ARCHIVE KENYA 1 – FLAMINGOS AT DAWN

 

ARCHIVE KENYA: A NEW CATEGORY ON THIS BLOG

Some have said that they like my pictures from Kenya (which are film images all over 30 years old now) and would like to see them more often, which is very good to hear.  Now, despite my best intentions, I tend to be quite forgetful about such things >>> and so what to do???   I think the best way to remind myself is to set up a Archive Kenya category on my blog, and then to work through all of the Kenyan photos that I have, one by one, in the order in which they were posted (which makes it considerably easier for me) >>> and so to this first post.  I hope you will enjoy seeing these pictures again.  Some have been posted in the main Archive category fairly recently but many others have not seen the light of day for far longer.

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Dawn at Lake Nakuru, central Kenya; July 1978.

At around 6,000 feet above sea level, even this close to the equator, it was a cold dawn, and especially so for those of us who, living in Kenya, were becoming acclimatised to the place.  I had taken many pictures and was feeling the cold and sleepy, when suddenly this flamingo flock glided down over birds already in the water – and I just fired at them –  a very lucky, single snapshot with a 400mm telephoto.  I very much like the combination of the pale blues of the early morning light with the whites and pinks of the flamingos’ plumage.

The birds in the water are mainly Greater Flamingos, which are a little larger than the Lesser Flamingo, with less stridently pink plumage and paler bills.  A few Lesser Flamingos, very pink, are at the left hand end of the flock in the water.  The dark bills of the birds coming down to join those in the water identify them all as Lesser Flamingos.

Two dark Cormorants (the same species as in the UK) are flying right to left, low over the water, behind all the flamingos.

This is the first image in this new series, but as more are posted, click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these images from Kenya.

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

Technique: hahaha! can’t remember! >>> except that the great hulk of a 400mm telephoto, which I still have, was made by Vivitar.

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ARCHIVE 456 – SWANS OVER TEALHAM

 

 


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Mute Swans about to land on flooded Tealham Moor, south of Wedmore, on the Somerset Levels; 7 Feb 2014.

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

Much against good sense, I ventured down onto the Levels recently, to my habitual haunts on Tealham and Tadham Moors.  Not daring to take my usual cross-country route because of the many places where even small amounts of flooding might cut it, I drove down the main A38 road south from Bristol to Highbridge, and then went eastwards into the flatlands along another, relatively large road.  All was well on these main roads, but as soon as I got onto the smaller lanes, problems with water appeared.

Tealham and Tadham were mostly submerged, with just just the roads sticking up above the waters and little traffic about, but the floods in this more northerly part of the Levels are nothing like those further south, south of the Polden Hills, where whole villages are being overwhelmed, main roads have been cut for weeks, cutting edge pumping technology has been brought in from Holland, and the Army has been called in to help the local people.

This image is starting to look rather unphotographic, more like a painting maybe, and I always feel good when this happens.  Henrietta Richer and Dave Battarbee have both made suggestions about this image, which I’ve incorporated.  

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 200 ISO. 

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BIRDS 129 – BLACK-HEADED GULL 2

 

 


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Breeding plumage Black-headed Gull over Chew Valley Lake, not far south of Bristol.  This is a relatively small gull, easily identified in this plumage by the white blaze on the forewing, the chocolate brown (not black!) hood, the white eye ring and the red bill.

There is another picture of a Black-headed Gull here .

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

Technique: X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 300mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Provia/Standard profile; Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 4 July 2016.
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BIRDS 126 – FERAL PIGEON 2 (MONO)

 

 


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Feral Pigeons on a church roof.  It was a dark morning, and so (even at 3200 ISO) to a shutter speed of 1/40 second, which resulted in the blurring of the flying bird’s wings, which I like.

There is another image of these birds, and some more context, here .

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

Technique: Z 6 with 24-120 Nikkor lens at 120mm; 3200 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Graphite profile; Weston-super-Mare, Somerset; 3 Jan 2020.
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BIRDS 124 – JACKDAW (MONO)

 


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Walking in the early morning of New Year’s Day in south Bristol, and being suddenly delighted by a storm of black bodies and whirling wings close overhead. They were Jackdaws, small crows, and this large group had recently emerged from a communal roost where they’d spent the long winter night and – garrulous, sociable, busy, noisy – they were off around Bristol’s rooftops in search of the day’s first meal. They landed on the roof of a nearby factory but, active as they were, I knew that they’d soon be aloft again in a noisy, wheeling black cloud.

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LOL!!! >>> and so to one of photography’s great sayings >>> that the best camera for the job is the one you have with you >>> and so, from my pocket, I produced something really totally unsuitable for the job ahead, the only camera I was carrying, the Olympus TOUGH TG-5.

