Attenborough Nature Reserve

June 3, 2012 Comments Off on Attenborough Nature Reserve

Yesterday I was invited to Nottingham so visit a nature reserve I hadn’t previously been along to. The Attenborough nature reserve is just south of Nottinham and is a vast area of old gravel pits now run by the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. The weather was overcast and cool, which means that if you do find any insect then they are going to be quite torpid and allow you much better access than on thosee warm sunny days. Perfect for a bit of macro photography.  I loaded up the Canon EF180mm f3,5 L lens onto my trust 1D mkIII, set the metering to ‘spot’, aperture priority and f6.1 and set off with my family for a wander.

Many of the visitors are out for a bit of cycling or bird watching and the visitor centre provides good information about whats been seen recently, however they are not quite so well geared up to provide information for insect lovers. It’s a case of wandering around and looking out for the habitats and doing a quick search, eyes pinned to the vegitation alongside the paths.  So much so that I almost missed the Heron in the trees.


If there are quieter paths than the main ‘tourist’ paths I tend to favour them. There is usually more to see.  Walking along the bank of the Trent I stepped off the main walkway to a parallel track just a few yards away and slightly down slope. This gave a slightly more sheltered habitat and proved a great source of sheltering insects. One area in particular had dozens of banded demouselle, all fairly torpid and not easily ‘put up’.

Banded Demouselle

Banded Demouselle

Banded Demouselle

Banded Demouselle

The family were growing impatient with me as I spent a good 15 minutes taking these images and eventually left me to it. I would have spent a lot longer with these beautiful insect but felt compelled to follow on fairly quickly. The trouble was there was so much to photograph. Just a few yards further along the track, again in the shelter of the bank I found an Orange Tip butterfly, also torpid and forgiving of my ‘gardening’.

Orange Tip

Orange Tip

It just goes to show that even on days which look unpromising there are images worth capturing. Don’t miss out, get out there and find those gems. I can recommend the Attenborough Nature Reserve for photographers. Lots to see, lots to photograph.

Brighton Trip

May 14, 2012 Comments Off on Brighton Trip

Over the last year a lot has happened. I closed Going Digital as a business, took some time out to refresh my creative batteries and am just now starting to feel the urge to get out with the camera again. This last weekend we had a trip to visit family in Brighton and so I packed the camera hoping to snatch a few opportunities for photography if they presented themselves.  I also did a bit of research about Brighton, not having visited before. Where are the ‘standard shots’ and what else was on the web for inspiration.

So saturday morning found me out pre dawn with the drunks and clubbers on the beach front. I had decided a long exposure image of the burnt out west pier had some merit, but avoiding the drunks was difficult. In the end I settled down just above the tide line, put a ‘big stopper’ x10 Neutral Density plus a 0.9 Graduated ND and a 0.6 Grad ND onto a 50mm lens, with an exposure of around 2 minutes and an ISO of 100.

Brighton West Pier. Canon 50mm f1.4 lens on Canon EOS 1DmkIII 2mins exposure at f11


Bromsgrove Entry

October 5, 2010 Comments Off on Bromsgrove Entry

I picked the 12 images for my Bromsgrove Open National Exhibition entry tonight and posted it off to the organisers.  I pulled in a few of the newer images to give them a trial.  Walkway, Malham Reflections, Tufa, The Young Ones II, Red Deer Stag and Japanese Macaque Submerged are all new to competition, I have high hopes for some of these.

Richmond Park Red Deer

September 25, 2010 Comments Off on Richmond Park Red Deer

I do like to take opportunities which come along to allow me to have a couple of hours photography in places I don’t usually get to.  This week I was invited to speak at a conference being held at the Twickenham Rugby Ground in London. So the choice was a few shots of the ground, whist being maintained – not too spectacular, or nip over the river to Richmond and see if there was any action in the park.  It’s getting pretty close to red deer rutting season, so there was really no contest. Richmond Park it was.

Packing a business suit and a camouflage suit for the same trip is a little strange, but lets skip over that one. I arrived without incident at Twickenham and did my duty on the first day of the conference, but took an early exit from the evening meal and headed for an early night.  The alarm woke me at 5:00am, dawn wasn’t until 6:45am but I wanted to ensure I could find the deer before dawn.  The gates don’t open to vehicles until 7:00am, but pedestrians can gain access.  The plan was to walk in through a number of gates until I found a suitable herd close by. The park is 13 miles round, so it could actually prove a long job. I needed a bit of luck.

