Monthly Archives: June 2014

Behind the scenes at Oxwich NNR – images and recordings

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In my last post on Barn Owls at Oxwich NNR, I mentioned trying to record the wildfowl on the reserve. Unfortunately road noise or the sound of the pump that seems to regulate the water height spoils most recordings, but I did get a few short excerpts that are useable. The Gadwall were gathering around the hide at times and would congregate together and then make the sounds you can hear below.

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The hide windows limit your field of view vertically, so when playing with the longer lenses, I normally concentrated on the far bank or birds on the water. Birds in flight isn’t easy at the best of times, so with limited vertical motion, it was a bit of a no go area to try. The barn owl didn’t appear when the long lens was with me, so my sound recording photo kit of a 28 – 300mm lens with a 1.5x crop sensor camera was all I had to make the image of the barn owl in the last post.

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Little Grebes make a fantastic sound in the breeding season and it travels quite a distance. It makes them sound very proud of their chosen mate with other pairs usually responding straight away with their own call.

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The recording set up for both tracks was the same with two Sennhesier short shot gun microphones used in a stereo set up from one of the hide windows. The recording was then made on my Multi track recorder. As the microphones are very sensitive, keeping still proved a challenge as any slight shift of body weight on the stool could start the wooden floor creaking.

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Photographing Barn Owls at Oxwich Bay NNR

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I’ve had quite a few sightings recently of Barn Owls around Gower. One came within 3 metres of me when I was walking along the edge of a woodland. Typically all my sightings were either long distance or when it was too dark to make some images. I have spent quite a bit of time in the hide at Oxwich NNR trying to sound record the wildfowl at this time of year, especially the Little Grebes, so I was pleasantly surprised to see a Barn Owl hunting in front of the hide and just about within range of my camera. It was quite dark, so with ISO1600 set and a shutter speed of 1/100th of a second, I thought I would gve it a go. Most of the images were rubbish, but about three are useable, the best of which is above. It is not a prize winner in any shape or form, but it is my first of a Barn Owl on Gower so it means a lot to me, especially as the days I had all the photo gear to hand it didn’t appear and I was using what was in my sound recording bag.

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When I left the hide another Barn Owl flew past me, heading out over the dunes. No chance of any photos as it was finally getting too dark for me to make photographs, but nice to see that there was more than one Barn owl about. Now I just need to to see them when out and about with the telephoto lens and coming close enough for a few pictures.

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Whiteford NNR, Gower Peninsula – revisiting an old favourite


I hadn’t been to Whiteford NNR for a while, so with a bit of free time back in April, I had a whole day to explore the reserve. It was a fairly windy day, so not many people were about even though it was relatively sunny.

Even though I had no set plans for the images I wanted, there was certainly no pre-visualisation of images for this trip, I think as a collection they show quite a lot of the different aspects of the reserve. Only the tidal marsh area and the coniferous woodland isn’t represented in the images of that day.


I always try and make an image of the grass at Whiteford, but up to now I always feel that the image made hasn’t really expressed the scene as I saw it. The above image is my best attempt so far and is very close to what I was seeing at the time.


The heavy rain of earlier in the year was still present in amongst the dunes, creating new ponds and a new look to the hollows amongst the more established dunes. The coastal dunes had been remodelled with the higher tides and winds of the earlier storms, but the ponds were a subtle alteration to the landscape a bit more in land.

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The Blackthorn was in full bloom so I tried various attempts to record it. Front and back lighting for some reason didn’t seem to work as well as the images made in complete shade and flat lighting. I seem to find this quite often with detail images, especially when a bright colour is involved as more detail is retained in the colour with the lower contrast light. On very bright sunny days I often carry a 5 in 1 reflector and use the translucent option as a “cloud” to cast a shadow on the subject to flatten the lighting. You can also use your own shadow to do this, but I have found that the translucent screen gives a brighter look to the images.


A walk back to the car park along the beach allowed a few sunset images. As I seem to find at sunset, most of my favourite images are actually taken after sunset when the contrast has dropped significantly. I think a lot of sunset images are over filtered in the sky with abnormally light foregrounds. This is especially true when a sky is reflected in some water. In reality the reflection of the sky will always be darker than the sky itself, but in a lot of photographs it is quite obviously reversed due to over filtration of the sky. I’m still guilty of doing this myself at times, but with the graduated filter option in Adobe Lightroom providing a back up, I now try and use filters weaker than I normally would have chosen. If I get it wrong Lightroom comes to my aid!


Oxwich NNR, Gower Peninsula in sunnier weather

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With some of the grey weather we have had recently, I thought I would look up some images I made about this time last year. They certainly seemed a lot sunnier that our current weather. Clear blue sky isn’t my favourite option for a sky, but I think it adds to the slight graphic nature of these images.

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The blue is also a perfect colour contrast for the yellow of the reeds and grasses in the images. Once again there was still some standing water after some rain, and the water above isn’t present at Oxwich at the moment since although being overcast, it has been quite dry otherwise. I’m sure after today’s rain it will be back!

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