627 Days


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Six hundred and twenty seven days!! Or 1 year 8 months and 19 days, or….15048 hours, or even 54,127,800 seconds…but what ever way you look at it, its been a very long time.

Since what – well, my last post on this blog of course!

Hope you missed me, heck, I missed me! But what have I been doing these last 627 days that has not enabled me to post here?

Well since my last post I have – to paraphrase –  gotten divorced, moved home (twice) sold my Photography Studio (to pay lawyers!!) had to deal with a new partner getting breast cancer and had my driving licence taken away by the DVLA because of illness!


Rather than have this a negative blog post I’ll finish on the positives of which there are lots !

I still shoot the odd fashion or model shoot but I have morphed more into Training and image manipulation (Photoshopping). I’m in the process of now setting up a new business arm of my empire photographing pets, my license is likely to be returned to me within the next 4-6 weeks, my GF is free of the cancer and Summer is almost here

So all is well with the world.

See you next time (before 627 days)



Top 5 Inspirational Photographers and artists


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As a photographer and digital artist I am always using the web to seek out other photographers and artists, sometimes to network, others just to look at amazing work and sometimes purely for inspiration.

We all need people and things to inspire us in our daily lives, it is how we grow as people and it is how we grow as professionals, without inspiration there is only stagnation and with stagnation there is self doubt.

As my photography and digital artistry has progressed my list of inspirational photographers & artists has grown and I’d like to share with you my top five inspirational photographers & artists (in no particular order)

1) Damien Lovegrove

Damien learned his trade as a cameraman and lighting director during 14 years at the BBC, working on programmes such as the Clothes Show, Top of the Pops and Casualty. Days off from filming were often spent taking photographs for a variety of top name clients including Peugeot, Motorola, and Adidas.

Anyone who has met Damien can’t fail to be inspired and motivated by his enthusiasm for his second career. So much so that once you get him started on a subject it’s hard to shut him up…

Fifteen years on, Damien has become one of the foremost photographers and trainers in the industry. A published writer and regular columnist, Damien has travelled the globe shooting and sharing his knowledge and expertise.

Lovegrove Consulting

Lovegrove Photography

2) Glyn Dewis

Glyn Dewis is a Photographer, Retoucher, Trainer and Photoshop World Instructor currently based just outside of Oxford in the UK.

Working both Nationally and Internationally his main area of work sees him shooting Promotional and Commercial material for Industry Professionals, Physique Athletes, Musicians, Bands and Up and Coming Actors.

An Adobe Community Professional, he teaches Workshops and 1-1 Coaching specifically covering all aspects of Adobe® Photoshop® from the Basics through to Advanced Retouching Techniques, and is also available for National and International Speaking/Talks, Seminars and Workshops on both Photography & Photoshop.

Glyn Dewis

3) Dave Kai Piper

Dave is a photographer specialising in Couture Fashion, Lingerie, Evening-wear, Bespoke Bridal & Millinery Fashions. Dave is based in London & Bristol and he also writes an entertaining and informative Blog

DKP Photography

4) Julia Boggio

The award-winning and internationally renowned photographer Julia Boggio established her studio in London in 2005. Her aim then – as it still is today – was to create a unique photography studio that would enable everyone to enjoy the sort of high-end fashion shoot experience normally associated with style magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair.

From the moment you arrive at her studio you’ll feel like you’re at one of the top fashion studios in Paris or Milan, and about to be photographed for one of the world’s top glossy magazines. Her work – especially her now famous Vintage Boudoir photoshoots – has established Julia as one of the country’s leading portrait photographers, and her photographs are used in exhibitions and magazines worldwide. She is also a popular columnist for Photo Pro magazine and is regularly interviewed for other photography and lifestyle magazines.

Julia Boggio Studios

5) Neil Van Niekerk

Neil is a Photographer, trainer and author based in New Jersey in the USA. Best known perhaps for his amazing “Tangents” blog where he not only showcases his amazing work, but also provides useful insight into why and how he took them.



Best – Colin

5 Top Tips for a stress free photoshoot


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It can be a very rewarding experience working with models, both for the photographer and the model. But when things go wrong all too often I hear models complaining about their photographer or photographers complaining about their model and worse still photographers and models making these complaints in online forums or on Facebook which sometimes attract many thousands of views – sadly neither put the model or the photographer in good light.

