Welcome

I am Rod Wynne-Powell, and this is my way to pass on snippets either of a technical nature, or related to what I am currently doing or hope to be doing in the near future.

A third-person description follows:

Professional photographer, Lightroom and Photoshop Workflow trainer, Consultant, digital image retoucher, author, and tech-editor for Martin Evening's many 'Photoshop for Photographers' books.

For over twenty years, Rod has had a client list of large and small companies, which reads like the ‘who’s who’ of the imaging, advertising and software industries. He has a background in Commercial/Industrial Photography, was Sales Manager for a leading London-based colour laboratory and has trained many digital photographers on a one-to-one basis, in the UK and Europe.

Still a pre-release tester for Adobe in the US, for Photoshop, he is also very much involved in the taking of a wide range of photographs, as can be seen in the galleries.

See his broad range of training and creative services, available NOW. Take advantage of them and ensure an unfair advantage over your competitors…



Monday, 29 December 2014

In the Bleak Mid Bedfordshire…


Sunday evening was spent clearing the boot to locate the spare tyre as I had definitely acquired a puncture. To my dismay, since this was the first puncture since new more than three years ago, I found that I had a ‘skinny’ tyre designed for travel at no more than 50mph. Looking at it, I felt it should be truthfully described as a fifty yard tyre, for with roads in the morning more akin to skating rinks, the car was going to be decidedly unstable with three chunky tyres and one more suited to a moped!

The morning exercise was to check that my local tyre-fitting company were open, then get the frost-laden car cleared and ready to drive through narrow lanes and a very steep hill to reach them. For anyone in this neck of the woods needing a tyre service, I can highly recommend Supertyres by Easter Avenue, Dunstable, they are friendly, honest and inexpensive, and I have been going to them for more than a decade. Whilst there I learned that the ‘skinny’ tyre should be at 60PSI, which I had not noticed, and when I had earlier checked its pressure and found it at 34 felt that was adequate, well, it wasn’t, and I was grateful to be informed, so when it was returned to the boot, it had been reflated to the correct pressure.

After lunch and some time checking emails, I gathered my new gimbal head and levelling plate and the 150-600mm Tamron lens and set off for Tea Green to see whether the red kite were aloft, but after a fruitless stay there, I just took quick shots more for amusement than anything more serious of a smart little silver Audi TT and a scarecrow atop the hill opposite to my layby. I then set off along Lilley Bottom Lane till I arrived at a spot where I had seen kites in the past, but before reaching that place I grabbed a few shots of the sheep which were spread over the hill, part in shade, part in sunlight. Then I moved to a spot where there was more room to park, only to find an SUV had already got the best position.

I then made my way a little up the hill, so that if the other vehicle needed me to move I did not have far to return, I actually met the the family coming down the hill and they said they could simply drive forward to get out, so I need not have worried. I waited a long time before the kites came, but they were way off in the distance, and by then the sun had all but set beyond the hill behind me, and being exposed to the biting wind, I soon just took some shots of the now returning sheep, and the half-moon, before packing everything back in the car. The sunset beyond the hills was far more attractive, and in Grove Road after Slip End, I took some shots of the trees in silhouette and the the Plough Pub across the field.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Sawston Village Concert – a Service of Lessons and Carols 2014

Another year passes, my elder daughter’s girls grow older, wiser and taller; they take up musical instruments and they do well academically – it is a great pleasure to watch and to hear them singing amongst their friends, in a great acoustic and in the historic building of Great St. Mary’s, in the very heart of Cambridge.

The carols are within my vocal range, and I join in heartily, proud to be witness to their steps towards the future, with their family to watch and listen in equal pride. The viewpoint I chose to take pictures from meant I was separated from the rest of our group, but that afforded me the chance to capture the enjoyment on their faces, which had I been alongside them, would not have been possible.

On our journey back to the car it meant we could recount our evening from different standpoints, as I could see both girls where they could see only one. We certainly all agreed on one thing; we had listened and watched a beautifully joyous Carol Concert, and in splendid surroundings.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

A Possible Cormorant Deterrent at Tringford Reservoir

Increasing numbers of cormorants are causing great concern at Tringford Reservoir. This morning Jake came down from Coventry with a plan to help alleviate the problem with a strategy to convince them that Bob Menzies and Rick from the Canal and River Trust can use a mannequin dressed as an angler and wearing an orange high visibility tabard means a threat.

I was there as an observer and listened to the plan. The idea is to fire percussive caps from the direction of the mannequin sitting aboard one of the flat-bottomed aluminium rowing boats used by the anglers. Done on a regular and fairly frequent basis and associated with the bangs and the mannequin's high-vis jacket would finally deter the birds from settling near to the lake and with time mean that the cormorants would desist in feeding on the young fish and damaging many of the larger ones that they do not manage to eat.

There was quite a bit of laughter as the mannequin was assembled and many comments about how young and fresh-faced he was when the club's anglers were considerably more rugged and certainly much older. Earlier I have been able to count twenty two birds on the lake at one time, and apparently the numbers and persistence has been steadily climbing. I arrived before Bob today and in the photograph that heads this piece are no less than six, and there were others on the water.

It will be interesting to see just how effective the so-far unnamed mannequin proves to be in reducing the numbers that are the scourge of the local anglers. I will be interested in finding out just what name he is given!

It was good to see a group of four cygnets on the water to round off my my time down there in the biting wind.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Bitterly Cold at Marsworth Reservoir

A mild breeze and bright sun tempted me to Tring reservoirs and the opportunities it might offer for photography, but as I neared Bulbourne, it became obvious that the clouds had put paid to my brightness, but undeterred I parked up and took out my camera and long lens and used the monopod as a walking stick with my other cameras on my back in my backpack. Out of the car I realised the temperature had dropped considerably during my half-hour’s drive and the breeze was definitely now a wind!

As I walked the path between Marsworth and Startops End reservoirs, it was often gusting and particularly bitter and I was glad of the extra clothing I had donned before I left. My fingerless gloves were very ineffective in retaining heat, especially since the monopod had no insulation, unlike my tripod. There was not a lot of avian activity and when I arrived there were even fewer cars parked, and no anglers as I walked beyond the park fork and along the Grand Union Canal; now a few intrepid dog walkers and joggers appeared, but each were in their own worlds offering no communication; no acknowledgement of a fellow human, facing the same bitter wind and biting cold.

