Monday, 28 February 2011

Billy-no-mates

I've been blogging for a couple of months now and not picked up too many followers so I was very please to see Steve Ashton on board. Steve's is one of the few sites I follow, along with John Devries and Nigel Blake.

I don't feel like I'm posting stuff into a vacuum quite so much now and my paranoia alert status has dropped from 'Red' to 'Amber'...

Death by 'Lichen'

Preamble

You can always tell when I've not been out with may camera much when I throw in a technical tip or spout random stuff! What's my excuse? Too busy doing other things and, when I'm free it's been raining hard. Yesterday was a great example, I had arranged a game of golf at Boughton with a good friend of mine and it was a beautiful day.

Death by 'Lichen'

I entered four images into the recent Ashford Photographic Society Natural History competition. I won the projected digital images section with my White-tailed Eagle (taken on Loch Na Kael last June) but the overall winner was judged to be a slide of a piece of lichen on a rock. Congratulations to Neville Marsh for winning the trophy - I think he was as surprised as everyone else (I don't think mine was the best image there either so no hard feelings!) There's always next year.


RHS Wisley

On Saturday I pottered over to Wisley with my wife to meet a friend of ours. I took the camera of course (you know how women like to chatter...) as I believe that just shooting nature all the time is a bit one-dimensional. Variety is good and it helps to make one a more complete photographer. I did try some fill-in flash in the butterfly house - this worked out really well. I've posted the images on the APS Facebook page. Hope I can put it into practice effectively in the wild.

I've only got eight more weeks to go at work now so looking forward to my spring career break to get out with my camera even more before I need to think about bringing in some money...

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Ugly Duckling to Swan Lake

Ugly Duckling

Saturday afternoon brought the promise of some sunshine - remember that? I managed to escape the household chores and headed over to Oare Marshes, somewhere I have not been for a while but fancied trying to get some flight shots from the roadway. A north-west wind was in my favour as the birds taking off from the east scrape would be head-on. It was that flat, grey light that has blighted us so much of the year that greeted me - it was a real 'ugly duckling' of a day!

Huge flocks of lapwing were on the move over Sheppey with a ring-tail and peregrine making brief appearances as the grazing Highland Cattle gave birders in the east hide a close encounter.

There were plenty of wigeon, teal and pintail around - the latter keeping out of range.
Wigeon
Drake teal
A flock of 19 mute swans glided onto the east flood as the tide came up, coinciding with the odd break in the clouds.

What a difference a stop makes!

Gradually the light improved and, by around 3.30pm, it was looking very hopeful. Hundreds of golden plover were making their way off the Swale onto the flood to roost up.
Golden plover in improving light
Wigeon were constantly on the move
Swan Lake

I guess the swans had been on the estuary for most of the day and were keen to wash the saline remnants from their plumage and preen up. What happened next was amazing - I was witness to a command performance of Swan Lake - too many images to load but here are some of the best.

[On arrival I was getting a shutter speed of 1/640th at ISO1250, by now I was at 1/6000th at ISO800. Very contrasty light so needed to keep an eye on exposure compensation and histogram so as not to burn out the white highlights]





I've titled this image 'Angel' in memory of John Devenport, fellow photographer and member of Ashford Photographic Society who died suddenly, aged just 55, last Wednesday. A finer chap you could not wish to meet. He will be sadly missed by all that knew him and my thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Katrina and son Oliver.


It must be love!


  

In my photography I'm not too worried about chasing rarities - a good image of a common bird is far more pleasing to me than an average image of a rare bird. I strive to get images of my subjects actually doing things and pay particular attention to composition - note how there is separation between head and wings on the single-swan shots - a slight overlap kills the impact.

The supporting cast

Enter stage left - greylag geese
At this point, I'd like to say thank you to Gabby and Brian for the most welcome (ever) mug of freshly brewed coffee. Brian seemed to be more interested in keeping up with the rugby until the barn owl took centre stage for a cameo appearance.

Gabby - good luck for the London Marathon next month. Keep fit and enjoy it!








It was great to meet up with Nige and his wife (sorry, did not get your name...) and Steve Mackay at the reserve. I hope to see you again soon!

Time to go home . . .

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

It's tight at the top

Ashford Photographic Society

We have just held our third round (of four) of the projected digital images competition and my golden plover image managed a third place with 19 points (out of 20). To see all the winning images visit the website .

It's the big one for me on Feb 18th - the natural history competition. I've entered two prints and two digital images. We have some very good wildlife photographers at the club and the competition is always hotly contested. I won it two year's ago but I'm not holding my breath.

Work gets in the way

I resigned from my job a fortnight ago and have three months notice to work out. I visited one of the groups that I have done some developments for today to start some handover/documentation. Trust me to pick a perfect day weather wise to be stuck in the office - like everyone else I'm fed up with all this grey weather. Anyway, the good news is that spring is on the way, the bad news is that I need to start looking for another job!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

'Wasp-proof bird' video

Honey Buzzard raiding next

Honey Buzzard numbers are increasing in the UK, with an estimated 70 pairs nesting, mainly in East Midlands/Norfolk and Central/Southern England. They are summer visitors from Africa and their diet is predominantly the larvae of bees and wasps.

Whilst on holiday in France a couple of years ago, Martin Washford managed to film one raiding a nest on a road side verge.


video