Monthly Archives: November 2009

Catching up in the Office

Blue sky

Unfortunately we haven’t been seeing much blue sky recently. Here in Wales it has been pretty wet, but not as bad as Cumbria. The image above was made at WWT Welney during my quick visit to Norfolk. I will be off there again soon for a sound recording course. I hope to get some time to photograph the over wintering birds, but typically one of my long telephoto lenses and Nikon D300s are out of action at the moment!

This year equipment problems have been worse than ever before, but so has the repair service from both Nikon and Sigma. Both have been excellent in the past, but this year both have been poor. Equipment has been returned without accessories that had been sent with it, or the underlying problem hasn’t been fixed properly. It is incredibly frustrating and annoying when this happens, plus it gets expensive sending items back or having to continuously ring to find out what is happening or to get items replaced or returned. All my equipment is insured for these repairs but it is the time without them that is the hardest to deal with when the item should have been repaired successfully the first time! Sorry, whinge over.

This year has seen me photograph two Weddings and I have been sorting out the images for the last one for a good friend. I find that I prefer taking the less formal images where I can stand back and record the day, rather that the more formal set up shots. The set up shots are much more limiting creatively, plus controlling everybody is not easy!

Anyway, time to get back to the admin although it has stopped raining now so I might sneak out and take some photographs instead!

It can be green in Autumn too!

Branch patterns, Bishopston Valley, Gower

Although it is autumn at the moment, there is still a lot of green around although it was the pattern of the branches that was my main reason for making this image. It was taken into the light so some work was needed in the digital darkroom to improve the contrast. This is quite a chaotic image with no overall discernible pattern, but this is quite common in woodlands so I feel the image reflects this.

Caswell Bay headland, Gower

This view of the headland just above the bus stop at Caswell Bay shows both greens and some Autumn colour. I liked the different colour paterns and the faint zig zag of the leafless trees and bushes running up through the image. It was a pity that the wind was blowing as it was getting quite dark and a long exposure was needed so there is some motion blur on some of the branches.

Fantastic Fungi – Bishopston Valley, Gower Peninsula

Close up of a Many -zoned Polypore fungus

The world of macro photography always amazes me and I wish I did more of it. I don’t know why I don’t, as it requires no more than a close focusing lens and not much else. Suitable subjects are all around and it can be carried out in all weather.

The bands of colour caught my eye, so I made these the main focus of the image. Other views didn’t seem to show these as well if I composed a wider image. Even though I used a polariser there is still some shine on the damp surface of the fungus, but I don’t think it is too distracting.

Grey Poypore Fungi

The second image is based more on the pattern of the fungi rather than the fungi itself. It was the contrast of the white underneath of the fungi against the dark tree trunk that attracted my attention. The image makes the underneath of the fungi look lit up with flash or a reflector even though I didn’t use either.

Late Autumn images of Bishopston Valley, Gower Peninsula

Autumn Leaves

The leaves in this image look set up, but were found like this. I did remove a small twig which was lying across the yellow leaf as it was a distraction. I haven’t made as many Autumn themed images as I would like this year and now with heavy rain and gail force winds most of the leaves will come down. Autumn on Gower took some time to get going and the colour changes were patchy, with most areas quite drab in colour. Being close to the sea causes this as we tend not to get heavy frosts that are needed to trigger the leaves to start changing colour.

Photographically this is quite a simple shot with my camera tripod mounted with a 90mm lens and polariser fitted to maximise the colours and remove reflections from the leaf surface. The exposure caused the yellow leaf to loose detail and become over saturated even though it was correct. I have found with digital that at times with quite bold colours they can become over saturated in appearance and unnatural. To remedy this I usually decrease the luminescence in the RAW processing program. This usually has the effect of bringing back some of the detail and making the colour more natural.

Beech Leaf

This leaf was placed on the algae covered rock and the image was made before I found the previous image. I prefer the first image more as it was found and not created. I think a lot of people would be surprised as to how many natural history images are created and not found. In the professional world it is important to get a saleable image from a trip and it cannot be relied upon to discover an image with random wanderings. I don’t tend to create images, as I feel that they take far more planning to make them look natural and sometimes are not as good as a natural one when found.

Moss covered Beech Trunk

The trunk appealed to me with the moss covering as a simple texture image. As part of a story the image works well, but is not strong enough by itself to stand alone.

More from Langland Bay, Gower Peninsula

Wave motion at Langland Bay

As the light levels dropped, I resorted to low shutter speeds to give a bit more motion to the waves. There is a debate starting in Outdoor Photography about how to expose for water and whether long or short exposures are best for images made with moving water. I’m not a great fan of long exposures where the water becomes a total blur, so I try to keep some definition of the wave detail visible with a shorter shutter speed of around 1/40 th of a second.

Foam pattern on beach

The foam left by the waves on the beach was also producing an interesting pattern, which also was quite monochromatic. The wet sand turned black to contrast the white foam. In situations like this, using the histogram on the back of the camera is a great tool. It allows instant feedback on whether the highlights have been overexposed etc.

Wave spray, Langland Bay, Gower Peninsula

The final image is a bit of an experiment. I quite like it, but am still not sure whether it works. I like the separation of the spray from the waves from the background, but is the image interesting enough overall?

