GARDEN 72 – A WONDERFUL ENCOUNTER

 

 


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Out doing a bit of gardening, cutting our “front lawn” (aka The Dandelion Patch – I like Dandelions!).  And I kept getting the impression out of the corner of my eye of something darting swiftly by – until at last there came a beautifully warm red-orange glow from the bottom of a dense bush, and there was a Robin, a fairly small type of thrush.

And as I raked the grass and so laid bare more and more food items for him, he darted out more and more and dutifully gobbled them all down.  And knowing birds a little, I kept fairly still and started talking to him in much the same way that I talk to cats – quietly, softly and low.  And, looking up at this giant towering over him, he came closer and closer, to within a couple of inches of my feet I suppose, and I did wonder whether he might hop up onto the top of my shoe.

But he hopped away again, though not far away – and I started thinking about a photograph.  So, very quietly and slowly, keeping my eyes on him, I backed away into the house where I knew the Z 6 with a telezoom attached and a charged up battery were ready and waiting.  Creeping back out into the garden again I was sure he’d have disappeared – but no, he was still there, looking me.  So I carefully braced myself against the wall of the house and managed a few pictures.

Trouble was, I’d hardly used the Z 6 since the start of the coronavirus lockdown in March – I’ve been almost entirely photographing with the Olympus TG-5 – and so I’d forgotten exactly how the ***** Z 6 works!!! >>>> and so to several failed shots!

But a couple of the frames came out ok – and so to a record of a really wonderful close encounter, just the thing in fact to lift the spirits in these very sad and trying times.

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 3200 ISO; spot metering; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Landscape v2 profile; south Bristol; 22 Sept 2020.

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ARCHIVE 569 – FULMAR

 

 


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Fulmar flying along the cliff top at West Bay, Dorset; 23 Apr 2015.

How I love Dorset!  And we’ve just been down there for a few days’ break, renting a cheapo caravan not far behind the beach at the tiny “resort” of West Bay, which is on the coast south of Bridport.  I put resort in quotes because, although it is on Dorset’s absolutely totally beautiful coast and it does have a harbour with a few working fishing boats – mainly for shellfish, crabs and lobster I think – West Bay also has some really ugly holiday apartments (which sell for just under half a million pounds each) and other ugly modern buildings, and it really is a cheap and cheerful place.

BUT, that said, this is coastal Dorset, and so all this money! money! money! ugliness is set amongst just totally wonderful natural beauty.  And the little kiosks  round the harbour serve up good fish and chips, and there’s Dorset Apple Cake, and a brewery nearby that’s been churning out the good stuff since 1794, and some really nice bakeries in nearby Bridport, etc etc.  I suppose the bottom line is that its very hard to dent coastal Dorset’s vast appeal – and thank goodness for that!

Anyway, anyway –  it was the afternoon of the final day of our stay, the blast of the bright sunshine had softened a little, and I took it in my head to climb a steep hill east of the harbour, to explore a bit.  Well, OMG, it was steep, but when The Great Explorer eventually puffed and coughed his way to the top, what did he find?  Beautiful natural wilderness?  Well, no, a golf course actually, but you can’t have everything.  And as I set off regardless along the cliff top path, I caught a glimpse of a seagull coasting along the cliffs – but it didn’t look quite right.

And sure enough it wasn’t quite right, because rather than a gull it was a (Northern) Fulmar – Fulmarus glacialis – a seabird, a real denizen of the open oceans that only comes ashore to breed, on steep inaccessible cliffs like those at West Bay.  So, I watched where these birds were habitually gliding past, wound the D800 up on DX format so that my 70-300 zoom became a 105-450 zoom – and started blasting away.

It was difficult going, even with autofocus, and lots of my attempts are, shall we say, “impressionistic”.  But here is one caught above the glare of the lowering sun on the sea – and it does look like a seagull at first glance, doesn’t it – but there’s a little kink and ridge on the top of its bill that houses nasal passages, something that gulls don’t have.

And two points of interest.  Living out on the open seas as they do, and eating things like squid, fish and shrimps, these birds are up to their ears in salt – some of which they manage to get rid of by excreting it as a strong saline solution through their noses.  And, should one of these beauties feel that you’re approaching it too closely on a cliff, they will vomit their foul smelling stomach oils over you –  as a means of giving you a gentle hint.

And, finally, their plumage is white below.  The warm orange tinge to the underparts that you see in the photo was in fact the reflection of the lowering sunlight on West Bay’s beautiful, honey-coloured cliffs.

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

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX format to give 450mm; 400 ISO.
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ARCHIVE KENYA 87 – FARMER, WESTERN KENYA (MONO)

 

 


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Luo farmer near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.  Because of their dark skin, photographing Africans in anything like bright conditions is fraught with problems.  One option of course is just to go with the conditions and show only the highlights of their faces, leaving the finer details and hints of character smothered in deep shadow.

Another option is to photograph them in deep shade, to minimalise shadows and reveal facial detail – but this requires higher ISO ratings, larger apertures, and so on.  The third option is the one used here, where flash dispels the shadows, and this works well, particularly with today’s automatic flashguns.

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

Technique: OM-2 with 75-150 Zuiko lens, and flash; Agfa CT18 colour slide film rated at 64 ISO.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 10 – RUSH HOUR, RED LIGHT

 

 


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Red light in the rush hour:  queuing traffic, frustration, cold winter sunshine.

The Looking at Cars series: looking back through the nine years of the FATman Photos archives (and some new images too), I’m posting pictures of cars in various contexts and styles.  Earlier Looking at Cars posts are here: 1 (with context); 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours of the day.  

