Saturday, 24 January 2009

On winter sunlight...

Winter is my favourite time of year for photography. It may be cold and mostly gloomy but when the sun does make an appearance it is the best kind of sun. Low and warm - at least in light if not in temperature. Today I spent some time in Central London. Before the sun came out I was shooting abstracts. Late afternoon, however, as I came to Trafalgar Square the sun broke through. The sky was still quite grey - but the light was perfect for some moody black and whites.

And then as I crossed the Hungerford Bridge I spotted the lengthening shadows on the embankment. Another great opportunity for black and white.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

On the joys of birds in flight

The other day I came across an excellent mastering flight photography article on Richard Bedford's website. An interesting read with lots of practical advice from an expert on the subject. Some of his shots must have been phenomenally difficult to obtain. Swallows for example, being small and fast, are incredibly hard to track, yet Richard has a beautiful shot of one swooping low across water.

My own successes have largely been with much larger or slower birds. The king cormorants in the Falklands were particularly enjoyable to photograph. One day I found a group conducting flight operations from a table of rock on the cliffs at Sealion Island. It was a great location in that it enabled me to position myself upwind of and slightly below the landing area. I spent well over an hour in this vantage place tracking the birds coming in and shooting in bursts as they decelerated to land.

Even with slow moving birds and a good zoom I didn't find it easy to always get the best framing. This is one of my favourite shots from the day - it's just a shame I lost the bottom of his foot. Cold fingers did not help either!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

On goldcrests and cold weather

I don't know whether it is just the absence of foliage on the trees, or whether the nose-diving temperatures of the last couple of weeks have increased the urgent need to feed, but everywhere I go at the moment I seem to see goldcrests. The cold weather has to be tough on Britain's smallest bird.

This morning, in a snowy Crane Park, I saw several at very close quarters. So intent on feeding where they that they seemed completely oblivious to the close passage of several dog walkers. Whilst too dull for photography, it was fun to watch them - and nearly as nice to return to my centrally-heated flat!

Here is a shot that I took last week in Bushy Park.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

On the significance of small things

The New Year got off to a dull start. Two days of grey overcast which stopped me taking photographs, but not seeing a lot of wildlife (including my first water vole!). Today, however, dawned bright and clear. Freezing cold - but great photography weather. I spent a happy morning in the park seeing and photographing a number of small birds.

As I was heading off in search of some lunch I heard a wren call in the bushes. I've seen a lot of wrens in the last few days, so I could have walked right by. But I chose to stop. I'm so glad I did. I never found the wren but what I did find - in the tree right by me - was a female sparrowhawk. I've never had much luck with sparrowhawks. They are birds that other people see. That non-photographers manage to take photos of in their back gardens and tell me about afterwards. Today, however, she was all mine.

It is surprising how many times that happens. I hear or see something common or insignificant and when I stop to look at it, I find something far more interesting. Of course, now I've broken the jinx I'll probably see sparrowhawks everywhere - but I don't mind that. They are beautiful birds.