I had been looking forward to this week for a long time, in 2017 I filmed the Household Cavalry on their annual summer ride-out on Holkham Beach here in Norfolk from the drone. I missed the ride last year but managed to organise access to the two regiments (Life Guards and the Blues & Royals) this year and went through the necessary permissions to be allowed to fly at Holkham again.
As you will see below we were blessed with incredible weather on Thursday & yesterday (today it is raining!) so we got some stunning stills & video footage. My partner Leanne (currently setting up her own independent film company – Samphire Films) came along on both days to film some ground-based footage to add to the aerial footage and since I wasn’t able to get clearance to fly both days (to minimise disturbance to the wildlife) I shot stills on a long lens yesterday. I’m very grateful to the Holkham Estate and Norfolk Locations for allowing me to fly on the Thursday, there is a rare nesting colony of little terns at the west end of the bay so I had to make sure I avoided flying too close.
A huge thank you to the lads & ladies of the Household Cavalry for allowing us such amazing access, particularly Major Chambers and Captain Perera who even drove us to & from the beach to save our little legs! It was a huge privilege to meet them all, a real credit to the the British Army.
Thank you to Jason & Graham from Norfolk Constabulary who came down on the Thursday to police the beach for any rogue drone users and keep an eye on things. And finally thank you to our friends Leigh & Steve who came down to assist us – Steve was my drone-spotter for the day and didn’t take his eye off the drone once, while Leigh assisted Leanne as she filmed some incredible footage – including filming from the army truck as they sped alongside the horses at full gallop. What an incredible opportunity!
Below are some of the shots and at the bottom of this post you will find the finished video by myself and Leanne and a link to the full gallery of the photos. As per 2017 the shots & video this year have proved very popular with the front cover & pages 2 & 3 in the Eastern Daily Press (see bottom of this post), a shot being used in today’s Guardian newspaper in their ‘pics of the week’ spread, Country Life magazine, the Daily Mail Online (here), and on the BBC. Enjoy!
Your eyes don’t deceive you, there is actually a naked man in the below photo – the west end of Holkham is a nudist beach, bet they didn’t expect 26 army horses & soldiers to ride towards them that day!
In today’s Guardian…
The full gallery of my still images can be seen here.
Our film of the two mornings on the beach is here:
Finally a sunny wedding! It’s been a really disappointing Spring weather-wise so far so it was a treat to see some sunshine for Sophie and Stuart’s wedding over the border in Suffolk recently.
I started the day’s coverage at Sophie’s mother’s house where the ladies were having the finishing touches to their hair & make-up done in the conservatory – great light for hair & make-up artists and for photographers!
I got stuck into photographing some details and capturing the beginning of the story of their day. I love photographing the preparations, I think they make a great start to any wedding coverage, it’s not for everyone and sometimes people prefer to have the coverage start at the church arrivals but I find the prep shots can be some of my favourites of a wedding day.
With the bridal party all ready, (and looking fantastic!), we headed to the church at Woolverstone. Just love Sophie’s choice of wedding car!
With the formal part of the day completed it was time to head out into the sunshine for the confetti and they didn’t scrimp on petals, it was an incredible shower of colour!
After the confetti I popped the drone up for some aerial shots of everyone outside the church…
…and then onto the group shots under the shade of some trees – people often assume the groups should be done in the open sunshine but this leads to all sorts of horrible shadows on people’s faces, blown out white wedding dresses and everyone squinting in the bright light. My job is to find the best spot for the groups which provides beautiful light and ideally a pleasant but not too distracting background. Often shooting just under the canopy of a tree can work well although it’s important not to go too far under or the green light coming through the leaves can give skin a green tone which is never a good look (apart from halloween!). Also it really requires the sun to be behind the subjects otherwise dappled light falling through the leaves can create some pretty weird looking hotspots on dresses & faces.
After whipping through the group shots we headed off to a secluded spot by the River Orwell for some shots of the new Mr & Mrs Smith. It was great to work with Tomasz Kornatowski from Mooncast Films – a really gentleman and superb filmmaker. It’s always lovely to work with considerate videographers, I have worked with a few so far this year, some real talent in the area.
With the shots at the Orwell complete (and a mini 4×4 off-roading adventure getting to & from the spot!), we headed to Dove Barn in South Suffolk for Sophie & Stuart’s wedding reception.
Their guests were already making themselves at home with delicious looking canapes and champagne/cocktails flowing freely!
After the meal, (and some lovely emotional speeches), myself, Thomasz, Sophie & Stuart headed out into the grounds for some evening shots. It wasn’t quite the ‘golden hour’, sadly, as the clouds had moved in but it was still interesting soft light and we had some fun making these shots.
And so to the end of the day (well for me at least – the wedding partied long into the night while I packed up ready for a 2.5hr drive north back to Norfolk!)
Thank you to Sophie & Stuart and their guests an amazing day, amazing people, beautiful locations and mostly great weather. I love it when a plan comes together!
• Suffolk Wedding Photographer • Wedding Photography Suffolk • Dove Barn weddings • Wedding photos at Dove Barn • Suffolk wedding venues
It’s been an absolutely crazy year so far, definitely my busiest in the 14 years I’ve been in business. So far this spring I’ve photographed a huge variety of subjects from supercars, shepherds huts, lifeboat crews, solar farms, and stunning beachside Norfolk properties to the many wonderful weddings. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to stop & blog anything for quite some time so I thought I’d do a quick round up to bring my blog up to date and then we can get back to business as usual.
I’ll start with a handful of the North Norfolk holiday properties I’ve photographed, beginning with this beautiful new offering from the legendary Cley Windmill. Recently nationally recognised as one of the most romantic places to stay in the UK by the Telegraph and Top 50 Cool Places by the Times, and deservedly so. Their newest room is The Old Cart Shed, beautiful oak-beamed ceilings and styled to an extrememly high standard, this is now one of my favourite rooms at the mill along with the quirky Wheel Room right at the very top of the mill.
I’m always impressed with the high standard of some of the holiday lets coming onto the market in Sheringham and the surrounding area of the North Norfolk coast. Rosehaven is no exception, fully refurbished to the very highest standards, this property is absolutely gorgeous, so many incredible details.
On a similar theme of beautifully renovated holiday cottages is Cliff Cottage, again in Sheringham, very close to the beach and decorated in my ultimate theme – the coast and lifeboats. Small but perfectly formed, the thought and time that has gone into making Cliff Cottage is astounding.
Away from the coast this time – Clippesby Hall, in the heart of Broadland, a camping & touring site with a brand new bar & restaurant area called ‘Base Camp’. While there to get some initial photos of Base Camp they also asked if I would photograph this charming little shepherd’s hut they also have on site. How cute is that?!
No blog post would be complete without some aerial shots. I’ve been busy with the drone this year on many stills and video commissions but I still always love to take the drone up for some aerial shots for pleasure when I get a chance. This is a scene I have shot many times with the drone – my home town of Sheringham. It was a lovely still, sunny evening so I grabbed some shots of the cliffs as the sun went down.
Also on an aerial photography theme I had a commission just inland of Cromer to photograph & capture video footage for a local company providing a nationwide service – Solar Farm Cleaning.
Now to an annual event which I have phoptograhed for the last 6 years – The Hoste Classic & Supercar event at Burnham Market. It’s always a pleasure to see the regular guests who bring along their stunning machines. The highlight for me this year was seeing Max Sowerby’s Frazer-Nash car with it’s 8 litre vintage aeroplane engine, wow that thing is noisy!
