1. Just around the corner

    As I write this it hardly feels like spring given that it’s a dark grey, rainy morning but in our woodlands, right now, nature is simply bursting into life! Wild daffodils and primroses are in flower and soon, there’ll be wood anemones and sorrel, too. But, like so many that enjoy photographing the countryside, there is one flower in particular that often gets me out of bed at an unearthly hour, the bluebell!

    Having always lived in Southeast England, I guess you could say I am spoilt with the sheer volume of bluebell woods that I am surrounded by and, since my closest is less than ten minutes away, there has never been a year when I haven’t spent time photographing these stunning flowers. It suits my ‘close to home’ approach to nature photography well where, aside from the workshops and tours that I lead, at least three quarters of all my photography is undertaken not more than 20 miles from my home. This enables me to not only have repeated access to species but allows me to visit nearby woods, downlands and marshes even during office-bound days.

    Finding new ways to capture bluebells is always a challenge but, regardless of the time of day I choose to visit or the lens which I fit onto my camera, it’s always less about the photography and more about just simply being there.

    bluebell_001

    bluebell_002

    bluebell_003bluebell_007bluebell_009bluebell_008Bluebell (Endymion non-scriptus) close-up of flower, Kent , England, April.bluebell_006bluebell_010Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), flowering at twilight, Kent, England, may

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  2. Favourite images of 2013

    Well, another year has passed and it’s only when I look back at those images I have taken over the last 12 months that I realise it’s been quite a productive one! As always, the vast majority of my work is undertaken within 20 miles of my home, here, in north Kent and so, not surprisingly, 10 out of the 12 are “local”. These are my personal favourites (though in honesty I could have included more) and so I don’t expect everyone to like my choice but then that’s photography where, like any other art form, it’s purely subjective. Wouldn’t it be terribly boring if everyone liked the same images?! I hope 2014 will be equally productive and I can see no reason why not considering the various trips and projects that I have planned but, who knows, mother nature may have different ideas.

    Lesser redpoll I was sitting in my hide on the marshes where I had a feeding station when all of a sudden this little chap appeared and began feeding just 4m away! I tentatively took a few shots to gauge it's reaction whereby it flew off but then returned, immediately, and stayed for the next few minutes. They are incredibly quick and the willowherb seed-head it was feeding on was swaying a bit so I was more than happy that quite a few came out sharp. I sacrificed depth of field for speed to ensure I stopped any movement and to render the background completely out of focus. Nikon D300, 200-400, iso 800, 1/1600 sec. f5.6.

    Lesser redpoll
    I was sitting in my hide on the marshes where I had a feeding station when all of a sudden this little chap appeared and began feeding just 4m away! I tentatively took a few shots to gauge it’s reaction whereby it flew off but then returned, immediately, and stayed for the next few minutes. They are incredibly quick and the willowherb seed-head it was feeding on was swaying a bit so I was more than happy that quite a few came out sharp. I sacrificed depth of field for speed to ensure I stopped any movement and to render the background completely out of focus.
    Nikon D300, 200-400, iso 800, 1/1600 sec. f5.6.

    European bison walking in heavy snowfall. Bialowieza, Poland.  Taken while co-leading a tour to photograph Europe's largest land mammal. I took a number of "clear" images as it stood in the meadow and was looking for something different. And so I stepped into the forest and composed this image through branches, to give the impression of peering into the world of the bison.

    European bison walking in heavy snowfall. Bialowieza, Poland.
    Taken while co-leading a tour to photograph Europe’s largest land mammal. I took a number of “clear” images as it stood in the meadow and was looking for something different. And so I stepped into the forest and composed this image through branches, to give the impression of peering into the world of the bison.
    Nikon D300, 200-400mm @200mm, iso 400, 1/160th sec. f4.5.

    Wood anemone at twilight Taken to form part of continuing, self-assigned project shooting plants at twilight. That period between sunset and dusk that lasts for, approximately, 45 minutes. It presents many challenges, not least subject movement and focussing issues as well as having to view plant photography in a new way as few "conventional" compositions work in such conditions.

