Monthly Archives: May 2010

Oxwich Burrows, Gower Peninsula

Oxwich Burrows behind the bay is a great place for wild flowers. Usually there is a great view of Cowslips and Bluebells intermixed in a field along side the road. This year it was not a very good display unfortunately, even though the weather conditions were better for photographing it. Some of the flowers on the Burrows are still in their infancy, so it will probably be best to visit in a few weeks when the orchids will be fully out. I played around with the unfurling bracken for a few images, like the close up above. I think it needs a bit more depth of field to improve the image though.

This is a slightly more classical view of bracken fronds. It is amazing how much can be seen when using a macro lens. I spent a minute or two watching the ants running over it searching for food before making the image. They appear in a few frames, but being out of focus and slightly blurred due to motion, they became a distraction in the image.

Typically as I framed this image up in the camera, a gentle breeze started from nowhere. It took me a few frames to get a sharp image as it was relatively overcast and a slowish shutter speed was required.

Because of the breeze I started looking for plants closer to the ground in some of the sheltered dips in the burrows. These yellow flowers caught my eye and how they mimicked the shape of the young nettle head slightly. I’m not great in identifying some flowers, but believe this to be a type of vetch or Bird’s foot-trefoil. If anybody knows what it is, please let me know.

Rhossili Bay, Gower 10:35pm – post 1-2-1 tuition session

Had a great 1-2-1 tuition session at Worm’s Head and Rhossili today. The weather wasn’t the best during the middle of the day and afternoon, but it improved really well later in the afternoon. A sea mist was present over the beach, plus great colours were present at sunset as well even though the sky was a bit bland and featureless.

As usual I didn’t take any images myself during the tuition, but I managed to make the above image after the session at 10.35pm. Most people would have packed up their gear at this time but with the lighter nights now there are still plenty of options till quite late. The exposure was about 60 seconds. I needed a tripod and a cable release with the bulb setting activated, but overall this is a very simple image to make and needed no filters.

Quite a few passers by were intrigued to find somebody photographing in the dark, so I ended up running a mini 10 minute tutorial on long exposure photography for them with their cameras. The look of amazement on their faces was a picture in itself, but unfortunately it was too dark to take a photograph!

More from WWT National Wetlands Wales

Male Mallard Duck

Occasionally the light at the centre was a bit more conducive for photography, and I managed to get this image from the Michael Powell hide. This hide is my first port of call in the morning as it has the best sun position at that time. A lot of the time the birds are quite far away, but occasionally them come closer. If you are lucky the Kingfisher will land on the ‘no fishing’ sign in front of the hide.

Male Mallard Duck bathing

Normally from the Michael Powell hide I move onto the Boardwalk Hide. As the sun swings around in the morning, this hide is the next best position to be. Here the birds are quite close, with a good selection to choose from. This Mallard started bathing while I was photographing the Blackheaded Gulls, so I switched my attention to it, and caught a sequence of images as it bathed.

Greylag Geese Family

There are quite a few Greylag Geese breeding at the centre in the wild and captive bird sections. Most seem to have about 5-7 chicks and all seem to be doing well. These particular geese were on one of the islands with the Blackheaded Gulls, but due to the close presence of a Heron, one of the parents was very alert and keeping an eye out for danger. The chicks were totally oblivious to it all and carried on feeding away.

Male Tufted Duck

Afternoons at the centre tend to see me at the new Sir Peter Scott hide in the Millennium wetlands area. The sun position is best here in the afternoon, plus some perches have been placed out for the Kingfisher. These perches were placed especially for photographers to make decent images with. The light wasn’t too good at my visit, but I couldn’t resist making the above image of a Male Tufted Duck. I like the look on his face, plus I sponsored a Tufted duck about 30 years ago with the WWT. I don’t think he survived very long though as I never got any updates about his whereabouts etc.

Black Headed Gulls at WWT National Wetlands Centre Wales

Black Headed Gull calling, WWT National Wetlands Centre Wales

It wasn’t the best light for photographing black and white birds at my visit, but I was getting acquainted again with the handling of a Sigma 300 – 800mm lens. I damaged mine  9 months ago, and have been struggling to get Sigma to repair it successfully. Finally my lens is being sent back to Japan, so I have been lent one by Sigma to use. Unfortunately I missed a lot of the best time of the year when I would be using the lens. I would normally be looking for over wintering birds, especially on my trip to Norfolk.

Black Headed Gull

The gulls are nesting on the small islands in the Centre in both the Millennium wetlands and opposite the Boardwalk Hide. Like all gull colonies, the sounds are great with constant calls and motion. The water had some great reflections of the green vegetation on the banks, plus the yellow gorse flowers in certain areas. I tried to place a lone gull in these areas of reflection for something a little bit different. I think both the images work.

Black Headed Gull with golden reflection

I also wanted to try and show the feel of the colony and activity going on in it. This proved to be quite a challege as finding a pleasing composition was a little bit of luck as well as planning. It took the close presence of a Heron to get a bit more movement in the colony, which resulted in the photograph below.

Black Headed Gull colony scene

The gulls were very nervous of the Heron and if it came too close it would be dive bombed and pestered until it went away. On one occasion it was successful in it’s attempt to get a meal. It flew into the edge of one of the islands and raided the reeds where a Moorhen had been sheltering its young. In situations like this I always find that I have the wrong lens on the camera or an inappropriate exposure or drive setting, but this time I managed a few frames in the few seconds that the attack took.

Heron and Moorhen chick mobbed by Black Headed Gulls

Clyne Gardens Day Course – perfect weather this year!

