Well, what a year that was…

It’s been a horrid year in lots of ways, and I bet a lot of us will be glad to see the back of it.. I’ve tried to see the bright side, but sometimes it does get you down, and I worry very much about what 2021 will bring – at least in the first half of the year. Fingers crossed the vaccine will work, and that more will be on the way soon…..

The weather has turned a bit more wintery recently, and so getting out and about has been a bit more difficult – however, there have been some good days this month, and the colder weather has brought waders to our beaches.

Twice this week, I’ve been able to nip to the coast, and see what’s about as the tide recedes.

Dunlin


The problem, if you will, with this time of year, is that not only does it get dark early, but the light changes fast. It started off dark grey, I was focussed on the Dunlin. I kept shooting for quite some time, varying ISO and shutter speeds, and any other factors that I could. The penny slowly dropped that the light had changed completely, the sky was blue, the light was stronger, and warmer, and things were picking up …

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It looked like summer through the viewfinder……..

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The blues became incredibly intense, to the point that it didn’t seem realistic.

And, as suddenly as it came – it went……

Dunlin

It got a little later in the day – people were thinning out – fewer dogs on the beach, and just one chap with a metal detector. He was up and down the beach – moving the birds on in front of him….. waiting to be moved was a Little Egret, it hung on, and hung on, and suddenly was off, in a flurry of water and wings

Little Egret

I was just thinking to call it a day, when I spotted an Oystercatcher on the shore – there was a group of 4, and each time I got close, they either ran up the shoreline, or flew away – this time, one remained behind – and puttered around in the water…..

Oystercatcher

What made this attractive to me now, was the light, and the colour on the water…..

Fashion photographer Barbara Bordnick once said “we walk by wonders every day and don’t see them. We only stop at what shouts the loudest”.

I feel it is a photographers duty to stop and see things that don’t shout out. Everything has some beauty, even the simplest of things. We just need to learn to see them, and take time to collect the images. It’s at this time – we stop saying “but, there’s nothing here to shoot”.

I think this will be the last blog post of the year…… so I want to wish you all the Merriest Christmas you can have – take care of yourselves. Maintain that social distancing – it’s the best thing we can do for each other –

Keep shooting – stay safe…..

See you in the new year… may 2021 be a better one…..

Photowalks

I’ve not done a long photowalk for ages, and today seemed to be the day for it.

I cycle a lot, and earlier in the week, a friend and I tried to get along the old Louth to Grimsby rail line – closed by Beecham in the 1960’s – it started OK and we got a fair way down the track, but didn’t make it to the far end as the undergrowth looked too deep.

Today, I had this really good idea to approach it from the other end, and on foot – so armed with camera, and trusty dog companion – we set off.

It started OK

The track was a bit overgrown, but manageable, and dog was having a good time – lots of new stuff to sniff, and rabbits to look at – we even saw some roe deer.

Moving on towards the next village though, saw the track get more and more overgrown – the nettles got taller, and the brambles more treacherous with their trip hazards. Dog started to get a bit miffed, and complained about treading on spiky things. He was only mollified by getting a few blackberries to chomp on as we went along.

The grass got deeper and deeper, and I decided that no person had walked that way in years…. it was pretty obvious why….. It was a wonderful wildlife corridor though, with lots of butterflies. (Should have had a macro lens with me – hey ho).

Anyway, after about 45 minutes of trudging, we got to a point where we just couldn’t go any further – the trees / bushes / nettles etc were so close together it was just impassable, unless you were a rabbit.

After a brief rest in a field – we set off back the way we had come – dog happier now we were going back.

We stopped to have a drink, and watched some harvesting going on, and then turned our noses to home.

Much easier walking now – till we got to a stile that is a set of steps over a wall – Dog refused… so we had to go back – another return trip.

Anyway – job done – walk complete – both of us exhausted. Hard walking – but I was determined to get the camera out for a bout of fresh air……. Some mobile phone pics got taken too, as I needed the rucksack to carry everything the dog wanted to bring…..

It’s a bit frustrating this photo walk business…….

