Blog 7 - Pullborough Brooks

Ok I know, I haven't blogged for a few days... weeks.. alright, a month or so. Having said that, the lack of posts is with good reason. I have been very busy, I have several projects under way at the moment. One of which will hopefully result in my participating in a photography exhibition. But currently, the more interesting project has been my recent involvement with the RSPB.

Over the past month or so I have been helping to run introductory photography sessions for young people, from the ages of 6 right up to 16. The project was aimed at getting young people interested in photography and/or more importantly, wildlife. The sessions were run by a RSPB member of staff and John, who is the manager as Sussex Camera Centre.

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Each session ran from 11:00 until about 14:30. Each participant was given a Fuji bridge camera and taken out to a couple of wildlife hot spots on the RSPB's Pullborough Brooks site in West Sussex. The first was the pond.

I assisted for the last three sessions of the project. Each group had a completely different dynamic and interests. Having said that, without fail the fascination with the large emperor dragonfly (shown above) manage to absorb the attention of every member in each group.

Everyone seemed to love the challenge of capturing its brief static moments on the waters surface or, more ambitiously as it flew. It was brilliant to see, maybe it was the draw of the peculiar appearance, its impressive size or perhaps the sound of it flying. Which whenever it did so it reminded me of old war aircraft thundering past (but on a much smaller scale of course).

 

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Sadly, I didn't manage to get the emperor dragonfly in flight myself (much to my disappointment). On the last day however a darter dragonfly (shown above) decided to turn up which, possibly due to its striking red appearance also captured the attention of that days group. Once we realised it had taken to using the same area to repeatedly bask in the sun we were able to let the children know. I believe some excellent shots were taken considering the lack of experience or knowledge that some individuals had. 
 

Seeing as though everyone seemed to be getting good results I gave it a go myself. Its funny really. Usually I find myself waiting for hours in a field or woodland somewhere for some sort of fascinating creature to turn up and I often come away disappointed. But pick the right time and place and macro photography can get you a lot of shots with much less effort and disappointment.

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In my opinion the project was very successful, except for one thing that I feel I failed at. I have a strong interest in wildlife as some of you will already know. With a long term interest in a subject you gain a good level of knowledge and understanding it. However, my interest in macro photography and insects seems to only just be beginning. So when asked what something was I very often couldn't give the answer that the children seemed to eager to have. Luckily in a lot of cases I was able to ask John who has a much better depth of knowledge on the subject, but even so it is definitely something I want to work on and improve.

With that being said we still found ourselves unsure of a couple of species I managed to photograph. For example the photograph below. It shows a tiny green beetle like creature that so far I have been unable to find online. It was photographed on the edge of a pond on a reed and so far I haven't seen one since...

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After taking students to the pond we took them down to the meadow which is teaming with life and a place that John refers to as the Serengeti in miniature, and with good reason. The first thing that hit you was the noise. Which was largely down to grasshoppers and crickets such as this one below. Secondly in the colour, followed closely by what you find when you stop and look. Even stopping and looking at a tiny area for a just a few seconds will result in you seeing a host of camouflaged and otherwise unnoticeable little insects, hiding amongst the myriad of wild flowers and grasses.

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Once the children realised what was making the sound and what they looked like, that soon became the next target. Of course this too was quite a challenge. If you have ever tried you will know that getting close to a grasshopper or cricket more often than not results in a swift kick of its legs and consequently its seemless disappearance into the surrounding undergrowth. It was nice to see that this didn't stop the children trying and again coming away with a couple of keepers.

The third and final challenging shot that seemed to be on the to do list of everyone involved was the photograph of a bee on a flower. I don't know why this one seemed to be so well sort after but throughout the afternoon various individuals would appear to show me their bee on a flower. Maybe it is because the bee is so iconic, maybe its because it is an insect they all knew, or maybe its simply guaranteed to look colourful and interesting.

Whilst I was trying to get my own bee on a flower (yes, I had to give that a go too...) I spotted a sort of hoverfly that seemed to be following a particular bee from flower to flower. I hadn't seen this behaviour before and couldn't work out what it was trying to do.  That being said I was still very happy when I manage to come away with this action shot.

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Thinking about it I don't think those three sessions could have been more successful. A lot of people seemed to be hooked by nature or the idea of photographing it. And, on reflection I think it was the challenge. The challenge tocapture what you are seeing but in a way that makes it look as spectacular as it seems to you in that moment. A challenge that is definitely tricky, but one that is more than achievable as I am sure everyone who participated would tell you.


Each persons best image is now going to be printed and put on display in an exhibition on September 17th at Pullborough itself. I am sure they will love seeing people gather round and enjoy seeing their first wildlife images, so please if you are free we would love to see you there!