Kingfishers earn prize for Leitholm photographer

Ron McCombe's winning photograph of a kingfisher
Ron McCombe's winning photograph of a kingfisher

Leitholm photographer Ron McCombe has snapped up the annual agricultural competition run by Galashiels Camera Club.

The competition, in its 25th year, is one of the biggest in the Borders and attracts at least a thousand entries from photographers across the area.

Guest ‘Farmer’ judge (for the overall winner) this year was Scottish NFU president Nigel Miller, who awarded Ron’s pictures of kingfishers first prize.

Explaining the method behind his entry, Ron said: “I took a trip down to the Midlands to photograph kingfishers from a hide at the side of a very small river.

“It’s a species I have wanted to get to grips with for some time and now I had an opportunity. I spent two days there.

“The action was a little slow both days but the outcome was, I think, okay. They can be so fast,these birds, that I was just glad to come away with something that people would recognise.

“The first day the light was very good, the second day not so good and it rained all afternoon. When the kingfisher came in the action was fast and furious and over very quickly, then there were long periods of inactivity before it started again.

As to the technical aspects of the shoot, Ron said: “The photography was both simple and complicated. The perching shots were relatively easy.

“As the bird landed on the perch it would look to where it was going to dive for the fish which took a minute or so, but the diving shots were taken using fixed focusing and a shutter release cable. The focusing point was some six inches above the water and the depth of field was about 12mm, so if the kingfisher moved out of this vertical plane in would be out of focus.

“To get good images repetition is required and the birds diving repeatedly is an advantage, something I didn’t get on this visit.”

Ron was able to take a series of images from the bird’s dives, showing it crashing through the water and emerging with the targeted fish.

Ron runs workshops focusing on wildlife photography, and has a soft spot for the smaller birds in the Borders, in particular the wrens and meadow pipits.

He also travels abroad looking for the perfect shot, and is currently planning a trip to photograph golden eagles.