As I arrived in my normal spot awaiting possible birds such as the elusive kingfisher, there were few sounds of birdsong, just the occasional flapping of wood-pigeons as they crashed noisily through the almost bare branches of hawthorn. The ground was muddy and slippery offering no dry seat so I propped myself against an ivy-clad tree trunk and put down the monopod as being surplus except for manoeuvring down the steep bank, and looked around me as I heard the high-pitched whistling that I felt sure was the local robin – it was only a slight surprise when I heard a light rustle of leaves and there was my regular companion during my previous visits, looking entirely composed low down on a branch no more than two feet away.

I said: “Hello”, but s/he (for I know not the sex of the bird!) just kept looking my way with no particular interest, but there was eye-contact which was more than I received from my human contacts so far. I enquired of the possibilities of a kingfisher visit, but the robin simply flew to a different perch, at least now, just far enough distant for me to get shots, but the bird presumably knew that by moving yet closer, I would be unable to focus on it, meaning I had to keep carefully moving a few steps back or choose a different subject. Since none were to hand I just tried to cajole him into choosing different branches, but he felt under no obligation to accept my requests, and so I tried tempting him by producing some peanuts and throwing them in more open spots, but he studiously avoided my bribes and at one stage flew to the ground by my feet, flicked up a leaf and found a juicy worm!

He became my focus of attention (for I decided that as a Robin he was a he) and I simply waited till he decided he would move elsewhere within his territory; he did however condescend to try some of my nuts.

I ventured from this spot after a while and took to the path alongside the reedbeds  and spotted a vast flock of Canada geese had formed up and watched as they went en-masse first in one direction, then about turn and moved in the opposing direction, then I could hear the elders squawking there voting for a move from water to the nearby fields, and soon about a quarter of the assembled birds took noisily to the air, I decided this was an activity that was worth my attention, despite my not having the same feeling for Canada Geese as I have for the the Greylags, and this stems largely from the fact that I like to see the eyes of birds and animals, and the eyes of greylags are far more visible.

It was this return trip that I did find myself talking to other members of my species, and one was a fellow photographer, another a birdwatcher who enquired whether I had seen the redwings, and another an angler, and all of us were now heading slowly homeward, but each  stopping then meeting up again as opportunities arose in both of us photographers for yet another shot. By now I was definitely finding the rising wind making my fingers sore with the cold, and the refuge of my car was definitely an enticement that was increasingly hard to ignore! I had replied no to the birdwatcher, but a bird I spotted amongst the red berries of a tree was most likely one.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Stockwood Discovery's Last Hurrah 2014?


Needing a break from the pressures of the family helping to upgrade our house to improve its chances of selling, and seeing blue skies and sunshine beckoning me outside, I fell to the temptation of grabbing my camera and heading to the Stockwood Discovery Centre Gardens in Luton. I had not visited for some while and I did want to catch up with the gardeners there.

I did not completely neglect my responsibilities towards the improvements; I did take a brush and ‘brick acid’ to limescale in the shower tray and the loo bowl, so that it could be working its magic whilst I was out! Arriving in the car park, it was not as crowded as it might have been, presumably because there was a decided nip in the breeze when I got out, so I donned a jacket. I headed straight through reception and across the gardens, heading towards the far end of the long greenhouse along the wall, and caught sight of Jan and Bridey the gardeners, who were coming out having presumably completed the first watering of the day and some general pruning.

I enquired whether there were any items of interest either in the greenhouse or the gardens in general and learned there were some special plants in flower in one area beyond the Victorian greenhouses, but apparently little of especial interest, but both did say I would likely still find something because I would be looking more closely.

They were right. I took off the jacket the moment I entered the greenhouse for I could probably been still warm were I only clad in swimming trunks! My biggest problem was going to be my glasses steaming up, making the taking of photos less than totally straightforward. I had barely taken two steps from the entrance before finding some tiny flowers that to all intents were miniature roses to look at, though no roses I knew naturally formed a circular clusters of flowers. I was able to work my way through the greenhouse, turning from side to side to capture examples of either leaves, flowers or cacti at almost every step.
A while later as the gardeners lunch break came Bridey came back to eat hers by the work she would be returning to once her break was over. Later Jan returned too and enquired whether I had spotted a particular plant, but no even though I had been on the lookout, I still had missed some she thought would have attracted my interest, I made good my mistakes and then headed for the trellis-enclosed space that had been mentioned earlier and along the way found other plants of interest; in particular one set of leaves that had every autumnal hue from pale greens through yellows to red and golds and some stark white berries on leafless branches, I also spotted to new water feature that had replaced the tiled fountain.

Bumped once more into the two gardeners before leaving, wishing them all the best for Christmas should I not pay another visit in between and headed for Reception to see whether I could speak to Ian Haswell, Jan’s boss to whom she had mentioned my blog that often covered exhibits within the Discovery Centre. Sadly he was not in his office, so that contact will have to wait for another occasion.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Nikon Red Kite Day – Tuesday


The Nikon/Chris Gomersall-organised trip to Gigrin Farm in Wales to give six photographers an excellent opportunity to photograph red kite and benefit from the experiences of a true professional wildlife photographer, now seems like a distant memory, due to my family helping to de-clutter the place and create a new bathroom in our house has kept me more than a little busy since that time, and all I did mange very quickly was to mention the day prior to the official day and put up a selection of images without too much culling from that afternoon and evening.

I am now hoping to devote some time to process the following days’ images and write a description of the day, before so much time passes that my memory fails to put together a meaningful narrative. A break has occurred whilst the paint I had applied earlier on the bathroom door and skirting is drying…

The evening of Monday was spent in the nearby Brynafon Hotel, a former workhouse where Chris and I joined one of the following day’s fellow delegates, Daan and his wife for a splendid dinner – I was very impressed by my choice of lamb chops; it is many years since I have seen what I remembered as full-size chops, and my plate was graced with three, and beautifully tasty they were too! There was no good reason to order a sweet as my appetite was sated, so we got engrossed in conversation with these two fascinating South Africans, and sharing reminiscences that we learned would qualify us in SA as the ‘WhenWes’ - conversations between elder adults who would preface stories with the opening: “When we…” That evening was a great success and rounded off a full and long day.

Breakfast the following morning found me catching up on emails courtesy of the WiFi available in the small lounge, before spotting Chris head for the dining area, I joined him and we sat down and were soon offered the choices of cooked food before we selected cereals and tea or coffee. We did not linger, but soon parted for our rooms to gather our gear for the short trip to Gigrin Farm where we began setting the stable area for Chris’ presentation. Although we were somewhat later than scheduled, we waited for everyone to arrive and chatted amongst ourselves with the earliest arrivals and helped Chris to get his laptop and screen up and running. With everyone present Chris got each one of us to introduce ourselves and tell the others something of our work and interests with Chris apologising that there was a Canon user (myself) amongst us; fortunately everyone seemed to be camera system agnostic and my experience of testing Lightroom and Photoshop meant I was made welcome.