    Wood anemone at twilight
    Taken to form part of a continuing, self-assigned, project shooting plants at twilight. That period between sunset and dusk and dawn and sunrise that lasts for, approximately, 45 minutes. It presents many challenges, not least subject movement and focussing issues as well as having to view plant photography in an entirely new way as few “conventional” compositions work in such conditions.
    Nikon D300, 200mm Micro, iso 280, 1 sec. f4.

    Bluebell Having photographed bluebells many hundreds of times over the years, I was looking at producing more than just record shot and so as the sun rose and illuminated the background, I made a multiple exposure – one sharp and the other, out of focus.

    Bluebell
    Having photographed bluebells many hundreds of times over the years, I was looking at producing more than just a record shot and so as the sun rose and illuminated the background, I made a double exposure – one sharp and the other, out of focus.
    Nikon D300, 105mm Micro, iso 200, 1/15th sec. f4.

    Red campion Taken during a period of windy, sunny days, any flower photography I undertook was being carried out at dawn and sunset. This was captured as the sun set.

    Red campion at sunset

    Last rays of the day

    Last rays of the day

    Poppy field at sunrise

    Poppy field at sunrise

    Lizard orchid.  A tip-off from a warden friend of mine led me to this wonderful plant which had flowered for the first time in 20 years at this reserve. Situated just a few metres from a seldom used footpath and keen not to give away it’s location, I would leave the path 20 or so metres before-hand so as not to leave a “path” leading directly to it that might otherwise have drawn attention to certain members of the public! In addition I would shoot, only, at sunrise and sunset when no-one was around. Very covert! I had a window of just 10 minutes when the sun appeared between trees producing this golden light.  Nikon D300, 200-400 @ 360mm, iso 200, 1/200 sec. f5.

    Lizard orchid.
    A tip-off from a warden friend of mine led me to this wonderful plant which had flowered for the first time in 20 years at this reserve. Situated just a few metres from a seldom used footpath and keen not to give away it’s location, I would leave the path 20 or so metres before-hand so as not to leave a “path” leading directly to it that might otherwise have drawn attention to certain members of the public! In addition I would shoot, only, at sunrise and sunset when no-one was around. Very covert! I had a window of just 10 minutes when the sun appeared between trees producing this golden light.
    Nikon D300, 200-400 @ 360mm, iso 200, 1/200 sec. f5.

    Common darter dragonfly clinging to sea club-rush at sunrise. Nikon D300, 200mm Micro, iso 200, 1/250 sec. f8.

    Common darter dragonfly clinging to sea club-rush at sunrise.
    Nikon D300, 200mm Micro, iso 200, 1/250 sec. f8.

    Rabbit at sunset

    Rabbit at sunset

    Fishing boat at sunset, Dungeness.

    Fishing boat at sunset, Dungeness.

     

    Canoes and northern lights The image was made on the first night of the Northern Lights and Autumn Colours of Lapland photo-tour that I lead every year with photographer and guide, Antti Pietikäinen. It was the most incredible display that I have, personally, witnessed that lasted for close on 3 hours with curtains of green and violet moving and swirling in the night sky. As a result, it gave us the opportunity to move to different locations and shoot a variety of compositions. After a long day of travelling and shooting through the night, everyone went to bed exhausted but exhilarated. The best feeling a photographer can have – I think! This image went on to win The Telegraph’s Travel – The Big Picture photography competition. Nikon D600, 20mm f2.8, iso 3200, 20 secs. F2.8.

    Canoes and northern lights
    This image was made on the first night of the Northern Lights and Autumn Colours of Lapland photo-tour that I lead every year with photographer and guide, Antti Pietikäinen. It was the most incredible display that I have, personally, witnessed that lasted for close on 3 hours with curtains of green and violet moving and swirling in the night sky. As a result, it gave us the opportunity to move to different locations and shoot a variety of compositions. After a long day of travelling and shooting through the night, everyone went to bed exhausted but exhilarated. The best feeling a photographer can have – I think! This image went on to win The Telegraph’s Travel – The Big Picture photography competition.
    Nikon D600, 20mm f2.8, iso 3200, 20 secs. F2.8.

