Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Washington Waterfowl Park

It’s been a few years since I’d been to the Washington Waterfowl Park, part of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, but I’ve been meaning to go for a while  and with the weather predicting to be a rare, sunny day and without the cold strong winds of late, I decided to go. 

Although they have a wide range of mostly birds on view, it was the Asian Short Clawed Otters that I really wanted to see.  I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Otters – there’s something very mischievous and endearing about them and they have two of them as part of a breeding program being now endangered in the wild.

When I arrived it was just before feeding time for them – and they new it – both were getting very excited, making various high pitched chirping and crying sounds.

I don’t normally complain about having good weather, but the bright sunshine actually made the photography difficult with the strong, high light creating strong highlights and shadows and despite the bright light I was barely getting away with an ISO of 400 and should have really put it up to 800 to prevent blurring through movement.  Anyway, here’s a sequence of some of the Otter ones, from waiting in anticipation for the fish meal, to devouring it in about a minute!

Asian Short Clawed Otters
Asian Short Clawed Otter
Asian Short Clawed Otter
Asian Short Clawed Otter
Asian Short Clawed Otter
Asian Short Clawed Otter
Asian Short Clawed Otter
Asian Short Clawed Otter
Asian Short Clawed Otter
Oh, and there was a few birds at the centre to photograph.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

A Change of Pace

A few months ago I delved into my photo achieves and relooked at some of my wildlife images which I either ‘reprocessed’ thanks to newer and improved RAW software or rediscovered having missed their potential the first time around.  I’m continuing to find a few little gems, but now I’ve also looked at some of my landscapes.  There hasn’t been as many due to my not ‘rattling’ off frames in the same way I would with wildlife, instead usually just taking variations of view point or exposure but I have managed to put together some newly discovered images as well as some that I have reprocessed.

All the photographs were taken with the Canon 17-40L lens and mostly in combination with the Canon 5D camera.  I’ve found these two an ideal match when it comes to landscapes.


Early morning sunshine


Autumn mist over the valley


After the rain


A foggy River Tyne


Fading rainbow, Kielder Lake, Northumberland


Part of Hadrian's Walls natural defences in Northumberland looking North Eastward


High Force Waterfall, Teesdale


Dusk on Lake Windermere, Lake District


Low clouds near Ambleside, Lake District


Viewpoint looking down towards Ambleside and Lake Windermere


Autumn by Rydal Water, Lake District


Looking across Ambleside – Black & White conversion

Sunday, 21 April 2013

A Walk in the Spring Sunshine

No plans on this day to take photographs of anything in particular, just wanted to get out and enjoy what was forecast to be a clear, sunny and warm day.  Packing my camera bag for the day, it felt a little bit light without the Sigma lens off to be repaired, so I added an additional camera to accompany my usual 1D Mk III – the Canon 5D – old by todays standards, I find it takes beautiful images when it comes to landscapes and managing to make best use of wide angle lenses.  Setting off just after six in the morning, I planned to make a day of it and visit a number of locations on what turned out to be a walk of around eight miles or so.

First stop one of the local ‘Nature Reserves’.  I use the term loosely as it more of a playground for dogs and their owners and sure enough, no sooner had I arrived at a nice tranquil looking sight just after seven am and started to taking some photographs of a swan on the small lake, a dog rushed up to me barking and growling which I promptly ignored.  Its owner then spent, what seemed an age, shouting and swearing at the dog to come to him (no apology from the owner of course).  With the mornings peaceful ambiance gone, I moved on.  Due the increased influx of dog walkers, there is little left here to see with those birds that used to breed on the lake, now gone.


Current life without the 500mm means I’m now shooting at 400mm and its surprising how much of a difference that extra hundred makes.  Small birds in particular now seem specs in the viewfinder even with the converter on.  Having the extra stops on the Sigma also makes a big difference especially in poor light, though early on during this day this was not an issue.  There was no shortage of birds to photograph as the mornings air was alive with the chorus of competing songs, its just most were far to distance and from my experience you can’t really stalk small birds the best action is to just stay put and let them come to you either on their own accord or by tempting them with food.  The warm weather meant the latter is becoming difficult so I just sat and enjoyed the warming sun rays and a few drifted within range.



