Notes from the field
And now for some “conventional” flower images and a bit of landscape…….
The weather’s still doing it’s best to spoil things and so I am finding myself seeking flowers in sheltered areas and, even then, having to wait for quite some time until it is still long enough to obtain a sharp image. Patience is a virtue! Since I’m talking flower photography, I thought I’d mention that my number 1 purchase over the last 6 months has been an old manual focus 200mm f4 Micro Nikkor. For many years I made do with a prime 200mm f4 with extension tubes but felt it was now time (I had been putting it off for many, many years) to purchase a dedicated 200mm Micro.
So, why didn’t I get the AF version? 2 reasons. Firstly, the MF version is at least half the price and secondly, I rarely use AF when shooting close-up. Also, and this applies to nearly all MF lenses, the focus ring on MF lenses is sooooo much smoother than on an AF lens. The 200mm Micro, for example, has finger-tip focus. A real joy to use. I am now finding that I rarely use my trusty 105mm f2.8 Micro since with the 200mm I get the same magnification, double the working distance and even more control over my backgrounds. It also has a tripod collar and so changing orientation from view to upright’s an absolute breeze!
I’m off to the Bieszczady Mountains National Park in SE Poland on Monday leading a photo-tour with photographer friend, Marek Kosinski. Although primarily a landscape tour, there will be opportunities to photograph orchids and insects so this lens will definitely be going with me! Current weather predictions are for a hot week (25-30) which will be quite a contrast to what we are currently experiencing, here in the UK!
You will notice that, opposed to my previous post, I have included the technical data under each image. For all images (except the primrose), I mounted the camera onto a Manfrotto 055CX3 with a Markins M10 ball head.
Twilight is defined as being the period between daybreak and sunrise and between sunset and night. To be more exact, when the sun falls below 18 degrees you enter nightfall and when the sun rises to 18 degrees below the horizon, you enter daybreak or dawn. As for how long this lasts, depends on your location and, also, climatic conditions. In general, however, it does so for, approximately, 1 hour.
Since most of us (I am assuming here) consider twilight to take place after sunset and not before sunrise, my aim for, around, one month, was to photograph plants during this period. I would head out an hour before sunset to seek out the image and begin shooting as the sun slipped below the horizon. Often I would go out with a specific image in mind, as the case with Bluebells and Grasses but on other occasions I would, simply, see what I could find. I, quickly, learned that no matter how interesting an image looked through the viewfinder as sunset approached, it’s appearance would change, rapidly, as the light faded. Warm tones would turn blue, gaps through trees would emerge revealing an aperture in which to place the subject and intricate details on flowers would slowly disappear to, eventually, form a silhouette.
I thoroughly enjoyed producing this series of images. It focused me, intensely, and opened my eyes (and imagination) to new possibilities and, although, many more were taken, some, I felt, just didn’t work for one reason or another. I have a feeling this project will run and run!
Notes on the photography: I’ve, purposefully, steered clear of adding technical details to each image as I don’t want to detract from the visual. F-stops, shutter speeds and iso’s, though important, are secondary to “seeing” the subject and how you, as the photographer, interpret it. But, in order to satisfy curiosity, I used a Nikon D300 and for all, a 200mm f4 Micro.
A time-lapse showing me photographing an early-purple orchid, here, in the woods of north Kent last week. The whole process (photographing the flower) took, around, 20 minutes and, if you’re wondering what the device is that I use to steady the orchid, it’s a Wimberley Plamp. Hope you enjoy it.
Last week I retuned form leading a wonderful workshop to The Golden City or The City of a Hundred Spires or….just plain old Prague! But plain it most definitely isn’t! A, virtually, untouched city for hundreds of years and with architectural styles ranging from Baroque to Art Nouveau and Romanesque to Gothic, there are picture opportunities around, quite literally, every corner.
I have been visiting Prague for many, MANY years but it’s always a good idea to reacquaint yourself with those familiar places and to, generally, get a feel for the city prior to the workshop so I arrived 3 days before. I had met all, bar one, before and, indeed, 5 had accompanied me on other photo-tours to Lapland and Poland so strangers they were not and, if those trips were anything to go by, I knew we were going to have a lot of laughs. I wasn’t to be disappointed!
Here’s a few images I took before everyone arrived.
Prague Castle during the day is, unsurprisingly, teeming with tourists. Go there at night and there’s hardly a soul to be seen! I really had no option, here, but make do with the converging verticals as the widest lens I had with me was a 12-24mm and my back was up against a wall! Sure, I could correct it, to a degree, in CS or LR but then in doing so you crop quite a lot of the image and I like the curve of the building on the right and the inclusion of the Czech flag. A 6 stop ND filter was used to give added interest to the clouds by accentuating movement.
Once the group arrived, I hardly took a picture as my focus was to assist with their photography, keep a handle on catching the metro and trams and doing a head count! I did, however, manage to sneak the camera out for the following images.
With a clear sky forecast and everyone eager to “bag” a sunrise, I arranged for us all to meet 45 minutes before sunrise, being 4.45! Everyone was there, albeit a little bleary eyed, and so we made our way onto the bridge and waited for the inevitable.
Thank you to Elaine, Bea and Mike, Chris, Denise, Sarah and James for making my job an absolute breeze (apart from when one or two decided to wander! ), for allowing me to “show off” a city I have grown to consider my second home and for, generally, being jolly good sports!
If, by reading this, you are tempted to join me next year to this magical city and you rather like the idea of hopping on and off trams, venturing into “secret” gardens and exploring Prague by day (and night), then please register your interest with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have, for some time, been looking at purchasing a trail-cam in order for me to get a clearer understanding of the movements of my local badgers when, a short while ago, I was contacted by someone asking if I had experience in using them and was told of a model they were looking at purchasing which I then looked into. I didn’t want an expensive unit but, on the other hand, needed one giving good resolution and to have some useful features including time lapse and a sleeper mode enabling it to be left in position for extended periods without recharging.
And so, with spring upon us, I delayed no further and purchased the Acorn LTL After a little “playing” and getting acquainted with the various settings, I positioned it next to a badger path, 3 days ago, that leads to a badger gate. The local wildlife, however, prefers to use the hole in the fence next to it, instead! Who wouldn’t?! The cam has a very useful tripod attachment screw so I used a small clamp attaching it to a branch approximately 3 feet away from the gate which I then left for 2 days. As it’s weatherproof, I didn’t have any concerns regarding the weather. Upon inspecting the footage on the unit’s screen, I could see that, aside from rabbits, a blackbird, squirrel and dunnock, a fox was also captured. However, this beats the lot! A badger collecting bedding which is, exactly, the kind of footage I was hoping for. Please watch to the end as you’ll see it return for the rest of the bedding and, also, ignore the date.
And, of the fox
I’m sure I’ll have lots of fun with this over the coming months and, of course, the results will be shown here.
Footage from last night. I’ve been watching over this same sett, here in North Kent, for 25 years and have always wondered what time they arrive back from their nightly wanderings. With 22 triggers (night of 1st and morning of 2nd April), I now know! First emergence 20.30 and return 06.00….approximately! Of course, this varies on the season, but at least it gives me a better idea.
About Robert Canis
Robert Canis is a professional photographer specialising in the natural world.
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