Sunday 5 December 2010

Garden Birds in the Snow

We've had the heaviest snow on record for November which has caused a lot of disruption but given me the opportunity to get a new selection of birds in the garden. I have made some videos of the birds on the bird feeders which I'll put at the end of the post. But I wanted to get some photos of the birds without the feeders in the picture. This first one is a little bluebird sitting patiently in the branches.

In this second photo is the first of three robin pictures. In this one the snow is coming down and the robin is hunched down and appears to be sheltering under the bigger branch. 

Here we have a blackbird feeding on the bright orange berries from the bush. Not a particularly good quality photo but I just liked the way you can see the berry just before it disappears. I have a series of shots with the bird having a couple of berries from the bush but this was my favourite.

The next is what I think is a female robin,but I'm not 100% sure. It's sat in almost exactly the same place as the black bird in the previous photo but the sun was a bit brighter so it's come out a little better.

This little blue tit was eating snow, I guess because all the water about is frozen. I just thought it looked very amusing with the snow all around its beak.  

The last two photos are the other robin pictures that I mentioned earlier. I think it's the same robin in both photos, quite a chubby little fellow.

The first video was taken after the first small amount of snow and shows the feeder with the orange berried bush behind and then one of the balls. Towards the end of the video is MacKinnley the cat from down the road. He's a bit of a bully, but quite a magnificent cat.

The second video is much longer is just has a compilation of bits from about 2 hours of recording. The first parts are of the nut holder looking down the road and the second set of parts are looking back towards the house. You might just see me looking out of the window sometimes

Monday 15 November 2010

A bit of a mixture

I hadn't been to Scout Dyke Reservoir since August so I though it was time I went back for a visit. I had intended on getting up early enough to make some sunrise images but I seem to be having trouble waking up at the weekends. So it was about 8am before I arrived and about a dozen anglers were already out on the banks of the reservoir. The sun hadn't been up too long and there was just a few small clouds in the sky although it did look as though more were on their way.

As I walked along the reservoir wall I saw that the early morning sun was coming through a gap and hitting these trees at the bottom of the dam wall so I went down the slope to get a closer look. The foliage on these trees was very light brown and a bit dead looking but the orange sun made them glow. The grass of the fields in the background was also being lit up by the sunlight but the rest of the foreground was very much in the shade. I used tone mapping to bring up the detail of the small stone building and the bridge across to it. On a normally exposed shot these details were purely silhouettes.

I walked along the bottom of the dam wall slope next to the woods where I spotted a couple of mushrooms in the grass. Yes more fungi, I can't help it, it's just that time of year. As usual it was pretty dark and damp so to get the shot I put the ISO setting straight up to 800 which has made it a bit noisy in the background but I'm not too worried. The things I love about this photos are the textures on the mushroom and also the little drops of dew on the tips of the grass.

The second mushroom was up the slope a little from the first and although they look to be the same type the top hasn't opened up as much as the first, making it look quite different. There was no way I was going to get them both in focus so, a bit unconventionally I guess, I decided to focus on the one at the back. Again there's nice textures on the mushroom and the dew on the grass but if you look closely at the background on the right there are lots of tiny mushrooms too.

I took some shots of this angler casting his fly with a deft flick of his rod. I took several shots as he fished but I liked the shapes in this one the best. This side of the bank was still in a lot of shade so it was pretty dark still.

 We walked up to the far end of the reservoir and onto an area which is normally under the water. Although we seem to have had a lot of rain recently the water level in this reservoir does't appear to have gone up very much. The clouds in the background look a bit threatening for more rain as they started to move in front of the sun. This pile of rock in the foreground is the remains of a platform that the water bailiff had built for the herons a couple of years back when the water was low. I have some photos of him building it and also of a heron sat on top of it looking down into the water below. I'm surprised he hasn't rebuilt it while the water level has been so low. Maybe the anglers aren't too keen on providing perching facilities for the herons as they probably take a lot of the fish.

This is the main channel of water coming into the reservoir at the very top end. As you can see the sky in the opposite direction to the previous shot is completely clear blue. Although this channel is only five of six feet wide it is very deep and if you look closely at the foreground you can see how the edges look to go straight downwards below the weed.