Langland Bay Waves, Gower Peninsula

Langland Bay waves

The image above was from a few days ago when the strong winds were creating great waves on a lot of the south Gower beaches. I popped down to Langland Bay as I don’t really visit it that much. Unsurprisingly the surfers were appearing from nowhere as they seem to do when the waves are up, but they all seemed to be having a great time even though the water was freezing!

A couple of the local surf photographers were present and trying to work out what I was up to as I wasn’t really taking any images of the surfers and seemed to be more intent on taking pictures of the waves running up the beach, which was what I was actually doing! You get some great patterns in the waves with the foam combined with the evening light. Exposure is always tricky with low evening light, white waves and spray, but by shooting in RAW format this gives you some flexibility with exposure. The light level were dropping rapidly so a high ISO was also required. Each new digital SLR release seems to be getting better and better in the high ISO levels. The megapixel race finally seem to be slowing down and it is now the other parts of the camera that are getting fine tuned.

Foam patterns in evening light

Don’t head home too soon!

Worms Head, Gower Peninsula

This image was made after the Bay of Fire image, once the sun had set below the horizon. Most of the other photographers that had been present had left the beach and packed up for the day. You never know quite what the light will be like after it has set and on some days the light just disappears rapidly. This day it just seemed to last for ages. I was using the same set up as before with a 0.6ND (2 stop) graduated filter on a 24 – 120mm lens. The exposure time for this was about 20 seconds which has blurred the clouds as they passed over. It is the shape of the clouds and the reflection that caught my eye with this scene. It is times like this when you really know if you totally understand your camera and vision.

I find that most people are held back in their photography because their camera still controls them. What I mean by this is that the camera is still a barrier between them and their photographic vision. They are too busy worring about how to alter functions , ad filters etc that they miss the shot. Most of the 1-2-1 tuition I do is regarding control of the camera and its settings. A lot of people have a camera that they do not know how to use, and may not even have the fundamental basic understanding of the relationship between aperture and shutter speed and the effects you can get by altering them.

It is only in the last couple of years that my camera skills and photographic eye are finally in sync and as a result I have become more prolific and successful in my photography. I now am finding that I can pre plan my images much more that wondering around waiting for an image to appear before me.

How do you know if you are in control of your camera? Try and operate all the functions such as changing exposure mode, programme, exposure compensation etc. on your camera without taking it away from your eye. If you can do this you are nearly there!

You just can’t beat being at home

Bay of Fire - Worms Head, Gower Peninsula

After travelling on the road for a few weeks, I was nice to come back home to scenes like this. I had been doing a 1-2-1 tuition day based at Worm’s Head and Mewslade Bay. It can be a long day as I normally start at 9.00am, so some clients after a few hours have had enough of my chatter and leave late afternoon. This was one of those days and I wish my client had been able to stay longer as the sky turned from a promising sight to grey cloud and then back to stunning sunset!

I’m calling this image Bay of Fire, as the orange colour and cloud patterns remind me of fire. This is a pretty straight forward shot, with only a 0.6ND (2 stop) graduated filter placed over the sky and then exposed for the silhouette of the headland. Camera white balance was on daylight, which seems to be the setting I use mostly these days as it mimics the colour temperatures that I used to see in my film images.

There were quite a few other photographers present at this time, and I noticed that nobody apart from myself tried any other image than horizontal. It is always worth trying to take horizontal and vertical images of a subject if possible, sometimes you can be surprised with the results.

WWT London Wetlands Centre

Mute Swans 'necking'

Once again another day on my road trip was blessed with sunshine. After spending the early morning in Richmond Park, I moved onto the WWT London Wetlands Centre down the road in Barnes. To be honest I much prefer cloudy days for my photography now because it gives me greater flexibility in subjects and images.

In the above image the two swans are displaying ‘necking’, which is normally part of the bonding process in a mating pair. It seem that this was either a new pair or just confused as it is quite a while before the next mating season. The male  was quite busy protecting one of the lagoons from any other Mute swans and kept me entertained for quite a while scooting here an there, chasing off interlopers.

Male Mute Swan

When he wasn’t chasing other swans he was bonding with his partner. I nearly got the classic heart shaped space between the swans in the image below. I just needed the one on the left to turn more towards me. It never did!

Pair of mute swans

Down south to Richmond Park

Red Deer Stag in Richmond Park

After leaving Norfolk, I headed down to London. I was hoping that Red Deer rut would be starting in Richmond Park, but nothing seemed to be happening on my visit. The above image shows the stag I was photographing that I mentioned in a previous post when 3 other photographers approached and unsettled it, causing it to get up and move away. This image was a bit of an after thought as I originally photographed it with the sun behind me. The images didn’t seem to have as much interest as this one did though, even though they showed some interesting interactions between Jackdaws and the Deer. The Jackdaws were cleaning insects off the deer, similar to Oxpeckers in Africa.

Jackdaw and Red Deer Stag

Even though the rut wasn’t on some of the younger males were still on the outer edges of the gatherings of female deer with a larger older male close by. But they didn’t seem interested in either the females or challenging the males.

Young male Red Deer

Perhaps the idea of challenging the older, bigger males was still just too much of a task for the younger males to even contemplate.

Male and female Red Deer