STILL LIFE 170 – THREE HERONS (MONO)

 

 


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Left to right, a Little Egret and two Great White Egrets – three herons – processed with Silver Efex Pro 2.

And good news!  Google acquired Silver Efex Pro 2 (and the other Nik Collection plug-ins) sometime back, but had ceased developing them and was plainly losing interest.  The situation has (hopefully!) now been saved by DxO, who have acquired these plug-ins from Google, apparently with a view to further developing them.  I’m very happy with SEP2 and Color Efex Pro 4 as they are, and so just knowing that they’re not going to disappear will be a big thing.

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

Technique: the X-T2 firing at 200 ISO, and really quite a tribute to what this APS-C format camera can achieve with distant subjects.  X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Strong Infrared Low Contrast preset; Capture NX2; Herons Green Bay, Chew Valley Lake; 24 Nov 2017.
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STILL LIFE 169 – DARK CAR (MONO)

 

 

Dark car

racing from the light,

drawn down by the white line,

drawn down into darkness.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Architectural preset; fast road up over the Mendip Hills, above Compton Martin, Somerset; 24 Nov 2017.
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BIRDS 100 – AN IMAGE CLOSE TO MY HEART (MONO)

 

 


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So, my 100th post on birds, creatures that have in so many ways had a profound influence on my life.  I have many images that might have filled this 100th slot, but here is one, a very simple one, that has a very special place in my heart.  It shows a male Blackbird, a species of thrush, sitting on wires down a little country lane.

I have of course been a lover of birds for a long, long time.  But, beyond that, I am in love with natural things, with Nature itself, and to me this image powerfully evokes Nature’s elemental drama and grandeur.  Why?  Well, when I look at this I see this little creature, sure of himself, perched on his territory and singing powerfully to assert that fact.  And not overawed in the least by the stark and wild vastness of Nature all around, but actually eminently at home in it, a part of it all, and in his way just as wild as all the rest.

The original text for this image is given below:

Blackbird on telephone wires along Swanshard Lane, southwest of Wells, on the Somerset Levels; 21 Mar 2012.

I was out on the Somerset Levels again early this morning, toting my ungainly Nikkor telezoom once more.  My first stop, to try and get awake after the not too long drive via large infusions of hot coffee and marmalade sandwiches, was along Swanshard Lane, a little, winding back road north of Polsham.  This lane just allows two cars to drive past each other in places, but in other places it really is a better idea if one vehicle stops and gets up close and personal with the hedge, while the other vehicle moves carefully past.

And, of course, this is spring and the birdlife is really going for it.  Wonderfully active rookeries were dotted around, and a veritable crescendo of calls included Buzzards, Wrens, Green Woodpeckers, Pheasants and Blue Tits.  And the first Chiffchaffs, little, unobtrusive warblers, are back from sub-Saharan Africa – having flown across the world, they are very probably nesting in the same tree or bush they nested in last summer.

And as I turned a corner, there was this male Blackbird – all black with a bright yellow bill – sitting on wires and singing his head off.  As he caught sight of me he stopped singing >>> but he didn’t move – he was on his territory and he didn’t feel like being shifted!  So, very carefully, in slow motion, I brought up the 400mm, took a spot meter reading from the sky to produce a silhouette, and started carefully firing frames.

I might have been able to get him larger in the frame, either at or post-capture, but just left of him there was this big, shaggy tree trunk, a very exciting silhouette, and I knew at once that I wanted that in the picture too.  So here it is: down an English country lane, early on a morning in spring.

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

Technique: D700 with 80-400 Nikkor lens at 400mm; 800 ISO; converted to mono with Silver Efex Pro 2.
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PEOPLE 300 – PEOPLE FROM MY PAST 3 (MONO)

 

 


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Self portrait, aged about 19, retouching a print made in the university darkroom – what a poser! – dark framed glasses a la Manfred Mann (remember them?), and student beard derived from the fact that I could never for the life of me see the purpose in shaving off my facial hair each day –  and so on the day that I left school in 1968 I started growing the beard that I’ve had all my life .

It was my first time living away from home – well, at 18 I effectively left home – and I was lively and (naturally) immature, so much so that my landlord and landlady very nearly threw me out.  There were five of us in these lodgings, which were on the sea front and very cold in the winter.  Our sole source of heating, in the whole house, was a double-barred electric fire in the ground floor lounge – but there were two floors of bedrooms above that and, boy, were we cold!  So one exceptionally cold evening we actually summoned up the courage to switch on both bars of the electric fire – only to come down the following morning to find that the fire’s second bar had been taken out!  Ah, there’ll always be a welcome in the hillside – I wonder if that song gives anyone a clue as to where I spent (six of the nine years of) my university days ….