Chris explained a bit of the history behind the re-establishment of a healthy population of kites in Wales and a bit about Gigrin Farm, the feeding times they established and the hides that had been built to take advantage of these events for photographers. We were to be using the high hide with a beautiful backdrop, and we were given guidance as to what to expect and how best to maximise the value of what we would be witnessing, and how it might be best initially to be using a moderately short focal length lens to capture the initially large number of swooping birds, before considering getting shots of individual birds.

We also learned that we could expect other birds than the red kites, such as buzzards, ravens and crows, and whereas the kites would rarely land, the others which would each have their specific times to arrive, may well spend some time on the ground.

Before the allotted time for feeding we all made our way up the hill, and eventually up some extremely slippery steps to the high hide, overlooking the feeding arena. As we began setting up tripods, cameras and lenses, the birds slowly began filling the sky in anticipation of the daily event, and soon we could hear the sound of a tractor that heralded the arrival of food. A note: the food provided was always of fresh beef that had to be ‘fit for human consumption”!

The tractor soon unhurriedly came into sight making its arcing way around the arena, before coming to a stop and the man took shovelfuls of fresh meat and placed them in three separate areas to give the photographers as wide a spread as possible when shooting. The sky was full of swirling, diving and swooping birds. Of particular note were a leucistic buzzard and a couple of wing-tagged kites, number 51 and the buzzard spent some time on the ground as did many of the crows and ravens, whereas the kites would twitch, go into a near vertical dive then swoop in just above the ground pick up the meant in its talons, then as it climbed would bring its beak down to the meat before once again return to circling or heading off elsewhere away from the crowd to eat in peace.

It was all too soon over, and somehow seemed even shorter than the previous day before the sky was returned to peace and the ground was now mainly populated by groups of ravens or crows and the occasional buzzard. Prior to the arrival of the tractor and food I had noted a couple of cats and a peacock strolled into the field.

During all this Chris was going around ensuring we goth the most out of the kit we were using, offering suggestions and asking questions in order to ensure we made full advantage of the short time the birds were present and giving us every assistance. We did have very occasional glimpses of milky sunshine, but it was never as bright as it had been on the Monday, but everyone seemed delighted and really grateful for all the guidance that Chris provided, and we all stayed till there was barely a bird on the wing!

We all headed back to the stable, saying our fond farewells where Chris and I gathered all the kit into the car and headed back. I now had a mammoth amount of images to go through, and little did I know then how long it would be till the images saw the light of day on the Web! The Official Day's Images are now finally up.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Day Before Nikon Gigrin Farm Visit

Monday was scheduled for a trip to Gigrin Farm near Rhayader in Wales, and I was lucky enough to be joining the organiser of the trip, Wildlife Photographer Chris Gomersall. Although this is under the auspices of Nikon UK, I had learned that the trips are camera-type agnostic, so sporting Canon equipment did not place me at a disadvantage or any additional cost burden. The red kite do not have any prejudices either, and they are not the only species of birds that attend the feeding station as I was to learn.

I set off with a clear GPS SatNav route to follow to meet up with Chris, but it did not account for a road closure close to my first destination, Potton – a bridge is being repaired, and this meant I had to phone Chris to find an alternative route to reach him. I arrived only five minutes later than we had arranged and we loaded the car with my camera gear and clothes and set off for Wales avoiding the motorway roadworks, breaking the journey at Telford. Along the way we both got the chance to know each other better and discuss a wide range of topics, not all related to what lay ahead at Gigrin Farm. One surprising incident was when Chris spotted a buzzard sitting happily on a road sign on our side of the road, he mentioned it to me and had I had a camera to hand it was so close I could have filled the frame using a wide angle lens!

We met rain and numerous light-controlled sections of roadworks even on these lesser roads, but arrived well in time to get our gear into the Brynafon Hotel and have some time at the afternoon feeding up at the farm where we took up station in the high hide. We were really lucky with the changing weather as during this ‘bonus’ time we were blessed with a rainbow that stayed for quite a while whilst the birds were still feeding.

We met up with one of the morrow’s delegates at the hide and learned he had seen a spectacular display at Aberystwyth of a Starling Murmuration, which decided us on the hour’s drive to coast to see whether we might be so lucky, but though they appeared briefly it was a very small flock that visited us! But the high tide and the skies still invited us to take pictures.

We joined up again with Daan and his wife at the hotel and suppered together enjoyably, all of us eager to repeat and improve upon that day’s shooting.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Marsworth – Last Day of Summer 2014

With the clocks going back an hour at two o’clock Sunday morning, and the weather apparently set fine for the Saturday, I set my alarm for an early start, but still managed to leave very little time for sleep! I think I will try to make a special effort to catch up on Sunday, when we have a family gathering in Cambridge that starts in the afternoon.

I headed for Marsworth with a very light rucksack with a cushion inside as I really needed a more comfortable seat, and so it proved. I also travelled light; with just the single lens, the 150-600mm Tamron on the 5D MkIII. It was not as clear as had been forecast, but as the sun rose in the sky, it did mean that what light there was not too harsh. When I arrived at my chosen location, another photographer had been there for a couple of hours already, but though he had seen some Water Rails, and glimpsed a fly through by a female kingfisher, none had settled.

As I had managed to capture a swan in flight at take-off from Marsworth, I had hoped our luck might change, but it was wishful thinking and although we were visited, the female stayed shyly in the trees which hardly made for an attractive and meaningful setting for a kingfisher, though there was one instance when I did spot her fishing way in the distance, but way too far even for 600mm!

I did spot the grey wagtail again and the squirrel, and we were in our friendly robin’s territory, but it remained too close to get a shot, but he did benefit from a few crumbs of my toasted sandwich. Merv left before me, but after a further hour, I too departed and managed to get a few more shots of departing swans and rounded off with a silhouette of trees in the field by the Trout Stream.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Canon CPS+ Wildlife Day – Lingfield

     
There are four galleries of images:
This was THE trip I had been waiting for in the series of CPS+ Days Canon has been organising, and the tribulations of the M25 disappeared as soon as I arrived at the venue, knowing the forecast for the weather was good and certainly the trip down had not suggested otherwise. Although I felt I had arrived reasonably early, the Registration area was already thronged with photographers in the de rigeur camouflage jackets with long wide aperture lenses equally camouflaged slung over shoulders all chatting in animated conversation. The only faces I recognised all belonged to Canon, I saw no familiar faces amongst the photographers themselves, but that may in fact due to my failing memory!

