Posts in Category: Out n about

A couple of close ups

Here are a couple of close ups following on from my ‘looking a bit bare‘ post, which explored the local nature reserve before it bursts into life again in spring.

I deliberately went out in what could have been rainy conditions. The idea being the lure of capturing some water drop images. Just to prove things dont always go as planned:

Not quite what I was expecting

These two leaves were covered in water drops and looked far more interesting than I managed to capture here. Not only did I fail to get the scene I witnessed, for bonus points points I managed to mess up the focus as well. There are no excuses here. I should have taken a few more shots from different angles. Don’t know why I didn’t, it wasn’t like I was pushed for time. So much for working the scene.

Here is a slightly more sucessful image:

water drops on leaf

Better but still room for improvement.

Having caught the water drops on the leaf edge I didn’t notice the pointed leaf on the right. When I want to waste of couple of hours editing I will try to clone out the offending article :).

A little bit down the trail I found this fungi:

I am fascinated by the different types and shapes of fungi but haven’t a clue as to any of thier names. Note to self – research types of fungi.

So in terms of photography no award winners on this trip. But it doesn’t matter. I was out with my camera getting some fresh air and enjoying the great outdoors.

A decent picture is just icing on the cake.

Stay safe.

PS: Here’s the modified version:

Water drops on edge of leaf

The ‘improved’ version

Version 2.1

Looking a bit bare

Looking a bit bare…. is how I would describe the local nature reserve.

Instead of posting about gear – I actually did a gear post and took it down again – I thought I would post about how different the local nature reserve looks before spring comes.

Stream and sparse undergrowth

Looking out from the bridge

You can’t normally see across here due to the vegetation.

Opposite view to above

Once all this has grown back I will take some comparsion views. Later in the year these two areas will become a hive of insect activity and in due course home to damselflies and dragonflies.

right angled tree branch leading to spiral pattern

Is there a photo here?

I’m sure there is a photo here but I haven’t found it yet. I normally try to work the scene but currently a decent shot here evades me.

For a final shot we have Woody doing his thing:

Hers to getting a bit further a field in due course.

Stay safe.

Catching a Sunrise

Catching a sunrise proved a bit harder than I thought. On a nice but cold morning I thought of incorporating some exercise with a photo session. Thinking I got up early enough was my first error. It took longer to defrost the car than I anticipated. With the windscreen clear I set off on the short drive to my chosen destination.

The car park was covered in ice as I pulled in. Any thoughts of getting out again were quickly put to one side while I wrapped up and gathered the camera gear. The car thermometer put the outside temperature at -3 degrees C (note to self figure out how to do degree sign on the laptop).

A short walk later and this was the view:

Contininug along the in places very icy path I came across some grouse.

grouse

These two seemed to be calling each other from either side of the path. Within a few seconds they had disappeared back into the undergrowth.

While most people use sleepers to build a bed or wall in their garden, at some stage it would appear they were also used for fences:

I don’t know how long these have been here, but the weathering would suggest some time. By now the temperature had increased to just above freezing.

Time to call it a day and see if the car will get out of the car park. Spoiler alert, it did.

Stay safe.

PS. found the ° symbol. Eventually.

 

Snow scenes

Some nice snow scenes resulted from the recent weather. Observing lockdown restrictions here in the UK,  I went for a local walk and came across the following:

snowy scene

The snow had turned the fields into a white barren like landscape. With no wind and suitably wrapped up for the conditions it was quite pleasent. I would estimate that there was a good 6 inches of the white stuff around. Maybe deeper in places.

snowy countryside

Rather than take the DSLR, I popped the Nikon V1 in my pocket and just in case had a spare battery. My current cameras are pretty good in respect of battery life. But not knowing how long I would be out in the cold, I took a spare. In fact I always carry spares no matter the weather but very rarely need them. You can bet the one time you don’t have a spare, you’ll turn the camera into a paperweight just as that banger of a photo appears round the next corner.

snowy countryside

Talking of things I normally carry: filters. I have a small ND Grad for my Nikon 1 gear. On this occasion it was still indoors nice and warm.  Given the snow and the time I went out I should have known better. With the filter I could have calmed down the right side of the above photos a bit. Ah well, next time maybe I’ll grab the whole bag of gear rather than just the camera. Being Nikon 1 it’s not like it’s an ardous weight to carry around.

