads of each of my finger-tips when I got home. Camera batteries are much less efficient in really cold temperatures. I kept a spare battery in my inside pocket each night, just in case.

Witnessing the aurora for the first time is an almost spiritual experience. Yes, scientists have researched the phenomena and can fully explain the physics behind the spectacle. Nevertheless, the feeling of wonder and awe still remains. I admire both its beauty, rarity and its ephemeralness. To me, photography is all about capturing that unique moment in time; so very different from other media such as film or video.

Visiting Alta has also given me the opportunity of experiencing the polar winter with its unique ‘blue-light’; albeit at the tail-end of the season. Winters back home have become boring. Snowy conditions and minus temperatures are rare and are considered a nuisance rather than an event to be embraced and enjoyed. I like the cold and the ice. Everything appears so much cleaner and brighter. Here’s an excerpt from my daily diary that may give you a flavour of my nocturnal adventures…

Aurora and moonlight - Duggelv

Last night’s aurora was a doozie! For a few minutes, I swear I could have read a newspaper from its bright, green light. It was fantastic to see the winter landscape lit by an alien green glow and see its reflections on the surface of the sea. For a short spell, there was so much activity that I didn’t know which way to point my lens. I even wished that I had a fish-eye lens so I could capture the whole sky! It was stunning.

I set off about 8:00 pm, heading south along the E6 to a previously researched location on the shore of a fjord: one of Slartibartfast’s* award winning designs. I set up my camera in the middle of a snowy field and waited patiently in the deep powder snow. I guess it was below -15 C as my nose hairs tingled with each intake of breath.

After about fifteen minutes, I heard a man approaching me from the local farmhouse. He was curious to know the reason I was stood in the dark in the middle of his field. Satisfied that I was a genuine English eccentric, we chatted about the Aurora and the local wildlife, mostly foxes and otters.

Suddenly, I saw a luminous green light out of the corner of my eye and turned to see the stunning arc of an auroral rainbow spanning the whole sky. I reached for my camera and began to photograph this cosmic spectacle. The farmer tried to continue our conversation but eventually retreated to the warmth of his house when he realised I was totally engaged with my photography.

Aurora over the new Alta Bridge - Norway

I stayed and photographed the aurora for about an hour, trying many different compositions and camera settings whilst the aurora continued to wave and shimmer across the moon-lit sky. Eventually, I returned to my car, fingers frozen; as was the grin across my face. I drove back towards Alta, stopping at several previously researched locations; each time the aurora continued to oblige. I even managed to photograph the auroral lights above the recently completed suspension bridge over the fjord at Kåfjorden—perhaps a first?

* A character in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a comedy/science fiction series created by Douglas Adams.

Aurora over Langfjord - Alta

The whole trip was a wonderful experience. My camera equipment (Nikon D4 and D800) operated flawlessly despite the sub-zero temperatures. As I sit here at my desk, listening to the wind blown rain battering against my window, I really wish I was back in Finnmark, Norway.

Aurora - Langfjord, Norway

Winter has arrived at last

Blackbird-winter feeding

As usual at this time of year, I arrived at Tophill Low before dawn. Thank-goodness the road had been semi-cleared of the wet snow. Once on the footpath, the only tracks in the virgin snow were those that had been left by the animals and birds. It was quiet too, except for the bitter easterly breeze that rustled the remaining leaves and the dead reeds. The sun gradually rose above the partly frozen surface of the lake, but the curtains of clouds remained firmly shut and the winter landscape took on those familiar pastel shades.

I quickly set up my camera and long lens and waited some movement. I stared at the ice pattens on the surface of the lake; even daring to make a couple of quick exposures of grey and white surface.

Frozen-surface

The reserve appeared desolate and there was nothing showing on the icy-frozen surface of the lake. I could see a few tracks on the surface and I was hoping for a glimpse of the local fox. I’d seen fox tracks in the deep snow on my approach walk and I stopped several times to view the paw prints. I saw where the fox had stopped and scratched away the surface of the snow leaving a little bare patch of mud and grass. Well, I waited over seven hours in the freezing cold but the fox was obviously elsewhere.

Barn Owl-winter hunting

The local barn owl was active and more than made up for the fox’s shyness. Apart from a few hours rest between dawn and ten, it was hunting throughout the day. Always marvellous to watch, I was also conscious of the added difficulty that the snow had added to the availability of its staple prey.

Barn Owl flying over frozen lake

One of my favourite sounds of winter is the raucous chuckle of a group of Fieldfare. I sat and watched them take the hawthorn berries, much to the annoyance of the resident pair of blackbirds, who clearly did not want to share. The Fieldfares Latin name, Turdus pilaris appears to be quite fitting, certainly to a non-scholar such as myself.

Fieldfare on Hawthorn bush

Finally, just as I was about to leave in search of a nice warm bath, I saw some movement in the far distance and something was running across the surface of the ice. I clicked a couple of times but I couldn’t see to well and thought it was a common moorhen. When I got home and reviewed my images, I was delighted to see that it was a water rail.

