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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BIRDS 90 – JACKDAWS OVER TADHAM MOOR

 

 

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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.

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BIRDS 84 – ROOK

 

 

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Rook; Truro city centre, Cornwall; 12 Apr 2016.

Well, another (slightly glossy) black crow, but that thin and pointed, rather dagger-like bill and the bare grey skin on the face immediately identify this as a Rook.  Unlike Carrion Crows, which are around our gardens and towns all the time, Rooks are more birds of open country, where they use that long, sharp bill to probe in the ground for small invertebrates.

But a few venture closer to us, as in a motorway services on the way to London, where they stalk around the parked cars hoping for titbits; and here in Truro city centre; and in a park just up the road from where I live in Bristol too, where a few come for the winter – they have just come back, last week – to probe and feast in the park’s mown lawns.

And I like Rooks.  They are jaunty, garrulous birds, full of character – rather like Starlings in this respect – and yes, as I have said about various birds before, and will no doubt say again, I would very much like to have a Rook on my shoulder, peering intelligently around and making deafening squawks in my ear!

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 800 ISO.
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ARCHIVE 249 – JAY, AND THOUGHTS OF PICASSO

 

 

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Jay, in our garden; 6 Mar 2014.

Jays were the very first birds I saw in our garden after moving in all those years ago, and they are often around.  But they are habitually shy, and the thought of trying to photograph them has never occurred to me.  But today all that changed when, looking out of the kitchen window, I was confronted with one perched in our Upper Oak, really not that far away.  The merest movement at a window is usually enough to send them scattering, but today as I looked out, this bird moved unconcernedly around the Oak – and it stayed, and it stayed – and I dashed into the next room and grabbed the only camera to hand – which luckily had a telezoom attached.

Shooting through a double-glazed window held no great promise of success but, as opening the window was certain to scare the creature away, I braced myself back against the larder door, and started firing.  Lots of shots, because lots, I knew, were destined to be failures.

Let’s be quite clear where we are here – I love crows.  Many think of crows only as black birds, but Jays and Magpies are crows too.  In company with another of my loves –  gulls – crows get a bad press, being highly successful, intelligent and opportunistic, killers and scavengers.  But I still love them and if asked if I would like a Rook or, better still, a Raven, to perch on my outstretched arm, I would jump at the chance.  Just think of Picasso’s Woman with a crow – and imagine enjoying such closeness and intimacy with one of these beings!  (And I greatly admire Picasso’s early work, up to around Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,  – but that’s another story!)

Jays get a bad press from devouring the eggs and young of other birds.  But something that is often forgotten that they aid the spread of Oak trees by burying vast numbers of acorns as winter food stores and then forgetting to retrieve some, which proceed to sprout as new Oaks.  This is the origin of the two Oaks in our garden, and more sprout in our “lawns” (I use the term is its loosest sense …) every year.

This Oak speaks of both death and rebirth.  Below the bird are some of last year’s dead leaves, which have stayed attached to these branches through the many storms and gales that have hammered us this year.  But all of the small twigs in this shot are covered in new buds – we are in March, and Spring is not far off.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 800 ISO.

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ARCHIVE 239 – CARRION CROW (MONO)

 

 

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Carrion Crow over our back garden, not long after dawn; 27 Nov 2011.

A very different shot from the first version (Birds 8, here ), another frame of the same bird in fact.  This one has been converted into mono in Silver Efex Pro 2, and I’ve used the one of the Film Noire presets to instil drama – the powerful, jet black crow diving through a patch of clear sky in an angry, boiling cloudscape.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 200mm; 800 ISO.

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ARCHIVE 203 – CROW, IN WILD SKY

 

 

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Carrion Crow over our back garden, not long after dawn; 27 Nov 2011.

I very much like the limited palette of colours but – as is so often the case – I prefer this version to monochrome.  The crow – which looks for all the world like a Photoshop insert! – is purposely positioned away from any of the composition’s visual strong points, but with space ahead to fly into.  Actually quite a reasonably sized bird, it looks so small here against the vast sky and very solid looking clouds:  this is intentional.

