ARCHIVE 301 – HERRING GULL, WITH SEAWEED (MONO)

 

 


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Herring Gull and seaweed on the beach at St Ives, Cornwall; 24 Apr 2012.

As with Moorings at St Ives, here, this was taken looking down onto the beach from West Pier.  The gull was resting on the sands below the pier and, as I looked over, he tilted his head sideways, to look upwards and give me a long and very wary stare.  Because his head is tilted onto its side, the beach and its seaweed appear to be on a vertical surface behind him.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; converted to mono and further manipulated with Silver Efex Pro 2.

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BIRDS 91 – BIRD OF ROCKY SEASHORES

 

 

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Turnstone in the main car park, Penzance, Cornwall.

Turnstones are birds of rocky and often wild seashores, where they live up to their name by using their bills to turn over stones in search of food.

But here in Penzance, in the main car park beside the harbour – and along the promenade in nearby St Ives too – they regularly come up amongst us humans when the tide is in, searching for scraps.  In St Ives especially, people are intrigued by these little birds scurrying around their feet, thinking them youngsters because they are so small.  I bought a pasty on St Ives seafront, sat down to eat it,  and had several around my feet within moments – it was delightful to have them so close, and they gobbled down every scrap of food dropped for them.

Technique: as an ex-birder and someone who will always have an intense liking for birds (for me, their presence unquestionably boosts Quality Of Life), this shot is partly of ornithological interest – here is a little denizen of rocky and often wild coasts, usually observed only distantly, that has taken to foraging openly in a very busy, completely artificial, human environment.  But to me also, in terms of composition, this image says something else too – here is the Natural World, very much overshadowed by, and under threat from, the requirements and encroachments of the Human World.

There are other pictures of these Turnstones, all from St Ives, here, here and here.  Turnstones are mostly brownish above in their winter plumage, but beautiful orange-brown tints appear on their backs in the summer – traces of which can be seen in a couple of these images.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.  If your browser allows two stages of magnification: choose the larger.

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 280mm; 800 ISO; 20 Oct 2016.
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BIRDS 89 – YOUNG HERRING GULL

 

 

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Young Herring Gull on West Pier, St Ives, Cornwall; 20 Oct 2016.

This the bird already pictured here.

There are other recent gull shots here and here.

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO.
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BIRDS 88 – GULL YAWNING

 

 

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Gull yawning; St Ives, Cornwall; 20 Oct 2016.

This is most probably a Herring Gull.  The brown speckling on its plumage shows it to be a young bird, probably now just about to enter its first winter – it hatched from its egg this summer.

It was perched on the wall of the West Pier at St Ives, “loafing” as birdwatchers say.  Which means that it had had some food, that it wasn’t desperately hungry, so that it was just hanging around – while still no doubt keeping an eye out for any chance meal that might present itself.

I leant against the wall and, very gradually, inched my way towards it, keeping silent, compact and low.  It shuffled a little, it wasn’t quite sure about me (sensible bird!), but then it relaxed, and I started gradually capturing images.  I could have wished that the D800’s shutter was quieter but, on the plus side, its reliable autofocus did its usual excellent job, and I was able to concentrate on the images, rather than on whether they were sharp or not.

There are earlier images from this recent gull series here and here.

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO.
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BIRDS 87 – HERRING GULL 2 (MONO)

 

 

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Herring Gull, an adult in winter plumage, beside the harbour in St Ives, Cornwall; 20 Oct 2016 – the bird already shown in colour here.

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Fine Art High Key preset.
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BIRDS 85 – HERRING GULL, ST IVES – AND MAYHEM!

 

 

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Herring Gull, an adult in winter plumage, beside the harbour in St Ives, Cornwall; 20 Oct 2016.

I’ve been using my new Fujifilm X-T1 camera a lot of late, but there’s no doubt that where speed and accuracy of autofocus are concerned, it simply cannot compete with the systems on Nikon’s full-frame cameras.  Fujifilm’s new X-T2 may address these shortcomings – but whether I want to lay out £1800+ to get an X-T2 plus the power grip that will of course make this diminutive camera bulkier, is another matter.

And so, having been down to St Ives a few weeks back and been frustrated by the X-T1’s slow autofocus, I took both the X-T1 and Nikon’s D800 when we did a second trip to the southwest tip of Cornwall last week – because, if we were going to St Ives again, I wanted 100% autofocus efficiency in order to tackle the fast-moving gulls and Turnstones that are always a feature of the place.

A visit to St Ives duly materialised, we were in the harbour near the West Pier, and there was an adult Herring Gull sitting on the roof of a car.  The bird looked quiet and composed, not fazed at all by the many people hurrying close by.  It looked good for a close-in picture, but the first thing to do was examine what was visible behind it because, although close-in use of a long telephoto throws the background out of focus, any contrasty elements in that background may still have the potential to significantly spoil the shot.  I edged myself into a position where the background seemed unobtrusive.

I put the D800 into DX (APS-C) format, which magnifies the 300mm end of my telezoom to 450mm (= x9 magnification), brought the camera up to my eye, and advanced very, very cautiously and intermittently towards the bird.  I shuffled forwards, very quietly sliding my feet across the smooth pavement.  I didn’t go on until the bird flew, but was surprised at how close I got – and it continued sitting on top the car, looking relaxed throughout, even when the D800’s rather loud shutter started up.

