The Photography of Mike O'Neill ABIPP


Enter Puzzlewood

Puzzlewood is situated in the Forest of Dean and recently has been the set for a number of dramas such as ‘Merlin‘ and ‘Doctor Who’.

It is also speculated that J.R.R. Tolkien, who visited the Forest, may have been inspired by Puzzlewood for Lord of The Rings as the setting of Mirkwood or Fangorn.

We decided on a family day out around Halloween and spent a few hours wandering around the wood looking at all the magical scenes.

The family loved it and I could have spent quite a while photographing the place.

A great location, you can see why the Location Scouts go for it!

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Chasing The Red Again

So it was time for our family trip to Centreparcs again. I’d been looking forward to this since Christmas in Afghanistan and I was more than ready for the rest after the busy parade season.
Although on holiday I could leave the cameras behind especially as Whinfell Forest, our chosen CP destination, is the home of my nemesis. The Red Squirrel.

Previous trips to Whinfell resulted in sparse sightings and tough set ups to cox the little guys into my shooting zone. The image results were mediocre at best…

My wife stocked up on peanuts for the trip and we were away. During the holiday it became an evening ritual to hide the peanuts around the garden space most notably in the tree bark. This system worked to an extent last time around, so if it isn’t broke…

Within a few hours after my children had gone to bed, I was rewarded not just by one of the little red blighters but two, who came and tussled over the patch with its food bounty.  Result. I had to work fast though, but not fast enough that I would scare them away. Low light levels through the trees meant a higher ISO but I still managed to get some shots before they scampered off.  I felt elated but still wanted a better shot.



Throughout the week the Reds came and went, sometimes one, sometimes the scuffling pair.  It was great to see, sometimes I would just watch and enjoy the scene.

The holiday was lovely with some great family memories, I bagged these Red Squirrel images as a reward for my patience and even a couple of the elusive Woodpecker.


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May Topic: Wildlife

I was really struggling this month to put down a decent topic and follow it through.  Work was busy and combined with the family holiday to Centreparcs in Sherwood Forest.  In a final attempt to get something in the bag I settled on a game of wait and see with the squirrels and other animals which would come to the back door.

My aim was to get a shot of a squirrel up a tree and side on so that they break the outline of the tree and are not camouflaged by their fur.  I tried to shoot squirrels before to varying degrees of success so I needed a plan.  I was lacking any kind of hide and netting so I needed to work around this.

My plan then was simple, we had brought with us a bag of peanuts and some dried frut/nut mix.  I scattered the fruit/nut mix around the ground and then used the peanuts to wedge into the tree bark.  At first I didnt see any of the food get eaten but as the week went on I would keep replacing them.  In the end one the squirrels would be noticed and I would have around 5 – 10 seconds to grab the camera and get some shots off.  Sounds easy, however a sudden move within the chalet would mean the little blighters would scarper so I had to move slow to get the camera and then shoot.

Why not just sit and wait? You may ask.  Well I have two children who are 3 and under.  My time for the most part is not my own,  especially on a holiday.  Sometimes the animals came and I didn’t photograph them at all, but enjoyed the show with my kids who were delighted that the ‘Squiggels’ came to see them.

Finally my patience was rewarded with a number of images the best of which you can see below.

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