I spent a couple of hours at the campus hide photographing birds and squirrels. It's been a while since I spent a lot of time at the hide so it feels good getting back to it. Normally I'm very unlucky with squirrel sightings, everyone else always sees loads of them and I barely any. Today however I got loads of sightings, in fact more than I wished for and had to on more than one occasion chase them away so I could get some bird photography done as well. Surprisingly there wasn't that many bird species around today, loads of chaffinches of course, but only a few great tits, one blue tit and a robin. Around this time last year the hide was visited by loads of different species. I'm hoping it's only because of the quite warm temperature we still have and the fact there's loads of insects still around, and that they will come back when temperature starts to drop as winter slowly approaches. Either way I had a great time today photographing the birds, I wanted to experiment with freezing their movements in-flight. This was a bit difficult as the light over at the hide is quite weak, resulting in camera settings that weren't optimal for the purpose. However I will go back there and keep at it and try to time it for a much brighter day.
I went down to Swanpool today again, this time with a friend from my course. I was a bit skeptical about bringing the big lens as it was really bright and possibly too harsh light for my subjects. However I took a chance and I'm glad I did. I got to photograph the cygnets again, this time in the water. The highlights however were coot chicks being fed by their parents and the male coots fighting each other. The way they kick each other with their very characteristic feet was interesting to watch and I'm glad I got the opportunity to photograph it. Those feet also allow them to run on water when chasing each other off. We also decided to visit Pendennis since I haven't been there for a few weeks. I'm glad I did as I got to photograph some butterflies on the way there. The 300mm f/2.8 lens is amazing for bird photography but also for insects and the photographs from today are some of my best to date. I also managed the supposed to be impossible, to photograph a butterfly in flight. Now I know this isn't impossible, although a bit tricky, but I remember watching a Swedish documentary about a middle aged butterfly enthusiast with a life goal of photographing these creatures in flight but failing for I don't know how many decades, therefore deeming it impossible.. Ever since I've been determined to prove him wrong and I've done so a couple of times but I think this photograph of a green veined butterfly in flight is my best example so far. To finish off the trip I got another close view of the buzzard. Now these are common birds in Cornwall but the ones living at Pendennis are personal favourites and I've been wanting to photograph them sitting in a tree for months now. So when it eventually landed in a tree top some distance away my reaction was to run for it. I mean, why not take the opportunity when you've got it? I got my photograph and I even had the time to put on the 2x converter and get some more shots before it eventually flew off.
Also I've attended a workshop in post processing in camera raw, meant for underwater photography but I learnt a few invaluable tricks that works with any subject. I personally think that the quality of the final image is much higher than it was just the other day. Hopefully you'll notice this in these photographs. If you do please let me know with any feedback.
I took the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 to Swanpool today for a relaxed afternoon of photography, hoping to get some nice sightings of the birds. Recently there's been a fair bit of babybooms at Swanpool, with ducklings, coot chicks, moorhen chicks and cygnets. The ducklings have grown up by now and I didn't see any of them, but I did see some very tiny moorhen chicks that I unfortunately didn't get the chance to photograph. I did however get to photograph some very noisy coot chicks, and it was quite a sight watching them dive for food. The highlight however was of course the cygnets. Last time I went to see them I didn't get as good photographs as I wanted because of the very harsh light. Today however it was cloudy with some rain and the light was a lot better. The cygnets are about a month old now and unfortunately 4 of them didn't make it this far but the 4 remaining cygnets were quite happy to go on a little field trip with their parents to a patch of grass. They've grown quite big and their parents are a bit more relaxed (though they still attack cars, hiss at me and try to bite my shoes) so it was quite a nice photographic opportunity and I got quite a few great shots.
My last field trip of the first year was a landscape trip to Land's End to photograph the sunset. before we got there we spent a couple of hours at Botallack, walking along the coastline. I didn't take too many photographs during this part of the trip, I mostly enjoyed the landscape and some of the wildlife I found. It was really nice to see the choughs and peregrines, this was the first time I got the opportunity to see them quite up close. However I've got no photographs of them as the light was really harsh, only creating silhouettes of the birds against the quite plain sky. The most interesting sight at Botallack was a jackdaw feeding on a slow-worm. The poor slow-worm was still alive as the jackdaw was flailing it around. We stalked the bird quite a distance and eventually I managed to get a shot of this behaviour so I'm very pleased with that. At Land's End the sunset was not as dramatic as it could be, but I was quite happy to see that it had at least a bit texture so it gave me the opportunity to experiment with long shutter speeds. I've got a cheap set of ND and GND filters that will affect the tone of the photograph with a purple tint, but for a first time using filters and long exposures it was a really fun and rewarding experience that resulted in quite a few good photographs.
