Beautiful Starling Murmurations | Brighton


It's February 2015 and starling numbers at Brighton Pier are at their highest for years. I estimate 60,000 - 75,000 birds gather every evening. The murmurations last for ages - 30 minutes of continuous action. In what could be my last starling post of the winter, I have opted for quality over quantity. Here are four creative and very different photographs.


Starling Murmuration and Sunset

Murmuration Coordination

Blurmuration

Motion Blur Starlings


Long Exposures | Royal Pavilion Brighton


Brighton's Royal Pavilion is a familiar and well-photographed landmark in the city. Strong subjects can often stifle innovation and creativity. I like to make an extra effort to turn a beautiful, interesting subject into an equally captivating photograph. Trying to be different can lead to over-thinking and images devoid of feeling and beauty. In an effort to escape conventions, photographers can become conservatively unconventional. I prefer to go with my feelings at the time, while still creating something fresh and exciting. An adjacent Art-Deco bus shelter, the motion blur from traffic and a blue-magenta twilight afterglow all came together to help create three varied and unique images. The permanent, semi-permanent and transient all sum up Brighton.


Royal Pavilion Brighton Long Exposure

Night Life

Brighton Royal Pavilion Long Exposure


The Unseen


You may have seen these on Flickr, but this eclectic selection of photographs have never featured on www.alanmackenziephotography.com. They include Roe deer on the Sussex Weald, South Downs poppies, Brighton starling murmurations and Beachy Head.


Fairy of the Woods

Garden Salad

Poppies in the Red Zone

Roe deer and Magpie

Acrobat

Roe Deer

Wooden Dreams

Bluebells, Beech Forest

Waiting for the Night

Murmuration

Assault on the Senses


Parallel Lines


The sun dipped below the horizon, just as the monthly spring tide revealed Brighton's hidden sandy beach. Sunsets often initially disappoint, as was the case, but within 15 minutes, an afterglow enveloped Brighton beach in hues of purple-magenta. I had come down to photograph the starling murmurations, but struggled once again to capture anything fresh and exciting. Perhaps I've done all I can for now. I miss photographing people. Sometimes one's most creative work is accomplished after a prolonged break.


Ballet at Low Tide

Spring Tide, Brighton

Parallel Lines

Romantic Stroll, Brighton beach      Tall Lines, Brighton beach


Photos of the Year: 2014


I certainly manage to get about for someone reliant on public transport. With the heavyweight Canon 500mm and 300mm lenses on my back, I certainly have no need for a gym subscription. Trains to Crawley, Horsham and Arundel and buses along to coast road to Friston Forest and Beachy Head mean I am well served with opportunities to visit beautiful and interesting locations. 2014 began mild, wet and windy. We enjoyed good weather in spring and high temperatures over July, peaking at about 28°C. Autumn lasted from September to early December, with one day in late October reaching 23°C. Climate change and increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide mean that trees can remain in leaf far longer than they could in the past. Some parts of Friston Forest were still nearly 100% green on 20th November.

A friend recently commented that my work is more focussed and settled than it was a few years ago. Creative blocks are a thing of the past, because I've learned to accept the mood I am in, rather than attempt to change it. Consequently, any creative blocks are like the passing weather and only last a day or two. Acceptance has not only helped me to stop taking photography too seriously, but it's made me a happier person.

I'd like to pick out the leaping Roe deer as my favourite photo of the year. It was the hardest shot to take, because the subject was very quick and elusive. I would pick out the first shot of Beachy Head as my second favourite. The bluebell woodland in April was like being surrounded by a 360° IMAX screen. My favourite occasion was on November 1st, when I left my camera at home and took two friends for a pub lunch and a walk in the forest. I felt proud to be sharing a special part of the world with them. And I now have two witnesses to prove that deer really do exist in Sussex!


Murmuration

Murmuration and West Pier

Starling Murmuration and West Pier, in a Hail Storm

The Famous Five

Leaping Roe Deer

Rush

Marbled White, female and male

Marbled White on Pyramid Orchid, Friston Forest

Rabbit in Meadow

Bluebell Wood

Friston Forest

Misty Forest Glade in Autumn

Accredited Herd

Kingston Ridge, June

S is for Sussex

Bread Basket

Fulking Escarpment

The Landscape is Changing

Enjoy the Silence

Night Life


Brighton Starlings | November 2014


Every autumn, starlings migrate to the British Isles to escape the harsh Scandinavian winter. Some of these birds (about 40,000) spend the winter in parks, gardens and farmland around Brighton and Hove. In late afternoon, they fly to Brighton Pier, where they gather in fluid-like murmurations, before roosting for the night underneath the pier structure. It is thought that starlings began using Brighton Pier (and formerly the West Pier) to roost after the Great Storm of 1987, when gusts of 115mph felled millions of trees across Sussex. 

Although no-one knows exactly why starlings form murmurations, it is thought to be a multi-purpose behaviour. Starlings benefit from safety in numbers and generate collective body heat to survive the night ahead. Each bird shadows seven of its neighbours, which accounts for why murmurations can rapidly change shape, speed and direction. Should a bird of prey attempt to intercept a murmuration, it will usually pass straight through, because it only takes the initial evasive action of a single starling to feed through to neighbouring birds. I've even seen murmurations react to low flying light aircraft, suddenly forming a very compact group from a larger, looser swarm. There is competition within the murmurations for the most sheltered spots under the pier and it is thought that starlings prefer to roost next to stronger, healthier birds, as they are likely to fly off to the best quality feeding locations at dawn.

If you are planning to watch the starling murmurations this December, stand on the deck of Brighton Pier at least 30 minutes before sunset. Be patient, as the starlings can arrive late, but you'll be treated to a better display as the birds all arrive at once. The best views are either on the west side of the first games pavilion or to the east side of the Fish restaurant. Cold winds blow across the pier, so I use Merino wool thermals as a base layer and Lowe Alpine Cyclone gloves to keep my hands warm.

I run photography workshops on Brighton Pier for individuals and groups. Sessions are available on weekdays and weekends. For all the basic information on technique, lighting, composition and perspective at an affordable price, send me an email to book a session.


Starling Murmuration and West Pier

Murmuration

Egg Timer

Murmuration

Murmuration against evening sky

West Pier and Starlings at Sunset

Starlings flying at sunset

Brighton Starlings

Spectrum

Dusky West Pier and Starlings

Starlings, Brighton