Monthly Archives: June 2011

Went looking for the moon and found the sun – Clyne Common, Gower Peninsula

I set off last week to photograph the eclipse of the moon; it was a bit of a last minute decision as the cloud looked like it was clearing just at the peak of the eclipse. Once I got to some higher ground, I could see that cloud was still obstructing the moonrise and that I wasn’t going to see the eclipse. Luckily for me the sunset was proving quite spectacular, with some great colours showing. A quick change of plans saw me on the Clyne Common road trying to find some foreground interest to frame up. The result is the image below. It’s not bad, but it would have been better if I had had the time to move closer to the bush, so it was above the horizon. It is a bit too close to the horizon for my liking at the moment.

After I explored the classical landscape shots, I indulged myself with a few cloud pattern images. The range of colours, cloud shape and textures was changing rapidly, providing quite a few opportunities for a different image.

The wind wasn’t that strong, but it did seem to keep the clouds moving. I was hoping that as the sun approached the horizon, there wouldn’t be any cloud to obstruct it. No luck there, so the image opportunities fizzled out a bit, but the sun still produced some wonderful colours where it lit the clouds.

Skokholm Island, Pembrokeshire

I managed to give myself some time off last week to indulge myself in one of my favourite places; Skokholm Island off the pembrokeshire coast. The island is owned and run by the Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales. After a few years of the island being closed to visitors due to failing accommodation and after the heroic work of the Trust, the Friends of Skomer & Skokholm and other volunteers to get it ready again for visitors, the island reopened this year for a limited period. Once I heard it was open again, I booked immediately. I prefer Skokholm over Skomer, as even though the island is smaller and hasn’t got the short eared or little owls, I think it is prettier to look at, still has most of the bird life and less humans on it.

My other reason for liking Skokholm was purely logistical. They used to provide catering for you and so allowing me to indulge in extra photographic equipment. Rules and regulations are making this too expensive and complex to do at the moment, so I became the master of boil in the bag, one pot cooking for my stay! This was also my first visit with my sound recording equipment, but strong winds made conditions difficult. I did manage a few recordings, but a huge amount of editing was required. I did get a recording of a few subjects like the Wren living around the Wheelhouse area:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The weather was quite bright and sunny most days with some rain showers, but overall it was a good mix for photography, even though I didn’t do much during the middle of the day. This was my 15th visit to the island, so I had lots of the standard images that you try and make of the birds, so at this visit I wanted to experiment a bit more. I had a few ideas in mind, some worked and others didn’t, but overall I think I came close to what I wanted.


Not all the birds had hatched their eggs, so there was a good mix of brooding, egg sitting as well as feeding of the young. The Puffins were feeding chicks, but no Pufflings were visible at this early stage.

The Fulmars seemed to be enjoying the strong winds emmensely and as they have quite a repetative route on their gliding flight, you can start to try and make pictures of them in flight. With birds in flight, it is always a bit of a numbers game, so the delete key on my key board was glowing red hot after getting rid of the rubbish.

One area on the way to the landing dock at South Haven seemed to be the favourite area of the Sedge Warbler and it was quite easy to get close to the birds as they sang around the area of their territory. They lived in harmony with the Meadow Pipits that seemed to share the bracken with them and I never saw any confrontation between them. I managed to get quite a good sound recording of them here as well:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Lichen patterns are always a favourite subject of mine, and Skokholm has plenty to keep me busy. The colours seem more vivid on the ones on the island, with a lot more variation between them as well.

My final goal was not photographic but an audio recording of the Manx shearwaters at night when they are calling to each other. As mentioned earlier, the strong winds hampered my efforts, but I did manage to get something that is worth listening to, but only just! There is some wind noise on the microphone so you will hear some thumping sounds occsionally.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

I’ve placed more pictures in a gallery on the main part of the website, so click on the link below to see more.

Passing storm – Llanrhidian Marsh, Gower Peninsula

The last couple of evenings have had some really good light and clearing skies and after concentrating on photographing spring growth recently, I decided it was time for a change. I must admit that it was a bit of a last minute decision as I had just cleared up after trying to do a surround sound recording of the Elizabeth & Row Harding Nature Reserve in Ilston.

The rain had brought an abrupt end to the recording, but by the time I had packed up, the rain had passed and some great light was available. The sun was low and very strong, which really defined the contours and details on the landscape. The sun was dropping quite fast, so I needed somewhere where I could catch the last few rays. I probably missed the peak moment by the time I had set up at Llanrhidian Marsh, but the light was still quite good and highlighted the headland with Weobley Castle well. Some of the contrast in the scene is lost as the sun was close to being in line with the direction of the lens giving some image flare, but I quite like the effect. The sky behind the castle was bright and not that interesting, so I cropped most of it out as it is distracting in the original image.

The cloud cover was changing rapidly, which produced lots of possible different image styles. The above image was originally made for a black and white conversion, but when I was processing the RAW file it looked better in colour. I’m still undecided about the heavy near black lower border, but I do like this two dimensional style landscape image. I seem to make a few of these when I look back on my other images.

When the sun had dropped below the horizon and with the clouds breaking up, the landscape lit up again. With the aid of stacked neutral density graduated filters to control the contrast range, I managed to make a few images to emphasise the light on the passing clouds. It always amazes me that just after the sun goes below the horizon there is a short period of a few minutes when the light intensity actually increases. I can’t remember why this happens, but you can see the change in your camera meter. This moment is always a good time to make some pictures as the light is always quite special.

I managed a quick video clip of the passing storm. It seems quite odd having the birds singing in the background as the storm passed, but as I was positioned close to a hedge this is really what I could hear at the time.

Passing Storm – Llanrhidian Marsh, Gower Peninsula from Gower Photography on Vimeo.