Monthly Archives: February 2011

A few images from London

Apart from visiting a few friends, I took the opportunity to visit a few camera stores while in London. They tend to have more items on display, which allows me to handle the equipment before  buying it. An old camera bag has a failing zip and if I can’t get it repaired then I will need a new one. I always find that the best way to but equipment is to take your gear along to the shop and play with it on your camera, or load your equipment in it. This is especially important with bags and tripods. Most stores are quite happy for you to do this, but if they are not just leave.  I like to visit Aperture second hand photography shop close to the British Museum. Apart from being a photography shop they have a great little cafe as well.

They hadn’t opened on my arrival so I decided to kill some time wondering around the British Museum. The new roof is quite spectacular and is a popular subject for photographers. I had always previsualised the photographs as black and white, partly because the weather was so gloomy and partly for the strong graphic element it would bring to the photos. I have given them a very subtle split tone to them in processing.

While wandering back to my accommodation in London, I was hoping to come across some subjects for the urban wildlife category in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. The Pigeons in the photo below caught my eye, but weren’t really that active, so it turned more into a study of the church instead. The window design is very interesting with the leaded window forming a cross in its structure as apposed to regular sized panes of glass.

On my way past Tate Modern I always try and make a few pictures of the silver birch trees. So far I have never achieved what I have visualised in my mind. The photo below is the closest I have come so far. The shallow depth of field of the 50mm F1.8 lens has really isolated the tree I focused on well, giving me the separation from the other trees that I wanted. On processing, I couldn’t decide whether I preferred the colour or black and white version, so I have posted both.

  

WWT London – Spring has nearly sprung

While in London for the weekend, I visited WWT London as usual. There is always something to photograph and although the light was very dull and flat, I think I managed to get quite a good collection of images. All the photos were taken at 8oo ISO on my 800mm lens except the moss above which was taken with a 200mm lens. I had forgotten that it was half term, so the grounds were full of excited, noisy children, enjoying themselves. Let’s hope a few will retain their interest and become the next generation of Sir Peter Scott, Chris Packham, Jane Goodall etc.

The most vocal birds at my visit were the Parakeets that have made the surounding area their home. They continue to breed and increase their numbers. The one in the photograph above was just having a quick snooze, before one of its fellow birds landed next to it and disturbed it.

A lot of the trees were full of catkins. I enjoy photographing these as they are quite a challenging subject. Often the background is very busy or the image lacks any overall vitality or sense of energy to it. This may sound a bit new age speak, but a successful photograph has to be dynamic in some way to build that emotional response and bond with the viewer.

The shallow depth of field with the long lens has isolated the catkins from the background, but allowed the other catkins behind to be included to give some form of context to them, without becoming too distracting.

Originally I noticed some Goldfinch feeding on these Alder catkins and cones, but as I was trying to get into position to photograph them they were frightened by something and flew off. The Siskins in the tree with them stayed behind allowing a few frames. Unfortunately photographing into a white/grey sky isn’t the best situation, but it makes a change from a blue sky.

  

Even though the light appeared quite flat, there was some directionality to it allowing some catkins to be backlit slightly when being photographed. The two images show some of the variations of catkins on show.

The patterns made by the roosting pigeons caught my eye and although I had previsualised a very basic image with just the birds silhouetted against the white sky, when I came to process the image I found that there was some subtle colour in the image that I liked, especially those of the pigeons themselves.

Lousy Weather – trying something new

With the weather being so grey and overcast photographic opportunities have been fairly limited. Normally overcast weather is good for detail images, but at this time of year there isn’t to much going on really to photograph anyway. I got a bit fed up of doing rock and plant detail close up photographs and then converting them into black and white.

In April this year I am off on a wildlife sound recording course with the master sound recordist/artist Chris Watson. You may have seen him on Autumnwatch, some of Bill Oddies programs or heard his work on many of the David Attenborough TV series. I have found that sound recording fits in well with my photographic work, especially when the light is not that interesting or has gone completely. The interest was triggered by me starting to use the video function on my DSLR. Most people use music on their videos, but occasionally this distracts from the images. It has been said that sound is 50% of a video/film and this has proved to be very true.

