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Smart Images Newsletter
April 2020
Welcome
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus - Devon, UK
March 2020
Welcome to my April 2020 newsletter.

Well, I was hoping for my spring newsletter to be full of joy, which of course it will be in a moment, but first a tinge of sadness with the unprecedented times we're facing. The current situation affects everyone, everywhere and every day. Thank goodness for nature I say, I'm not quite sure what I'd do without it and I sincerely hope you are safe, well and are able to at least enjoy something nice close to home.

I have been productive during lockdown, making most of my limited time outside to work on a few photographic projects. Indoors I am finally starting to work through the 160,000 images still requiring attention, a job for many months to come! Thankfully the numbers are coming down and I shall be posting lots over the coming weeks and months, particularly on Instagram, but also on my website Diary page.

Please ensure you add oliver@smartimages.co.uk into your address book/contacts to prevent it being spammed.
Seasonal Image
Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes - Weson-Super-Mare, Somerset, UK
April 2020
Jigsaw Puzzles - Lockdown Challenge
Puzzles are a great time-waster so why not treat yourself or a loved one to a Smart Images jigsaw puzzle during lockdown.
Three designs are available including a 500-piece British Owls, a challenging 1000-piece King Penguin colony & a 63-piece British Mammals one for kids.
Case Study - Lockdown Photography
 
Starting the year competing in a UK bird race soon became a thing of the past as we were forced into lockdown and isolation at the end of March. By this time my bird list had reached 170 but has since managed only three new species! However, what the time at home has allowed me is a more focussed approach to my photography and a decision to think about species and opportunities on my balcony and also within walking distance from home. 

Take the two images below; common species seen (or heard) regularly throughout the year and yet taking new colourful or behavioural images is something I would not have spent much time on before. Now, within a few minutes walk from my front door I have been able to get some lovely new shots for my portfolio. There is nothing difficult or technically challenging here, but just simple composition, stunning early morning light and being ready to shoot at the crucial moment. Dawn is getting earlier so make the effort to set your alarm and get out for first light. You'll definitely not regret it!
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Another method of photography is to target particular species (as in my morning shoot of Lesser Celandine flowers) or a regular session with moths (as in the freshly emerged Hebrew Character below).

I regularly moth trap on my balcony, a small space but the wildlife comes to me. After identifying the species in the morning, I take photographs of the best conditioned species and I return them to the trap before they depart the following evening once it gets dark. There is an element of excitement here too, never knowing what you might catch. A Puss Moth a couple of nights ago was a highlight of the year so far!

As for the Lesser Celandine this beautiful flower emerges in clumps in late winter/early spring and it can be very photogenic. I've ignored it for years but this year, with lockdown in place, I used my short morning walk to capture the delicate flowers and beautiful colours in simple detail.
Hebrew Character Orthosia gothica
Lesser Celandine Ficaria verna
Finally I have simply stayed at home. No large garden giving me vast opportunities I would so love, no mature forest to attract species from and no coastal wildlife adding something different. Just a hedgerow and a scattering of trees and 'weeds'. And yet here there is beauty, there is an abundance of wildlife, scurrying and hiding, performing and living, right here under my nose. Some of it may be small but it is all an opportunity I now find myself having.

There are simple but lovely shots to be had whatever the size of your patch. Below the Common Starling was taken on the chimney of my roof. Thankfully I have a loft conversion so the height and therefore angle were massively reduced. The weather has helped too with beautiful wall-to-wall blue skies, so I have tried whenever possible, to maximise my time in my little outside space. 

Blossoming trees, foraging birds and newly emerged insects are all within easy reach. Now is a great time to think of a project, whether it be snails or woodlice, birds or bees, it really doesn't matter. But what I can assure you is that you will love the challenge, the focus of your time and the rewards will be much cheaper than almost all your normal wildlife photography endeavours.

Good luck and I am sure I'll see some of your own work soon.
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Coming Up
 
Following cancellations of my falconry workshops in April, the British Birdfair in August and several talks at the end of the 2019/20 season it is difficult to plan ahead for later this year. Two seabird tours to Northumberland in July for Naturetrek are looking doubtful and then a big tour to Madagascar with clients in September, leading for Reef & Rainforest may also be in jeopardy. Only time will tell but I have to think positively.

It should have been a magical spring and summer but with so many postponements it is now with anticipation that the work on opportunities for 2021 and beyond are ever more important!

I wish you all a very safe period of isolation and do get in touch about anything wildlife related. Please connect with me too on Instagram, where I am posting daily images, as well as Facebook and Twitter too.

Take care and best wishes,
Oliver Smart
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