Monday, 30 May 2011

A Walk in the Park

On a very blustery day laden with showers, I decided not to venture too far but instead pay a visit to one of the local parks – Leazes Park in the heart of Newcastle, over looked by Newcastle United's football ground.

I hadn’t been to this particular park for some time and wouldn’t normally take take ‘wildlife’ photographs at such a location – it somehow seems too easy as the birds are tame, besides, walking around with a telephoto lens in a public area in this paranoid day-and-age is asking for trouble.  So it was with some self consciousness that I spent about an hour taking some photos. 

I was surprised at the various number of birds there were there, obviously breeding and on one occasion, saw a large fish jump out of the water, so despite the some of the rubbish in the water, there must have been a decent ecosystem going on helped by passer-by's  with bread crumbs.


St. James Park football stadium in the background


A Magpie making off with some bread


Despite the rubbish, this Coot seemed at home here


No shortage of Pigeons


Canada Goose chicks keeping warm


A Parent keeping a watchful eye


Sunday, 22 May 2011

A Heron and some Rabbits

It’s been a slow May so far on the photography front with the weather being distinctly not, late spring like, with very blustery cool winds, showers and generally unsettled.  This weekend, with a decent morning forecast but changeable later,  I thought I would pay a visit to the Rabbit warren I spent some time over Easter at. 

On the way, I spotted this Heron making the most of the lack of dog walkers about, to do some early morning fishing.  Herons are definitely one of those animals that has a certain tolerance circle around it – you know you can go so close to it before it will be off.  I kept my distance and let it get used to me and hoped I would be able to have the time before the inevitable dog came along and scared it off - I waiting until it turned away or plunged into the water, then I could move closer. I was able to get a few decent images before it eventually moved away across to the other side of the small lake, so I moved on.




On arrival at the warren, I plonked myself down at my usual spot which was becoming more overgrown with nettles and thistles, luckily, I chose to wear my thick trousers today making it less painful from my last visit.  The usual thirty or so minutes wait before the first head popped up and, as usual it was one of the younger ones braving it first.  Despite this, it seemed more nervous than normal and stamped its feet at the beginning as an alarm.  It went back in but another came out of another hole and while I focused my attention on that one I noticed an adult come out of the previous hole.  This had to have been the biggest Rabbit I have seen.  In the two pictures below you can see the first, younger one at the entrance and then the adult, taken at the exact same location and distance and it was too big to get in my frame and completely dwarfs the younger one.



This too seemed unsure of me, also stamping its feet, noticeably louder.  I guessed on this day, the reason why they were more nervous than usual was due to the stronger wind that was gusting in all directions, so my scent probably added to situation.  However, after a bit of a standoff it moved off and started feeding but keeping a suspicious eye on me, still not sure about me.  I reckoned it was a grizzled old timer and probably survived this long through being cautious.  With its size, it would have probably made a nice meal for the numerous predators around, though I bet it would have put up one heck of a fight if anything took it on.





After over two hours, my presence seemed finally excepted as half a dozen Rabbits were out and about feeding.  I noticed the older one getting a bit closer and so trained my lens on it.  It moved directly towards me, and following through my viewfinder, I figured there must have been a younger Rabbit it was maybe coming to stamp its authority on, but a quick look up I couldn’t see any, for some reason it was just coming to, seemingly, investigate me closer.  But just as it was becoming too big to fit into my viewfinder, it made for an entrance, looked up and then darted into the whole.  I looked up to see somebody's dog trying to get at the Rabbits.  Despite dogs supposed to be kept under control in this wildlife reserve, I could see the owners a distance away uninterested in what their dog was doing. 

After a two and a half hour uncomfortable sitting, getting them used to me so they would act normally, I wasn’t best pleased by this.  I wasn’t keen on waiting another few hours so decided to call it a day.





On the way back I passed, what I presumed was the same Heron I saw earlier that morning, now relaxing around in a field being indifferent to the odd dive bomb by some nearby Lapwings, yawning and stretching.


Sunday, 15 May 2011

High & Low Force Waterfalls

This weekend I had a change of scenery (literally) as I took a trip down to photograph High and Low Force waterfalls with a friend.  These are on the River Tees in County Durham and, although have been photographed over and over I thought I would give it a go. 

The Journey there took us through some picturesque villages and countryside including one spot we came across in the image below, although my attempt at a panoramic of the view doesn’t give it credit.  (click for larger image)


Not just a change of scenery, but a change in camera as I brought along my more pedestrian paced 5D instead of the usual, as it’s full frame and high resolution is ideal for landscapes and for wide angle shots.  I tried different exposures and times, and, although the long exposure is a bit of a cliché, it seemed to work better than shorter shutter speeds for the most part.


While packing my equipment the night before, I decided not to bother taking a long lens, the idea being I would be concentrating on landscapes, already carrying the weight of a tripod and besides, there probably wouldn’t be much opportunity to get close to anything with a full frame camera where I was going.  I did however take my macro lens and was in the process of taking a photograph at the waters edge of a large insect which I didn’t recognise by my feet - just about getting it in manual focus, when it disappeared.  A Robin had flown in, took it from right under my lens, stopped off by a nearby rock looking back at me as if to apologise for the cheek of it, and flew off!


A black and white conversion of High Force further down river

A short trip further down river was the Low Force falls.  I found them a bit more interesting to photograph due to their surroundings and shorter exposures gave some more varying images.

Although the falls are not exactly big in comparison to others around the world – just over 21 metres for the High Force – it was still quite an impressive sight and photogenic.


Sunday, 1 May 2011

A few animal portraits

My final foray of the holiday break produced only a few, but some of my favourite images of the period.  A final visit to the Rabbit borrow required the same patience to get them to come out and relax around me and start feeding.  I trained my lens on one of the younger Rabbits in particular because of where it was.  I always try and notice what is in my viewfinder – not just the subject but also the background and foreground and how this will give the best composition.  On this case it seemed perfect – the light wasn’t too harsh or dark, the background was nice with subdued shades of mostly green. 

The first image had the Rabbit placed amongst some some twigs and it was facing the sunlight direction.  The second, even when I was looking through the viewfinder seemed almost like a studio set up.  I was willing it to continue moving to my right as there, was the bottom of the tree, covered in green moss which would have really set the image off, unfortunately, the image you see of the Rabbit standing on its hind legs was due to it being alert as moments later a dog scared it underground.


For the photo of a female Mallard Duck with one of its chicks, I deliberately focused on the chick but kept the mother in the frame but out of focus.  The other way around and I don’t think it would not  have looked right.  The one with the chick by itself is for the ‘cute’ effect.


The final three images of the Warbler, I spent the best part of an hour trying to get.  The air was full of their singing, announcing and fending territories, and watching them you could see that they patrol their own little patch, flying from one bush to another, then another before eventually coming back and starting it over again.  Unfortunately, apart from being a bit skittish of my presence it was also windy so they kept under cover in the bushes unseen.  On the rare occasion they did brave the wind and venture onto an exposed branch I was having problems keeping the lens still in the gusts as well as needing a fast shutter speed to freeze the swaying branches.  Most of the images were either blurred or the bird was looking away from the camera.