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6th January 2010

Recent sightings by members of the PNHS


6th January 2010
Water Rails
Flushed into open by ice
Whooper Swans


The Showcase Galleries   Darren O’Brien

This was Darren’s second talk to the PNHS; he had come to Paisley three years ago to deliver his first ever talk on wildlife photography, so we were well aware of the superb quality of his work. This evening, Darren had a series of portfolios to show us that reflected the work he had been focussing on in 2009.

Much of the time, he explained, his work had been  project-based, concentrating on photographing just one species.  Other times he devoted to a specific group of birds, such as seabirds or garden birds, or to a particular territory, like moorland. He had also been to South America during the year, and shared with us his photos of the savannah and jungle life of the Amazon.

The Cuckoo was Darren’s first project bird. He had some superb views of a Meadow Pipit feeding a young Cuckoo, and explained the background to obtaining such shots. He had had to spend time approaching and gaining the trust of the birds, going out at 4 am and working till 10 pm.  He had taken 2000 shots and kept about 10 in every 100. It needed three frames per second to capture the moment of the young bird being fed, but I think we all agreed that it was time well spent!

The common Sandpiper was another species that Darren had focussed on, and he was particularly interested in getting an action shot of the bird running across the sands, rather than the traditional view of one perched on a rock. Endrick Nature Reserve at Loch Lomond was where he achieved these lovely pictures.  Here he had also photographed Sedge Warbler, Grey Squirrel - and Wallaby on nearby Wallaby Island. The detail in the texture of feather and fur was remarkable.

Similarly in his seabird and garden bird galleries, Darren focussed on texture of feathers, and attempted to capture unusual action shots that reflect the bird’s particular behaviour patterns, with great effect. Puffins, Shags, Skuas and Gannets were pictured from below, as Darren explained that he liked to shoot as low as possible, at bird level. Using his Dad’s car as a hide, he had obtained some wonderful shots of garden birds in Ireland, with feathers all fluffed against freezing temperatures. From the moors, he had showcase shots of Meadow Pipit and some glorious Whin Chat.

The Marajo Island Gallery, recording his trip to the Amazon River in Brazil, contained many wonderful pictures of a variety of wildlife, from vultures and egrets on the savannahs, to Crimson-hooded Mannequins in the jungle and Caymen in the night river. The challenges for the photographer were the vast changes in light, including the heat haze.  The thirty thousand parrots on Parrot Island were one of the highlights. Here Darren had abandoned his project based approach and was capturing on film everything he saw.

From the exotics of the jungle to Hogganfield Loch! Darren demonstrated that sites near home and easily accessible to all can result in super photographs. The beauty of common birds like Mallard, Crow and Gull were illustrated with emphasis not only on the splendour of their plumage, but also by shots that brought out the behavioural characteristics of the species.

This latter focus is one of the reasons that Darren’s work is so exceptional.  He puts in the long hours and patience to obtain his photographs, but has clearly thought out plans of how best to showcase his chosen species by capturing their behaviour as well as their looks.

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