By 5:30am I was dressed and heading for the hotel exit. I think the staff had a little giggle as I strode out, dressed head to foot in woodland-pattern camo and shouldering a 500mm lens and tripod.  Never mind, on with the job. At the Richmond gate I parked up and walked into through the iron gates. Still dark, the mist was down which was exactly the conditions I wanted, but no deer close to the gate. A quick run back to the car an on towards the Sheen Gate. The same process, a quick walk in, 10 minutes looking round with no result so back out to the car. At the Roehampton gate I caught my first misty view of a few red deer.

As the light began to grow I found I was on the rugby pitch surrounded by a herd of red deer around 50 to 60 strong with two or three large stags in attendance. Unfortunately no real rutting activity yet. It maybe a couple of weeks early.   As dawn broke the gates opened and traffic started to pour through the gates. Londoners on the way to work, dog walkers, joggers, cyclists streamed through the gates.  The deer started to head off the open playing fields and wandered off towards the woodlands.  Time to move and find a concealed position and wait for the dee to come to me.

I checked the direction of the wind, watched where the deer were heading and ran back to the car. Joining the queues of traffic to enter the park and then heading for the car park at Pen Ponds I managed to skirt round the main herd. The sun was now up and burning off the mist quite well. The dog walkers were moving the deer along nicely.  I spotted three large stages heading for a wooded drinking pond and quickly found my place with a good view. Throwing a small skrim net over me and the camera I settled down to wait.  The sun was now streaming in through the low branches of the trees, lighting the bracken. The three stags walked in through the trees straight into the golden light.  The could sense something was not quite right, something or someone was there, but they couldn’t work out what it was.  They remained on the early morning light for a good 10 minutes. Here is the best of the images.

The Crusader

September 23, 2010 Comments Off on The Crusader

At the end of August I went to the Sheffield Fair, an event run over the bank holiday where lots of re-enactors put on displays of historic battles and drills from various periods of history.  These events are always good for a few portrait shots and by and large if you have a chat with the guys they will gladly pose for you.  I try to get a contact name and email from them if I can, then send them a copy of any images which turn out to be reasonable.  That way we both get something out of it.

Anyway, having been up to Dumfries and photographed Caerlaverock Castle I had the idea of combining this with some of the characters performing at Sheffield.  One group were representing Norman Knights over four centuries and it was one of these which caught my eye.  In order to make the final compilation image work I had to ensure that the light came from the same direction and was something I could work with in photoshop. I quickly checked the castle image on my iPhone, logging into my online flikr account and worked out where I needed to be positioned to take a compatible shot of the knight.  In actual fact I couldn’t get the angle I wanted, so had to think about reversing the light direction and flipping the image in photoshop.  It is actually quite easy to visualise your image when you have the iPhone and access to your stock images on-line.

Here is one of the series of original images of the knight. Yoy can see I’ve also tried to isolate him from any complex background, making it easy to extract him and place him alongside my castle.

Doesn’t look too promising does it?   Well, with a little bit of photoshop magic, and a good few hours playing around with it I think I finally came up with a workable result.  First I prepared the castle image by blurring the image, replicating the effect of a shallow depth of field. Next I placed the image of the knight on a second layer and flipped him to suit the lighting conditions. (The one I used was a slightly different angled original to the thumbnail above). After that it was a case of making the colour of the light match using adjustment layers and tones.

So here is the result …. I’ve called it ‘The Crusader’ and I’ve given it its first run out in competition in the Guernsey Open Exhibition. Lets see what the judges think.

Caerlaverock Castle

August 26, 2010 Comments Off on Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle

Originally uploaded by Falc

For anyone who has never been to Dumfries and Galloway I have to say you are missing out on one of the most beautiful, unspoilt areas of Scotland. Instead of gunning the car straight up to Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Highlands turn left once you cross the border from England. You won’t regret it.

There are castles galore, nature reserves, mountains, islands, beaches, cliffs, so many things to see and do. Best of all the area hasn’t been discovered by the masses yet. We stayed in Dumfries, but to get the best of Galloway then you probably need to be further ‘in’.

