ARCHIVE 300 – THE BAY BESIDE BROOK COPSE

 

 


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This image is best viewed enlarged – click onto it to see a larger version in a separate window.

Mute Swan in the bay beside Brook Copse, on Chew Valley Lake’s northeast edge; south of Bristol; 15 May 2015.

An image almost without colour, with the marked exception of that beacon-like bill.  The various structures within this image are mainly horizontal – the wavelets, the areas of water plants – but the bird’s gentle bow wave is at a slight angle to this trend.

A popular path around the lake crosses a small stream or brook here via a small bridge, and walkers often feed the waterbirds from the bridge.  This swan spotted me on the bridge from some way off and, ever ready for food, came over – but I had not a thing edible on me!

You can find a very different picture of a swan at this lake here.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO.

UPDATE: I still very much like the simplicity of this, both in terms of colour and the textures and structures present.  The structures are of three types.  Those on the water’s surface are linear.  Then there are the three horizontal bands of blackish emergent vegetation – out of focus in the foreground, highly scattered in the middle ground, and helping to form some sort of more solid closure to the top of the composition.  And the swan, really, is the only more rounded, organic thing there.
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ARCHIVE 299 – CROW SCARING STARLINGS (MONO)

 

 

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Starlings are flustered and scattered as a Carrion Crow flies in amongst them; Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 1 Nov 2013.

There is another image from these moments here.

Technique: D800 with 80-400 Nikkor lens at 400mm; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro’s High Structure Harsh preset.

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ARCHIVE 294 – CROW ON A FALLEN TREE (MONO)

 

 


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Carrion Crow perched in a fallen tree; Tadham Moor, south of Wedmore, on the Somerset Levels; 31 Mar 2014.

Early in the day, I pulled bleary eyed into the Magic Carpark, stumbled out of the car – and saw this crow.  Praying that it wouldn’t move, and all fingers and thumbs, I readied the camera, turned and – it was still there!  In fact it stayed there for sometime.

The tree is a casualty of the recent severe flooding.  It was probably not standing vertically before, but then its roots had been able to find sufficient purchase in the soil.  But, saturate that soil with floodwater for many weeks and turn it into something like blancmange or wet rice pudding, and the roots were simply not up to the task of keeping the great bulk of trunk and branches above them upright.

I went for a pure silhouette, with the sky completely burnt out, for simplicity – a Minimalist approach.  To me, the few branches entering the frame at upper right serve to balance the composition.  The adding of a blue tone takes the scene further away from reality.

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

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Classic Portrait preset, and adding a Cyanotype tone.
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STILL LIFE 106 – MALLARD 2

 

 


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Female Mallard, resting but alert as I edge closer – the first of these bird still lifes (a male Mallard), with context, is here: 1, and there are other images here: 2; 3; 4.

Click onto this image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that larger image to enlarge it yet again.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Herriots Bridge, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 3 Apr 2017.
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STILL LIFE 102 – SWAN 3 (MONO)

 

 


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Mute Swan in low key – the first of these bird still lifes, with context, is here: 1, and there are other images here: 2; 3.

Click onto this image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that larger image to enlarge it yet again.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Full Dynamic Smooth preset; Herriots Bridge, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 3 Apr 2017.
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STILL LIFE 101 – SWAN 2

 

 


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Close in with a Mute Swan – the first of these bird still lifes, with context, is here: 1, and there is another image here: 2.

Click onto this image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that larger image to enlarge it yet again.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 215mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Classic Chrome film simulation; Herriots Bridge, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 3 Apr 2017.
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OUTLANDS 14 – PHEASANT

 

 


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As I walked up the byway (see context here), male Pheasants, strutting and noisy, were everywhere – its that time of year.  By contrast, the smaller and far more camouflaged females were rarely seen.  And getting back to the car which I’d parked beside the small common around which West Littleton clusters, I was clearly trespassing on ground this particular male thought his – so he set about strutting around me, noisily protesting and getting ever closer.

What a bird – and looking at him you may wonder that England has produced something so exotic.  To which the simple answer is that it hasn’t – these are birds of the Orient, ranging from the Black Sea east to China, and are thought to have been introduced here in the 11th or 12th centuries – for meat, decoration or both, I suppose.  But country sports and meat are their fate now, and pheasant is considered a delicacy – as I was reminded over breakfast by this picture on the restaurant wall –

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There are other images here: 12, 13.

Click onto the images to open larger versions in separate windows, and then click onto these larger versions to enlarge them yet again.

