The eyes of a Wolf always see straight into your soul ...

...You can't hide the truth from them


Please visit the main site - www.wolf-photography.com


Saturday, 28 December 2013

http://www.cheapoair.co.uk/ - Scam air fare operator?


Please be aware of a potential problematic air fare operator.  They're called http://www.cheapoair.co.uk/.  I was trying to book a flight yesterday through their system using 'Wow Air'.  Here's what happened:

I found a cheap return flight using their system - went to the booking stage and it was declined.  I found another one - it was declined.  The reason given for both was that the ticket offer had now expired and there were no more seats left.  This made me suspicious as it had never happened before in over 10 years of booking airfares online.  The moment you click on to buy a fare - it's held for you - pending your payment details.  If there's a problem - their system doesn't take you to the payment section.

In the mean time, someone from a phone number that only registered on my mobile as +81248 called tried to sell me a different fare that was a lot more expensive and that would get me there later than my appointment.  This would have meant giving an operative my credit card details over the phone without knowing who or which company the person was from - as he didn't state his company - just the fact that he could see I was attempting to book an air fare.  In the end I went directly to the 'Wow Air' website and booked the same ticket that I had originally seen for a higher price.

The worrying thing for me were the security implications of a web company now having my credit card details, contact details and my passport number.

I phoned up the credit card company and explained my suspicions to them and asked them to put out a warning about it on their website or through some other means but I didn't feel the need to cancel my credit card.  Until this morning.

The credit card company asked me to contact them regarding the previous day's card activity.  A member of their security team said that I'd tried to make three payments to 'Wow Air' and that they had been declined.  So the two cheaper flights (£184 and £162) were lost. I found it strange that the credit card payments were ALL going to Wow Air and not to the company trying to make the sale. 

I'd like to thank the security team operative of my credit card company that didn't seem to understand exactly what was going on.  Well done.  The only reason your company aren't being mentioned here is because that would compromise my security.

It's also easy to make a company appear at the top of a 'Google' search to make it look more credible -  if your advertisement is in a yellow box - it means that you paid for it to get there.

In order to safeguard my security I felt it necessary to cancel the card and I now have to wait for another one with the added hassle of setting it back up with the various companies I make payments to.

So, if you're using Cheapoair.co.uk - please be careful.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Intimacy with my Garden ...

The rolling exhibition 'Living with PTSD' has begun and 'Intimacy with Plants' is a smaller exhibition that's a part of the show.  It's a set of 15 macro images that were created in my own garden during a period of time when leaving my home was particularly difficult.

'Intimacy with Plants' is available to smaller venues and will accompany a set of poetry expressing the harder moments of living with PTSD.  The aim being the same:  to show how photography can temporarily take you away from the chains of living with PTSD.

There's a book accompanying the exhibition that will be on Kindle only (but readable on any personal computer) and it will be priced at one unit of your particular currency (eg £1, $1 etc plus Amazon's tax).

Here's an extract from the book:

As a result of military service, I live with a condition known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The untrained eye won't see anything amiss if watching me walking down the street.  It's an invisible wound that makes life very difficult at times.

Poetry helps me to vent the caged up emotions and feelings that the general populace aren't aware of ... but photography helps me to escape the chains of the condition for a while.

Part of the application process for the main exhibition, Living with PTSD, was to do some developmental work in terms of my photography.  I was going through a particularly bad time and found it more difficult that usual to leave my home.  I turned to 'plan B' for some solace.

Plan B is simple ... develop an ecological environment in my own garden with beautiful flora and fauna that will entice wildlife into the garden ... thus allowing me to continue with my photographic work in the safety of my own home in those times when I find going out very difficult.

I don't want to repeat the information that I published in 'Living with PTSD - Journey of a Veteran' - where I elaborated on some issues.  This book is about setting up the garden and looking at how you can help restore some balance to the different areas of wildlife that suffer a negative impact from an ever increasing  human population.

I sometimes sit with my 91 year old neighbour and listen to her describe this area that I live in, Aspley - Nottingham, and the changes that she has seen are tremendous in terms of scale.   When she was younger, this area was mainly woods and fields.  The current area bears no resemblance to the area that she grew up in.  I haven't named her because she made me promise not to write about her ... I hope this little piece won't be viewed as a breach of her trust.  If it is - it'll be removed.

We should spend more time with our elders as they have no 'party political' slant on what they tell us, just their own take on things.  So much information, lore and history is being lost.  Information that we still need to learn from.  Life moves in cycles ... the days may come when we will need to rely upon such information again.

My neighbour is also my friend.  Despite her age she is a very open, inquisitive, humourous and intelligent lady that doesn't harbour any discrimination that I've seen.  Everything that you see in this book began in her front room over cups of tea as I'd talk with her about the plans and then draw rough sketches on her notepad.  We even went to some garden centres together and picked plants for our own gardens.  One of her rose bushes is over fifty years old!

The best part was watching her expression when she'd see the results of the plan come to life in the garden that now exists.  I get a telling off from her now and then because it's not as tidy as it can be!  I enjoy sitting in my garden with her ... and sharing the beautiful moments that I've witnessed there. The garden is a living project and just an important part of 'Living with PTSD'.

I hope that you'll enjoy the book and try to set up your own eco-space ... and get some great images from it!

