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.
I am very pleased that my image of a bluebell wood at sunrise was chosen for the current issue of Nikon’s N-Photo magazine. As well as this, it is also displayed (almost) double page in the same issue as well as featuring in Country Living and Wild Britain.
And, as Nikon N-Photo’s cover photo on their Facebook page.
Spring-like weather’s here one day and gone the next, at the moment! Here, in North Kent (though just like the rest of the UK it seems), we have a couple of days of relatively warm weather and then close to zero with frosts. I guess that’s why we Brits like to talk about the weather so much. It’s just so changeable and never more so than in March. Most days and, even, when the weather’s quite dreadful I force myself outside and venture into local woods or on the marshes as quite often these marginal conditions can produce striking imagery and, even if I don’t take any images (which is very often!), I always feel better for it. It’s great exercise, especially with a 8kg camera backpack, and spiritually renewing. Good for the soul! Here’s a selection taken over the last month.
I’ve recently purchased a 200mm Micro Nikkor having, for the last 20 years, made do with a 200mm plus extension tubes. I’d been quite happy with this combination and, indeed, have had countless publications using this set-up but you simply cannot beat a dedicated close-up lens particularly for it’s convenience. In addition, it has a rotating tripod-collar which is very useful when shooting upright images.
With some of the worst weather experienced in the UK for many a year, it seems an age since we had those still warm days of early spring. Here, in North Kent, it has been wet, wet, wet and windy! Not ideal conditions for plant and insect work, or for birds and mammals come to that. I have attempted to get out and shoot as and when I can as well as holding numerous workshops and sorting through 100′s of unedited images that have been lying idle on my hard drives. Here’s a round-up of my work over the last couple of months.
A sunrise workshop at Reculver was arranged at the last moment to coincide with low tide. Seven of us met in the car park at dawn and made our way down onto the beach where we photographed the sun rising against the sillhouted 13th century towers.
While shooting short-eared owls from a hide on the North Kent Marshes, this hare ran around a pond infront of me and came within 3m, sat and nibbled for a good few minutes. After which, it ran back around the pond again! It was as if it was checking me out and decided to snack when it got here!
The images above and below were taken on a breathless, chilly morning in April when marshland birds were noisily proclaiming territories and fighting off rivals, as was the case of the greylag geese, below.
Bluebells started to emerge in nearby woodlands and rather than wait until they were in full flower, I decided to capture an individual in bud. When they are that small and close to the ground, a nagging breeze becomes less of an issue.
A scene such as this of bluebells flowering in a beechwood lends itself perfectly to the panoramic format where a standard ratio would have included too much sky. A Nodal Ninja head was used and the five images stitched together using PtGui software.
It was a beautiful evening and with the weather as it was, there was no way I was going to leave until I had made the most out of the opportunity. An evening such as this may not be around for another year. I was right!
A wildflowers workshop was held in rather damp conditions but, as is so often the case with photographers, they used the conditions to their advantage, shooting raindrops on grass blades and cowslips.
We enjoyed a fabulous evening on my last Dungeness workshop, culminating in shooting silhouettes and me painting the boats with torchlight, well into the night.
My ongoing project (15 years thus far) to record the beauty of the North Kent Marshes, continues.
I spent a good few hours at a site not too far away shooting lady orchids. Aside from the usual portraits (which you simply cannot resist) I attempted to go for something a little different. Why pack up and go home, just because it gets dark?!
On Tuesday I’ll be joining fellow nature photographer, Marek Kosinski, in the Carpathian mountains of Southern Poland shooting all manner of subjects, the results of which I’ll be posting here.
About Robert Canis
Robert Canis is a professional photographer specialising in the natural world.
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