Sadly it’s not been a great spring weather-wise and I’ve had a few wet weddings to photograph. Always impressive is how the couples don’t let it dampen their spirits, and it doesn’t mean they can’t have a good set of images to tell the story of their day. Below are a handful of shots from Laura & Jason’s Cromer wedding, a fishing and hunting themed wedding (Laura is a vet and John Davies’ daughter – renowned Cromer fisherman and ex-coxswain of Cromer Lifeboat and Jason is the gamekeeper at a large local estate).
A horrendous squall came through just as the guests were leaving the church. Hang onto your hats ladies!
The marque was literally rocking. I’ve never seen a chandelier swing so ferociously!
Last weekend I was honoured to be asked to photograph RNLI Wells Lifeboat station for a commemorative print to celebrate their 150th anniversary next month. It was a bit of an overcast & misty morning but I think all of the bright colours saved it! I have always admired the amazing ‘Rescue Team’ photos by local man, Campbell MacCallum, so I based this shot on one of his team photos of Wells from a few years back. Sadly Campbell passed away last month so I dedicate this shot to him.
My partner, Leanne, has been learning how to make videos and she came along to document the process of producing the above photo. Below is her short film of the morning, I think it’s a fantastic record. Leanne is now taking commissions for her video work including weddings and commercial shoots. While she hones her craft she is offer the shoots and final video film at an extremely discounted rate. If you would be interested in having Leanne film your event please drop me a line.
As you may have seen in a previous blog post – I started an appeal when I returned from Kenya in February to raise some funds to help equip the rangers at the Enonkishu Conservancy. I was blown away by the support and we raised over £4000 in total. This means we can not only provide the rangers with equipment to assist them in their job of protecting the animals on the conservancy but we’ve also been able to provide much of the funds to build a new rangers’ camp on the conservancy. I love the fact that they have recognised this by naming the camp ‘Shannock Camp’ – officially a Shannock is someone who was born in Sheringham, as were their parents and grandparents.
The camp is needed as they have had three young male lions move onto the conservancy looking to establish a territory. With tensions between Maasai herders and lions always being a concern the new camp will allow the rangers to be close to the lions to ensure they can diffuse any situations which may arise and hopefully allow the lions to establish a new pride – the first potential resident pride on this conservancy.
We are heading back out there in October and really looking forward to seeing these lions, exciting times!
Part of why the last few months have been so busy is the number of commissions for film work which I have secured this year. One of them is to make six short films for Visit North Norfolk, each of them a 30-40 second film showing different aspects of what North Norfolk has to offer. Below is the first in the series. Watch this space for the others, lots of exciting shoots lined up for this.
So that’s my round up, next up is a fabulous wedding I photographed in Essex at the weekend, we finally had some sunshine, woohoo!
It’s fair to say I had a pretty amazing February with working trips to not only Kenya but also to The Maldives shooting for an open water swimming holiday company called Swimquest.
Being a fully confirmed water baby aka thalassophile aka lover of the sea, to be asked to travel to The Maldives to film/photograph in, on and under the water for an entire week while living aboard a luxury dive boat was a dream come true. To then be jetting off directly from there for two weeks in Kenya to document the work of Biosphere Expeditions (see earlier post) was unreal.
I flew out via Dubai airport and arrived on Mali, the capital island of the Maldives to be collected on the dhoni (dive/swimmer support vessel) to be taken out to the Emperor Divers liveaboard – MV Emperor Voyager. The heat was incredible and nothing prepared me for how warm the water would be when we got in for our first swim. I took a shorty wetsuit knowing how quickly I seem to get cold in water usually but there was absolutely no need for it here when swimming, even when staying in for over two hours at a time, it was like a warm bath!
Each day the guests had two swims of around 2km (sometimes more sometimes less), but the distance and pace was completely determined by the swimmers themselves, it was totally at their own pace and open to swimmers of all skill levels. Each of the sites were carefully selected by Alice from Swimquest and Chris from Emperor Divers to find the best site for calmest water and best visibility with the most fish & coral to see while they swam.
My job was to document the trip through photography stills and video which included underwater footage and aerial video using my DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone – perfect for this sort of job – compact, light and producing superb quality images through it’s Hassleblad optics & 4K video. Just look at the colours of that water!
The sea life was abundant with the swimmers frequently shouting to each other that they had spotted a turtle, eagle ray, white tipped reef shark, etc. I was in heaven!
As well as doing a dive to allow me to get some footage of the swimmers from directly below we also had the opportunity to do some dives for leisure and I took every opportunity. The first dive was on a nurse shark cleaning station in very fast currents. I’d never dived with reef hooks before so this was a first for me, an interesting experience ‘flying’ in the current while attached to the bottom!
Each day we moved from atoll to atoll to find the best swim sites, it was a superb way to get to see so much of the Maldives without being stuck on one resort. I would definitely do this again if I visit the area. Plus you can’t beat living on a boat (in my opinion), the food was absolutely superb and I love being rocked to sleep at night by the motion of the water.
The absolute highlight of this incredible week for me was when we dropped off the side of the dive support vessel right onto a manta ray cleaning station. To swim with mantas has been on my bucket list for decades and I wasn’t disappointed. We just had masks & snorkels this time so it was a case of taking a deep breath and swimming down as far as our lungs would allow us to spend some time with the beautiful behemoths.
Unfortunately my GoPro dome decided to take this one moment of the whole trip to steam up so the shots aren’t as clear as I would have liked but I’m still pleased to have been able to get this record of one of the most memorable days of my life.
On one evening of the trip we stopped off at this picture postcard desert island for a bbq and we rewarded with another incredible sunset…
While moored off the island the dive master Chris had another surprise up his sleeve for us – he knew that if they turned on the underwater lights off the stern of the boat young mantas would be attracted by the plankton that came towards the light. We had an incredible couple of hours watching the manta rays doing back flips while we stood watching on deck with ice cold beers. I’ll take that over watching sport any day of the week!
Huge thanks to Alice & John at Swimquest for this opportunity and to Chris and the crew of the MV Emperor Voyager for looking after us so well. Also big thanks to Guy, a friend of mine from way back and employee of Swimquest who suggested me for this job. Really appreciate it Guy, I owe you!
The short film I made for Swimquest is here:
• Travel photographer • Maldives travel photography • Underwater photographers in Norfolk • Norfolk travel photographers •
My first wedding of 2019 and what an absolute cracker at the mighty Holkham Hall (one of my favourite, and most regular wedding venues) to get the year’s wedding season started with!
I started the day’s coverage at ‘The Ancient House’, part of The Victoria at Holkham, a beautiful building and certainly plenty of space for Hayley and Co. to get ready for this incredible day they had planned. The night before I had been lucky enough to photograph Ankit & Hayley’s Mehndi party at Socius – a stunning new restaurant in Burnham Market. The gallery of shots from the mehndi party are here, it was lovely to see the amazing designs in henna being created, the food was incredible and it was really great to have a chance to meet the families in this build up to the big day.
I knew the wedding was going to be a colourful event but I wasn’t prepared for just how spectacular it was going to be to photograph, it’s definitely the most colourful wedding I have ever photographed, it truly was a visual feast! From a veritable rainbow of sarees and sparkling jewellery to the incredible floral creations by Jo and the team at Constance Rose florists.
