International Centre for Birds of Prey, Duncombe Park, 1st June 2014

I had an early start on Sunday. I was out of the house before 8 o’clock to drive up to Helmsley and take part in a photography workshop. I’d visited the ICBP twice before and had a great day out. Duncombe Park is on the outskirts of Helmsley, a lovely North Yorkshire market town, complete with a large ruined castle. The ICBP opened in Spring 2013 and has a cracking collection of birds of prey. They have three different flying displays every day, with different birds each time. The birds range from tiny Burrowing Owls to a massive female Stellars Sea Eagle.

The workshop was led by Linda Wright, an award winning photographer, and having seen some of her images its hardly surprising that she has won awards. Linda is a retired teacher and came to photography late in life, as a lot of us have. She showed what a high standard can be achieved in a short time.

The workshop started by taking photographs of grass in fully automatic mode! Linda then explained how to use the information provided by that shot to set your camera to manual exposure. It was the first time some of us had ever visited the dreaded ‘M’ setting. Within minutes we were up and running and throughout the day, as the light changed, I found myself pointing my camera at the grass and changing my aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings. As with many things in life, once I’d got over my initial nervousness at trying something new, I found using the manual setting straightforward. I took almost 400 images during the day and only half a dozen were under or over-exposed.

One of the main bonuses of the day was how close we got to the birds. We had opportunity to photograph birds in flight and close up on ‘scenic’ perches. On the static shoots we were able to get within a few feet of a bird, so were able to take portrait shots which didn’t need cropping for the bird’s head to fill the frame. One of the participants had the opportunity to get the shot of her life as a Barn Owl flew from its perch and landed on her lens. The day was rounded off by having a Stellars Sea Eagle fly to a perch in front of us. It was so close, and so large, that I couldn’t fit its entire wingspan in my field of view – where was my wide-angled lens when I need it? In the boot of my car unfortunately!

I would heartily recommend a trip to the ICBP, as a visitor or on one of their photography workshops. Duncombe Park itself is massive with lots of country walks. Otters and Kingfishers can be spotted on one of the riverside walks but that’s a treat for another days. Talking about treats, if you go the ICBP make sure you pay their tea rooms a visit. The steak and ale pie was outstanding, almost worth the trip up there on its own.

It looks like the weather isn’t going to be too sparkling this weekend. If we get a break in the rain I may well have a run over to Brodsworth Hall, near Doncaster. The gardens are fantastic and seem to change week by week. I was there a couple of weeks ago and the rose garden was just coming into