Villayat 'SnowMoon Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Exhibition: Living with PTSD - Now OPEN until end of business 30th November 2013

It's been a trying few days as we worked on the installation of the exhibition, contractually, aesthetically and practically ... but the team overcame the hurdles and the exhibition opened on time .

I run 'Wolf Photography' and 'SnowMoon Wolf'. The first is the parent company, while the latter is the publishing wing of the project.

The aims of these Not For Profit companies are to raise awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), educate on Intellectual Property issues and promote creative arts as a coping mechanism for disability. Click on PTSD to find out about coping resources and the benefits of creativity as a coping mechanism. The SEO section explains the basics about promoting yourself online. The RespectIP area guides you on protecting your art online.

A team of volunteers assisted the Leicester Peoples Photographic Gallery manager. Ian Davies, to help get the venue ready, having taken down the previous exhibition, and arranged the space to my specifications.  I'd like to thank them for their hard work; Cat Thompson, Tony Dunleavy, Charles Masters, Phil Tenwick, Tracy Carter and Kevin Oliver - thank you very much for your help.  There is a signed copy of 'Words of a Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran' on its way to each of you.  If I have left anyone out, please get in touch with me via Facebook.

The install team (Stella Couloutbanis, Jacqueline Arnold and myself) arrived on Monday 4th November and managed to get the exhibits looking just right. Stella, Jac - thanks very much for all of your help and support in setting this exhibition up and running the opening night.

The exhibition opened on time at 10:00am on 5th November 2013 and around thirty people attended the opening night.  we had a special offer of the first volume of poetry kick off to celebrate the event.  Words of a Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran is available for £1.50 (RRP is £6.99 at Waterstones) ... and will continue to be available at that price at the event venues for the duration of the rolling exhibition.  If you would like to order a copy - simply give the gallery staff your contact details (name and telephone number) and I'll be in touch and will arrange for the book to be left at the exhibition venue for you.

Another book was released to coincide with the exhibition launch - 'Living with PTSD - Journey of a Veteran' (ISBN 9780956488541); within the pages you will find all of the poetry from the 'Poetry of a Veteran' trilogy that has been used in this exhibition, together will all of the photographs that currently grace the walls of the event venue. I have ten copies of the book left if you would like a signed copy; alternatively you can buy the title in paperback or Kindle format from Amazon.  This book was compiled for people that can't get to the exhibition for a variety of reasons.

Around thirty people attended the opening night and left some good feedback which you can see by clicking here. Jac Arnold kindly took a quick video of the explanation of the layout as well as the aims of the project and both Jac and Stella looked after the visitors.  You can view the video by clicking here.

I'd like to thank Stella for her hard work in the formative stage of the project.  She put the funding bid together that made this project possible.

The exhibition runs until 4:00 pm on Saturday 30th November 2013.  There is no entry charge.  The full gallery address is:  

At Leicester People’s Photographic Gallery, 2 Wellington Street,
Leicester LE1 6H

Opening times:
Mon - Thu 10am - 5pm
Fri - Sat 10am - 4pm
Sun - Closed

There is some limited disabled parking on Wellington Street and the venue is disabled accessible.

Nearest Car Park:
Newarke Street
York Road
Leicester LE2 7AD

The exhibition has also been booked at the following venues:

1 Feb - 10 Feb 2014     George Thornton Art Ltd, 12 Flying Horse Walk, City Centre, Nottingham NG1 2HN (Small exhibition - Intimacy with Plants only)

11 Feb - 28 Feb 2014     Wash Arts, Ilkeston,Nottingham (Small exhibition
- Intimacy with Plants only)    

10 March - 4 April 2014  Artcore, 3 Charnwood Street, Derby DE1 2GT (Full exhibition) 

We are looking for other galleries to host this exhibition as part of our bid to raise awareness of PTSD and to promote creativity as a coping mechanism, so please share this information as far and wide as possible. 

Another part of the project is to enable people to self publish their works without falling prey to those that would take advantage of vulnerable people.  SnowMoon Wolf's Guide to Self Publishing helps you through the minefield and will be available as a free Kindle download from about 2pm on 10th November - 11th November 3013.  I hope you'll find it useful.

Please feel free to like. follow, retweet, add this project to your google circles or any other form of social networking that we are a part of ... but most of all, please come and see the exhibition ... and I hope that you'll get something out of it.


Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

#6 days until the #exhibition 'Living with #PTSD' opens in #Leicester ...

It's hard to believe that work on this exhibition started nearly seven years ago.  It started with tendrils of smoke floating up to the ether as the pipe dream began ... slowly taking shape, gathering support and momentum ... and it's now at the stage where the work load - carefully managed ... is almost complete in terms of preparation.

The canvases have been printed and stretched and are looking good.  Many thanks to the staff at Grange Print for all their help with that.

Stella Couloutbanis, my project manager, has been working hard at securing other venues for the exhibition as well as helping me with lots of other bits and pieces to ensure I don't get over-stressed.  We finished attaching mirror plates to the last four prints last night!

The poetry boards and captions have been printed and mounted and are looking just right.  All credit to Ian Robinson Design for that. You can email him on ianrobinsondesign (at) tiscali.co.uk if you have titling, or caption needs.

