Cricket, Gannets & Lewis

14th August 2014
You don't get any sympathy as a cricket snapper. The slightest confession that you might be a bit tired in the end of the day is met with incredulity. "All you do is flaming' sit there all day. People bring you water (and an ice cream at Trent Bridge - ed), feed you for free…………….. and you get the best view. Bondy, all you do is whinge."

OK, from my point of view: Lets assume I'm doing a County game: there are 96 overs in a day, thats 576 ball (minus a few if they change innings, plus a few extras), and you have to snap every ball in theory. I probably take around 2000 images a day! Sods law if you don't that'll be the ball when the wickets are sent tumbling……………. you have to delete as you go…….and you're transmitting live.

The very unfortunate Craig Kieswetter getting a ball right in the eye socket. It must have had a millimetre each side to get through the visor

This set plus several others has done very well for me worldwide over the last few weeks. See what you can miss if your concentration goes…...

The very affable Mr Kieswetter is now well on the mend - although it still looks a bit of a mess.

So, what about cricket photography? As with all snapping, its much easier if you have a brief. So, if I am doing Somerset, you would major on them if batting or bowling, but not to the exclusion of the other team. Then you're playing the odds. First find a decent background (no terraces of empty seats, as few highviz jackets as possible……… and if you're at a smaller county ground, no bouncy castles or ice cream vans. Or do you go high to get a plain green background? That last sentence is worthy of a blog on its own - but I'm not going to get into that argument now………grrrrr.

The next set of odds to weigh are: whether batsmen and or bowlers are right or left handed, and where to place yourself accordingly. It goes on and on and you just have to read the game and lessen the odds as much as you can. Cricket ain't as easy as it seems!

Left handed Moeen Ali getting bowled at Old Trafford. If he'd been right handed I'd probably have concentrated on the bowler and his reaction, as a bowled snap with his backside towards you is less aesthetic. You've still got time for the bowler cele because as the batsmen is left handed the bowler will (logically) run towards the slips/keeper who are 'this side' of the stumps! Geddit??

But I do enjoy a good whinge…………

Anyway, enough of cricket. The remnants of Hurricane Bertha means no play at Trent Bridge today so I have a few hours to start a much needed blog. The timing also coincides with me desperately attempting to catch up on my wildlife images. This batch is of Gannets - taken at Bass Rock last year, nope 2012 - that's how far I am behind. I managed to squeeze in a trip that actually landed conveniently between a couple of early season football matches in the North East - so it was quite late in the Gannet season. It meant that a lot of the chicks had nearly fledged.

A couple of almost compulsory rim lit flying Gannets - even though I vowed I wouldn't

Now Gannets seem a bit odd in this area of breeding strategy. Although they live in colonies they don't have chicks hatching en masse at the same time as I would expect. On the day I was there, there were full size fledglings with other eggs were just hatching. No idea why, perhaps the safety in numbers thing doesn't matter so much when there are few predators about! I am not going to surmise why - there are experts to do that………

While we're on the subject of Gannet predators, can I just give the good people of the Isle of Lewis a nod. It was good to see that they are still killing 2000 Gannet chicks (Guga) a year in a pathetic determination to retain some unwarranted tradition. This year they actually held a Guga eating contest - which must also be part of a sustainable ancient right, or normal people might consider this repellent and borderline illegal (probably not though if Cameron's record of wildlife abuse is to be sustained - plus there is an independence vote coming up?) I await the first planeload of obese American professional eaters to turn up………. Did you even know this abuse was going on? Don't they have a Tesco or are they still foraging nuts and berries when the Gannets are at sea?

I've been to the Rock a few times now and have masses of 'everyday' snaps of Gannets flying, Gannets diving, Gannets sitting about, Gannets playing with seaweed etc etc. See if you want to have a look at some. This trip I tried to do a shotlist (that I try to keep to but it never really works as its almost compulsory to snap flying Gannets). This included some backlit stuff but also a number of fledgling images. I can identify with these young birds as they always seem to be suffering from bad-hair-days. I also wanted some more high-key images which Gannets lend themselves to, although it wasn't so easy as the day started off being too bright.

Gannet chick in thoughtful mode

Usual scruffy Gannet chick with its parent forming a halo behind it

Dear people of Lewis. Tasty is not the word that springs to mind. Pretend there is such a thing as human evolution and leave them alone…….

Proof that Gannets can catch Mackeral

Fish please and make it snappy!

I hate anthropomorphising animals, but 'proud parent' does leap to mind?

Gannet chick - looks like it needs caffeine?

Bit of an odd one! You can see the reflection of an adult Gannet in the eye and, unfortunately, me. Probably not enough detail to make it worth trying to get Paramo to buy it

I reckon Gannets are about as good as it gets bird-photography-wise. They are pretty magnificent in the air with their diamond white colour. There is no mistaking them when you see them out to sea - apart from their size and flight pattern they make everything else look grey. They also have a plumage that looks designed; from the black wing tips, to the cream/yellow head, to the bright blue eye ring. They lend themselves to close up & high key snapping.

Onto the high key stuff. Luckily the sun disappeared - not something you say a lot in Scotland

Slightly breaks photographic rules rules - but a nice lot of room for text Mr Picture Editor

Nice clean interaction. Guano does make a nice soft foreground

My favourite. The full resolution print version looks even more high key. I could spend hours taking snaps like this of Gannets……. actually I probably did

Ok, they are rubbish on the ground and often plummet the last couple of feet into their neighbours - or even you. I forgive them.

I've been to some Gannet colonies around the UK, and not others, but I think Bass Rock is up there with the Serengetti in terms of wildlife spectacles.

If I had a little more willpower I wouldn't take stuff like this - but its hard not to. They are also one of the easiest birds to take flight shots of.


Brakes engaged

The landing technique is not infallible, and several of his/her neighbours are probably dislodged here. Nice and high key.

I could ramble on about getting stuck due to Spring Tides and having a mid Firth Of Forth transfer onto a Zodiac (arranged by the splendid trawler skipper), a whizz into Dunbar Harbour, and a pelt down the A1 on a lets-move-the-Combine-Harvester-on-the-main-roads day so that I could do a booked job in Gateshead, but that's another story.

So there you are: some Gannets and their scruffy young.

Right that's posted, now what else can I do to put off defrosting the freezer?