Upon registration we acquired wristbands designating groups to make the managing of the numbers work smoothly; we also each were given a timetable and a handy notebook and pencil, though with many of us toting either large bulky lenses, monopods/tripods and in some instances more than one camera body, the opportunity to also take notes was slim, but would certainly come in handy in the future.

The initial Introduction was given by Canon’s Frankie Jim who explained how the day was to be organised; a background to the CPS+ scheme and to let us know that the ‘Toy Shop’ was there to provide us with the full range of bodies and lenses with several staff members there to offer any technical help we might need.
      

My group were the first to set off for live action – the first port of call being the otters followed by followed by the foxes, red and black squirrels and a wild cat, after which we returned to the meeting area for coffee, tea and biscuits and the first of two talks by the speakers for the day, Danny Green and Mark Sisson.

The first talk was given by Mark with some excellent images and the stories behind them taken from his travels around the globe. Here was a man versed in the need to create images that could be used by designers with areas of background that were uncluttered by distracting detail to allow for headlines and paragraphs of copy to fill the pages of magazines.

We then broke for a sandwich lunch before going out to the fields to shoot birds; owls, both static and in flight, returning after this to another talk this time from Danny Green, both notably very different in their styles, and both stressed how much care needs to be taken in preparation, and how sometimes getting the shots they needed may have needed several trips before they were satisfied. Both speakers definitely engaged with their audience with much humour and great interest from the audience.

Altogether, a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding day that was deservedly appreciated by all who attended – my thanks and compliments to Canon for working so hard to make the day successful.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Another Lucky Day at Brogborough!

I had observed that despite the weather forecasters’ reports of total gloom, the afternoons of late had often brought sporadic sunshine. So it was, that once again, I took a chance and headed for the lake at Brogborough as the other item in the weather bulletin was wind, and I had already noted that in that, they were correct.

When I arrived, there were already a fair number of people setting their boards up, and there was a steady trickle of new arrivals as I got my tripod and gimbal head set up. Looking heavenward, I could already see the glimmerings of a sun behind thinning clouds. These slowly developed into distinct gaps in overall cloud cover and although I started shooting in meagre light, for the rest of the time, the sun appeared and then was swapped for dark clouds , giving me a fair chance of a bit of sparkle to the surfers’ bow waves.

I set up a position where I had at least a chance of sunlight illuminating my subjects and for the first half of my time lakeside there was a steady stream of surfers taking to the water, but not much jumping taking place, but later the situation improved, but they were often in the distance and mostly I was behind them, but every so often I was treated to frontal shots, but several took place when I was following a different person and caught only the tail end of the action. My lack of knowledge as to when someone might attempt to jump did not help my overall statistics, but I was not bereft of luck.

Definitely using the gimbal head this time and with the 150-600mm Tamron lens on the 5D MkIII was a good move, but using the tripod on a slippery slope did have its drawbacks and the wind was doing its best to ensure I had to reset the level of the tripod fairly often.

I was reasonably satisfied with the outcome, but I did still have to rely on cropping in post processing to get a reasonable size of many of the more interesting pictures as much happened in the far distance, making some of the shots look as if the participants were actually running out of space and heading directly for the far shore, such was the foreshortening effect of the long lens and crop combined!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Brogborough – A Chance Visit

Working on the probability that a keen Windsurfer would likely drop everything for a good wind and sunshine at this time of year, I took a similar gamble, as I had both when I left Caddington, and it was not too far north, and very open at Brogborough. As I neared the exit from the M1, I began to think I was on a losing streak as there were some ominous clouds that seemed headed towards the lake.

I pulled into the car park and there was still some sunshine, but by the time the camera was on the tripod, it began to look as if I had the wind, but not its counterpart, the sun. I got in a few shots before the rain came and I needed to cover the camera and lens with a groundsheet, but my trusty bungee was still back in another camera bag at base.

Fellow photographer Barry Rivett, came to the rescue with one  from his car, and it gave me a chance to shoot despite the rain, but the wind and rain got up so much that I had to concede defeat and retire to the Portakabin and shelter. This was a tactical retreat not a rout, and I was back out and blessed with the sun from then till my subjects came in from exhaustion.

My gamble had paid off with some quite reasonable shots for my trouble.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Canon Landscape Day at Beaulieu


The trip around the M25 to reach the M3 on Tuesday was one of the slowest on record for me. I had allowed an extra half-hour for traffic and an equal amount to allow me to arrive early, and only just managed to make it with five minutes to spare. Not an auspicious start!

On the bright side, literally, the weather was wonderful for this time of year, and I did not consider it cold, the parking and meeting up with the welcomers was excellent; the red umbrellas were only needed for recognition, not for fending off British weather for a change. It was suggested could leave our kit in the vehicles to walk to the Treehouse, but with the benefit of hindsight I could have popped a memory card into my pocket. It was interesting to note that the walk to the Treehouse was obviously to inform us that Landscape Photography was always going to involve some trekking; we were not going to expect to take such images by casually leaning out of a car window – an interesting subliminal message to presage the talks to follow.

On this walk I met two other attendees, and upon arrival we were met by another who had stepped out of his car to ask where the venue was, and there was no way we were going to let him think he could park up and just walk in, when we had just made the trip on foot, which gave us a giggle! There was no place to park here I hasten to add.

After a gathering for tea or coffee we headed for the room for the talks, this time for me taking the route via the rope walkway; I am not sure my traverse helped others feel particularly well-balanced and I was reminded of that movie of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

The two talks with a break between for food and drinks were both excellently delivered with some magnificent examples of David Noton’s work and his tales and reminiscences from his colleague Jon Gooding were well chosen to illustrate the amount of preparation and understanding of his subject that had gone into what sometimes had been only moments when the scenes could have been captured and present their beauty. Both talks were illuminating and humourous and were much appreciated by the audience whose numerous questions showed their keenness to learn more from this extremely talented yet self-effacing photographer and good speaker.