Literature wise, I have today finished uploading the kindle version of the book accompanying the exhibition:  Living with PTSD - Journey of a Veteran.

I'm only getting 25 copies of the paperback in stock ... and I'm hoping that most of them will go on the opening night.  Other copies will be available from Amazon and all good book shops.  The Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9564885-4-1 and costs £9.99.  The title contains all the poetry and photographs used in this exhibition.  Many thanks to the staff at Lightning Source and Nielsen Book Data for pulling out the stops and getting the title ready in time for the opening night.

If you'd like to reserve one of the 25 copies please drop me a line on Facebook or email me (wolf (at) wolf-photography.com).

I've literally just finished chasing up all the agencies that will be having a presence at the exhibition.  So various leaflets for Veterans and civilians regarding PTSD will be available, as will booklets about the basics of Intellectual Property rights.

I've also liaised with Ian Davies at the Leicester Peoples' Photographic Gallery re Thursday and all systems are go for putting up the various partitions that we need to structure the layout for this exhibition.

I guess that's it for the exhibition update for now.

All the best,

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Friday, 4 October 2013

Exhibition update ... 31 days to opening night!

We're right on schedule!

I'm finalising the selection of prints today.  I want to insert two pieces from the set called 'Intimacy with Plants' that was funded by the Arts Council England.  I'm hoping to get the 21 prints off to the printer today

Apart from that, the main exhibition board and the poetry boards have been produced and are ready for printing.

Exhibition flyers etc are being sent out and we're now trying to get the press and media interested in the project in the run up to opening night.

If you've read any of the 'Poetry of a Veteran' trilogy - please drop in a quick review to any of these sites:

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones or any other retail outlet site that you may have used.  I'm trying to gather all the reviews from around the world and collate them onto my website under the poetry titles pages on http://www.wolf-photography.com/html/books.html.

I'm also working on a Kindle book to accompany the exhibition.  This is mainly for people that support the project but can't get over here to view it.  The good thing is that you can read a Kindle book on other devices (PC, Notebooks etc) with free software, so watch this space for developments.

Please continue to share my posts on 'Facebook' and retweet messages on 'Twitter' as it all helps to raise awareness of the project and the exhibition ... and please do follow this blog!

Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your continued support ... the project couldn't continue with your help.


Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Monday, 19 August 2013

Stigma and mental health ...

Anyone with a mental health disability will face some level of stigma from some quarter of Society.  Most of it stems from fear of the unknown.  People find it easier to cope with a wound that they can see and empathise with ... but when the wound is invisible it throws up all sorts of issues.

Definition of Stigma: 
1. A mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one's reputation.
A mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease: Eg the stigmata of leprosy
If you live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), you'll notice things because one of the symptoms is 'Hyper Vigilance'.  You tend to notice things that the average person will miss.  This is particularly true of Veterans that have served in hostile areas.  The ability to spot something out of place, could have identified a source of danger ... and saved lives.  The same skill is often used in the way that we look at people.  People that are skilled observers will notice little things like attitude, energy, mood etc, very quickly ... no matter how subtle it is.

I tend to be very open about living with PTSD and the effect it has on my life because I'd rather that a stranger avoid me before a friendship has developed than lose a friend through stigma.

Subjecting someone to 'Stigma' is the equivalent of rubbing salt into an open wound. It leads to further isolation and makes recovery very difficult.


I hope that if you have friends that encounter difficulties of this nature, you'll be aware that they suffer enough on a daily basis and that it would be nice to have people around that can make allowances for their disability without patronising or offending them.  Just ask your friend about what they need ... and if it's possible ... make it happen.  Eg If I go anywhere with friends, I sit with my back to a wall or I try to avoid sitting somewhere where human traffic is constantly moving around me.

If you have any sort of mental health condition, the chances are that you're hurting deep inside.  You may have become isolated.  You might be scared about the consequences of a diagnosis confirming that you have a condition. You might not know which way to turn for help. Stigma's the last thing you need to be subjected to.

It took a long time for me to be able to go to a stranger and say 'help, there's something wrong with me'.  Having admitted it to myself I got some support initially from the NHS.  Their support won't always be there though ... it's limited by a budget.  So we have to develop our own ways of dealing with the condition.

Don't let stigma stop you from getting the help you need.

Don't let stigma stop you from being a friend to someone.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Young Osprey in Scotland ...

The youngsters are either getting ready for their first flight or have already left the nests in the Highlands of Scotland.

One year I was lucky enough to photograph some youngsters practising on their nest before their first flight.  They were beating their wings and flying up over the nest - just a couple of feet.  Then they'd go a little higher as their confidence was built up, their wings getting stronger and stronger.

Flexing wings

I don't know how many days they practised in this way as I was popping in periodically around photographing other species in the area.  Their cries echoed in the area as they ventured higher,  I assumed that the cries were a mixture of elation and fear ... but that's from my limited human perception.

Hovering on the wind

Their mother had left the area by now, she'd done her bit and it was up to dad to do the rest.  He'd left the nest too and would often perch in a tree close by calling to them, coaxing them, as if saying, 'Come on, fly - I know you can do it.'

Dad coaching

... And it did!  The first youngster left the nest ...

First flight

It only flew a short distance to a nearby tree ... but imagine the courage it took?  To leave a high nest, instinctively trusting in an unproven ability to fly and then to negotiate a landing on a different tree branch?  I'd say that's a 'brown trouser' moment.