Positive Thinking

I joined, a little while back, a group on Facebook that talks about Fuji, their cameras, and lens.  I was hoping to find here a positivity about the work produced by the photographers.  I did find some of this, but I also found a lot of people commenting on the x-trans sensor, and how it created ‘worm’ like artifacts when you examined the pictures at around 300%.  They went on to say that you needed some extra software to sit in between Lightroom and the camera RAW files, to make this problem go away……. or at least be reduced.

I have to ask myself at this point, why would you examine your images at 300%? , or even more in some cases – so, in an attempt to make things right in my head, I too examined my Fuji images carefully at 300, and 400% to see what all the fuss was about – and yes, if you look, especially at higher ISO, you can see the artifacts which do indeed look like ‘worms’.

What does this mean for me?

Well, the answer actually is nothing… I have successfully processed all my images with Lightroom, and mostly nothing else, at every ISO from 200 – through to 12,800, and been pretty happy with the results.

I put this image up as an example – and was immediately told that ‘worms’ would not show up in this type of image – I would see it more in shots of trees…..

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So, off I went to look for images that had foliage in….

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Zooming in to 300% made the image look a tad odd, but then I looked at images taken with my Canon 1DX at 300%, and they looked a bit odd too.

What’s the answer? – well for me, the answer is to do nothing at all… We have to accept that if an image is good enough at 100%, then it’s going to be good enough.

I have printed images from the Fuji X-T3 at 30″ x 20″ with no discernable lack of quality.  I enter competitions on a fairly regular basis both nationally, and internationally with a reasonable amount of success.  The images that fail, are not failing because of ‘worms’, they fail simply because they can’t compete with the other photographs that have been entered on that day.

The positive aspects of photography have been shown on many levels – I find it not only theraputic, but companionable, and so to the nay sayers within the Fuji community, I say this – “Forget what images look like at 400%, get out and shoot – enjoy your photography, and accept the camera for what it is.  Learn your post processing, and your photographs will blossom”.

Enjoy the Spring sunshine which has hit the UK these last few days… get some good shots taken, and forget about the Lumbricus in your files…..

Where East Meets West – Part 9

There’s been a bit of a hiatus in the Meridian project – due to life getting in the way…. Unfortunately I missed all the lovely days that came in February, but I did manage to get out and explore a little more of the area just North of Boston.

I intended to visit Stickney

The place-name ‘Stickney’ is first attested in the Domesday book of 1086, where it appears as Stichenai. The name means ‘stick island’, and is thought to refer to the linear shape of the village between two streams. The nearby village of Stickford similarly means ‘stick ford’.

Stickney has been chiefly an agricultural community. The ancient 13th-century Anglican parish church is dedicated to Saint Luke and is a Grade II listed building. The parish dates to 1564 . A new chancel was built in 1853 and the rest of the church was restored in 1855. The tower was partly taken down in 1887 because of deterioration, but rebuilt in 1900.

Donations to the poor house and for care of the poor have been recorded since 1552 when William Hardy left a yearly rent charge of £1 6s. 8d. for the poor of the parish.

Stickney was the home of Priscilla Biggadike, who in 1868 was charged and convicted of murdering her husband Richard by arsenic poisoning. They lived in a small two-room house with their five children and two lodgers. She testified that she had seen one of their lodgers, Thomas Proctor, putting a white powder into her husband’s tea, and later into his medicine when Richard was being treated for a sudden attack of severe illness.

At first, the two were both suspects, as they were rumoured to be having an affair. The judge in the case ruled that only Priscilla Biggadike should be prosecuted, and the jury quickly convicted her. She was executed in December 1868. Years later on his deathbed, Proctor confessed to sole responsibility for the murder of Richard Biggadike.

I’ve not got photographs yet of the village itself.  That’s for another visit.

However, it’s amazing what you can find whilst just driving around.  I saw the sign for the Ark Wildlife park, and almost overshot it.  A bit of gentle reversing found me turning into the place and in the end staying for a couple of hours.  I would actually have stayed much longer, but the day was coming to an end, and frankly it was bitter cold.

To add to the difficulty, they had just had a power cut, and so couldn’t serve hot drinks, or even offer change from the till.  Good job I happened to have the right entry feee.

(http://arkwildlifepark.co.uk/)

The ARK is home to a wide variety of captivating animals, from exotic mammals and fearsome carnivores to stunning reptiles and some less exotic  and more farm like creatures.