I actually just weighed my N1 bag. Any guesses?  1.4kg all in. Thats a body, four lenses, (two zooms, two primes, equal to 28-300mm), spare battery, gps, mini tripod, spare sd cards and filters. Should of just grabbed the bag eh?

All of the above images were overexposed by two stops. I least I remembered to do that 🙂

Stay safe.

Blast Beach Seaham

Blast Beach, Seaham

A recent opportunity led to me exploring Blast Beach in Seaham, County Durham.

The beach was once so polluted from local mining operations that it featured as a desolate landscape in the sci-fi film Aliens 3. After a monumental clean up it can now be enjoyed as a ‘proper’ beach again.

Blast beach

Blast Beach 1

The nearby free parking leads across the top of the cliff and down a very steep and sometimes slippery path (the dip in the cliff face, photo above) The access I’ve found so far is only suitable for the able bodied.

A wander along the shore line can reveal some interesting items:

Londonderry brick

Londonderry brick

This well eroded brick still clearly shows its place of origin. You can only speculate as to how this turned up on the North East Coast of England.

Blast Beach layers

Layers

The above photo shows remnants of the deposits on the beach in different coloured layers.

Blast Beach

Arch

There could be some interesting opportunities for long exposure photography but it will require some return trips. And not leaving the tripod in the car.

A short walk (and even shorter drive) will find you in Seaham. There is a harbour and lovely Promenade with numerous places to stop and have a coffee or meal. Even better when we don’t have to worry about the dreaded C word. I’ll do a separate post on Seaham in the new year.

Being on the North East coast at this time of year (actually anytime of year) I would advise appropriate clothing.

There can be a quite bracing wind 🙂

I had to say it…

I had to say it…. In my last post entitled – It seemed to be getting better – I forget to tell Covid-19 that it was the heading of a blog post, not a challenge.

Large parts of the UK have had new restrictions imposed on them. Although inconsistent messages appear to be put across to the masses.

But this is a photography blog so lets get back to that. Unfortunately our latest escape became a non household mixing holiday as well, so our numbers were drastically reduced.

So the wife and I toured a part of Scotland we had only previously driven through.

Out of seven days we only had one day of rain. Not too bad for Scotland. The light wasn’t too bad either.

Loch, Oban, Scotland

Loch, Oban, Scotland

It seemed to be slightly quieter than we would have expected, although most of the places we visited were new to us. Having been to Fort William and Glenfinnan before they appeared to be the usual hot spots. Yes they are a bit of drive from Oban. We like to get around and explore when on holiday. It gives us an idea for future places to visit (think of it as scouting) or avoid depending on what we are after.

While the holiday wasn’t what we planned, we feel fortunate to have managed to get away at all. For our next Scottish holiday we are considering another area we havent visited much – the eastern coast. That will be next year when hopefully we won’t be talking about Covid as much.

Between coming back and doing this post there is talk of new restrictions for the Scottish Central region and something similar in parts of England.

Being in October now, it makes you wonder what sort of Christmas to expect…….

I’ve added a collection of other images of Oban in the 12 Pics series available here.

A Scottish holiday

We regularly go away for a Scottish holiday. If you’ve ever been to Scotland you will know the weather can be …unpredictable. You might need everything from suncream to a raincoat in a single day.

Our recent getaway just as lockdown restrictions were being lifted resulted in a nice break. So grateful to be able to go on holiday we weren’t really too bothered about the weather. After all there isn’t much you can do about it anyway.

While sunshine would have been nice it really seemed to elude us.

Scottish Highlands

Scottish Highlands

The above scene was typical for the week. From a photographic point of view the light was flat. Here is another example:

Wester Ross, Scottish Highlands

Wester Ross, Scottish Highlands

Apart from a lack of decent light for photo purposes we had a good holiday and enjoyed ourselves.

The slight drawback of going anywhere on holiday in the UK is you never know what the weather will do. In the past we’ve been camping and it’s rained for a week. Equally we’ve had glorious sunshine and everything in between. In a normal holiday  season that is one reason people tend to go abroad. You have a much better chance of it being warm and sunny.

Unfortunately this has been anything but a normal season, as anyone working in tourism and anyone taking a holiday will testify.

To finish on a more upbeat note here is the final picture for this post:

Sheep scottish highlands

Sheep with an itch Scottish Highlands

This little chap had an itch that needed scratching…

Whatever and wherever you may go on holiday this year enjoy yourself.

