Photographing Ospreys in Pohtiolampi, Finland.
14th September 2011
The Best Place in Europe (possibly the world) to watch Ospreys fishing.
Located 159 kms north of Helsinki and 18 kms from Tampere the Pohtiolampi Osprey Centre is a haven for wildlife photographers wanting to see Ospreys close up.
I decided to take some expert guidance on my first visit so booked through Jari Paltomaki from Finnature. Jari is not only a brilliant photographer but a nice guy and great company.
I flew from Manchester to Helsinki and then onto Tampere with Finnair. A quick journey to Pohtiolampi to meet Jari before we left for our Cabin in the forest close to Kangasala. With a 2 hour time difference the 4am rise the following morning was hard work and I was a total wreck getting up after only 2 hours sleep much to the amusement of my host! We were in the hide at 6am setting our equipment up before dawn and the arrival of the first Osprey.
There are 2 hides adjacent to the Osprey pond both on the south side in a 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock position. They are both comfortable with room for 2 or 3 photographers and have bunk beds for those wanting to have a rest or even stay. There are mounts for tripod heads bolted into the walls which was a real benefit to pop my Wimberely Gimbal onto.
The wind plays a crucial factor in where the Osprey will a) dive from and b) fly off to. The ideal wind is from the south, this increases the likelihood of the Osprey flying off in the direction of the hides. Fortunately, this was to be the case for 4 of the 7 days I was there. I could imagine it being incredibly frustrating to be there with the wind coming from the wrong direction. I spoke to the guys at the centre about this and they told me they plan to build a new hide over the winter in a 11 o’clock position, this will be a huge benefit and virtually guarantee head on shots.
With the Osprey migration well under-way many arrived shortly after dawn and by noon over 50 had dived for fish. The activity slowed over lunchtime before picking up in the final 4 hours before 6pm. In all there were around 80 dives on my first day with an average of around 60 for the week.
We left the hides around 615pm and headed for food! Before long it was time for bed and much needed sleep before another 4am rise. This was to be my routine for 7 days, perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea but I loved it.
The photography is challenging but hugely rewarding, the Osprey dive as close as 6 metres away (typically 10m) and are in the water for a very brief period before they lift off. The opportunities are numerous, close ups, portrait format, slow shutter speed, fast shutter speed, catching them diving…………… I took a 400mm f/2.8 and a 70-200 f/2.8 with me along with a full frame body and a 1.3 crop body. I used both lenses during the week on both bodies as I tried to build a variety of images. The 400 f2.8 on the MKIV got me really close with depth of field a major issue to ensure I retained sharpness of the head and beak. But with so many dives there was plenty of time to perfect the technique. Click here to view my pictures from the week.
On my final morning I went for the diving shot with some decent results.
I came away with 2,000 images and almost an hour’s HD video.
So a fantastic trip and I’m planning to go back for Golden Eagles & possibly Great Grey Owls in February!