As I walked down the other bank of the reservoir the clouds that were threatening earlier moved completely away and the sun came out. I was quite intrigued by this pile of stones because it wasn't here last time I came to the reservoir. I'm guessing that someone was a bit bored and decided to collect some of the stones from the old dry stone walls that were here before the reservoir was built and make a pretend boat with them. I guess it could be the beginnings of a pier to fish from and maybe the herons or the cormorants would find it useful. When the water level does finally come back up it will disappear below the water and fall apart just like the herons perch in the earlier picture.

Well I was a bit later than expected posting these pictures and I have some more to post on my computer and still more still in my camera to look at from this last weekend. I guess I need to spend some time and catch up before I have to start thinking about not taking any new shots for a while.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Autumn Scenes

There was the promise of a nice day so I thought I'd get some autumn leaves pictures in the woods a couple of miles from my home. In the middle of the woods is a field which has about half a dozen nicely shaped trees scattered around where I was sure there would be some good photo opportunities. I have photographed the trees many times before and I thought they would be looking good in their autumn colours. On the drive to the woods I spotted some trees in a field next to the road that looked quite interesting so I stopped and took a few shots. This first image is a tone mapped HDR of the trees with the houses behind and Holme Moss transmitter on the horizon. The power lines and post in the foreground spoil it a bit but I decided to leave them in the frame anyway.

When I reached the woods the sky was becoming a bit dull as a haze covered the sun. I took quite a few photos in the field but I wasn't that happy with any of them. I've included this image in the post as a starting point for what I was trying to make.

I decided to go for a walk in the woods and then if the light had improved to return to the field for another attempt at getting the shots I wanted. I walked up through the woods and then out to some fields at the top of the hill where there was a crab apple tree with loads of apples around its base. I took a few shots of the apples from different angles and different focal lengths and the two I liked where this one and one that I've used on my Begin Photo blog.

Further around the fields I spotted the head of a bird poking up under a tree in the corner of the field.  I took a few shots and tried to get closer to try and get some better shots. To begin with I hadn't recognised what sort of bird it was but as I got closer I realized it was a young pheasant. As I crept closer the bird had obviously spotted me and had started to make its escape across the ploughed field. There turned out to be three of them making there way slowly away from me.  One of them stopped briefly and opened up its wing before continuing on its way. I'm not sure if this was a way of making itself look bigger than it was but I think it makes a good image of the birds feathers.

After a bit more of a walk I returned to the field and took this next shot of my favourite tree in the field. Its the one in the background from the earlier photo. I like this shot because the cloud behind it is almost exactly the same shape on the top.

As I took more photos in the field the clouds in the sky continued to get smaller and separated.  I'd swapped my lens to a very wide angle zoom to take this next photo.  It's the same tree again from a slightly different angle and again I see a repetition of the shape of the tree in the clouds behind. There is yet another photo of this tree in my Begin Photo blog taken from a bit closer and again a slightly different angle. I probably took about fifty shots of this tree in the two visits to the field on this day.

The final shot was taken as I was leaving the woods and the sun was shining very brightly through the trees. Here the ground was covered with a layer of orangey brown leaves which contrast with the greeny orange leaves still on the trees.

I've taken a lot more photos in the last couple of days and I'll try to post some more before the end of the week.

Saturday 23 October 2010

Chateau Serrant

The first image from Serrant is the first view of the chateau as you leave the visitors payment desk.  This is effectively the side entrance where you would go on the bridge over the moat and through the smaller set of gates and into the courtyard.    The weather was lovely but at times a little too harsh for decent photos.

As we crossed the bridge over the moat at the side gate there were some big fish swimming about below us.  This one was very excitable and looked as if was trying to get out of the water.

Once inside the courtyard we had this wonderful view of the main gate which had a straight drive down to some more gates onto the main road.  At either side of the drive was a stretch of lawn and then a few avenues of trees all in straight lines.

We waited in the courtyard to join the guided tour around the inside of the chateau.  The tour started in some dark passages through the cellars where we were shown the original wiring from when the chateau first got electricity.  It looked quite scary but it's all been replaced by modern circuits because it was dangerous.  The tour then went around the kitchens which were also in the cellars where we saw some amazing old kitchen equipment.  Then up the stairs through the dining room, library music room and then up more stairs into the bedrooms.  There were some amazing things in there but I wasn't allowed to take photos so nothing to show here.  I could have bought some postcards or a guide book and scanned them but it's not the same.

After the tour we went to walk around the lake where we had some wonderful views of the house reflected in the lake.  I love the clump of trees beside the lake and you can just see at the other side of the trees are some steps down to the water.  I guess they would probably have had boats on the lake at one time.