I then headed over the road to The Victoria to photograph Ankit getting ready, what an incredible wedding outfit!
It was then over to the Lady Elizabeth wing to capture shots of the guests arriving and Hayley’s bridal party running through one last rehearsal. The floral work by Constance Rose was mindblowingly beautiful…
I just had to include the sequence of the little lad below, it makes me smile every time I see it. I was grabbing a shot of him running around when he stopped and had a big old sneeze! Ahhhh-choo!
…aaaand back to the main event – Ankit had arrived and after being welcomed by his guests everyone danced down the path to the ceremony room, an absolute moment of joy, it genuinely puts a lump in my throat looking back at these photos, in my mind THIS is what weddings should be about – a celebration of love and happiness and everyone getting in on the moment, this was unforgettable.
I won’t even attempt to explain what each of the little parts of the wedding ceremony represented but needless to say they each have a very special meaning and it was fascinating watching each step of the way.
A huge thank you to Ankit’s cousin Rajen, who was videoing the event for them – AsianWeddingVideo.co.uk – Rajen was a joy to work with but also was kind enough to explain to me each of the stages of the ceremony and what would be coming up so that I could make sure I had the lens pointed in the right direction. Also a massive thanks to my good friend and fellow wedding photographer, Simon Buck, who came along to second shoot for me. There was simply so much going on that Ankit had requested I bring along a second shooter to capture the action when two things were happening in different places at the same time. Simon did a fantastic job, even if it did mean I had double the number of images to process after the wedding. I’ve definitely never had over 6600 RAW files to go through after a wedding day before!
With Ankit, his twin brother Aneesh, and Hayley’s parents Peter & Sharon seated at the mandap, it was time for Hayley to be brought into the room and Ankit had to be hidden behind a sheet of material for the big reveal!
After the most amazing wedding ceremony Ankit & Hayley walked back down the aisle as husband and wife before we headed back to the mandap for a few quick family group shots while the guests made their way to the marble hall for champagne & canapes…
After the group shots I put the drone up for a few quick shots of the hall in this beautiful late afternoon spring light. Thank you to George at Norfolk Locations and Miranda and the team at Holkham for granting me permission to fly the drone at Holkham again, as you can see it really is the most stunning Norfolk wedding venue.
After the canapes the guests headed off for a short break before the wedding breakfast and evening celebrations so I took some time with Ankit & Hayley to get some couples shots around the grounds, we were blessed with beautiful golden light…
Ankit & Hayley headed off to get changed into their ‘western wedding clothes’ and returned a short while later for a few quick shots with the wedding party in the stunning marble hall.
…and then back to the Lady Elizabeth wing for the wedding breakfast provided by Admirable Crichton and as you can see here the room had been transformed with the incredible lighting creations by the talented Sam Race, how amazing does that look?!
The wedding invitations, order of service, table plan and place markers had all been created by Hayley’s father, the extremely talented artist and children’s book illustrator, Peter Kavanagh.
Stunning wedding cake provided by Love Wedding Cakes.
After some great speeches we all headed outside for a firework display by Titanium Fireworks…the same company that provide the fireworks for the London New Years eve celebrations and the Cromer Pier fireworks displays amongst others.
So onto the first dance, but it wasn’t over yet…
Yes, they had their very own Elvis, one of Hayley’s uncles, every wedding coverage should finish with an Elvis impersonator!
So there it is, one of the most incredible weddings I’ve ever had the privilege to photograph.
A huge thank you to Ankit & Hayley for having me as their wedding photographer and to all of their family and friends for making me feel so welcome. Despite it being one of the longest weddings I’ve photographed in recent years I came away totally buzzing, knowing that we had an amazing set of images for them to remember their day. I can’t wait for the next Indian wedding I get to shoot now, please contact me if you have an Indian Wedding in Norfolk planned, I’d love to be involved.
The full gallery of Ankit & Hayley’s amazing Norfolk Indian wedding photos can be seen here.
Wedding Suppliers list
Norfolk wedding Venue: Holkham Hall
Invites, table plans, Order of Service designs: Peter Kavanagh
Florist: Constance Rose
Make up artist: Melissa Abel
Hair: Victoria Ralph
Cake: Love Wedding Cakes
Venue decoration & lighting: Sam Race
Catering: Admirable Crichton
Meal entertainment: The Wandering Hands
DJ: Jeremy Durrant
Fireworks: Titanium Fireworks
Ice cream: Ronaldos
Video: Asian Wedding Video
Second Shooter: Simon Buck
• Norfolk Indian wedding • Indian wedding photographers in Norfolk • Indian wedding at Holkham Hall • Holkham Hall wedding photographer • Norfolk wedding photographer •
Back in January I headed to Norwich with well-known Norfolk artist, Brian Lewis, to get some aerial shots of the cathedral. Brian had been asked by the Dean of Norwich Cathedral, Jane Hedges, to do a painting of the cathedral and grounds.
Brian decided that an aerial angle might be interesting, Brian says “Having met Jane, the Dean of Norwich Cathedral, I asked if it would be possible to fly a drone within the Cathedral grounds with the idea that I could make a painting. Knowing Chris, his great photography, and that he’s a qualified drone pilot, we got permission and Chris took amazing shots of all the angles I needed”
It was a real honour to be able to fly at the cathedral, especially considering how tightly controlled any drone flying is within the cathedral grounds (for very good reasons). I prepared all the paperwork including flight plans, a risk assessment, a pre-flight checklist and had the flight cleared with Norwich Airport air traffic control, the Cathedral Estate Management and the Hawk & Owl Trust and we were good to go.
On the day we got a selection of shots for Brian, taking care not to fly too close to the spire where the resident peregrines were hanging out. Brian has been working on the painting for over a month now and it’s looking incredible as you can see although it is still a work in progress. Brian aims for the painting to be one of a series of the cathedral and the grounds.
The original painting, in all it’s glory, will be exhibited at his next Open Studio which runs from Saturday 4th May – Sunday 12th May, 10:30am-5:30pm daily at Bees Hall, 64 The Avenue South, Sheringham, Norfolk, NR26 8DH. There will also be a huge range of other Brian Lewis originals plus hundreds of prints and postcards. Well worth a visit to see the beautiful work and meet the great man himself!
Brian’s website is here.
As a result of the successful first flight (and getting on well with Jane and the estates manager Phil) I suggested maybe heading back for an evening flight to capture the cathedral in a different light. The suggestion was well received and a date planned.
On the evening (a month after we had originally arranged the date) thankfully the weather forecast was good so I headed back to the cathedral and we were blessed with a most amazing sunset. I love it when a plan comes together!
The below shots are a couple from that series. These have been well received by the local media with the Norwich Evening News sharing the shot in their instagram feed and BBC News East of England featuring the aerial photo and using it for their Facebook page cover image. It’s all great publicity!
Many thanks to Jane & Phil for being kind enough to let me fly there twice, I feel very lucky.
• Aerial photographers in Norfolk • Norfolk drone photography • Norwich cathedral aerial photos • Brian Lewis artist •
I have created a Crowdfunder page and called the fundraiser – Power the Rangers.
I was inspired by these committed men that patrol the conservancy armed only with their knowledge, passion & wits to ensure the continued success of this recently reclaimed ecosystem from the practices of intensive farming.
