1. 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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  2. Lapland photo-tour

    Just over 3 weeks ago I returned from leading (along with our guide and photographer, Antti Pietikainen) a 7 day tour to Finnish and Norwegian Lapland to photograph the autumn colours and, with finger’s crossed, the northern lights. As per usual with a trip of this nature, our days were dictated by the weather and we were fortunate to have some prolonged spells of sunshine. On occasion, we had some very dramatic lighting (especially in Norway) and on our first night the most stupendous display of northern lights!

    The group were a joy to lead. Always willing to try new things (photographically and culturally!), happy to go with the flow and, from what I have seen of their images already, have come away with some wonderful pictures as well as, I hope, some great memories. Here’s a flavour of what we got up to.

    Upon arrival and with a clear night forecast, we headed out in search of the lights. Within a very short period we were greeted with this. The orange glow is’nt light pollution as it’s, practically, non-existent here.

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    We then headed to a lake which gave us opportunities of shooing them reflected. This was the most dynamic part of the show and lasted for a further 2 hours! Curtains of green and violet moving across a star laden sky had us in awe – as you can imagine!

    Naturally, the first 15 minutes were rather chaotic with everyone hurriedly setting up tripods and attempting to compose an image in near darkness. After a while, however, safe in the knowledge that they had “bagged” a few decent shots, everyone slowed down, made more thoughtful compositions and found time to just stand and watch what was happening before us.

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    It started to cloud over but Antti had this covered! A quick look at the satellite forecast on his tablet and a phone-call to a colleague and moments later we were bouncing along a forest track. Within 10 minutes we were under clear skies on the edge of a lake. This is why you have a local guide!

    Northern lights, Muonio, Finnish Lapland.Very pleased that a few weeks ago this image won the Telegraph's Travel - The Big Picture photography competition.

    Northern lights, Muonio, Finnish Lapland.
    Very pleased that a few weeks ago this image won the Telegraph’s Travel – The Big Picture photography competition.

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    Photographing the northern lights is not an exact science as it depends on many factors – widest aperture of your lens, light pollution and brightness of the northern lights. In short, however, you want the widest, fastest lens you can lay your hands on, set the iso to 800, focus on infinity and set the shutter speed to 30 seconds. Review the image and adjust accordingly. There are lots of other  things you can do to increase your chances of returning with some memorable images and I may well write a separate post on this in the foreseeable.

    All my images were taken using a Nikon D600, 20mm f2.8, iso 800-3200 and shutter speeds ranging from 15 to 30 seconds. Needless to say, a tripod was used in conjunction with mirror lock-up and remote release.

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    After such a long day of travelling and photography into the early hours, a more leisurely late-morning excursion was called for. As Antti cooked salmon burgers and made coffee and tea over an open fire, the group spread out around the lake and waterfall shooting scenes and close-ups. The red leaves of northern bilberry set the landscape ablaze and no matter how many times I return at this time of the year, I can never resist aiming my lens at them!

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    On a warm blue-sky afternoon we visited the nearby Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. We drove high up to the visitor centre and hotel and so we didn’t have far to walk to be up on fells where, after a short while, we came across some very obliging reindeer.

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    For the first 3 days we were based in Muonio which lies 300km north of the Arctic Circle and just a couple of kilometers from the Swedish border. It claims to have the cleanest air in Europe and has the longest snow season in Finland. I have to say, it’s a lovely place. Surrounded by wilderness and life seems (on the face of it) to be at a very relaxed pace. I don’t think such a phrase as ‘traffic jam’ even exists in this part of the world!

    An extract taken from outdoors.fi on the national park which will give you more of an idea of the region we stayed in.

    The scenery in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is dominated by fells surrounded by forests and mires in their natural state. Because the area’s nature is clean and beautiful and the terrain varying, the park is a wonderful place to hike, ski and enjoy the outdoors. The silhouette of the fells can be seen practically at all times and the marked trails lead visitors to the National Park’s most beautiful look-out spots. The picturesque beauty of the Pallastunturi Fells has made the area one of the Finnish national landscapes.

    Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is Finland’s third largest National Park. The area of this park has doubled now that Pallas-Ounastunturi National Park and Ylläs-Aakenus Nature Reserve have been combined to create Pallas-Yllästunturi. The most southern fell of the chain is Yllästunturi Fell. It is outside of the park’s boundaries and used as a tourist ski resort hill. The highest fell in this chain is Taivaskero, which is 807 metres high. In the north the view is of the gently sloping upland-like Ounastunturi Fells.

    Geologically Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park is located between Northern Finland, Forest Lapland and Fell Lapland, making it a very varied and interesting habitat. In the park’s forests and on its fells there is a mix of northern and southern species. It is also the area in which visitors can see the transition area where peoples livelihood changes from farming to reindeer husbandry.

    Colours of Lapland in autumn

    Colours of Lapland in autumn

    Enjoying a cup of Chaga!

    Enjoying a cup of Chaga!

    On the 4th day we headed further north to our final destination, Kilpisjarvi (north-western-most part of Finland), a journey of, around, 3 1/2 hours. On the way we stopped for an hour at some rapids which everyone enjoyed and made the most of.

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    flower-1

    Hoping for a decent sunrise, the following morning we headed to a Lakeland setting. We did have a brief showing of colour in the morning sky but, sadly, not the sunrise we had hoped for. Always best to try as you just never know!

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    That afternoon we made our way to Skibotn in Norway which has a very nice, small, traditional harbour. We explored the length of the fjord and, as we did so, enjoyed the most dramatic light for the next couple of hours.

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    As darkness fell, Antti drove us a short distance through a forest to a clearing where he would make a fire and where, for the next couple of hours, we would hope to see the northern lights. The night sky wasn’t terribly clear and, to the north, there were breaks but, alas, tonight was not to be our night. Anyway, it was great to be outdoors keeping warm by the fire, just soaking up nature.

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    With a cloudy day forecast, Antti and I decided it would be best to head back to the same forest as the previous night and shoot autumn colour as opposed to landscapes. This ancient Norwegian forest was just beautiful! Everywhere you looked was yellow with splashes of red from the bilberry and mountain ash and mushrooms clinging to, what seemed, every birch trunk. We spent over 4 hours, here, but I could have stayed all day – indeed, all week!

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    Mike and Roger clearly enjoying themselves!

    Mike and Roger clearly enjoying themselves!

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    These mushrooms (I believe they are Birch bolete - I may be wrong!) were very common. I was happy to find these two and a break in the trees to put them in context with their environment.

    These mushrooms (I believe they are Birch bolete – I may be wrong!) were very common. I was happy to find these two and a break in the trees, enabling me to produce a contextual image.

    Lunch break!

    Lunch break!

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    We were due to leave for Tromso airport the next morning (a drive of 3 1/2 to 4 hours) so after a fair-well tipple in one of the cabins we said our goodnights. However, the northern lights were still on our minds and, with skies clearing, were we to be given  a parting gift? Having been spoilt on our first day, some had decided to go to bed while a few others, myself included, thought we would give it one last try. It was a stunning night with the moon reflecting on the water. Not a ripple. With our cabins situated next to a lake, we stood waiting on the jetty. After half an hour, or so, we were blessed with one last display.

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    Our trip concluded with a cable car ride to the top of Mount Storsteinen which, at a height of 421m/1382ft, gave us stunning views of Tromso.

    Tromso

    Tromso

    If by reading this you are tempted to join me and Antti on such a tour, then please register your interest for 2016. Yes, next year’s trip is fully booked and we are, already, over-subscribed for 2015!

    Testimonials from our guests from this year’s tour.

    “We could not have imagined that within hours of arriving at our hotel on
    the first day we would be treated to a spectacular display of the Northern
    Lights- a treasured memory for life. We have the photos to look back on with
    awe.
    There were many subjects to photograph- sunsets, sunrise, blazing birch
    forests, colourful vegetation, mountain scenes, cloud-scapes etc. The photos
    will take us back to glorious Finland and Norway.