Bluebells, Clyne Gardens, Swansea

The weather couldn’t have been better for the Day course in Clyne Gardens yesterday. Last year it was too bright and sunny, so this years cloud was most welcome as it allowed better conditions to make great plant portraits etc. Cloudy weather really enhances the colour saturation and with the use of a polariser to remove any reflections from the leaves and to enhance the colours, it gave great results. All my pictures were taken on my digital compact, but even so the colours are still great.

Clyne Gardens, Swansea Azaleas, Clyne Gardens, Swansea

There was some drizzle later on in the afternoon, but it cleared the air slightly and gave some water droplets on the flowers and leaves to give them some extra interest. The entrance to the Gardens is always colourful, so it is difficult to move on to other areas in the park. This year we managed to move further into the park before lunchtime than last year, so I think we are getting to see more of the park as well!

Azalea flower close up, Clyne Gardens, Swansea

Course participants, Clyne Gardens, Swansea

This hasn’t been set up, but it is amazing what strange things can happen when joining one of the courses. Notice how both have taken up a position on a rule of thirds intersection! All my comments on composition are rubbing off! By the way the tree had great bark with lichen and moss on it, plus some new leaf development. Once the ideal composition was found the tripods would be set up for the final image.

New leaves and Lichen on bark, Clyne Gardens, Swansea

It was joked that there is enough to photograph in Clyne to have a 3 day workshop, but I hope to finalise some new Garden Photography courses that I hope to announce in the near future. A few details still need to be thrashed out, but hopefully they will start next year. If you  have the chance to visit Clyne Gardens in the next few days, then do so as it is looking great!

Spring has sprung plus Tintern Abbey 1-2-1 Tuition.

Orange tip butterfly on Cuckoo Flower

I had a 1-2-1 tuition a few days ago which I held at Tintern Abbey near Chepstow. My client was coming from the other side of the River Severn in England, so it was easier to meet at the Abbey. I haven’t been to the Abbey for ages, and will need to return to make some images. After the tuition I tried to go up to the ruined Tintern Church on the hill above the Abbey to make an image looking down the valley towards the Abbey. Unfortunately the view was obscured by trees, plus I got completely distracted by a very amenable Orange tip butterfly that I found resting and feeding on some Cuckoo flowers in the old graveyard. Images of the Abbey were forgotten as I concentrated on the flowers and butterfly instead.

I often talk about “working a subject” on my courses, so I stayed with the Orange tip butterfly for a while and made images with different lenses and angles to try and get as much variation in the images as possible. Some ideas worked and others didn’t, but it was a useful lesson to try and maximise my time with a cooperative subject. The images below show some of my efforts and hopefully show how you can “work a subject”.

Vertical image of an Orange tip Buterfly on a Cuckoo flower

Wider view of an Orange Tip butterfly on a Cuckoo Flower

Close up of the Orange Tip Butterfly

Around Tintern, Spring was more advanced than on Gower. This provided plenty of opportunities to show the new spring growth on the trees and arrival of spring flowers. Gower has started to come on recently with the spring flower starting to develop well.

Lady's Smock or Cuckoo Flower New leaves developing on a tree

Lichen patterns on a gravestone

Spring growth on the Wye valley trees

New views at Oxwich Burrows, Gower Peninsula

Oxwich Burrows, Gower Peninsula

There has been quite a lot of reed clearing a long the road to Oxwich Beach on both side of the road in Oxwich Burrows. There also seem to be lots of new signs ready for visitors. I went down to check on the position of the local Pheasants who tend to display amongst the flowers, plus there is normally a gret view of bluebells and cowslips growing together. The cowslips are just starting, and the bluebells are nowhere to be seen at the moment. They are probably about 2 weeks from being fully developed.

New pond view, Oxwich Burrows, Gower Peninsula

Now the reeds close to the road has been cleared it is easier to get a view of the ponds. I managed to see Moorhen, Mallard and a Heron, with some geese being visible about a week ago. I think now that it has been opened up it will prove to be a good vantage point to photograph from as long as nobody runs me over as there is not much space at the side of the road!

Reeds, Oxwich Burrows, Gower Peninsula

There are still plenty of reeds left on both sides of the road, but they are quite a challenging subject to make an image of. I think that I will have to revisit in better light as it was getting quite dark when the above image was taken, plus a breeze was starting.  Amazingly though just around the corner, the wind was less and allowed the image below to be made with a long exposure of 3 seconds. Even enlarged, I haven’t found one catkin that is blurred. I’m still looking though as there are quite a few to look at. It is quite a busy image, but I like the structure of the branches behind the catkins and the contrast in colour between the two.

Willow catkins, Oxwich Burrows.

Ilston Valley Workshop – Gower Peninsula

Bluebells, Ilston Valley, Gower Peninsula

Had a great workshop today in Iston Valley. As usual I didn’t take any photographs, but I had looked around a few days ago when I managed to make a few images. The bluebells have just come out, but are quite patchy as is normal in the valley. The wild garlic is just about to flower, so it will be perfect in about a week. It was a bit disappointing that the garlic were not fully out, but some patches in better light had flowered allowing some plant portraits to be made.

Blubells, Ilston Valley, Gower Peninsula Dandelion, Ilston Valley, Gower Peninsula

Apart from the flowers, on the bird front, we saw Dipper, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Buzzard, Robin, Goldfinch plus the usual Tits and Blackbirds. No images I’m afraid as we always saw them too late plus we didn’t really have the lenses for them today.

Lady's Smock/Cuckoo Flower, Ilston Valley, Gower Peninsula

There are plenty of Lady’s Smock/Cuckoo Flower around at the moment. The petals can be white or have a slight purple tinge to them. I tried in the image above to get a slightly different view from the usual plant portrait, and used a shallow depth of field to emphasise the flower facing directly towards the camera. I was concerned the neighbouring flower would be a distraction, but it has worked out okay by being close to the upper right third if looking at the image with the rule of thirds in mind.