The rangers patrol the conservancy day & night to protect the wildlife that is returning to the area and to police the grazing of local herders to allow the grasslands to recover sufficiently to encourage the indigenous species to return.
As one of the northernmost conservancies of the famous Maasai Mara, Enonkishu Conservancy, borders farmland and is known as the ‘Last Line of Defence’.
To allow the rangers to continue to do their very best in protecting the animals & this fragile ecosystem they require equipment which they currently don’t have available – equipment including decent quality binoculars, torches, compasses, a GPS unit and possibly a motorbike to allow them to reach the far corners of the conservancy quickly when needed.
The conservancy has wild elephants, leopard, occasionally lions and cheetahs, hundreds of ungulates (impala, gazelle, topi, dikdik, eland), giraffe, zebra, mongoose, hyaena, jackals, hippos, baboons and lots more. Without the rangers’ protection poachers may try to kill the wildlife for profit. The rangers also police the grazing of the conservancy to ensure that the vegetation is maintained at a level suitable for the wildlife to flourish.
My aim is to raise funds to equip the rangers to better serve the animals they love, I am returning to Enonkishu in October 2019 with much of the equipment they need, it’s not just the lack of funds that they struggle with but also the lack of places to buy the equipment in Kenya – Power the Rangers!
100% of the funds raised will be used to buy the equipment for the rangers.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
I will be getting a large flag printed to take with me and will take a photo of the rangers holding up the flag. On the flag will be the logos of companies and names of the people who help me to sponsor this project. A print of the photo will be given to every UK-based sponsor, an emailed high res jpeg for non-UK sponsors.
Private individuals/families: £20 will ensure your name/family name is printed on the flag. One 7x5in print of the final photo per family.
Platinum Sponsor: £250 Your company logo included in the centre of the flag (30cmx30cm) plus a 18x12inch framed print of the rangers holding up the flag presented after the trip.
Gold Sponsors: £125 – Four spaces available. Corner positions (20cm x 20cm). One 12x8in print of the final photo.
Silver sponsors: £50 – Twenty Six spaces available – along the top, bottom & sides of the flag (15x10cm). One 12x8in print of the final photo.
NOTE TO SPONSORS
Private/family sponsors – After your pledge please put how you would like your family name to appear on the flag in the comments section.
Corporate sponsors – please email a high resolution jpeg of your logo to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can include it in the flag design.
Thank you in advance for any support you can give to this cause.
In what seems like a wonderful, extended dream there exists a place, a reality so different from my life at home, that I’m still struggling to get my head around what I experienced there. It is the Enonkishu Conservancy in Kenya, East Africa, the ‘Last Line of Defence’.
A place where the haunting calls of hyaena, belching hippos and pinging frogs echo through the night in a crazy audio-tapestry, a surreal lullaby. Where the sweet earthy smells of wet soil, camphor trees and perfumed shrubs fill your senses. A place bursting with life and abundance, every creature in a constant fight for survival, all co-existing in a fine balance of finding food or becoming food.
Brutally honest, beautifully real, there are no pretentions here. I found myself contemplating my place in the food chain like never before, reminded of how far removed from the game of survival we really are in our electronically-filled, sanitised lives of daily digital ignorance. This was life like I’d never known it before and I know I’m going to miss it terribly.
It was only two weeks in the great East African Rift Valley, the Maasai Mara, but it could have been a decade for the difference I feel right now in my head and in my heart. People said Africa would be life-changing and now I know exactly what they meant.
“Nothing but breathing the air of Africa, and actually walking through it, can communicate the indescribable sensations.” – William Burchell
• THE LAST LINE OF DEFENCE
I joined a Biosphere Expeditions project as a ‘Citizen Scientist’ to head out to a field station on the privately managed, 4000+ acre, Enonkishu Conservancy, to help with the development of a wildlife monitoring programme.
The conservancy is on the northernmost boundary of the Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem with farmland and villages to the north – it is known as ‘The Last Line of Defence’ – the boundary between wildlife conservancies and farming.
Kenya has lost 70% of its wildlife during the last 30 years due to farming pressures and climate change, conservancies such as Enonkishu are working hard to bring land back to the wild animals through carefully planned grazing programmes and farming methods designed to reduce tensions between the farmers/herdsmen and the wildlife. By monitoring the wildlife numbers and helping train the Enonkishu rangers, Biosphere Expeditions are making a positive contribution to the regeneration of this essential ecosystem – turning former farmland back into a home for native species.
• RELEASED INTO THE WILD
After a day or so of basic training on the techniques of animal identification, data recording, how to avoid animal attacks and off-road driving, we were released into the wild equipped with our binoculars, compass, ranger finder, GPS and one of four trusty Toyota Hilux 4×4 trucks. Biosphere Expeditions had commissioned a cage structure for the rear of each truck to house our data collectors, safely out of the way of the more potentially dangerous beasts (hippo, buffalo, elephant & lion) and slightly elevated for a better view of our subjects.
The expedition leader, Malika Fettak, and resident Enonkishu scientist/manager, Rebekah Karimi, had fully briefed us on how to record what we saw – including species name, distance & bearing from us, our exact location (latitude & longtitude), numbers of each species and sex/age where possible.
We were also tasked with collecting samples of animal scat to build up a ‘Poo Library’ – I soon learned how to identify hyaena poo (white) and giraffe poo (scattered over a wide area after its fall from a great height) amongst others.
• MARA TRAINING CENTRE (MTC)
Our base for the two weeks was the Mara Training Centre – framed on two sides by the Mara River and just on the edge of Enonkishu Conservancy. The centre comprises a large training room, a dining & social area called The Cow Shed, a number of ‘bandas’ – brick-build bedrooms with en suite bathrooms and six safari tents plus toilet & shower block. I was in tent number 5, overlooking the Mara river, plenty of space, electric lights and a really comfortable bed. Falling sleep to the chorus of crickets, frogs, spotted (aka laughing) hyaenas in the distance and the splashing of the hippos in the river below was simply magical.
• AN EARLY START
Our daily schedule involved breakfast from 6am, gather up the equipment needed, leave camp at 6:45am to head into the conservancy for a morning counting and observing the animals. The dawn light and mist bathing this incredible landscape each morning in a magical glow.
Giraffes and warthogs stand and watch as we trundle past in our cage on wheels, the smells of ground dampened by the morning dew, the dawn chorus of birds broken by the squabbles of zebra and snorts of wildebeest echoing through the trees. Baboons nervously run across paths & dirt roads from their treetop dormitories, warily looking back at us as they make their escape.
This feeling of anticipation of what we will see and the promises of the day ahead will never leave me.
• WARRIORS WITH PASSION
The Enonkishu Rangers, lead by Head Ranger, Dapash, are a truly inspiring bunch, passionate about protecting the animals on their patch of land. Armed only with their knowledge and wits they conduct daily foot patrols to ensure the herdsmen are grazing their cattle where they should and checking no poachers are on the land.
I was lucky enough to do one of the walking transects with them and on another day conduct the Hilltop Observation which involved a steep scramble to the top of Kileoni hill, (1700m and the highest point in the Mara), which partially surrounds the conservancy. It’s amazing how the threat of potentially finding a huge charging bull buffalo behind any bush makes you forget the burn in your legs!