It wasn't possible to walk around the lake as it was fenced off so we had to head back towards the house where I took this next shot using some of the trees around the lake to frame the shot.

It's quite odd how, what effectively is, the back of the house was much fancier the the front. I suspect people living here used to spend more of their time at this side of the house by the lake.  There were probably some lovely formal gardens down each side of this path but now there is just grass.  Directly behind me when I took this shot are the steps down to the lake that I mentioned earlier.

This shot shows the little bridge from the back doors which don't look as if they are used any more. There is a little door under the bridge which I think is where the kitchen is situated and someone had put bread on the step for the swans that were in the moat.  The family that own the chateau still live here up on the top two floors in the roof space and the two wings at the front of the chateau.

We walked all the way around the house and this shot shows the bridge that we crossed to get into the courtyard and the bridge to the main gate.  On the right of the picture is one of the private wings of the chateau where there is a little chapel for the household to use. In the centre of the image is one of the two separate buildings which flank the main gate.  I'm not sure what these were used for but I suspect they could have been the servants quarters because the damp dark passage where we began the tour started in the cellar of this building.

There were some other buildings where we entered the grounds from the car park but they seemed to be private residences now apart from the first one where we paid to come in.  There was another lake next to the one where I took the photos but that looked more like a mill pond or a little reservoir.  There was also a pigeonerre on site but it was currently being refurbished and was completely covered by a tarpaulin.  It's quite a nice chateau but certainly not one of the best in the Loire Valley.

Thursday 14 October 2010

More Fungi

It's that fungi time of year and any walk through the woods or any other dark, damp places will find some kind of mushroom.  As with my previous fungi post the challenge is to find enough light to get a decent shot or ramp the ISO on the camera as far as you can without getting a lot of noise.  

This first image was taken near Bretton in a pile of big old logs piled up at the side of the path.  The logs have obviously been here a while with the part of the image on the right showing a lot of woodworm holes.  These two little yellow mushrooms were tucked in between the logs and are quite colourful.  There were some other mushrooms of a different kind up on the top of a pile of logs but it was too dangerous to climb up and photograph them.  We also saw some other big mushrooms out in the field and although the light was a lot better the mushrooms were in a very sorry state.

The rest of the shots in this post were taken in Beaumont Park near Huddersfield.  This first one was on its own at the entrance to some caves.  I had to remove a layer of old leaves from around it so I could get a clear shot.  I decided to covert it to black and white (using the blue filter setting) because I felt it brought the contrast up nicely and there wasn't much colour to be seen anyway.

These next mushrooms were growing on an old log floating in a swampy looking pond.  I couldn't get very close to them so this was the best shot I could take.  The green dotty weed on the top of the water was very bright green and I thought it really detracted from the main subject of the mushrooms so I selectively desaturated the green and yellow so that the mushrooms came forward a bit.

This next mushroom must have been six to eight inches across and I think the weight of the top must have made it fall over.  This one was just in a patch of sunlight and you may be able to make out another 
one fallen over in the darkness of the background. 

Just under one tree there were several patched of this strange spiky mushroom.  Some of the patches were old and had started to decay but the others were quite fresh and bright.

In the last photo I converted to monochrome with a hint of brown as a comparison to the previous photo.   I'm not sure which version I prefer.  I think the colour in the leaves are a bit of a distraction in the first version but maybe the second one is too plain.  Now I'm looking at the second photo again I'm feeling the leaf on the left in the foreground is a big distraction so I might have a go at cloning it out or darkening it drastically towards the corner.

I realise that I still haven't posted any of the other photos from my previous visit to Beaumont Park and I have lots of photos from France still to process.   I think I might need to try and post more regularly to catch up a bit.  The thing is I've been considering starting a new blog about getting started with digital photography, very much a beginners guide.  I've only had a decent camera for about three years so I don't consider myself an expert but I might be able to help some people who are at the same stage that I was three years ago.  I guess I need to think it out a bit more first but I'll post some links if I ever get it up and running.

Monday 11 October 2010

The Heron

I've always had problems getting any decent photos of herons around home because they either fly away before I get anywhere near them or I see them when I don't have my camera with me.  There was even one occasion when I had a heron in my sights and it flew off just before I pressed the button.  When I looked up from my camera I realised the the dog had run after it while I was concentrating on sizing up my shot.  So when I spotted a heron on this floating jetty I was hoping I might have better luck.  It was looking quite relaxed and there were a number of seagulls sharing the jetty.

