Monthly Archives: January 2011

Whiteford Burrows, Gower Peninsula – a telephoto view

It was a last minute decision that took me to Whiteford Burrows. I was hoping to get some photographs of the birds that frequent the area in Winter. I knew the tide wasn’t quite high enough to push the waders and wildfowl onto the marsh, but usually there are a few lapwing, crows and smaller birds around. With this plan in mind I only took my 800mm lens with me. Not surprisingly on my arrival I didn’t see that many birds and had to resort to detailed landscape views instead. I did get a treecreeper land on a tree trunk less than two and a half metres from me, but as my minimum focusing distance on the lens is four metres, I just was forced to stand there and watch it instead.

    

The sun was starting to drop towards the horizon and had disappeared behind one of the pine plantations when it found a break in the density of the trees and started to shine through. I took the two images above and am still deciding which one I prefer. The closer image shows more of the light coming through, but the initial image has a more mysterious feel to it due to the darker parts of the photograph. At the moment the wider view is winning, but this may change with time.

I was hoping that the reeds would house a few birds, but nothing appeared. The wind had picked up and probably if there were any birds present they would be sheltering deeper in the reed bed. The sun was lighting the reeds and with the background in shade they stood out well. I tried a few variations but the horizontal image above worked best.

There are some great shaped trees on the burrows of all sizes. Most show the prevailing wind direction and have been shaped by the wind in some way or another. The dense pine plantations show less influence of the wind, but have some great pine cones visible on them.  The shape of the laden branch below caught my eye and proved to be an intriguing image in both colour and black and white.

Challenging the norm – a different way of doing things

There seems to be a change occurring in natural history photography. Due to most species of animal and plant being fairly well covered photographically with straight imagery, the quest is starting for a more artistic impression of the natural world. Blur seem to becoming more acceptable whether the subject is in motion or not and also the ability to discern the subject itself also seems to be less important.

These images are more challenging to the viewer and a debate is still continuing as to the validity of these images. Are they art? Are they proper photography? Aren’t they just mistakes? I think this is up to the individual to decide. Personally I like some, but not all of them.

I was prompted to experiment with a few images myself after being inspired by looking at the website of French wildlife photographer Vincent Munier. He has mastered the art of  what I call “grey”  photography. As I live in a country with its fair share of cloudy, grey and rainy days, it is amazing to see the images he produces in these conditions. A good image I believe has to connect to you on an emotional level. Each person has different needs that need to be connected to to get that emotional link to make the image more than a pretty picture. His images link to me emotionally. Other UK wildlife photographers such as Niall Benvie and Pete Cairns think the same way too. Not all like the images and Vincent has his fair share of critics as well. Visit his site, explore it and make up your own mind.

I had to visit Rhayader in mid Wales to pick up a framed print that I had ordered from Andrew at Actpix, as it had been trapped by the snow. (By the way if you need superb quality printing and framing contact Andrew, he is a master of his craft!) The forecast was for mist and fog. Not normally the weather forecast I would want for a visit to Gigrin Farm, but how many more images of a red kite against a blue sky to we need. Typically I couldn’t even rely on bad weather to hang around and the fog and mist cleared to produce a dark, grey day.

The lighting was not different enough for straight imagery and not what I had originally hoped for. Time for something different. Instead of a wide aperture and high shutter speed, I chose a small aperture and slow shutter speed; blur was desired and not being avoided. To add to the mix, I added some slow sync flash as well for another different input.

Make up your own minds on the results. Some are very different from the norm, others only fractionally different. As they are not quite reality I have processed them differently with a more artistic interpretation. Is this a new direction for nature photography that will last? Who knows, but if it connects emotionally, who cares?

Clyne Gardens in the snow – Delayed Posting

My final snow pictures were taken after the second fall of snow and I decided to go back where I started off: Clyne Gardens. The light was completely different this time, with heavy cloud and flat lighting giving a monochromatic look to the images even though they are all in colour.

The snow was quite heavy so structural form and contrast were the main compositional tools. I like the mono chromatic feel in these conditions even with the white – grey sky playing its part as at times it is difficult to know which is snow and which is sky.

My eye was caught by the whole of the trunk of the tree photographed below but when I tried to get it all in the frame, it didn’t work. I found that a small section worked better. There is a bit more colour in this one as the tree had a great bark pattern. I found it fascinating that the snow had managed to stay on the bark as by this time the temperature had risen with some snow starting to melt.

By May this scene will be full of colour with purples, whites and pink dominating. Before then there will be patterns of frost, the fresh green of the new spring leaves and the spring bulbs of snowdrops, daffodils and crocus.

Views from Cefn Bryn, Gower Peninsula – Delayed Posting

It was the blue and red on Rhossili Downs that caught my eye. The snow on the Down was in shade and had taken on the bluish colouration that snow in shade does. This was enhanced by the red of the bracken on the downs being visible due to the snow having melted previously.

The evening light was quite spectacular while the snow was present, and even though I got to Cefn Bryn a bit late to get good light on the foreground, the colours in the sky and where the snow had melted on the ground provide plenty of interest. The four trees above are always a popular focal point of mine in some of my photographs.

As the sun lowered in the sky and finally dropped below the horizon the sun was reflected onto the clouds above Llanelli and Burry Port giving them an orange glow. The start of this can be seen in the image above but as the light faded slightly, the colours seemed to intensify in the two images below.

I prefer the image above as it is more simple and slightly two dimensional in appearence which appeals to me. I’ve noticed that of the landscape images that I make, that appeal to me the most, have this two dimensional feel to them. Most landscape images tend to have a foreground, middle ground and background which gives them a more three dimensional feel but I’m not sure if this is the way I see them, hence the two dimensional images proliferating. It could just be phase I’m going through in my photography, only time will tell on that one.

Views from Hardings Down, Gower Peninsula – Delayed Posting

With the snow fall I was hoping to be out and about quite a bit to take advantage of the snow while it lasted. What I hadn’t foreseen would be the demand of driving duty with family, friends and neighbours who were struggling to get around or suffering from the flu. This is one of the penalties of being a 4X4 owner! I managed to get out most days though and decided to try and get some wider views over the Gower farmland.

I decided on Hardings Down as I hadn’t been there for a while and it is relatively easy to get to. On my arrival I was amazed to see two quadbikes being driven all over the remains of the ancient hill fort. By the amount of visible tracks, it looks as if it had been going on for most of the period with snow. The bike owners had driven into the fort in their vans and then unloaded the quadbikes. Once I was seen with camera in hand and pointing in their direction, they seemed to get a change of heart and 10 minutes later they had packed up and gone. I think they left because it was getting colder and not due to me! I can’t believe how stupid people can be sometimes and I can’t believe that you would actually think that riding a quadbike over an ancient site would be a good idea. With the ramps and ditches, I can see why it was chosen, but still it is not the right thing to do. Perhaps an enterprising Gower farmer could construct a man made course for the riders on their farm. I bet planning consent would probably be denied though. 

The light became quite flat as the sun went behind the cloud on the horizon, so I left the Down and travelled back towards Burry Green. The setting sun had light up a strip of the sky with an orange glow that got more intense in colour after the sun had dropped below the horizon. I knew that as I always have a daylight white balance setting on my camera this would give a blue colour to the snow in shadow. I can then adjust the strenth of this in Lightroom later to taste.