AND THEN FOLLOWED SOMETHING COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED:  We bought hot snacks from a kiosk and walked on up the harbourside eating them, my wife leading the way.  A gull that had perched on the keel of an upturned boat started screaming madly at me, like some frenzied demon from the netherworld.  Well, I grew up beside the sea where gulls were always around and they don’t faze me at all, so I promptly screamed manically back at it >>> whereupon it fell off its perch, took flight and immediately attacked my wife, knocking her sausage roll from her hand onto the ground before going down on the roll in a savage feeding frenzy.  Whereupon a second gull launched a similarly frenzied attack on the first gull and the roll, and the people around us scattered left and right to avoid the mayhem!  As I tried, somewhat lamely, to explain to my wife later, it could have happened to anyone …

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX format to give a 450mm telephoto; 400 ISO.
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STILL LIFE 62 – THE COLOUR OF THE SEA BENEATH A SMALL BOAT

 

 

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A small, blue boat rides at anchor – a very simple image, that’s really all there is to see.

The only solid facts are the simple, elegantly curving lines of the boat.  Beyond them, the sea’s surface takes on a silvery hue where the light catches it. But in the craft’s brief shadow, this paleness disintegrates and fragments as, approaching closer to the graceful blues of that wooden hull, the emerald greens of the sea deepen and, gently but firmly, draw us further in and deeper down.

X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO;  St Ives, Cornwall; 21 Sept 2016.
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BIRDS 82 – TURNSTONE, ST IVES

 

 

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Turnstone in winter plumage, on the West Pier at St Ives, Cornwall; 21 Sept 2016.

The Turnstone is a small wader (aka shorebird) that derives its name from its habit of turning over stones on beaches in the hope of finding things to eat underneath.

Its usually a bird seen at a distance, small and brown on the foreshore.  But at St Ives in Cornwall, especially when the tide is up, small groups dart about on this seaside resort’s promenade, often literally around the feet of holidaymakers.

And so, being on holiday and carefree(!), I bought a pasty as a second breakfast and sat on a seat munching the golden beast and staring out to sea, when several of these little birds swarmed around my feet.  Well, I can take a hint, and as small pasty morsels were scattered around, these little creatures went into super-speed mode and downed the lot in an instant – for an ex-birder like me, almost a surreal moment!

There are more pictures of St Ives Turnstones here and here.

X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 800 ISO.
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CORNWALL 86 – GREY SEAL, ST IVES

 

 

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Grey Seal off the end of Smeatons Pier, St Ives, Cornwall; 21 Sept 2016.

We’ve just spent a few days in Hayle, down near the southwestern tip of Cornwall – and the English weather, always an uncertainty, has been good to us.  When in this part of the world, a visit to beautiful St Ives is always a treat, and especially so on a bright sunny day with the tide in – the colours and light are simply out of this world – maybe because St Ives is surrounded on two or three sides by the bright sea.

Good things about this image?  Well, it was the first time my wife had seen this creature in the wild, which was a huge plus.  We’ve never seen seals there before, and the newly erected warnings about feeding them may mean that, like gulls, crows, Foxes and many others, these denizens of wild coasts have also developed a liking for Man’s tasty titbits.  Certainly an incoming fishing boat threw him some welcome morsels, which were hastily gobbled up – but maybe a Cornish pasty might send him sinking down to the bottom!

And also, just look at the colour of that seawater – for someone brought up along the muddy shores of the Bristol Channel, these clear, emerald waters are beautiful beyond belief.

But getting a shot like this with the X-T1’s auto focus is really not that easy – I was wishing I’d listened to my better judgement and brought a Nikon along for the day.  And neither am I a fan of the X-T1’s electronic viewfinder (or of electronic viewfinders in general) for such encounters with the natural world – for many subjects, many of the things I shoot, the X-T1’s viewfinder is a real treat to use, but where the subject is moving, things aren’t so straightforward. 

However, Amateur Photographer magazine has just dropped through our letterbox – and its in depth review of the X-T2, the X-T1’s successor, praises the improvements in auto focus speed on the new model – so maybe that problem is solved.  But at the moment, for the moving natural world – and especially if I’m close in to it – I prefer the speed and accuracy of the Nikons’ autofocus, and their speed of light, optical viewfinders.

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

X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO.
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ARCHIVE 248 – FOUR DESIGN ELEMENTS (MONO)

 

 

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Young Herring Gull, St Ives, Cornwall; 10 Oct 2013.

This is an immature bird, as shown by its very speckled plumage.  It was hatched last summer.

Its a simple shot of a bird overhead, but it has four conscious design elements.  First, use of black and white removes any distractions due to colour, rendering the image “basic and without frills”.  Then second, this simplicity has been enhanced by rendering the sky completely featureless and white – its the bird and nothing but the bird.

But while it may be the bird and nothing but the bird,  its not the whole bird.  Because as it shot overhead, I failed to perfectly track it and my shot cuts right through its left wing tip.  But, just by pure chance, the amputated end of the wing fits right into the frame’s lower left corner.  So, thirdly, there is a strong design element – the image’s strongest graphic element –  emanating from that lower left corner, and cutting diagonally right up across the frame.  There are two possibilities here – either this diagonal is headed from lower left to upper right, or vice versa.  Feeling my eyes entering this image – as they do most images (see earlier posts on this blog) – from the left towards the right, I’m happier with the left to right movement.

And there is also the argument that this diagonal is not moving at all.

And the fourth element is its torso, which cuts at a right angle, right through that diagonal.  This torso reminds me of a dart, with a sharp point at the front and feathered flights at the rear.  This being so, this second diagonal is moving from upper left towards lower right.

A further simplification of this image could be achieved by making it a silhouette, but I’m retaining its intricate plumage patterns.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2’s Film Noir 3 preset.

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