After queuing to borrow from the vast array of both camera bodies and lenses and in my case to take a brief look at a pre-production EOS7D MkII we set off back to our vehicles for the journey to Pigbush our location for the afternoon. Both David and Jon took small groups to discuss filters and techniques, and a few split up to put their newly-acquired knowledge into practice. I had chosen to borrow a Tilt-Shift lens and a body, both of which were unfamiliar, and this resulted in my missing a rainbow which appeared in the scene I was trying to capture, illustrating the necessity of understanding one’s kit – I promptly decided to continue using kit I knew intimately and the few pictures I subsequently took were a personal disappointment.

However I learned a lot and found the day rewarding despite my personal poor performance. In handing back the borrowed equipment, I also managed to have a chat with Frankie Jim from canon, who was able to tell what fault had developed in my 300mm lens which I had hoped to have delivered for repair. The journey back though not speedy was a vast improvement over the journey down.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Afternoon at Wrest Park


Andy Fox and I had arranged to meet up in the afternoon to pay a photographic visit to Wrest Park. Sadly, I had some computer-related grief that meant I was running extremely late and had to apologise for my delayed departure because it meant we both missed some of the better sunshine. We gathered our kit and headed into the grounds, with Andy giving me background history as we went.

One of the first small statues was of the Gryphon a symbol of the past owners, the de Greys, and the light on it set it off a treat, but before I could dig out the camera, the moment was lost, and a look at the sky suggested it would be a while before the clouds broke again, so I moved into the gardens to capture some of the flowers in the ornamental beds, but hurried back to the Gryphon when the sun broke cover.

We each took shots to our own plans, yet often had to await the right lighting, or for the few visitors to either appear in the right spot or simply walk out of view, at one time we were close enough for us both to fire our shutters simultaneously and we laughed because we had both waited for a particular woman to pass behind a bush! Andy is a wealth of pertinent knowledge, and this meant that in our waiting moments he would keep me informed of some of the history or regale me with tales of his family visits to certain spots. As we headed through the formal gardens towards the Archer Pavilion, I learned of its beginnings as a Hunting Lodge, and I kept stopping as I waited for the building to be lit by the sun, or tried to record the reflections in the still waters of the ornamental ponds.

The de Greys it seemed were very fond of statues, and one in particular caught my eye, and I was lucky with the shading of clouds beyond it in different directions. Eventually we arrived at the pavilion and I was most impressed by its construction with its upper floor bedrooms accessed by stairs, and how their oriel windows were interleaved with those of the main central area, the inside of the dome was also beautifully decorated and the trompe-l’oeil work just below was nicely done.

Our time there was all too short, and we had no time to enter the house itself, but it was a good afternoon spent in good company. I think we were a week late for the best of the flowers however.

Birds of Prey Near Lilley

(Somehow this item, did not make it initially to the Web,  sorry)
I had recorded the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka so that I did not have to wait till the evening for the scheduled highlights as I was hoping for an exciting race and an outcome that would extend the Championship lead for Lewis Hamilton by a greater margin than his mere three points that had simply made up for all the bad luck that had bedevilled him. The six o’clock live time was a non-starter, but a delay to a more manageable morning time was my intention, as I still wanted to be out for what might be the last good sunshine of autumn, so I had my breakfast in front of the screen.

The race was exciting barring the two forced waits due to the Phanfone Typhoon’s close pass, but after the result, there was a very downbeat atmosphere due to the tragic accident that befell Jules Bianchi who had aquaplaned at high speed off the circuit and crashed heavily into the very solid vehicle that had been removing the crashed car of Adrian Sutil from the previous lap. All the joy of the race was washed away by this sad incident. I sincerely hope that Jules can recover from his injuries, so my thoughts are with him and all his family and friends in the motor racing fraternity.

After that it was time I gathered my cameras and set off for Tea Green and Lilley Bottom in the hope of photographing red kite, and buzzards. I had spotted a kestrel hovering with intent by the end of Luton’s runway, but by the time I was out of the car, it had moved on! And again when I was on my way down Stony Lane past Tea Green, I spotted a red kite, but again once out of the car with the camera, it had departed for Lilley. I waited awhile, but in vain, so I then turned right at the bottom and drove along Lilley Bottom Lane till I could park below some woods where I knew from past visits the red kite frequented.

It was here that I met a couple of ramblers coming from the other woods and we walked over the road together chatting, and whilst climbing the hill we were graced by the presence of two soaring kite, and I got a couple of shots, we parted, and I thanked them for bring me those birds and asked could they order me a buzzard or two, as we parted and they headed into the woods – they were as good as their word for not two minutes later a couple of buzzards came a-circling, followed later by a female kestrel.

There followed a lull in avian activity, so I then entered the woods, and over into the far valley where I came across a man painting the fence around the cottage known as Butler’s Cottage, next to the Pilkington Estate’s Workshop; we chatted a while and I took a few shots there before returning the way I came, back to my car.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Another Visit to Marsworth's Wildlife


Rather than stay glued to a monitor for the meagre need to do so, and with the autumnal weather due to end imminently, I headed once again for Marsworth, one of the Tring reservoirs. Not unnaturally the area was quiet, with only a few anglers, dog, buggy and children walkers to be seen. Hearing frantic wing flapping behind me I turned just in time to catch a pair of Mallards just as they landed.

When I had settled and set up my camera on a well-strapped and supported monopod, the first observation I made was that dragonflies were still in abundance, and one coupled pair came my way frequently, but on one visit I noticed that the pair were constantly jigging up and down and eventually I twigged what was happening, it would appear that the male (for that was my impression the forward partner to be) was trying to shake the female free, but it was more than that; as far as I could tell as he was diving down he was dashing the female against a small rock jutting from the water, and although difficult to see, this is what I have tried to show in the shots in the gallery.

Later I spotted what I think was a great spotted woodpecker which landed on a high dead branch, and I just barely had the time to open up three full stops as it was against bright white clouds, before it departed as swiftly as it had arrived; it did not return. A Blue tit arrived slightly lower shortly after, seemingly mimicking the woodpecker’s stance! There followed a series of dragonflies which I was unable to capture in flight, but occasionally they landed just within later-cropping distance.

The Robin from the far shore looked less dishevelled than had been the case in my earlier encounters, and the Grey Wagtail made a brief  visit, my patience however was not rewarded by any visiting Kingfishers, but I did manage a couple of shots when I was paid a fleeting visit by a Heron atop the far trees.

On my return walk I got a shot of a Grebe in the late afternoon sun, a Swan heading for shore and an angler who caught three small fish whilst I was watching another Heron that seemed to have his beady eye on a possible catch, but despite waiting in the hope it might be successful, it appeared it was no to be. I walked on returning to the car and home.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Marsworth and a Grey Wagtail


After an early start and a comprehensive cleaning of the house for a viewing mid morning, I just felt I needed to be outside and taking pictures, it was also warming up, with the sun beginning to show, so though I would have been better being at the reservoir much earlier, I took a chance on my getting some meaningful images nevertheless.

