A quintuple of black and white

A couple of weeks ago I ventured out with the camera. The weather wasn’t too good and neither was the light but I decided to put together this quintuple of black and white images.

Now if you are of a certain age and had a darkroom, you will know the nuances of using different papers and developers.

The best, richest blacks I ever got always seemed to be with Kentmere paper. The Kodak and Ilford papers of the time just didn’t seem to compare. Now I realise this is purely subjective, but that was what I found.

Either way its not quite the same on a monitor. I’m not saying one is better than the other, they are just …….different.

Each with their strengths and weaknesses.

Camera/lens: Nikon D5300, Nikon 70-300mm AF-P DX VR.

What a week

What a week weather wise. Here in the UK we apparently have broken two records this week. We’ve had both the hottest February day and hottest winter day. We’re now told to expect snow although arguably that’s a bit more normal for the time of year. In fact last February we were battling the ‘beast from the east’ with people unable to get out of their houses. We couldn’t get up the road for a couple of days and actually got off quite light.

The gloriously warm unseasonal weather meant a visit to the local nature reserve was mandatory. It would have been rude not too.

Are these normally around in February?
Woodpecker on tree
Here’s Woody

The bird feeding station provides opportunties to capture a variety of our feathered friends. I normally spend a few minutes to watch whats going on. Take Woody above, when visiting he would approach from the left and land as pictured. Every so often he would go for the nuts in the feeder before returning here, then flying off.

Blue tit on feeder
At the feeder, but is this natural?

It’s Thursday now and the weather is dull, 10 degrees colder, overcast with terrible light for photography. A total contrast to a couple of days ago.

Anything else?

If I’m to continue taking photographs of birds I need to either find a longer lens or larger birds. Using my DX crop body with a 70-300m zoom I have an equivalent of 450mm focal length. On my CX body (Nikon V1) that goes up to a staggering 810mm. Is that long enough? No.

It’s never long enough.

I’ll admit its an odd way of getting to an 800mm focal length but is does take advantage of the Nikon V1s crop factor. Two plus points of that are size and cost. I could never afford anything like that for full frame. Even if I could I’m not sure I would be motivated enough to carry the bulk and weight. The downside of CX and the 1” sensor is you really need good light especially with a 300mm zoom.

The DX does a bit better, but taking pictures of small birds with a 450mm equivalent lens isn’t ideal either. It’s too short for the type of shots above. Hence my comment about finding larger birds.

So even though it is February I had some fun filled hours out in the warm sunshine taking photos.

And that’s not something I normally say at this time of year.

Camera/lens: Nikon 1 V1, FT-1 adapter, Nikon 70-300mm AF-P DX VR.

Dont take pictures into the sun

We are frequently told not to take pictures into the sun, preferring to try to keep it behind us instead. In fact when the wife is out taking pictures on her phone I quite often remind her of this. To which the usual response is it will be fine. Much to my amazement they usually are as well.

Have a look at the photo below:

St Mary’s Loch
St Mary’s Loch, Scottish Borders

I wouldn’t normally take pictures like this, but on this occasion I think it might be OK.

That brings us onto how much we should think about photographic ‘rules’. I don’t normally pay much credence to things like the rule of thirds.  To me any ‘rules’ in photography should be considered more as guidelines. They may work in certain situations and they may not. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the photo though. If in doubt shoot. You could always adjust the composition later if you need too.

Isn’t that cheating?

Changing things in post isn’t really a new thing. Although regarded as something that is only done in digital, anyone could do so using an enlarger. In fact burning, dodging, toning, changing composition by cropping are probably all things anyone with a darkroom has done. I certainly use to.

So I would say no its not cheating. It could be regarded as part of the process.

The next time your out and about taking photos don’t rigidly stick to the rules. Take the shot and see if it works.

You might even begin to develop a style without realising it.

Camera/lens: Nikon D5300, Nikon 10-20mm AF-P DX VR.


The other day I was out and about and happened to come across some seagulls at the local coastal town I frequent.

Nothing too unusual about that. You get seagulls almost everywhere these days, not just on the coast. Quite. But have a look at the image below.

This could be a black headed gull..which apparently for most of the year doesn’t have a black head

I thought there was something odd about this particular bird but couldn’t quite place it.

Seen it yet?

Yep…its standing on one leg, with the foot missing on the other. Now perhaps I lived a sheltered life but I’ve never really noticed this before.  I looked at the other birds perched around thinking this must be a one off  but to my amazement there was another bird with a foot missing.

I’d gone from not noticing this before to seeing two within minutes of each other. No they weren’t the same bird!

Getting a thing for gulls?