All too often these complaints are borne out of frustration that the shoot didn’t go as planned, or that the model or the photographer didn’t get the pictures they wanted.

Its an old adage I know, but one which is very apt for those in the photographic industry, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.

Here are my 5 steps for ensuring that your next photo shoot goes without a hitch and model and photographer come away happy

1) Plan, Plan, Plan – I cannot stress how important it is for the photographer to plan their shoot – now I’m not suggesting planning with military precision down to the minutest detail – although if that’s how you work that’s fine – just ensure you have a photographic concept in mind, the right model, the right location, the right clothes and or props, a hairstylist and or Make Up artist, an assistant and everyone knows how to get to the location and at what time. Even in the Summer months make sure you have a warm coat and umbrella in the car – your freezing cold swim ware model will thank you for it

2) Communicate – I see so many photographers who sit behind the lens of a camera and click away without saying a word. Communicate with your model, they are not mind readers, they don’t know what you want unless you tell them. If you want the model to put her hand on her hip a bit higher than she has, tell her! All people need words of encouragement, tell the model her smile is gorgeous and she will smile a gorgeous smile – listen to some of the pro fashion photographers – they spend the entire shoot directing, cajoling and complimenting their models. The same communication needs to be for any stylists and MUA’s too – they don’t know EXACTLY what you want unless you tell them.

3) Always have a Plan B – Sometimes the best laid plans fall apart – always have a plan B, even if that Plan B is “we can’t continue – lets all reschedule”

4) Take regular breaks – It’s tough being a photographer – it’s equally tough being a model – you try standing on the beach in sub zero temperatures for hours on end! Always plan to have regular breaks for a drink, comfort breaks or just to look at what you have done so far – you will get more out of the model and consequently out of your shoot if you take regular breaks

5) Know when to stop – Its easy to keep clicking away – especially with modern DSLR’s of today – but if you have followed the four previous steps you will probably have “got the shot” by now – so stop – thank the model and the rest of your creative team and go home happy



25 top tips and advice for becoming a better photographer

After a bit of a break for reflecting on life “The Starving Artist” is back.

Here are 25 tips tricks and some general advice that could help you become a better photographer:

  1. A really expensive camera won’t make you a better photographer
  2. The lens quality is more important than the camera body features and functions – always buy the best lens you can afford
  3. Always shoot in RAW format – always
  4. Don’t delete images from the back of your camera
  5. Alcohol and photography don’t mix
  6. Don’t always take photographs from head height – get low – get high
  7. Don’t stop shooting because it’s raining or snowing or cold
  8. Shoot lots and often
  9. Develop your own individual style of photography, but don’t copy others
  10. The best light is natural light
  11. Only show off your best work to others
  12. Don’t be afraid of using high ISO and having some grain in an image
  13. Learn how to post process an image correctly
  14. Have your monitor and printer colour calibrated regularly
  15. Don’t act suspicious on the street with a camera
  16. Be confident when taking people pictures
  17. Smiles & laughter go a long way to a good picture
  18. Slow down, look around you BEFORE you click the shutter
  19. Strive for good composition – remember the rule of thirds
  20. Tell a story with your images
  21. Share your passion for photography
  22. Watch your shutter speed
  23. Don’t be afraid of flash – learn how to use it correctly
  24. Shoot at night
  25. Back up your precious images – OFTEN


Best – Colin

Interview with a model – Lorena Fernandez


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I have shot with Lorena Fernandez several times during the past few years and she is always the consumate professional and great fun to work with. Back in November last year I asked Lorena for an interview with “The Starving Artist” blog and Lorena took some time out recently from her hectic schedule for that interview. Hopefully this will provide some insight into the life of a professional model.

{The Starving Artist} Good morning Lorena – thanks for coming into the office

{Lorena Fernandez} Hi Colin – great to be here – can’t wait to hear what you have to ask!

