Monthly Archives: April 2009

And then there were two!

Mallard Duckling

I’m afraid that the ducklings on the pond in Clyne Park are now down to two. Other regular duckling watchers informed me that there were as many as seven at the start of this week, but as usual this starts to decline like in previous years. I hope there are some left for my Clyne Park Day Course on May 9th. It would be great to have them there, but since the park is close to its peak at the moment with the Rhododendrons and Azaleas in glorious bloom we won’t be short of subjects. Great colours are every where. The bluebells are out and looking good. Took a few more images of them today as I am trying to improve my library of bluebell images. Experimented with lenses from 24mm all the way up to a 500mm + 1.4x converter and extension tube. Really had to support the lens well with all of that rigged up and so far everything looks sharp in Lightroom!

The birds are really active in the park at the moment, and due to the pressures of feeding chicks, they are quite bold at times. While photographing the ducklings, a male blackbirds perched on a nearby tree to sing and I managed to get a few images before it moved on.

Male Blackbird singing

On days like today when I managed a great selection of images that I am pleased with, I wonder why I travel anywhere else. I do like the challenge of learning a new location, but having a local patch that you can visit all year round, watching it change through the seasons allows an understanding to develop with your environment. This ultimately will improve your images.

Here on Gower I am spolit for choice sometimes as to where to spend my time. Do I go to the beach – Caswell, Oxwich, Rhossili Bay, the dunes at Whiteford Point, the marsh at Salthouse point for bird photography or the woods and countryside of Bishopston and Ilston Valley, Cefn Bryn or Gelli Hir. This makes it important for me to select a project to concentrate on otherwise I would be running around Gower like a headless chicken and ultimately failing to get any decent images or in depth coverage of a particular subject.

Stitched Digital Panoramic

Panoramic view from Cefn Bryn towards Rhossili and Hardings Down

This is a five frame stitched digital panoramic. This is my first proper attempt at stitching images, and it has proved to be quite a challenge. I probably shouldn’t have chosen to take images for this panoramic technique on a day with such rapidly changing light. The colour temperature of each image differed from image to image even  though the camera was set on Daylight white balance with a manual exposure. The variations were due to the changes in light intensity as the light passed through the storm clouds. Some of the light intensity has been lost on the web version so it doesn’t look quite as dramatic as it actually was. I will try and improve the image to show this if possible.

The view is from Cefn Bryn towards Rhossili and Hardings Downs. I really like the four trees on the horizon, and try and use these in my other photographs. There is one image in my landscape gallery which uses them with the sun setting behind. Cefn Bryn is a great place to use right at the end of the day as there are some great views across Gower, and being one of the higher points it gets the last rays of light at the end of the day. Arthur’s Stone is located here, which also provides further photographic opportunities.

Images from Ilston Valley

Fern Frond unfolding                   Wild Garlic Flower 

Bluebell                 Wild Garlic and Bluebells

Just a few images from yesterday. All images were taken with my 70 – 200mm zoom which has a great close focusing ability, plus a polariser to remove reflections on the leaves and to saturate the colours. It was quite dark when taking these, so quite a few shots were out of focus due to wind movement of the plant. To ensure it wasn’t camera shake or mirror slap I used a tripod, cable release and mirror lock up on the camera. I could have made things easier by changing the ISO, but I was trying to reduce noise as much as possible. To also help with noise I expose to the right of the histogram as much as possible without blowing the high lights.

Woodlands are always visually confusing places, and I find it difficult to get wide angle or scenic images I am totally happy with so I tend to find myself looking for smaller details most of the time.

Video of Ilston Valley in Spring

 

I made this video from my compact camera video mode so the quality is limited. I will post some images I made at the same time in another post. I thought it would be good to show what Ilston valley is like this time of year. The bluebells are fully out, but the wild garlic is not at its peak yet. I use the valley for one of  my Gower Photography Day Courses. Although it is only a small valley it has a great selection of habitats – deciduous and pine woodland, open grassland, a small stream and regular hawthorne, bluebell and wild garlic flowerings. A path runs the length of the valley from the back of the Gower Inn in Parkmill to Ilston Church so access is easy, although it does get muddy at times.

