Archives for category: environmental

 

2nd issue of Gavin magazine

2nd issue of Gavin magazine

In the 2nd issue of Gavin magazine is a feature on Orangutan rescue in Borneo. This thought provoking story shows the plight of one of mankind’s nearest biological neighbours.

Also in the magazine is a fine art project on Britain’s ancient trees, the look at the work of British Divers Marine Life Rescue, ragged tooth shark migration and a photo project on the 1st World War battlefields.

So there is pretty much something for everyone. The link to the free magazine is: http://issuu.com/gavinparsons/docs/gavin_magazine_issue_2

I hope you all enjoy it.

Front cover of Gavin issue 1

Front cover of Gavin issue 1

Over the last few months I have been working on an exciting project which combines many of my creative skills. And this weekend just gone I released Gavin magazine. Gavin is a showcase for my photographic, written, and design work and has been published online on the issuu platform. There is a link to the magazine at the bottom of this blog post.

I have opted for a soft launch rather than a grand fanfare as I am just finding my feet with online publishing. I have been involved in the publishing of hundreds of magazines over the years, but this is the first time I have used an online platform such as issuu, so I wanted the first issue to be stunning, yet reserved.

More issues will follow and they will include both personal projects that I have worked on in recent years and commercial work I am able to publish. Some of my work I am not allowed to use for certain reasons, which I always respect.

As always when creating a magazine I used Adobe’s Indesign and worked hard on choosing complimentary fonts, I hope you like what I’ve chosen. I decided many of the images needed to have the background story, which is so difficult to do on a portfolio website, which is another reason for working on the magazine. So some of the images have a caption, but others are part of a much larger story. This is fairly limited in the first issue, but the articles will increase as the magazine grows in popularity.

Since my first job, I have always been involved in photography and magazine creation, so this is a logical step for me. I have the writing, design and photography skills needed, but the process has been a learning curve.

At the moment the magazine is just online, but I am looking at offering a hard copy (although this will be a paid for service as buying any magazine) and as the readership grows I will possibly offer advertising opportunities for business looking to advertise their services and wares alongside my editorial (The adverts in the first issue were donated to companies who have helped me obtain images or offered advice).

I hope you enjoy reading it and please let me know what you think and also if you have any questions, comments or requests for areas of my work you’d like to see included in the magazine let me know.

You can find Gavin magazine at: http://issuu.com/gavinparsons/docs/gavin_magazine_issue_1

 

 

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

Sunrise is a romantic time so they say. Poets pontificate about it, writers get all lyrical describing the subtle hues and colour changes at the start of a new day. But when your alarm goes at 4.45am, the pontification and lyrical prose are far from the mind.

At 4.45am the world is a dark, cold, silent place. It’s not a time to be up and packing camera gear in the car. But off we set in search on the sunrise some 10 miles out into the English Channel. That’s roughly how far Portland Bill sticks out into the sea from the coastal town of Weymouth in Dorset. It is one of the haunts of my photo workshops.

Portland’s lighthouse is famous and it is so well photographed I could almost see the dimple marks of a million tripods in the rocks that overhang the rippling sea. But I set up my shot and waited. The sky was lightening and turning red and pink. It was a moment of anticipation, like waiting for a blind date to arrive.

It looked promising, like sitting in a bar watching the front door to see a stunning brunette walk in. But then metaphorically, the brunette stepped aside and behind her was my date who’d fallen out the ugly tree and hit most of the branches on the way down. All of a sudden, the wonderful sunset waned and vanished as a bank of cloud obscured the rising sun. What promised to be a marvel flicked and burned out within 30 seconds. I had grabbed a shot at the start, but it was not what I’d hoped for.

The cloud though stayed on the horizon and as the sun broke free from its shade the light gently kissed the lighthouse and rock face that tumbled to the sea. So we repositioned ourselves to make the most of the light and sticking on my 10 stop neutral density filter I made the most of the early morning light.

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

 

This well shot scene was never going to be a earth changing moment for me, but I do like to turn my hand, and eye, to many disciplines and the idea of a bit of landscape photography, was reason enough for the early morning.

I’d like to thank Samantha Dunnage for the suggestion of the early morning rise and I hope she enjoyed the excursion as much as I did.

