NEWS / BLOG

Mike's feature article on Whales & Dolphins in "Professional Image Maker"
22nd July 2013 - 0 comments


Mike's latest magazine article is a feature article on Whales and Dolphins in the professional photographers magazine "Professional Image Maker"

Below is a link to the draft pdf version of the article

Whales Pico Islan

" The Countryside " Mike's illustrations
21st July 2013 - 0 comments


Recently we were thrilled to receive a copy the " The Countryside " which is a hardback book using 3 of Mike's images to illustrate the publication. The Hardback book is produced by the organisation "Pictures to share" which we are now proud to associated with. The organisation produces material to help patients with dementia and we look forward to helping with future publications and Prints.

Book illustrations for " Pictures to share "
07th June 2013 - 0 comments
" Pictures to share "





Pictures to Share is a publisher who provides books for people with dementia. Making
communication easier and encouraging reminiscence. Mike's images are now being used in these high quality hard backed books and we were thrilled when we were selected to provide images for such a worthwhile cause.

The link to the organisation is as follows.http://www.picturestoshare.co.uk/
Whales & Dolphins (PICO ISLAND, AZORES ) May 2013
30th May 2013 - 0 comments
Pico Island, Azores (17th to 27th May 2013) note: see also latest whale & dolphin gallery images

" 150 meters off the starboard bow a Blue whale broke the surface and a plume of spray rose into the air, at that moment one of my lifetime ticks was ticked off. With tears in my eyes I shot off a series of images in the vague direction of this beautiful animal. I may never use these images but I will never forget this moment ".




Mount Pico (Volcano), Pico Island, Azores


Sperm Whale, Pico Island, Azores

In 1986 the tide turned for the whale, however political the decision may have been the application of the ban on whaling meant that with a few exceptions (Japan, Iceland and Norway) the depleted and endangered cetaceans were given a stay of execution.


Sperm Whale after diving for a spot of lunch rests on the surface regaining its breath

However critical we may have been of the nations involved in whaling (including yours truly for Greenpeace) there were gaps left for the communities and in some the birth of whale watching started a new and in lots of ways more profitable way of supporting the community.


Fin Whale

This brings us to the Azores where nothing seems to have changed in the last century and the infrastructure which supported the whaling industry pretty much still exists and instead of using the lookout towers (Vagia’s) to spot the whales for whaling the towers are now used to spot the cetaceans and radio through the locations to the whale watching boats.


Look out tower (Vigia) covering 30 nautical miles out to sea.


Found in the North Atlantic 1500km west of Lisbon and 1900km southeast of Newfoundland the Azores are an archipelago of nine volcanic islands which lie on the whale migratory motorway from the south to the north. In the spring the baleen whales visit the archipelago and this is what brought us to Pico Island in May 2013.


Common Dolphin, Pico Island, Azores

The Industry of Wildlife photography is becoming more difficult and niches are harder to find in the business. Two years ago we decided to try and put together a portfolio of cetaceans. We soon realised that attempting to put together a portfolio of images for whales and Dolphins was like trying to photograph a pack of lions which never leave the long grass.


False Killer Whales on the loose, people are starting to wonder about the obvious

7 days in paradise yielded one of the best weeks in years from the Island. In the middle of the North Atlantic half way between Portugal and North America the weather in the Azores is notorious. However when it all comes together the Azores deliver in a big way. In 6 days we managed 8 boat trips and put together a species list that could have taken years to accumulate.


Short finned pilot whale and week old calf

Links below to YOUTUBE footage taken from the boat of Common Dolphins and a Sunfish (MOLA MOLA)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ep0bnFVzUzg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QiXM6N7Ceug


2 BLUE WHALES, 5 FIN WHALES, 20 encounters with SPERM WHALES with 15 on one day, 1 pod of between 40 & 50 FALSE KILLER WHALES (Pseudorca), 2 encounters with SHORT FINNED PILOT WHALES, 3 encounters with pods of RISSO'S DOLPHIN, 2 encounters with STRIPED DOLPHIN, Daily encounters with COMMON DOLPHIN, Daily encounters with BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN, 1 SUN FISH (Mola mola) approx 2 meters height, 2 LOGGERHEAD TURTLES (Caretta caretta), FLYING FISH.