     

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  3. Flowers and a bit of landscape, too!

    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.

    Reculver at twilight

    Reculver at twilight
    Nikon D300, 12-24mm @ 18mm, iso 200, 2 mins. @ f11.

    PrimroseI had just finished holding a really enjoyable close-up and bushcraft workshop with Phil from Badger Bushcraft and, although weary, I could not resist the late afternoon sunlight and so rather than driving home, decided to continue for a further hour shooting primroses.

    Primrose
    I had just finished holding a really enjoyable close-up and bushcraft workshop with Phil from Badger Bushcraft and, although weary, I could not resist the late afternoon sunlight and so rather than driving home,
    decided to continue for a further hour shooting primroses.
    Nikon D300, 200mm Micro, iso 200, 1/25 sec. f8, beanbag.

    Bluebells at sunrise

    Bluebells at sunrise
    Always the trickiest part of the operation with an image like this is keeping the rapidly rising sun obscured behind a tree, so as to avoid flare.
    Nikon D300, 12-24mm @14mm, iso 200, 1/2 sec. f16.

    BluebellTaken shortly after the above image. Due to the weather these were the only successful bluebell images I took. Getting up that early is never a pleasure but, and I have said this before, I never regret when I do. The quality of light is like at no other time of the day.

    Bluebell
    Taken shortly after the above image. Due to the weather these were the only successful bluebell images I took. Getting up that early is never a pleasure but, and I have said this before, I never regret it when I do. The quality of light is like at no other time of the day.
    Nikon D300, 105mm Micro, iso 200, 1/15 sec. f4. Multiple exposure.

    Ramsons at sunset

    Ramsons at sunset
    Nikon D300, 200mm Micro, iso 200, 1/15 sec. f4.

    Red campion

    Red campion
    Another evening jaunt where, as you can see from the data below, the nagging breeze forced me to use a higher iso than I would have liked. But, with the setting sun waiting for no man, it’s always best to get something than nothing at all!
    Nikon D300, 105mm Micro, iso 560, 1/20th sec. f4,

    Pignut and fernNear to where I park to entre a woodland, lies a small, sheltered, roadside bank where, even on the windiest days, it is perfectly still. For 2 hours I "worked" this 50m patch only haviing to move out of the way of a single car. Such is it's quiet location.

    Woodruff and fern
    Opposite to where I park to enter a woodland, lies a sheltered, roadside bank where, even on the windiest days, it is perfectly still. For an hour I “worked” this 20m patch, also shooting yellow archangel and wild strawberry, only having to move out of the way once, for a car. Such is it’s quiet location.
    Nikon D300, 28-105mm @ 62mm, iso 200, 1.3 sec. f22.

    Last rays of the dayTaken in the wood where I park my car (explained in above caption) I looked for subjects to photograph against the setting sun. As I headed to the top of wood I noticed how lioght was catching just the tops of the trees. 3 images were taken and stitiched together.

    Last rays of the day
    Taken in the wood where I park my car (explained in above caption) I looked for subjects to photograph against the setting sun. As I headed to the top of wood I noticed how the light was catching just the tops of the trees. 3 images were taken and stitiched together.
    Nikon D300, 28-105mm @ 35mm, iso 200, 4 secs. f16.

    Broom

    Broom
    Nagging breeze problem, again!
    Nikon D300, 200mm Micro, iso 560, 1/5 sec. f4.

    Germander speedwellNow we are completely up to date as this was taken on Wednesday. yet another breezy day so flowers in a shltered spot it had to be. Buttercups made a nice frame in which to place the flower.

    Germander speedwell
    Now we are completely up to date as this was taken on Wednesday. Yet another breezy day so flowers in a sheltered spot it had to be.
    Nikon D300, 200mm Micro, 1/160 sec. f5.6.

     

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