Celandines

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

I apologise for the lack of a Behind the picture last week. I was too busy to create one. So sorry about that. This week’s behind the is a bit different as it is not from my archive, but rather a picture I took just a couple of days ago. This year the celandines in Dorset have had a bumper year. Last years incessant rain allowed them to grow like they’ve never grown before. They like damp soil and we’ve got a lot of that.

On Saturday I went for a walk along the river looking for insects to photograph and ended up half buried in the bank of a local lane photographing the celandines. I’m not one for just straight flower photography, I find them a bit boring, so I like to get in among the flowers and look for interesting angles with lots of out of focus elements to create an ethereal feel to the image.

This one I was pretty pleased with as it is more like a painting I think than a photograph.

It was shot with a 60mm macro lens along with a ZigView viewer which, as I;ve said before, means I can get the camera at a really low angle without lying in the mud.

 

Plankton babies

Copyright: Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

This week’s Behind the Picture is a bit of an odd one. While working on a survey of the plankton in the Mediterranean Sea I was asked to photograph some of the specimens the vessel collected.

This had to be done before the samples were sealed ready to take to the laboratory. Basically when the plankton net was hauled aboard the sample in the back of the net was poured into a chemical preserving agent. Before that I was given a small amount in a glass dish and asked to photograph whatever was in it.

One of the key species being looked at was the Blue Fin tuna, one of the world’s rarest fish. Adult fish fetch huge sums of money in the fish markets of the world. The reason is the complete disregard for the species by fishing nations. The fishery for blue fin tuna is an utterly disgusting race to the bottom with pure greed and profit as the driver for the trade. Because the less fish there are in the sea the higher profits.

There is an unseen fleet of tuna purse seine vessels that roam the Mediterranean, particularly around Malta and Cyprus catching as many fish as possible. They are then fattened up in massive seapens, which generally means they are caught too small to have bred. In my opinion it is one of the most stupid fisheries in the world.

Knowing the number of juveniles is particularly important for scientists trying to advise governments on how best to safeguard the species. So tuna were the target. We found quite a few other juvenile fish species in each sample, lots of eggs which can be identified in the lab back on shore and of course a lot of zooplankton species such as copepods, which only get to a few millimetres in size.

Every so often a tuna species did turn up, (you can see one on the middle of the three fish in the picture) but not in the numbers I’d hoped for. It was, to my untrained eye, quite a depressing sight seeing as so few juveniles make it to adulthood. Even so I photographed each sample that was produced. It wasn’t easy as the ship was moving and I didn’t have the option of a microscope as this was being done of the fly at the back of a working ship. Around me were coils of rope, bins, tools, chains and all manner of industrial paraphernalia. It was not where most scientific photographers would like to work.

I strapped all the extension tubes I had between the camera and my 105mm macro lens. I didn’t have a tripod as when I joined the ship I had no idea I’d be doing this kind of photography. Luckily I did have my off camera flash radio control so could get the light right where I wanted it.

I sat the glass dish on a black t-shirt to get a dark background and then set up the exposure with the flash. It was then a case of shifting my movements up and down ever so slightly to get the samples in focus when I pressed the shutter.

To start with there was a lot of trial and error and most of the pictures were slightly out of focus, but eventually I managed to get a technique, which improved my technique.

I thoroughly enjoyed this adhoc scientific photography session and soon I’ll be looking to do some more, but with a much more scientific and controllable set up.

To see more of my work, book on a training course, buy a print or book my for a talk please see my website at www.gavinparsons.co.uk

Just because I’m cute

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved.

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved.

The slow loris is a relatively small mammal found in South East Asia. If you do a Youtube search you undoubtedly come across a cute looking creature that looks endearing and comical to humans. Evolution has granted them big eyes to see in the dark and a soft, warm fur to protect their bodies. Perversely evolution has given humans a craving for creatures with big eyes and delicate features. I believe it reminds them of babies. The two species sadly are not compatible.

Slow Lorises are sold into the illegal pet trade in such numbers that all loris species are now on the CITES endangered lists.