Photography

From a photographic point of view this is quite a rough game. The boats are very fast RIBS and with calls coming in for new locations from the look outs relocation is a regular thing. One minute you are static and the next minute you are heading 10 miles out in a rough sea. Forget the idea that you may be in a calm sea most of the time it is choppy and you can spend a lot of the time bouncing from wave to wave.


Small LOGGERHEAD turtle, Pico Island, Azores

The truth of the matter is that there is a lot of action and a lot of sea spray, there is not much chance to change lenses and with the subject either landing in your lap or on the horizon a couple of zooms with one up to about 400mm is ideal. I took a couple of full frame bodies and stuck a 70-200 2.8 L on one and a 70-300 L lens on the other. Ideally I could have done with one being a little longer but when shooting dolphins you need a very fast focusing lens which has good weather sealing and which is easy to wield around a leaping boat.


Portuguese Man of War, Pico Island, azores

Photographic opportunities with the big whales vary with the species and of the 3 species that we saw only one gave the iconic image of the tail fluke showing when diving. Only 18% of Blue whales show the tail fluke when they dive so putting together a portfolio of usable images for the big species is not that easy. Other species like Humpbacks spend more time out of the water but are best seen on the east coast of North America.


Lajes harbour, Pico Island, Azores

In the long run if you are going to specialise in big Whales you need to spend time underwater in their own environment to complete the portfolio but there is still a lot of work you can do on the surface. Dolphins on the other hand are a lot more user friendly but expect to spend a lot of hours and wasted data to capture that one image that you are looking for.

The outfit that we used are called the “Dolphin and Whale connection” based in Brighton (www.dolphinconnectionexperience.com) who use a firm called Espaco Telassa (www.espacotalassa.com) The boats are excellent and the team who run them are knowledgeable and very professional. The owner “Serge” runs a hotel on the harbour next to the headquarters for the whale operation which can be booked through the UK operator.


Whale "Come" Hotel, Pico Island, Azores


Lajes, Pico Island, azores
NEW MAGAZINE ARTICLE
25th February 2013 - 0 comments
" LANCASHIRE WALKS AND WILDLIFE "






We are very excited to have contributed to the new magazine “ Lancashire Walks and wildlife” which is due to be launched on the 1st March 2013.

The 1st edition contains a portfolio (10 images) of Mike’s work and is spread over 8 pages. Mike has also contributed images to some of the feature articles.

“Lancashire walks and wildlife” quite obviously has a strong emphasis on walks and wildlife in the North West but will also cover articles of associated interest to walking and wildlife enthusiasts.
"WHALES, DOLPHINS AND WILDLIFE IN MADEIRA"
10th September 2012 - 0 comments
We have just returned from a 5 day trip out to Madeira to photograph Whales and Dolphins. The trip consisted of 4 days afloat and a day into the interior to photograph the Island's wildlife.

The full portfolio for the trip can be found in the Gallery


Before anyone asks the sea is that colour.

The species list for the week was as follows.

The species list included a fair slice of luck with the first day including a Sperm Whale. Not known for hanging around in that part of the world the Sperm Whales are generally passing through but are attracted to the deep water around the Island.

Marine life.

Sperm Whale (seen once)
Atlantic spotted dolplhins (encountered on 3 occasions)
Short finned pilot whales (encountered on 3 occasions)
Bottlenosed dolphins (1 very brief encounter no photos)
Flying fish (seen briefly no photos)



Birdlife

Zino's petrel, seen out at sea, (confirmed by Dr Zino at evening lecture)
Bulwer's petrel
Cory's Shearwater
Berthelot's pipet
Madeira trocaz pigeon



Butterflies

Monarch butterfly
Clouded yellow butterfly
Long tailed Blue butterfly



Misc wildlife

Madeiran wall lizards
Gecko's



The trip

Flying from Gatwick we arrived early on the Friday in advance of the main party giving us time to photograph the wall lizards in the town and fit in an extra boat trip on the Saturday. The Island has only one type of of lizard, The Madeiran wall lizard and although the Island has a population of Gecko’s they do not appear until the evening.
The lizards are about 2-3 inches long and are not the easiest creatures to photograph but some are braver than others and if you persevere it is possible to get some decent images with a Macro lens.



