Sunday, 12 November 2017

Autumn Missed

My attempts to get out this Autumn and make the most of its colours, have failed miserably for one reason or another.  The weekend was probably two weeks too late with most of the leaves fallen and those that have, already turning brown and mushy.  I had to settle for some riverside images and the odd one in the woods – nothing very exciting unfortunately.






Sunday, 5 November 2017

I Admit it, I'm an Anti Social Photographer!

I think, for those of us who are wildlife or landscape photographers, we each have our own reasons for being so.  For me it’s an interest in wildlife which I’ve had since I was a kid, together with art, something I was always good at, joining up with photography, a subject I took up as an art student at college.  Together, however they make up a third part.  Living and working in a city I find the noise, crowds and even the day to day stupidity and selflessness of people more and more oppressive.

So, going out early in the morning, preferably somewhere remote and quiet, I find relaxing and if you can watch a Fox hunting or a sunrise over the sea, it just makes the moment just that little more special.  Unfortunately it’s hard to avoid people when out and about.  The first below three images were taken in a hide.  Now I normally stay away from these places exactly because they tend to have a lot of people and worst off, photographers.  On this occasion, I was by myself at first but was followed soon after by two photographers who spent most of time talking with intermittent rattling off at full frames per second, at anything that went by. 

Then came in the worst kind of ‘wildlife photographer’.  He was the type who was decked out head to toe in camouflage though clearly never walks more than a hundred or so metres from his car.  He then proceeded to non stop talk about how much gear he had, how many camera’s he had brought over the years, but had to ask ‘how to make the picture on the back screen go bigger’. He later phoned a camera store, hands free so everyone could hear, asking about a Sigma tele lens and talking to the poor woman who answered as if she should have known him personally because he had visited the store before!

Whilst he was doing this and with the other two still talking, a Kingfisher, what they’d seem to be waiting for, landed in front of the hide (below image) for less than a couple of seconds and, possibly scared by the noise, was off.  If everyone had remained quiet they would have heard the call of it before it arrived and maybe managed a picture or so.  With the noise continuing and more people arriving, I left.

I try and avoid other so called, wildlife photographers.  When you go to a hide or even go to online forums and you listen to what they say, they mostly seem to be the same.  They are either gear heads, obsessed with their equipment, the mega pixels, the dynamic range (though often don’t understanding what any of that actually means) or they collect images of wildlife, like a type of modern day stamp collector – the rarer the animal, usually a bird, the better.  Then they will put it up on a forum or Flickr in the hope of fame or adulation. Usually they know or care little for the subject or it’s wellbeing as long as they get the image.  Thankfully, I see little of them out in the actual wilds as that would involve their requiring patience and some skills and knowledge of the subject and with often only a slim chance of success, I’m guessing this would be too much work for most of them.

Images like the below Wagtail was taken at a location I’ve learnt from experience I can find them, but they will normally be spooked by someone nearby, but if you just sit there quietly there’s a chance they will come to you as in this case, a pair of them did, but I was there for nearly an hour.

Landscape photography has it’s own set of problems.  Sunrise is my preferred time but this regularly means lots of dog walkers.  Many of places I go to have restrictions on dogs, such as the location of the two images shot below where, at the time, dogs were not to be using the location or meant to be on a lead.  These were completely ignored.  Not by one or two people but by everyone! So finding a quiet spot without dogs running round you, barking, sniffing your backpack and either the owner shouting at it at the top of their voice or just ignoring what their dog is doing, is nearly impossible.  It also just really spoils a tranquil moment.

And then there’s the dumb questions you get asked.  Your camera is set up on a tripod, it’s sunrise and your pointing the lens towards the sunrise and some bright spark askes what you’re taking a picture of!!  Or ‘are you that photographer who took that picture in the paper’!  And of course there is the ‘that’s a big lens, how close can you get with it’.

