Monthly Archives: July 2009

Do these images work?

Field of Ground Elder and Burnet Saxifrage at the WWT National Wetlands Centre Wales

Close up of Spear Thistle

I’m not sure if these photographs taken at the WWT National Wetlands Centre Wales work as images. Both are very busy visually even though I opted for a shallow depth of field for both. I think the photographs capture the reality of the situation, which was actually quite busy visually, but whether this is too much I am not sure.

Cloudy days are always the best for taking plant photographs as the contrast is reduced and the colour saturation is improved as well at the same time. I always use a polariser whenever possible to help remove any reflections on the leaves, plus it also saturates the colours as much as possible in camera. Typically cloudy days result in slower shuter speeds and this is when plant movement can become an issue. Your patience will be tested at times so resort to a piece of wire and cane to anchor the plant. The Wimberely Plamp is a ready made hi tech version of this and works very well. Sometimes it could do with a longer reach though. 

The WWT National Centre Wales is a great place for flower photography as it has a wide variety of easily accessible flowers, plus if you get bored of flowers there are always the birds even though there are less of them in the summer.

Whiteford Sands, Gower Peninsula

View from Whiteford Point into the sun towards Broughton Burrows  Victorian Lighthouse at Whiteford Point

A couple of images taken yesterday on my Whiteford Point Day Course. We were blessed with a great day weather wise considering the rain we have had recently, although it was a bit bright for my liking. A few clouds formed which gave a bit more interest to the sky than a plain blue colour.

Both of the above images were taken from approximately the same place and show the differences than can be achieved by the position of the sun in relation to your subject. The black and white image had the sun above and directly in line with the lens. This washed out all of the colour from the image and as I had visualised the image being in black and white anyway due to the high contrast. In Lightroom I toned down the sky and foreground further with the graduated mask tool to balance them tonally with the middle ground. Apart from that no other adjustment was done apart from level and curve adjustment to help boost the contrast.

The second image of the Victorian lighthouse had side lighting from the left which allowed some detail to be recorded, but unfortunately the sky behind was quite light with clouds. A neutral density graduated filter would have darkened the lighthouse and lost the detail in the iron work so I darkened the sky and foreground with the brush tool in lightroom.

I haven’t seen the tide as low as this at Whiteford point before so it was great to have the chance to get quite close to the lighthouse and see the mussel beds around it. Being quite open, the wind was quite strong so quite a few of my images were slightly soft due to vibration. Even though I reversed my lens hood and weighted the tripod down with a rucksack, through the viewfinder I could see the lens vibrating. I tried to overcome this by taking multiple images in succession, but with a shutter speed of 1/20th I was pretty much onto a loser. At least one image was OK!

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside! Never mind the pollution.

Rubbish at Caswell Bay

I am trying at the moment to document the impact of people and man in general on the Gower Peninsula. I am concentrating on the beaches at the moment as throughout the summer season the pollution and waste increases. As has been reported recently plastic is proving a major problem in sea pollution with some Pacific Islands being swamped with it. High tides and strong waves brings a lot of rubbish up onto the beaches as well as the usual flotsam such as wood and seaweed.

I hope to try and get enough images together to provide images for a local campaign to encourage people to take their waste home and bin it or recycle it. There is still more work needed on this project, and I will move inland after the sea pollution has been recorded.

Pebbles at Caswell Bay, Gower Peninsula

Pebbles and sand

Another pebble image from Caswell Bay yesterday. This was developed darker to emphasis the light falling on the pebbles as well. There is a piece of seaweed running through the pebbles which I would have liked to remove, but to do so would have ended up with my big footprint in the frame. If I was inclined to do it, I could remove it in Photoshop, but at the moment I will leave it in the image.

Living close to the sea provides an ever changing landscape to point my camera at and constantly provides a source of rich ideas and images.

Black Light at Caswell Bay, Gower Peninsula

Pebbles and waves at Caswell Bay

Black light was a term I first came across when reading about the photographer John Claridge who printed his photographs very dark to emphasise the light falling on the subject in them. Today at Caswell it was a black light day. The wind was up producing great waves, but the clouds were low in the sky giving a dark grey feel to the evening. A straight record of this scene would be very dull, but by darkening everything down and altering the contrast, the image transforms. The mood of this photograph is a million miles from a straight record. Thinking about it, it would have been a good day to take portrait photographs with a really shallow depth of field.

WWT National Wetlands Centre Wales

Greater Willowherb

I haven’t been to the centre much this year. It is relatively quite on the bird front at the moment, but there are still a selection of waders and wildfowl, some with young, still visible.

I always find the centre a great place to get some photographs of wild flowers or insects. Today I was concentrating on plants, and bright overcast conditions helped to keep the contrast range under control. There was a breeze, but it did drop regularly allowing the plants to stop moving when having their picture taken. The above picture is of Greater Willowherb, which is found all around the centre. I managed to isolate this plant against the trees behind, which were in shadow, producing the dark background you see. I always find longer lenses useful for flower photography as they can really help isolate the subject from the background, plus they can help remove distracting elements in the background that you can see with a wider angle of view. The distance between the subject and the background will also affect the amount that the background can be kept out of focus and in the photograph above I used a combination of a 200mm lens at F16 but as the background was over 3 metres behind the flower it was kept as a blur. This is because your depth of field decreases the closer you get to your subject.