Photgraphing dolphins 8 nautical miles south of Funchal (Madeira) on the vessel "Ventura do mar"




The boat that we sailed on is called the Ventura do mar which is a 50ft (16m) Sailing ketch with 2 masts. The operator has 2 crew with a skipper and a Marine Biologist who are all very knowledgeable about the local wildlife. The engine is a 96hp motor so do not expect to get anywhere quick with this boat which does not seem to be a disadvantage in the local environment.



The first day afloat resulted in a Sperm Whale sighting which is not a common experience in these waters. The water is very deep which suits the Sperm whale but they only seem to pass through and feed on route. One of the marine biologists on board had been there 18 months and had only had 5 sightings of this magnificent animal. The whale went down a couple of times and eventually gave us the chance to get within about 100 metres. After blowing for about half a dozen times the whale (Male approx 15 metres and maybe 40 tonnes) dived for the deep showing its fluke as it submerged.



The next 3 days afloat gave us magnificent views of more cetaceans with the 2 main species being the Atlantic spotted dolphins and the Short finned pilot whales. The dolphins were in a pod of 80-100 animals and quite often the females had calves of varying ages with them coming to the boat. Depending on whether they have been fed or not will depend on how long they will stay with the boat. On the first encounter the dolphins were bow riding for about 25 mins and after the that the other encounters were more brief with one static 10 mins whilst they swam around the boat.
The Short finned pilot whales are a pod of approx 30 resident whales which are encountered quite frequently by the local boats. We saw them 3 times and the first occasion saw them travelling fast along the coastline. After that we saw them “logging” which is an expression for cetaceans where they lie motionless on the surface resting. This gives good photographic opportunities but rarely gives you the chance to photograph them higher out of the water except when they start “spy hopping “.

Notes on equipment

The weight limit of 8 kg for the carry on luggage does present big problems for the individual photographer and with the total weigh of 18kg for the complete kit this had to be spread over 2 people with the tripod in the suitcase in the checked luggage.

The equipment list was as follows
2 camera bodies
500mm lens, 70-300mm lens, 17-40mm lens and a 100mm Macro lens. 17 inch Lap top and tripod.

With experience I would say that the opportunities to use the 500mm are fairly limited on a boat (bloody heavy anyway) and carrying the Canon 70-300mm L lens gave the ideal focal length to shoot the close in stuff with the 300mm end giving you the chance to get the occasional longer shot.

Most shots are taken at the 70-150 end and the 17-40 on a full frame is handy to keep around your neck in case something big turns up close.
Dolphin photography is fast and furious and you have to be prepared to hang off the bow to get some decent images. I have 2 cameras around my neck and keep spare batteries and cards in a top pocket. You do not want to give up your position on a moving boat to go and find a battery or card when the dolphins will only be with you for a limited period of time.

As tempting as it is to point and shoot at every splash around the boat the only way to catch a dolphin coming out of the water to breath is to follow individual dolphins. While they are bow riding to the side of a boat dolphins will come to the surface on a regular basis and while other dolphins are jumping around you have to keep patient and wait for them to raise to the surface and fire off a sequence when they rise out of the water.



Personally I would recommend wearing a climbing harness and clipping on to something solid to keep your hands free whilst hanging over the bow.

Madeira

Madeira is a wonderful location to photograph and on this occasion was very hot with the temperatures on the boat exceeding 30 deg for most of the trip. Always essential to cover up on this occasion we drank volumes of water with no shade on the boat.