That’s not the end of this one-sided story either. Evolution gave the slow loris a means to hunt, kill prey and protect itself. It laces its sharp teeth with a toxin. Obviously the traders cannot have their customers dying so they break the teeth with nail clippers meaning the hapless slow loris is sold not only as a living puppet, but also with a death sentence. If they don’t die of an infection due to their broken teeth, they die of starvation.

Buying a slow loris may seem like a way to get a real life Furby or a Mogwai (pre midnight fed gremlin), but the reality for the loris is so far removed from the pleasure people get from the experience that it’s perverse.

Thankfully for the slow loris there is help. International Animal Rescue (a British based charity) has the world’s only slow loris rescue facility. It’s based in Indonesia (where loris’ come from) and it rescues, rehabilitates and where possible, releases loris that have been sold on the streets.

One of the biggest hurdles for IAR is the treatment of the teeth. The head vet at the centre has developed a root canal procedure for loris’ which requires delicate handling and a very steady hand. I was allowed into one of these procedures and this image, I feel, is the most powerful as it shows just how vulnerable the slow loris is and how cruel humans can be. This loris is having the broken teeth removed  so they do not get infected. The teeth are tiny and the vet needs a very steady hand. The whole operation of preparing the animal for surgery and then performing the surgery is risky for the loris, but thankfully this one pulled through. So a happy ending of sorts.

If you are tempted to view a slow loris video on youtube or anywhere else, please let the owner of the loris know just how much suffering went into their delight and joy.

Heathfire rescue

Copyright: Gavin Parsons all rights reserved

Copyright: Gavin Parsons all rights reserved

This week’s ‘Behind the picture’ has a bit of a sad tale. In 2011 a massive area of low land heath close to Poole in Dorset was deliberately set alight. Low land heath is one of the rarest habitats on earth. Rare habitats are, by their nature, inhabited by rare wildlife. Upton Heath, as it is called, is home to smooth snakes, adders, grass snakes, sand and common lizards, raft spiders and a host of others creatures.

As you can see the fire devastated everything. Two days before that picture was taken the man would have been lost in a sea of ferns, gorse and shrubs. Even the trees where destroyed. The area looked like the surface of the moon and I wanted to show the complete devastation.

I followed one of the reptile rescuers who was looking for adders and stayed back a little when he got to this tree as I could see its potential as a graphic image. As he walked passed it, he glanced at the tree and that’s when I took to shot. The person now has a face, and therefore a personality, but the moonscape landscape is as dramatic as when I saw it.

We saved dozens of reptiles, amphibians and insects over a couple of days and other teams saved even more. I captured the whole thing. BBC Wildlife magazine ran a story on it, but sadly only showed one shot – not this one. The rest of the news media ignored the story. So I thought I’d share it with you.

 

 

The oceanic

Copyright: Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

Copyright: Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

This week’s ‘behind the picture’ is one from my archives. It was taken in the Red Sea, just off Big Brother Island in the early naughties. The reason I bring it to you today is because the oceanic white tip shark today received CITES protection. This is a bit of great news for this ocean going species, although extremely sad for the state of our seas.

When this picture was taken, oceanic white tip sharks were fairly common, especially in the Red Sea; now its numbers have been decimated. These are impressive creatures and deserve protection from over fishing, but it is not full protection. The species can still be targeted by fishermen, but there will now be enforceable laws on international trade.

This shot, as I said, was taken off the Brother Islands in the middle of the Red Sea. I was on a specific oceanic hunt and had already been to Elphinestone Reef, which was supposed to be a shoe in for oceanics, but I saw none. I’d hung off a line on the back of the boat for several hours missing two dives to try and find an oceanic. As we left I felt like I was doomed.

The next stop was Big Brother Island where I’d seen an oceanic white tip on a previous visit. But it was at the end of the dive and I had used my 36 exposures, so didn’t get a shot (It’s hard to imagine only having 36 shots now.)

The Brother Islands are perfect because of the deep water surrounding them. They are the only thing that sticks up for miles and are a draw for fish and, therefore, a draw for sharks. I spent pretty much all the time on board the liveaboard watching the water between dives for the tell tale shape of a shark on the surface. We’d seen nothing the first day and then just after lunch on the second day as I was changing film, a cry came from the stern of the boat. I grabbed my camera and hopped in the water.

