Smart Images Newsletter
January 2019
Lilac-breasted Roller Coracias caudatus - Diida Xuyyura Ranch, Yabello, Ethiopia
March 2012
Welcome to my January 2019 newsletter.

Firstly Happy New Year to you. I hope the Christmas break was festive, enjoyable and wildlife filled! I spent a few days in Norfolk over the New Year enjoying the experience of tens of thousands of geese, waders and waterfowl. You really can't beat the UK for wildlife at times.

My first newsletter of the year looks head to forthcoming tours and also the continued success of the buzzard and red kite hide in Wiltshire (new dates now available for February). If you've not yet experienced this as a photography day out then do have a look; it really is a remarkable opportunity.

Good luck with your photography and wildlife watching through 2019; it promises to be a great year.

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Seasonal Image
Least Weasel Mustela nivalis  - Pikla Linnumaja, Estonia
February 2018
New Tour - Photographic Wildlife Highlights of Ethiopia
Only three spaces remain for April 2019

Baboons, wolves, birds and photography...and of course a delightful taste of Africa. Join me for an adventure to some of the most beautifully rich habitats of this extraordinary land from 1st to 17th April 2019.
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse Pterocles lichtensteinii
Gelada Baboon Theropithecus gelada
Grivet Monkey Chlorocebus aethiops
Released in September this 17-day photographic tour of Ethiopia captures some of the remarkable habitats, wildlife and culture of this landlocked country. Many endemics, unique species including the Ethiopian Wolf, along with picturesque backdrops and dramatic scenery will make this a truly memorial adventure. We will also enjoy some remote accommodation, stargazing and culture as part of the tour to gain a real appreciation for this diverse country.

I shall be your photographic guide on the trip and jointly led by local wildlife expert Daniel Million. The tour is being organised by the renowned wildlife tour company Reef & Rainforest where you can also see the full itinerary and costs which include all international and internal flights. There is also a condensed brief on my website here
. Trip limited to 8 clients and only 3 spaces currently available.

Slender-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus clarus
New Tour - The Wildlife of Madagascar's Magical Forests
Released January 2019 for travel approximately 12th to 25th November 2019. 8 spaces max.

Madagascar is home to thousands of endemic animals, birds and plants. If there is one destination I would recommend visiting, then it is here. From the metre-tall Indri to the bizarre Giraffe-necked Weevil, from baobabs to the Helmeted Vanga there is something for all tastes. This photographic journey takes us on a tour of three of the key habitats - dry deciduous, spiny and wet rainforest.

Along with naturalist and guide Daniel Razafimandimby, I will be your photographic advisor on this magical trip. The tour is being run by Reef & Rainforest and is being launched next week. For more details contact Ian Loyd on  01803 866965 for the full itinerary. Further details of the tour will also be available on my website shortly.
Spring Bird of Prey Photographic Workshop
Sunday 28th April 2019

Ever fancied the chance of getting really close to birds of prey and owls? During our day we will capture a mixture of birds, with at least six species including an afternoon flying display. Spring is a great time of year with new growth, colour and light to maximise opportunities. I provide a number of props too to personalise the day. Lunch, drinks and cake is included. More information can be found on my Workshops page and bookings can be made directly with the Hawk Conservancy Trust. The images below were all taken on the same day.
Red Kite Milvus milvus
Tawny Owl Strix aluco
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Great Grey Owl Strix nebulosa 
Case Study - Photographing Wildlife in Snow
Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rustica

During hard winter conditions in the UK many wildlife species go into hibernation. Those that cannot have to either leave our shores or in some cases come out of hiding in their quest to find food.
I love the snow! I'm no skier but the conditions for wildlife photography are second to none. Light reflects off the surface giving a beautiful additional ambient light source to your scene. Even in overcast conditions you can benefit from this extra light.

A lot of wildlife becomes more visible in snowy weather and if you can't find the animal itself you may well be lucky to find tracks or other signs. These can be a very helpful clue as to the presence of an animal or bird so learn your footprints and droppings! It could save you a lot of time searching for your target species.

Working in snow can be uncomfortable if you are not prepared so always wear warm, layered clothing. Insulated boots, gloves and a good hat are a must. Pocket hand/foot warmers are easy to get hold of and can help prolong your session. If you are warm and relatively cosy in your gear you will be much more likely to stay out longer and your patience will be rewarded. It may sound obvious but it's amazing how easy it is to go unprepared. A cold photographer is no fun at all!

Red Fox Vulpes vulpes & Common Raven Corvus corax
Shooting in snow requires some additional thought to maximise the environmental conditions. If snow is falling your camera can often become confused and may even focus on the larger snowflakes. Switch to manual focus instead.

Your exposure reading from your camera will often try to render a white scene as a mid-tone and it's no wonder so many photographer's winter holiday shots come out with grey snow! Snow is white, or sometimes blue, particularly with beautiful shadows. You want your white snow to look white so if shooting in AV mode then push your exposure to the right. This may be as much as 2 or even 3 stops of added exposure compensation. Your histogram on your camera display will indicate if you go too far by the blinking white areas (ensure you turn this feature on in your custom settings). By reading this and checking your images as you go you will see the exposure of the subject matter is accurate and the colours remain vibrant and the contrast high.

If you do make the mistake of shooting grey snow then use your processing software to restore the snow to white by increasing the exposure, whites and highlights channels.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major & Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Winter comes with the extra advantage of a low sun in the sky for most of the day. This allows plenty of opportunity to shoot your subjects with the sun in the background. Backlighting, silhouette and glorious colour halos can be created by thinking outside the box. Give it a go and you will be surprised at what a difference snow can make to your image taking. Good luck!
Wildlife Hide Bookings - New Dates for February

The activity at the Wiltshire Buzzard and Red Kite hide has continued unabated this winter and the action, behaviour and feeding shots have been fantastic. I have released new dates for February 2019 so if you are interested then please book ASAP as dates are limited. The availability calendar and bookings can be found here.
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo

Squabbling birds are commonplace as they compete for food and territory.
Coming Up

The winter is always a good time to catch up with entering competitions and working through the backlog of images taken throughout the year. RSPB Images have accepted a large number of my autumn material of deer and birds of prey. Check out some of my latest work here. There is never enough time to complete all this but it is a good routine to try and get into with the longer winter nights. Just around the corner a new spring approaches and hopefully a lot of fantastic wildlife to watch and photograph.

Later this winter I shall also be releasing two new jigsaw puzzles; Mammals of Britain (a 67-piece children's puzzle) and British Owls (a 500-piece adults puzzle). More on the launch of these in the next newsletter.

Best wishes for 2019,
Oliver Smart
Agency News
RSPB Images
Over 1600 stunning images held with the RSPB's internal library. Images can be purchased as prints or for publication.
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