First landing

Dad's work had just begun though ... the next stage was to teach them how to hunt.  A skill that he'd developed over a number of years with refinements made by each progressive generation.

Osprey hunting

They're still in the area, hunting, fattening up a little for their migration back to Africa.  Listen for their calls as they echo over the Cairngorms and enjoy their presence.

Be aware that some humans try to kill these amazing creatures.  If you see any dead osprey, or anyone acting suspiciously around a nest site, call the local police ... they'll want to hear about it.  Their phone number is (Confidential line) 01479 810121.

Happy viewing.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Monday, 12 August 2013

An exercise in meditation ...

One of the problems of living in this modern world is that there's so much going on around us.  It generates intrusive thoughts and our minds can be on the go 24/7 if we're not careful.  People that live with stress related conditions can find it very difficult to switch-off.

'Mind-chatter' makes it hard for us to relax even when we're not working.  People try to find solace in music, watching moves, taking drugs, sports and many other activities.  The one area that solace can be found is within.  It takes time and effort to find peace within and silence is the goal.  Within the silence we can hear ourselves instead of all the rubbish floating around us.

If you have problems trying to find the silence within, try the exercise below.  It's from my third volume of poetry, Soul of a Wolf.  I felt like putting in an exercise that might help someone.

Find the Silence

Having trouble finding the silence?  This exercise should take you anything from 15 -30 minutes. Read this all the way through first and then try the exercise.  If you need help with it, get a friend to read this to you or record your own voice and play it back to yourself and work through the instructions.

Sit or lie down on the floor in a comfortable position and began breathing evenly and making the breaths gradually deeper.  Let your tongue touch the roof of your mouth with every out breath.
Do this for about 60 seconds.  Aim to get the last two or three breaths to last 10 seconds in and 10 seconds out if you can do so comfortably.

Don't stop the breathing exercise, but keep the breathing going - deep and even.
Now start the exercise.  Make sure your eyes are closed and that you’re sat in a darkened space - draw the curtains.
As you keep breathing, start to paint the following scenes in your mind:

1.  The waves of the ocean are calm, 2ft height gentle swells rolling in to the shore.  Put detail on the waves, colour texture, movement, the effect of the light.  Keep your breathing at the same rate throughout this exercise.  Paint in the sky, the clouds are grey and closing in.  The wind is picking up speed and buffets you now and then, letting you know that there's a storm coming. 

The Storm

2.  Make the waves higher and higher.  Make them reach further into the beach.  Make the wind faster and harder. Paint in the grains of sand being blown along.  Paint in the sky turning dark and the noise of thunder - LOUD!   Paint in the flashes of lightning!  Make the waves higher, crashing, hear them!  Picture the foam, the spray as it drenches you.  Hear the thunder, see the lightning!  Put all of your pain, anger, sadness and any other negative energy into this scene.  Pump it up and let it go!  Picture every explosion as the huge waves explode over ancient rocks.  You must keep the breathing going;  it may get a little faster but don't worry - go with it.

3.  Gently start to ease off the size of the waves, little by little.  Gradually, slowly, make the sky lighter.  Make gaps of lighter sky appear in the clouds.  Let the wind slowly ease.  Everything must be gradual.  Work back towards a calm ocean, a clear sky and let the rays of the Sun gently warm you.  Make the waves tiny - very gentle waves now delicately lapping at your feet and feel the connection with the calm.  Your breathing should be deep and even – 10 seconds in, 10 seconds out.  Do this breathing alone at this rate for another minute.

The ‘mind chatter’ should be gone now and you’ll have the peace of silence within.  Stay in that position and enjoy the silence.

©Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Flowers and Hoverflies ...

I have some Ornamental Lillies (Lilium) that have opened up and they smell absolutely gorgeous!

If you're looking to try some relatively easy insect macro photography, now is the time to try it.  Try Hoveflies (Syrphidae).  Okay, like any wildlife, their movement can be a little erratic ... BUT they do hover and if you spend a few minutes standing close to the flowers they'll get used to you and will ignore you.
Hoverfly feeding

Try a couple of static shots to start with.  You might want to frame a Hoverfly feeding or one that's just landed.

Briefly resting

As you get more comfortable, try to catch them mid air or as they're about to land?  That's a good challenge and makes for some beautiful photography.

Hoverfly approaching

 Make sure you vary your viewpoint ...

Hoverfly taking off

... and steadily build up a set of images for your collection ...

Hoverfly landing
... have fun!

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Macro Photography ... a whole new world ...

Have you ever tried any Macro Photography?  I've done some Plants but Insects are a passion!  They're so diverse in form and the way that they move.  Things that crawl, walk, fly, slide, undulate!

The colours and forms can be very attractive.

If you find something static, a tripod is a must.  Ideally, you want a good lens with a matched flash ring - even in daylight.  However, even the macro settings on bridge cameras can get you decent shots.

The real challenge is getting a moving object such as some sort of fly - bees etc.  You never know how long you have to take the shot.  The subject might hover for a second or two, could land on a plant or flower ... or could just fly off in a random direction.  It can take hours!  It's worth persevering though because you might get a really good shot that you're happy with.