{TSA} Haha – ok! Lets crack on then. So Lorena, I know you are from Spain, but tell us a little bit about your origins and why you decided to settle here in the UK

{LF} I was born and raised in Valencia, a sunny coastal town in Spain. My whole family ‘looks’ Spanish but my great grandfather was German and somehow the ‘genes’ were passed on to me, to the point that most people tend to think I’m eastern European! I always like travelling and did my last year of Uni in the United States, by then I had met my now husband (who is from Bristol) and decided to move here with him (my English is better that his Spanish, so I had a better chance of finding a job here!).

{TSA} At what age did you start modelling?

{LF} When I was 4-5 years old, my parents put me in a modelling agency, as a blonde kid in a country where most kids are brunette was quite beneficial for me…I did several TV adverts, kid’s catwalks and children’s catalogues and through my teens continued with the modelling, expanding onto acting (studied Drama for 2 years) and hostessing/promotions too…Moving to the UK meant I had to almost start from scratch, as I did not know anybody in the industry. Fast forward 6 years, and I would say ‘I’m there!’

{TSA} So with all this experience behind you what would your “Dream
Modelling Job” be?

{LF} Well, I have to be realistic…my dream job would be walking the
catwalks of Paris, Milan or New York, but I never grew those extra 2-3
inches, so my next one in the list would be featuring on the likes of Vogue
and Elle…but if I’m completely honest, I enjoy my job so much, that every
photo shoot, catwalk, music video or film I do is part of my ‘living the
dream’! I am very happy with the way my life and my career has turned out.

{TSA} What’s your biggest luxury?

{LF} I find this question a bit ambiguous…if you mean what the luxury
items I spend my money on, you need to know that I’m a bit – a lot – of a
geek, so I always need to have the latest gadget (there is only the two of
us in our house, but we have 3 iPads, 3 iPhones, 5 flat screen TVs, 2
Xbox-360 consoles, a Playstation III, a Wii, 2 latptops and a PC, which is
great for gaming sessions with friends!
If you are talking in a more figuratively way, my biggest luxury is being
healthy and having a supporting family who has always told me that with hard
work and dedication there is nothing I can’t achieve! They always make me
aim for the best, so I was a straight A student, graduated from university
with the highest GPA (I made into the ‘President’s List’, meaning I was one
of the 10 best marks from everybody graduating that summer) and in all my
jobs I tried to give 110% – nothing (and nobody) can ever be perfect, but
it’s fun trying to get there!

{TSA} I did mean figuratively – but great answer anyway! So, how would you
define your own personal modelling style?

{LF} I guess I’m what you call a classic look – long wavy blonde hair, blue
eyes and round face and body contours – so no surprise my favourite shoots
are portraits and I love modelling wedding dresses and ball-gowns on the
And I am a happy person, so I would say my best shots are when I’m smiling!
Of course, sometime I end up being ‘cliched’ into the same styles, so every
now and again I love doing jobs that push the boundaries, like the ‘Corpse
Bride’ shoot we did last year…it’s been great for me in terms of
networking, as everybody remembers those photos and gets surprised to see
that I was the girl under the amazing special effects make-up!

Thunder & lightening, very very frightening !!

Thunder & lightening, very very frightening !!

{TSA} Thanks for the “Corpse Bride” plug! Modelling is tough though how do you stay in shape?

{LF} Ok, to say it clear and loud, anybody who knows me, knows my love for good food! In Spain we have 5 meals a day, so when they see me eating that much in this country, I have to admit it must be down to good genes! But also the fact that I eat healthy food and use olive oil in all my cooking – that is my worst kept secret, I swear by olive oil! Of course every now and then I’m unhealthy, who can say no to bangers and mash or a proper full english breakfast! If I’m feeling too unhealthy, I drop by the gym (I say drop by, as I’m no gym-bunny and this is almost my last resort!). I try to walk for at least 30 mins every day and I’m a true believer that any night I go out clubbing, dancing all night must help too! Oh and retail therapy – good for your health to walk and carry ‘heavy bags’ for a good 4-5 hours and also good for your mind – I love shopping!

{TSA} Who do you admire and would most like to meet?

