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Landscape challenge Part 2

February 21, 2021

I’m picking up where I left off with my landscape challenge, and the last few days were indeed a challenge with poor weather. But sticking with AJ’s “whatever the weather” out I went. Once again, I have used my Canon 5D4 throughout. Day 6. I did two challenges to make up for the lost day (i) compare wide angle and long lens options and (ii) slow shutter speed.  There’s really only one option (that I can think of) for slow shutter speed and landscape and that is water falls, so I went to New Lanark (a World Heritage site) where I know at this time of the year there will be water in falls. I also felt sure I could achieve wide and long comparisons there. Lens 16-35mm: f7.1 s/s 1/100 ISO 100 This is Cora Linn. I have never seen so much water, not even when the sluice gates open, and the noise was tremendous. It’s all snow melt.  In December 2018 when my cousin was visiting from Australia, we watched people walking across the rocks that form the lower fall. So yes, there’s a lot of water! I would normally crop this a little but have kept it as it is for the purpose of the challenge. [The light is very flat, but this looked much brighter & crisper on my screen, the colour seems to have been sucked out on here]. I didn’t have a tripod but there was a post to stabilise my camera hence the low ISO & s/s. I wanted to show the volume of water and the mist so tried a number of f stops – this was my choice. At the foot of the falls on the right side, there is a little rock outcrop with a tree with three branches. Further down the track, both in distance and height, offered a long lens view of it. Lens 100-400mm @400mm: f7.1 s/s 1/3200 ISO 1000 It was wet, dull and I tried several settings to try different effects. I’ve chosen this, a fast s/s to catch the roiling water and give some texture to the backdrop for the tree. I would love to try this with some green on the tree, but there won’t be that much water in Spring (or shouldn’t be!) I may try in autumn for some golden leaves. I have been to these falls many times and never considered this before, in fact, I don’t think I’ve even noticed the tree growing out of the rock. And I quite like it  Once again, it paid to look around for different options. Further up the trail is Boddington Linn, that offers many different views. I have cropped this as there was just too much rubbish at the sides that I couldn’t bear to keep. Normally, the water here allows some good slow s/s options from the right of the image looking straight on to the falls with lovely rocks, but there was simply too much water – certainly for hand held. The Linn is the two main falls that you can see on the left and there is also a little one on the right that falls from underneath a footbridge. Lens 16-35mm: f9 s/s 1/320 ISO 640 I was trying to show the force of the water as it crashed over and onto the rocks below, with the spray rising. Classic landscape f11-16 didn’t give the effect of the water on the rocks and I struggled with a lower ISO. This seemed to make the best of grotty conditions. Lens 100-400mm: f9 s/s 1/20 ISO 100 This was as slow as I could hand hold. Normally, this is barely more than a trickle, so has only ever featured in wider shots. And the one below is from the bridge where the river (usually a stream) runs underneath to the waterfall. Lens 100-400mm: f7.1 s/s 1/15 ISO 500 At this point, I ran out of energy and was no longer enjoying myself. I was wet and I had an hour’s walk, including a steep uphill climb at the end, back to the car. So I listened to my inner self, put the camera away and headed back. Although I am very happy with the long lens images I have, I didn’t get the “compressed” perspective that I was hoping for. However, I think I achieved the slow shutter speed challenge.  