Thursday 24 December 2009

Snow on Christmas Eve

Here are a few photos out of my windows this morning.  The first one was just before 8am when the snow was still falling quite hard.  The streetlights are giving most of the scene an orange glow which is contrasting well with the bluish haze in the background.  Unfortunately there's a bit of reflected light from inside the house but that's one of the problems with taking photos through the glass.

About half an hour later I took the next three photos with my very wide angle lens.  The first from an upstairs window and is taken down the close and across the valley.  The sky is still full of snow in the distance. 

The second is looking straight down into the garden.  All the area that I cleared  yesterday afternoon is completely covered again.  We're going to clear it again so we can move my car out of the way and get Lynne's car out so we can pick up my daughter from the railway station.

The last photo is my back garden from the bedroom window.  Might take some more later.

Monday 21 December 2009

Wendy Woodpecker in Winter Wonderland

I've fallen behind on posting my recent photos but today I had an unexpected visitor into my garden so I felt I needed to post it straight away.  I was WFH (working from home) because I couldn't get into the office because of the snow.  I've made sure that there is always food out for the birds and as you may have seen in my previous posts I get a fair variety of wild birds coming to feed.  As I was returning to the lounge from the kitchen with a well deserved cup of coffee I spotted a medium size bird go past the window.  I crept up to the window and saw this lovely woodpecker hop onto the branch above one of the famous fruity balls.  I ran out to my study, picked up my camera, put on the long lens and quickly checked all the settings before returning to the lounge window to get this first shot.

I really had expected her to have flown off before I got back from the study but no, she stayed for quite a while.  Then she swung down and grabbed the fruity ball with one claw as she held on tight to the branch with the other.

Then she got down to the job of pecking the food out of the ball.  I have lots of blurred photos at this point as woodpeckers move their head very fast and the ball was also swinging about wildly.  I changed some settings on the camera to open the aperture, reduce the ISO setting and speed up the shutter to try and get some better quality and less blurred shots.

This last image was as she started to get back up onto the the branch after she'd had her fill.  Unfortunately she didn't stay long before she flew off.  I didn't get a decent picture of her back on the branch as the camera decided to focus on the piece of branch in front of her and the wider aperture made it a shallow depth of field which meant she was out of focus.  I didn't get chance to change the settings again before she had gone.

You might be wondering why I am referring to her as she in this blog as you probably know I'm no great expert on birds.  Yes, of course, I looked it up on the RSPB bird identifier and the male great spotted woodpecker has a red patch on the back of his head.  I'm getting there, slowly.  Maybe someone will buy me a bird identification book for Christmas, three more sleeps to find out.

Thursday 3 December 2009

More Garden Birds

I've been off work a couple of days, not very well.  I'll spare you the details but just to say I didn't want to be too far from a toilet.  I was feeling a bit better today so I spent some time trying to get some more pictures of birds in the garden.  As usual the weather is dull and overcast but I persisted.

The first picture is one of the many great tits that come to visit.  He's sat up high in the tree looking at the other birds feeding in the lower branches.

The next is a less frequent visitor who seems quite reluctant to use the feeder or go near the fruity balls.  Here's a chaffinch even higher up in the tree looking quite aloof.

We also had a quick visit from a bigger brown bird (BBB) which I think is a thrush.  It was over in the other tree so not a very good image at all.

Yet another little brown bird (LBB) but this time with a nice white breast.  I think it might be a female or juvenile finch, maybe a goldfinch.

In the next image we have a great tit and a blue tit sharing a fruity ball.

Now this next image, it's exactly the same as one of the images in the last post, but is it the same bird as the image before the last.  If it is then I'm pretty sure we have a juvenile goldfinch.

This time we have a couple of blue tits sharing the other fruity ball.  The tree was really busy at this point, must have been eight or nine birds on the feeder, the fruity balls and sat around waiting for a turn.

Yes, another LBB.  I think it's the same one as a couple of posts ago which I decided was a female robin.

Maybe this is the partner.

The sun came out very briefly when I caught this blue tit on the fruity ball on its own...

... and then with a friend.

Then my friend the jay came back.  He'd been here earlier when it was very dull so I didn't get any good photos of him then.