And it was here too, in the university’s bookshop, that I bought my first copy of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, a book that I have never fallen out of love with.  Very, very little poetry gets to me, and Dylan’s is far, far above my head.  I even have a recording of him reading some of his poems and that’s even worse, all far too heavy for me.  But Under Milk Wood is something else, a pure delight I would say, vast enjoyment combined with vast inspiration and admiration: in some way, something that – for better or for worse – has helped make me who I am.

This is a digital photograph of a black and white print, made with the D700.  The original photo was taken with an Ilford Sportsman 35mm film camera mounted on a  tripod.  I started printing black and white photos in the darkroom at school and did more at university, before going over almost entirely to colour slides when I got my first SLR, a Praktica LTL, in the 1970s.  The subject of the photo being retouched is another student, with whom I shared the bed and breakfast accommodation.

 

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STANTON DREW 40 – VILLAGE LIFE 7 (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 


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Child’s swing, empty, above autumn leaves – no one has come out to play!

This is a strange garden, which belongs to a short row of houses in the village.  It is quite large, and set upon what is effectively a traffic island, with the main lane through the village on one side, and two smaller lanes on the other sides.  On two sides its raised up at about head height above its surroundings so that, looking across it, your eyes are near ground level.

It houses some clucking hens and their coops, with nothing except the drop to keep them from straying off along the lanes.  And there is this swing, hanging from a large tree.

An introduction to this Village Life series can be found here: 1 .  Further images are here: 2 3 4 5 6  .    Each will open in a new window.

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

Technique: D700 with 24-120 Nikkor lens at 120mm; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Low Key 2 preset and selectively restoring colour; Stanton Drew, in the Chew Valley; 22 Oct 2014.

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BIRDS 98 – JACKDAW (MONO)

 

 


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How I love crows! >>> this was a very lucky, very quick shot – the bird was perched on the church’s rooftop cross, I raised the camera – and, instantly,  it flew!

Another recent picture of Jackdaws, on a building nearby, is here.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended >>> in this enlarged version you can just make out the bird’s pale (in fact, white) eye, which is one of its identification features.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv);  3200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Full Contrast and Structure preset;  Stanton Drew; 6 Nov 2017.
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PEOPLE 297 – PEOPLE FROM MY PAST 2 (MONO)

 

 


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Yesterday, I introduced these People from my Past images, along with a picture from my time as a geologist in the mountains of Oman.  This is another picture from Oman.

Here is our campsite, two tents, the vehicle, and rock – rock everywhere – with the bare mountains all around.  I’m slouching in the shade of the vehicle on a camping stool, quite possibly after a long day’s work – and the photographer is my colleague Don.

It was extremely interesting exploring the interior of a country which was only just opening up to the outside world.  The interior was wild, I remember many apparently ancient sites lying open on the surface, but the going was tough.  The days were hot, I wore two pairs of socks inside stout boots to keep the heat away from my feet, and the vehicle’s bodywork was burning to the touch.  There were no tarmac roads, and indeed very few roads of any size at all; we often found ourselves driving across country, or up into the many deep wadis that radiated out from the mountains’ flanks.

The Land Rover was rugged, tough, very basic and an absolutely wonderful vehicle for these conditions.   There is a jerry can visible in the roof rack: we carried most of our water and spare petrol up there above our heads – which in the case of the petrol was distinctly unnerving, but luckily we never turned the vehicle over.   The water was solely for cooking and drinking, washing being a luxury that had to wait until we got back to our base at Sohar, on the coast.

The terrain was mentally as well as physically taxing, since nearly the whole landscape was in shades or brown or maroon, so much so that the rare patches of greenery, near water, were often quite shocking, even strident, to the eye.  Flying home, the endless greens of England were a definite shock too.

Before going to Arabia, we had been trained to give and receive intravenous injections of serum that would counteract snake bites and scorpion stings.  I can’t recall seeing any snakes, but scorpions were common under stones, especially near water.  During our training, the sight of the large, intravenous needle, and then having to stick it either into myself or someone else, to extract a little blood from the vein before injecting the serum, always made me pass out.  I would feel my head getting tighter, and then wake up lying on the floor, looking up at a ring of laughing faces looking down at me.

