I hadn’t had a chance to have some time to myself recently, so when I managed a day to myself, I went to my favourite place on Gower: Whiteford Sands, Point and Burrows. There are quite diverse habitats within a small area, with a good mixture of plant life, birds and mammals about. As it is relatively flat, landscape photography is more of a challenge, especially as some of the best angles have either Llanelli or Burry Port in the background.
The next dilemma is what equipment to take. With a mixture of subjects, it is easy to end up taking the kitchen sink and making yourself tired and unproductive. As the weather looked fairly cloudy I thought I would stick to bird photography, taking my 800mm lens and a 24 -120mm zoom for everything else. I have finally started to learn that whatever lens I have, opportunities will occur that will require some of the gear I have left at home!
Although the air was very clear with good visibility, it was still very dark. The day was spent making images at 800iso mainly, and even this gave some slow shutter speeds. Not a great situation with fast moving subjects. So if you can’t get sharp images, it is best not to try and go with the flow or blur in my case. This style of image is starting to become more popular as the current trend in nature photography seems to be drifting from the accurate record style shot to a more artistic interpretation. Only time will tell if this is a fad or will become a longer lasting trend.
I hadn’t seen so many Eider Duck so close to the shore before, and even though too far for individual portrait images, group images were possible. The sound of the sea drowned out the calls of the males which are so different to what you would expect from a duck. The group slowly drifted further out to sea, so I moved on further around the point as I noticed some walkers had disturbed a small group of Dark Bellied Brent geese.
The geese had retreated to the sea as the walkers went by, then took the opportunity to use the waves to “surf” back into the shore. The group was about 12 birds and was very tolerant of me. I stayed in full view of the birds at all times, standing and not trying to couch down as this may resemble a predator starting to stalk them. By walking parallel to the birds but at a slight angle so it took me closer to the birds they tolerated my presence to about 10 metres. Close enough for a few group and pair images, but unfortunately not for individual portraits. It never ceases to amaze me how close I need to get to do portrait images, even with an 800mm lens. This is where a lot of time, field craft and hides are needed.
Even though the group of Geese was small, squabbles seemed to break out quite regularly for no particular reason apart from having their?”personal space” invaded.
I stopped for lunch at the bird hide and just watch flocks of geese and waders relocate themselves in the estuary. This flock of Whimbrel came quite close, so I rattled off a few frames. Getting a pleasing flight pattern is a matter of luck and having a motor drive to make a few quick images.
Looking back over the marsh to the Burrows, showed that some late Autumn colour was still present in the trees and shrubs on the edge of the marsh. The recent high winds have probably removed all the leaves now.
As the sun dropped below the clouds, it broke through to provide some excellent light for landscape photography. I’m a great fan of “pure” photography, and am not keen on Photoshop being used to remove things from an image to make it better. If it is in the scene, it is part of that scene. Saying that I am tempted to remove both Llanelli and Burry Port, as they cause distractions in the background with some of my favourite angles, except I would probably use dynamite and not Photoshop! Only joking!! I will just have to wait for the perfect conditions of a hazy day to obscure Llanelli/Burry Port, with clear lighting on Whiteford Point. That is the joy and fustration of outdoor photography; the constant challenge to get everything to come together to produce the ideal conditions for the photograph that you have visualised.
With a 3 Day workshop this weekend, I hope we will be able to get some time down at Whiteford, it always has a lot to offer the photographer.