Monthly Archives: July 2010

Kittiwakes at Mumbles Pier again!


The Kittiwakes continue to do well at the Pier. Most of the chicks are quite well advanced, with most adults with two chicks. There are still some smaller, newer chicks around though, so it is possible to see a cross section of age ranges. I am still continuing to make the more straight images of the colony, but have found the process of making the portrait images quite challenging and fascinating at the same time. I noticed with some of my earlier attempts that the depth of field was so shallow it was nearly impossible to get the eyes sharp. In sunnier conditions the brighter light has allowed more depth of field to be used with a high shutter speed. Unfortunately the adults rarely keep still, so maintaining focus has been difficult. With auto-focus loosing the focus point if the sensor leaves the eye, and my manual focus skills lacking to cope with their movement, it has turned into a numbers game. Some times it all comes together and then it really works well, with pleasing images and the look that I am after.

As well as portraits I have been trying to get some of the interactions between the young, parents and other birds around them. This is proving difficult to get some variation, but overall there is a coming together of the overall behaviour. The young chick above was staring attentively at it parent as it was trying to stimulate the adult to give it a feed by pecking at the adult birds beak. I just like the look on its face.

Stuck in a rain storm, Cefn Bryn, Gower Peninsula

When it is wet, grey and generally dull with a gale blowing, apart from waves and barnacles on rocks it is generally a difficult time to try and make images. I was having one of those days last Wednesday, where it didn’t matter where I went, I just was struggling to find subjects that seemed to work. I eventually ended up at Arthur’s Stone on Cefn Bryn. Due to the rapidly declining weather I was up there on my own, so when a severe rain storm hit and visibility was reduced to 100m at least I didn’t have to fight with anybody to get the only sheltered spot under Arthur’s Stone itself. It doesn’t matter how good your waterproofs are, eventually the rain gets in, so I was glad for some shelter. I’m actually quite surprised that I was wearing my waterproofs. Normally I forget to take any for me and only carry the ones for my camera and bag!

As the rain cleared a few beams of sunlight came through the clouds and spotlighted some of the landscape. Unfortunately none of them hit Arthur’s Stone, which stayed in rather boring dull light. I knew when taking the images that conversion to black and white would have to be done. The colours were so dull and fairly monochrome anyway, the images wouldn’t work in colour. I like to work with black and white film, plus all the processing and darkroom work. I think that it has a craft feel to it. Unfortunately with my darkroom in boxes at the moment, digital is my only real route to choose from. At least I can now reduce the number of camera bodies that I have to carry. In the days of film I had a couple of bodies loaded with slide and black and white film. This was no problem with the  interchangeable backs with my medium format system. but with 35mm it was a bit of a pain.

What a difference a day makes! 1-2-1 tuition at Mewslade Bay

I was due to do a 1-2-1 tuition today, but managed to switch it to yesterday due to the poor weather forecast for today. As it turns out the weather hasn’t been as bad as they forecast on Friday, but I’m glad I switched the day. Trying to learn photography when you are wet and damp is not fun, as well as being a complete distraction from what you are trying to do.

Earlier on in the week I was trying to make the best of a bad situation as I huddled next to Arthur’s Stone in a very heavy rain storm. Visibility dropped to about 100 metres and even I would admit that there were no real photographic options at that point, plus I wasn’t that willing to stick my head out from underneath my hood to find out!

The 1-2-1 session was all done on compact cameras, and it was quite refreshing for me not to have to think too much about histograms, aperture, shutter speeds etc. The clouds were quite interesting with them changing shape rapidly except for the one pictured above. It managed to maintain its resemblance to a feather as it travelled across the sky. You should have see the size of the birds that it came from! When working with a compact camera it becomes the best tool to practice composition with as most of the other photographic processes are handled by the camera.

We left Mewslade to try and get a decent sunset at Rhossili, and it looked promosing until about an hour before sunset when the clouds built up above the horizon and completely blocked the sun. A few photographic opportuinities were present, but not the spectacular lighting that I had hoped.

Gower Photography Free Open Days 2010 Announced

I will be having two FREE open days this year. They will be:

  • CARDIFF BAY  Saturday 4th September 2010– meet by the water feature opposite the Millennium Centre at 9.30am

This is not a formal workshop, but more of a chance to meet with me, talk photography and share tips and ideas.

We will make images of the architecture mainly but there maybe be opportunities to try some urban wildlife photography as well. Please bring your own lunch or buy something in the bay from one of the many restaurants. Don’t bring too much gear, but I’ll always recommend using a tripod where possible!

To help give me an idea of the numbers of people planning to come along, please drop me an email HERE or contact me via Twitter.