I wouldn't recommend using any sort of lure to bait them - Eg sugar water etc as you'll probably end up killing the insect.  We should observe with respect and not interfere in their diet etc.

Faces of insects are a real challenge.  I got a shot of the face of a Damsel Fly and I was wondering what it was thinking as we sat and examined each other.  Intelligence and curiosity go hand in hand.  I felt I was being observed as much as the subject.

These opportunities may exist in your own garden.  All you need is plants, flowers and water.  It's easy to set up an Eco-garden for the purposes of photography.  More on that later.

Have a lovely weekend.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Friday, 2 August 2013

Promotional material ... video

It's so important to build a bank of promotional material for use on the Internet ... and it doesn't have to be an expensive process when you use companies like Fiverr or People per Hour.

The countdown is on for my exhibition and I'm working hard on raising awareness about the project and building up a collection of usable pieces that will promote the project in different ways.

It's quite a different experience to work with moving images, sounds etc.  I'm relying on experienced people to do the building while I provide direction on what I want, the look, the feel, expressions, words etc.

I'll keep you updated on what's produced.

Here's a soothing little video that you might find useful during your working day.  So get a cuppa ... sit back and relax for a minute and take a deep breath ...

Have a good one.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Living with PTSD - Exhibition update ...

It's getting closer to the start of the first showing of 'Living with PTSD' and I'm working hard on networking and publicity.

From my perspective, the main objective is to raise awareness of how PTSD can leave you feeling by using some of my poetry and to show how photography allows me to leave my home and find solace, mainly in the natural world.  Creativity allows me to cope with living with my disability.

There are also a series of workshops and presentations available as part of this exhibition - which are free.  So if you're an art group, community centre, a veteran group or company that wants to make your staff more aware of PTSD, please book a session via the website.  This could be particularly useful for customer service operatives ... remember that PTSD affects not only veterans but people that have been involved in Road Traffic Accidents, victims of violent crime, sexual abuse, survivors of natural disasters etc.  The common thread being that your life was in danger and that you were not in control of the situation.

I started promoting creativity as a way of coping with disability a few years ago but I didn't want those people to suffer any further hardship by having their art/creative works abused. Many creatives in society aren't aware of their rights when it comes to the issue of Intellectual Property.  As creatives we have to start leaving tags on our photographs, images of art works, music, poems, books etc that clearly identify us as the owners of the rights pertaining to those works.  There's some basic advice on how to protect you Intellectual Property on the Internet here.  One of my workshops goes into a little more detail about protecting your web content from abuse.

The final wing of the project is to help teach creatives how to make themselves visible on the Internet by sharing tips on SEO techniques.  This is an area that is ever changing, so the relevant web pages are updated when possible.

Now I need your help to raise awareness of this work and of my project in general.  Please remember that this is a Not-For-Profit project and that I don't have access to the corporate publicity machine.  This makes it harder to raise awareness of the project ... so I have to rely on you - the people that read my blog, my website, that read my books or have purchased my prints ... and my friends and family.

So please share this article with your friends, colleagues, families and work colleagues and ask them to click the 'like' button or equivalent on the following pages and keep up to date with developments on the run up to the exhibition?

Facebook User
Twitter Users
Google+ Users
Pinterest Users
Blogger Users

Here's a small video about the 'Poetry of a Veteran Trilogy'.  Please feel free to share it.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I hope I can count on your help and support.


Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Wildlife photography ... some basic considerations

What do you think about before doing any wildlife photography

Know your subject
Most of us can't speak the same language as animals.  To most humans, animals are a less able species than humans that don't have 'superior human intelligence'.  Try explaining that to a cougar that's stalking you or a wolf pack out hunting an elk to feed their cubs.

Just because we don't understand their language, it doesn't mean animals are dumb.  If you go back far enough and study human development - we learned a lot from animals in the early years.  If you go out into the wild for the purposes of photography with an attitude of arrogance, you may not return from the trip - depending on the species that you're trying to photograph and the terrain that you're in.  You must have a healthy respect for the natural world in order to become a good wildlife photographer.  A compatible attitude and energy are crucial.

You have to know the subject's terrain and how to walk upon it.  You have to recognise scents (always get the locals to help you with this if you're going after something dangerous away from home). 

Find out if they have any trails going through where you are, what they like to hunt and eat and where they like to rest.  Remember that the diet may vary with the seasons (Eg grizzly bears go after salmon in Autumn when the fish go back to their spawning territories (where available) but at other times they'll snuffle berries, kill other animals - including unwitting humans - and graze on carcasses).

Grizzly Bear eating Salmon at Hyder Alaska

Look for watering holes.  Examine the tracks and see what's around ... and always be conscious of the wind direction and your scent.

Different animals may behave differently to different issues - Eg eye contact, posture, movement.  If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, NEVER turn your back on the predator and run.  Walk backwards, slowly and keep the predator in your line of sight.  A monopod can double up as a defensive weapon that has some range to it.  Do not panic.

Certain scents carry further than others (Eg soap, aftershave, perfume, deodorants etc) - don't use them if you want to see your subject in the wild.  Other scents may spark off a reaction (Eg a woman on or near her period smells similar to a doe on heat - this can bring her to the attention of stags with dangerous antlers or perhaps to animals that eat deer).