{LF} I admire people that pursue their dreams, that make the most with what
life throws at them and that enjoy the lives and careers – that’s what I aspire to!
I know it’s not realistic, but I would love to meet Leonardo Da Vinci, it amazes me how intelligent he was to make the most of his work, on a time in history where there were no computers or gadgets to do the thinking for you; I’m fascinated by all those ‘inventors’ who made amazing things – it was all down to their intellect and efficient use of the resources around them! Also, as a most trivial look at people I would like to meet, I would say Claudia Schiffer (my favourite model) and Craig David (my favourite singer).

{TSA} So what’s the best advise you have ever received? 

{LF} From my dad: ‘be the best, work hard, don’t let anybody tell you there
is something you can’t achieve, you have to believe in yourself before anybody else does’ – let’s say I’m trying to make him a proud dad!

{TSA} I think he must be proud! So tell us what you do in your “downtime”?

{LF} As mentioned in previous questions: I eat, shop, dance, play
video-games…and model! I enjoy my job so much, sometimes it does not feel
like a job!

{TSA} What is the most interesting shoot you have ever done?

{LF} I already mentioned the ‘Corpse Bride’ shoot (awesome make up, awesome location, awesome people to work with). Also some of my acting/extra roles can be quite fun, as you turn into a complete different ‘person’ each time – I have ‘been’ a nurse, a kidnap victim (three times, one of them as a vampire hostage), an art thief, a turn-of-the-century lady, an air hostess, a victorian maid, Princess Leia and a psychiatric patient, among others! Finally one of the jobs I enjoy most (for the excitement) is working as a grid girl in Silverstone, the cars are extraordinary (and the are revving,
inches away from you), everybody is in hight spirits and there are cameras
everywhere! My idea of heaven!

Bridal Fashion - Lorena F

Bridal Fashion – Lorena F

{TSA} And finally – Do you have any advice for those just wanting to start
out on a career in modelling?

{LF} This is not an easy world (the past few years have shown a boom in models and photographers) so you need to stand out and prove your worth. You have to be active, especially online where most of the jobs (and key people) are now. So:
– Build your portfolio, to create impactful images so that you can
make a name for yourself (and update it regularly).
– Network: have as many profiles online as you can, you never know where the next opportunity is going to come from. Join groups, forums and discussions; be seen and be heard.
– Show professionalism. You can be the most beautiful model around, but you will still be working with real people who also want the best for their careers, so you need to be polite, adaptable and presentable (take care of your image and health, is your best tool after all!).
– Practice, practice, practice. There is always a first time for every job, but the more you work the best you get at it…sometimes you’ll get offers for low paid or not paid at all jobs, but make sure to choose them carefully: a paid job may be more enticing (nobody likes working for free), but that unpaid job with prospects to publication will probably open more doors for you.
– And finally, enjoy what you do. If you are happy, it shows (and it’s contagious) – who doesn’t want to work with an easy-going, positive person?  And again this benefits you in the long run, as word-of-mouth will describe you as a ‘great model’, the one that offers the whole package.

{TSA} Sound advice there Lorena. That about wraps it up – thanks so much for
your time Lorena!

{LF} Thanks Colin!!

Lorena is a professional actress/model and you can see her work here, Lorena Fernandez and you can follow her on Twitter @lorena__F

Creating Composite Images – Part 3


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This is my third and final post in the series on compositing images using Adobe Photoshop – the first post can be read here , and the second post here

My two previous posts have centred around creating fairly simple composites, a background image and two foreground images composited together to create a simple yet believable fantasy image.

For my last post though I will focus on showing how I created a complex composite image, using a mixture of real photographs, computer generated images and complex brushes.

Here is the final fantasy image – The Midnight Hour – with Jessica Truscott

finished version


What looks a fairly simple and believable image started out as four actual photographs (Model and birds) five computer generated images (background, mansion, skeleton, skull and zombie) and three photoshop brushes, the moon, the mist and the sparkles in the models right hand.

Here are the images in separation

composite full

By far the biggest challenge when compositing images – aside from getting the lighting and the colour between all images correct, is the loss of the shadow on the ground when you cut the image out. We all create shadows on the ground and a shadow in an image is what creates depth and realism.

Creating a ‘realistic shadow’ underneath a person can be time consuming at best – nigh on impossible at worst. Many well known photoshop photo manipulators actually refrain from showing the feet of a cut out in the final image for this very reason.