As I was getting to the end of the walk, there were glimpses of light shining on a moss wall. I whipped my camera out and the light went – typical. But I had a hunch, and needed a breath, so waited for another 10 mins and for about 5 secs, the light appeared again. Worth the wait. That is New Lanark Cotton Mills, and in the far distance, a very posh hotel. Again, the colour seems to have been sucked out. (perhaps it has in all of them but I’m only noticing because of the greens). Lens: 16-35mm: f16, s/s 1/15 ISO 1000 I needed f16 in order to have both the moss and the buildings sharp and although there was a patch of light I am standing under trees. Hmmm. I have just seen I need to take this into Ps and try some of Jon’s magic to straighten the buildings. Day 7. The sky is the star Logically, this should have been a sunrise or sunset. But there is nowhere near me from which to see a sunrise at this time of the year and I am far too fond of my bed to get out and about in the car early enough on the off-chance of one, so that was never going to happen. If I had seen a sunset during the week I would have cheated and gone for it, but there was nothing. Fortune favours the brave and at dusk the skies looked dark and moody so I jumped in the car to see what, if anything, I could find that might meet the challenge. Lens 16-35mm:  f9  ISO 800 This is an HDR exp comp -1/0/+1 and I planned to convert to B&W I tried a single frame but the contrast between the bright light just above the horizon and the dark trees meant a flat image. Not sure why f9, it could/should have been 5.6/6.3 as there is no depth to the trees. Lens: 16-35mm: f9 s/s 1/1000 ISO 800 It was blowing a gale, 4C,  I didn’t have gloves & my brain was frozen. It was 5pm so almost dark. I needed a high s/s to keep the camera steady but clearly didn’t think enough about my settings! Probably could have done better on this challenge then So what have I learned for my challenge? In no particular order: Look for light – it doesn’t have to be sunny or bright, moody works just as well and sometimes better. Be patient and wait. I do that with wildlife waiting, sometimes hours, for a creature to appear or do what I want, it’s no different with landscapes – wait for the light. Get out there with my camera – I won’t see what is available if I sit at home Don’t be afraid not to take a photo. I walk in the woods most days so have probably already got the best images I am going to get – but I never know, so still take a camera even if I don’t use it. Think about composition whatever it is I’m taking, and compare landscape and portrait compositions. If I don’t see an image when I get to a site, keep looking, it may not always be in front of me, but may be round the corner – or higher or lower. Deliberately think about B&W, don’t just convert “poor” images, think about colour contrasts, light and texture. Enjoy myself, and if I am not, then stop and do something else. Give myself permission not to enjoy every genre of photography – I don’t have to, just as I don’t enjoy all genres of music. Compare my photography to where I was and where I am now rather than to anyone else. Yes, get inspiration from others, but don’t get disheartened by comparisons. I think this especially applies to creativity. Keep trying, practise makes perfect – except there is no such thing as perfection. Eventually, I will develop my own style. If you are still with me, thank you for reading this. I really enjoyed the challenge (thanks for the suggestion AJ) and would recommend it anyone looking for a focus for your photography. I’m sure it could be applied to any genre. As always, critique on any of the images in either blog are welcome – this is after all a learning experience for me.