One place I did want to stop off at was the various Rabbit warrens where I’ve had so much success in photographing in past years, but as with last year they were still abandoned (left) and, although some Rabbits were about, it was the odd one or two where as this time a couple of years ago you might see up to a dozen in any one of the same spots.  It looks like it will take a number of years to recover their numbers. 

Corresponding the number of Foxes here sighted has also dropped not surprising as I would imagine the Rabbit would have been the main source of prey for them.

The rest of the morning taken up with taking images of opportunity when it came to wildlife but as the morning progressed the promised wall to wall sunshine started to disappear and with it the warmth as the wind also picked up, so it was a case of keeping on the move to keep warm.


The increase cloud cover wasn’t all bad as it made it more conducive for taking landscapes, so I packed away the 1D and 400mm lens and out came the 5D and wide angle zoom.  After my recent reminiscing in my Rants & Musings section, I decided to go back to basics, switch off automatic exposure mode and get down and dirty and re-introduce myself with manual mode, tried multiple exposures, under and over exposed and multiple spot metering.  With the exception of the second photography which was two exposures sandwiched together on computer, the others were all done in camera (with the aid of a neutral graduate filter).  The first black & white image was converted on the computer and included some ‘burning’ in a similar way I once did in my film/darkroom days.

When I came across this view, it seemed ideal for a black & white conversion


Two exposures taken – one for the sky and one for the land – then merged


Balanced from two exposure readings and with a neutral graduate filter

Another manual exposure

Monday, 8 April 2013

Sights & Sounds of Spring

Finally, at the weekend, there seemed a break in the weather.  The long grip winter has had on the country, seems to at last been released as we experienced some long overdue sunshine.  Temperature lows were still down to freezing early morning but it warmed up to a dizzy 9 degrees.  Walking around the woods it didn’t seem like Spring.  Although I removed one layer of clothing, it was still cold enough to feel the need to wear gloves, at least early on, but it was the surroundings that contradicted the time of season.  The trees were still bare and little signs of growth you would normally expect to be showing by now but the woods were alive with the sounds of birds.  They at least felt Spring had really arrived.

An early encounter with five Roe Deer was my first major sighting of any wildlife.  They were clearly alerted to my presence, stopping and staring in my direction for what seemed an age before continuing.  The female seemed particularly cautious, sniffing the air, but with little wind all I had to do was freeze where I stood until they continued to move on.  The male buck was less bothered by my presence and, as he put his head down to feed, I was able to move closer to get a better shot.  Eventually they drifted off and I didn’t want to follow and risk alarming them, so moved off in the opposite direction.


TBP_0117I’ve been visiting these woods now for quite a few years now, in all the different seasons and I new that despite the late arrival of spring, it would be only a few months before the bare, woodland floor would be completely transformed.  Hard to believe that standing in the same spots in the images above and below, they will soon look like the image left which was taken during May.

The ferns will be almost head high and with the foliage on the trees as well, will mean finding wildlife, at least in these parts of the woods, will be very difficult – unless you count the thousands of mosquitoes!  If you walk very quietly in the summer, you have a good chance of literally stumbling across a Roe Deer within metres.

This then is a good time to watch wildlife here in these wood as activity increases, sunrise isn’t too early in the morning and the light for photography isn’t too harsh yet.  All is needed is some decent breaks in the weather.


As I walked around that day, it felt very noticeable the varying sounds mostly made by the birds, so it was nice to stop every now and then and just soak in the atmosphere especially by mid morning where the temperature and mostly sunshine, made it feel very pleasant.  All in all I went from dense woodland to open ground and water, each having their own unique sounds.

Below are some recordings of the sounds – all birds and although there are other bird sounds in the background the predominant ones are those titled.  I’m not completely sure about the Buzzard as this is not their typical call but I’m pretty sure this is correct.


Blackbird & Woodpecker


Common Buzzard


Robin & Wren


By the end of the walk I had seen plenty of life, mostly as expected bird although at first glance it wasn’t obvious, sitting still for a while, it was soon noticeable.  Other physical signs included Roe and Fox prints and a couple of Sparrowhawk kills (or what was left).


Jay tempted by some peanuts


Male Mallard calling


Grey Squirrel


Remains of a Sparrowhawk kill


One of the few physical signs that spring has arrived