STILL LIFE 101 – SWAN 2

 

 


.

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.
.
.
.

STILL LIFE 97 – SWAN

 

 

.
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.
.
.
.

STILL LIFE 96 – MALLARD

 

 


.

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.
.
.
.

ARCHIVE 280 – MALLARD

 

 

mallard
.
Mallard in Herons Green Bay, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 6 Apr 2015.

A Minimalist image – some ripples and a silhouetted duck.

The up-curled tail feathers show this to be a male (drake) Mallard, a very common and often tame waterbird here in the UK.

This is a colour image, albeit one with little colour in it.  And I’ve used CEP4‘s Cross Balance filter to give the effect of Tungsten (i.e. artificial light) film that has been used in daylight, which has resulted in the image’s cool, faintly bluish tints.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 200 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4, using the Cross Balance filter.

.
.
.

ARCHIVE 269 – SWAN, KEEPING AN EYE ON ME (MONO)

 

 

mute-swan
.
Mute Swan, back-lit and keeping a wary eye on me; Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 6 Apr 2015.

The common, resident swan of the British Isles, often tame – and especially so where regularly fed bread and other morsels by indulgent humans!

This is probably an adult male.  Adult on the basis of its white plumage, although its head and neck were stained dirty brown where it had been upending and reaching down into the muddy water to feed on aquatic vegetation.  And a Cob, a male, on the basis of its deep orange bill, and the large black knob on its forehead.

A formidable creature, and certainly not one to annoy.  He was keeping an eye on me, but I was keeping an eye on him too.

Click onto the image to see a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 200 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the High Key 2 preset.

UPDATE: they are not totally mute despite their name, uttering various hisses, snorts and even occasional gull-like cries.  But their large wings make a high, throbbing, singing noise in flight which, to me, is one of the most beautiful and ethereal sounds of this world.

.
.
.

ARCHIVE 251 – MIST LIFTING, HERONS GREEN

 

 

mist-lifting-herons-green-1
.
Early morning mist lifting at Herons Green Bay, Chew Valley Lake, south of Bristol; 6 Apr 2015.

Driving through the Chew Valley, heading for the Mendip Hills, I came out onto an open stretch of road beside Chew Valley Lake and was suddenly enveloped in thick mist.  But over to my left the sun was starting to rise, the mist was lifting and changing colours in the most visually seductive ways – and I swerved into a layby, jumped out and started taking pictures.

I was there for about an hour, and this is the first of a short series of images from that misty morning.  I love images with little detail, and the telezoom that I’m married to was just right for picking out scenes in that warm softness.

Chew Valley Lake is a large reservoir, the 5th largest artificial area of water in the UK.  It was opened in 1956, to supply Bristol with drinking water.  It has many memories for me because it was here, in 1967, that two school friends first opened my eyes to birds and birdwatching, and so set me on a path and interest that continued through to 2002.  I no longer go birdwatching, but I retain a deep love and feeling for birds, and see them as an essential facet of all land-, water- and skyscapes.

Click onto the image to see a larger version in a separate window – certainly recommended.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 78mm; 200 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.

UPDATE: ask me the sorts of pictures I enjoy taking and scenes like this would be high on the list.  I get a real buzz from pointing telephoto lenses at scenes like this.

Why do I like this?  Well, first, its a Minimalist scene, there’s really not a lot of hard detail here, not a lot to get a real, visual grasp on, and to me it is the richer for that – the essence of the phrase “less is more”, perhaps.  Its just a duck, swimming in front of some trees which are all but shrouded in some glowing mist.  Then its a natural scene (although the body of water is actually an artificial reservoir) and Nature is always big with me – although, having said that, I do seem to be swinging more towards built environments, city photography, since getting a smaller and handier new camera, the Fujifilm X-T1.  I’ve done a lot of city photography in the past, often in pursuit of abstract studies.

But, anyway, here it is.  A calm scene, something taking us away from “the busy modern lifestyle”.  Was that my mobile phone?  I don’t know, I’ve got it switched off, and the greeting on its answerphone is “Go away!”.

And, lastly, would this image work without the duck?  Well, put your finger over the bird and its wake, and see.  For me it still works, becoming an even more Minimalist study, something on the lines of – although still far from – a Monet maybe?  For you, this may not work, this may be a subtraction too far.  What do you think?
.
.
.

ARCHIVE 247 – CANADA GEESE FLASH PAST AND I BLAST AWAY AT THEM (MONO)

 

 

fsk_167bx
.
Quite early on a beautiful summer’s morning – 27 Jul 2011 – I was daydreaming, far away but with camera in hand, at Heron’s Green, on the shores of Chew Valley Lake, Somerset.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, nasal honking calls, a swish of wings, and Canada Geese were flashing, pell-mell, past me.  I’m getting too old for such surprises, but I just managed to haul up the snout of my faithful 300mm, jab my right thumb onto the D700’s autofocus button and hold it there – and I was immediately blasting away at individuals in this hurtling, feathered storm, panning wildly as they shot noisily past.