Technique (main photo): X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm; 320 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; West Littleton, South Gloucestershire; 12 Apr 2017.
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OUTLANDS 13 – NEAR WEST LITTLETON 2

 

 


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Something Minimal, there’s really not much here, both in terms of content and colour, but straight black and white would lose a little I think.  And the bird – and getting focus on the bird – were fortuitous!

Context about this second Outlands trip can be found here, and there is another image here: 12.

Click onto this image to open it in a separate window, and click onto it again to further enlarge it.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Classic Chrome film simulation; near West Littleton, South Gloucestershire; 12 Apr 2017.
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STILL LIFE 97 – SWAN

 

 

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Close in with a male Mute Swan.  The large black knob above the base of the bill shows this to be an adult male, a cob.

Most of the bird was bathed in bright sunlight, and spot metering overexposed the highlights below its head.  Some very vague traces of its body are still visible, at upper right and lower left.  These would be easy to remove, but they’re left in to provide (a very little!) context. 

The first of these bird still life images, with context, is here: 1

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that larger image to enlarge it again.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 215mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom, using Fuji’s Classic Chrome colour profile;  Herriots Bridge, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 3 Apr 2017.
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STILL LIFE 96 – MALLARD

 

 


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I have a great love for the natural world.  I was a birder for decades, and still retain – will always retain! – a deep love and regard for “our feathered friends”.  And having recently acquired the Fuji X-T2 mirrorless camera, with its great reputation for autofocus speed, I have for sometime had the idea on trying it out on flying birds, and also birds exploding into flight from the ground.  And so, with the (highly treasured!) leisure time of the retiree, I stuffed some stale bread in my rucksack, threw the X-T2 with its telephoto over my shoulder, and drove down to Chew Valley Lake, which is not far south of Bristol.

LOL!!! >>> and the joke was on me because, this being the start of birds’ breeding season, there were, firstly, few birds around this great reservoir and secondly, there were even fewer in flight – and when I tried to stimulate some flying activity by throwing bits of bread up in the air, the feathered layabouts that were present merely let it fall to the ground, before waddling over to bolt it down >>> HA!!! >>> the best laid plans of mice and ex-birders …..

But, Chew is a pleasant spot, and there were birds up out of the water and very close to me, and I set about thinking what, in photographic terms, to do with them.  Just taking pictures of them is not my thing, as there are millions of such images around and there’s little point in adding to those numbers.  Then again, when photographing animals or birds, I often like to get in close to them, filling the frame if I can, so that the picture is more of an individual, rather than an overall, generic shot.

Well, these birds were close and unconcerned by my presence – by the car pull-offs at Herons Green and Herriots Bridge they are very used to people – and even more used to the titbits that people often feed to them.  So frame-filling or thereabouts shots were quite possible – but then what I laughingly call my mind went off at another tangent.  Why not try and produce pictures that are more like still lifes, which really ignore the fact that this is a portrait of a Mute Swan and this a Mallard – in favour of creating something visual that looks nice, even if it doesn’t show the whole individual and may not be a true likeness, particularly in terms of colour.

And one of the things that I particularly like about the X-T2 (and the X-T1 too) is its large, Electronic Viewfinder (EVF), which enables me to see exactly how the image is going to look – i.e. after all exposure adjustments, etc. that I’ve made – before I capture the shot.  And this has in turn led to my using spot metering quite a lot for quite radical exposure adjustments, rather than trusting to multizone metering to given me an overall balanced exposure.

Composition: here is the first of these shots.  I’m standing over a male Mallard, a common duck here, that is asleep on the ground below me.  His bill is buried in his back feathers, the sun is catching the iridescent plumage on his green head to produce a swathe of purple, and his white eyelid is closed.  The image is quite high key, with that great, purple and green head as the centrepiece and everything else arranged around it, with pale colours, lots of finely vermiculated (birderspeak for finely barred) feathers, and some pale, sunlit stonework at the top of the frame.  Rather than a picture that might be used in a bird identification guide, or a picture of a characterful individual, I’m hoping that this is an attractive arrangement of shapes, colours and textures – a still life.

My visit to Chew Valley Lake held something else too.  For it was here (and other local places),  in 1967 – half a century ago! – that two school friends, Pete and Clive,  started enticing me away from the geology that, until then, really had been my raison d’etre, and began taking me on the birdwatching trips that were to entirely intrigue me, and which were to have a profound effect on the course of the rest of my life.  50 years ago.  Wow, that really does seem a long time.  In a way, that seems forever.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that enlarged image to enlarge it yet again – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm; 1600 ISO; spot metering; and with Lightroom used to give the raw file the look of Fuji’s Velvia (or Vivid) colour profile; Herriots Bridge, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 3 Apr 2017.
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