We are very excited to announce the beginning of a whole new chapter in the wild Arena story! Last month we completed the purchase of an amazing property in northern Scotland, ‘Forsinard Lodge’, which will become our new headquarters in the coming months and a base for some amazing new experiences. Over the past 15 years we have spent a lot of time in Scotland, both personally and working with other photographers, such as Neil McIntyre. As a business we feel this is a great development to our offering, and as we are relocating to beautiful Scotland, this will add a new dimension of wilderness experience to what we can offer.

So why Forsinard?

Many of you may not have heard of the area, but this undiscovered gem is a photographer’s paradise. The property, where we will be able to offer accommodation, is sat right next to ‘Forsinard Flows’. an area of outstanding natural beauty, and the home to one of the largest RSPB reserves in the country.  There will be plenty of wildlife, which perhaps you have come to know us for, but this is also a dark sky, northern light area and has breath-taking landscapes. Forsinard lies more to the east than west, but still has majestic mountains nearby, and is close enough to the north coast to be able to easily escape the land for boat adventures, with some amazing coastal nature. As this area is still very much undiscovered, and being off the popular ‘NC500’ route, anytime spent here, will truly be away from the crowds where you can immerse yourself and your photography in a truly wild landscape.

We will be spending the next few months coming up with some great itineraries for weekend and week-long breaks & expeditions, with photography, nature and learning being equally important. Our trips to Scotland have offered many of you the chance to get some great pictures, but also spend time with like-minded photographers, whilst concentrating on nothing else for the duration of a relaxing break. Our guests have always fed back how useful this has been for moving their photography forward, and this really is our hope with this new venture. A great way to learn, in a supportive environment, that will offer some truly fantastic picture opportunities

This is obviously a big change for us, as we have had the privilege of being based within Knowsley Safari Park for the past 10 years. In terms of the business and the activities we offer, this will inevitably evolve, but it is our intention to continue the majority of Wild Arena’s favourite events as outlined below.

Knowsley Safari Park sessions: 

This will continue as normal until the end of May, and then we are planning to refresh these events with some small changes.

Macro Studio (Knowsley):

This will continue as normal until the end of May, and then we are planning to replace these activities with alternative close-up photography sessions at a venue close by.

Woburn Safari Park sessions:

This will remain unchanged until the end of May, but should then continue for the rest of 2022 with potentially some minor changes.

To allay any fears, any dates we have already booked or are advertising for any events will, needless to say, be delivered with our usual care and attention!

Of course, beyond our regular events, we will be launching a range of very exciting trips and activities – perfect for us and our customers!

We were lucky enough to first visit the beautiful landscape of central Norway back in 2007 and since then have returned many times. Our initial invitation was to see a number of locations, but particularly to focus on the chance to see and photograph wild Eagles. Memorably we were not disappointed and over the coming 3 or 4 years, we have had some amazing encounters with these illusive creatures.

Typically, a trip to see the Norwegian Eagles would begin with meeting our host, Ole Martin Dahle at the airport, followed by a scenic drive north from Trondheim passing rugged coastline, sleepy fjords and forested hillsides. After around 3 hours we would arrive at our destination, the small village of Lauvsnes.  Very comfortable accommodation is provided by Ole Martin’s guest house, sat above the harbour, with great views across to the hills and water beyond.

There is something very special about this part of the world as autumn begins to turn to winter and colder temperatures invite snow and ice into the landscape. Of course, the wild countryside is beautiful in all seasons, but the shorter days and low light just adds a magical feeling of the raw majesty of nature. This time of year is also perfect for Eagles, as it provides a chance to see, both Golden Eagles from hides as well as the majestic White Tailed Sea Eagles fishing out on the fjords.

A trip will normally start with a relaxed chat with Ole over hot tea and coffee at the guest house, to plan which subjects we should target on what days. In fine weather it is more likely we would plan to head out in Ole’s boat and try and photograph the White Tailed Eagles, fishing in the complex maze of fjords and islands in the surrounding area. However, if the immediate weather is less favourable, Golden Eagles would be a usual choice.

Kongeørn, as Golden Eagles are called in Norway, are notoriously shy and timid, and it takes a huge amount of care and patience to create a hide that is simply good enough to predictably attract these iconic raptors. Ole Martin usually has several options, all set out perfectly for photography. Lighting direction, backgrounds and angles are all thought through and Ole will take great care in positioning natural carrion bait to attract the birds.