Tringford lake had but one angler afloat on the still water, and the level was much lower than on my last visit. As it was a few days since it had rained the woods where the stream entered Startops were dry underfoot, so I chanced  a quiet approach through the undergrowth in case any herons or egrets were on the dry shore, but all I spooked were some waders and ducks. I returned to the path and headed alongside Marsworth lake and the Grand Union Canal, and settled to wait.

Though in all the hours I was there, I only spotted a lone kingfisher in a flyby, I was visited by a squirrel, a heron overflew atop the trees and either an otter or mink gave me a brief visit, but I was twice graced by a lone Grey Wagtail in beautiful condition, and very twitchy. Naturally, collar doves and wood pigeons were noisily around, and my sleek robin only flew over once to the obvious interest to a plump and dishevelled specimen that inhabits the bush on the far shore. I found this slightly surprising as an earlier visitor visitor to the same spot as myself had poured a good amount of seeds for our regular.

When I finished and retraced my steps to the car, the early evening light on a narrowboat moored in the canal caught my eye, so I grabbed a quick shot of that scene.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Very Speedy Visit to Discovery Centre

I thought that since it was Wednesday and the weather was clement, I would take a quick visit to the gardens in the Stockwood Discovery Centre. As I set off I had no idea just how brief it was likely to be.

I had come to the junction and was about to turn right on to the main road when my mobile phone rang; I hastily pulled into the bus stop lay-by and answered – it was BBC Three Counties Radio.

Sarah Jenkins was at the other end of the line and asked whether I might be able to contribute to a phone-in this very afternoon, on the subject of the morality involved in retouching women in advertisements that would be promoting the idea that all young girls should be size zero stick insects, if they ever hoped to look beautiful and attractive, and she even said someone had commented that retouching should become a criminal offence!

She asked a little bit about me and asked whether I had actually done any retouching of that nature, to which I replied that I had retouched photos of numerous actresses and personalities for other photographers and publishers, but not to specifically alter their bodies to conform to skinny and tall, as opposed to natural. I briefly mentioned a few subjects to establish that I could genuinely respond from my experience and said I would be happy to be contacted by the Roberto Perrone Show at 3pm.

I now had even less time to reach the gardens, take some photos and return to get a gallery of them up on the blog! An irony was that as I had set off initially, the wind was chilly so I dived back in to pick up and put on a sweater. Arriving at the centre, the wind had died and the sun was gaining strength and as I went around, I became quite hot and sticky, but I did mention to two gardeners: Jan and Bridey whom I meet there that I was taking part in the phone in, and let on what the subject was – I am not totally without vanity!

I rushed around hurriedly and as I was leaving one of the two, Bridey was sitting in the shade of an arbour unbeknown to me and I heard a familiar voice say: "I think someone maybe in a bit of a hurry!" I turned around, chuckled and grabbed two more shots before I reached the exit.

Although some shots had variants, I used all but one image and the number precisely completed the grid, so no waste, I felt reasonably pleased with the result and had started on the processing as the phone call came through at three o'clock.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Maybe Only a Few on the Brogborough Lake…


The lack of wind and a weak sun meant that few turned up to do any windsurfing this afternoon, but I needed to check out using the monopod with a larger ball head, and try to improve upon the shots I first took of the windsurfers using this new Tamron 150-600mm lens.

Having used the 5D MkIII and this lens entirely handheld at Goodwood, because even the monopod would have been too much of a burden, here was a chance to see whether a larger ballhead than the standard Manfrotto one would be an improvement. When I found where the windsurfers were going to be, I realised it would be way too distant from the clubhouse shore, so decided to drive to the far side of the lake, park up and trek back through the woods till I could locate a safe way down the foreshore.

I found just such a spot, but I soon realised I was still too far off and had a very restricted view, so I walked even further till I came to a break in the cover. This time I was very much higher and would still have to move from side to side to keep clear of the trees, but I was a lot closer and when the pale sun came out, it was a benefit. I will make a note of this location for the future.

I think I managed a few rather nice shots, so the trip was worthwhile, and the Acrotec head on the Manfrotto monopod proved to be a good combination, and a lot less strain than handholding and way less weight than a tripod.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Goodwood Revival Meeting 2014

(Clicking the header just leads to the Goodwood Trophy Race)
The Full Links List is at the bottom of the text
I was thrilled to be invited once again to the Goodwood Revival Meeting. This time I chose to invite my elder daughter to the join me for the Saturday. We had hoped that both her partner and my younger daughter and son-in-law would be joining us, but they were too late in booking and found that all tickets had sold out due to the popularity of the event.

Catherine and I got ourselves sorted in the Car Park, and headed in, but failed to take adequate notice of where the car was located, which was to prove a problem at the end of the day!

We visited our designated enclosure which has a great vantage point to watch the exit from the Chicane, and settled to watch and photograph the cars as they headed towards us. The first race we watched was for the Goodwood Trophy. Fairly early on, car 27, a light blue Maserati V8RI driven by Josef Otto Rattenmaier started to spin, and I managed to capture  a sequence of shots as he spun through 180 degrees, before completing the full 360 without hitting anything, or being hit!

I gather photographer Jeff Bloxham is known affectionately as the 'Crash Magnet' well I seem to be similarly afflicted, because as I continued watching the Goodwood Trophy Race, Rob Huff driving a light blue Parnell-MG car number 17, found himself in a spin on the exit, close in front of car number 3, an Alfa Romeo Tipo B, driven by Stephan Rattenmaier who was unable to avoid being taken off towards the tyre wall immediately in front of us. The car rode up the wall and overturned, trapping the driver beneath the upturned vehicle; track marshals and a couple of spectators who climbed over the fence, joined forces to attempt to lift the heavy car enough to get the trapped driver out. Fortunately, this was speedily accomplished and the extricated driver walked from the scene, seemingly none the worse for wear. About four or five years back a similar crash occurred in the same spot, but that driver was less fortunate receiving several cuts to his face and head.

Although we did venture elsewhere we returned to this area for several of the races; the Pits were far too crowded to afford us a reasonable viewpoint to take photos. Once again, this year I did visit the Earls Court Motor Show, which Catherine thoroughly enjoyed as she dreamed of owning several of the cars on display within! I always enjoy the challenge of taking photos of the cars and some of their design details in such low light levels and without any flash.


