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Showing posts from 2016

Root 1066 | A Festival of Contemporary Arts

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Received my copies of the Root 1066 brochures in the post this morning. A special thanks to Caroline Le Breton, Naomi Robinson and everyone at Hastings Borough Council and DNA Projects for putting together such a lovely brochure. Best of luck for the festival!

craftivists.org.uk
www.dnaprojects.co.uk
www.hastings.gov.uk
www.1066contemporary.com

Butterflies and Moths

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The UK endured a truly vile beginning to summer 2016, which makes it all the more surprising to be typing this text in daytime temperatures of 30°C (and 27°C at midnight). As an outdoor photographer, I have a flexible mindset. Even the dreadfulJune weather produced some beautiful misty scenes in the forest. The unexpected heatwave now upon us is a chance to adapt, keep cool and enjoy our summer wildlife.

Observations suggest that butterfly numbers are down across the country, but it seems that many species on the South Downs have appeared later than normal. I've seen plenty of Marbled Whites, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, Ringlets, Large Whites, Small Skippers and Dark Green Fritillaries at sites near Falmer and Friston Forest. We seldom experience an abnormally mild winter, followed by a cold spring and a cool, wet and windy June. Butterfly lovers panic when they don't appear on time and begin to fear the worst, but all it took was a spell of settled, warm weather to bring them …

Summer Adventures: Roe and Fallow deer

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My favourite time for Roe deer is early summer. Meadows are vibrant and rich in wild flowers. The deer look great in their summer coats. Roe deer sites see a dramatic increase in numbers, as sexually mature adults seek a mate. I counted four bucks and three does at my site on the Sussex/Surrey border. Fallow deer also look very attractive in their summer coats. Most of the Fallow on the private country estate I visit are tan brown and have white spots. They spend the daytime in the woods and come out to graze at around 8pm in a large field. The grass is unbelievably dense and lush, reaching two feet in height. When the deer are sitting down, only their ears are visible. Pollen blows off the meadow like a cloud of smoke. Fortunately, my hay fever is quite mild this year!

June 2016 got off to a ghastly start, with an area of low pressure bringing strong, cold northerly winds and overcast skies. The second photo was taken in temperatures of 10°C. Roe deer give birth in early June and a ri…

HOPE IN THE VALLEY

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Finding original compositions from unused vantage points is becoming increasingly difficult, given the popularity of the South Downs as a photographic subject. Like any other area of life, landscape photography can be very competitive, ruthless and territorial and I've had a few negative experiences with people who would eat themselves if they were made of chocolate. Happily, during  the last two years, I have been granted access to several estates by enlightened landowners. Until recently, all of these estates have been wooded areas on the High Weald. I am pleased to say that I now have kind permission to enter private land on the South Downs. Under the right weather conditions, my job as a landscape photographer has become a whole lot easier now that a range of new vantage points have become available.

The farmer has informed me that Fallow and Roe deer are present on his land. Red deer were observed a few years ago. I normally have to travel well into Sussex to see large numbers…

BLUEBELLS 2016

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I always take a week off every year to photograph what I regard as the symbolic end of winter - when bare, sorry looking woodlands are transformed by a dazzling combination of vividbluebells and fresh green leaves. Winter is a prison of introspection and alienation from my preferred outdoor life. Entering a bluebell wood in late April is my first taste of freedom in several months. I can become completely absorbed. 

But while it is easy to photograph bluebells, it is difficult to photograph them well. Many photographers get carried away, giving little thought to composition, light and perspective and are unsurprisinglydisappointed with their results. Bluebells are delicate flowers, which show up best in early morning or late evening sunshine. Flower heads are quite widely spaced apart, requiring standard to long focal lengths to compress the perspective. High levels of contrast in bluebell woods presents a challenge for exposure. To correct this issue, I use a soft edge neutral density…

RETURN TO THE FOLD

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April can be a difficult month. The days are getting longer, but the forests are still bare until the end of the month. We've had some lovely evenings recently, but I've just sat at home, unable to decide what to do. An evening on the South Downs, overlooking Kingston Ridge was just what I needed to gently ease me back into photography. The great thing about this location is I can pick a composition I like and wait for the light to change. You may recognise the windmill scene from last September. How the landscape changes over the seasons! And the windmill is now complete. Most photographers would use 300mm and 500mm lenses for wildlife, sports or photojournalism, but long focal lengths are ideal for the gentle, rolling South Downs landscape, where the vantage point may be a mile or two from the scene.







NATURE IN MOTION

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Intentional camera movement (ICM) is a well established photographic technique. I've seen numerous examples on Flickr and elsewhere, some very well done and others poorly executed. For a successful image, I like to strike the right balance between detail and blur. For starling murmurations, the birds must be in focus and the shutter speed should not be set too low, otherwise blur will be so strong, that any sense of motion will be lost and the viewer may struggle to identify the subject. When photographing static subjects, I will place the camera on a tripod and open the shutter using a remote controller. For half a second, the camera is kept still to record fine detail, before I gently sway the camera vertically, taking care to prevent the tripod feet from hitting the ground. The result is a finely detailed image, with sleek, blurry lines, free of jerkiness.






ESSENTIAL ACCESSORIES FOR THE OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHER

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While so many of us salivate at the latest, high-tech camera equipment, it's easy to overlook non-photographic accessories, such as a torch, multi-tool and footwear. I'm a wildlife and landscape photographer and as such, I often find myself in the middle of nowhere in total darkness. The terrain I work on is often muddy, rocky, uneven and prone to flooding. Natural hazards and pests may be present, especially during summer. Here is an overview of the essential accessories I use, with recommendations and commentary on quality standards. It is not definitive and alternative choices are possible, but I can only write about the equipment I've used.

Xtar B20 Pilot II torch: I often find myself finishing a shoot at sunset in the middle of remote forests. Not only that, I have to negotiate unlit, narrow country lanes on foot. I need a bright, reliable, waterproof torch, with a good throw and wide coverage. The torch has to fit into my pocket, but be powerful enough to guide me to …