Lockdown is easing at last

Lockdown is easing at last here in the UK. Although England appears to be slightly in front of Scotland and Wales in certain restrictions.

It can’t be easy for people who have to make the decisions to get life back to normal. Too quick and there could be a second spike. Too slow and the economy will be permanently crippled. Lets be honest would you want to weigh up the factors and decide? Whatever you do someone won’t be happy.

In terms of photographic opportunities before long we are only going to be limited by the great British summer. The weather has become somewhat unsettled with parts of England getting sunshine, hail, rain, thunderstorms and lightning. It’s as if it knows 🙂

[cue visual break]

Lake District, England

Lake District, England

It’s a shame that as we get our freedom back there is an increase in litter and unsociable behavoiur in certain places. Perhaps being ‘locked up’ for three months people have forgotten how to treat our countryside and beaches.

Lake District, England

Lake District, England

Wherever you are and wherever you may go taking photos, let’s enjoy the fact we can go out and visit different places again.

We might even be able to have a holiday and put the abysmal start to 2020 behind us.

Heres looking forward to the rest of the year.

 

Roaming in Rome

Roaming in Rome – an day excursion on our recent cruise:

If you have had the pleasure of booking a cruise the second thing on your list (after deciding where to go) is what excursions you do.

Booking our cruise so far in advance, the excursions hadn’t actually been released, so it was a return trip to the travel agent to sort them out.

We diligently went through the list for each port of call to see what was on offer. Fortunately they give you a rough guide to how long each one lasts. Some were 12 hours. That was too long for us so we opted for some 1/2 day excursions instead.

One of which was Rome. Now let me say it is impossible to see what Rome has to offer in a half day. A whole day isn’t much good either. Some would suggest you need at least a week.

Being both on a coach and grateful of not driving we got to see some sights that we wouldn’t have time to visit.

Opting for the half day tour results in only a couple of hours or so free. This afforded us enough time (much to the wife’s delight) to do a mini Angels and Demons tour:

Piazzo Nivarno

Piazzo Nivarno

Castel D'Angelo

Castel D’Angelo

We essentially walked a loop from the coach drop off point which between taking in the sights and finding our way around, filled our free time quite nicely.

There are a few things you notice about Rome. It has:
Loads of history
The Vatican
Loads of tourists
A graffiti problem
Loads of photo opportunities
You don’t want to drive there (think of driving in London but more manic and with more scooters)

Should we visit Rome again I think we would look at doing a couple of attractions in a day. One in the morning, one in the afternoon and do them well, without rushing.

As this cruise was an anniversary celebration, photography wasn’t the prime objective. I took my Nikon V1 kit and some lenses…..and did the typical tourist thing using my phone around Rome. I didn’t have to worry about lugging gear around or changing lenses. More importantly I didn’t have to worry about the wife hanging around while I tried to get the shot. There were far too many people to attempt ‘proper’ photography anyway.

Before leaving we had an idea of producing a small photo book after our cruise, so with this in mind decided that the quality from our mobiles would be more than adequate.

Using mobiles and a tablet also had the advantage that we could put the images in albums as we went. Depending on your choices you could organise your images by port, city, attraction, country, you get the idea. Not to mention social media updates were a breeze. Trying to do that with a MILC or DSLR would have required more equipment and a lot more faffing around.

Using a phone as a phone.

We actually did use our mobiles as phones. The included European roaming package we had with our contracts came in useful on several occasions. As soon as we reached a port the phones automatically connected to the local network. Get the title now?  Just in case you don’t know, DON’T use your mobile at sea, the signal gets routed through a satellite system and will cost a fortune.

The cruise was enjoyable, relaxing and everything we wanted, apparently we will be doing it again 🙂

Before we go on our next one I need to do some serious thinking about what gear, photographically I will take.

In fact I’m questioning whether my current collection of equipment is still suitable for my needs.

That’s probably a subject for a future post……

 

 

Samye Ling Monastery

The Kagyu Samye Ling, a Tibetan Monastery and Centre for World Peace and Health,  now appears in the 12 Pics series here.

The first Tibetan Centre to open in the West in 1967, it occupies a marvellous location in a peaceful valley on the banks of the river Esk in Scotland.