If you're taking food supplies with you, don't leave anything open in the wilderness, especially overnight (eg anything that's has had meat wrapped in it must be sealed up into a plastic bag and be properly disposed of in a bin.  Do not leave any opened foods or meat wrappers in your car as some species will try to gain access to the vehicle because of the scent.  Make sure that you're using air-tight containers for all foods.  This video shows you what can happen to a car that has food left in it.  This may have been a female grizzly bear taking food to cubs or just a savvy bear knowing that cars can be a good source of provisions; either way, the bear was making off with food, stashing it and coming back.  The people around the car could have been at risk if the bear had a different temperament and if the actions of the humans had triggered a defensive/violent response.  If you head off towards colder climates in search of polar bears, you can't afford mistakes like this.

Remember that you're leaving a scent trail every time you urinate, so keep monitoring your back-trail.  You don't want something creeping up behind you.

Observation Posts (OPs)
Some areas in the different countries have OPs built in for various species that afford the photographer a unique opportunity to photograph certain species while they hunt, nest or feed their young.  There are numerous osprey projects in the Scottish Highlands.  Between Hyder Alaska and Stewart BC (Canada) there is a platform that allows you to photograph black bears and grizzly bears hunting salmon as they spawn.  Just 'Google' the location and the species and see what you can find.

Osprey hovering before the dive - Highlands, Scotland

Camouflaged Clothing
Pros and cons.  Pros - if you can find a good, sheltered spot and sit still, you'll see more.  Camouflage is essential.  A lot of people forget the obvious - your eyes and hands.  Make sure you use a face veil and gloves if you're hiding out and observing.  I've been in Scotland photographing ospreys hunting and have seen all sorts of creatures walk right past my boots because I've blended in to a bush and been very still and quiet.  Silence is essential.  No mobile phone alerts at all - including vibrate - they'll hear it and disappear.  When you move, do it slowly and quietly.  Cons - it can get really hot!  You also risk surprising a predator if it happens upon you in places like Canada and Alaska ... which could result in serious harm for yourself or you could lose your life through startling a predator.

If you're not using camouflage, take a monopod with you and periodically hit the ground with it - the noise will alert predators and avoid a violent reaction ... but you might not see as much wildlife.

Path of the Sun
As a photographer, you should always be monitoring the position of the Sun and altering your camera settings accordingly.  Try to keep the Sun behind you and find OPs that keep it that way for you.

Make sure someone knows what you're doing and where you're going  (Eg your motel receptionist) ... and roughly what time you're due back.  If you're going to be late - let them know!  If you're deviating from your plans and having a beer with another photographer on the way home - let the motel know.  The last thing you want is to start off an incident abroad.  Be responsible toward the people that may be monitoring your safety.

Take a quad-band mobile phone abroad, it should be able to work in any country.  If you know you're going right out into the wild - get a satellite phone.  If you're lucky enough to get a signal, it may be trackable depending on your phone model.  Also take a mobile walky-talky ... you might get lucky and find someone on your frequency if you need help.  The range may only be 3-12km ... but that could be enough.

If there's more than one of you on the outing - use hand signals - even whispers carry in the wilderness.

First Aid Kit
Make sure you have a good kit - including suturing needles.  If something bad happens and you're by yourself - you have to patch yourself up to be able to get out of there.  Take a good knife as part of your kit - you may need to cut/hack something to make a splint ... or to make kindling for a fire if you're stranded in the wilderness.

Food & Drink
Take only sealed foods that you can comfortably finish as part of one small meal, then seal the empty wrapper(s) in an air tight container.  Fluids are more important.  Water is heavy and you won't be able to carry much if you're carrying a full photography kit - so drink sparingly - you need to make it last.  Make sure you have a few pouches of powders to put minerals/electrolytes etc back into your system - particularly if you're going to areas of high humidity.  If you start to get severe cramps in your legs etc - make sure you drink some quickly.  Always take some water purification tablets with you as well, if you get desperate, you can treat that water and use it.

Your Limitations
Be aware of your own limitations.  How far can you walk with a 22kg pack?  How long would it take you to walk from your vehicle to the OP?  How much daylight time do you have?  Is the route easy to find?  Don't get caught out on unfamiliar terrain in the dark.  Make sure the route back to your vehicle is an easy one.  Tie bits of string or cloth to trees as route markers.

Survival Equipment
You don't need much  in the way of equipment if you're not going far out from populated areas, just do some research online about your needs and the terrain your visiting and take some basic stuff with you.  If you're going further afield, you'll need to balance your photography equipment needs with your survival equipment needs - don't make your pack too heavy!

If you smoke - leave them at base and use gum or patches.  An animal will smell your fumes.  There's also the risk of forest fires in hotter countries.  Don't risk starting one by being careless.

Use all of your senses
You have five of them - use them!  You must constantly observe with them all.  You don't just see with your eyes ... you feel the wind on your skin ... you smell your surroundings ... you taste the air at times ... you constantly listen (don't continually walk - walk a few steps and stop etc) ... feel the ground you're walking on - particularly when you know you're in an area where you expect to see the subject. 

I guess that's about it as a basic run down on wildlife photography.  I hope you found it useful.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Friday, 19 July 2013

Protect your images on Social Networking sites - Protect them on the Internet! Here's how ...