Landscape challenge

February 19, 2021

Andrew and Jon recently ran a terrific Landscape course via zoom – I highly recommend it if they run another one. I had a 1:1 wash-up session with AJ afterwards which again was extremely useful. To help me consolidate the course material and to help give me a focus, rather than just going out and practising randomly, AJ suggested I set myself a targeted challenge. I was to take a specific landscape photo each day – a different lens, a specific aspect of composition, shooting for B&W and so on. To make it a bit more fun, I wrote the challenges on a piece of paper and stuck them in a jar, and each morning pulled one out. At the end of the challenge I was to think about what I had learned. AJ suggested I put the day’s image up for critique but after the first one, I decided that for my benefit rather than anyone else I would write a blog about my challenge. You may therefore decide to stop reading now – if indeed you are still with me. Day 1. Whatever the weather & Leading lines I didn’t actually choose the first part of this challenge. As we were finishing the 1:1 I said to AJ that with the weather as it was, I wouldn’t be starting that day. But of course AJ wasn’t going to let me away with that and said one challenge might be “Whatever the weather.” So off I toddled with a wide angle in hand. As you can see, it was very overcast with no real light and it was cold – very cold. This is the field behind my house and these are the only lines leading from the road. I took both landscape and portrait images. It’s an uninteresting composition, but it is leading lines and I wasn’t going to get anything else before it got too dark. Normally, I wouldn’t have taken, let alone processed these, but it made me go and look and demonstrates to me that there is no such thing as no light. Poor light yes, but there is light. It’s a pity the clouds were so bland and I couldn’t bring out the texture in the stubble in the field. But it was one challenge done. All photos taken on Canon 5D4.  24-105 (the lens on the camera at the time) f16, s/s 1/40 ISO 1000. I had hoped to get the stubble sharp and all the way to the trees, hence f16. High ISO has made it grainy, I didn’t want any more so risked the slow s/s. Day 2. Wide angle with foreground anchor A couple of weeks ago I found this pond in the nearby quarry woods. There was snow on the ground and I only had a macro lens with me but I took a photo anyway and converted it to B&W.  I thought it would be interesting to return and see what the pond would offer with a wide angle. The result was very disappointing.  Lens 16-35mm: f11 s/s 1/800  ISO 500 I was surprised there was still some ice on the pond so decided to explore and see if there were any other angles. Half way up on the right, where the tree is, the water runs out into a burn. I was able to cross over, but the wood I stood on disappeared, so no way back without wading in to my calves! At the top of the water that you can see, it opens out into a circular pond with steep sides and there I found more branches in the water held up by some ice. I hope this says “foreground anchor.” So it pays to go wandering and keep looking. @ 16mm, f 16 s/s 1/100 ISO 500. I wanted the image to be sharp from front to back hence f16 I scrambled up to the top to find a way back round and although this doesn’t meet my challenge, I include it as it shows the pond. @16mm f 16 s/s 1/80 ISO 500. Again, I wanted it sharp from front to back. Day 3. Look for contrast in light, think HDR HDR of 3 images -1/0/+1 I’m back in the quarry woods and this is the walk in. I wasn’t too hopeful, as it was very grey but suddenly there was a blue patch and the sun shone. I was still trying to think about composition so used the roots of the trees as a bit of texture and the shadow and light as leading lines. I have got into the habit of taking a single image and processing that and comparing it with the HDR image. That way I can learn just what light contrast needs HDR.  I’m sure I could probably have played around for some time and processed this further to achieve the same results as the HRD image but I’ve spent significantly longer on it than I would like  and run out of sliders to play with, and anyway, the HRD is much nicer in my opinion. 16-35 mm at 27mm. f11 s/s 180   ISO 1250 Day 4 didn’t happen due to a reaction to my Covid vaccine. I’ll do 2 challenges in one day to catch up. Day 5 Take an image to convert to B&W Once again the light was changeable, but that’s okay for B&W. There were no opportunities for colour contrast so I thought about texture. There’s a small disestablished kirk and graveyard just up the hill from me, that has some fascinating headstones – including one for a Mary Gilbert   For a very small farming population, the loss of lives in WW2 was significant – nine with only one older than 22 years. The war memorial can be seen from my wee hamlet at the bottom of the hill. And those are the quarry woods behind the hamlet that I walk in. 24-105mm at 31mm. f16 1/640 ISO 640 Here you can see the church. Although disestablished, we do use the kirk at Christmas, one of the few times the community has a real get-together. We aren’t allowed to have a Christmas carol service, but we do sing carols! I wanted something that allowed me to bring out texture, and the walls of the kirk and the old headstones allowed that. I may not have processed it as well as I might – I’m still learning how to do that. You can just see the war memorial in the middle of the image to the left and behind the kirk. 24-105mm at 31mm. f16 s/s 1/640 ISO 640 I’m going to break here as I think this is becoming a bit lengthy for one blog. If you are still with me, thanks for your perseverance. I’d welcome any feedback.    