In almost all of my fantasy images I DO show the feet, but I use mist, fog, or other tricks to blur and disguise the fact that there is not a correct shadow in place.

If you take the mist away from the final image both the model and the house are clearly cutout – but put the mist back in and not only do you have realistic atmosphere but the mist also conveniently hides and blurs the areas that have no shadow when they SHOULD have shadow – and you end up with a convincing fantasy composite image.

I hope you have enjoyed my short series on compositing images and have learnt a little bit to give it a try yourself

best – Colin

Two Cows


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Everyone has a camera these days, ranging from high end through to budget DSLR‘s, the ever popular “point & shoot” or just the plain old camera phone. But even though there are people with cameras everywhere how many people do you see pointing them at things – not very many.

People have cameras, but they don’t take the opportunities for pictures – if you have a camera and carry a camera then what’s the use of it being in your pocket or handbag. Take it out and point it at something and take a picture.

Here in the UK there has been a week or more of pretty bad snow (well, pretty bad for the UK) and I have been out and about in it a fair bit – but I have seen very few people taking pictures. Snow is a beautiful thing, it brings pictures alive, makes landscapes magical winter wonderlands and makes for people wrapping up in colourful scarfs.

I was out walking my two dogs, a regular dog walking area and I glanced up and saw these two cows just looking, it’s just two cows, but the pose and the snow and the look just said it all. Dozens of people walked on by – I didn’t – and now every time I look at this picture I smile

two cows

And putting a smile on a face is what a picture is meant to do – invoke emotion, be it a smile, a grimace, being startled or just going “wow”.

So next time you are out, in the snow rain or sunshine, just take your camera out and have a look around – you never know – you might see something that will make you smile.


Best – Colin

Creating Composite Images – Part 2


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Following on from my last post about compositing images, here, I’d like to show you how I created my “Snow Queen” image – quite apt considering the current British weather.

I had been looking at shooting a particular image to go with the composite I had in mind, however circumstances always conspired against either the shoot or the look I had in mind. I was doing some housekeeping in my shoot library and I came across an image that was marked as “throw away”. The image was part of a beach bridal shoot back in December and it didn’t quite cut the mustard.

However, the pose and hand placement were exactly what I was looking for for my snow queen idea.

This is the finished “Snow Queen” fantasy image with the lovely Miss Laura Mai

snow queen finished

This particular creation was (relatively) simple as I was using only a single background image. The following show the three main articles that went into making this composite.

snow queen composite


I explained in my previous post that the secret to successful compositing is getting the right perspective (with focal length of lenses) and lighting that matches foreground and background.

The other ingredient for successful images is matching colour between foreground and background images. Now while there are a number of ways to achieve this, this is the method I use. In Photoshop duplicate your background layer and move it to the top of the layer stack. With the duplicate layer still selected, go to the menu bar and select Filter>Blur>Average. Set the blend mode to “Colour” and then lower the opacity to around 20-25% – you may want to ad a layer mask to mask of the background – but that’s it, a simple trick that will match the colour of your foreground image to your background.

This image in total took around two hours to complete – there are only 17 layers in this image and the file size (unflattened) is 130MB.

The sparkles, wings, snow and staff were all added to the image for added realism and finally a small amount of mist was added to the lower part of the image to soften it up.

in my next post on Compositing images I’ll show you how I created a more complex fantasy image

Best – Colin

Creating Composite Images – Part 1


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I have spent a lot of time recently creating fantasy composite images for a new venture of mine. I have not blogged about them only posted them on my Facebook page. A lot of my Facebook fans have asked how they were created – and whilst I’m not going to write a full blown tutorial on compositing images I felt I could put something together that shows how the images are created and how much work goes into creating them.

The key to creating believable composite images is in choosing the correct images for the composite. All the images should have have been shot with the same focal length of lens, to ensure perspective is consistent have the same depth of field and the lighting should be the same across the images. Colour is very important too – and in my next blog post I’ll share a top tip for ensuring consistent colour between background and foreground images.

The most important piece of the puzzle though is lighting. Light can come from any and everywhere in life, there can be soft shadows, hard shadows or no shadows at all and even a mixture of them all – a composite images will look totally fake if the light and the shadows to not match between background and foreground images.