We were at the Lac de Maine near Angers in France on a lovely hot sunny day.  It's a leisure lake just across the river from the city and had areas for boating and a sandy bay where the locals sunbathed and swam.  As I crept closer the seagulls moved away and the heron began to look restless.  It stood up and started waking along the jetty.

As I tried to get a little closer the seagulls took off closely followed by the heron.  I was ready for it to take off and had adjusted my camera for a bigger depth of field making sure that the shutter speed was still quite fast.  Because it was sunny I was still able to get 1/750th of a second at F8 keeping the ISO at 100 and setting the exposure compensation to -1 ev.  I was also panning as I took the shot which is why all of the background was blurred even at F8.

The heron kept quite low and went across the sky rather than way from me as it flew so I kept re-focussing and shooting.  In the next shot it was heading towards the beach area of the lake and then over some trees at the edge.

After it had gone we carried on walking around the lake area and noticed a couple of pods next to the lake where people were fishing.  As we came closer to the pond I spotted the heron wading in the shallow water next to some water lilly pads.  I am fairly sure it was the same heron that I'd seen on the lake as this pond was in the general direction it was heading when it flew off before.  I again tried to get closer without it seeing me and the trees around the pond gave me a bit of cover.

Just after I took the previous shot it must have seen me and flew off again.  When I first looked at the display on the back of my camera I thought I'd got a great shot of it taking off but when I got a closer look I realised the it was mostly blurred.  I guess the reason was that it was a bit darker around the pond than by the lake so the shutter speed had dropped to 1/250th of a second and the heron was moving its head, neck and wings too fast.  The legs, tail feathers and the back are almost not blurred but I really needed the head to be a lot sharper and I could have got away with the wings been blurred I suppose. I should have aimed to get 1/750th or even 1/1000th of a second on the shutter speed to have got a better shot.  I should really have bumped the ISO up to 400 or 800 to achieve the faster shutter speed, so it's a lesson I need to think about more when trying to photograph wildlife (or anything else) which is likely to move fast.

Tuesday 28 September 2010


As I mentioned in my last blog I took a couple of photos of mushrooms and a few others that I was going to post later.  On Saturday we went to Clumber Park, near Worksop and I took a few more mushroom photos so I thought I'd bundle all fungii shots together in a separate post.  One of the things to mention straight away is that mushrooms tend to grow in gloomy places so it's usually a challenge to get any light on them without using a flash, which I didn't have with me either day.  The first photo is of a very tatty looking mushroom which I took with my 17-85 lens at 85mm and even with the ISO at 800 and I could only get 1/15th of a second.  Much too slow for this focal length but the image stabilisation did a pretty good job.

This next shot was using the same lens and focal setting but it was a bit more in the open so I lowered the ISO to 640 and managed to get 1/90th of a second this time.  The challenge for this one was that my camera was down on the floor so I couldn't look through the view finder and I also had to rely on the autofocus doing it's job.  I guess I could have laid down on the wet grass but as I wasn't in the best of health I decided that was probably not a good idea.

So on to Clumber Park and in this next photo the mushroom was in a patch of sunshine which had managed to find it's way through the trees.  Unfortunately the mushroom was a bit covered over with grass and brambles so I tried to pull as much stuff out of the way but I was concerned that the sunshine could disappear at any moment so I took a quick shot.  This time I was using my 70-300 lens at 105mm and managed to get 1/90th of a second at ISO 100.  The main problem with this lens is that the nearest focussing distance is about a meter (3 ft) so I had to backup a way to get the composition I wanted.  

This next photo was back into the dark again so I turned the ISO back up to 800 so I could get this shot at 1/180th of a second.

I moved around a bit to get this alternative shot of the two mushrooms and this time I was looking through a gap in the undergrowth hence the green blurry areas at each side.  I think maybe when I look at it now that maybe I should crop out some of the green because it's too distracting.  However I think I prefer this angle to the previous one because the stalks of the mushrooms are more visible.

The final photo was the least blurred of a set of half a dozen shots that I took of this mushroom.  It was in a very dark spot underneath a load of brambles so I couldn't get very close to it at all.  As a result I had the lens on full telephoto at 300mm and tried to take shots at 1/20th of a second which is sheer madness even with the image stabilisation on this lens.  To be honest the mushroom wasn't that good so I didn't bother spending the time trying to get a better shot.  It shouldn't really be in this post but I thought it wouldn't be too bad.

