Short-eared owl workshop

Welcome to my short-eared owl workshop page which usually takes place between November and March - depending on the arrival and departure of this remarkable owl. Located on the Isle of Portland this workshop is a combination of guiding and tuition, and focuses on locating and getting the best images possible of a much welcome winter visitor. 

I've now been photographing these owls for the last five years and know their roosts and hunting fields very well. Participant numbers are strictly limited to reduce environmental impact and the potential for stress on the bird. The upside to that is you get plenty of time with me if you are relatively new to photographing birds in flight. For the more experienced photographer who prefers not to be in a group I also offer a standalone guiding session that can also include barn owls, bearded tits and marsh harriers.

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When are the workshops?

I run around four workshops during November and March. This can vary according to how many owls have settled on Portland and how regularly I'm seeing them. Guiding and 1:1 can be booked any time over winter. The owls have been known to stay into April, and I'll often put on an extra workshop to take advantage of more light and better conditions. If you have any questions, or want to book a session watching and photographing this exceptional daylight owl please contact me here

What does this workshop entail?

The primary purpose of this workshop is to improve your wildlife photography in whatever direction you feel is necessary. That may mean moving you away from Programme and on to Manual (it's easier than you think), gaining a greater understanding of how to capture well exposed birds in flight (BIF) images time after time, or more accurate focusing and improving your understanding of your camera and what it can do for your wildlife photography. The day is yours so I think it's important that we tailor it the way you want it to go. Prior to the workshop I'll email you to get a better idea of where you think you are on your photographic journey and the equipment you're using - and how you are using it.

We usually meet around 1200 at the Portland Bill car park where I get the chance to check over your kit and have a longer chat with you about your goals for the day. The workshop finishes once we've squeezed the last drop of usable light out of the day and it's become obvious we're now struggling with sharpness, noise and high ISO values.

If that sounds a bit overwhelming it really isn't. I have excellent reviews by the people who come on my workshops - many of whom return and bring friends and family. The common themes around my tuition style are my patience and my ability to impart information in a way that is both understandable and relevant to the individual. You really will finish your day feeling more confident about your abilities as a wildlife photographer. That's my guarantee to you.

What equipment will I need?

The Isle of Portland sits out into the English channel by some distance. It's prone to sudden squally weather and can be windy. Equally I've known it to be flat calm with hardly a cloud in the sky; it's essentially a microcosm of the weather most of us expect in Britain and as such you should prepare for a range of weather conditions. Most participants will attend by car so my suggestion is to always pack a selection of clothing including waterproofs, several extra layers, a hat and gloves (probably not needed in Summer though). The terrain can be slippy and rocky in places and I would wear a good pair of hiking boots irrespective of the weather or time of year. The car park we use is less than 10 minutes away from one of the sites so it's entirely possible to nip back for something if you need it.

Regarding camera equipment the list is very similar to all of my workshops; a tripod if you own one, a reasonably up to date compact, bridge or DSLR camera and a telephoto lens at least 300mm long. You might want to pack a wide-angle lens as sunsets off the island can be spectacular at times. If your lens comes with a lens hood then throw it in the bag as it will both protect the lens from rain and give you better light readings as it cut outs extraneous side light. Speaking of rain I'd pop a lens coat if you have one (a plastic bag is less Gucci but just as effective in my view), and a few camera cloths into the now starting to bulge camera bag. It goes without saying (I hope) that you'd bring every battery (plus charger or power pack) and memory card you can find. There's nothing quite so dispiriting as running out of memory or power with half of the day still to go.

There is a cafe or two on the island with the Lobster Pot cafe situated about 15 minutes walk from our main location which will be just above Portland Bill. I would bring a flask and something to snack on as there will be times when we want to max out the weather or light conditions. There are toilets at both the cafe and the car park itself but it may be possible to use the facilities at the nearby Maritime Hotel. The car park is currently free to use. Travel time from the mainland to Portland Bill car park where we initially meet can be 'problematic' at times due to the volume of traffic - particularly if it's a nice day heading towards Spring.

How do I book?

You can register your interest in any future workshop, book an existing group workshop or ask for a 1:1 workshop on Portland or any other location (within reason) using the button below or here. This will take you to my contacts page where you have a number of options to get in touch with me. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions around equipment, your skillset or you'd like to know more about this or any other workshop I'm running in 2019 and beyond. Live workshops can be found on this page.


Finally I'd like to thank you for your interest in both my workshops and my photography. Your feedback and desire to join me in some of these amazing places to learn more about photography are what inspire me to do the best I can - both for you the participant, and in getting my message out about how amazing our wildlife and landscapes are in this country through my images.

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