Monthly Archives: March 2012

Lovers of conventional landscape photography look away now. Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula

It was one of those days when a promising clear day produced one of those misty, uninspiring sunsets. The colours weren’t as saturated as I had hoped, plus clouds to distract the viewers eye were nowhere to be seen. Continuing my theme to go against my first instincts, I headed up to Rhossili Down to photograph and then tried a few conventional images that didn’t work due to too much contrast with the sun and a lack of well defined light to sculpt the contours of the landscape. The first image is a straight shot of what the sea and horizon looked like. Definition was poor and the sea and sky fused together through the low level haze.

As the sun entered the haze on the horizon, the colours intensified for a few minutes, giving a yellow glow. As yellow and black work well together (well bees seem to like it), I decided to try and silhouette the headland as much as possible, which also intensified the yellow colour more. As the sun dropped lower the strength of the sun went, plus any directionality that there was previously disappeared. It allowed a few attempts of images of the sun without the fear of flare and huge contrast levels.

If you think the images above are a pile of rubbish, well I have posted two more conventional images below. They show well how the colour of light can change quite dramatically in about 30 minutes; from the red/orange of the setting sun, to the cooler blue much later after sunset.

Nature Details, Ilston, Gower Peninsula

Even though spring has only just started, there is still some colour around and new growth coming through. While walking from the Gower Inn through to Ilston I noticed a few patterns that caught my eye. The sunlight filtering through the trees produced some lovely light on the fading fungi on a tree trunk, highlighting the colours and patterns on them.

Ivy is always a great subject with its leaf structure, dark green colour and ability to climb up everything from stone walls to tree trunks. It can contrast nicely with patterns on the wall or trunk as in the image above or complement the other greens around it as in the image below. I think it was the difference in the colour of the greens and the surface texture difference between the smooth leaf and more broken surface of the moss that caught my eye. I spend quite a bit on the seeing of photographs on my courses as it seem the hardest part for people to master.

I tried two images of the ivy below, one in the sunlight (shown below) and one when all the leaves were in shade. Normally when making detail images, I like overcast weather as it seems to help saturate the colours and gets rid of dark shadows. I even carry around a translucent light panel to act as a cloud on sunny days. The image of the leaves in shade looked too dull and lifeless compared to the sun lit image, which is unusual. The image would be improved if the leaf in the lower right corner could be excluded, but unfortunately I could find a way to do it, so I left it in.

The pine cone had fallen off the pine trees above and got stuck amongst the branches of a young sycamore sapling. The challenge was to try and photograph it with the strong back lighting that was present. A collapsible reflector couldn’t reflect enough light back in to the cone, even with the silver surface used, so I resorted to my flashgun on a remote lead. Hopefully looking at the image you can’t tell that flash was used. I ended up with about two stops less flash light compared to the daylight exposure. On my macro photography course latter in the year we will be going over a lot of uses of the flashgun and shaping of the light for creative effects. It should prove very interesting and come up with some interesting results.

Whitford Point, Gower Peninsula

I always have a few side projects that I am running alongside other more immediate work. A longer term project with no particular timescale has been trying to make images dominated by one particular colour. I hope that eventually it will produce a varied and interesting collection. The two images above resulted from a visit to Whiteford Point to try and see the small flock of Eider duck that hang around the area each winter. I mainly had equipment for photographing the Eider; long lens and heavy tripod, but I have found the compact 28 – 300mm lens from Nikon really useful. It only takes up a relatively small space in the bag and covers a wide range with good optical quality.

In winter a clear sky always produces some great concentrated colour before and after sunset and proved ideal for my mono colour photographs project. I was tempted to try for a more conventional landscape image, but as mentioned in previous posts, I am trying to avoid repetition of images and will attempt something different to what I originally thought or visualised. They may not be as interesting as an individual image, but later as part of a collection of similar style images, I think they will work well.

The flocks of dark bellied brent geese were still around the estuary side of the point, feeding on the shore line as the tide came in. I particularly liked the pattern on the surface of the water against the contrasting dark colours of the goose. The geese didn’t come much closer and after a few long shots, I waited to see if the Eider duck were around.

Eventually, after thinking that there were no Eider around, I managed to pick up the flock out in the estuary quite a long way out. They looked to be drifting away from my position, but slowly turned around a came back towards me over the next hour or so. Eventually them came relatively close, but not close enough for individual portrait images unfortunately. The male eider has fantastic plumage, so I would really like to get an individual image of one of them.


Love is in the air at a pond near you (well, if you are a toad).

It’s that time of year when for 4 – 5 days Toads congregate to breed in a favoured breeding pond. These tend to be long established ponds or other bodies of water that are regularly present at this time of year. Frogs will quite happily use any old bit of available water to them, Toads are more traditional and use a regular pond. They are very approachable, as they are completely distracted by their urge to breed, so close up images are possible. Not all individuals will be tolerant of a lens larger than themselves coming in close, but some are quite taken with the idea and pose happily.

I know some photographers like to move their chosen subject to a more favourable photographic position to gett a better background, light etc. but being a bit of a purist on this I will only photograph where I find them. It makes it harder at times to get a decent image, but that’s the challenge of wildlife photography for me.

As it always seems to be with this type of thing, the females were out numbered by the males. Any available female was soon tracked down by a few males, with scuffles breaking out to make sure that only one of them was able to cling to the females back ready to fertilise her eggs when she released them into the water. It was not guaranteed that once you were attached to your chosen female,  you would be there for the egg fertilisation, but it gave you a head start. Unsuccessful males were constantly hanging about, ready to take the place of another male at any time with a quick kick from the back legs to dislodge the incumbent male.

The males on the surface of the pond made a great chorus of croaking sounds, not to dissimilar to the continuous, quite quacks you get between mother and ducklings when heard at a distance. One toad made a squeal when it surfaced and saw me looking back at it, before diving back into the depths of the pond. I made a few attempts to record the chorus, but was either hampered by not having the correct gear when I needed it or the chorus was too indistinct from the singing of the surrounding birds and environment. A project for next year I think, plus as the breeding had calmed down with numbers dropping considerably on my last visit, I will have to put off a different photographic approach as well till then. Something to look forward to next February/March 2013.