This week in Scotland is crammed so full with fantastic photo opportunities, that it should, without doubt, see you returning home with pictures of the quality that you thought could only have been taken by professional photographers. There are five full days packed with photographic opportunities, plus hotel accommodation and one evening in a Badger / Pine Marten hide. The number of photographers will be strictly limited to just ten persons, so that you are each able to receive the individual attention and advice that you require.
Highland Wildlife Park
We will spend one full day enjoying privileged access to the Polar Bears, the Snow Monkeys and the Tigers, and then timing our photography to coincide with the feeding of some of the wonderful array of animals in this park. This park is beautifully situated in the Cairngorms, not far from Aviemore. Below is a list of the animals we expect to photograph there. Some of the lesser species may be sacrificed to enable more quality time with the more outstanding subjects. Your free day will allow you time to spend time with any subjects you have missed.
One highlight of the park has to be Walker and Arktos, a pair of beautiful Polar Bears. I photographed Walker on the day of his arrival in November 2010. He and his mate (male) live in Europe’s largest Polar Bear enclosure, a £300,000 construction with two covered viewing platforms, one of which extends right into his compound. You can photograph him from here or from special access to the drive through viewing area at the bottom of her enclosure before the park opens to the public. He has a large pond as well as a number of well established trees and shrubs that give the whole place a natural tundra feel to it. A magnificent achievement. Walker immediately settled in and showed no signs of stress whatsoever in his new home. These are the only Polar Bears within the UK -and just seeing them is worth the effort of the long drive to Scotland.
Dominica (female) and Marty (male) are resident here in the park. Dominica was bred here and Marty has arrived to be her mate. It is hoped that they will have cubs when they have both reached maturity. Amur Tigers are the largest of the “big cats”. Siberian Tigers were renamed Amur Tigers when they disappeared from Siberia in the 1990s. Approximately only 450 now exist in the wild, in the Amur valley and around China’s north east border. They live in Europe’s largest Tiger enclosure and it is not at all difficult to get great pictures of these wonderful animals in a natural woodland habitat. We will have access to an area not open to the public from which to photograph these captivating subjects.
Feeding of Capercaille, Pine Marten, Eagle Owl and Wildcat
Following the keeper from enclosure to enclosure as the animals are fed is sure to provide some activity, and shots that are of more interest than if the animals were simply sitting and posing.
2007 saw the arrival of a magnificent troop of Snow Monkeys. Also known as Japanese Macaques, these adorable creatures provided possibly the most exhilarating photo-session in the park. They breed successfully most years, providing lovely “mum & baby” shots. They were fed especially for us and we enjoyed privileged access to their large photogenic enclosure. A truly memorable experience. They are now breeding successfully in the park.
These animals are remarkably similar to horses depicted in European Neolithic cave paintings. They are now extinct in the wild. Fossil evidence shows their existence in Scotland 3000 years ago. They will be fed especially for us and will usually provide some entertaining action shots.
Beaver, Lynx, Arctic Fox, Snowy Owl, European Grey Wolf
We will photograph the Arctic Fox and the Beaver when they are fed. Two young Carpathian Lynx arrived here in 2009. They are still somewhat shy but it is hoped that they will soon provide some great shots. The European Grey Wolf and a pair of Snowy Owls are also on offer.
European Bison and Red Deer
There is a substantial herd of bison. these will be fed in the park at 3pm and can be photographed from close quarters, through open windows, from the safety of your car. The red deer also make an appearance and eat as much of the Bison’s food as they are allowed. In 2006, when I researched this trip, there were two herds of red deer continually guarded and kept separate by the two dominant stags. At feeding time all the hinds from both groups charged over and became as one. The mayhem as the two stags fought to sort them out afterwards provided a fantastic spectacle.
European Elk, Yak, Musk Ox and Reindeer
Yak, Reindeer and European Elk, also known as Moose, are now present in the drive-through area of the park. These subjects can provide great photo opportunities on your free day. the arrival of the pair of Musk Ox in 2012 provides more totally unique photographs only at this venue in the UK.
Red Squirrels with Neil McIntyre
Neil is one of the best known professional Scottish Wildlife Photographers. He is allowing us to use his own personal hides and secret Red Squirrel locations. Neil himself will accompany you on these morning shoots. He literally ensures that these Squirrels are fed every day throughout the year, safe in the knowledge that frame filling sightings are virtually guaranteed on a daily basis. After photographing Squirrels with Neil, no other location or setting even comes close. The demise of the woodpecker has led us to give you two sessions with Red Squirrels at different locations. While the woodpecker will be missed, his loss will be more than made up with the second session with the squirrels. These are everybody’s favourites and they rarely disappoint.
