1. Autumn past

    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.

    Fly agaric mushrooms

    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! 

    Nikon D300, 12-24mm @ 14mm, iso 200, 1/8 sec f16, tripod, mirror lock-up, angle-finder.

    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!

    Nikon D300, 70-200 @ 98mm, iso 200, 1/6 sec f8, tripod, mirror lock-up.

    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!

    Parasol mushroom

    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.

    Beech tree in coppiced woodland.

    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!

     

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  2. Hothfield Common

    A 3.15 alarm call and a half hour drive took me to a favourite reserve near Ashford this morning.  I’ve been visiting this site on and off for close to 20 years now though the last time I did any photography was probably 5 years ago.  It’s the kind of habitat that yields the best opportunities for photography in late spring and summer when such plants as common sundew, heath-spotted orchid, bog asphodel and heather are in bloom as well as the many insects that inhabit the heath.  These include leafhoppers, damselflies, dragonflies (including the scarce keeled skimmer) and sand wasps.

    Stitched panorama incorporating 5 upright images and processed using PtGui.

    Stitched panorama incorporating 5 upright images and processed using PtGui.

    Hothfield Common covers an area of approximately 150 acres making it Kent’s largest area of acid heathland.  As you would imaging, it is generally an open space of heath with lowland valley bogs and around the perimeter, woodland of predominantly birch with some mature beech to the south. 

    Cotton grass. Another stitched panorama. This technique is perfect for this kind of image when the interest lies across a single plane when foreground and background interest become irrelevant.

    Cotton grass. Another stitched panorama. This technique is perfect for this kind of image when the interest lies across a single plane when foreground and background interest become irrelevant.

    Due to the invasion of such species as bracken and birch leading to the loss of the heathland habitat, certain measures were necessary to reduce this risk and consequently highland cattle and Koniks are now a feature. 

    A 'normal' shot taken with a 12-24mm and a 0.9 ND grad to tone down the sky and sunlit heath.

    A 'normal' shot taken with a 12-24mm and a 0.9 ND grad to tone down the sky and sunlit heath.

    Hothfield Common really is a great place for everyone.  There’s a large car park and trails of varying distance and even a road-side snack bar!  Be warned however, with the current hot weather we are experiencing, come prepared with a hat and sun cream or if you prefer, like me, get yourself there at dawn.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

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  3. Nodal Ninja

    I’ve been shooting panoramic images for quite some time now by taking a series of pictures and stitching together using software.  However, unless you use a specialised tripod head, shoot anything closer than a couple of metres away and you come across a problem known as parallax.  This is when subjects in the foreground move in relation to the background as the camera is rotated.  To illustrate this, place your finger a foot or so away from you and move your head from side to side.  You’ll notice that the background alters as you move.  To correct this, the camera needs to be set back to it’s nodal point.  In order to obtain the highest resolution as well as ‘depth’ to your image, you will need to shoot a series in portrait format and for this you will need a specialised head.  There are several on the market and arguably, no, unarguably the best for single-row panorama’s, is the Nodal Ninja 3 MK11.  Why is it the best?  (By the way, I’m not being sponsored!)  Because it’s incredibly compact, lightweight, and really easy to set up.  Paramount if you just add it to your kit as an aside if you are looking for other subjects as well.  For those of you interested, click here to be directed to the UK dealer.

    Here’s one I did last week on the North Kent Marshes at sunrise.  5.15 to be exact.  How I love getting up for spring/summer sunrises!  Always worth it when you get there though.  Six upright images, stitched using PtGui software.

    Nikon D300, 28-105mm at 55mm, iso 200, 1/30th sec. f16, ND Grad 0.6.

    Nikon D300, 28-105mm at 55mm, iso 200, 1/30th sec. f16, ND Grad 0.6.

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