Gigrin Farm – Rhayader

Red Kite soaring among the clouds

I debated whether I should post this image or use a more conventional photograph of the red kites in close up. There are loads of photographs of Red kites available now as most keen nature photographers have been to Gigrin Farm. Also with the advances in equipment technology it is getting easier to achieve better photographs of birds in flight. Birds in flight still are a difficult subject though and the delete button soon becomes your best friend when editing the photographs. I managed to take about 2500 photographs at my visit on Saturday for my day course at the farm. I have edited this down to 800 images so far but still have further to go!

The above image was an attempt to get something different from the normal type of photographs. I don’t think it quite works as it is at the moment. I think the red kite needs to be more on the left to try and position it more on an intersection of thirds if the rule of thirds is followed. I can probably do this with a crop of the image. At the moment the bird is slightly too central in the frame. The cropped image is below.

Cropped version of the above image

I think this has made a stronger image and has a better balance to it. If the kite was looking into the frame, and not out of it as it is at the moment, the photograph would be even better!

Getting arty with Gannets if such a thing is possible.

Gannet and clouds  Gannet gliding over the sea

I like to try something different occasionally with my photography and these two images are an example of that. Some people may consider these  a waste of time, but to me they convey some of the lifestyle of the Gannets. These birds travel vast distances, riding the air currents over the oceans, and I wanted to try and portray this in these images. I think I have got close, but I am still undecided as to whether I have achieved my goal. I will live with these photographs for a while.  Is there enough to capture my attention, do they work as individual images, or do they only work as part of a photo essay to make their context relevant? We will see how I feel later.

Never give up you don’t know what will happen!

Gannet in flight

After my second rain shower at Deer Park, Martins Haven the clouds lifted again and this time cleared for a really great early evening spell of Gannet photography. I managed to position myself on a rocky headland closest the a circular flight pattern the birds were doing as they scanned the sea for fish. This allowed relatively close views, and occasionally they came closer like in the image above. It was a great way to spend my time drying out!

For those of you who have tried photographing birds in flight, you will know that it is not easy to get sharp photographs and good composition. Some of it is luck, but practice, patience and plenty of storage cards help as well! I managed to practise some techniques taught by Arthur Morris, the great American bird photographer based in Florida, USA. If you can get a copy of his book and digital book on CD, which explain with superb shots and information the art of bird photography. Both can be got through his website Birds as Art, but also check out his blog and subscribe to his e-newsletter. The amount of knowledge and information he has on bird photography is unsurpassed!

I had fully dried out after a few hours, so it was time to get all arty with photography!

Deer Park, Martins Haven, Pembrokeshire

Skomer Headland in the rain

I travelled to Pembrokeshire a few days ago. Although the Gower Peninsula keeps me busy most of the time, I do like to wander further afield occasionally. This photograph is taken from Deer Park at Martins Haven which is the embarkation point for the boats to Skomer and Skokholm Islands. I haven’t been out to the Islands this year, and probably won’t make it for the Puffin breading season. I decided to go when the boats aren’t running to the Islands as I wanted to photograph the Chough and Stonechat that are seen at Deer Park (by the way there are no deer at deer park! Plus it is not really a park, just a coastal headland).

Typically the weather was great on my drive down to the area, even though the radio weather forecast was saying heavy showers were expected. On arrival at the National Trust car park the weather looked great, so off I went to scout around to take some scenic views initially. When I got to the Coastal Lookout station the weather changed rapidly with dark grey clouds sweeping in, the wind increasing and the rain starting to hammer down. Sheltering in the lee of the coastal lookout station I was relatively dry and protected, so I decided to try and make some photographs from that location. Unfortunately the cloud was very low and covering everything aroung so headlands were coming and going from my view. The image above is of one of the headlands of Skomer Island, and due to the grey conditions I knew that a black and white conversion was the only way to go with the image. I feel that it represents the grey light and conditions at the time, even though the sea looks fairly calm despite the rough weather conditions.

While hanging around for the rain to stop so I could escape my shelter and return to my car, I noticed a number of Gannets circling over the sea just off the coast scanning the sea for fish. With Grassholm (the third largest Gannet colony in the world) not far away, and visible from the shore on a clear day, Deer Park is a good place to see them. At the same time Porpoise could be seen feeding on the fish as the Gannets circled above.

Thinking that the rain was not going to stop, I decided to return to my truck knowing that with only a waterproof jacket I was going to get soaked. Typically while I drip dried in my truck after, about 15 minutes after my return, the rain stopped and the clouds lifted! Although I was soaked I decided I wanted to attempt some shots of the Gannets, so off I set with my telephoto lens and just as I got into position the clouds rolled back in and the rain started again! This wasn’t going to be my day!