There's such a demand for diverse images nowadays.  Remember, it's a global market now and companies like Facebook and Twitter have already told you that they'll use your images if they want to - without your permission.

'So what?' I hear you say.

 Now UK business will be able to use your photos (including family images) for commercial purposes without your authority if you cannot be identified and contacted to seek said permission?  For more info see my blog post on: http://wolfphotograpy.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/copyright-protection-eroded-to-assist.html

 If you don't protect your images, companies in the UK will be able to use them for advertising purposes without consulting you if you can't be identified as the creator of a photograph.  So please, do yourself and the photography industry a favour, copyright your images - even if they're family snaps.

Here's a really easy way to do it by using a cheap piece of software called jAlbum.  Download the software from http://jalbum.net/en/purchase and install it onto your system.  I would opt for the standard one time fee
if you're using the package for personal use only.

I have arranged an additional 20% discount for you that is valid until  2/8/2013.  The code is: WOLFPHOTO.

Before you use the program, do some housekeeping:

1. Create a folder called 'images' and then create a sub-folder called 'net_ready'.
2.  Move all your photographs into the 'images' folder
3.  Now COPY any images that you're likely to put onto Facebook, Twitter etc or your business site into the 'Net ready' folder.

Now start up jAlbum and use the 'chameleon' skin.  If it isn't installed - get it from http://jalbum.net/en/skins/popular.

1. Select the Chameleon Skin on the left hand side (I think the default is 'Turtle'.)
2. Create a new project and call it 'My net images' and then hit F4 (on the keyboard) to go to the album setting section.  Under Image directory, locate the folder you created earlier (Eg c:\images\net ready).  Make sure the output directory is the same location.  Leave the tick in 'change directory locations'.
3. Click the 'chameleon' tab and then click 'Filters'.
4. Now click 'Watermark'
5. Under 'text' enter '©Copyright of (your name) 2013'
6. Select the font you want
7. Style 'normal'
8. Size is 25
9. If you want it in the centre - horizontal and Vertical align is centre (adjust to preference)
10. Margin is 20 px 
11. Opacity - try 20% - alter to your requirements.
12. Click 'Ok.
13. click 'Make album'  - bottom left with a hammer.

When it's finished making the album - use windows explorer to find the web album - then drill down into a sub-directory called slides.  You will find (amongst other files) a copyrighted 'jpg' of every image.

A good example of watermarking.

Not as good an example of watermarking as part of the set could be cropped and still be used as a separate image for website/blog use.

Once you have done this initial setup, it'll literally take seconds for you to create future copyrighted slides for Internet usage.

The creator of the image is now identified and the image cannot be used under UK law as an 'Orphan Work' without your permission.


Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Review: 'My name is David Cole' by Jon Souza ...

I finally got round to reading 'My name is David Cole' ... I wasn't sure what to expect as I hadn't heard of the author before and I'm a bit of a 'fussy' reader.

The good news is that I wasn't disappointed.  I know a little about the subject matter and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the writing and the story.

The book touches on some serious issues such as childhood abuse and promotes tolerance of different faiths and cultures.

Parts of the book were 'laugh out loud' funny, alongside other moments that portrayed trauma in a way that only a sufferer can.  Other parts of the book were really romantic.  Jon Souza's style of writing is warm and you could be forgiven for thinking that you're sat in a tavern somewhere in Scotland by a log fire, listening to a tale being crafted for your ears alone.

I'm looking forward to his next book. 

Paperback: 626 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1451583273
ISBN-13: 978-1451583274
ASIN: B003G2ZE32 Kindle

Recommended!  5 Stars!!

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Monday, 15 July 2013

Are Human Rights granted only when convenient?

Secret trials hiding government activities that are against the public interest are wrong (Eg the trial of Bradley Manning).  People that tell the truth about various nefarious practises shouldn't be held accountable for the sins of the countries carrying out such acts ... particularly when those acts breach Human rights legislation.

Incidentally - why aren't the countries that normally object to breaches of 'Human Rights' on boards against the persecution of people such as Manning, Snowden and Assange?

The Military are accountable to the government ... who are accountable to their electorate.  While I agree that some operations need to be covert and secrecy is crucial to the success of such missions ... governments must not afford the same protection to people that have committed crimes (Eg the deaths of innocent people).

Years ago such atrocities would have been easily hidden.  Now we have the Internet and information is readily accessible when the Media sit quietly at the call of their governments and ignore the stories that they should be reporting on.

Keep an eye on what's happening with the law makers in your countries.  There have been moves to limit the freedom of Internet information over the past. 

In the UK the legislators are trying to bring back laws enabling secret trials  - which are a dead pool for more potential miscarriages of justice.  Beware the shadows in the Halls of Power ... but remember that they're a minority and while Democracy is used as a toy to control the masses ... there is REAL power there if the people decide to make it effective by voting and coming together on issues that matter.

The biggest enemy of democracy is the division being created by various groups throughout human societies.  Such groups are relatively small in numbers and membership but their activities are given undue coverage in terms of the way the press sensationalise the write-ups of their activities.  This in turn generates fear.  If people could stop themselves being dragged into the fear and hatred that such groups create, we'd end up with a wiser, more balanced society that would be able to see past the smoke screens of this sort of political activity ... allowing us to concentrate on building a better society by working together and, either, embracing or at least tolerating our differences.  The effect would be a government that serves its populace rather than a government that's seeking to continually exploit its people for its own material gain.  To that end, would a government of proportional representation be better than the current one party system (current coalition aside)?

