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Showing posts from November, 2012

Brighton's Starling Murmurations

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I now offer tuition sessions on Brighton Pier. For more information, please see my new  TUITION AND WORKSHOPS page.
Sunday 4th November 2012: The starlings didn't form any murmurations on Friday and Saturday. The most likely reason, was that birds of prey were in the area and deterred the starlings from their usual evening behaviour. As the starlings opted for an early night, Alex and I opted to drown our sorrows in The Lion and Lobster! So, I was therefore delighted to observe the starlings again on Sunday afternoon. Starlings are the world's best synchronized fliers; each bird shadows seven of its neighbours. Starling murmurations react ten times faster than the best human pilots. As such, starlings can easily out-manoeuvre the Peregrine Falcon. Should a predatory bird attempt to intercept a murmuration, it will simply pass straight through, with each bird automatically moving aside.

The seagulls put on a wonderful display over the water; they often fight over caught starfis…

Queen of the Weald

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I stood almost knee-deep in water as a band of torrential rain passed overhead. The clay-lined Low Weald, flooded many times over the summer months. I may be an outdoor person, but unlike the deer I had within my sights, I don't have to live outdoors. If it rains all summer — well, the deer are soaked right through all summer. If the temperature drops to -14°C in winter — well, the deer just have to eat and sleep in temperatures of -14°C. No wonder the average life expectancy of wild Roe deer is just seven years.
When the rain finally ceased, the deer wasted little time and emerged from their hedgerow hideaway to dry out in the open. I moved into place, clutching a very expensive 500mm lens, kindly lent to me, by Alex Lawrence. There she was. Beads of water, glistening in the evening light, swelled in circumference, before dripping off her face. The doe looked up, I took a few shots and quickly withdrew before my sudden appearance became disruptive. 

The Wood Nymph

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I encountered this beautiful Roe deer doe in woodland, at the end of a hot July day, just as the rutting season was beginning. Moments earlier, a passing train had given the deer a terrible fright; little did she know, an invader of the forest was tracking her with a super-telephoto lens. Upon spotting me, the doe tentatively walked closer, out of natural curiosity, before turning around and melting into the trees. Deer are natural experts at working out the behaviour of nearby animals. While deer are quite at ease, when humans are clod hopping about the forest, chattering away as normal, they will paradoxically become far more alert, should any humans try to camouflage their presence. Deer are genetically programmed to identify any animal trying not to draw attention to itself, as a predator.

Sailing By

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The starlings pleased themselves, as always, on Sunday afternoon, which was a shame, from our perspective, because the marmalade sky would have provided an ideal backdrop for the murmurations. The scene, although pleasing to the eye, lacked a strong focal point, until a yacht sailed by; using the sky and water as negative space, I placed the vessel in the desired location. Lines featuring in the sky and on the water are like brush strokes. Of note was the calm air, an unusual occurrence on the coast; Brighton and Hove is such a windy place. I told the photography student I met last Sunday about a storm last winter, which coincided with high tide. The sea and waves reached Kings Parade; a certain landscape photographer by the name of Finn Hopson was down there at 1.30am.


Starling Express

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This week, I met with motor sports photographer, Alex Lawrence, in a busy Hove café, to take custody of the best telephoto lens in the world: none other than the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM Mark II. Equipped with a 4-stop image stabilizer and blisteringly fast autofocus, this lens can keep 200mph Formula One cars in perfect focus, no sweat. Optical quality is second to none; the glass produces razor sharp images, with negligible chromatic aberration and distortion. Alex brought along his newly purchased Canon EOS-1DX camera body, which attracted the attention of other customers in the best possible way. The camera uses two DIGIC 5+ processors to handle up to twelve 18 megapixel RAW images per second and a DIGIC 4 processor for autofocus/exposure calculations. The image quality is excellent; I've yet to handle a more technologically advanced and responsive camera. I should think so too, given the £5229 price tag! My Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III seems quaint and stately in comparison.