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 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.
I thought it was about time I tried my hand at Time Lapse. It’s pretty simple, really. Just a matter of finding a suitable subject such as a sunrise or sunset, setting the camera to Interval Timer and letting it run!
My first one, here, is of a sunrise over Oare Marshes, in Kent, taken just a few days ago. It’s a spot I know well and have visited many times over the years. When planning the sequence I wanted it to run longer leading up to the sunrise than after since this is when you get the most subtle changes of colour in the sky. 10 minutes after it has risen, the sky just burns out and overexposes the image. You need to bear this in mind when working out your initial exposure. With the camera on a firm tripod, set everything to manual – focus, white balance, exposure – and, after reviewing your initial test exposure, underexpose it by a stop. This will then take into account the increasing light levels as the sun rises. If you don’t, you’ll end up with the final part of the sequence being washed out. It helps if you shoot RAW as it has greater tolerances to exposure than jpeg. This may sound obvious, but make sure you have enough card space for, say, 200+ images and that your battery is charged! The camera (Nikon D300 and 12-24mm) was set to take a picture every 5 seconds for 30 minutes. The time lapse between each image will ultimately be dedicated by your subject and and how many images you can put on your card!
I then processed the images in LR 3 and PS4 (remembering that any adjustments to a picture must be done to all) and converted them to jpeg (1024×768). I put it all together in Windows Live Movie Maker with the frame transition set to 5 fps. WLMM really is a piece of cake to use. Trust me, if I can get my head around it, anyone can! I guess you can do the same thing in Quick Time. Ideally, I’d like to have it set to music or the various marsh birds calling. The latter seems to be more realistic, something I could do on a mobile phone to begin with, as opposed to the former where there are copyright issues. I’m very much a beginner with TL but I’m looking forward to a steep learning curve over the following months!
It’s great fun and I can see huge potential with all manner of subjects. I’m currently compiling a list of possible sequences which will, of course, be shown here and on facebook. By the way, if you haven’t already checked out my wildlife photography page, please do, as this is where I show my images straight from the camera, so to speak. You’ll find the link to the page just on the right.
About Robert Canis
Robert Canis is a professional photographer specialising in the natural world.
Read more about Robert Canis