  • WWT LONDON WETLANDS CENTRE  Sunday 24th October 2010 – meet on the bridge outside the centre at 9.30am

I will be attending WildPhotos 2010 this year so I will be in London for the weekend as well. On Sunday I will be at the WWT London Wetland Centre. If you would like to come and join me and have a few hours wondering around this great location learning about bird photography and nature photography in general be there at 9.30am. we will meet outside the centre by the main entrance on the bridge.

The day is not a formal workshop, but an opportunity for photographers to meet, take photographs, talk about photography, swap photographic tips and have a good time.

You will need to pay your own entrance fee to the centre and bring your own lunch or use the centre cafe. Don’t forget to pick up car park token if you come by car. Obviously the main subjects will be the birds, but landscapes and detail images will all be possible. So don’t feel that if you don’t have a long telephoto lens, it won’t be worth coming along.

I have posted a small gallery of images taken at the centre HERE

To help give me an idea of the numbers of people planning to come along, please drop me an email HERE or contact me via Twitter.

The Challenge of not repeating yourself – Kittiwakes at Mumbles Pier


I have been visiting the Kittiwakes at Mumbles Pier quite a lot. I am trying to get a complete record of the development of the young. There are plans to redevelop the pier, so I am not too sure how many more times the Kittiwakes will be able to nest on it in the future.

The birds are very tolerant, probably due to the presence of so many fishermen and women. The gulls occasionally chase the bait that the fishermen are using to try and catch fish. Unfortunately at my last visit on Monday one of the fishermen managed to hook an adult bird through the leg. I haven’t seen so many grown men poncing about before, they all seemed to be afraid of the bird which was getting quite distressed. Luckily with the help of one of the more calm fishermen I managed to get hold of the gull while he removed to hook from the leg.  Amazingly the bird did not seem to show any pain as the hook was removed, and once released it flew back to one of the roosting sites on the pier. There was a nasty wound still on its leg, so I hope it survives, but it seemed quite okay as I watched it for a while afterwards.

Apart from the straight photographic record shots, the challenge has been to try and find different viewpoints and get a bit more “art” into the images. This is proving to be quite challenging and results are still varied at the moment.  As there are only a few places to stand to see the Kittiwakes from so repetition is a problem. Using different light has helped, but overall there tends to be a “sameness” to some of the images. What has been working well is the combination of teleconverters, extension tubes and my longest lens combined to allow extreme close up portraits of the adult birds without having to get too close. Even with this set up giving a focal length of roughly 1680mm it is still quite surprising how close you need to be, not withstanding the focus, depth of field and sharpness issues. I’m still trying to get an image of a wide open mouth of one of the adult birds to show the magnificent red and yellow colouration present.

This extra reach has also helped me get more intimate images of the chicks as they develop. Most chicks seem to be surviving and developing well and are now being left alone by some parents so I can get clearer views of them.

There are still some days to go before they fledge, so I will get in a few more visits before then and see what turns up. A male grey seal was swimming around at my last visit totally oblivious to the fishermen and kayaks around it.

Trying something a little bit different – thinking too hard

I don’t know if I have been thinking too much recently, but I have started to question the photographs I make. Some examples are:

  1. Are my images different to those of anybody else?
  2. Is it still possible to make images of popular subjects that haven’t been done before?
  3. Does the world need more photographs, hasn’t every thing been photographed already?

My answers so far:

  1. No, yes and not enough.
  2. Maybe, but I’m not sure how.
  3. Probably, apart from very rare subjects.

So where does this leave me? Confused is probably an accurate description at the moment. Lack of focus, short attention span and apathy are all present as well. I’m calling this my “Can’t be a***d” period. I’m in a funk. I’m glad to say I’m not the only one who feels this way at times. American photographer Zack Arias summed it up in his video statement below.

So what am I doing about it? Nothing and everything. I’m stepping back from holding the camera, but planing things to do with the camera. I’m making images but not trying to find images. I plan, I research, I do nothing. Everything seems to help in its way. I need to rest.

Are you now more confused than me? Probably. It is amazing how in a few hours doing all of the above has helped. So what is the outcome and what am I going to do? Let’s look at my answers to the questions now.

  1. For the majority, the answer is no. There are some that are different. I need to study these and find out why. Does this mean I stop taking ordinary images? No, because it is through making these images that the vision improves and the different approach forms and develops to produce the  new work.
  2. Possibly, I need to work on it. I have a few ideas, but they need testing first. This will be the hardest thing to develop.
  3. No it doesn’t need more images and yes probably everything has been photographed, but the world demands more images, there is a need for more images. I can give it some of my images.