So next time I'll post the other photos from Beaumont Park and maybe some from Clumber Park too.

Friday 24 September 2010

The Old Entrance at Beaumont Park

So it seems, referring back to my previous post, that I wasn't just suffering from post-holiday blues and I've had a week off work with viral pleurisy.  It's where the lining between the lungs and the chest wall (pleura) get inflamed and it is extremely painful to breathe. Anyway I'm back at work and although not completely at full health I am well on the mend.

On the day before I went back to work I decided to venture out for a walk to see how I managed to get about and I was OK but took it very steady.  Anyone who may have been to Beaumont Park (or read my post from the 6th June last year) will know it's perched on a steep hillside with many sloping paths and steps, perhaps not the best place to go when it's hard to breathe.  The original main entrance was at the bottom of the park and the visitors used to arrive on the railway and enter the park through the beautiful gates under the bridge.  It guess it was more like entering the grounds of a castle than a park and I would think that it would have been very busy at the weekends in the summer from the early 19th Century until after the Second World War.  I imagine that people would have been dressed in their best Sunday clothes to promenade around the many paths, past the water cascade and up to the bandstand at the top of the park.  The railway line has long since been abandoned and the main entrance is now at the top end of the park.

The bridge over the entrance has been closed for a while with red and white tape preventing access and spoiling the view somewhat. I was so pleased when I walked down the steps towards the old entrance to see that it has been re-opened and the tape has gone.  This first photo is as I approached the entrance using my fisheye lens attachment on my Lensbaby Composer.  Everything is a bit overgrown down here so it feels a bit like descending into a abandoned fort down a canyon within a tropical rainforest.

On the bridge the old stonework is overgrown with moss and ivy and some of the bits of stone look as if they've been dropped here from somewhere else.  This next photo was three shots taken with a 50mm lens at different exposures and tonemapped to bring out the rich detail in the stonework.

At the other end of the bridge there are step up to where the original cascade used to flow under a little bridge down a fifty foot cliff face and into a deep pool.  In the centre background of this photo you might be able to make out apart of the cliff face.  This photo and the next two were also taken using the fisheye because I wanted to get the very wide angle shots and I quite like the distortion around the edges.

This next shot is looking out through the main entrance under the bridge.  The stonework here is very impressive and I would think that without the moss and ivy could look even better.  I had one gate open and one shut for this shot.  I experimented with them both open and both shut but in the end I preferred this shot (mainly because it was in focus, the Lensbaby has to be focused manually and with my eyes it can be a bit hit and miss whether anything is in focus).  Through the gate you might be able to make out the iron girder which is where the railway line goes over the path into the park.  It's all very overgrown out there now so I'm not sure whether there was another path from the old railway station which is a couple of hundred yards down the track.

This shot was taken from the old railway bridge and looking into the entrance.  From here you can get a better idea of how overgrown it is with the ivy and bits of trees everywhere.  I imagine that in its heyday this area would all have been kept very trimmed and clear of ivy.  I'm not sure whether it shows up on this photo but the stones on which the gates are hung have been replaced with nice newly carved stones.  The workmanship is good and matches the original stonework very well apart from being clean.  I guess it won't take long for them to weather and merge into the old stonework better.  Behind me there are more trees towering above the old railway line and it is quite dark down here even on the brightest days.

I had probably spent a good half to three quarters of an hour down here taking photos and opening and closing the gates so I think I had exhausted the subject for today.  Next time I come here I might take some closer up shots to capture more of the detail in the stonework.  I took this final shot of the entrance as I started up the path towards the site of the old cascade.  I included the old bit of stone in the foreground to add a bit of depth to the shot.

I wasn't going to include this last shot in the post but as I've mentioned the old cascade a couple of times I decided to add this one.  In the foreground are the steps coming up from the old entrance and in the top right corner you can see the little bridge where the water for the cascade used to come down.  I imagine that when the cascade was in full flow this would have been quite a spectacle.  The pool no longer exists  and has been filled in for safety I would think.  A new cascade has been made near the top of the park with a pond and a fountain (see my post 06/07/09) but I don't think it's as impressive as this old one would have been.  However I shouldn't complain as they making improvements to the park every time I come back to see it.  I don't suppose it will ever be as popular as it used to be but I quite like the old abandoned areas as much as the newly refurbished ones because there are so may photo opportunities here.  I have a few more photos from the day (fungi, flowers and butterflies) and I might post them later.

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...