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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Photoblog: The Raptor Foundation

Finally I have managed to scrape together enough internets to get some photos uploaded and now I can write a post about my visit to Cambridgeshire's Raptor Foundation a couple of weeks ago.

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Please don't expect me to remember ornithological details and names beyond "owl". Feel free to comment with interesting info about the birds you see if you know more than I do, though.
Raptors are birds of prey* including owls, eagles, hawks, harriers, buzzards, kites and vultures, and the Raptor Foundation provides medical care and rehabilitation or sanctuary for injured raptors as well as conducting research into conservation and related environmental matters.

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Who you lookin' at?
The Foundation is open to the public (it costs £5 per adult to get in), and the birds can be seen at fairly close-quarters, tethered to stakes or secured in their enclosures. There are 2 to 3 flying displays throughout the day hosted by a team demonstrators who have a clearly identifiable passion for the creatures they work with.
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Neil doing what Neil does.

They also have other events throughout the year, some of which happen at set times such as the twilight displays (I'd love to go to one of those) and others that can be booked in advance.

Being much more of a proactive photographer than I am, my good buddy Neil booked him, me and a bunch of folks he talks to on a photography website onto a photographic day. This costs more than a standard visit to the Foundation** and includes not only time to wander around the bird enclosures and watch the displays, but also some up-close-and-personal time with a selection of raptors in some nice, photogenic settings***. During the standard displays we were encouraged to position ourselves in non-standard positions, such as under the flightpaths of the birds, in order to get the most out of the experience as photographers.

At one point I completely failed to get an awesome shot as I was vaguely concerned that the enormous owl coming straight at me was about to carry me off into the trees where it could eat bits of me at leisure.

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I think this goes some way towards showing just how up-close-and-personal we could get with these majestic creatures.
Whilst the birds themselves were fascinating, as usual I tried to push myself in a direction inspired by another friend's photography**** and include some candid shots of people doing people things.

Here are some of the shots I'm most proud of from the day. As usual, the only post-processing is cropping and a little bit of colour and brightness correction (largely done automatically by Picasa):

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This kind of looks like a studio background, but it isn't, honest!

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Peekaboo!

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Watching, waiting.

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Watching me like a... well, like an owl.

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This guy was a poser and a half.

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See?

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I love this shot, but can't quite articulate why.

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It proved tricky getting good in-flight shots - I had similar problems to the ones at Waddington (though not quite so comical)

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Some of the up-close shots of the raptors getting their rewards were... disgusting.

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Lift off!

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We all had a chance to act as perch for these beautiful owls.

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This is not a raptor.

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Neither are these, though they remind me of someone...

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Framed by foliage

As usual there are more shots over on my Flickr account. Please have a look and let me know which shots are your favourites, and why! It'll help me to become a better photographer.















* Not, as I'd hoped, particularly cunning and vicious pack-hunting dinosaurs.
** I can't remember how much as Neil very kindly paid for me as a birthday present!
*** Trees.
**** Carlos, of Oblique Exposure.