Liberation Gate

As you can see from the images the place is colourful and bright. You can enter the actual Temple after removing your shoes. There are chairs along the back wall and it is well worth taking a few moments to enjoy the serenity and surroundings.

inside Samye Ling Temple

There is a shop and tea rooms on site but be aware that it closes for lunch. Now this might sound odd at first, but the thinking is the staff should have a lunch break too!

You can take photographs around the grounds and inside the Monastery .

The main car park is a short walk from the site. There are a couple of disabled parking spaces with wheelchair access to the main building.

For more details about visiting check the Samye Ling website here. The Samye Ling About page can be found here.

 

Camera: Iphone SE

The best camera

The best camera …… is the one you have with you. How many times do we hear that?

Now if you wanted to be pedantic you could argue for and against that statement. No matter how much gear you have (in value or quantity) is it any use if it’s not with you?

I happened to be out at the local airport and ..yep you guessed it the only camera I had was my smartphone. This was a slight oversight on my part because I normally have at least one of my cameras rattling around in the car.

So given the limited ability of the smartphone lens (the sooner they have decent zooms the better) I decided to go for it anyway and take a few snaps.

Plane heading to runway

On its way

Plane parked up

Parked up

And my favourite of the day, an unexpected visit from a RAF Hercules:

Hercules taking off

Take off

These shots were taken from the perimeter, with careful placement of the lens between the fencing.

Not too bad for some shots taken on a phone, I think.

 

All images IPhone SE.

Experiences not gear

Experiences not gear. A while ago I wrote about whether experiences or more gear would be beneficial to us as photographers. I also said I would be putting my money where my mouth is. So here are some photos from an experience I had for my birthday, along the Fort William to Mallaig railway line.

We started off on this:

Steam loco

Loco 45212


Sat here:
First Class

First Class

Went through here:

Glenfinnan

Glenfinnan

And ended up along here:

Glenfinnan viaduct

Glenfinnan Viaduct

The ‘Harry Potter’ bridge or its more correct name The Glenfinnan Viaduct on the West Highland Line in the Scottish Highlands. In the film its pictured from the other side. This image was actually taken on the return journey. If you’ve ever tried to take photos from a train carriage you will realise how many reflections there are 🙂

If your a railway enthusiast, at least in the UK you will be familiar with this line in Scotland.

It’s very popular:

Bun fight to get near the loco

It’s a bun fight to get near the loco

So what do you take photos of when you cant get near the engine? Well if your me, you look at the stuff other people aren’t taking photos of:

Coupling

Coupling

Workings

Workings

Nameplate

Nameplate

Steam Loco

One Final shot

OK I’ll stop there for those of you not into trains as much as I am.

The weather on this particular day was gloomy and overcast, we had to take a chance because we pre booked the tickets.

According to my wife though, it didn’t detract from my excitement 🙂

Should you fancy a trip along the Fort William to Mallaig railway you can find out more information at http://www.westcoastrailways.co.uk/jacobite/jacobite-steam-train-details.cfm

Arrive early in Fort William because you may have a longer walk from the car park than you think and it can get busy.

For at least part of the journey put the camera down, take in the scenery and enjoy the experience.

You’ll be surprised at how smooth travelling on a steam train is.

 

(Camera / lens: Nikon 1 V1, 10mm, last image Iphone SE)

 

 

A celebration

We recently had a chance to attend a celebration of two people committing to spend the rest of there lives together. Or in other words a wedding.

Now I might of mentioned before that I enjoy a wedding. There is something special about standing up in front of friends and family and declaring your love for one person. I know I’m an old romantic at heart. My wife, son and I were fortunate to be invited as guests. We had no pressure and could relax and enjoy the day.

Now being a photographer you always keep an eye on what other people are using to take images. The official ‘togs were using Nikon and I dare say any other make would probably yield similar results if you know what you are doing.

But what about the guests? Well there was a very pleasant chap with a compact camera taking pictures at the evening do. Everyone else (including us) were using …….yep you guessed….wait for it…. our phones. Once the official photographers had gone there wasn’t a DSLR or mirrorless camera in sight. In fact all the guests throughout the day only used their phones. And yes the pictures did get posted to social media more or less as it happened.

Now mostly you are looking at a mid twenties group here, with a few either side just to spread it out a bit. Potentially these are the people who MIGHT progress towards a more fully featured camera in the future. Why is might in capitals? Because they might not.


What now?