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But the birds were on the move again even quicker than I’d anticipated, and any “photographic technique” on my part was reduced to managing to get the zoom to it longest length (100mm equivalent), pointing the little camera at the whirling flock and firing five quick, single frames.  The camera was set for spot metering, thankfully at 3200 ISO, but on this dark morning that still only gave me 1/30 second at f4.9.

I’m also a great believer in “any picture is better than no picture at all”, and in this case the slow shutter speed blurred the flailing wings to give a real sense of movement – and so to high contrast black and white processing in Lightroom and something of an impressionistic result.
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ARCHIVE 422 – EARLY MORNING 20

 

 


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Sunrise over stratus cloud, seen from a London-Nairobi flight on 25 Sept 1979.

Back in those days, my (very portable) camera was often with me, and flights to and from Kenya were vast photo opportunities – here I’m flying south, and sitting on the left of the plane to catch the sunrise.

Below, the world is shrouded in a great blanket of stratus cloud, and the low angle light of the sunrise reveals the cotton wool textures on the cloudbank’s upper surface.

Stratus is the name for clouds that form a layer or stratum, whereas clouds that consist of many discrete parts – sometimes looking like lots of balls of cotton wool – are known as cumulus.  Cirrus clouds are the thin veils of vapour that form high up in the atmosphere.  These three cloud types all intergrade to give, for example, stratocumulus, a cloud that is in layers that consist of individual smaller cloudlets.

Other images in this Early Morning series – from both rural and urban settings, and from Kenya too – are here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 .

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

Technique: OM-1 with 50mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4; Dfine 2.

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TALKING IMAGES 50 – USING THE NIKON Z 6 TO PHOTOGRAPH SMALL BIRDS IN FLIGHT

 

 

All images: Skylarks in song flight, Queen’s Sedge Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 24 May 2019.

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Something that I’m interested to test on Nikon’s new Z 6 mirrorless camera is the accuracy and speed of the autofocus, and flying birds are – for an ex-birder like me – an obvious target.   To this end, I’ve already posted a picture of swans in flight here .

But down on the Somerset Levels recently, I aimed the camera at something far smaller and more elusive.  Skylarks kept leaping up from grassy fields all around me and ascending into their wonderful, towering song flights and so, using back button focusing (also described here ), I took a few potshots at them in silhouette.  These birds are about 7 inches (16-18cm) from bill tip to tail tip when laid out flat and, moving rapidly and erratically around, they presented quite a challenge.  The final image here shows the whole frame of the shot above it, to give an idea both of the birds’  size in the (electronic) viewfinder, and of how enlarged the first three of these images are.  All pictures were taken at 300mm telephoto, at 800 ISO.

There are two points to make here.  First, I used Dynamic Area Autofocus, where the camera takes information about the target not only from the focus point being used, but also from surrounding points if – like these small birds – the target is moving rapidly and erratically.  I used a single autofocus point, the central one, throughout.

And second, I used the lens I’m married to, the 70-300 AF-S Nikkor which – like me! – may be showing its age (from 2007) a little now.  To which end, I’ve acquired the 2017 upgrade, the 70-300 AF-P Nikkor – and time will tell on how this one performs!

The resulting images here are certainly not perfect, but to me they are in the right ballpark, and I’m looking forward to further testing.  Click onto each image to open a larger version in a separate window.

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OUTER SUBURBS 32 – AUTUMN 5 (MONO)

 

 


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This photo is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it.

Walking in south Bristol, walking in the autumn, with the flocking of Starlings a sure sign of the season.  A small flock were up on top of a telegraph pole, quite a way off, and only carrying the little Olympus TG-5 there was no chance of a reasonable shot at that distance – but I took some just in case they were all I was going to get – insurance!  Of a sort …

And then I  started walking slowly towards the birds.  Starlings are often around people, and I thought I might have some chance of a closer shot.  Shooting as I went, I did get some closer shots, and two of those are here .

Moving very slowly, I was almost at the bottom of the pole before the birds started shifting uneasily (as my friends will tell you, I can have that effect …. ).  But I could see – I could feel – the explosion coming and readying the TG-5 for one last blast, I held it up in front of me, looked up into its screen and took two or three last small steps forward before … well … what you see above.  They circled, and promptly came down onto a neighbouring rooftop – as ever, as always, on the lookout for food, and for predators too.

There are earlier autumn posts here: 1 2 3 4 .

The first image in the Outer Suburbs series, with context, is here: 1 .  Subsequent images are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 .  Each will open in a separate window.

Technique: TG-5 at 46mm (equiv); 320 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Monotone film simulation; south Bristol; 29 Oct 2018.
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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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ARCHIVE 247 – CANADA GEESE FLASH PAST AND I BLAST AWAY AT THEM (MONO)

 

 

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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.

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