Monthly Archives: June 2009

Caswell Bay on a sunny day

Fun in the surf at Caswell Bay

This photograph is actually in colour! I know it looks like a black and white conversion, but shooting into the light with such a high contrast subject has caused this to happen. If I pointed my lens away from the light you would see the blue sky, white surf and yellow sand.

This image is the start of another new project for me. I usually go out of my way to avoid people in my photographs, but I have decided to try and document the beaches of Gower being used by people, and not as some pristine environment without humans. I hope there will be a few more images coming over the summer, and if the weatherman is to be believed they may all be full of sunshine and blue skies! We’ll see!

More images from Whiteford Point, Gower Peninsula

Sunlight and Storm Clouds, Whiteford Point, Gower Peninsula

I haven’t been out and about much recently due to a back injury. This has slowed my pace down a bit and have a result I haven’t taken many photographs recently. Just starting to get back in front of the computer now, so revisiting some recent photographs. As I have already mentioned Whiteford Point on the Gower Peninsula is one of my favourite locations in Gower with very different habitats and scenery close together. The sun sets over the sea on the west side of the point and this is always a great place to get dramatic lighting conditions with storms etc. out at sea. On this particular day I was hoping for a decent sunset, but the sky changed from blue to grey fairly quickly towards the end of the day. The  lighting became more dramatic as the rain clouds swept across the sea, darkening the sky and reflection on the sea.

I am looking forward to the next few day courses that I will be running in July at Gigrin Farm, Rhayader and one at Whiteford Point, Gower. These are always good fun even though I rarely make any photographs.

And now for something completely different…

SA1 marina development                 Seagulls drying off after bathing

I had an hour to explore the Marina and SA1 area of Swansea this evening. This is not one of the usual areas I visit, but did manage to get some “wildlife” images so to speak. I also did some images that are different from my usual subjects, hence the image of a lamp post. It was the obvious colour contrasts that caught my eye first, but it was only when I walked further a long to get the lamp post to provide some interest in what was a fairly empty sky did it all finally come together. The Scottish nature photographer Nial Benvie has written a great essay on finding contrasts or “edges” as he refers to them in the making of photographs. It appears in his landscape photography book, but it is also on his website here.

I also decided to free myself of my tripod, even though I carried it with me, to give myself the chance to just concentrate on making photographs and not worry about the quality issues of handheld versus tripod. Normally every shot I take, apart from some bird in flight shots are take on a tripod. When photographs are compared side by side it is very obvious to see on an enlargement of the image that a tripod shot is much sharper. The sharpness can be improved even further with a cable release and locking the mirror up whenever possible. A lot of people avoid tripods because they feel it stops them from taking photographs quickly. Once you develop a habit of using a tripod, it feels strange not to use one, but also your speed in setting one up and adjusting it will become much faster and easier.

A great day at Whiteford Point, Gower peninsula

Wind blown tree after sunset

I had a great day at Whiteford Point, Gower Peninsula yesterday. I was originally planning to do some plant photography as there are orchids and other coastal species present. The wind was a bit too strong to get sharp images when out on the dunes, so I switched to more general photography and experimented a bit as well. The image above is the last photograph I took.  By this time it was quite dark, but digital capture still picked up a lot of detail. Too much detail in fact! In post processing in Lightroom I had to create the silhouette I had originally envisaged. The photograph is a horizontal crop of the original image which removed excess foreground and sky to emphasis the tree more. I think with some further fine tuning this image may work with some toning effects.

As a loction Whiteford Point is hard to beat. On one side of the sand spit is a long beach with sand dunes which catch the setting sun. The other side is a large tidal marsh area where lots of sea birds congregate along with the grazing sheep and semi wild horses. There is also a great selection of bird life as well with a resident Buzzard family every year, plus large flocks of over wintering migrants in the winter.

Late evening light falls on Whiteford Point

The beach is open to the full force of the Atlantic Ocean so unfortunately lots of waste pollution thrown off ships and generally washing around in the oceans gets washed up on the beach. I currently have a project going documenting this, but would like to tie it into images of the impact of tourism on the local beaches. Hopefully I will move further forward with this project this summer. Through the hard work of the National Trust and their volunteers the beach is cleaned of all the rubbish each year, so it never really builds up. Also with some of the highest tide ranges in the world here, a lot is picked up and taken back out to sea.