So, yes I am an anti social photographer.  I like to get away from people and avoid them when I’m out.  I like the peace and the quietness.  Being out in the woods, waiting patiently for a deer to come by and managing to photograph it without it knowing you were there and achieving an image that might have an technical and artistic merit is a bonus, but if I don’t get anything, that’s ok because I still enjoyed the walk, the exercise and just being out in nature.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Thing about Photography

A recent post on a camera forum got me thinking recently, as this person was unhappy with his camera (not something unusual on a camera forum) but they said their camera, a Canon 6D, was an ‘antique’ and ‘wasn’t up for the task and it ‘only’ had 20 megapixels.  He didn’t go into details as to what he took pictures of or why 20 MP wasn’t enough for him, but he was determined to by a new camera.  Every response was to agree with him and give him advice as to which new, expensive camera he should buy.

Since getting my first digital camera, a 350D, visiting forums the trend has remained the same – so many people not happy with what they currently own, always wanting the next best thing. It makes me wonder why they even bother with photography.  They seem to be constantly feel limited by the camera’s ability, the next great camera will improve their photography.

This summer has been as slow and frustrating time, with little in the way of images to show for it, but it has had little to do with the equipment – the only time was with my visit to the Farne Islands when the dull grey weather caused problems with focusing on the fast flying Puffins.  A shiny new expensive camera may have fixed some of that but at the end of the day the lack of images this summer is down to my ability, motivation, luck and opportunity.

In September I decided to spend some money, not on new equipment but on a week away to the Lake District, Windermere to be precise – that was my motivation and opportunity taken care of.  The Lake District is known for its scenery but also for it’s unpredictable weather and on this case, rain, and it did rain.  Only on one of the days I was there that it didn’t, but that was all I needed.  On the third day I got up bright and early and headed off to Rydal Water, a small lake just north of Ambleside, in the hope to catch the sunrise but instead there was a very heavy mist that morning which, with any luck, would remain until I got on site.  The luck part was complete as it did.

So now it was just down to my own ability. To be honest, I tend to be my own worst critic and was a little disappointed with the mornings results as the didn’t convey the scene that I saw, which was frustrating.  I sometimes forget though, a large part of the enjoyment is simply being out there, seeing the views, breathing the fresh air and getting some exercise.  The following images are a selection of what I did manage to capture, most taken that morning.
Canon 6D + Samyang at 14mm f22 1/15 ISO 100
Canon 80D + Canon 18-135 at 18mm f9 1/125 ISO 100
Canon 6D + Canon 17-40mm at 34 1/200 ISO 100
Canon 80D + Canon 18-135mm at 20mm f11 1/125 ISO100
Canon 80D + Canon 18-135mm at 135 f9 1/320 ISO 100
Canon 6D + Canon 17-40mm at 17mm f11 1.3 sec ISO 100

IMG_7726-PanoRydal Water Panorama Stitched from 5 images - Canon 6D

IMG_0398View point of Rydal Water from one of the surrounding hills - iPhone 6s

IMG_7729-PanoLake Windermere Panorama Stitched from 6 images - Canon 6D

I guess at the end of the day, I take the view that most photographers, (as in those who don’t take just casual photos) fall under two categories. Those for who the tech, i.e. pixels, resolution, etc., is more important and those where the image or the art form of photography is.  I fall into the later category.  Although I like the tech and it plays a part in photography at the end of the day, the limitations are nearly always mine and not the camera.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Kingfishers

It’s been a while since I’ve really managed to photograph Kingfishers and four years since I blogged a post showing them.  They can be very elusive but one of my favourite birds to watch and take images of.  After a couple of unsuccessful attempts during the last few weeks, I finally got lucky with the best of images I managed, below.

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Farne Islands 2017

It’s become an annual ritual to visit the Farne Islands over recent years, so much so that I usually take a week or so off work around the busiest time for the seabirds there. Unfortunately, on all but one occasion it’s been overcast this being the worst trip weather wise.  Not only was there no sunshine at all but it was particularly dim which, if you want to take a photograph of a smallish, fast flying black and white bird against a grey sea or sky, it’s not only difficult to focus but as you can see from the pictures below, makes the image background washed out. 

Now I could with the magic of software, replace the background with blue sky (see below example), but that just wouldn’t feel right to pretend that was the way it was.