Nikon D700 with 70mm-300mm VR Nikkor at 200mm; 800 ISO.

UPDATE: as with the previous archive post , a picture of a bird – and of course I’m biased, having been a really enthusiastic birder from 1967 to 2002 or so – and still retaining a very deep place in my heart for “Our Feathered Friends” right now.  I like the previous post because it is a somewhat intimate portrait of a wild creature – it is a close up look, there is eye contact.  The photo here is also a portrait, but of a quite different type.  For here we see very few details of the individual itself, but what we do see is this creature in its wild element – a small thing soaring gracefully in a vast, wild and angry sky – in its wild and angry element – and quite at home, amply at home, in that element.

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CORNWALL 82 – ROOK ON THE HIGH STREET

 

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Rook preening on a street lamp in the main street of Penzance; 25 Apr 2012.

We were sitting at a table on the upper floor of a café, enjoying the interesting and lively view over Penzance’s main street.

Two Rooks came and perched on street lamp brackets immediately outside the window.  I had a feeling they wouldn’t stay there long, and so rather than reaching for the Nikon, I used the little G11 which was already in my hand.  One of the Rooks left almost immediately but I managed to train the Canon’s telephoto onto the other bird which, despite all of the hustle and bustle in the street below, started preening.

Rooks are crows, and more usually birds of the open countryside.  I like crows anyway, but noisy colonies of these birds – rookeries – in the tops of tall, rural trees are for me one of the great joys of spring.  So seeing them here above this busy shopping street was a surprise, albeit that Penzance is not that large a town.  And having the bird set against the window display of the shop on the other side of the road added to that.

Canon G11 PowerShot at 140mm (equivalent); 400 ISO.

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BIRDS 77 – CARRION CROW

 

 

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Carrion Crow around the cliffs west of West Bay, Dorset; 21 April 2015.

A large, intelligent and opportunistic killer and scavenger, widespread in pairs across Britain – and as much at home around these wild crags as in the soft and leafy suburbs of Bristol.

And the rocks?  These are the honey-coloured cliffs of Dorset’s renowned Jurassic Coast – beautiful certainly, but with a dangerous beauty all the same, for these fossil-filled rocks are very loose and prone to collapse – no one climbs here, this natural beauty is best admired from a distance. 

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 400 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 200 – CROW OVER STUBBLE FIELD (MONO)

 

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Carrion Crow taking off from a field of stubble on Westhay Moor; 27 Nov 2014.

I have a great liking for crows in general.  They are large, noisy and very successful opportunists, and to have one here standing on my desk – or perched on my shoulder – as I compose this post would certainly be one of Life’s good experiences.

Driving on Westhay Moor, I came upon a great field of stubble, with a black crow standing alone in it.  The crow was quite far off, I had a big telephoto ready on the seat beside me, I could visualise a picture of this black bird amongst the pale stubble, the car window was already down, and I brought the car very quietly to a gentle halt.

But despite all of these things I underestimated my dear darling and, even at that substantial range, as soon as I’d stopped the car, he started waddling uneasily away and, as I raised the lens – which he may well have thought a shotgun barrel – he started hopping away and, before I could say knife, he was airborne.

Loud expletives filled the car but, remembering my camera’s good autofocus and up for the challenge, I started firing, panning the camera to keep up with this fleeing being.

And what have I ended up with?  Well, pin sharp it isn’t, although the wingtip feathers could be far more blurred, but its the bird silhouetted – with its feet still dangling from having just leapt up into the air.  Its flying just above the pale lines of stubble (which tend to bewilder my eyes when I look at them), and there are a pale gate and darker flanking fences in the backdrop, and a hint of trees further back again.  Its an impression of the scene and I like the effect, and so its presented here.

And this is my 200th post from the Somerset Levels, a part of England that I love very much, and I feel good about that.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Antique Portrait preset.
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