In my experience, it takes longer to come up with workable practises and policies that all parties involved in the process are happy with ... but at least they'll all have had a say in any changes and can work together rather being allowed to continually blame unfavourable outcomes and policies on the previous political administration.

On the issue of our differences, does it really matter that your neighbour prays to a different deity?  Does it matter if your neighbours are gay?  Does it matter that you have neighbours of different ethnicities?  Surely all that matters is that we don't force our beliefs/life styles upon each other in any way and that we can allow each other to live our lives in peace and be tolerant of each other?

Please start taking an interest in shaping the environment that you live in -  if you're young.  The future is yours and you're all stake holders in the future of a collective human civilisation.

Make your human society better than it is now ... and never stop striving to make further improvements in the future.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Friday, 12 July 2013

Filters for Summer photography ...

I mentioned the use of filters in an earlier blog entry.

For those of you that are unsure about whether you need them or not ... as well as the expense involved, I've added a couple of links to cheap versions of the filters that are fine for experimenting with.

The ones that I use aren't expensive either.  You can see the results on my website www.wolf-photography.com.

Please make sure that they are the right size for your lens.  Have a look at the side of the top end of your lens and it will give you a measurement - Eg 55mm.  Select a 55mm filter to fit that lens.

55mm Circular Polariser from the UK - click here.

You will find a whole range of filters on this site.

One MUST HAVE filter is a skylight.  It's a clear piece of glass that protects your lens against scratches and possible cracks if something impacts against the lens.  You can find those on the link above too.

The sites above are just examples with images.  Please do a search on the Internet for yourself and see if you can find a cheaper deal.

Good luck.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Poetry and life ... Inequality

I never know what's going to come out on paper when I empty my mind, my thoughts and feelings.  It's an exercise ... a releasing of the valve ... and it serves a purpose that I probably don't fully understand on all levels.

Yet I know enough to understand that it's beneficial to my mental health.

The good thing about writing poetry is that it crosses boundaries.  You might read something that I've written and make it relevant to your life.  It might help you to release something within you.

Once you release words as a poet ... you don't own the interpretation; that's down to the individual reader, their circumstances and their frame of reference at that particular moment in time.

Poems can be personalised and adapted by the reader to their journey ... and if that happens then the poet has been successful in making someone 'feel' something ... and, for me, that's the real positive thing about being a poet.

The following poem is from Soul of a Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran (ISBN 9780956488596.  Kindle ASIN: B00D0EMUV0).


You want to be my friend but you don’t want to make allowances for my differences,
You want to be a part of my life without considering my feelings,
You want to laugh at the humour I bring but you bring me much sadness,
You want my insights into coping but continue to dump your stuff on me,
You want the support I freely give but it's not reciprocal,
You want equality on scales shifted in your favour,
You want the knowledge I possess but give nothing in return,
You wonder at my silence when I withdraw from the crowd,
You conveniently forget all that I have revealed of how I cope,
Leaving me imprisoned in a bubble of solitude for your own protection.

©Copyright Villayat Sunkmanitu 2013

I guess I want you to consider your life.  I want you to be happier, in healthier relationships and to be appreciated for the unique individual that you are.  If you're in a relationship that is unhealthy for you, or hurts you ... contemplate it and do what feels right to address the situation.

Walking away from the relationship might not be the right answer ... changing the terms could be a way forward.  However, if you're in an abusive relationship, you may have no choice but to walk away and if that's the case, I wish you the strength and courage to walk away and set yourself free.

If you have walked away from an abusive scenario ... don't let it taint your future ... but you do need to remember it so that you know what you want to stay away from in your present and future life.

Relationships for the purposes of this poem are wide ranging ... friendships, relationships with lovers, work relationships, family relationships.  Everything successful, in my experience is built upon mutual respect, understanding, tolerance and compromise.  All good relationships are two-way streets.

Soul of a Wolf is available on Amazon Kindle and your local book stores, worldwide. If you'd like to order it locally, just let them have the ISBN number from above.  If you have problems getting the title locally, you can order it here.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The eye sees more than the camera ...

How many times have you taken a photograph only to find that it doesn't look anything like what you actually saw with your eyes?

It's a common thing.  Why?  The human eye is a lot more complex than a digital camera.  It processes light and data in a different way and quality.  Your eye is the equivalent to a 130 million pixel camera.  The average is camera takes shots that are about 15 million pixels.

So we have to be aware of this when we take certain sorts of shots  - Eg sunsets and scenes and objects that display a lot of colour to our eyes.

How do we make the images look like what we saw with our eyes?
Pure manipulation in one or both ways:

1. We use filters to affect the light coming in Eg Neutral Density, Circular Polarisers and coloured filters, as well as the camera settings.

2. We manipulate the images on packages such as 'Photoshop' by manipulating the levels of gamma, brightness, contrast and saturation, as well as the shadows and highlight.

It's not a difficult process but before attempting it, please make sure that you're working on a 'copy' of the original image.  Never use the original ... and make sure you back it up.

Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu

Osprey - Nature section

Osprey - Nature section
Wolf-Photography.com Stock Image Library