Included in the collection are a Puma, and Lynx.

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The Ark is also right on the Meridian Line, and they have this plaque to prove it.

The Ark offers an all weather attraction throughout the year, and is set in the Lincolnshire Countryside.  Visitors can get close up and personal with a wide range of animals.

The majority of the animals at the park are rescues from the European pet trade, who, for one reason or another were neglected, or kept illegally.  They now have a permanent home at the Ark.

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Photography is actively encouraged.

If you want to visit and support this wonderful venture (which has only been open for two years),  please do.  It really is worth the trip out.

ARK Wildlife Park,
West Fen Lane,
Stickney,
Lincolnshire,
PE22 8BD

I look forward to hearing from you, please do click the button to continue to get updates on this blog, as I continue my journey down the Meridian Line….

Garden Birds

This is just a short piece to talk about the setting up of a garden bird hide at my home.

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I had recently been to a hide out in the Lincolnshire Wolds, and having examined the set up there, decided that I’d have a go at home.  It’s taken a bit of sorting out, but the results are starting to come in.

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It took a while for the birds to decide that they ‘liked’ where I’d put the new feeder, and that they trusted the perches I was putting out for them.

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So far, I’ve had the usual suspects creeping in – Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Coal Tit, Starlings – and the usual crop of Wood Pigeons.  Collard Dove is around but not had them on the table yet.  I’ve seen other finches and I’d love it for Woodpeckers to arrive.  Most years I get a cuckoo in the garden – and it would be amazing to get a shot of one of those.

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Fingers crossed.

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All images were taken with the Fuji X-T3 and the 100-400 lens.  The latter two with a 1.4 extender @f8

The FujiFilm X-T3

Just over two years ago, I started to move over to the Fuji camera system.  At the time, it was with regret that I sold my beloved Canon 1D MK4, and some lens.  I bought the Fuji X-T2, and a 23mm f2 lens, and promptly went on holiday with it.

I could not believe the results from such a small camera – I’d done my research, and quizzed people who already used the Fuji system, and trusted those whom I had asked.  They had assured me I would be happy.

I’ve been a Canon girl my entire photographic life.  The first one I bought was the 350D, and after that a range of their cameras, and lens.  So a switch to a completely new system was a bit of a culture shock.

Once you get over the problem of sorting your way through a completely alien menu though – and realise that everything the Canon did, this does (and in some cases does it better), then you’re away.

Last year, Fuji brought out the X-T3 – and whilst I’m not one for upgrading for the sake of it – I decided that I’d go for it.  I had Canon stuff still to sell, and it sold really easily.  So with an upgrade trade in price from Fuji, and a great price for the X-T2 from the local camera shop, and cashback on a new lens, also from Fuji – the deal was done.

So, how am I getting on?

Well, it’s about image quality, and to be honest it is stunning.  I’ve worked this camera much harder than the X-T2, shooting sport and wildlife.  I’ve also had it in the studio, and shot some portraits.

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There’s a massive amount of detail.

With the X-T3 there are even larger files (the downside is I need more storage), and you do need a fair amount of processing power to move these through quickly. Detail and quality are excellent, and the ever increasing range of Fuji Lens, gives the shooter more and more options.

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This hare was on the other side of a field.  Taken with the 100-400 lens, and cropped in.  I’ve not lost any detail, and the image is still tack sharp.

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Catching small birds means getting the shutter speed up, but using the electronic shutter means I can access a much faster frame rate, and get exactly the shot I want.  Plus it’s a silent shutter.  No more spooking the birds.

_DSF1819I’ve read a lot about ‘worms’ within the xTrans sensor that the Fuji has.  I’ve also read that Adobe Lightroom makes the problem worse.  To be honest I just can’t see it.   I have sharpened the Fuji files in Lightroom, in the same way I did with the Canon.  There’s no difference.  They sharpen up just great – and a bit is always needed as I shoot in RAW.

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The end result is what matters, and it seems to me that whatever I do with this camera, the results are going to be brilliant.

So to those who are ‘sitting on the fence’, don’t wait any longer.  I can thoroughly recommend the Fuji system – and in case you’re wondering – no, I’m not getting paid for this – it’s just my thoughts and my impressions of a system.