The Ventura do mar has its own web-site and the tour company Naturetrek which ran this trip has an excellent guide (Catherine Strong) for which nothing was too much trouble.
Portflores
Follow us on Twitter
08th June 2012 - 0 comments
We are now posting on twitter. Click on the icon at the bottom of any of the web-site pages.

https://twitter.com/#!/mikejoneswild
LATEST MAGAZINE ARTICLE
08th June 2012 - 0 comments


The latest article written by Mike Jones is called "The Photographers year" and has been published in the June-July 2012 edition of the "Professional Image Maker". Please click on the link below to see a copy of the magazine article.

The pictures are in low resolution to aid viewing.

Junejuly Image Maker

" MAGAZINE ARTICLES
24th March 2012 - 0 comments


A six page feature article on "Photography on the Isle of Mull" written by Mike Jones appears in the April-May edition of "Professional Image Maker". This is a magazine aimed at professional Photographers with an international readership.

The "Magazine articles" section on this web-site has links to the magazine features written by Mike Jones or you can view it here

The images are low resolution to aid viewing.8087 Mike Jones

" MULL TALK " AT WIRRAL BARN OWL TRUST 26th Jan 2012
27th January 2012 - 0 comments


Just a big thankyou to the "Wirral Barn Owl trust" for inviting me to do a talk at the Bebbington Civic Hall on " The Isle of Mull and its wildlife ". The talk took place last night (Thursday 26th Jan) and proved to be a most enjoyable experience. I over-ran slightly as the talk was booked to last 1 hour and I talked for 1 3/4 hours. Most people seemed to keep awake with the extension and I met some very nice people during the course of the meeting.

If any of the people that I met during the evening need any advice on their visit to the Isle of Mull I would be more than happy to respond if contacted on the website contact page.

The Wirral Barn trust has some very committed people who carry out vital work for the conservation of Barn Owls in the north west. www.wirralbarnowltrust.org .

Should anyone wish to book the talk on mull could you please use the contact page on the website and I can arrange dates to suit.

The talk has a brief introduction on Wildlife Photography and then talks about Mull's habitat and the species overview for the Island. Particular attention is then given to The Treshnish Isles, Deer, Seals, Otters and White tailed Eagles. There are approx 280 images in the talk and should last about 1 1/2 hours which can be tailored to suit.
" FRAMED PRINTS FOR SALE IN CHESTER "
17th September 2011 - 0 comments
The " Three Kings Studios " at the bottom of Bridge Street in Chester is now selling my Prints. This establishment is probably the best Tea room on the planet. Call in have a great lunch and buy a print, Cheers.
Prints for Sale on the Isle of Mull
04th August 2011 - 0 comments
Out of interest although I have been selling small prints off the Mull Charters boat for a while we are now selling prints on the Isle of Mull from 2 gift shops, "Island crafts" in Tobermory and "Castle Crafts" at Glen Gorm Castle. We took pictures (see below) of the display and the shops when we were last there more out of interest than promotion and we thank John and Hilda for letting us sell our prints from their shops.



Talking to Otters
10th June 2011 - 0 comments
Otters. Isle of Mull 28th May to 4th June 2011

On Otters and the latest photos.

Back on the Island this turned out to be an unusual week. I started the week with some okay pictures of Otters and ended up with great images of Otters. Now this not me being big headed this is about 2 things, a big slice of luck and a bit of “Field craft”.

If you want a good image of an Otter you need to be able to do several things. Firstly you need to be up at first light which is okay in the winter and spring but a bit of a pain in the summer, why? because first light in the summer in the north of Scotland is about 4am.

Secondly you need to be comfortable with sitting around for hours, running, jumping, tripping, slipping, bruising, soaking, banging your gear and the ability to walk away from 5 hours of the above with no result.

What Otters do is feed and then either come ashore for a sleep or to eat something big. As an Otter photographer what you are aiming to do is be close enough to take an image when they come ashore. This involves staying down wind from the otter and following it without being seen or smelled so that when they come ashore you are close, unseen and do not impact on the Otter or put it under stress. They are not easy to photograph and that is why there are very few good photos of Otters knocking around.

This time everything came together.

    06.30 hrs fantastic light, (able to use f8)
      No people around to spook the Otter
        Right position.
          An Otter landing at about 7 yards away with a big crab.