You can book your place on one of the many boat services that take you to the islands but I don’t, rather hoping on the day there will be spaces, especially during the week days. However, this time they were booked up and I had to wait a couple of hours for the next available boat with free space.

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The trip itself was the usual journey around the islands and a chance to see and photograph the wildlife from the sea, though if you want to take photographs I recommend you get a seat at the side of the boat which I wasn’t and had a hard time trying to get a view past a person who thought it was a good idea to bring their iPad along as a camera (who brings their iPad along as a camera on a boat trip to the Farnes!! Why can’t they just use the camera on their phone?).

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If you land on Inner Farne you have to pass by the Terns who nest right on the walkway so are not too happy with people walking by.  A good photo opportunity if you don’t mind braving being attacked by one or more of the angry Terns.  You have two ways to do this.  Follow someone else and let them be the bait and photograph the Terns attacking them or put a wide angle lens on your camera set it to a fast frame rate, manual focused to around a foot and just hold that above your head as you move through a swarm of them.

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It is mainly the Puffins I come to see and photograph however, though perhaps next time I might just spend a bit more time looking around and just enjoying the brief time you have on the island.  I spent too much time trying in vain to get decent images of the Puffins flying in from the sea and conditions were just against me.  Not only the lack of contrast of the bird against the background made focusing difficult in the grey, dull conditions but I had to use exposure compensation to prevent a dark silhouette, which instead meant blowing out the skies.  A quick bit of editing below could fix that but not sure about the photographic ethics of that.

IMG_6592 Blue Sky

Trying to photograph the Puffins in the sky meant I neglected what was happening on the ground.  Anyone who has been to the Farnes will know what a hard time these poor Puffins have when brining in food for their young as waiting by their burrows are various gulls, ambushing the Puffins on arrival.  To avoid this, the Puffins try to fly literally, into their burrows.  This means getting that iconic image of a Puffin standing around with a beak full of eels, difficult, but if you’re quick you might get an action shot of the gull trying to rob an incoming Puffin.

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The next couple of photographs are poor but do show a few things.  The first just how close the Puffins get when flying in and can fly right past you.  The second, just how close the an angry Tern can get to you.

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Photographic Details

If you’re interested the technical details all but the last were taken with the Canon 400mm f5.6 lens, the last being a Canon 17-40mm at the widest view.  Because of the lighting conditions exposure compensation of +1-2 stops was given.  Auto ISO was also used.




Sunday, 25 June 2017

Same Time, Same Place…

…different results.  As is so often I’ve found, you can rarely ever re-create the same success previously achieve, as was the case on this occasion. I wasn’t going to bother posting this as the images aren’t good and are few and far between but I did think it was a good example of how unpredictable wildlife, and particularly photographing it, can be.

I went to the exact same location at the same time with even the weather being the same, sunny, warm condition, in the hope of achieving the same success as before in seeing and photographing some young Foxes.  Result?  Completely different. 

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As with a couple of weeks earlier I waited quietly in the same place and again, after a couple of hours the Magpies started to make a noise suggesting a predator was about but I only got a quick glimpse of a Fox.

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Rabbit

Certainly the Rabbits were on high alert, obviously due to the Magpies activities.  The grass was a little higher than last time making any sighting harder to photograph, so when a particularly loud commotion came from my right, I went to investigate.  I stopped at a good vantage point only to see a Fox sprint across after one of the Rabbits.  Ironically, had I stayed where I previously was, I would have hand the perfect view!

The Fox, obviously unsuccessful in its hunt walked back the same way, spotted me, out in the open having not settled down yet – took one look at me and was off!

Fox

Fox

The Rabbits remained wary for a while but eventually settled back into their feeding.  The Magpies continued excitedly back and forth for a while but I didn’t get any further glimpses.

Rabbit

As I said, I wasn’t going to bother posting this due to it not being particularly exciting.  The Fox images were fleeting snaps and the sun was bright and in my face – and so behind the subjects making exposure difficult and way too contrasting.  Still, a morning spent in the warm sunshine is always a good thing.