The shot you see here is Caerlaverock Castle, just on the Solway Firth, south of Dumfries. It is a moated castle, triangular in shape and in every way a classic medieval castle. This is an ‘HDR’ shot, with seven different exposures combined to provide a ‘best exposure’ for every pixel in the image. By having seven images each exposed differently the camera can capture detail in the dark areas as well as the lighter areas. Photoshop allows the various frames to be combined.

Hope you like it.

Havant National Open Exhibition Entry

August 21, 2010 Comments Off on Havant National Open Exhibition Entry

I received an email just the other day reminding me to enter the Havant National.  A little bit short notice as the closing date is 4th September, but pulled an entry together today and used the new online entry form. Pretty easy to use and much quicker than the old CD and postal entry method.  Well done Havant Camera Club, I wish the other exhibitions would go this route.

Anyway, onto the entry.  It is a while since I entered Havant, so I have a good choice of images to choose from. I’ve decided to go with the following:

PDI Open Section
Yorkshire Lime, a new piece as yet untried in any exhibition
Herringfleet Mist, an oldie but goody. Probably on one of its last outings
Look for Gold, another well used image, but worth another try
Rip Tide, always seams to do reasonably well

PDI Nature Section
Common Blue Butterflies Mating, another new one, testing the waters
Green-veined White, again something new for me. Not sure this one is upto scratch, so an experiment
Young Japanese Macaque,  a banker
Group Snooze, should be a solid entry

So we will know in a week or two.  I’m still in need of nine acceptances for the British Photographic Exhibitions 4 crown award and now have twenty four images submitted. I hope that I don’t need the Havant entry, but they are always a backup.

Silver-washed Fratillery

August 16, 2010 Comments Off on Silver-washed Fratillery

Silver-washed Fratillery

Originally uploaded by Falc

Another interesting day with the ‘Butterfly Rig’. This time at Grafton Wood where I got decent photos of several species of butterfly. The image here is a Silver-washed Fratillery but also photographed were Common Blue, Holly Blue, Comma, Brown Argus, Brimstone, Gatekeeper and Small Heath. No sign of the Brown Hairstreak though. All in all a good day’s practice and a couple of half decent images.

Butterfly season comes to an end very shortly, so not many more shots of this topic to endure. Back to landscapes and people at the end of the month.

Macro Skills

August 7, 2010 Comments Off on Macro Skills

I’m still working on my macro technique in preparation for offering macro and close up photography workshops through Going Digital.

These tiny butterflies are coming to the end of the flight period now and so I’m taking every opportunity to grab a few shots of them.  I particularly like to try and isolate them from underneath, which gives a slightly different perspective than the usual side on or top down image more usually seen.  This composition requires a different technique and some ‘field craft’ to get.  Finding the butterfly is no different, but the approach has to be slow and low. I start to approach by getting very low, I look for a bank which allows me to get much lower and to approach without the butterfly seeing me.  Then I use a mono-pod to slowly move any grass or foliage which is in the foreground or background. Set the flash to -2.3 or -2.6 stops and start the creep in.  Using the 180mm macro lens I need to be about 2 ft from the butterfly to get a decent image.  The butterflies tend not to be as flighty when approached in this manner, if you try to get this close from above then you will have great difficulty.

Hope you like the result.

Back on the Competition Trail

August 2, 2010 Comments Off on Back on the Competition Trail

Summer is over, or at least the competition circuit has started again. Either way I’m back on the chase for points.  This week its the Great Barr Photographic Society Open Exhibition, a ‘National’ level competition.  It feels like a long time since I sent in an entry, though to be honest its probably only a few short weeks. I’m still in need of thirteen more acceptances for the ‘British Photography Exhibitions 4 Crown Award’ which is obtained by getting 200 acceptances at National level.

So, onto the Great Barr entry … I missed this exhibition last year, so I have a few ‘oldies’ to try and a few new, untried works too. A good mixture, hopefully.  I have great hopes for the butterflies ‘Common Blues Mating’ taken just yesterday near Sherwood Forest and ‘Young Japanese Macaque’ a good old tried and tested favourite which scored 14/15 at the recent National Club Championships.

Mono PDI
Third Age of Man
Station Master
The Wagoneer

Colour PDI
Saltwick Bay Storm
The Young Ones
Spurn Defences II

Nature PDI
Common Blues Mating
Japanese Macaque in Onsen
Blackbird on Hawthorn
Young Japanese Macaque

Creative PDI
The Andrews Sisters
The Moorings
Sea Thrift
Clearance Sale