          They do not know it but every Otter that I have photographed has been talked too for hours. The conversation is always pretty similar and goes like this.

          “Alright you have had enough to eat now and it is time you landed here now”.

          “Oh come on, you cannot be serious you have already swam 2 miles what is wrong with the fish here”.

          “That’s it baby just bring that Crab over here and eat it on this rock, what!, nooo don’t go that way you need to eat it here.

          And upon being sussed by the Otter.

          “Okay you have been underwater for 5 minutes now, the games up, show me where you are. Look there is another Otter a mile away, come up and have a look, bugger, that is you, ok it’s your loss,I could have made you famous”.

          Needless to say time spent on your own with Otters plays tricks on your mind.

          On this occasion having watched the otter for about 15 mins, I saw him dive, I ran into what I thought was an ambitious position and merged into the rock. Up he came with a big crab and started swimming ashore in my direction.
          “Wow this good “ I thought and started clicking away thinking that any moment he will see me and slope off somewhere.
          “Bloody hell” I thought its getting closer but will see me soon and do one.
          “Oh my God” he is coming ashore better keep clicking because he will see me soon and go.
          ”Okay calm down” I thought as he sat down to eat the crab 7 yards way in perfect sunshine.
          ” Okay check the live view to make sure you have not knocked the settings off”
          Having checked everything was OK I carried on clicking until the Otter finished his meal and looked up at me as if to say “ you better have got my good side” and then went back to catching crabs.

          Left speechless and with my hands shaking I went back to the car and drove the 30 mins back to the cottage. I am not prone to emotional outbursts but I have to say that while I was uploading the photos I might have shed the odd tear. My long suffering wife on the other hand might have described me as a bit of a wreck waiting to see if the pictures were okay. They were and 2 external hard drives and 2 USB sticks later I felt safe enough to gloat, whoop and holler.
          Awarded Photo of the month
          07th June 2011 - 0 comments
          http://www.photech.co.uk/category/image-of-the-month/

          The printer which I use (BPD Phototech) run a competition on a monthly basis which awards a voucher for use with BPD Phototech. This award is given to an image which is selected from all the images submitted to BPD for that month.
          An image which I put through the Labs of a Barn Owl has been awareded "Image of the Month" for May 2011.

          The above link directs the reader to the "Image of the Month" page on the Photech website.

          Thanks to all the lads at Phototech.
          News: ISLE OF MULL, APRIL 2011
          03rd May 2011 - 0 comments
          This is the first news/blog article on the website and describes a week photographing on the Isle of Mull during the w/c 18th April 2011.

          ISLE OF MULL, APRIL 2011.

          Otters, Eagles, Puffins and missed shots.

          We visit the Isle of Mull on at least 3 occasions a year, spring, summer and autumn and this was our first trip of 2011. I usually start with a list of subjects to photograph for each trip but as the list relies on animals and good light the list usually gets shortened but this week turned out to be exceptional as far as the weather and I was able to tick a couple of birds off the list. The list is quite seasonal and certain mammals like Deer will have to wait for later in the year (horns to grow back). I will never be happy with the Eagle and Otter pictures and they always take a fair proportion of our time but one day I will capture a decent shot and one day I might win the lottery! . Anyway here is a brief description of the weeks photographic activities.

          We do not plan very far ahead and instead of our usual base in Gruline on Loch na Keal we ended up on the banks of Loch Scridain in an old fisherman’s thatched cottage.



          Home for the week(photo:Rachel Jones)

          Loch Scridain is in the south part of Mull and is currently the best base for observing Otters at the moment. It is also a good location for Eider at the East end (Loch Beg) and like all the sea lochs has a sizable population of Divers (Loons).
          The cottage is a small but cosy building and is situated approx 30 metres from the shore and about 250 metres from a Heronry nesting in bank of trees. At this time of year the sun rises above the mountains at the eastern end of the Loch at about 6am and during this week gave exquisite views down the Loch on a mirror calm surface.