The ranger’s knowledge of tracking the animals and understanding their behaviour is nothing short of astounding. On one walk we came across fresh elephant dung and Dapash soon deduced from the footprints and trail of freshly broken branches that we were on a potential collision course with these huge beasts – not something you want to do on foot if you plan to see another day.
We took a sharp detour up the hill to try to get a better idea of where the elephants were lurking – almost as soon as we had gained some altitude the rangers spotted the slightest movement in some branches below and we discovered the elephants were just 400m from us. Minutes later they were 200m from us.
How something so large can move so quickly and so silently was an eye-opener.
The rangers remained calm and we waited to determine what the elephants would do next. While you could say it felt a little tense (OK, it was very tense!) at no time did I really fear for our safety while in the company of the rangers.
They understand and respect the behaviour of the animals under their care, we could all learn a lot (and did learn a lot) from these guys.
• PHOTOGRAPHER’S DREAM
As a photographer I was totally in my element at Enonkishu. The rich variety of animals, the landscape, the light – it was a dream come true. After a few days of driving around I realised that we had come to accept a tower of giraffes walking past us as the norm. Not that I ever became complacent or stopped appreciating what an incredible situation I was in but it’s funny how the incredible can become the everyday after only a short time.
• A HUGE PRIVILEGE
One of our fellow Citizen Scientists, Peter, an ex-pat Brit now living in Canada summed the experience up – in a chat one evening he described what a ‘huge privilege’ it was to be able to do what we were doing at Enonkishu. (Peter has a birdwatching blog which I have enjoyed reading – www.mybirdoftheday.ca)
To spend so much time in the company of the animals, to learn from the rangers, to be able to drive ourselves through the plains & shrubland, not crammed in a safari truck like the tourists in the local 5 star resort, all of it was such a privilege. This was an African experience like no other and I thank Biosphere Expeditions for making it possible.
We got to spend serious amounts of time, day and night, in amongst the wildlife, observing the behaviour, taking in the glory of this incredible habitat. Some of the highlights for me were the night drives – I was lucky enough to go on four of them – armed with red and green torches to minimise the disruption to the animal’s night vision. We would head out into the conservancy in the back of the trucks and see what we could find. For safety we always had to have a ranger with us on these exciting excursions and were forbidden from leaving the safety of the vehicles but up in the cage or in the car with the windows all open we could really immerse ourselves in the sounds, smells and sights (in trippy red or green) of the Maasai Mara at night.
I will never forget seeing my first hippo running silently across the plain at night, eyes blazing in the torchlight, about 20ft from the vehicle, looking for all the world like someone caught getting out of the shower and running in embarrassment for a towel! Other highlights included finding a herd of elephant feeding in the woods and stumbling across a huge hyaena den with over 20 hyaenas engaging in various social (and very vocal!) behaviours – including the mother suckling her pup below….
• DAY OFF
On the first Friday of the two weeks we had a day off from monitoring wildlife on the conservancy and got to choose from a number of different activities – visiting the local village, a trip to the local rhino sanctuary, a 2hr drive to the Maasai Mara National Reserve or a 15 minute drive to the neighbouring conservancies of Lemek and Olchorro. Having seen Peter’s superb photos from his trip to the neighbouring conservancies on the trip two weeks previous I opted for that. (Peter actually did the first of the two Biosphere two week Kenya expeditions and opted to stay on for the second (that I was on), as did another of our companions Rebecca – a definite validation of how great the experience was).
We met our drivers – Wilson & Wilson at our expedition base and got into our safari vehicles. After a short drive we were in new territory and since we didn’t need to spend time recording and counting the wildlife we were able to stop and photograph the animals as much as we liked. What luxury!
With Wilson’s incredible eyesight we soon came across our first pride of lions. They had fed fairly recently so were just lying around in the shade of some bushes not doing a huge amount but that didn’t lessen the thrill of seeing our first wild lions – and this was up close and personal!
I was actually amazed how close the trucks could get to the sleeping lions (within 10ft) and the lions didn’t seem bothered in the slightest. The sides of the vehicles were wide open, the lions could have had the easiest meal of their lives but they showed no interest (thankfully). We were told, however, that if we were to step one foot outside of the vehicles the situation would change very rapidly and we may not come off too well!
• MAASAI WARRIORS
After a great morning seeing the wildlife, we stopped off at a local Maasai Moran (warrior) village and were greeted with a welcome song & much dancing, look at the colours of those costumes & jewellery! They then proceeded to show us how to use a bow drill to create fire and I was invited to have a try. I managed (with some assistance) to get enough embers to scrape into a handful of dried elephant dung which were then blown & coaxed until it burst in to flame. I spent the rest of the day coated in the smell of burning elephant poo but I loved it! I bought the fire drill from the tribesmen and gave it to my son Will when I returned home. We have since been trying to make fire here with not so much success. Must work on our technique. We could also do with some dried elephant dung if anyone has any spare?!
After the village, we headed off for a picnic lunch to a spot overlooking the Mara River with approx 50-60 hippos, an incredible sight…
Lunch finished, it was back to looking for the wildlife and we were lucky enough to find two more prides of lions, again still lazing around, taking it easy. But the third group we found were something I could only have dreamed of….
• THE LION KING
…two female lions (sisters) with three little lion cubs! Wilson estimated they were approximately one month old. We were all beside ourselves with excitement at finding the cubs, they mostly ignored us and carried on about their day – the cubs frolicking with each other, feeding from the mothers and showing a huge amount of love for one another. They really were just like big versions of my cats back home. The purring of the cubs as they padded & suckled from their mothers was enough to melt your heart!
As this amazing day drew to an end, we headed back to the expedition base with memory cards overflowing with the glory of this special place.
• MAASAI HERDSMEN AND THEIR BOMAS
A big part of the Enonkishu approach to conservation is to control the grazing and ease tensions between the herders and the wildlife. Part of this is to minimise lion attacks.
Traditionally the herders keep their cattle in wooden enclosures at night, known as ‘bomas’. By encouraging the use of mobile metal bomas the fertilising action of the cattle’s manure on the grassland can be encouraged. Rebekah was pleased for me to put the drone up to get some shots of the various circles of the past boma positions showing the stages of recovery. It was a real honour to be able to put the drone to good use in helping Rebekah demonstrate the benefits of the mobile bomas for future herdsmen education.
The photo bottom right shows a genius invention devised by the 11 yr old son of a Maasai herdsman which is now widely used with great success to prevent night-time lion attacks. The device is a solar-charged flashing white light using the components from a car indicator, thought to resemble a flashing torchlight. Through irregular flashes (regular ones did not work), it deters lions from attacking the cattle in the night, probably because the random flashes mimic human activity. A simple yet effective way to keep lions from cattle, reducing tension between the people and the wildlife.
• THE LAST POACHED ELEPHANT
On our walking transect head ranger Dapash took us to the scattered bones of the last elephant to die from poaching on the conservancy.
The elephant died in 2017 and was thought to have been shot with a poisoned arrow after destroying some of the maize crop in fields nearby. The elephant wandered into Enonkishu and sadly died a day or two later.
Dapash told us that the rest of the elephants stayed with the dead elephant for a week, in mourning, before moving on. They have since discovered that drones can be used to chase the elephants from the fields, which should reduce the damage and prevent future retaliatory killings.
• A RICH DIVERSITY
What continually struck me about the Enonkishu Conservancy was the huge diversity and numbers of wildlife it supported. Having gone from being nothing but wildlife-free farmland only a few short years ago, the effects of what the team here are doing was abundantly evident.