The Aircraft that displayed were the World War Two Spitfires, Hurricane, a Mustang P51, a German fighter, and the two Lancasters; one of which was the one that had taken the long haul flight via Iceland from its base in Canada, and a Canberra and two Hawker Hunter twin-seat trainers.

A friend of longstanding, Simon Diffey, provided added interest in two of the races, driving a Bugatti Type 51 for entrant, Richard Collier in the Goodwood Trophy Race, and his own Formula Ford 20 in the Chichester Cup. It is a shot of him driving the Bugatti that heads this piece.

The galleries are organised by race and incidentals which cover some of the aircraft flight displays.


Click the individual names below for their Gallery Links:

Goodwood Trophy

Chichester Cup
St Mary's Trophy Part 1
Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy
Shelby Cup
Lavant Cup
Whitsun Trophy
Incidentals

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Warm September at Tring Reservoirs

Had the wind been stronger, and Windsurfers been on the water at Brogborough, I would have headed north and tried to improve upon the shots I took on my last visit, but a call to Sam Barnes forewarned me that no one was on the lake, so I went south to Tring reservoirs, in the hope that despite it being afternoon I might catch sight of kingfishers.

I did catch sight of a pair, but they were in Exocet mode; theirs was a non-stop flight, so any chance of capturing them was a non-starter. I did however spend a while at Tringford with the Water Bailiff as he mended anchor ropes and checked for leaks and rotting boards as I concentrated on taking shots of dragonflies in flight as they were in good supply.

Heading past Startops End I cautiously approached a heron, alongside a couple of egrets, but he took off before I was close and spooked both egrets, though I did manage to capture both in flight, later I was to see two robins, one familiar friend a very sleek and well-groomed one, and a slightly chubbier one, also a blue tit and what I think were spotted flycatchers. I was also visited by a squirrel on two occasions, as well as a flock of Canada Geese with two Greylags along for the flight.

So a reasonably satisfactory afternoon's shooting.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Tall Ships – Island Gardens

Colin Bowles, a fellow photographer and I met up to travel to London to see what we could capture of the Tall Ships that had arrived at Greenwich from Falmouth, via the Isle of Wight.

We parked in the Westfield Centre so we could use the DLR from Stratford to reach Island Gardens, the last stop before Greenwich, since we felt we would be in the best position to get shots of even the moored craft. In the early part of the morning the one missing ingredient was sunshine. Also we found only four vessels moored up, just across from us, in front of the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich.

Upriver from us was moored the vast floating town, the Cruise Ship, Europa, which was soon approached by a Fire tug as it loosed its moorings to depart. We had walked out of the DLR station across the road, passing the entrance to the Foot Tunnel to Greenwich, before finding ourselves a spot by the railings. To give myself a solid platform to support my camera and long lens (once again the Tamron 150-600mm!), I extended the monopod to the ground, and fastened a bungee tightly to these railings, and set the camera in the quick release adapter and adjusted the height to suit my eye-level. I then slung the other body with my standard zoom lens around my neck; I was ready for most situations now.

Colin reminded me of the ball dropping at midday, but in fact it was one o'clock, and we were unsure whether that was Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or British Standard Summer Time (BST) – turns out it was 1pm BST! But we set alarms for each hour from 11.00 BST, and due to our chatting, very nearly missed the crucial correct time! Fortunately, a man nearby who had learned that we intended to capture this event, broke in to remind us of the time, just as it began its slow climb to the top of its pole!

The mist slowly dispersed, but the sun was vary late to arrive, but there was quite a lot of more general activity, including the arrival of the Royal Barge, that had carried the Queen and Prince Philip on the occasion of her Sixtieth Anniversary – there were rowers, but that was for show, as it gently motored against the tide! The public soon began to fill the space at the railings, and we learned that many of the Tall Ships were moored elsewhere, at the O2 Arena and Canary Wharf, though soon they began to arrive between us and Greenwich, though sadly not under full sail, so not as regal as offshore at the Isle of Wight or Falmouth.

We broke off for a snack lunch under the trees in the park, before I gathered my gear and began walking beyond the gardens in an easterly direction, and as we set off the sun finally burned off some of the cloud cover to give us a pale blue sky, and it became warmer.

Along the way we met and chatted to other members of the public and at one stage were hailed with: "Aren't you going to photograph an Eighty-Nine-Year-old Man on his Birthday?" I turned around and fired off a shot as I replied, "Certainly!" Then turned the camera around to show them the shot and handed the trio a card so that they could view it once I had created the gallery – they were thrilled.

A short while later, a bit further along the path, we spotted a female beachcomber, and I soon managed a shot or two as she searched the foreshore, as we came along that part of the beach she had come back up to the path,so we were able to enquire as to what she had found, and I was able to own up to taking photos, with ease as the husband said: "We spotted you earlier, and said I think that chap is photographing my wife!" It was said with such charm, I took the opportunity to show all three of that party just what I had captured. The lady had been collecting portions of bricks and tiles with French names moulded in the fragments, and before we parted finally and headed back to the DLR, we both helped to add to her collection.

We got directions from the husband to Crossharbour and took our return trip to Stratford and home, having had a thoroughly enjoyable day by the river.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Long-lensed Flowers at Stockwood Discovery Centre

I took a chance on the weather and collecting the Tamron 150-600mm and a monopod, set off to see how practical it would be taking photos at the Stockwood Discovery Centre Gardens.

I did find that there were fewer natural scenes to hand, because the flowers there were in a fair profusion and often closely packed, but here and there I was able to isolate one or two, and occasionally groups that hitherto I would have ignored. Now such shots made sense because of the flattening effect of using the lens at the maximum extension of 600mm.

But it was very cumbersome trying to support the lens using the monopod, especially for portrait shots, but it was rewarding as the separation from the background made for a different style of image from those I might take on a macro lens to separate the flower from its background.

I did also bring along the 24-105mm lens to capture some of the other subjects that came my way, especially in the greenhouse.

The conclusions I am drawing from the use of this long zoom lens is that it is very versatile, and will be used far more than I had initially envisaged, and I definitely have no regrets in making the purchase.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Stapleton Hall Road and Mount View

It was a warm and brightish day in North London on both the Saturday and Sunday, Saturday gave me a few flowers in the garden where I was staying, and the Sunday gave me a chance to take a walk up Stapleton Hall Road then along to the end of its continuation, Mount View.