The video above started as an audio project to get some recordings together for the course, but then morphed into a project to see if I could get some images, still and video, that could match in with the sound. The still images don’t seem to portray the motion as well as the video, so it became more of a video project.

The editing of the video has proved far more complex than I envisaged and I think it still needs some more work to try and reflect the audio a bit more. Wind is a difficult subject to record and can come across as a mushy indiscriminate sound. The recording is a mix of two stereo tracks, but I think it needs a few specific audio close ups of various visual parts in the video e.g. the leaves rustling in the wind, the sound of the tree trunks flexing etc. If I get time and the desired recordings, I will update the sound on the video. There is a longer sound recording below, if you want more of the recording. The best way to listen to sounds is to try and cut out information of the other senses, so close your eyes to remove the visual distractions.

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I hope to do a few more mixed postings with stills, audio and video. Let me know what you think!

End of the day at Clyne Gardens, Swansea

I decided just to have a quick stroll through Cline Gardens to see what was happening. I was hoping that some of the snowdrops would be coming through as those I had seen at the National Botanical Garden of Wales were quite advanced. The ones in Clyne are way behind, so will need about another week to be close to being worth photographing.

The Gardens were just starting to show the signs of spring, some of the Azaleas and Rhododendrons were starting to bud and the odd shrub was showing the start of a few leaf buds. It is difficult to show this time of early change and bareness in the gardens, especially as the light was starting to go on me. I managed the frame above which I like for the very subtle, almost pastel like colours. It makes a change from the full on colour I normally have in some of my images of the gardens in bloom later in spring.

    

The light had really gone as I walked back up the path to the top of the gardens. I was carrying my lightweight tripod which allowed me to make the series of images above of details of Gunnera leaves. The Gunnera plant always provides great photography options but due to the poor light and lack of natural colour in the leaves I decided to switch to black and white in post processing to show of the texture of the leaves better. Black and white seems to give almost endless ways to interpret a photograph and is one of the few times that I actually enjoy spending time on a computer processing an image.

A Day of fustration – Crofty, Gower Peninsula

The plan had been to get to Salthouse Point at Crofty for some photographs of the wildfowl in the estuary as the tide pushed them closer to my location. The weather forecast was perfect with good weather and tide times. I settled into position a few hours before high tide so the birds would get used to my presence and over time not see me as a threat. Using this technique usually means that you don’t need a hide. As long as you don’t do sudden movements and blend into the background fairly well, most birds will come quite close.

Everything was going well until two fishermen arrived. As an occasional and bad fisherman myself, I have nothing against this. What I do object to is that they knew I was set up for some photography, so they decide to set up their fishing rigs right in front of where I was and so ensuring no birds would come anywhere near me. There were plenty of other places at the point they could have stood and still fished without affecting me. I relocated my position, but no birds came that close to make photographing them worth while. I did contemplate mass murder, but realised that as the tide was coming in the bodies would have been washed up in Penclawdd and not taken out to sea! It didn’t help that despite wearing excellent winter clothes I had started to loose feeling in my hands and toes due to sitting still for hours in the shadows and out of the sun.

I should have known it wasn’t going to be my day as when I was walking onto the point, a reed bunting perched really well 3 foot in front of me. Of course I hadn’t unpacked my camera plus my lens couldn’t have focused that closely anyway.

I decided to stand in the sun to warm up and in about 30 minutes of standing there I had more photo opportunities than the previous 4 hours. The Brent geese were flying over quite regularly as the relocated out of the estuary to the marsh at Crofty. They would pass directly over me, only a few feet away without any signs of alarm. Earlier I had seen a flock of reed buntings in one of the bushes on the point , but decided not to photograph them as I could “get them later”. Big mistake! Only one was left when I went back, but he did pose well for a minute or so.