          Loch Scridain, Sunrise

          From a wildlife and landscape perspective early morning always gives either the most activity or the best light of the day and on the Monday morning I decided to go and see if there were any divers close to the shore in good light... I found a Great northern diver not too close but since I was there I lay down at the water level and started taking a few shots of the diver. Using a right angle viewer you look downwards into the camera which enables you to photograph at the water level and it was in this position that I saw the diver look into the sky and then make an emergency dive. Although I thought this was strange it wasn’t till looked up from the camera that I realised there was a Juvenile White tailed Eagle circling over its head at about twenty feet.
          Panicking I tried to get a shot of the bird, but with the right angle attachment attached finding the bird turned out to be a farce (you look down and not at the subject)and whilst I was slipping on the wet rocks and pointing the camera at the sun I discovered that looking repeatedly at a low sun through what is effectively is a telescope leaves you slightly disadvantaged for trying to locate a fast moving object flying round in circles.
          Discouraged by the disappearing diver and no doubt amused by the weirdo swearing, rubbing his eyes and doing a fair imitation of break dancer, the Eagle disappeared over my head and left me waving the lens about with a couple of frames of an eagles wing tip. Five minutes later and more composed I was back with the diver who performed the same trick of making a dive for it. On this occasion I thought I was ready for it, and seeing the eagle I whipped off the view finder and searched the sky for what I thought was going to be a peach of a shot. Nothing... the Eagle had disappeared and left me rubbing my eyes again questioning what I had just seen. I looked up and down the Loch and eventually looked behind me to see an Eagle leaving its perch in a tree behind me. Disappointed at the lack of photographs but encouraged by the amount wildlife on the loch I looked back to the diver to see it some half a mile off shore.
          Giving it up as a bad job I stood up and saw to my left a seal watching me about 30 meters away, now I know that I have a strange imagination but I was sure that he was shaking his head in disbelief.



          Seal , watching an unseasonal pantomime on the shore.

          And so the rest of the holiday continued in the same way, some ventures were successful but unfortunately some were just as unproductive. On the isle of Mull there are some " hot tickets " when it comes to photography, the top in my opinion is the “Mull Charters “ boat trip to see the White tail Eagles and amongst the others is the trip to the Treshnish Isles to see the Sea birds. Puffins are an easy win and if you cannot get a good image of a subject sitting still only 2 metres away you need to throw away your camera. The Eagles however are a different proposition and the difference between capturing a stunning image and an out of focus patch of shoreline is a bit tenuous.




          You don’t need a lens this long for this job; I was actually trying to get some flight shots. (photo:Rachel Jones)

          3 trips on the " Lady Jayne" and possibly 3 images of the Eagles that I was" okay" with was not the fault of the skipper but the duffer behind the lens. Day one did not go too bad with a reasonable image of the bird about to pick up his lunch. Day two was a disaster with a flat clam and bright sun I managed to loose the focus on the descending bird (groan). Day three on the boat was a completely different day with a strong wind adding a bit of drama which resulted in a more moody picture of the bird working for his lunch. A second visit to the boat by the Eagle for seconds was thwarted by some anti-social seagulls that pinched all the fish.



          Photographing an otter whilst lying in a puddle.(photo:Rachel Jones)

          The Eagles were one thing but the otters were another, we were staying on Loch Scridain which was providing the most consistent otter views that week, unfortunately the otters popularity turned Loch Beg into a circus where people with no concern for the animal just wanted to get closer and although understandable their actions were making it impossible to stand back and photograph the animal relaxed in its own environment.



          A Vole taking advantage of the crowd around the otter, not a Kestrel in sight.(photo:Rachel Jones)

          First light gave the best chance of seeing the otter at peace and coinciding with high tides it also gave the best light and reflections for landscape pictures. The week was a sensational week for good light and warm weather which does not always mean that the wildlife will play ball but a full week of good weather on the isle of mull was certainly a new experience for us.
          Wildlife highlights for the week were certainly the Eiders and Puffins. The Eagles are the real crowd pullers but I never get to enjoy them as I am too busy trying to keep them in focus while they either circle or descend at high speed.