Summer Grouse

I am very fortunate to live just an hour away from the North York Moors National Park which is at its beautiful best in late summer when the heather is in bloom.

This wild habitat supports a wide variety of flora and fauna but perhaps the most iconic is the red grouse. I have visited these upland moors each summer for several years now hoping to capture the grouse amongst the flowering heather. I had built up a nice portfolio of images but felt some shots were missing or could be improved upon. As with most of my subjects, I see the grouse as a long term project and believe the more time you put in the better the results in the end. I also like to get to a location for sunrise as this often produces the best light, especially on sunny days.

The red grouse is endemic to the British Isles and is herbivorous feeding mainly on the shoots, seeds and flowers of heather. It is considered a game bird and many are killed during the shooting season which traditionally starts on August 12. Unfortunately this coincides with the heather bloom which peaks towards the end of August and this can be restrictive if you go on the wrong day. The shot below shows the male bird with the bright red comb over his eye.

Due to unsettled weather and other commitments I was only able to visit once this summer and wanted to make some photographs of grouse in the wonderful pink heather that had carpeted the landscape. These birds can be quite approachable especially when shooting from your car, the image below was captured in this way, using a beanbag to support my gear.

Famous Grouse.jpg

I prefer to get down in the heather with the grouse as you can create pictures with a more intimate feel and better subject isolation as the foreground and background are thrown out of focus.


The lower you get the softer and dreamier the image becomes and this can look nice with a more dynamic composition.

© Simon Roy Photography 2017

Gone Fishing

The Kingfisher is a most striking bird and one of the nicest subjects to photograph. It had been high on my wishlist for some time, but a lack of opportunity resulted in only a handful of images and a distinct gap in my portfolio.

I knew of a local hide with a good reputation and several of my clients had also recommended it. I usually like to work my own subjects but temptation got the better of me so I booked a day in mid-spring.

My next move was to plan some shots in advance. To do this I research existing images, looking for what works and seeing if there are any spaces in the market. For me, this is an important and enjoyable step that can be the difference between good and great pictures.

I really like making images that connect us to the creatures we live beside. A classic example of this is a Kingfisher perched on a fishing rod or no fishing sign. Although these shots have been done before, I like the challenge of trying to do them better.

Gone Fishing.jpg

The image below is the result of several hours preparation and almost a full day in the hide. I built the sign myself using scrap wood and then made a stencil to create the text; I even brushed some tea over the white paint to give it a weathered look. I had many visits before it all came together, the Kingfisher facing into the scene and everything on the same focal plane.


Out of the Blue

One of my favourite recent projects has been working with the Roe deer at a local woodland. It all started on a fine spring morning, a few years ago, while I was photographing bluebells in a clearing between the trees. Something caught my eye and a beautiful female deer moved silently into the carpet of flowers; she paused briefly and then faded away.

Bluebell Wood.jpg

I remember it as a lucky encounter rather than a missed opportunity, but I had witnessed a special moment, and trying to capture it became a bit of an obsession.

The best projects are the ones where you have a specific image in mind and must work to achieve it. I had two fruitless springs with only rare and distant sightings of the deer and nothing to show for my early starts and long days. The bluebells only display for a few weeks from late April into May, when the bracken pushes through and takes the light.

I visited whenever I could and walked many miles tracking the deer and their preferred routes through the dense woodland. My efforts weren’t totally in vain as I now had a better understanding of my subject and its habitat. It was early May, in the third year, when I finally got my chance.

Bambi in Bluebells.jpg

Arriving before sunrise in full camouflage and waiting for hours with only the midges and mosquitoes as company. I hear two deer barking and then a young doe emerges from the distant trees and slowly walks into the bluebells, I line a single focal point between her eyes and fire one shot, then she is gone.

Out of the Blue.jpg

I return to the woods each April with new hopes and ideas. As my knowledge of the deer improves, so do the opportunities. I have longer, more intimate encounters which have produced some very special images.

Nutty about Nuthatches

I have been a keen birder since childhood and this has increased through my life as a wildlife photographer. I am particularly drawn to some species, the Little Owl and Bullfinch, the Sanderling and Dipper; but my absolute favourite is the Nuthatch.

These are beautifully painted birds, steel blue and orange with a black eye stripe that fits perfectly with their bold character. 

Nuthatch are superb tree climbers and can move up, down and around the trunk and branches; typically they land above where they want to be and then spiral down head first. At bird feeders they dominate and will even wait patiently while the food is replenished, this habit just adds to their charm.

The Nuthatch has a very pretty and distinctive call but during my time with them I have noticed a number of other more subtle sounds, particularly when several birds are together. This is part of what I love about wildlife photography, learning those little character traits that can improve your chances of capturing the perfect moment.

I have spent many hours observing and photographing these lovely birds but still feel there is more to learn and better images to be made. This is how it is with some subjects, as your photographs improve your expectations grow and you have to keep going. Perhaps the shot I want will always elude me but at least I’ll get to spend more time with the Nuthatches.