Plus Great Tits, Coal Tits & Blue Tits
Neil McIntyre will take you to his “secret location” for the afternoon. He has set up a feeding station using photogenic branches and lichens for the small birds to perch on. There are literally hundreds of times when the birds land here, but very often you have little more than a second or two to grab the shot. You will be photographing one of Scotland’s famous birds – the Crested Tit. These are stunningly beautiful but extremely fast. Neil has a feeding station specially set up for these birds amongst some tall pine trees. A number of these birds have been in attendance each time I have run this week’s photography.
Neil McIntyre can only accommodate two people in his hides. There will be a maximum of 8 photographers on this workshop, and Neil’s days will also be rotated with the Golden Eagle days. This means that you will all have one day free in the Highland Wildlife Park. (Your entrance fee has been paid). I imagine most people will revisit the tigers at some stage, but I would suggest a considerable part of the day should be spent observing and photographing the Red Deer from within your car. The park contains a herd of approximately seventy Red Deer, and the constant bellowing and the endless chasing by the dominant stags is something to behold. The action will sometimes take place just a few feet from your car and the hilly and marshy areas within the park make some fantastic backdrops. If you are lucky you will photograph the warm breath coming from their mouths while roaring, and the dominant males locking antlers with a rival. Loch an Eileen affords particularly splendid scenery nearby, and also Loch Insch, should you require a break from wildlife.
Golden Eagle Experience
We spend two days photographing Birds of Prey. Each year we tweak things slightly in order to get you the best shots that we can. We do not limit this day to just photographing the Goldie. We have found that clients prefer spending the morning with the Golden Eagle and then to spend the afternoon photographing other Birds of Prey in a totally different location. Providing a broader spectrum of species to photograph seems to give a better balance to the day. There will be a maximum of six photographers.
Peregrine Falcon & Birds of Prey Day
Today, as a group, we once will again be accompanied by Neil McIntyre. Neil will take us to one, or more, of his favourite locations. Here we will spend the day photographing various birds of prey, both flying and perched in carefully chosen surroundings. The highlight of the day will undoubtedly be a Peregrine (or maybe even a Merlin). Subject to availability, it is our intention to finish the day with each bird on a carcass in order to give you some really true wildlife shots. The colours of the backdrops are usually truly amazing at this time of year.
Wild Badgers & Pine Marten from Hide
We will have exclusive use of a well known wildlife hide for one evening for a maximum sized group of 4 photographers. More evenings can be arranged, but are not included in the price. The BBC have filmed here regularly, and Bill Oddie and many other photographers also visit this hide. Badgers and Pine Marten are fed nightly and will definitely visit at some stage. A lot depends on how quiet you are, as to how many really good shots you get. I visited here twice and got some quite stunning shots. You can stay all night if you are up to it. The area is floodlit and there is heating inside. You will need a flashgun but no large lenses are necessary. 28 – 200mm is the range you will need. A cheeky wood mouse would come from time to time and steal some of the nuts.
Tips and Tuition
One day will be spent on your own, and one day with Neil McIntyre. The remainder of the time you will be accompanied by John Wright, who will offer any necessary advice on settings and techniques on a one to one basis throughout the day (and night) workshops. Any group sessions will be conducted in the hotel. This is so that your valuable photography time is not encroached upon. Participants are strongly encouraged to offer a selection of their day’s photography for a gentle critique during the evenings. This proved absolutely invaluable in helping to improve the general standard of photography throughout the week.
Included in the price is a 6 night’s stay at a good quality family run hotel not far from the Wildlife Park. All rooms are reserved at the Rowan Tree Country Hotel on a bed and breakfast basis. No other meals are included. The food at the hotel is excellent, and the dinners are something really to look forward to. There is an extensive menu with many local dishes to sample. Excellent wine list plus bar. Single rooms are available at no extra cost.
Click here for Scottish Wildlife photo gallery
Dates & Cost 2017; £1565.00
ARRIVE SCOTLAND SUN. OCTOBER 28TH 2017
DEPART SCOTLAND SAT. NOVEMBER 4TH 2017
The photographs on the first three pages in the Scottish Wildlife gallery were taken in 2007, 2008 & 2009. The fourth & fifth pages were taken in 2012 in just 6 days. There is no reason why you should not return home with similar photographs.