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.
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.
August 26, 2010 Comments Off on Caerlaverock Castle
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.
August 16, 2010 Comments Off on Silver-washed Fratillery
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.
July 10, 2010 Comments Off on Stonefish
Stone carved dolphin head. I’ve been keeping an eye out for gargoyles and interesting statuary recently, they make quite interesting and sometimes quite scary images.
This one lives at the head of the cascade in Chatsworth House gardens. He is not actually so scary when in situ, but taken out of context can be quite threatening. I have used photoshop to bring out some of the colours and the lose the background in a dark vignette. This gives the impression that he is peeping out of a dark recess. I quite like the effect.
Lets see what the judges make of him.
July 3, 2010 Comments Off on Nut Weevil (Curculio nucum)
More fun with the macro setup. This time early morning in Sherwood Forest. I take an umbrella, a monopod, a tripod, the camera, the MP-E65mm macro lens, the 180mm f3.5 macro lens, a 580EX Flash and a small lightbox diffuser. Open the umbrella under a tree or bush and whack the bush with the monopod. All the bugs drop out into the umbrella 😉
This little guy dropped out of an oak tree. Cute little thing isn’t he?
Nut Weevil (Curculio nucum). I used the 65mm at 2x magnification and dropped the power of the flash to -1.66 stops.
Must buy myself a proper flash bracket though. Its very difficult to hold the light and the camera.
July 2, 2010 Comments Off on Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)
A trip over to Manchester gave me an hour in my favourite place, the Peak District, on the way home today. I’ve been trying a few things with a macro setup and so parked up on the slopes of Mam Tor to shoot some butterflies.
As the sun started to drop, these butterflies started to look for somewhere to spend the night, which gives me a chance to get in close with the camera.
I used a Canon 180mm f3.5 L with a 1.4x converter, giving a focal length of about 250mm. f5 with a diffused flash so soften the harsh flash lighting. Just need an arm or something to hold the flash now. They key to this type of shot is as always with wildlife to get the camera down to your subject’s eye level. Which meant laying down in the grass for an hour in the sunshine 😉
Anyway, a very pleasant way to spend an hour instead of sitting in traffic watching the tail lights.