Possibly. I quite often watch seagulls and practice my BIF technique on them. And yes I do need the practice. Seagulls are plentiful and generally accommodating by flying quite low. They also seem to associate humans with food, so don’t tend to scare too easily around our presence. I recall getting mugged for my chips by a seagull in my childhood on Blackpool seafront. That was a very long time ago. Some 20 years ago a similar thing happened in Scarborough.

So for me the seagull has become a source of intrigue. I notice the differences between them, currently up to four different breeds.

My OCD will kick in soon and I will have to identify them so I can get a good nights sleep 🙂

Edit: I captioned the above photo. Told you my OCD would kick in.

Camera/lens: Nikon D5300, Nikon 70-300mm AF-P DX VR.

Return to Albert Docks

An anniversary visit provided an opportunity to return to Albert Docks, Liverpool. This wasn’t a photography visit Per Se, so I just used my phone and added to the 12 Pics series here.

Albert Docks, Liverpool


You can see that in some of the images the phones camera was starting to struggle a bit. Perhaps a flagship model would have coped better?

On the one hand the images are OK as record shots. On the other, the photographer in me thinks I should have used one of my cameras rather than my smartphone.

Nobody pays any attention to people using smartphones to take pictures, but in some places using a ‘big’ camera would have security guards twitching. You cant help thinking if you were doing anything untoward you would blend in better with a phone.

Normally I would have brought my Nikon V1 as my travel camera, but for this weekend I left it at home. There could still be an argument for something more capable than a phone but not the size of a DSLR.

I hope the race towards full frame mirrorless doesn’t leave a gap in the smaller more portable camera category. The trend at the moment seems to be mirrorless full frame with big expensive lenses.

Just when people need a smaller alternative it looks like that option could have less choice in the future.


Highlands 2018 gallery added to 12 Pics series

Highlands 2018 gallery has been added to the 12 Pics section after a recent visit.

You never really know what sort of weather you will get in Scotland. You could get rain, sleet, snow and sunshine all in one day.

Our last trip saw some lovely sunshine with warm temperatures.

We also had some cloud making for very overcast conditions. As the light changed the colour of the water also changed from a nice blue to a dull grey.

Not much you can do about the weather so enjoy what light there is and if doubt click away. You can always hit the delete button later 🙂

Highlands 2018 can be found here.



New pictures added to Eyes Down Gallery

There’s some new pictures added to the Eyes Down gallery here.

Here is an example:


My son Andrew takes all the images in the Eyes Down gallery.  He has Down Syndrome and some communication difficulties but enjoys going out and taking pictures with his father. He is also has a gift to make people smile.

It’s fascinating to see what Andrew finds interesting. He liked the ducks on the water above, sometimes he takes pictures of paths other times its signs.

Nikon 1 V1 macro

I’ve added a Nikon 1 V1 macro picture to the macro gallery. The image below was taken with the 30-110mm Nikon 1 lens with attached Raynox DCR250 adapter. A previous article here gives more examples of what this setup can do. It’s a lot lighter and more portable than my dedicated DSLR  lens and can give some amazing results.


OK…. so I clipped the wing on the right hand side a little, but I did manage to get a reasonable amount of eye detail. If you’ve ever tried getting this close to flies you’ll appreciate how difficult it can be. They don’t tend to stay still very long 🙂


Recent trip to Albert Dock, Liverpool

We recently had the good fortune to be able to visit Liverpool, England. It’s not somewhere I’ve been before, I tend to avoid big cities because I’m not that keen on large crowds of people or busy places.

So why go there in the first place? It was a weekend out to see Michael McIntyres’ world tour show at the Arena. The show was actually quite good and we managed to book a hotel literally a stones through away.

Echo Wheel, Liverpool
Echo Wheel, Liverpool, with the Arena just visible on the right.

In the morning (after the compulsory full English breakfast) we had a wander around part of Albert Dock. It wasn’t a photo tour so rather than incur the wrath of the wife I grabbed a couple of quick shots as we walked round.


Albert Dock with the Echo wheel in the backgound
Albert Dock with the Echo wheel in the background. Nikon V1.

The above shot really pushed my little Nikon 1 V1 sensor to the limit. There is detail in the shadows under the arches, while just about retaining the highlights in the cloudy sky. This was really more of a record shot, but I’m surprised how well it came out considering the 1″ sensor.


Albert Dock, Liverpool
Albert Dock, Liverpool


Another record shot again pushing the sensor on the V1.

Not quite sure what this building is (maybe the Open Gallery?), kinda liked the reflection.

Around Albert Dock there were some interesting styles of architecture, the old mixing with the new. The clock tower on the right is part of the the Royal Liver building.

The Nikon V1 is great for slipping in a pocket when you don’t want to carry larger kit around.  When my V1 finally gives up I might have to move to m43, that then brings up the issue of whether to run two different formats. A story for another day I think.