Bird of Prey workshop Part 2

November 12, 2020

At the end of Part 1 I left you on the way to lunch. Gerda, a female 3/4 Gyr 1/4 Sakker falcon was about to have a bath. So we got down on our bellies to get as low as possible in the hope she would throw up some droplets. Some of you have already critiqued this photo – although AJ told us to leave space for the wings, I still managed to clip them, so went for a radical crop instead. After lunch we had time with Dotty, a male African Spotted Eagle Owl – named for the spots on his tail. He was a little grumpy initially and stomped around on the ground. But before long Andrew had him eating out of his hand and flying to the required post and demonstrating how he gets through small apertures (see what I did  ) look at the concentration in his eyes! He could also pose beautifully Fletcher, the tawny owl is so named as he was born in a prison. there’s a lovely black corrugated barn against which we were able to photograph him, and the autumn colours were a perfect complement And there was another bush for him to clamber into, with some more lovely colours. The new wall was perfect for him too. Nipper is a 5 month old male kestrel, yes, he nips fingers! I tried both environmental and close up shots And failed miserably at any shots of him flying, but I’m happy enough with these for now – another good excuse to go back and try flight shots again We then finished the afternoon with Cheese and Pickles, what could be more perfect than that! Cheese and pickles are 2 year old Burrowing Owls. I struggled with exposure. As you can see, the light was pretty horrible all day and they were running around on the ground in front of the log and then jumping on to it. But they are oh so cute, even when running up your leg as you are lying down waiting for them to appear. Once again, if you are still with me, thanks for reading. Those of you who have not been on one of the BoP workshops, I can highly recommend this one.  Andrew and Duncan place the birds in the best photographic position – and even build walls especially for us. But the best thing is they clearly love the birds and they are in superb condition. Then of course you get the expertise of the dynamic duo that is Andrew and Jon – what more could you ask for.

Bird of Prey workshop Part 1

November 12, 2020

In October I went down to Market Harborough for a Birds of Prey workshop with Andrew and Jon. I had been on one before, 2 years ago, but it’s always good to make the most of opportunities to pick their brains and spend time with these magnificent birds. I drove down on Friday and 10am on Saturday we all met up at the Bird on the Hand Centre where we were met by the falconers (another) Andrew and his son Duncan. First it was Elvis, a Eurasean/European Eagle Owl. As the name implies, they are found in Europe and Asia. There have been a few breeding pairs found in Scotland and northern England but they are thought to have escaped from captivity as they haven’t been here for many hundreds of years. It is one of the largest owls with large females weighing up to 10 lbs and a wingspan of 6 feet. Like all birds of prey the males are smaller. Colours can vary but they all have the magnificent distinctive orange eyes and ear tufts. A magnificent bird. Andrew built a small wall the night before and it certainly worked well at its first trial. This is Andrew, the falconer, with Priscilla a gorgeous Siberian Eagle Owl.  When she gets stressed, she fluffs herself up to make herself look as large and as threatening as possible. This means she also shows her lovely frilly pantaloons. Priscilla wasn’t actually scared, Duncan brought his dog into view and she was very carefully monitored to ensure she wasn’t stressed, she was merely curious and after a few minutes she was totally ignoring the dog and listening to the nearby traffic! Here isDuncan with the dog watching Priscilla to make sure she is not stressed. And here’s Andrew with him – he clearly loves both feathers and fur. I first met Juliet the barn owl 2 years ago when she was just 6 weeks old. What a beauty she is now. We then tried some birds in flight. Our first attempt was with Buzz, a 5 month old Harris Hawk. My goodness, he’s quick and this was a challenge. We also had a wonderful time trying to capture Juliet in flight – trying being the operative word. I need to go back and get some more practise. First through the woods Then as she hovered before swooping on her “prey” But I think my favourite was when she decided she had had enough and “did her own thing”  Now it was time for lunch. If you are still with me, well done and thanks for reading. I have also written this as a tech numpty to see how easy or what issues I might come across. It’s fairly straightforward and I think once you see AJ’s video it will be plain sailing and happy blogging.

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Mary Gilbert

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Landscape challenge Part 2

Landscape challenge

Bird of Prey workshop Part 2