Standing out on the Somerset Levels, before sunrise.  Enjoying the (freezing!) moment, the stillness and quiet; a camera inert, itself freezing, around my neck.

All at once the silence was cut by harsh, garrulous calls – “TJACK! … TJACK!” – and, looking up, a small, dark and nebulous mass, shaped like a misty lozenge, was powering towards me high above that flat landscape.  To an ex-birder like me, the calls proclaimed the callers, Jackdaws, small black crows with white eyes, flying out from their roost at first light to feed.  They would have spent the night as a flock, perched safely up in tall trees, occasionally shuffling, occasionally calling, enduring the sub-zero temperatures of the long January night.  Some, of course, may not have made it through that ice box of a night, some may have succumbed to the deeply penetrating cold, and toppled silently from their perches, to lie frozen through now on the rock hard ground below.  But the rest, now, at dawn and with the sun about to rise, had left their roost and set off across country, to an area where they could find food to replenish the ravages of that stark darkness.

The camera, the Fuji X-T2, with its much trumpeted reputation for speed, was around my neck, switched off and with the telezoom at minimum.  Having appeared from nowhere, the flock was almost over me in an instant, there was barely time to do anything – in one movement my forefinger switched the camera on, got onto the shutter button and for the briefest instant held it half down for focus, and then fired off two frames – managing 1/350 at f4.5 and 25,600 ISO in the poor light.

And here is the result, which can be viewed in three ways.

First, and most trivially, it serves as a crude test of the X-T2’s start up and autofocus times.  The birds are more or less sharp, with some blurring of their flailing wing tips – and that’s good enough for me – I want the moment, not technical perfection.

Then second and far more valuably, this is an instantaneous picture of the Natural World, of relatively small, warm blooded creatures that have weathered many hours of darkness and sub-zero temperatures, relying on their feathers and whatever fat reserves they may have to ward off the biting, sub-zero temperatures.  Now they are out over that flat landscape, hungry, needing food to survive, and powering towards somewhere that, yesterday at least, there was food.  What can I say?  The Natural World never ceases to interest and excite me.

And finally, thinking more abstractly, this image shows a variety of bird shapes, silhouettes, set against a grainy blue background.  Perhaps it might serve as a pattern for a table cloth, curtains or an arty blouse, such is our world.

There is a much closer image of a Jackdaw here.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 84mm (equiv); 25,600 ISO; 1/350, f4.5; crop shows just over a third of the total image area; 27 Jan 2017.




About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.


  1. Sallyann says:

    I like this one, reading your words with the picture, I can almost hear it too. 🙂


  2. Meanderer says:

    Aren’t the shapes fascinating?! Love it, Adrian – and you are right, it would make an interesting pattern for homewares.

    Did you see the BBC2 programme last night about the quest to see the Birds of Paradise in Papua New Guinea? It was really interesting.


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Yes, absolutely, it is a picture about the shapes, as well as all of the natural world stuff underlying it. As well as making the birds larger in the frame, I’ve tried to crop it to arrange the birds into something a little visually attractive, and that loose group of 6 birds with their wings spread towards upper left reflect this – if there’s a focal point in this shot, they’re it. But please spare me the dreadful homewares!!!

      No, missed the Birds of Paradise last night, thanks to getting mellow with a flagon of Old Rosie cloudy cider – ah, the sordid truths will always out! … 😀 ……

      Liked by 1 person

  3. paula graham says:

    Wow, y’r up and about early, my friend…I see so many early morning shots come past.


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Yes, in retirement (= my dotage???), I’m becoming more of a morning person than ever – a 2nd breakfast in town at 7am again today – but then I fade dramatically (and enjoyably!) into the afternoons – as I intend doing, accompanied by some Belgian beer, quite soon today. As the days get longer now, I’m contemplating going out, most probably to the Levels, at quite insane hours – and its nice to have cameras that aren’t daunted by early morning gloom! 🙂


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