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Enjoy your photography, whatever you use………

Photographers Block, and Moths

I think I’ve inadvertently taken a break from my photography, and I think it’s done me good.

For 4 weeks, my daughter, her boyfriend, and the boyfriends parents (though the latter two were only here for a week) have been staying with us and there has been no photography time, apart from the images I captured of them, during their stay.

Similarly, whilst they’ve been here, I didn’t go to the camera club, and didn’t really interact much with any other photographers.  I found that whilst I missed their companionship, I didn’t miss taking photos.

At first I thought it was odd, but then I had so many other things to occupy me, that it made sense.  Since they left though, the urge to shoot hasn’t come back in any meaningful way.

I was left to wonder if this is a bad thing, and came to the conclusion that it’s not. I’ve had time to sit and plan what I’m going to do next, and actually the planning is making me more creative.  I’d been worrying (unnecessarily as it happens), about upcoming competitions, exhibitions and qualifications.  Worry stifles creativity.

I’ve taken myself back to basics, and this week dug out the moth trap, and caught some stunning insects, which I was able to shoot slowly, and with a bit more thought than usual.

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This is the Elephant Hawk moth, and I spent a long time looking for the right flower to put it on, and the right background to shoot it against.  I spent a couple of very happy hours with this, and other insects caught during the night.

So, it came as a bit of a surprise that when I checked my diary for July, it was rammed full of shoots – and even more of a surprise was that I was aching to get at it – and get some good images in the bag.  I’d been putting everything off till after the family had been and gone.  The ‘forced’ break did me the world of good.  I’d stopped thinking about up and coming competitions, and stopped worrying about where the next shot was coming from.

Hats off to those good folk who do the 365 projects, and take a photo every day for 12 months.  I tried it once, and after about 3 months gave up.  I was forcing images, and they slowly got worse and worse, as I made do with what I had.  Even cheating to get that image online for that day.  Never again……..

So, for the next week, moths…. I’ll put the trap out again in a day or two, and see what pops up.

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In the meantime, this one (above) is a Golden Y moth, and the shot below, is the Eyed Hawk Moth

Eyed Hawk Moth

It’s good to be back………….

The moral I think is to not worry if you don’t do something you love for a period of time – absence really can make the heart grow fonder.  It really doesn’t mean that you love it any the less.

CPAGB Distinction Award

April 27th this year has been in my diary for a long time, as it was the day that my images were judged by a panel to see if I could be awarded the Certificate from the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain.

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The Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB) is an organisation that co-ordinates specific activities for photographic clubs in England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland. It does this through 15 geographical regions known as Federations.

It also offers other services such as Recorded Lectures to clubs and its own photographic Distinctions (known as awards for photographic merit) direct to qualifying club members.

The C award – is the first of three offered by the PAGB, and involves the entry of 10 images – each of which are judged to a maximum of 30 marks.  Each image has to achieve over 20 marks in order for a pass to be achieved.  So a minimum of 200 marks is needed.

My application was successful after many hours of work, and with assistance from a mentor.

Further Information and Reference
The PAGB www.thepagb.org.uk
L&CPU www.lcpuonline.org.uk
FIAP www.fiap.net 

Bird Photography

It’s been a while since I got out and sat in a bird hide – but finally I’ve been able to manage a half day – well actually not even a full half day – really just a few hours.

Bluetit-1Having said that – it was frustrating to travel down to my favourite hide, as the Christmas traffic was terrible.   Arriving though was a great relief, and the pools and hides were as fantastic as I remember them – it seems a long time, but in reality it’s only been about 2 months.  The birds were co-operative, and it was good to watch as well as photograph them.

I was most impressed by the Great Spotted Woodpecker, a youngster turned up a couple of times whilst I was there, and didn’t even immediately fly off when I came out of the hide.  He was full of confidence, and so handsome.

DSED8263There are around 140,000 breeding pairs of woodpeckers in the UK, though I don’t see them very often, and this one was a delight.

The cold of the day, and the knowledge that I had an appointment in the evening, and ‘work’ to do eventually made me leave, though reluctantly.  Hoping to return between Christmas and the New Year.  Already I can’t wait….