Herds of zebra grazing, wildebeest, impala, eland, Thomson’s gazelle, Grant’s gazelle, giraffe, elephant, hippo, topi, waterbuck, reedbuck, klipspringer, mongoose, hyaena, leopard, hartebeest, buffalo, honey badger, spring hare, aardvark, vervet monkey, baboon, black-backed jackal and a whole host of amazing birds. The place is teeming and this is all down to the carefully planned work of the Enonkishu team.
Our job as Citizen Scientists was, amongst other things, to document this diversity, which until we came had not been recorded at length using rigorous scientific standards. We felt privileged to help in this way and the plan is, that over many years of expeditions, the success of Enonkishu can be documented in hard scientific detail – as an example and showcase on how people and wildlife can coexist for the benefit of all.
• EDUCATING THE FUTURE
Towards the end of our expedition we had a day planned with the local school – Emarti Secondary School. We were to take them out in the 4x4s, show them the conservancy and explain what we had been doing.
Despite living next door to Enonkishu, many of these children had never seen most of the animals up close and were very excited to see the buffalo, giraffes and warthogs. We had hoped to find them an elephant or two, alas the big grey beasts had other plans, but we did manage to find them two other big grey beasts. Driving in the cab with the handheld VHF radio I overheard a call between the rangers about rhino seen in the far corner of the conservancy. That was all the info we needed and I rapidly changed our route to go & find these battle-tanks on legs.
Sure enough, ten minutes later we were rewarded with the sight of two white rhinos slowly grazing their way across the plain. I should probably come clean at this point and point out that they weren’t ‘proper’ wild white rhinos but ‘escapees’ from the rhino sanctuary next door that had wandered (with their armed bodyguards) onto Enonkishu. That didn’t bother us though, to see white rhinos on the conservancy was awesome and our cameras were machine-gunning the scene!
After the excitement of this ‘charismatic megafauna’ aka ‘sexy species’ we all headed back to base for lunch followed by a talk about Enonkishu and the importance of what is happening here by rangers Dapash & Albert, and an inspiring presentation by MTC training manager Musa.
• DRONING ON
The day was rounded off with the school party split into three groups; myself, Carrie & Leonard each teaching a group about a different aspect of what we had been doing. I demonstrated the drone to them and allowed a few of them to have a go at flying it. Centre manager Musa was an absolute natural!
• THE LEGEND: LEONARD
As part of Biosphere Expeditions’ commitment to the local community, a placement was offered to a local student for the expedition and we were lucky enough to have Leonard join us for two weeks.
Leonard was a huge asset to the group with his knowledge of the wildlife, enthusiasm and efficiency for the data collection. A graduate of Environmental Science from Kenya University and a Maasai himself, Leonard became a great friend and we had many laughs. Leonard is hoping to continue his education with a masters & PhD in the UK/USA and one day manage a conservancy. His passion was an absolute inspiration.
Leonard also taught me some of his Mara language, which I tried to use, often with comic mispronunciation. Ashe oleng Leonard, I miss your company.
• DAWN PATROL
Whenever possible, I would be up well before dawn & out on the conservancy for sunrise to capture some shots and one of many time lapses of the sun going either over or under the horizon. We could then head directly off to do our morning transect. When people wanted to join our morning foray, we would have a little gang along to enjoy the sunrise. This was the last Dawn Gang comprising myself, Knut, Leonard, Rebecca, Rebekah and Carrie, nicely modelling the Maasai traditional shuka blankets which are worn in many different ways as Leonard demonstrated to us one evening.
• IN CLOSING
As this incredible experience drew to a close, Rebekah summarised the results of our efforts and thanked us for our involvement. One of the big benefits of Biosphere Expeditions working with a local scientist is the number of ‘person hours’ that can be contributed to a study, which otherwise would take months to complete solo or with a smaller team, or not be done at all for lack of resources. Because apart from our workforce, we Citizen Scientists also help finance the project through our expedition contributions, which finance vehicles, equipment, logistics and all the things needed for a successful study. Biosphere Expeditions demonstrates this in the expedition reports it publishes after each expedition, which details the outcomes of the science, as well as what was achieved through all the ‘person hours’ in the end. And the list of conservation achievements all over the world is indeed impressive.
Through our many walking and driving transects, scat collection, a 72 hour waterhole observation (we each took on three 4hr chunks), we were able to help Rebekah build a good record of the wildlife present on the conservancy and hopefully contribute to an annual count to monitor the ‘re-wilding’ of this precious area of land.
• HOUSE IN THE WILD
If after reading this you fancy visiting Enonkishu (and why wouldn’t you?!) then I believe Biosphere Expeditions will be holding a similar expedition there next year (keep an eye on their website for forthcoming adventures) or you could book in for a stay at the stunning House In The Wild – a family-owned boutique lodge in the heart of the Enonkishu Conservancy.
Run by the lovely Lippa and Tarquin Wood (the creators of the Enonkishu Conservancy), House In The Wild truly is a special place, right on the edge of the Mara River. I am hoping to head back there sometime soon for a stay and introduce Leanne to the pure beauty of Enonkishu. I really enjoyed the safari tent at the MTC but this takes it to a whole new level!
• SUNSETS GALORE!
So I had to close with a couple of sunsets really, didn’t I? Dawn & dusk are the most magical times of the day in Kenya, the animals make the most of the cooler temperatures and can be seen feeding out on the plains, the golden light makes for gorgeous photos and the colours are out of this world.
To say Kenya got under my skin would be an understatement, never have I been somewhere that has affected me so much, inspired me and made me feel so at peace. I can’t recommend it enough, if you haven’t been, then you MUST, everyone should experience Africa at least once in their life. I feel so honoured to have been able to experience it in such a special place as Enonkishu. I will be back.
• PARTING SHOT – THE MYSTERY OF THE STARING GIRAFFES
This was the very last photo I took in Kenya, a tower of Giraffes all looking to the west. I noted at the time that it seemed unusual that they had their backs to the wind when, in my experience, animals generally prefer to stand facing into the wind.
We were later told that they were probably all keeping an eye on a predator, leopard or lion. We will never know, but that is the beauty of Kenya, there is always some mystery waiting to be discovered, one of the last great adventures on earth and so rewarding.
“Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same. But how do you begin to describe its magic to someone who has never felt it?” – Brian Jackman
• HOW YOU CAN EXPERIENCE ENONKISHU FOR YOURSELF
Biosphere Expeditions – Citizen Science • Ethical Adventures • Wildlife Conservation – offer a wide range of very well organised trips all over the globe. If you want a holiday with added value, pure adventure and to contribute something back to our planet then this non-profit citizen science NGO is for you. Alternatively you could just go somewhere hot, lie around a pool, gorge on all-inclusive junk food for two weeks, and return home fatter, redder and none the wiser!
Expedia was used to book the flights with Emirates – I flew from into Nairobi via Dubai. Emirates were excellent, flying on their Airbus A380 was a great experience, very friendly hosts/hostesses, comfortable seats, a huge range of films on the in-flight entertainment with big screens in the seats. The food was very good and we reached all our destinations in good time for the transfers, highly recommended.
“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa, for he has so much to look forward to.”—Richard Mullin
Here’s a short travel film I made of the trip to try to encapsulate the amazing work being done at Enonkishu and the contribution Biosphere Expeditions made to the future of the conservancy…
• Travel blogger • Travel photography • Kenya travel photographers • Travel photographer UK •
I can’t believe January is nearly over already, how did that happen?!