The bird life is great and Kingfishers have been seen on the stream. The photographic opportunities for the kingfishers are difficult, they usually see you before you see them. Wild flowers are present throughout the summer, but some parts of the valley get quite dark under the tree canopy. In Autumn there is some good colour on the trees and fungi on the valley floor. Winter is also a good season for imaging with frost coating the stark winter plant growth, and this is an ideal time to use black and white in your images.

Black & White version as promised

Cefn Bryn

Just a quick post of a black and white version of the colour Cefn Bryn image posted yesterday. This is a quick conversion in Lightroom. Personally I think the colour version has more of a feel to it.

Final image from today

cefn-bryn-2479

I went to check the progress of the wild garlic in Ilston Valley after being in Clyne Park. My first day course of this year is in two weeks on May 2nd, so after finding the park flowers out earlier than usual, I thought I better check Ilston as well. All looks to be on schedule for the day, but will have a closer look at the weekend. As the light was so good I was hoping to get some shots of Arthurs Stone on top of Cefn Bryn in Gower but unfortunately it became quite cloudy and misty, so a change of direction was needed. The first signs of the new gorse growth were showing through the old, dead grass and created an interesting contrast. Amazingly I needed 5 stops of Neutral density graduated filter to tone down the sky and post processing in Lightroom managed to bring out some of the final colour left between the clouds. I am considering trying a Black and White conversion of this shot to see how it works. I will post it to allow comparison if it is any good.

The changing conditions always keep me on my toes, and I think it is always helpful in developing  your vision when you are forced to adjust your plans. I try and get this across to my course participants on the weekend or day courses. The advantage for the weekend course participants is that the have a bit more knowledge of the landscape and have the option to return until they get the image that they were seeking, unlike the day course participants who have to react more quickly.

More Ducks from today!

Male Mallard

Another image from the Clyne Park pond. There were a few males hanging around the two females even though one had the 9 Ducklings. I love the background here, once again the use of the 500mm lens compressed the depth of field and made the ripples on the water painterly in appearance. Luckily the conditions was bright overcast cloud to allow the contrast levels to remain in the reach of the sensor.

The Bluebells are starting to come out, but there do not seem to be as many this year, but the Rhododendrons are in full swing and may be finished by the time of my day course. The skunk cabbage with is distinctive yellow flower is still to fully bloom so there will still be plenty of photographic opportunities.

Not quite in time for Easter!

Duckling of the Day 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suddenly realised that there are not may images on what is supposed to be a photo blog! Had some time today to do some scouting of Clyne Park to get ready for one of my Gower Photography Day Courses. The course will be pretty informal, but it pays to be prepared for what is happening in the park. The pond at the top of the park has some Mallard ducks present with their young. Unfortunately the numbers of ducklings is dropping daily and one was taken by a Carrion Crow right in front of me. As usual I missed the shot! The history of Duckling survival rates is not good on this pond as it is quite shallow, so I’m not sure if any will be around for the day course on May 9th. The Ducklings are quite bold as they are used to people feeding them bread, but to get a good image size I still needed my 500mm lens. It’s amazing how much interest I seem to generate from passers by who are always interested in my photographic gear. If only I had a pound for every comment on the size of my lens etc.  9 Ducklings are currently left so get down to the pond fast if  you would like to get some images!

Comments now working OK

The comments form is now working OK. I would like to thank Esmi on the WordPress forum for her advice and straight forward fix. Now only the email posting system to fix! Technology, don’t you just love it – great when it works, but a right headache when it doesn’t.

Have just finished scouting Clyne Park for the Gower Photography Day course in May. The park is starting to bloom earlier this year with the Rhododendrons starting the bloom, and Mallard chicks already on the pond. 10 chicks were visible so far. I will post an update soon. The history of chicks surviving on the pond is not good, so we will see if this year is any better.

Technical problems – unable to post comments

Just noticed that comments can’t be posted and the link goes through to the home page of the website. Don’t know why this is happening, but will be working on it to get it fixed asap. If anybody would like to comment or contact  please use my email instead. I will post an update when the repair is finished, so until you see a post, please use email instead.