Earlier this morning I completed and handed in my final piece of work for my first year of Marine and Natural History Photography at Falmouth University. It's been a truly amazing year and finally completing all my work feels great. We still got a couple of weeks left of this term and a few more adventures to be had. Today's field trip was with our year group to a nature reserve called Breney Commons in Cornwall. We were looking for the special insects of the reserve, mostly butterflies but also some dragon- and damselflies. I'm not the greatest fan of the dragons and damsels, I'm more keen on butterflies, which is why I wandered off to find some of them. I did manage to find some of the marsh fritillaries, which was the main target of our trip. Other butterfly species included orange-tip, brimstone, speckled wood, pearl bordered fritillary, peacock, green-veined white and wood white. When reunited with my group again we found a frog that we picked up and it was co-operative enough to pose for us, it was terrified but once done I made sure to put it back in the water so that it wouldn't dry out. It was a very rewarding trip and I saw my first couple of lizards, unfortunately no adders this time though.
I've been longing to go on one of the AK Wildlife Cruises ever since I moved down to Falmouth and today I finally had the time to do so! It was an amazing experience with only one downside; I get seasick. I thought I would be fine but the sickness really got to me at times during the cruise which is a great shame as I missed out on a couple of shots because of it. But I will definitely go on one of these trips again sometime after easter and I'll stock up on medicine to be able to fully enjoy the beauty of the sea. We didn't see any cetaceans, which was a bit of a disappointment, however we did see some amazing birds including some rare ones. The birds we saw included great northern divers, razorbills, guillemots, shags, herring gulls, black-backed gulls, gannets, kittiwakes, buzzards, kestrels, peregrine falcons, ravens, purple sandpipers and a little egret. The more rare birds around here that we got the privilege to see included a black guillemot, an adult mediterranean gull in breeding plumage and two white glaucous gulls. We also saw a couple of grey seals, including a young one that was adorable. I was struggling a little bit with the equipment, I had to use a Nikon camera with a 600mm lens as it was the only thing available to book out from the university. It was quite heavy and a bit unfamiliar as I normally use Canon but I am really pleased and quite surprised by the quality and sharpness of many of my photographs despite the constant movement of the ship. The only major disappointment was that I managed to get every single photograph of the mediterranean gull completely out of focus, but in all honest I blame my seasickness. I am very excited for next trip though, whenever that turns out to be. I'm really excited to see new species, and spring is a really exciting season.
Today we've been inducted to large format photography, and it is so much fun! We're using 5x4 cameras and today's little assignment was to photograph something at a distance and then something a bit closer to do the whole exposure compensation thing. For my close-up I didn't really have to do any compensation but I understand the principles so when I actually do have to compensate I will know what to do. I took a landscape photo of some bare trees at campus and some flowers. We also got to process our negatives in the machine. I think I prefer this type processing rather than doing it by hand when it comes to 5x4. Once the negatives were processed we got to make contact prints on 5x7 paper. Below you can see briefly what my negatives and contact prints look like. One day I will scan my negatives to make a proper digital copy to show you what it actually looks like. I'm really happy with the results for being the first time using a large format camera, and it is something I intend to explore a bit further. We have another two inductions in 5x4, we'll be set a landscape project and I will include large format photography in my habitat project that I'm currently working on.
After an inspiring but short photoshoot of the stars last night I decided to set the alarm for 5.30 and go out well before sunrise to get some more photographs of the stars. The location was Pendennis point, where I am doing my habitat project for my university course. The moon would be further to the west, giving a larger area to the south to work with without the bright light of the sun interfering. The sun would set at around 7.30, same time as the sun would rise in the opposite direction. I got a few photographs of the stars but the sunlight was getting really strong really fast and together with the moon they blocked out the light of a lot of the stars. I will go out again to other locations, further away from light pollution to get a darker and clearer sky with lots of stars and hopefully the Milky Way! This morning was still a lot of fun though as I've been waiting for months now for a clear night to photograph the stars. On our way back just after sunrise there was a lot of wildlife activity, mostly birds what we could see. I didn't have the lenses suitable to photograph them, but I will head back at this time another day to focus on the wildlife or my project. The highlight of the wildlife was one of the buzzards living in this area. I was walking into the woods to an area where I've photographed snowdrops during a previous visit to photograph them again and document the change so far, when I looked up and saw the buzzard sat about 3 metres in front of me. The light was perfect and I could have got an amazing photograph, but I had already scared it and it flew off. I ran out of the woods trying to get at least one shot of it in flight, even though I really want a photograph of it sitting down somewhere. When it flew of I also noticed that it was carrying a wood pigeon it was eating for breakfast until I interrupted it. This only made me feel even more gutted I had missed the opportunity, but I am positive about spring and the upcoming opportunities of photographing these birds. I got one shot that I think works out all right though, but it doesn't come anywhere near the photograph I missed out on.