It’s been probably the most extraordinary January I’ve ever had with some incredible opportunities presenting themselves which is going to mean I’m abroad for most of February but more of that later.
I’ve had many property shoots for local estate agents and holiday properties to keep me busy this month, some portrait shoots, various press work and a very cool aerial shoot at Norwich Cathedral for well-known artist Brian Lewis. I can’t show any of the shots for a while as I need to make sure Brian has a chance to paint his commissioned pieces (for the Dean of Norwich, The Very Reverend Jane Hedges) before I publish any of the photos (we don’t want anyone else painting this unique view until Brian has got his done!)
The year started with the (now) traditional New Year’s Day Dip at Sheringham organised by good friend & fellow lifeboat crewmember Liam Cooper. I always help out with the PR & some other bits & bobs but it’s Liam’s baby and he puts a huge amount of time and energy into organising this great event every year. He started the dip three years ago and we had about 40 people, fast forward to 2019 and we had over 350 crazy dippers running into the icy waters and record amounts raised for Sheringham RNLI (£1,600 raised this year). Well done Coops!
Two local leg-ends – Coops (organiser of the Sheringham NYD Dip) and Clive Hedges (organiser of the Cromer Boxing Day Dip), between them they have been responsible for generating tens of thousands of pounds for many great local charities…
Nice of Keith Richards to pop along!
Thankfully the weather was calm for the dip but not long after we had the first storm of the year with strong Northerly winds whipping the North Sea into a frenzy. Of course I couldn’t resist heading down there to capture some of the exhilarating action…
The day after the storm I headed to West Runton beach – I love a good beachcomb after a storm, you never know what you’ll find washed up. Sadly this time it was just an awful lot of plastic and polystyrene. I posted a short video & some photos of the rubbish on the beach (while collecting as much as I could to take home & dispose of). This was picked up by one of the local news reporters and ended up as an EDP news story!
Mid January I purchased a new drone – the DJI Mavic 2 Pro – what a fantastic piece of kit – stunning image quality through the onboard Hassleblad Camera. I thought I’d make the most of my CAA Night Flying Permissions and put the drone up on a clear night at Sheringham. The results were quite amazing considering how long the exposure was. The below shot was a 1 second exposure – I couldn’t hand-hold a shot of that length and get a sharp image from it so how something flying 60m above the ground (sea actually!) could manage it is mind boggling!
I was so impressed with the results I wanted to see how it would look doing a similar shot of Cromer Pier, again the results were amazing…
The next day I took the Mavic 2 down to the lifeboat station and got some aerial shots of the chaps (and lady) doing some Sunday morning training…
I had been asked to conduct a lower harbour survey at Blakeney Point for the Blakeney Harbour Association at the next low Spring tide so I took a walk out through the saltmarsh at Blakeney to get the shots they required. Between getting the photos of the current positions of the buoyage and showing the shifting harbour entrance channel I grabbed some interesting shots of the scenery. Below is a shot of some seals resting on the sand banks…
Below is a plan view of the wreck of the SS Hjordis which sits by the entrance channel presenting a hazard to shipping…
This last week the winds whipped up again once more and we were battered with 70mph gales and a 15ft swell. I couldn’t resist some shots of this intrepid local kite surfer, James, making the most of the conditions…
As the storm raged on that night I spent an invigorating 2 hrs at Cromer Pier photographing the storm lashing the coast…
I made a short video of the waves although it’s not exactly broadcast quality! With the winds blasting around and very little light it’s a pretty wobbly & grainy video but hopefully it gives a sense of the energy out there that night. It’s no wonder I had the pier to myself!
Last year I was contacted by the production company that makes the Channel 5 TV show ‘The Hotel Inspector, Checking In, Checking Out’ (series 6, episode 4 if you are interested, 34 min in!) to see if I would be interested in being filmed photographing the rooms at The Swan, Harleston and discussing the importance of good photography with the host Alex Polizzi. Apologies for the crumby screen grab below, it’s the best resolution I could manage from their streaming version online…
We had great fun at the filming, Alex was exactly as she comes across on screen – charming, in control and brilliantly honest! The program was aired last night and the lovely Stacia Briggs was kind enough to write a piece for the EDP online yesterday to publicise it in advance…
…and finally in this update of what I’ve been up to… some very exciting news – in January I was invited to document an expedition to the Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya for Biosphere Expeditions – two weeks filming and photographing the wildlife and the great work the volunteers carry out monitoring and protecting the many incredible species inhabiting the reserve.
As you can imagine I am pretty excited about it and put a post on social media to outline my plans. Shortly after the post went live I was contacted to ask if I was available the week beforehand to fly out to The Maldives for SwimQuest and document a trip they are organising for open water swimmers – swimming around the coral atolls, living aboard the 30m MV Emperor Voyager. It’s fair to say I didn’t need long to think about it! This is literally my absolute dream assignment, I have no idea where I can go from here but I am going to enjoy every single minute of it. They arrange swims with manta rays, sharks, hopefully whale sharks too and who knows what other wonderful sealife. I had to go out & buy a new underwater camera just to make sure I can do it justice!
I will be posting the results of both trips on this blog once I return but if you are interested in following the photos as it happens I am hoping to keep my Instagram page regularly updated (wifi dependent) so please follow me here: @christaylorfoto
See you on the other side!
I usually do a bit of a round up of the year by choosing my favourite photos of the past 12 months but this year I’ve chosen to limit it to 50 images and not necessarily my favourite images but the ones which I think sum up the year best for me.
2018 has been a great year for the business, the best I’ve had since starting it in 2005 so I have a lot to be grateful for. It’s been a lot of hard work but I’ve enjoyed pretty much every minute of it. As always the variation of subjects I have photographed through the year have been fascinating and kept me on my toes.
2018 has also been the year that the film-making really took off, adding a whole new creative outlet which I am really enjoying. I have a couple of hefty video & stills commissions already booked in for the new year which will keep me busy for a few weeks each plus a very healthy number of wedding bookings so 2019 is looking to be a continuation of this vintage year!
As 2018 was the 13th year since I started Chris Taylor Photo and 13 being my lucky number I decided to commission a cake from the lovely Emma Thorburn at the Buns of Fun bakery…
With the snowfall earlier in the year I had been hoping to get loads of aerial shots of North Norfolk blanketed in the white stuff. Sadly it was also accompanied by very strong winds for much of the time the snow stayed around so I couldn’t get the drone up much. Below is one shot I managed to grab in Holt at the Gresham’s Prep School rugby pitches while shooting some scenes of Holt town for Arnolds Keys estate agents as part of a year-round commission.
In late January I spend a lovely morning with the CRAB rowers – a group from Blakeney who keep their rowing skills up to scratch in the winter months on Barton broad. In the non-winter seasons they row at Blakeney and I spent another morning with them & friends later in the year as you will see further down.
A few years ago local legend and talented artist Colin Seal had an idea to start a Viking Festival in Sheringham to honour the viking history of the town. The below shot was one of many I took on a beautiful sunny day in mid February of a viking reenactment group battling it out on the beach at Sheringham.
