‘If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.’ Charles Lindbergh
Having spent more of the children’s inheritance at Wex Photographic in Norfolk, Sylvie and I headed off to Pensthorpe Natural Park http://www.pensthorpe.com/wildlife/ in the hope of capturing bearded tits in the reeds. It was my first visit and the first thing to strike me was the attractive way it has been laid out. The walkways are easy to negotiate and the garden areas are stunning. It is a nature photographer’s paradise with everything from dragonflies to a huge variety of birds. For those of us with ‘shorter’ lenses it is an ideal place to practice technique as many of the birds are quite close by.
We parked easily and close to the cafe where we enjoyed a good lunch. It was here that the guilt kicked in when we discussed how much we had spent on yet more photographic equipment! Despite having all our cameras and lenses with us, we made a rash decision to travel light in the heat, so we set off with one camera and one 300 mm prime lens.
We wandered through a large enclosed area where some of the rescued birds have a safe sanctuary. The reeds had grown since Sylvie’s last visit and there wasn’t a bearded tit to be seen. We knew they were there, we just couldn’t see them. We focussed instead on some of the other birds in and around the water as they went about preening and searching for food. I could have spent all day there just watching their behaviour.
‘Cranes carry this heavy mystical baggage. They’re icons of fidelity and happiness. The Vietnamese believe cranes carry our souls up to heaven on our wings.’ Mitchell
Wandering on we found the red crowned cranes some with younger birds watching them. They are such amusing birds and I set about trying to capture their rather comic antics.
Having made a choice of the 300 lens it became obvious we would need to focus more on portraiture or ‘mug shots’. We met other photographers with huge lenses and we joked with them about exactly what they were able to focus on. Admitting they had chosen the wrong lenses too, they staggered off under the weight. We are so used to birds being miles away and too small to capture so it was quite amusing to have it the other way round. It certainly provided us with an opportunity to really think about how to capture their uniqueness, whilst at the same time ensuring they were actually in the frame.
As we walked through the Millennium Garden I captured a couple almost hidden by blooms, both enjoying a quiet moment in a profusion of colour. We spent a long time taking pictures of the flamingos. We waited patiently for individuals to isolate themselves so we could grab a simple shot before moving on to the many hides that provide views of the cranes. We watched the grey crowned cranes ‘shouting’ at each other and then a rather beautiful courtship between the black crowned cranes. Focussing on their heads only, provided us with an opportunity to see far more detail and enjoy their beauty in a very different way.
We ended the day by one of the larger lakes where we tried, unsuccessfully, to capture the ducks diving under the water. There is a huge variety of ducks at Pensthorpe and we became so engrossed in capturing their rather cute faces we did not record their names, another lesson learned!
As we were about to leave we caught sight of two turtle doves enjoying each other’s company. We lingered for a while watching them until finally they enjoyed a rather beaky kiss! We both enjoyed the day immensely! How wonderful it is to be retired! Pensthorpe is rightly one of Norfolk’s most visited attractions and I will definitely return.