Patches (not the song from Clarence Carter!)My patch
(Conjugated: your patch, our patch, their patch, [not were patch, as that's an area for human's with a hair growth problem during a full moon]).
Why am I writing this?
Well I was very lucky that until recently I lived in the humid Welsh Caribbean (I think the wetness was humidity?) also known as Barry Island which the locals call 'Barrybados' (not me I hasten to add) and this being next to the coast was a good area for photographic opportunities. I didn't need to carry out many recces as the subjects were there but after moving in I took plenty of walks, made a few enquiries and quickly I was able to discern the lie of the land and more importantly be close enough to take advantage should any photographic opportunities occur. Now after finding said good area 'Murphy's law' (the cousin of 'Sod's Law') has occurred and I have since moved from 'Nessaland' (Gavin and Stacey reference, has a lot of lost children very similar to Neverland but with a few more slot machines) and I am now having to follow my own text (which is not easy with contact lenses in) and start the whole process again but that's part of the fun isn't it?. So how have I gone about it?
Read on Mcduff.......................... and if you are not reading it anyone else will do.
What is a good patch?
The whole point of your patch besides being accessible and allowing plenty of photography practice is that you can view your subject/s in differing conditions throughout the year. Changes of light, direction, differing weather, seasons will all change your subject minute by minute and there is no better way of understanding what each will do to your shots than seeing it evolve in front of you. Your patch will also allow you to photograph common areas and species so that you can hone your skills ready for the times when your skills will be critical and with the added bonus that you can learn without any undue stress. Besides there is nothing wrong with common species and you may just achieve a shot that no one has yet thought of.
Where should my patch be?
Probably not outside the 'Winkle and Ferret', too tempting. Firstly your patch (can be multiple patches if you are greedy like me) can be anywhere as long as it's easily accessible and entices you with photographical goodies that will sustain repeat visits. It doesn't matter how able bodied you are, if you can pick up a camera, then you can pick out a patch (by all means pick up a Penguin too if you are peckish but please don't pick up a bad habit as nuns can get very irate if they come back to find them gone!). This can be as simple as your garden and if you set up some bird feeders, maybe a pond and have some planted areas you can have your own mini Masai Mara which as well as finding a few local areas I have done too. Now obviously if you are able, venture further afield to your park, local nature reserve or (as below) find your own. If you are urbanised (please get out of there now before you contract wasteoflifeaphobia!) even your street or town can be your patch if you have nothing green nearby, just look at the fox shots of Sam Hobson or indeed Sir Andrew of Rouses Grebe fetish (please do not ask me where Andy took those shots as I would not divulge for all the tea in China.............. actually I like tea a lot, so offers of a PG tip may loosen my tongue, place a Yorkshire Gold under my nose and I'm anyones). Now as you know from my previous blog (what do you mean you haven't read it!) as well as the obvious haunts I also try to find my own treasure trove nearby. The secret however is to make it close by so you can visit often.
So what have I done to narrow down my search?
Firstly I checked out the obvious internet sources and read through any local information and guides. Whilst you are there have a look at any relevant photographer/birdwatch/mammal watch websites to see if you can garner a any information or possible locations. Google maps is also good for this as they now allow photos to be uploaded should you actually want to view thousands of dreadful images taken on mobiles, although strangely enough can still be helpful. Next was a gander at the OS map of my area looking for the public paths and accessible areas, which leads me on from my earlier blog, let's put that walk with no purpose to good use again and check out your patch (walking for no reason is fast becoming a swearword, 'for walks sake'!). If you have a dog, here's an excuse to walk it and use that time monitoring your area (if you don't have a dog borrow someone else's). Take a camera to make a few record shots for memory or actually a mobile is probably better as you know with us photographer types even a record shot can become engrossing and there has been many a time I forgot that I was walking the dog and couldn't work out why I had a lead in my hand, knew it was nothing to do with bondage as I'm allergic to whips (although strangely with nut allergies prevalent these days I'm fine with walnut ones)! When you are out and about you will also be in the proximity of people that may be a useful source of information. I had a chat with a few people in my area for any wildlife sightings (you women are saying, sensible person, the men are shouting heavens forbid, I'm a man I don't need directions, I will just aimlessly drive around until I go somewhere I didn't want to be, thank goodness for the invention of sat navs I say!). I also visited a few farmers for permission to be on their land, quizzed them on what's around and in the process bumped into a few locals who knew the area well which has proved invaluable (I say bumped into, it was more like get shouted at by a man with a shotgun because I was trespassing but I managed to turn the situation around with my ousing charm and disarming smile, oh and the fact I begged to be spared). I also drove around my home and just simply looked out for possible opportunities and sites (my kerb crawling arrests have gone up alarmingly!).
Your patch will be the area that you take most of your photos and master as best as you can your camera. In my mind it is one of the most important things to source not just when you are starting out but ongoing throughout your photography especially if you are not taking photos constantly. It is the place where you can save valuable time and money by honing your knowledge so that you are as ready as you can be in the field the next time you are snapping ospreys, tigers, leopards etc. I'll let you know how I get on.