 

Photographing the Golden Eagles, largely follows the same pattern. In order to enter the hides in such a way as to not disturb them. An early start is required to be in the hides well before dawn. The short walk in induces a sense of anticipation of what might follow and as your head torch picks out small pieces of the snowy landscape, it is easy to imagine the Eagles watching from their hidden, wild roosts.  Once in the hides it is just a question of carefully positioning your camera and then getting comfortable. In the colder months, the hides usually have a small heater running to lift the temperature and it is easy to stay warm with a cosy sleeping bag wrapped over your legs and body.

It is then, of course, just a matter of staying quiet and patiently waiting. With hot coffee from a flask and a supply of snacks, the time passes easily, as you watch from the small hide windows as the light grows from the east and begins to illuminate the scene before you.  Hooded crows, Magpies and Ravens might well visit the bait before the eagles, so there are still fascinating things to watch, although you might need to be careful in not moving your camera prematurely. With a little luck and stoicism, the moment then comes when you notice other birds become quieter and then your eye catches a different movement. By comparison to other visitors the Golden Eagles are huge, and you are instantly aware of their steely, magnetic presence.

Cautiously at first, they approach the food set out for them and the job of the photographers in the hide is to hold their nerve and wait for the birds to become relaxed and start feeding. This might take a few minutes or an hour, but it is crucial the Eagles feel no risk or threat around them. Once settled however, it is the possible to carefully position cameras and begin to tentatively shoot the pictures you had been hoping for. As the golden light moves across the sky, morning drifts into afternoon and after eating their fill the Eagles will move away. It is time to leave the hides and return to the warmth of the guest house and review the pictures from the day.

If the weather is better and winds are calm, we can change tack and think about capturing dramatic images of White Tailed Eagles fishing. Again, these days start early as we want to be out on the water to make the most of the early morning sun. Ole knows the local Sea Eagles intimately and will have a good idea of the best places to visit. The objective of course, is to attract these amazing birds down by providing fish for them to eat. The fjords are beautiful and there are chances to shoot the Eagles against a variety of backgrounds. Amazingly the White Tails seem to know the boat and often are in the air and following as soon as we arrive. With great skill, Ole positions the boat, considering wind direction for the Eagles and light for the photographers, and then throw a fish into the water at the perfect distance. With a little good fortune most trips out will have a good number of ‘Eagle dives’ to give multiple chances for great pictures.

Even with a busy schedule of Golden Eagles and White Tailed Eagles, we would normally find a little time to explore the amazing local landscape. Quiet forests, majestic hills and deep shaded fjords all make for super images. There might even be an opportunity to try and shoot images of other native bird species from one of the hides to broaden out the portfolio from the trip.

The one problem we always find with a visit to Norway, is it just isn’t long enough and leaving always induces a feeling we should return soon. The landscapes and abundance of extraordinary Eagles make for an unforgettable trip. This part of Norway truly is the ‘realm of the Eagles’.

 

Now the restrictions have lifted a little bit more in Wales, we are really pleased to be able to once again offer the Mountain Ponies with Kevin Morgans. We have our first event coming up on 26th July with a small group of just for people. Please click here for more information

Unfortunately we have had a cancelation on our Scotland Tour for 2019, but that means we can offer this last place out at a super special price. Don’t forget all the places on our 2019 tour were also offered a free Neil McIntyre book ‘The Red Squirrel’.

Scottish Winter Wildlife with Neil McIntyre – Normal price £1445,
Last minute place £1100

For 2019, we are once again heading north in January for stunning winter colours to compliment our wildlife encounters. The trip will provide superb picture opportunities of species such as Red Squirrel, Crested Tits, Ptarmigan, Mountain Hare, Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcon, Eagle Owl and Red Deer. We will make the most of the breath taking surroundings to provide the perfect natural backgrounds for the birds and animals of this mountainous environment. There will also be lots of chances to capture images of the landscape itself during our 5 full days exploration of the Cairngorms. We will also make the most of early morning and evening light for low sun, colour and reflections. This great tour includes accommodation in a private country house, guiding services of Neil McIntyre along with David and Janet from Wild Arena, Breakfast and Lunch and all excursions. For more detailed information please click here

This last minute place is available on a ‘first come, first served’ basis so drop us a quick e-mail if you would like the place to:
info@wildarena.com,
or call us on 0151 528 6607