Monday, 31 January 2011

Turnstone

This Turnstone – as is their wont – had been searching everywhere along the banks of a small creek at Salthouse in North Norfolk, flipping over pebbles, litter, leaves and pretty much anything that might have been hiding a tasty morsel. And, like so many Turnstones, this one showed little timidity, quite content to scurry around at my feet.

Canon 1DS MkII, 1/400 sec, f4, 200mm at ISO 640



Juvenile Mute Swan

Swans are, of course, beautiful birds, but somehow images of the whole bird can struggle to convey their their true elegance. Luckily I think this one does capture that typical swan serenity.

Canon 1DS MkII, 1/125 sec, f11, 200mm at ISO 640


Mallard

Lighting conditions can make such a difference. I saw this mallard duck preening itself in a shallow creek on the North Norfolk coast; its drake partner was doing the same alongside. What made the picture, however, was a low sun just catching the colours and textures of the mallard's feathers, while the water remained largely in shadow. I love happy accidents.


Black-headed Gull

When the skies cleared at the weekend I took an hour out to shoot some Black-headed Gulls in flight. I adore these tiny packages of energy and pluck, but they can be tricky to capture on the wing. Constantly darting, diving, wheeling and twisting, I tend to download the CF card to find I have three-quarters of the bird in frame (see image three below) or a compelling head shot, but the rest of the bird missing. The key, I've learned, is not to fall into the trap of trying to fill the viewfinder. Instead, I pull out a little and let the Canon's full-frame sensor provide enough scope to crop in later in Photoshop.

Canon 1DS MkII, 1/800 sec, f14, 236mm at ISO 400








Saturday, 29 January 2011

Help with ID

I'm having difficulty identifying this songbird. I know it's nothing special in terms of rarity, but just can't pin down what it is. A female Chaffinch, perhaps, or a Chiffchaff. Any help would be much appreciated.

Little Egret

The Little Egret is something of a recent success story. It first appeared in the UK in significant numbers as recently as the late 1980s and – according to the RSPB – first bred in Dorset in only 1996. It remains on the Amber List as a rare breeding species. This one was perched above a small river in what I believe to be one of Norfolk's most beautiful wildlife corridors – the Glaven Valley. Two woodpigeon were sharing the vantage point and a Barn Owl was quartering the rough grassland either side of the river.


Canon 1DS Mk II, f10, 1/1,600 sec, 400mm at ISO 800

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Dragonfly

On an uninspiring visit to a country house family 'fun' day, I stopped by a pond at the centre of the ornamental gardens and noticed this damselfly (or perhaps it is a dragonfly) settled amid the lily pads. Neither close enough nor suitably equipped to get the macro shot I would have wanted, the picture nevertheless has, I think, a compelling simplicity.

Canon 1DS MkII, 1/60 sec, f10, 200mm, ISO 50

Ewe and lamb

In many ways the role of the shepherd on a modern farm isn't so very different from less mechanised years gone by. One of the important tasks during the lambing season – which itself seems to get earlier and earlier with each year that passes – is to identify those lambs that may need a helping hand during their first few weeks. This lamb and ewe had been separated from the main flock in the open fields and brought into a farmyard shed, complete with automatic feeders and straw bedding. Here, the underweight lamb had quick and easy access to its mother and appeared to be thriving.

Canon 1DS MkII 1/60 sec, f10, 200mm, ISO 320


Highland Cattle

I actually came across these impressive Highland cattle grazing lazily in a field of rough pasture on the edge of one of Norfolk's many nature reserves. The barn owls there had won their game of hide and seek that morning, so I gave up. I negotiated a barbed wire fence and managed to get within around 20 metres of the cattle before they started to become just a little twitchy. Close enough, though, to capture the closer animal's fabulous hair-do. Truly gentle giants with a rather stately demeanour.

Canon 1DS MkII 1/160 sec, f8, 400mm, ISO 200

Cattle

This shot was taken as part of an advertising campaign, the aim being to capture something of what real farming/food production/local life is like. The cows, however, had no intention of playing ball. Shooting from the back of a battered pick-up, every member of the herd surrounded us in minutes, jostling for position with scant regard for anyone – or anything – that got in their way. There was no sense of menace, just insatiable curiosity mixed with sizable presence. Every time I tried to frame the shot and focus a huge pair of nostrils would fill the viewfinder. I lost two lens caps in the melée and had a camera strap chewed. Worth it though...

Canon 1DS MkII 1/50 sec, f4, 17mm, ISO 160

Robin

Robins, it seems, come in all shapes and sizes – from the tall and thin to the short and squat. They also, perhaps more interestingly, come with very different mindsets. Most, of course, are skittish, shy and distinctly on the nervous size. Not surprisingly perhaps – it must be tough going about one's business fearing that at any moment a sparrowhawk could whizz across and, in the blink of an eye, snatch you from the sky. The robin below, however, seemed altogether more confident. Sitting in a parked car watching the activity around a feeding station, I saw this robin land on a wire fence close by. It stayed there as I wound down the driver's side window; it tipped its head a little, but stayed, as I grabbed my camera. And – as the shutter release whirred away at a few frames per second – it happily posed, first to the left, then the right and then, as if sitting for a set of passport photographs, straight on to the lens, its features lending it a rather disgruntled appearance.



Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Chicks

None of these chicks (I'm not up to identifying them definitively, but my guess would be that they're infant Blue Tits) survived when the nest was, for some reason, abandoned by the parent/s. The shot took next to no time and the nest was completely undisturbed, but a couple of days later I checked on them again and this time the nest was empty.

Brown Hare

Hares are a common enough sight on the farmland around the house, but predictably are camera-shy. Though often somewhat distracted during the mating season, in the depths of winter they can be elusive and tricky to capture. This one – shot on a bitterly cold late afternoon – was a lucky image. I saw the hare out of the corner of my eye, latched on to it and kept my finger on the shutter release. I was fortunate with the exposure and the backlighting was an added bonus.


Black-headed Gull

The salt marshes at Salthouse in North Norfolk are a magical place to spend some time. Sandwiched between the sea and a ridge just inland, the area teems with birdlife. Geese are noisy overhead, marsh harriers bob and weave as they hunt, songbirds congregate in the reeds and – in one spot popular with locals and tourists – gulls, mallard, coots, moorhens and swans queue to be fed. This Black-headed Gull, however, was in no mood for sharing…



Barn Owl

Barn owls remain my favourite photographic subject. I like to think its their majesty in flight, their expressive faces and subtle – but stunning – colouring. I suspect it's because their slow flight makes capturing them (even as here, in low light conditions at dusk) relatively straightforward.







Great Tit in flight

Growing weary of January's endless procession of miserable, overcast days, I decided to try to capture a great tit in flight. The obstacles in the way of anything half decent were obvious – the absence of defining light would result in an inevitable absence of detail. Determined to go ahead, however, I bumped up the ISO on the 1DS MkII to 1,000, opened up the aperture to the widest available (f8) with a x2 extender on the 70-300mm telephoto and hoped the resulting shutter speed of 1/2,500 sec would be fast enough. The result is – understandably, I hope – not rich in detail but does have some visual appeal, the image feeling a little like a Chinese painting or a detail from Chinoiserie wallpaper. Oh to happy accidents…