Here’s the interesting thing. The phones provided enough video and still picture quality for those using them. Together with the ability to instantly share to social media.

Now whether us two bodies and a handful of lenses toting oldies like it or not, we have to accept younger people are not into imaging in the same way.

But what people use at one wedding isn’t definitive. No it’s not. But it isn’t just one wedding. It’s several weddings, birthdays, It’s when your out and about. The bag carrying photographer is becoming an endangered species. If you don’t believe me, have you looked at the latest sales figures widely available and commented on over the web?

We are witnessing a change in how society thinks about and records it’s activities. The camera manufacturers are like dinosaurs trying to wake up and come to terms with that. Don’t get me started on prints 🙂

I still don’t believe mirrorless is the answer. I’m not convinced it will attract enough new photographers to be sustainable. Anyone wanting a half decent kit now will have to spend a lot of money to carry around a device and some lenses that can only take pictures and has woeful connectivity.

Will smartphones take over?

Arguably they have already. We have a multi function device with internet access in our pockets at a (compared to cameras) reasonable price. Cameras not built into a smartphone will become more niche. Perhaps they are now. Do we ever recognise a niche until it’s happened?

My 27 year old son shows no interest in photography. At all. Judging from the similarly aged people at the wedding they are more than happy with their phones.

There in lies the problem. For us older non gear heads cameras are good enough. For the younger ones phones are good enough. Bridging that divide is going to be difficult.

The next time your at a celebration, be it wedding, birthday, anniversary, religious festival connected to your faith ,take a few moments out to see how people are capturing the event.

Most of all remember why your there, enjoy the day and capture the event and memories the way you want…………..

Snipe

Snipe – have you seen any lately? That was the question put to me in the bird hide. Actually I had. Only a couple of weeks ago at least four of these well camouflaged birds were about.

Heres a couple of them:

Snipe

Two snipe….does that make them snipers?

Snipe are reasonably common and love wet grasslands. The average lifespan is around three years for this medium sized wader. In a previous post I joked I needed to find bigger birds or get a longer lens. I took these images with my Nikon 1 V1 and the 70-300mm AF-P zoom. The V1 has a silent shutter and the 70-300 is extremely quiet in use. With the crop factor of the V1 and the 300mm end of the zoom that gave me an equivalent of 810mm lens.

Four snipe

Look carefully….there are four in this image

These birds have some marvellous gold and black bars with a brown and gold head and a very long bill. When they stand still they are very difficult to see and blend into their preferred habitat quite nicely.

Snipe in wet grassland

Nice camouflage

As you can see in the picture above the one on the right is harder to see than the chap on the left.

It was only when these guys started moving that I noticed them at all. Chances are if they had stayed still I might have missed them completely, that is why I always take few minutes when entering a bird hide. Set up the gear and have a look around before taking pictures.

Take your time and have fun.

 

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

A walk in the woods

A walk in the woods – what does it do for you?

For me, I get outside, get some fresh air, say hello to other people enjoying the outdoors, listen to the birds and get to look around for potential pictures. I also pay attention to the weather, if it has been raining or is about to rain, watch out for squirrels or maybe deer and keep an eye on the light. While I do all that I get some exercise and get to relax.

And you thought it was just a walk in the woods 🙂

Some images from my last walk:

Lichen

Lichen on a cliff edge

In the picture above I imagined the lichen to running off the cliff a bit like lemmings. I don’t know why. Now I’ve mentioned it you can see it too, cant you?

How about this one:

Fungus on a tree

Stuck on you

At first glance this fungi looks like it’s been stuck on this tree. I was fascinated by the shape and layering.

Talking of things that look like they’ve been placed:

Fungi between the branches

I couldn’t have made a better job of putting this here myself. It’s like it was jammed up between the two branches.

And finally:

Plant root

Is it going to get you?

This root structure looks more like some creature that is about to jump out at you. In fact I was expecting it to move while taking the picture.

Don’t always look for the obvious

On this walk I could hear some woodpeckers although they were quite elusive. There were plenty of other birds adding to the sounds of the wood. All of them seemed camera shy on this particular day.

So I wondered about looking at what else was around. We’re almost into spring here so in a few weeks this same wood should have more leaves on the trees. Hopefully a bit more colour and some sunshine too.

I am going to make a point of returning to see the difference.

And I won’t just be looking for the obvious…

Camera/lens: Nikon D5300, Nikkor 85mm Micro