I couldn’t see anything but blue when I cleared my mask and thought perhaps I’d scared the shark away. But then I just caught a white flash about 20 metres away. It was the oceanic white tip shark.

I was joined by a guy who had never seen a shark before and here he was jumping into a sea with the third most dangerous shark in the oceans. It was fairly wary at first though and circled us widely. But each time it got closer and closer. Within about ten minutes is was right up with us and as bold as any shark I have come across. So close in fact that my buddy had to raise his fins to keep the shark back more than once.

I was using a 16mm lens and watched the shark get closer and closer through the viewfinder. It was only when I could not make out all, the shark that I thought to look up and found it was pushing me backwards in the water. She wasn’t particularly threatening and not once did she open her mouth. So I felt as safe as you can be in an ocean with a big shark, but I thoroughly enjoyed the encounter.

When I got back home and had the film developed I was delighted with the results and this shot eventually won the BSAC travel photographer of the year in 2005.

Orphaned Babies – Dunnock

dunnock

This week’s ‘behind the picture’ is from a personal project, which is close to my heart. Of course, all my personal projects are passions of mine, but this one involves creatures that are completely helpless and dependent on humans to survive.

Orphaned baby birds are bought to the UK’s animal rescue centres every spring in the hundreds. Blackbirds, chaffinches, owls, blue tits, sparrows and dunnocks are just a few of the species that are handed in. Many are from nests destroyed by gardeners or pets and so are only helpless, homeless and parentless because of mankind’s effects of the environment.

They are taken into heated rooms and looked after by a group of dedicated staff. They require feeding every hour or so from sun up to sun down a level of care way above most other creatures. It takes a huge amount of time, effort and money to rear them from babies to being ready to fledge when they are released back to the wild.

I decided I wanted to do something for the rescue centres and so hatched (pardon the pun) a plan to photograph them as if I would a model.

So far my favourite picture is this Dunnock. It exudes confidence and personality. It was photographed with the permission and under the guidance of the rescue centre staff. I am, in another part of my life, used to working with wild animals and work with them very delicately and sensitively. I must stress that these were all taken in controlled conditions with birds that had been assessed and As well as being an expert myself, I was surrounded by experts. Under no circumstances should anyone attempt to do this sort of photography without experience.

I constructed my own mini studio and lit it with two flash units. One on the background and the other lighting the subject. I got the lighting right before placing the model into the frame and then I waited for it to get used to the surroundings. The most crucial element to getting a good shot in this situation was not blasting away with the camera hoping to catch a good look. I had to wait and wait. When I saw the look I wanted I grabbed the shot. At most I took 5-6 pictures of each subject. How many modern photographers would take so few shots of a subject?

I have now turned the pictures into prints and sell them to raise funds for the rescue centres. You can see my online shop at www.gavinparsons.co.uk/shop/shop.html

 

Wanting life, given death

sundew and common blue damselflyThis week’s Behind the Picture was taken a few miles from my home in Dorset. I love the idea of nature being turned on its head and was intrigued by the UK’s population of carnivorous plants. They are the sort of thing you expect to find in the tropics, but each summer Drosera rotundifolia, known to us as either the common or round leafed sundew rises from the bogs of lowland heaths.

They are beautiful plants, but what makes them fascinating is their ability to destroy beauty as well. Their leaves are covered in tiny nodules of a sticky substance which clings strongly to any hapless insect which lands of it. Dragonflys and damselflys are always looking for a perch to land on and some like this Enallagma cyathigerum or common blue damselfly are quite often caught out.

I found this individual just after he’d (I know it’s a him because he is blue, the females are a yellowish colour) inadvertently landed on a tall sundew plant. He was struggling to get away, but to no avail. He’d fought so hard that the sticky nodules had been shaken off, but the plant had its prey and wasn’t letting go. The damselfly was going to die and then be dissolved by the plant. But, and this is the reason why I think it is a powerful image, the damselfly is born with a permanent smile on its face. It looks like its happy and the vibrant colours create a sense of happiness until you realise what is actually going on. They say nature can be cruel, but she can also put on a hell of a show while she is doing it.

To get a low angle I had to sink my camera down into the damp spongy ground and I used a macro lens and a Zigview view to see the image without having to lay down on the wet earth.