    Antii and Robert were great to be with – Antii with his local knowledge was
    so willing and helpful and Robert was so generous with his advice and
    constructive comments helping us to get the best from our photography. The
    rest of the group were very friendly and we had many laughs along the way.
    It was helpful, too, to see how others tackled their shots. Our accommodation and food was first class.
    What we learnt from the trip has taken us to a new level in our photography.
    Many thanks to Robert and Antii.”
    Selwyn and Lesley

    “After a just a few hours of arrival in Muonio we were treated to a stunning and beautiful Northern Lights display.  Perfect timing and that was just the start!  The following days proved just as fulfilling with stunning scenery and autumnal colours screaming to be photographed in all directions.  Rob and Antti guided and advised us every day to ensure that we made the most out our the tour.

    It did not go unnoticed that Rob makes a point to try to spend time with everyone at each location, gently advising on alternate views, photographic techniques or just to confirm that we are on the right way.  I also appreciated that he made time to provide feedback on everyone’s images (including some of his own) when we reviewed them afterwards on a computer screen.  It always interesting to see how others interpret a scene.

    I would like pass my thanks to Rob and Antti for an excellent and rewarding trip.  I would also like to express my thanks to the other members of the group who made this trip so enjoyable.

    All in all, I can recommend to anyone thinking of joining a photographic tour to not look any further than Robert Canis’ website.  You will not be disappointed.”
    Roger

    “I would like to thank Robert Canis for organising a trip to Lapland where we were fortunate to see a magnificent display of the northern lights and close up pictures of a family of reindeer. Robert and our guide Antti organised first class accommodation with excellent food and including barbecues. This is a trip I would thoroughly recommend.”
    Michael

    “The week was everything that I thought it would be – and more. The Northern Lights show we experienced on the first night was spectacular!! Never heard so many adults go “ooh” and “aah” for such a long time. On its own, that justified the trip for me. The autumn colours were fantastic and seemed to be just everywhere I looked. Photo opportunities.

    Your help and guidance in matters photographical was appreciated and helpful. I felt both encouraged and motivated to try things differently and to experiment with some of my own ideas.

    The accommodation was superb. The Harriniva Hotel was everything that the internet pictures showed. The staff were super friendly. I did not think it could be bettered – but I was wrong!  The chalets at Tundrea had me totally amazed! I have never experienced such delightful accommodation in my life. The specification was so comprehensive – from the sauna to the fully equipped kitchen. I only wish that my own home was so well thought out. Both venues will be high on my list to stay at should I return to Finland.

    Our guide, Antti, was extremely knowledgeable. He just could not seem to do enough to make our trip enjoyable. His culinary skills and coffee making over the various campfires were deeply appreciated by us all.

    To sum up, everything was great. I would have no hesitation in recommending this trip to anyone. The company was really good.”
    Allan

    11 Comments
  3. Fungi photography

    I originally wrote this last autumn but with the fungi season upon us and with new images and information added, I thought it was worth re-posting.

    First of all, this is a not a definitive How To piece nor is it the ONLY way to photograph fungi. I decided to write this on the spur-of-the-moment given that many this weekend (and over the next couple of months) will be venturing out in the hope of getting some nice images of mushrooms. I simply hope that the following will assist you and that these images will go some way to inspiring you to get out and shoot these fantastic organisms.

    One thing that cannot be stressed enough in order for you to get consistently sharp results is technique. I would argue that there is no other genre of photography that requires such accuracy in it’s composition and focussing than with close-up photography. There are no excuses when it comes to photographing fungi. They don’t move and you, pretty much, have full control. More often than not, you can position yourself where you please, direct light into dark areas and experiment to your heart’s content with different compositions. But don’t let this lure you into a false sense of security. Use a tripod, fire the camera with a remote release and try fresh, new ways of shooting one of the most photographed subjects in autumn.

    I have written this, roughly, step by step.

    • Before you set your camera up, find the best specimen you can and one that has a reasonably uncluttered background. This will save you both time and hassle. It can be very frustrating to set you camera up, only to find half the cap has been eaten by a slug!
    Glistening ink cap

    Glistening ink cap

    • For medium to large size fungi use your longest zoom (70-300 for example) as you will have greater control over the background. With my full-frame (FX) Nikon D600 I like to use either the 105 or 200mm Micro and, even, occasionally the 200-400. If your lens doesn’t focus close enough, look at close-up filters (beware very cheap ones as they will render your images soft) or better still, extension tubes.

