With autumn now past I thought I would share a few images I took over that period, in particular, during a walk around a nature reserve near Canterbury in Kent. The conditions were (as any photographer could wish for when shooting autumn colour in the woods) still, overcast and ever so slightly misty. Aside from the vegetation remaining perfectly still the soft light muted the colours and give it more of an autumn feel. The first subjects I came across were these fly agarics. Autumn came incredibly late this year and ordinarily these would have been showing at least a month earlier. As it turned out, it worked in my favour as the woodland colours were at their peak the same time as the mushrooms themselves! I have dozens of images in my library of this species but the two together were irresistible. I like to work in a methodical fashion when shooting plants, especially when encountering a new species as I then feel I have covered all the bases. I’ll start with one of two straight record shots then, possibly, a wide-angle and finally I’ll look for something unusual. An angle that had, perhaps, initially elluded me. Anyone that shoots these subjects will appreciate how time consuming it can be, especially the “gardening.” Taking out bright leaves and the like that detract from the subject.
Even though my tripod goes to ground level, it still wasn’t low enough to create the vantage point I wanted. Ordinarily I would have used a beanbag but Ididn’t have one with me on this occasion so I used what I had. Gloves, hat, filter case and a lens cap!
A little further on I came across this attractive little area of birch and bracken and spent the next while shooting a panoramic which consisted of 5 upright images stitched using PTgui software. One of the biggest problems encountered when doing this work is parallex error and unless you have a head which corrects this you will be restricted to the closest you can be be to the nearest point of focua. The one I use is made by Nodal Ninja. Beautifully engineered, lightweight and compact, it makes the whole process that much more enjoyable.
I ventured deeper into the woodland, off the beaten track, and there were pictures all around. The colours were breathtaking. The task was not as simple as I first thought, to make sense out of nature’s chaos!
The sun threatened to burn through the mist but it never did. Sometimes, it would clear marginally, but mostly it remained so.
Another panoramic. Sometimes, there is no other format that will do the scene justice. In order to gain the perspective I was after (telephoto “stacking” effect) shooting with a wide-angle then trimming the top and bottom wouldn’t have achieved this so, several upright images stitched was the only answer. Quite a simple composition yet, typically me, I still managed to make a mountain out of a mole hill and spend close to an hour taking it. It’s a good job I work alone!
The two below were taken in woodland in a nearby village. A break from the computer was in order and fortunately I live near such places. As the previous image, the panoramic format lent itself to the two scenes, especially the last one when mist becomes more pronounced the more you shoot through.
With the marshes being but a short distance away, they are never far from my mind. Such a dry autumn resulted in dry marshes and the result is there were few birds within photographable range. That doesn’t stop me from going over there however and on a morning such as this, who can blame me!
There is, in my opinion, no better place to blow the cobwebs away and relieve you of the daily stresses and strains, than a walk in the woods. Couple this with completely still, misty, ”golden” conditions and you have the perfect tonic. As a professional photographer, I am always on the look-out for exciting (commercial) images and occasionally lose touch with why I love nature photography so much. Those four hours I spent, a few days ago, wandering and losing myself in the intoxicating solitude, reminded me so and was one of the most rewarding forays I have ever had. Oh, and as I retraced my steps along that woodland path, a fox walked across it, right infront of me!
Just thought I’d post a few images taken only 2 1/2 weeks ago, though for anyone who has, over the last few days, stepped into a woodland, you’d think they were done a month ago! It doesn’t feel like spring anymore. I just spent the afternoon in an almost impenetrable woodland where, 3 weeks ago, bluebells flourished and now, wild grasses a foot or more high are rapidly taking over. Puddles are still evident in the shaded parts after the rainfall 3 days ago and the wonderful lime-green vibrancy of a woodland in April and May is turning a deep, depressing green. The claustrophobia of a broadleaved woodland in summer is nearly here. It’ll be the marshes for me over the next few months!
Following on from the last post, I finally managed to get to my winter bird feeding station in Wormshill. This was after taking a trip to Surrey on Saturday afternoon to invest in some all-terrain tyres. Due to the nature of what I do, I regularly drive in the countryside and the others were wearing a bit thin anyway and were due to be replaced. More snow was forecast and after reading numerous ‘tyre’ reports I decided upon some General Grabber AT2′s. Widely regarded as the best AT tyre around and having now used them in very adverse conditions on the Downs and marshes I can see why.
I therefore felt confident enough to get to the birds but of course you still have to be careful, especially on the icy-slush and made my way gingerly to the woods. I really wanted some typical snowy shots of birds, especially robins and in my experience these, along with others like dunnocks and chaffinches prefer to feed on the ground rather than on the suspended feeders. I sprinkled food on the ground, set up a low perch and retreated to my hide. Immediately they started to use it including one species which I have never before photographed, the dunnock. The dunnock or hedge sparrow looks like a dull sleek sparrow and always looks to be nervous and agitated, constantly flicking it’s tail and wings. It went through a serious population decline in the 1980s and indications are that it is now recovering.
Just prior to the heavy snowfall when we had more of a dusting, I headed to to the marshes and captured this frozen landscape set against a very dramatic sky.
I also came across this pair of red-legged partridges and using the car as a mobile hide, managed to get close enough to secure a handful of images.
I didn’t expect much during a late afternoon stroll through local woodland. I had left it quite late but just needed to get away from the computer and stretch my legs. I came across a low, drooping hazel branch full of catkins and looked at possible images. They seem to appear earlier and earlier as each year passes. In the past I had photographed them against a blue sky and shedding their pollen using flash and with the sun rapidly setting I looked at a possible silhouette. I reached for the 105mm micro and hand-held, moved around the catkins until I was satisfied with the composition. The D2x was them mounted onto a tripod and the scene composed. Focus was critical since I needed to use a very wide aperture of f2.8 or f4 in order to achieve the effect I was after. This in turn resulted in a relatively fast shutter speed of 1/100th sec at iso 100 which helped as there was a slight breeze.
I always enjoy the feeling of coming home with something, even just a single image, that I know is a little different from the norm on days when I don’t expecting anything at all.
About Robert Canis
Robert Canis is a professional photographer specialising in the natural world.
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