Ideally you should go out and shoot your subject with a composite in mind – that way you can shoot the subject in a way that will fit in with your composite backgrounds. For instance, if you have already chosen your background images and they have directional lighting with soft shadows – you can light your subject to fit in with that.

Some people prefer to shoot the primary subject in a studio setting, so they have total control over the lighting – this is not necessarily a bad thing, but shooting outside can sometimes give you a quality of light that can never be replicated in a studio. My personal preference is neither, I use studio subjects as well as outdoor subjects.

Background stock images can be sourced from a variety of places, if you shoot landscapes or architecture you will probably already have some great images that can be used for compositing – but if not you can spend a serious amount of time searching places like Deviant Art, or iStockphoto or any of the other microstock websites out there. Some stock you may have to pay a few pounds for, others are free, its up to you to decide on what’s best for you – but there are plenty of amazing stock images out there.

Right – enough of the pre-amble. This is an image of the lovely Gemma, daughter of my favourite Bridal Wear supplier.

Gemma in magical forrest

Gemma in magical forest

This is a composite of two background images, the forest trees, the flowers in the foreground and Gemma. Gemma was actually shot in a studio environment for this shot.

This is the composite image BEFORE any work has begun.


Gemma was backlit in the studio and you can see the beautiful light on her hair – this fits in ok with the final image as although the background trees are misty – they are brighter than the foreground – adding a shaft of light in with a photoshop technique adds realism to the lighting on Gemmas’ hair.

In total, this image took around four hours to create, there are 117 individual layers in Photoshop and the unflattened file size is 270 MB. The butterflies, shafts of light and sparkles are all created in Photoshop, using pre-made brushes. Butterflies were coloured and transformed to different sizes for realism.

Finally I coloured the image an overall violet to match the foreground flowers and keep up the overall fantasy woodland theme.

In my next post I’ll show you how I created a fantasy snow queen complete with horses.

Best – Colin


Red Kite Feeding Frenzy


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There is a great story circulating the Internet at the moment about the BBC Wildlife Photographer Gordon Buchanan sitting in a perspex cage in Svalbard waiting to film polar bears – he gets more than he bargained for – but he captured on film some images that few people will ever see in the real world.

And this got me thinking about one of my own experiences as a wildlife photographer – no where near as dramatic as polar bears but none the less a site that few people will see let alone be fortunate enough to capture on film.

I shoot a lot of birds of prey, in particular Red Kites. These spectacular birds were once hunted to almost extinction in the UK, but after a successful re-introduction programme the species is thriving once more.

Red kites are a chestnut red with striking white patches under the wings and a pale grey head. Viewed from above, a broad white crescent curves across the inner part of the wings, but it is the underside that produces the most startling image.

The head is equipped with hooded amber eyes ringed with lemon yellow. The beak, wickedly hooked and very sharp, is designed for tearing meat and killing small prey animals.

It has a wingspan of nearly two metres, but a relatively small body weight of 2 – 3 Ibs. This means the bird is incredibly agile, and can stay in the air for many hours with hardly a beat of its wings.

There is a Red Kite feeding station in Powys, North Wales, which attracts up to 400 of the birds daily. It was at this feeding station where I captured a site on film that I had never seen before.

Every day the site owner hauls his tractor up to the feeding site and unloads several dozen kilos of raw beef onto the ground. Within a matter of moments the birds descend onto the meat and pluck it from the ground to be eaten on the wing/

It was whilst shooting this behaviour that I heard  lots of squeals and whistles above me and looking up I saw a mass of birds – I immediately pointed my lens to the sky and kept my finger on the motor winder shooting at 9fps. The “event” I had witnessed was over in a split second and I didn’t realise what I actually had on film until I got home and downloaded the images.

The sequence shows a single red kite carrying a large piece of beef in its claws, this kite was attacked by a number of other birds after the beef – not unusual behaviour at this site, but often it happens out of site or too high in the sky to be witnessed. The naked eye saw only a mass of feathers in this instance, it was the camera that caught the sequence and slowed it down to see each frame.

These images have been published around the world.

red kite sequence-1


red kite sequence-2


red kite sequence-3


red kite sequence-4


red kite sequence-5


red kite sequence-6



Best – Colin