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    • Whenever possible, use a tripod or, for those extra low-angle shots, a beanbag. This will ensure sharp images time and again and enable you to use whatever aperture you wish. With the canopy, still, so dense, it’s inevitable that you will end up with a long shutter speed that may run into several seconds. But, with the camera firmly fixed to a tripod, who cares! To be extra confident of shake-free results, use a remote release in conjunction with mirror lock-up or, if you don’t have neither, use the self-timer. If you have one, use a right-angle viewfinder as this will make the whole operation that much more comfortable. And, if you don’t, you will want one soon after!

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    • To fill-in shaded areas such as underneath the mushroom’s cap and stem, use a reflector made from a piece of A4/A5 card covered in foil. Alternatively, a mirror, torch or flash can prove very useful.
    • Where do I focus? For those with a slender stem and small cap where the stem occupies most of the frame, focus on the stem. Small stem, large cap – focus on the front of the cap. Try focusing at different points to see what suits and consider focus-stacking.
    • With the camera set to manual focus, activate the camera’s Live View function, zoom in to the area that you want sharp, and focus.
    • As well as reviewing the histogram, make sure the Highlight warning is also enabled as this can be very useful, indeed, to check that the pale parts of the mushroom don’t “blow out”.
    Orange grisette

    Orange grisette
    Nikon D300, 28-105mm @56mm, ISO 200, 6 secs. f/14, beanbag.

    • Shoot the same picture at different apertures – f4, f8 and f16 for example. Then, when you get home and view them on your computer, you can see which one you prefer most.
    TurkeytailF4

    Turkey tail
    F4

    TurkeytailF22

    Turkey tail
    F22

    • If you come across a nice clump of mushrooms and the background suits, consider using a wide-angle lens such as a 20mm or 24mm (or even wider) to show the fungi in context with it’s surroundings. Remember to get low and close so that the fungi dominates the frame otherwise you will, simply, end up with an image of a woodland with some fungi somewhere in the shot!
    Sulphur tuft

    Sulphur tuft

    Fly agaric

    Fly agaric

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    Birch bolete
    Nikon D600, 20mm, ISO 100, 1/4 sec. f11, 0.6 ND grad, beanbag.

    Porcelain / Beech tuft

    Porcelain / Beech tuft

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    Nikon D600, 14mm, ISO 100, 1/6 sec. f/16.

    • Get in really close and pick out details such as the cap from above and it’s underside.
    Cap of Fly agaric

    Cap of Fly agaric

    Gills

    Gills

    • Consider using flash and be bold! There are times when, if used sensitively, flash can add a little ‘fill’ to lift shadows and reveal detail on their undersides. Be careful, however, since if you’re not careful your image will suffer from bright, specular highlights so consider diffusing the flash. Alternatively, by getting really low and looking up try balancing the flash with the ambient light as striking images can be had. Look at using the flash off-camera either remotely or by cable to produce a more directional light thereby revealing the mushroom’s fine detail. I like to work with both the camera and flash on manual giving me ultimate control over how both are balanced. See those below where the top image was taken without flash and the one below it, with.

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    Slender parasol

    Slender parasol
    Nikon D600, 20mm, ISO 100, 0.3 sec. f/8, off-camera SB800 at 1/4 power.

    Common puffball. Spore release.

    Common puffball. Spore release.
    Nikon D600, 105mm Micro, ISO 200, 1/5 sec. f5.6, off-camera SB800 at 1/8 power.

    Artist's bracket at twilight

    Artist’s bracket at twilight

    • And finally – get creative! Get in close and shoot from above and below. Pick out details and experiment with differential focusing and wide apertures. No-one says every part of the mushroom has to be sharp. Photography’s an art form so express yourself and, whenever possible, slow down. Take your time and be selective. Surely, it’s better to return home with one or two images that you are really proud of as opposed to a dozen that will sit idle on your hard drive.

    Mycena sp.

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    Nikon D300, 105mm, ISO 200, 10 secs. f4, beanbag.

    Saffrondrop bonnet in beechwood

    Saffrondrop bonnet in beechwood

    14 Comments

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