In terms of visiting Liverpool, I think we will be returning at some stage.


It’s a question of perspective

It’s  a question of perspective.

While out at the local coast on a cold and windy morning recently I came across these guys:

Lifeboat practice


This lifeboat crew were practising for when they are needed most. It was a bitter day and I had the luxury of warming up in the car while they were still out.

Kinda puts things in perspective.

Heads up

After a few cloudy days the weather has warmed up, the sun makes an appearance and I take the opportunity to look for dragonflies at the local reserve. The last couple of years, warm days in September resulted in some decent dragonfly activity so I was quite hopeful.

Sure enough they were out and even with the breeze, fairly active. If you’ve ever tried to photograph dragonflies in flight you know how quick they move. Out of all my dragonfly shots I’ve only got two or three decent in flight captures. Today I went for the (slightly) easier resting poses.

I like to try and capture dragonflies at different angles if I can. While a decent head shot is nice the wings and body can also be quite interesting.

Talking of wings the shot below shows some detail. I found it covered in dew on top of a post. Don’t know what happened to the body.


More dragonflies and other insects appear in the macro gallery here.


All images taken with a Nikon 1 V1, 30-110mm lens and Raynox dcr250 adapter.



Macro with the Nikon 1 V1

Not many people do macro with a Nikon 1 V1. Not many people have or like the Nikon 1 series full stop. I ‘m a bit odd ( as my  wife will testify), in that I quite like the V1. It’s a shame Nikon messed the 1 series around so much. With the right marketing they could have achieved so much more. It didn’t help that Nikon couldn’t decide what body style the V series should take. Three very different body versions was the last thing the V series needed.

Anyway, I tend to take my V1 all over the place. I get a body and the equivalent focal range of 27 -300mm in my pockets quite easily.

I’ve mentioned before I use a Raynox close up adapter. Fit this onto a 30-110mm Nikon 1 series lens and you have a nice little macro capable setup.

The day I captured the images on this page I was actually looking for dragonflies. Although the weather was warm with no wind, the dragonflies weren’t cooperating.


Instead I turned the camera to these more accommodating chaps.


Just for good measure here is a third one:


All these were taken with the Nikon 1 30-110mm lens and the Raynox 250 adapter:


The image above shows the Nikon 1 V1 with 30-110mm lens. I removed the Raynox adapter from its normal adjustable holder. Fitting a 40.5 to 43mm step up ring instead. The whole setup measures about 6″ or 150mm in new money.

Not too shabby for a kit lens and relatively cheap (compared to a dedicated macro lens) adapter.



(This post has sparked my interest in  flies. If you can positively identify these would you be kind enough to  email me here. 

Many Thanks.)

Hardknott Roman Fort

For some reason I never posted Hardknott Roman Fort to the 12 Pics series so here it is.

Hardknott is a steep pass on the Western side of the Eskdale Valley in Cumbria. The Romans built the fort to protect the route Eastwards from Ravenglass  onto Ambleside and Kendal. Known to the Romans as Mediobogdum, soldiers posted here must of felt a long way from home. Spending some time looking around the ruins, you can soon appreciate how hard it must of been in winter.

Hardknott Pass

The fort is at an altitude of 800 feet. The pass continues on to a height of 1289 feet and shares the steepest road in England title with Chimney Bank in North Yorkshire. Hardknott itself  misses being the highest fort in Britain, which is Whitley Castle (Epiacum) also in Cumbria at 1050 feet.

The road up Hardknott is narrow and steep. There is not much parking and access to the fort will involve a short walk from the road.

You can find Hardknott Roman Fort in the 12 Pics series here.

Castell Coch, The Red Castle

Castell Coch – The Red Castle – added to the 12 Pics Series here.

Castell Coch was essentially rebuilt by the Victorians. Some refer to it as a 19th Century revival castle. Others know it as a romantic ‘folly’ rebuilt around 1875 – 1891. It occupies the original 11th century grounds.

Castell Coch
Front gate

While called a castle it is very different in style to the more ‘classic’ designs found in Cardiff, Chepstow and Raglan.


There is parking available on site, a short walk from the main entrance. You will also find a gift shop and tea room in the castle while walks are available in the surrounding woods.


As with most castles, due to the towers, there are steep narrow steps. Access other than the court yard for buggies and wheelchairs would prove challenging.

Ullswater, Cumbria added to 12 Pics series

Ullswater, Cumbria added to 12 Pics series.

A recent trip to Ullswater, Cumbria resulted in enough images for an addition to the 12 Pics series.

The Western side of the Lakes is slightly quieter than the Eastern side. If you fancy you can have a ride on the Ullswater ‘steamers’ (technically not steamers any more, but still enjoyable). Ullswater is almost nine miles long and a round trip takes around two and half hours.

See the series here.