Water-rail

Bayerischer Wald

Lynx_2

Sunday 5th February saw me struggle out of bed at 4:00 am, sweep six inches of snow from the car and drive along foggy and wintry roads to reach Manchester Airport. The driving conditions on the Wolds were poor and I was relieved when I made it to the M62. It was below freezing when I reached the airport and I was delighted that the flight to Munich was still on schedule.

Bayerischer Wald is in Bavaria, West Germany and is largely unknown here in the U.K. It is a huge area of forest that spans the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. There are two main centres on the Bavarian side: one at Lusen and the other a few kilometres away, in Falkenstein. If you are consulting a map, then Grafenau and Spiegelau are the two nearest towns. (This link gives detailed information about the area)

I met up with my three Dutch friends (and fine photographers) Michael, Michel and Gert at Munich airport and after a short stop at a shoe store, so Michael could replace his clogs, we headed for the car rental. Formalities over, we loaded the car and drove NE for a couple of hundred km. Michael’s Sat Nav took care of the route finding and we watched with wonder as the outside temperature gauge dropped from -5C to -15 C. We arrived at Altschonchau around eight, too late for dinner so we had to console ourselves with several glasses of the local Pilsner lager. The Hotel Moorhoff is in a superb location, only a couple of kilometres from the entrance of the park and looking out over a wild and wintry landscape covered with over a metre of snow.

After an 8:00 am breakfast and short stop at the local supermarket to stock up on some goodies, we headed for the Park entrance at Lusen. Our intentions were to photograph the European Wolves and Lynx that are kept in large enclosures on each of the reserves at Lusen and Falkenstein. Several species of native european animals including Brown bears, lynx, wolves, bison can be found here. It is, I suppose, a sophisticated zoo but one with plenty of photographic opportunities.

European Wolf

I must confess that it did trouble my conscience to be photographing captive animals. I would much rather photograph creatures in a completely natural setting but this is not always possible. So, I forgot about my personal conflict and just concentrated on obtaining the best possible photographs in the short time available. All the animals appeared to be in good condition; though I refused to photograph the Owls in their tiny aviaries.

During the week, we visited both centres. The one at Falkenstein had a wooden bridge construction that spanned over part of the very large wolf enclosure. You could take excellent photographs from the bridge but most resulting images would suffer from the dreaded ‘zoo perspective’ (looking down at the animal or bird rather than the ideal, which is shooting at their eye level). Setting up your tripod on the bridge is permitted but the adjacent foot-traffic will prevent you from achieving a perfectly sharp shot. Of the two centres, I prefer the one at Lusen.

Wolf-eating

The highlight of the week was the feeding of the wolves. Accurate feeding times were difficult to discover but at the Lusen reserve, around 2:00 pm on Wednesday, the body of a deer was unceremoniously dumped from a truck by two keepers and the following feeding frenzy was probably captured by at least a score of photographers. Not exactly natural, but what a spectacle!

Wolf-eye

Lynx_4

Photographing the two female lynx at Lusen was a delight. The conditions were perfect. Bright, low sunshine and all that wonderful snow to throw light back into the shadow areas and reduce the contrast. The Lynx look and act like big pussy-cats and it was wonderful to see their breath condense in the cold morning air. I used my 500 f4G VR lens on a tripod for most of the week. I wish I had brought a second body for my 300 mm as well. Most of the photographers appeared to be from Germany or Holland and most were packing their expensive cameras with long lenses. I was interested to be shown a new gimbal head that was designed and manufactured by the owner, Alfred Krappel. It seemed to function very well indeed. I’m not sure that the world needs another gimbal but if it did, then the EKI model sure looked good and solid.

I found it unusual to see so many photographers using hand carts to transport their heavy photographic equipment within the two reserves. Their shiny and expensive carts probably had snow-tyres too! A good idea but not practical for those like me, who travel by plane. Maybe it could catch on at my local reserve of Tophill Low? Maybe something to explore as I get older?

I was glad that the cold temperatures had little effect on my camera’s battery capacity. We all took measures to prevent condensation forming when returning to the hotel. I just kept my bag zipped-up for a few hours until it reached the ambient temperature. It was cold, though! One day, my bottle of coke turned into a ‘slush-puppy’ and my chocolate bar, as hard as a ship’s biscuit. It may have been cold but at least it wasn’t windy.

European Bison

We tried several times to get some good photographs of the European Bison. Unfortunately, when they were close enough to photograph and not obscured by trees, they stood in a depression that hid the lower half of their bodies and legs. Still, after some patient waiting I did manage a couple of decent photographs. We also tried to photograph the Brown Bears but they remained stubbornly uncooperative.

I really enjoyed my trip to Bavaria and found the whole photographic experience exciting, but artificial. It left me feeling a little guilty for playing the part of voyeur. Still, it didn’t take long for me to convince myself that you don’t get many opportunities to witness and photograph such events in the wild. Carpe diem.

I would like to thank my Dutch friends for their kindness and generosity and patiently acting as translators throughout the whole trip. We all had a great time and had the good fortune of sharing some huge portions of excellent food (except the Italian/Indian restaurant in Grafenau — please give it a very wide berth), exquisite Pilsner lager and some terrible jokes. Thanks guys—see you soon!

Notice that the only photograph showing any ‘zoo perspective’ is the one above! Deliberate?

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