He had a strange method of getting food from the fruity balls by lifting them up with one foot to peck them.  Didn't manage to get a photo of him doing that, but I'll keep an eye out and see if I can catch him doing it again.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

The First Snow of Winter

To be honest there wasn't that much snow by the house but for a little while it was coming down quite hard and the sky looked quite full of it.  I had arranged to drive over to my daughters' house in Mossley this morning (Saturday) to go Christmas shopping in Manchester which is at the other side of the Pennines.  I was a bit concerned that the road over the top might be blocked as there had been reports that Woodhead Pass, which crosses the Pennines a few miles further South, had been impassable earlier in the morning.  Anyway I thought I'd fire a few shots off of the snow before I set off.

Firstly a couple of the back garden.  The first one out of the study window.

And the second one from the kitchen door which was a little later and the white streaks of snow falling is visible.

My car on the drive with a thin layer of snow that I'll need to brush off before I set off.

Down the road there's no sign of the snow settling on the road but the sky looks full of snow.  In the photo it looks as if the horizon is just beyond the trees but in reality there is a hillside hidden behind which would go right to the top of the frame.

There was another LBB (little brown bird) on the feeder.  I guess it is probably a female or juvenile tit but maybe not.

I'm fairly sure this is a great tit (but it could be a coal tit) which was high up on the tree away from the feeder.

Just caught it as it flew off, the next image on my camera was an empty branch.  They go pretty fast.

Shortly after taking the photos I set off over the Pennines where the snow and wind were making driving conditions a bit hazzardous.  On the very top it was also a bit foggy (or low cloud really) and there was a coating of snow on the road.  The peat bogs at either side of the road looked to a good layer of snow settled on them which was still there when we drove back in the late afternoon.  At the Manchester side of the Pennines there was no snow at all and while we were on the train from Mossley to Manchester there were even patches of blue sky.  Strange weather.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Garden Birds

Now that the leaves have just about gone from the trees and we are in the depths of Autumn it's time to start feeding the birds in the garden again.  I have a feeder which sits empty in the tree most of the year so I brought it in and gave it a thorough clean before filling it and taking it back outside.  This week I've also bought a big tub of "Fruity Energy Balls" to hang about the place as well.  There are two trees in my front garden where I can take shots of the birds from the bay window inside my lounge.  Most of the photos are taken through the double glazing which plays havoc with the contrast and means that I have to spend time post processing to get the contrast back.  Also, apart from the first image, the weather has been pretty overcast so I've had to use a high ISO setting to get the shutter speed low enough for reasonably sharp images.  The smaller birds especially tend to move around pretty fast so I have a high percentage of rejected shots because of motion blur of the subject.

The first shot was taken over a week ago when there was still a few leaves on the trees and the weather was quite sunny for a change.  I had only filled the bird feeder about 5 minutes before this Great Tit was straight in to get its fill.  For some reason they seem to throw most of the seed on the floor and then just pick out the bits they want.  This bird had sorted itself out one of the dark coloured long seeds and was just about to fly off with it.

This next shot was a little brown bird (LBB) which was sat in the hawthorn tree away from the feeder and it's taken me a while to figure out what it is.  Using the RSPB bird identifier I narrowed down to one of a few female birds or possibly a Twite.  Although on this shot it's difficult to see but the beak was too long for it to be a Twite and anyway they are quite rare so unlikely to be in my garden.  Finally I think I've found a positive match and I'm almost sure that it's a juvenile Robin.

My next visitor was a Jay.  It was quite a big bird in comparison to the Great Tit and the juvenile Robin.  I think the Jay are too big to use the bird feeder because the perch it too small.  However, it seemed quite interested in the fruity ball in the yellow net but it didn't seem that sure what to do with it.

The Blackbird also came to sit in the Hawthorn tree where the young Robin had been.  I think they are also too big for the bird feeder and usually they drop down to pick up the seeds that the Tits throw onto the ground.

The next visitor was a tiny Blue Tit which was gingerly making its way down the branch to the re fruity ball.  When it reached the ball it just pecked away at the top of the ball as it stood on the branch.

The Great Tit came back (probably wasn't the same one) and went to the red fruity ball where it swung around underneath for a while before it climbed up for this shot.  Unfortunately the shots where it was swiging aroud underneath came out too blurred to post.

The Jay came back and this time he seemed to know what the fruity balls were all about.  Maybe it was a different Jay or maybe he'd been watching the Tits pecking away at the balls for food.