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

Technique: X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 300mm (equiv); Lightroom; Bristol Bridge, central Bristol; 11 Nov 2016.

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ARCHIVE 566 – LONG-EARED OWL

 

 


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Long-eared Owl, at the International Centre for Birds of Prey, Newent, Gloucestershire; 2 July 2014.

As often happens with living things, I’m close in to the individual both by means of a telephoto and via cropping of the resulting image. 

The eye – to me the really vital, vibrant and living focus of the shot – is in focus, while all of the surrounding patterns and textures are blurring into an “impression of the beast”.

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 250mm; 3200 ISO; Dfine 2; Color Efex Pro 4.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 81 – LIONESSES AT MIDDAY

 

 


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Lionesses in the baking heat of the equatorial midday at Amboseli Game Reserve in southwest Kenya; Jul 1978.

Click onto the image to view an enlarged version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: OM-1 with 75-150 Zuiko lens at 150mm; Agfa CT18 colour slide film, rated at 64 ISO.

UPDATE: This shot brings three things to mind.  First that it was taken from a vehicle, obviously – although the usual reaction of a lion to a human is to retreat, you don’t mess around with these babies even when, as here, they’ve probably had a good meal and are sleeping it off in the midday heat.

Second, that in terms of sheer beauty and style, the spotted cats – Cheetah and Leopard – always did it most for me.  But, for all of these big cats, staring long into their amber eyes, drowning in those eyes (from the safety of a vehicle of course), was a profound spiritual experience for me.  Well, I grew up alongside a cat, maybe that had something to do with it; and I do of course still find cats extremely beautiful, even mystical perhaps, now.

And lastly, the camera, the Olympus OM-1, that was also a thing of great and somewhat Minimal beauty, combined exquisitely with function.  And, after all these years, sitting here beside me, it still is.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 6 – FIGHTER PILOT

 

 


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Bright sunlight.  Driving seat or cockpit.  Morning commuter or fighter pilot.  Whichever, stationary in Bristol’s morning traffic tangle.

The Looking at Cars series: looking back through the nine years of the FATman Photos archives (and some new images too), I’m posting pictures of cars in various contexts and styles.  Earlier Looking at Cars posts are here: 1 (with context); 2 3 4 5 .

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

Technique: X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Bristol Bridge, in the city centre; 19 July 2016.

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ARCHIVE KENYA 77 – LEOPARD

 

 


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Leopard in Yellow-barked Acacia trees at Lake Nakuru National Park, in the rift valley in Kenya; June 1980.

Leopards can be very difficult to see because they are stalkers par excellence.  Although they can be seen in the open as here, they live in dense, tangled habitats where their camouflage and stealth enable them to make most of their kills from only a few yards’ range – there is no prolonged pursuit, just the unseen killer exploding without warning from very close quarters.  Leopards inhabit the woods and forests in Nairobi, but the only evidence of their presence is usually from the very few that are killed on the roads.

I remember hearing of a man who kept a Leopard as a pet in Nairobi – he had presumably reared a lost cub.  He arrived home one evening to see his Leopard sitting on the verandah, so he walked past it and on into his house, only to find his “pet” indoors.

The easiest places to see these magnificent creatures – for me the most beautiful of the African big cats, although Cheetah is a very close second – are at lodges and camps that regularly put food out for them at night.

We observed Leopard from the safety of vehicles, and one of my enduring, wonderful memories from those days is staring deeply into their amber eyes – and those of Cheetah too – becoming lost in those amber eyes.  You can just about see their colour in this photo.

Just before I retired in the UK, I worked in an office that, against all regulations, had its own cat.  We got on well and, along with my memories from Kenya, I will always recall how, after I’d stroked him, our office cat always looked up, long and deeply, into my eyes.  We communed with each other in those moments, and I at least was not spiritually the poorer for it.

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

Technique: OM-1 with 75-150 Zuiko lens at 150mm; Agfa CT18 colour slide film rated at 64 ISO.

THE ARCHIVE KENYA SERIES

I’m re-posting photographs that I took in Kenya over 30 years ago.  You can find more context here .  Click onto the “Archive Kenya” tag (below) to see more of these film images from Kenya.

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ARCHIVE 559 – OUR FRIEND, AGED THREE (MONO)

 

 


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One of the wonderful little girls in our lives – aged three and giving the camera a fleeting look.  9 Sept 2012.

I suppose this is high key mistiness – good old Minimalist “less is more” maybe – and I want to try more images in this vein.

I’ve used the Antique Plate II preset in SEP2 as a starting point, and converted its rectangular vignette to a circular one.  Her eyes were a little too sharp – that 105mm is really something else! – so I’ve reduced their structure and added a little blur.

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

Technique: D700 with 105mm Nikkor lens; 6400 ISO; converted to mono in Silver Efex Pro 2.

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ARCHIVE 558 – WOOD PIGEON (MONO)

 

 


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Wood Pigeon at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire;  11 Aug 2010.

A close in portrait, shot against a dark, unobtrusive background.  Once again, close in use of a telephoto throws the background right out of focus.

The largest of Britain’s pigeons and a common and increasing bird – an agricultural pest and one of the few birds that can be legally shot here.  They are in our garden every day, and I love both the slow, deliberate, ponderous manner in which they waddle around – and the way they clap their wings during their soaring display flights.  I ate a couple a decade or more back but was unimpressed with both the taste and quantity of the meat.

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; mono conversion via Capture NX2.

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