A soaking wet squirrel

Juvenille grey squirrel after a heavy rain shower

I managed to get this photograph of a juvenile grey squirrel trying to dry out after a heavy rain shower. It was sitting on top of the hedge that is at the bottom of my garden and is overlooked by my office window. I just spotted this by chance while looking out to try and locate the position of a robin that I could hear singing. Luckily a camera and lens (800mm) were to hand and set up ready to go. I never did find out where the Robin was though!

A day of Admin and discovery of a few forgotten images

Grey Heron at the London Wetlands Centre

I have been trawling through my photograph library today just re editing and processing some older images. I sometimes forget what subjects I have photographs of and am amazed at the wide range of subjets I have. I don’t remember taking some of them!

The image with this post is from my first visit to the London Wetlands Centre owned by the WWT in 2005. I find making photographs here easier than at my local WWT centre, the National Wetlands Centre in Llanelli. The hides in London are better positioned and lower to the water giving a better chance of creating a good image. If you get a chance to visit either centre, take it as they are both excellent locations for photography with abundant bird life plus lots of plant and insect life as well. Even when the numbers of birds drops in the summer there is still plenty of subjects to photograph. The only problem I find in the summer is the opening times of the centres. They miss out on the best times for photography, but if it is a cloudy day it doesn’t matter. These days I seem to find myself wishing for cloudy days more often than not. It really helps with the contrast of a photograph, plus the colour saturation is better than a sunny day. Now digital capture is giving us better quality at higher ISO settings than film ever did, it is easy just to up the ISO when needed on those darker cloudy days.

Photo Tech: Gigrin Farm Red Kite Feeding Station

Immature red kite

I visited Gigrin Farm last Sunday and have been busy editing all the images. This is when you find that your most used key on the keyboard is delete! The image above is of an immature kite at the feeding. It is a vertical crop of a horizontal original image. For those of you who have never been to Gigrin Farm in Rhayader, but are planning to go here are some photo tips:

  1. Lenses: most of my images are taken on a 300mm lens with my digital crop factor of 1.5x on my Nikon . I also use my 70 – 200mm zoom as well. I do also use a 500mm tripod mounted lens, but find it easier to use the shorter lenses handheld.
  2. Make sure your shutter speed does not drop below 1/1000th of a second. The birds move very fast and a faster shutter speed will ensure your images are sharp. I set shutter priority on my cameras and adjust the ISO rating to obtain an aperture of F5.6 to F8 if possible.
  3. Set your auto focus to continuous/servo (depends on camera manufacturer) and either select all focusing points or a group that you can control the position of. This will speed up your focus acquisition time. Sometimes the kites stall in the wind or glide into the wind and slow their flight speed down, at this point using a selected focus point if possible will ensure accurate focusing on the eyes of the birds.
  4. If you have two camera bodies, set them both up to allow a quick change of image perspective.
  5. At the start of the feeding, take your time. There are normally lots of the kites in the air and it is difficult to isolate single birds. Use this time to watch where the birds are flying in from and where they go to start their dive onto the food. You can also use this time to check your exposure histogram and practice your focusing.
  6. The birds come in waves and can be present for over two hours. Later on it is easier to get individual bird photographs and the light will have improved with the sun lower in the sky, so lighting up the underneath of the birds better.
  7. Unpack all your storage cards ready to load into the camera and take a back up device to load full cards onto or make sure you have plenty, and I mean plenty of cards to use. You will take more images than you expect.
  8. Use the photographic hides to get a better view of the feeding site and because their viewing area is wider it is easier to move with your cameras. You don’t always have to be in a hide, and successful photographs can be taken outside the hides on the path or from the viewing area in the field next to the feeding site.
  9. Expect loads of useless images, just press delete! Be really critical of your images and be ruthless. Check the focus on the eyes at 100% in your editing software.
  10. And lastly, enjoy yourself and if you can, stop taking photographs and watch the kites for a while.