My final visitor was an adult Robin, maybe it was a parent of the juvenile one from the first shot.  Knowing that Robins are quite fearless I opened the window so I could get some shots without the double glazing in the way and it makes a big difference to the quality of the images.  After the Robin had gone I tried to get some of the other birds again with the window open but they all flew off before I got a shot.  Oh well, maybe next time, but here's three shots of the Robin, the first neer the yellow ball and the other two in different parts of the tree.


Hopefully over the next few weeks the sun will come out during the weekend so I might be able to get some better shots and maybe some different birds.

Monday 16 November 2009

After the Rain

Following on from the previous post it did stop raining and there started to be a warm orange glow where the sun was coming up from behind the clouds on the horizon. The clouds above me were still quite heavy and black but were starting to move away.  I drove to a spot where I had taken some sunrise shots a couple of weeks ago where there is a nice copse of trees on the horizon which make a nice subject for the image.  I've cropped the image wide to include the trees and the area where the sun is rising but get rid of the negative space above and below. The clouds were a dark purple which makes a good contrast with the glowing orange and there was just a touch of pink which seems to mimic the shape of the trees.

From the same spot I took this second image where I've zoomed into the area where the sun is behind the low clouds.  I've cropped this image even wider than the previous image to leave just the horizon and the lightest area of the sky.

In the next image I have driven further along the road so that Ingbirchworth reservoir is in the foreground to provide a reflection of the sun as it rises.  The top edge of the sun is now above the thicker cloud but still behind the thinner band of cloud above.  It's interesting to see how the different patches of clouds in the foreground are being lit by the sun.  Some are quite dark whereas others are much lighter and have warm orange linings.

I moved further along again to a place where there are a couple of trees nearer to the road which I am using as the foreground interest.  By now the sun was was well above the horizon but still behind the haze in the distance.  The sky was getting much lighter now and the darker clouds had moved further away.

I then decided that it might be good to use the windmills as the foreground interest so the last couple of images are a portrait and a landscape versions of the scene.  In the portrait version I have the wet road reflecting the sun and providing a leading line out to the horizon to the point where the sun is rising.

This last shot was taken a little later and the sun was quite bright, too bright really, so I positioned the small tree in front of the sun to cut down the direct light.  I had also widened the zoom lens to include a greater area of sky and the patch of blue that was starting to grow.  As with the previous image I am using the road as a leading line out to the horizon but this time it's a bit more dynamic with it being more on the diagonal of the frame.  As I'm writing this blog, when I look at this image I feel there is too much dead space on the left and bottom so I have tried cropping those areas out.  Looking at the cropped and uncropped images side by side I think I definitely prefer the cropped version.  I ought really to upload the new version but maybe you can just imagine how it looks.  Try looking at the full size image and cut out the left and bottom edges with bits of paper.  What do you think?

Friday 13 November 2009

Rainy Morning

It's taken nearly a week to get these photos posted, I really don't know where time goes.  Anyhow, last Saturday morning I was determined to try to make some sunrise photos so I got up before dawn and looked out at the weather.  It had been raining quite recently and there looked to be some dark rain clouds in the sky but there looked to be a clear piece of sky where the sun was due to come up.  I got all my stuff together and headed for the door where I found it was raining quite hard all of a sudden.  I decided it would pass and headed toward the sunrise.

As I drove along I could see the sun was rising in the distance but the rain seemed to be following me.  Then I had an idea, I have been thinking for a while that it might be good to put the camera on the car dashboard while driving in the dark and take some shots of the lights as I drove along.  So I stopped the car and got my camera set up on the dashboard.  I set the lens to manual focus and tried to get it close to focusing on infinity as I thought that would give me the best chance to get some nice images.  I set the aperture speed to ten seconds because I felt this would be long enough to get some good movement then I set the aperture to f11 to give a reasonable depth of field.  This first photo is one I took before I set off of a couple of cars going past me and I thought that the exposure was about right for the amount of light around.

I took the next few images as I drove up and down the road using my remote trigger so that I could concentrate on driving.  I tried to time them for when I was going under street light or when other vehicles were coming towards me.  I took maybe 20 shots and selected the following ones as suitable for illustrating the idea.  I quite like the results but I need to find something to lift the camera lens above the window wipers to get rid of them out of the image on my next attempt. 


I was on a country road here without much traffic about but I'd like to try taking some on a busy motorway on my way to or from work perhaps.  A bit later the rain stopped and I managed to take some more sunrise shots and I will post them tomorrow sometime I think.

The Poppy Wave at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

A few days after the Poppy wave was unveiled at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in September I managed to get out and take a few photographs in...