Of course I couldn’t leave out wedding shots in this blog post so below are a few of my favourites of the year. Obviously with tens of thousands of images to choose from it’s always going to be difficult so I have grabbed a handful from some of the amazing weddings I shot this year…
With so many stunning properties in Norfolk I was again spoilt for choice for what to choose to show some of the amazing places I’ve been hired to photograph this year. From huge luxury converted barns that sleep 20+ people to tiny one bedrrom converted fisherman’s cottages, each have their own unique North Norfolk charm and present different challenges to photograph in order to capture the atmosphere.
For the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to be the photographer for the Byfords Group properties which include the legendary Byfords Cafe & deli and The Pigs at Edgefield. With regular improvements and changes to the menu they keep me busy photographing their beautiful rooms and delicious menu. In fact 14 of us are heading to The Pigs tomorrow for our New Year’s Day lunch. Their pork belly with black pudding & crackling is pretty special! Below is one of the shots I took this year of their new games room…
2018 was a good year for publicity with my work being shown on BBC, ITV & channel 4, featured in some national press and a four page spread in the Cameracraft magazine as seen below…
It was also a good year for publicity for Cromer Pier, seeing them hosting the BBC Antiques Roadshow, BBC Radio 4’s Kitchen Cabinet with Jay Rayner and the cherry on the cake was seeing the pier used for the BBC1 Christmas ident…
As always I spend as much time in, on, under or by the sea as I can and 2018 gave me plenty of opportunities. I made a couple of shrimp nets last year from some vintage shrimp netting I bought from a museum. We like a bit of a forage so the summer time is a bonanza with the brown shrimp we can now catch and the delicious samphire we pick on the North Norfolk saltmarshes! Not to mention the mackerel we catch off Blakeney Point from the boat.
With the amazing summer we had this year the sediment dropped out of the water column and provided us with some incredible clear water for at least two weeks. I don’t remember ever seeing the sea so clear here and made the most of it by getting out snorkelling as much as I could. Below is a shot I took of my son Will while we were out snorkeling one morning and the shot below that shows just how clear it was.
I believe this was the second year that the increasingly popular Cromer Hall Concerts were held and I was asked by the organisers to go along & film it for a promotional film. The drone was invaluable for providing the opening shots to set the scene on a glorious summer evening…
In August I had an incredible week down at Cowes Week photographing the sailing action from the press boat. Below are just two shots out of hundreds I took over the time I was there…
As always the RNLI played a huge part in my year and we took Sheringham Lifeboat over to Wells along with Cromer’s All Weather Lifeboat for the last trip of retiring Wells Coxswain Allen Frary. In the below shot you can also see Cromer Coxswain John Davies on the bridge of their Tamar class lifeboat. John also retired this year, a sad year for the North Norfolk RNLI to lose so much experience & knowledge.
Blakeney Point is one of my favourite places on earth and I got to spend many happy days out there this year on various projects, adventures and foraging trips! The below shot was taken while flying the drone from my boat on a shoot for the CRAB Rowers. They were on a trip with various other rowing clubs coming from Wells harbour to Blakeney…
…and back again to shoot the World Norfolk Oyster sailing championships. Again making sure I got the iconic old lifeboat station in the background. Such a beautiful building.
As part of the 1st World War centenary armistice celebrations we held a special service at Sheringham Lifeboat Station and I was honoured to set off a single white parachute flare from the boat. Expertly captured in this shot by my partner Leanne.
A number of events were held around Sheringham for the Remembrance weekend culminating in the lighting of a beacon. This shot of the flames really caught my interest as it looks like a phoenix flying out of the fire. A poignant end to a touching weekend of remembrance.
It wasn’t always sunshine & blue skies for my North Norfolk boating experiences this year – the below is a shot of the Norfolk Coastal Exploration Co.’s 30ft whelker, The Salford, coming into the recently restored Cley Harbour. Once a busy shipping port the harbour became so silted that it resembled a muddy stream until the good folk of the Cley Harbour Association formed to clear it out & make it navigable again. The Salford was the largest boat to sail into Cley Harbour in over 50 years. A momentous occasion indeed!
Always a sucker for punishment I undertook my third Tough Mudder event this year with this merry band from our local gym. It was great fun, if a little tiring but the teamwork & camaraderie makes such a difference when it comes to sliding into a skip full of iced water or running through an obstacle designed to shock you with 10,000 volts!
Please excuse the quality of the next shot, it’s from my phone but I couldn’t resist including it. I’ve always been a huge fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s programmes so when I saw online that they run a summer festival at River Cottage I just had to get tickets. We saw Hugh about the place lots, he seemed to ennoy it as much as the festival-goers plus I got to ask Prue Leith in a Q&A session what she would choose for her final meal if she was due to get the electric chair tomorrow. She found the question amusing. (…and in case you are wondering her answer was oysters, followed my more oysters, followed by treacle tart!)
Always looking for a different angle I grabbed this shot of the iconic Happisburgh Lighthouse one evening. It’s not a shot I can ever see anyone buying but I like it for the angles, lines & lighting.
As part of a commission I spent a couple of mornings filming the seal pups at Horsey beach. Looks like this pup has smelled something he didn’t like!
Always a sucker for a good coastal storm I can always be found out & about when we have a good Northerly blowing. My cameras don’t thank me for it although I do provide them with little waterproof anoraks. I’ve only had one die on me so far due to sea water ingress which isn’t bad considering how many times they have been totally swamped by huge waves & spray!
For me 2018 will always be remembered as the first time I found amber on the beach. In fact I know four other people that found sizeable chunks of amber on the North Norfolk beaches. For me it is the ultimate beach treasure (not counting ambergris) and as a total beachcombing anorak it made me happier than I should probably admit! After a short polish using my dremel and some fine grade wet & dry paper the amber came up a treat….
It must be the scavenger in me but I love trawling the local junk yards & antique shops. We were in our favourite one on the coast road when Leanne spotted an old fishing boat which had been cut in half. We asked the owner, ‘Tony Two Sheds’, how much & decided to buy both halves. I got the bow half and Leanne got the stern half. We have since done them both up & use them as garden seat shelters. Pretty cool huh?
Continuing on the creative theme I also learned how to carve wooden spoons this year (and how to carve my finger which wasn’t so much fun). A great way to while away those long winter evenings in front of the wood burner!
I also had a crack at making my first pheasant feather wreath. I was really pleased with it & after sharing a shot on social media it seemed others were interested in making them so we laid on a pheasant wreath-making workshop which was a real success. Might do another next winter, if you are interested please drop me a line.
I couldn’t do a review of 2018 without including a shot of our gang, between myself & Leanne we have 5 little beauties. For Leanne’s birthday we went out for lunch at the awesome Dun Cow pub at Salthouse (their Sunday Roast Beef is just awesome!) followed by birthday cake on the boat at Morston. Look at all the Coke & sugar, we must be mad!
Another phone shot coming up… this is Dexter, a beautiful little Bengal kitten, I got him as a birthday present for Leanne in November and he’s been a source of great entertainment ever since. I’ve never known a cat so clumsy or funny. A beautiful little character and a welcome addition to our clan of 5 children and now 5 cats!!
…and finally a shot of Leanne & myself at our favourite place – the beach! This shot was taken on my camera by Leanne’s sister Onah, it’s not often I get in photos myself so it was great to have this shot taken by Onah and it now adorns the wall of my lounge to remind us of the best place on earth. Happy New Year, I hope 2019 brings you everything you wish for and more!