The idea behind taking the long zoom lens on the walk was to capture possibly the London city skyline, but although I did take some shots in that direction, it was shrouded in haze, whereas to the north there were views of Alexander Palace, occasionally to be seen in sunlight, so much of the walk was spent looking at flowers in the gardens that line the long road.

But with a lens of 600mm, the flower shots were different, often giving a wonderfully soft background to isolate the main image, but correspondingly harder to capture than when working with 90 or 100mm macro, and the slightest breeze meant waiting for the flowers to settle, which sometimes meant the sun disappearing!

It was very apparent just how heavy the combination of Canon 5D MkIII, 150-600mm Tamron and a monopod becomes and in the warmth you can certainly work up a sweat! It was however very rewarding.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Wilstone Waders – Blacktailed Godwits and Other Birds

Not being a knowledgable person when it comes to naming wildlife, I simply spotted some interesting long-billed attractive Waders. Fortunately it was not long before a knowledgable birder soon came along equipped with a scope on a tripod, and after chatting briefly, I ventured the question and he supplied me with a name, he had his eyes upon a greenshank and had heard there was a pair of Osprey that had been spotted, and asked had I seen them. I had to reply that I would only have known had someone said: “Oh! Look at those Ospreys.” He did say there were a large number of Lapwings, and I did spot those and fortunately also know what they looked like.

As I arrived I had seen an Egret overfly, but it was before I had set up, I climbed down the bank and sat at the bottom, so that I was less conspicuous than being on top of the bank and silhouetted against the sky, and braced the monopod to the ground so that the camera came neatly to my eye and began taking shots as the godwits came  inexorably closer, dipping their long beaks into the water every couple of seconds; this meant that getting shots of a group with all heads above water and in an attractive grouping was ‘interesting’! There was a young grebe together with its parent, doing short length dives

There were times when I did forego using the tripod and opted for using the camera handheld and using manual focus, this was for the shots of birds, such as the terns in flight, as it was quicker if I focussed rather than let autofocus hunt and miss the shots altogether. Had the sun been out more often and brighter, I could have set the lens at the hyperfocal distance and at less than full aperture; but those conditions did not prevail on this occasion.

It was yet another successful gallery of pictures from this excellent Tamron lens – the 150-600mm

Monday, 25 August 2014

Cattle Take Priority

The idea was to visit a field in Lilley Bottom Lane to try to take shots of Red Kite, but no amount of patience was going to reward me that afternoon, so as the cattle neared me I poured my concentration into trying to find meaningful shots of them as they came ever closer to me. I was a little concerned that despite being on a recognised human-designated footpath, they may well have very different ideas about my continuing presence, but I stood my ground, taking shots of either small groups or single animals, all using the Tamron 150-600mm.

The light was milky sunshine at best and increasingly being given over to cloud, and the breeze stiffened and lowered the temperature, but steadily as the herd approached they migrated towards the lower slope, until the main body had passed and congregated at the water trough close to the kissing gate entrance by which I had come in. They had always looked far closer than in reality, through the camera lens!

The lowing of the cattle increased as they passed and took water, then they suddenly upped speed and returned in the direction from which they came, clearing a path to the gate, and seeing still no sign of my initial subjects – the red kite, I decided my purpose had been fulfilled, and I collected my tripod and camera and returned to the car. What had surprised me was just how many different breeds there had been in the one field.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Woburn Deer Park

Walking from the Car Park with a monopod over my shoulder and just one camera with lens attached seemed strange, but the lesson learned from putting the 150-600mm lens through its paces convinced me I needed nothing more to capture shots of the deer in the park – I would certainly not need something shorter than 150mm, unless I broke the rules or risked serious injury!

No sooner had I entered by the Lodge gate than I spotted a lone doe on the edge of the wood, and because of the persistent rumble from cars running over the grid and their general noise, it had not spotted or heard me, so I managed two shots before entering the main park. Three species of deer were in the immediate vicinity of long thin lake by the entrance kiosk, and seemed to be heading inexorably towards its inviting waters, so I never actually needed to venture further. Speaking to one of the wardens I learned one species had already rutted, and if I came in a fortnight’s time I’d witness the next.

I spotted both affection and rivalry amongst the stags, and it was very relaxing to observe them at a distance that favoured the lens I was using, namely the new Tamron. Yes it was a fair weight, but it was reasonably well balanced on the monopod, though undoubtedly a tripod would have been an improvement, but the weight was not justified due to the distance from my car. I am really happy with the results I achieved, and I think I see some really early morning starts a-coming.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Birdlife Lens Test

I took the opportunity to give my latest acquisition another test; this time down at Marsworth Reservoir. The lens is the new long telephoto from Tamron, with a really useful zoom range of 150mm to 600mm, and it has taken some getting used to – the weak link was myself and my preconceptions – it has always been a belief that I should consider the size of maximum aperture to be useful only for giving me a bright image to focus, and to always stop down to achieve the best from the lens. Well, I was wrong!

I was wrong because I was also limiting myself to trying to use the lowest ISO setting to give me a clean end result. By so doing I was forcing myself to use too slow a shutterspeed, and simply not taking into account that at the far end of the zoom range, both my own movements and those of my subject were meaning that I needed a significantly faster shutterspeed to keep the image sharp. Also, I was ignoring the advances that have been made in the reduction of noise at slightly higher ISOs.

I did however know that travelling to my chosen location was a good distance and carrying a heavy tripod was burdensome, especially once I had the shots and was now cold and stiff, so I tried a different tack – I took my monopod instead, and added the comparatively light extra; a bungee. Once I reached my destination I extended the monopod, braced it against a branch and tied the bungee around both tightly. The end result was more stable than my tripod, with only a few inches from where the bungee was strapped, to the ballhead atop the monopod. If I really wanted to be clever I could likely replace the ballhead with my gimbal head, but that would mean extra weight to carry!

This morning the light was fairly good, so I was able to get a series of shots mostly taken at the full 600mm and wide open at the aperture of f/6.3, which allowed me at one stage to fire shots off at a momentarily hovering dragonfly.

Whilst waiting for a possible static kingfisher, I had no less than three flybys, two of which were of a pair of kingfishers, one of which landed on a branch to my left unfortunately almost completely obscured by intervening leaves. It remained there for the longest time I have ever seen a kingfisher at rest: a full five minutes, before it rejoined its mate when s/he next made a flyby!

It was a really satisfying time spent with the new zoom, and my purchase fully justified my buying decision and lived up to all the reports I had read about the quality of results expected. I am really pleased I travelled to Rutland to Birdwatch 2014 which made it possible to buy the lens at a good price.