And so the scenario was all too predictable – Don would be stung or bitten, and collapsed, flat out on the desert floor.  I would rush up with the large needle, push it in – and then there would be two of us flat out on the desert floor …  We were very careful, and this scenario never unfolded – the worst sting I had was from a hornet.

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

Technique: Don took this, and looking at it I would guess he used his OM-1 with a 135mm Zuiko telephoto.

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PEOPLE 296 – PEOPLE FROM MY PAST 1 (MONO)

 

 

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I’ve been posting pictures of people since I started this blog.  I’d have liked to have posted more from this genre, but opportunities for such photography have never been plentiful.  Now, as a subset of this genre, I’m going to post images of people – myself included – from my own past.  Some of these images have been posted here before, some are new.  This idea has been stimulated by the rediscovery of pictures I sent to my mother from far off places, and also by the rediscovery of some old photograph albums.  I hope you will enjoy these pictures.

And so to the first image, above.  Years ago – my passport tells me 1975/6 – I was working on geology in the mountains of the Sultanate of Oman, which is in the southeast of the Arabian peninsula.  Don (above, right) and myself would drive our (absolutely wonderful) long-wheelbase Land Rover inland from the Batinah coast and deep into the mountains, and then camp there while we worked on the rocks.  That was all that our little expeditions consisted of – him, me, the vehicle and a small tent each.  We had no radio, no means of contact with the outside world at all – but we were young, and didn’t think or worry about such things …

So there was no convivial club or bar to retire to in the evenings, and the only at all civilised and comfortable seating was in the front of the Land Rover – and so here are the two of us, with our Tilley lamp blazing away, passing a restful evening reading and writing up notes in the front seat of what we called “the van”, while outside the stony desert that had scorched us during the day became, under crystal clear skies, very much colder.  And yes, crystal clear skies every night, with no light pollution at all, and the Milky Way blazing out magnificently above.  We were both naturalists (and photographers too, as it happens) and so we both had binoculars, and we bought a little book on astronomy with binoculars: the things visible through the bins in these crystal clear heavens were impressive – and such interests gave us welcome diversion.

A story from our first journey into the mountains sticks in my mind.  Don and I were both well qualified for our task (the product of British universities, don’t ya know!!!), and so we had all the gear and everything was planned – except that, on our first expedition, we forgot to pack any matches.  So, there we were in the back of beyond, with the prospect of either existing on uncooked food, or of doing something about it.  We were carrying lots of spare petrol, some of which powered the Optimus stoves that we used for cooking.  So, on the first night, we sparked the Land Rover’s battery onto the Optimus, there was a flash as the petrol went up – and we had hot food and drink.

But it was clear that repeatedly treating the battery in this way might not be wise for various reasons, so we had to think again.  The next day, we met another vehicle and paid them quite a steep price for all the matches they were carrying.  Fine, and we thought no more of the encounter.  But several days later we met the same vehicle again – and were astounded to find that, on reaching the coast, the occupants had spent all of our money on yet more matches, and had brought them back inland in the hope of meeting us again to pass them on.

The point here is that, in deserts like this, getting into trouble, maybe even from some small mechanical failure on the vehicle, can result in getting into a very deep trouble indeed, and so everyone looks out for everyone else.  Wherever we stumbled upon (usually tiny) habitations we were always invited in for coffee and dates and, in these mountains, we never experienced any problems with theft or security.

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

Technique: Don had a (now) classic Olympus OM-1 camera and several lenses, and I used a Practica SLR; we shot colour slides – maybe Agfa CT18 I think.  Here one of us must have set the camera up in the back of the vehicle, and then reached over to press the delayed action.  Such simple things provided welcome diversion and relaxation.

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STANTON DREW 39 – VILLAGE LIFE 6 (MONO)

 

 


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Teasels – and an attendant bee – beside the cemetery wall.

For me, the diffuse darker area “anchors” the shot, helping to push the subject out towards us; and it also displays the thorns on the plant’s stem – and strands of spider’s web – to greater advantage.

An introduction to this Village Life series can be found here: 1Further images are here2 3 4 5 .    Each will open in a new window.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 200 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Landscape preset, Stanton Drew, in the Chew Valley; 1 Aug 2013.

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ARCHIVE 330 – BOYS AT A WEDDING (MONO)

 

 


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Young boys – curious, uncertain –  at a wedding near Thika, Kenya, in the late 1970s.

I think I was the only non-African at this ceremony, and so an object of great curiosity to all the youngsters there.

There is another image from this wedding here.

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

Technique: OM-2 with 75-150 Zuiko lens; Kodak Ektachrome 200 colour slide (I think!); Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Landscape preset.

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