I had not the briefest moment in time in which to adjust the camera, not even to get it into motordrive (which might actually not be best in this sort of situation) – so I was blasting away at 1/30th second and f14 – hardly the ideal combination, and of course most of the shots are very blurred.  Not that I consider blur in photos to be a bad thing, far from it.

But, anyway, the central bird here is (possibly!) almost sharp, and I very much like the feeling of blur, speed and general flurry that the picture imparts.  I’ve converted it to mono to simplify it, in particular rendering the background far less obvious, and I’ve also toned the mono conversion.  The result is quite painterly I think, which is absolutely fine by me.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; conversion to mono, including toning, in Silver Efex Pro.

.
.
.

STILL LIFE 43 – STILL LIFE, IN FLIGHT 2 (MONO)

 

 

still-life-in-flight-2-mono
.
Black-headed Gull, Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 4 July 2016.

The year is changing.  Black-headed Gulls do not breed around Bristol and so, in spring, this normally common and noisy scavenger mostly disappears to its breeding grounds elsewhere in the UK.  But around now, in what we Brits loosely term “summer”, breeding plumage birds (with dark BROWN heads NB) start to reappear.  I’m glad to hear their shrill screams again and see their graceful, almost tern-like flight – and I know that their reappearance means that the year is moving on, if only a little.

I took the X-T1 down to Chew Lake to shoot birds in flight, but with little success.  This may of course have been due to my inexperience with this camera, but the electronic viewfinder just couldn’t seem to cope with the close in, high speed, frenzied action, whereas the Nikons’ optical viewfinders are far more up to it.  I don’t think that the X-T1 has been designed with this sort of photography in mind, but that’s fine because its so good at so many other things.  The X-T2, when it arrives, may be better at this kind of thing.

This is a still life image, a moving object made still by a camera shutter firing at 1/1600th of a second.   In the real world, this bird is flying.  But in the world of the imagination, this creature could … with its wings straining skywards above its fully spread tail … it could be dancing, or perhaps even jumping for joy.  It is just a question of how we want to see things.  The first of these flying still lifes can be found here.

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

X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon at 305mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Film Noir 1 preset.
.
.
.

BIRDS 81 – COMMON GULL

 

 

common-gull
.
Common Gull, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 5 Feb 2016.

This is a medium sized gull, slightly larger than the winter-plumaged Black-headed Gulls seen around it here, but smaller than the distinctly meatier Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls that roar and ravage (as some would see it) over our countryside and, especially, our urban sprawls.

The rather weak, greenish bill is a good identification feature, especially amongst Black-headed Gulls, which have red bills when adult (one of which can just be seen here, on the right).

And, English bird names being what they are, this gull is never common, at least around here; and the Black-headed Gulls, when in breeding plumage, do in fact have dark brown heads.

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 1600 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.
.
.
.

FANTASY 37 – MAY IT BE A LIGHT TO YOU IN DARK PLACES, WHEN ALL OTHER LIGHTS GO OUT

 

 

rising-light
.
FANTASY

In this phial, she said, is caught the light of Earendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain. 

It will shine still brighter when night is about you. 

May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

The Lord Of The Rings: Galadriel bids farewell to Frodo.

REALITY

Multiple exposure through bushes, towards light; Chew Valley Lake, near Bristol; 29 Sept 2015.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 195mm; 400 ISO; slight camera movement between two exposures; Color Efex Pro 4.

THOUGHTS

The final sentence of this quote speaks volumes to me, it has always been something from which I have derived great hope and reassurance.  Yes, there have been dark places, very dark, but those words have always been there too.

GRIEF,  AND A LITTLE GOOD CHEER TOO

When compiling this post, a few days ago, I intended finishing it with that section on “THOUGHTS”, with the reassurance of light in those dark places.  However, since then, two events have occurred.

First, I have learned of the death of an old friend, a good, humorous and eminently human man.  There is of course great sadness here, those dark places have come closer once more, but there is also great shock at the speed at which illness overtook him.  In memory of a good friend, and work colleague too, this post is dedicated to Bob Harte.

Second, and on a vastly more flippant and ephemeral plane, I – and without a doubt, many, many others – were substantially gladdened yesterday by the emphatic removal, at the ballot box, of Bristol’s first elected mayor.  I am no longer naïve enough to think that all is going to be roses and light from here on in, but I can’t help feeling that things are going to be, to some extent at least, on the up.

.
.
.

%d bloggers like this: