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…


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Saturday, 15 June 2019

Marston Moretaine — Life in the Hedges

Every day people stroll, run or cycle along roads with rarely a glance to the right or left, often in worlds of their own, with scant regard for the small creatures that abound in the hedges, along the low walls, or in the grass alongside the pavements. Yes, many will admire some of the brightly coloured flowers, or the neatly trimmed lawns, but when cars or bikes are passing, there are often sounds to be heard; obviously birdsong, but at lower levels there can be the gentle hum of bees. Even without those sounds, there is activity a-plenty.
I had spotted the bees, as I walked to the Post Office and ,back, so I broke off from what I had planned and took out a camera and over two short sorties with two different lenses set out to capture what was there in just a short stretch of the main road.
There were bees, tiny moths, a ladybird, spiders, one minuscule pale insect I had never seen, hoverflies — some were too agile and shy for me to capture.   We rely on many yet give them barely a passing thought but, when you look closer at some, you would see that many of these creatures have bodies of incredible complexity, and possess skills we can only dream of possessing. I can highly recommend stopping by a hedgerow in the early evening of a warm summer day when you see a hoverfly, and just watch their flying skills, as they lift off from a leaf perform darting swoops, the stop, hover a moment, often swing through ninety degrees at the same spot, then climb vertically, and stop again. I have found that in areas of mixed light and shade, they will often hover in the sunlit spot, then get mobbed by other hoverflies who then take over the same point in space.
On this occasion it was too early for that behaviour, and one hoverfly simply relaxed, preened itself with its long legs, then poohed! The tiny moth I spotted was barely two millimetres in diameter, and way too energetic for me to capture. And the ladybird simply burrowed deeper in the hedge, and never reappeared. Gerald Durrell, author of ‘My Family and Other Animals’ had far more exotic ‘mini-beasts’ on Corfu, but English hedgerows are far from bereft of tiny insects that are interesting to study. I would highly recommend some words from WH Davies — ‘What is this Life, if full of Care, we ne’er have Time to Stop and Stare’. A day or so back I took some shots of water boatmen — these are tiny creatures that can be found on streams and lakes, who can walk on water, and they skip along the surface with incredible agility.

When I photograph flowers, I very often try to capture insects that either pollinate those flowers or search for smaller prey who feed therein. There is a world of life within a hedge, and I gain much personal satisfaction in taking photos of this world; it is endlessly fascinating, and highly therapeutic.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Marston Lake Visit — Fleeting Sunshine — Using a Different Head

Having given the car a long drive to ensure the new battery was fully charged, and with the first rays of sunshine for several days, I gathered a slightly different set items to use on this visit to the nearby lake. I had bought a long lens Acratech head and levelling plate in place of the gimbal to see how it would perform. I knew that I would have to be careful to always lock its movement, when letting go of my hold, but I am trying to keep the weight of my kit down, and this was the latest trial I was making.
I certainly found that it was smooth in operation, and it was easy enough to lock it before removing my grip on the camera and lens, and loosen it when back to using it again, but clouds rolling in to cover the sun would immediately ground all my flying subjects, so I did spend quite a lot of time locking and unlocking! My subjects needed the sun for energy so this was inevitable, but it did mean I was gaining the experience of locking and unlocking!

Because I was once again using the Sigma 60-600mm with the 1.4 Converter, I was also stopping down further to keep a good depth of field, which did mean that I, like my subjects needed the sunshine. On this occasion, I also got some shots of a few Water Boatmen as they nipped around on the surface. Altogether, it was a useful exercise for me, with a few shots of interest, and useful experience.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Marston Lake Visit — Lily Pad Insect Life

Flying insects such as Damselflies and Dragonflies have the power to intrigue, when you stop to watch their behaviour, the warmth of the sun gives them the power to stay on the wing for some time, and when that empowering sun is removed by the coverage of clouds, it is a signal for Flight Control to say: “Land as soon as possible, and head for cover!” For those insects still flying or landing the sad thing is that even though they might be interesting or rare, that sunlight they shun makes it harder to capture them photographically, and yesterday intermittent cloud cover was abundant, as were the denizens of the lily pads that were the backdrop when the light was good, but invariably the floating pads lost their attraction both to the flying insects and myself!
I persevered, hoping that I might capture either species in flight, and whereas the the damselflies would hover long enough for me to obtain focus, not so the dragonflies! They had far more energy, and were able to sap mine attempting to keep them in frame, or frame them in the first instance. I was hoping there might be some degree of repetitive behaviour, but their only repetitive behaviour was to fly erratically, and at high speed!
It did not stop me from trying, and ‘trying’ was definitely a good description of how I described the frustration! I spotted a behaviour that I found slightly disturbing; one pair of coupled damselflies either accidentally or deliberately seemed to drown his female partner whilst they were on a closed lily bud — their combined weight slowly pushed her beneath the surface, but he made no attempt to select a new spot above the water. I did not see the end result, but he seemed to make no attempt to rise higher for at least three minutes that I observed.

I have no doubt that as more buds open, I will pay another visit to this spot, and hope that I might capture shots of dragonflies on the wing. Ironically, the very first outing with my 300mm prime lens, I was close by an island of reeds, and could wait, as it flew circuits around it, for it to come back into view, and click. But here, there was no such opportunity, so all my dragonfly images are static (within reason — as there was quite a breeze, meaning the reeds were often swaying — the one they were on, or others where the reeds between them and myself would obscure them).

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Canal and Reservoir, by Tring – All Life Abounds

      I have visited these lakes over several years, and in all weathers, and they never disappoint — the most recent is no different, though the start point and the route were different. The start was at the Wendover Arm, which beyond its present end, is being restored, and the reason, I investigated this short stretch was on the off chance I might encounter kingfishers, but I was destined to be disappointed, none of those I encountered and questioned had seen any along this short stretch. 
I returned to my startpoint, and took the opposing direction, which I knew would bring me to where the canal would link with the familiar stretch that skirted the narrow neck of Marsworth Reservoir. Before that point however, I paused a while to watch a young bird head across the canal to forage food along a narrow ridge on the Heygates Mill side, and whilst that crossing was made I spotted a Grey Wagtail flit from the cover of the trees onto the towpath, and eventually I was rewarded by a few shots, before it decided I had reached the extent of my quota, but at least I was just quick enough to capture it in flight!
Along this stretch of the canal, I was again lucky enough to get a few shots of the rather fine Banded Demoiselle damselfly; I had found a spot where the patches of floating weeds, close by the Bank seemed to hold their interest, but only so far, I only spotted one occasion when one actually landed on these islands, they seemed to prefer the reeds, which made my ability to get clear shots almost impossible! Their iridescent colour is captivating.
The. Swans and Canada Geese had young families to protect, and one Swan became determined to make one Canada Goose realise, that it was not welcomed so close to its own youngster! The highlight of my day was when I was watching one of my personal favourite aquatic birds the Great Crested Grebe, this one proved to be a highly efficient angler of the underwater denizens of the lake, freshwater crawfish and smaller fishes — he made three successful dives during the time I was watching, and he obliged to coming reasonably close once he had had his fill, and began his grooming; by that time, the surface of the water was remarkably still, making the shot number 102 in the final gallery totally serene, and no doubt one day will become a greetings card image for a family member or  friend, as it is so surreal and serene.
I never tire of Grebe or Kingfisher images, but there are some others that to me are special, the Teal, and the Mandarin Duck, and now the Sigma Sports 60-600mm, especially with the 1.4x Converter bring these birds so much closer.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Message to Whoever Tried to View a Brighton Trip in 2008 – An Apology…

          The Link to that Gallery of Images was broken. I have now rectified it, and by way of explanation, it was a trip I made with Nick Zoller, a Designer with whom I worked closely for several years –from my earliest days in Photography, working with him on Annual Reports Retouching and Creating Complex Images for top Industry clients, such as British Aerospace which became BAE Systems, Lloyds Bank, Barclays International, Avesco, Eurobell, Youngs Breweries, Cadburys…

          Sadly, I have to report that the pressure of that work took its toll, and I lost a friend and client, as his work with BAE, his major client was looking as if it might be ending, and it proved to be a worry that took him from us, way too early.

          So, if this message does reach you who were looking for something related to Nick, I have to say it was a wonderful afternoon with him, chatting and taking photos with no pressure, my other memory of that day was how the vicious wind took my car door from my grasp as I opened it and I thought it was going to damage it! The photos remind me of that day, and so whoever it was that read that piece from 2008, I hope you return and here is the missing link as well as in the normal one embedded in the Blog entry's Title.

Breezy at Marston Moretaine, Less so at Brogborough

Upon arrival at the Car Park at Brogborough Lake, it had become obvious there was far less wind here than where I had just left, so I did not immediately go to the boot and pull out the tripod or camera to set up for shooting, I simply walked to where several of those who would be out on the lake were chatting. There was no sense of urgency to be out on the water, since the prerequisite for windsurfers lies in the name! I did learn that here a while there had been a reasonable blow, but it had dropped, hence the relaxed atmosphere.
I did spot that Richard McKeating was now with a hydrofoil on his board, which prompted me to forego the chatting and get back to the car and set the Benbo tripod up, and mount the EOS R with the 60-600mm Sigma Sports and 1.4x Converter attached.
By the time I reached the shoreline, he was out on the lake. However the wind had not the enthusiasm needed for lift-off, but if anyone could make the most of what wind was on offer, I was going to be ready to capture that separation of air between surfboard and water! What I did notice was that Sam Barnes was no longer the sole sailor with a hydrofoil, and so though I never captured  three foilers airborne in the same frame, I did find them in the same shot; all on the surface!
By the end of the time I was lakeside, I had captured two out of three aloft, which considering the conditions was a good proportion, and with the possibility  of wind forecast later in the Bank Holiday weekend, I may well be making a further visit later…
To show just how versatile this Sigma lens is, not only was I able to capture action close to the Bank as well as close to a distant shore, but I turned the camera towards the reeds, and was able to get a shot of a mating pair of damselflies by swivelling through 90 degrees, (and a tight crop admittedly!) It does however point to the incredible versatility of this lens, and on this occasion because there was good light, the Sigma 1.4x Converter was in place throughout; a real tribute to the designers at Sigma, and also Canon for their full-frame mirrorless body.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Brief Marston Lake – Spring Flowers

The newly- AA-assisted boost to my flattened Car Battery, was very welcome, but due to the delay, I was unable to make the longer distance travel to pastures new. I chose to make the most of the time whilst my running engine was recharging to at least be somewhere close with possibilities of capturing either some of the wildlife, or at least the fresh young growth in the woods enclosing Marston Lake.
It meant that I could leave the car at tickover in the knowledge it was safe, whilst I was able to capture some of the burgeoning new growth that surrounds the lake, and I was lucky to spot some water lilies on the far side, with the bonus of a damselfly or two alight on the  brand leaves, as if they were ‘helipads, insects for the use of’ – in RAF-parlance!
Since speed was of the essence, I decided to forego a tripod, in favour of the monopod, and this was prompted in part by two appearances of a rabbit breaking cover, but my presence, made it decide not to risk further exposure, so my patience on this occasion was not rewarded. So I returned to taking shots of some of the local blossom and the insects that were assisting their pollination, somewhat warily in the presence of wasps!
By the lily pads I had hoped to capture the damselflies in flight, but they seemed happy and secure just afloat on the leaves basking in the warm sunshine, barely disturbed by the rippling water swirling their islands.
I hoped that finally my battery would have sufficient charge to call a halt to the wasting of valuable fuel, and turned off the engine  allowing me to lock the car and wander around in the hope of finding other subjects, but was out of luck if I was hoping for activity such as Grebe on the lake, or woodpeckers in the surrounding trees.
Since it was the end of the week, the anglers were arriving presumably to spend the night under canvas for an early start on Saturday, and so I headed back, hoping the car would start; it did, and so I left the lake to its natural owners, and their hopes.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Breezy at Marston Moretaine, Less so at Brogborough

Upon arrival at the Car Park at Brogborough Lake, it had become obvious there was far less wind here than where I had just left, so I did not immediately go to the boot and pull out the tripod or camera to set up for shooting, I simply walked to where several of those who would be out on the lake were chatting. There was no sense of urgency to be out on the water, since the prerequisite for windsurfers lies in the name! I did learn that here a while there had been a reasonable blow, but it had dropped, hence the relaxed atmosphere.
I did spot that Richard McKeating was now with a hydrofoil on his board, which prompted me to forego the chatting and get back to the car and set the Benbo tripod up, and mount the EOS R with the 60-600mm Sigma Sports and 1.4x Converter attached.
By the time I reached the shoreline, he was out on the lake. However the wind had not the enthusiasm needed for lift-off, but if anyone could make the most of what wind was on offer, I was going to be ready to capture that separation of air between surfboard and water! What I did notice was that Sam Barnes was no longer the sole sailor with a hydrofoil, and so though I never captured  three foilers airborne in the same frame, I did find them in the same shot; all on the surface!
By the end of the time I was lakeside, I had captured two out of three aloft, which considering the conditions was a good proportion, and with the possibility  of wind forecast later in the Bank Holiday weekend, I may well be making a further visit later…
To show just how versatile this Sigma lens is, not only was I able to capture action close to the Bank as well as close to a distant shore, but I turned the camera towards the reeds, and was able to get a shot of a mating pair of damselflies by swivelling through 90 degrees, (and a tight crop admittedly!) It does however point to the incredible versatility of this lens, and on this occasion because there was good light, the Sigma 1.4x Converter was in place throughout; a real tribute to the designers at Sigma, and also Canon for their full-frame mirrorless body.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

In Search of Rivers and Lakes

 
Using the SatNav map, I search out locations with reasonable access to spots where carrying a heavy tripod and long lens is manageable from where I am able to park. On this occasion, I investigate the path leading to a bridge over the River Great Ouse in the village of the beautifully named Newton Blossomville. The first walk is exploratory carrying the EOS R camera with just the 24-70mm lens, and I am reminded of the words “fortune favours the brave”, because I made that decision on the possibility of carrying the many times heavier tripod and long lens in vain. I mention this because there were many more brighter periods in that initial trip than the subsequent one with the heavier kit! The sun brought out simply countless demoiselle damselflies on that exploratory trip!
I returned to the same spot a short while later and the sun was behind the largest cloud in the sky with a long wait for the wind to blow it it by, but I did manage at least a couple of shots. Their colouration is very striking in comparison to the far more common light blue damselfly.
The river divides into several individual channels, and later I learned from two local gentlemen that the ruins I had spotted had been a water mill in the early part of the last century, the bridge I was later to cross, effectively bridges the island that lay in the path of the river at this point. I did see a bed of reeds on the far bank that looked as if it had been a Swan’s nest, but there none in attendance during the entire time I was there, and two women I spoke to seemed to confirm my observation. Another small islet had been taken by a Mallard pair who were using it as a preening station.
I heard many different birds calling, but most seemed to be tree bound, and many were well-hidden, occasionally spotted only when moving briefly to a new spot before disappearing from view once more. In the field beyond the blue painted bridge, the numerous sheep were gently grazing, and as I moved close to the river bank, I moved slowly to avoid spooking them, but the views of the bridge from this side were almost non-existent due to the dense tree cover right up to the water’s edge.
I will likely visit again on a sunny day with my much lighter long lens to see whether I can capture further shots of the elusive, and beautiful demoiselle damselfly, now I know they favour warm sunshine, and hide when the sun is shaded. The time was well spent, but sadly no sightings of Kingfishers which was largely the reason for that afternoon’s trip.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

An Interesting Visit to Tring Reservoirs

 
On my arrival at the Car Park at Tringford Reservoir,  I noted several cars already there, so rather than immediately set up the camera and tripod, I decided to check out who was at the lakeside. It was good to have a chat and one outcome was that I was treated to a privileged trip through the woods to visit one swan on her nest. Before that, I recorded the gathering of the circular bales from the now otherwise bare field, by tractor with twin spikes. These early shots were handheld on my EOS 5D MkII using the 24-70mm lens.
I then set up the Benbo tripod and Gimbal head and mounting the Sigma 60-600mm with the 1.4x Converter on the EOS R, and headed over the road to the Marsworth Lake, where I met up with a new young family of Greylag Geese. The new Season’s youngsters were in evidence for Swans, Geese and Ducks, which is always a welcome sight, and in the sky above the Lakes were black headed Gulls, Tern and Pigeons, and on the banks were luckless anglers, one of whom had put out bread and bait to attract fish, which only attracted the gulls which demolished every last scrap as if their lives depended upon it!
Much to my regret, I saw no sign of Kingfishers and precious few Grebe, though I spotted two Herons, they were at a distance, and as if to rub sand in the wound, upon my return to my car a lone heron was in the middle of the very field the car was in, but too distant even for my lens, but I did attempt to lessen the distance but in vain, for I had barely reduced the distance between us by five feet, it took off into the distance!

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Bell House Nature-themed Exhibition by Five Artists

               Just over a year ago, I was invited by Photographer, Benjamin Rice to the one man Exhibition of his work at Bell House, a beautiful period property in Dulwich, not too far from the eponymous College. This year Ben is joined by four other artists; David Caldwell, Alan Marsh, and Michael Tedaldi, who all have drawn their inspiration from Nature to form the theme for this display of their work. I was invited to the Preview, by Ben, giving me privileged access to capture the informal gathering of the invited guests against the backdrop of the Artists’ work.
Despite giving myself more than twice the expected journey time to travel down from Bedford, I arrived more than a quarter of an hour late, and I desperately needed to pay a call of Nature myself, as I was in considerable pain, and had no time to grab my camera. I leapt from the car and hobbled to Bell House to gain some relief. I returned to the car and was fortunate enough to be allowed to park within the House’s grounds, where I wasted no time in getting the camera into shooting mode to make up for lost time, as guests were soon filling the space with conversation, greetings and spontaneous eagerness to feast their eyes on the fruits of the labours of those exhibiting.
I tried to capture the groups of friends enjoying their interest in the subject matter and also the gesticulations that accompanied much of the discussions taking place. You could certainly describe the atmosphere as humming. Although I was very much an outsider, in that I was known only to a handful of those present, I found myself involved willingly, and was able to mingle with ease, and made to feel at ease, which made it comparatively easy to capture the true atmosphere of the event, and I hope that comes across in the subsequent imagines within the gallery, when it appears on the blog. I hope that over the weekend those of the Public visiting enjoy the same welcoming warmth I found at the preview. I also hope the British weather does not dampen things.
 I can only apologise for not getting the gallery up before the exhibition closed, but at least it is up as a record of the happenings at the Preview.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Another Marston Lake Visit – Dragonflies

Initially, I set off to consider another lake to find birdlife, but having got it surrounded, It became obvious the one I had been considering was a non-starter, as there was neither a handy car park nearby, nor did it seem to be publicly accessible. So, after twice parking up and taking short investigative walks to try to find ways to reach the lake, I turned back and headed for the nearer lake at Marston. On arrival, l keyed myself in, and sought out the Water Bailliff, so that I could show him the images I had of the Woodpecker that we had heard first from the farther shore of the lake.
I stopped off at the swim where I spotted his car, and hearing him on his phone, took the time to dig out the Woodpecker prints from the previous visit to let him take a look. When the call ended,  I showed him both the Grebe couple on the nest in the reeds and a couple of the Woodpecker, before moving further round the lake to see what I might come upon, though thus far the lake was both calm and with no sign of any aquatic birds, despite an abundance of birdsong from the surrounding trees.
I headed further around the lake, and initially, since the water was bereft of any birds, I simply put my long lens and EOS R on a monopod to take a look at far margins. I did find a lone coot, but almost as I was about to consider packing up and leaving I spotted a Grebe, so decided it might be worth putting up the Benbo tripod and the EOS R with the Sigma Sports 60-600mm and 1.4x Converter.
On my return to the bank, I spotted a lone dragonfly, so despite the challenges of a lone and elusive subject, I did at least have the prospect of capturing some of the life on this small area of water. In my favour also was the light which gave me a better chance of  getting the shot with the extra depth of field and a higher shutter speed. I thought for a moment the dragonfly might be doing a circuit around the reeds, but it only happened the once. Why that was something that I relished was that if that were to happen regularly enough, I might capture an image in flight, because there would be a chance to prefocus at a spot along its path, and pick it up and pan it. That was how I had succeeded much earlier, on the very first day I used my 300mm after its purchase, but the dragonfly did not oblige on this occasion!
I had several long gaps in shooting this day, so also went and got my DSLR and the 85mm f/1.8 lens to capture other shots, such as an unusual red-winged butterfly, or maybe daytime moth, some of the springtime blossom abundance, and also the mirrorless EOS R with the 60-600mm and 1.4x Converter atop the Benbo tripod and Sirui Gimbal head.
This gallery shows the main kit I was using, a daytime moth and a small butterfly that visited me from the tunnel of trees that led down to the Swim I was at.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Southill Visit – Millennium Wood

 
Having had the good luck to capture some shots of a woodpecker, albeit at quite a distance, it reminded me that the other location where I had caught sight of one was in a small wood in Southill which though at a greater distance from me, had one distinct advantage as where I had come across it was in a clearing within a clearing atop a mound at the Millennium Wood, so that was where I was headed, and also of note was a small secluded lake nearby. However, that turned out to be a non-starter as it was within private grounds, and clearly defined as such with signs displayed at its high hedge boundary.
Due to my somewhat laggy SatNav on the phone, I also managed to add several miles to the outward journey by passing the junction on the A421, and having to travel to the next one and retrace my path to the earlier junction!
As my visit was at a weekend, I was in luck with parking meaning there was no distance to walk from the car, and anyway I was travelling light with just one camera, the EOS R, and the 24-70mm lens with its macro facility which came into use on a couple of occasions. The Wood is in the midst of adding more trees, and the established ones still had the first leaves of the season so were looking very fresh. It was however very noticeable that there were a preponderance of very insistent flies, something I associate more with hotter climes, and in the time I was there, became very annoying, and considering the small lake was not too distant with a far more suited habitat, I cannot account for why they should be so abundant.
The light was good throughout, and I only encountered three other souls during the time I was there, and the sounds of birdsong was almost constant with one particularly loud and insistent bird giving it its all, though I never caught sight of it! Needless to say on this visit I never heard nor saw a woodpecker, but was treated to the lament: “My toe Hurts Betty” from wood pigeon or pigeons almost as continuously as the unnamed bird I first encountered upon entry. Considering it was a warm Sunday afternoon I was very surprised to find so few visitors to this haven of Peace and freshness, so alive to the sounds of birdsong.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Marston Lake Surprise – Greater Spotted Woodpecker!

Despite the forecast suggesting showers, the clouds were generally high, and though billowing, seemed to be slow moving which gave me the impression that rain was far from imminent, and the rain from the previous night was being burned off in the sunlight.
I decided that I would drive to the nearest lake just beyond Millbrook Station to see whether I might see the Grebe I had last seen searching all around the lake calling seemingly plaintively, for his lost mate. However, not only were there were no Grebe, I saw no birds of any sort on the water at all. I drove clockwise from Swim to Swim to view the reed beds from all angles, and stopped to chat to some of the anglers in the hope they could  suggest where they might be, and learned that an Otter had been reportedly been seen which may have spooked the birds. One angler I met also shared my interest in photography and I learned from him that he almost always had his camera to hand, and been very lucky over the years with what he had captured.
I met up with Water Bailliff, Mark as we both headed around to the far side of the lake, and halfway around caught sight of a Mallard couple in the distance, and finally arrived at the last Swim and Mark and  
We both the heard the characteristic tapping of a woodpecker which appeared to be coming from a stand of bare trees not too far from the last swim on the short leg anti-clockwise from where the entrance road branched to right and left. It was certainly a long shot to consider that I might spot him, especially as the trees were still a good distance from the farthest one could go in that direction. The only plus point was when we were on that far side the woodpecker’s tapping seemed to be coming from the end trees closest to that last swim.
I should not have been so pessimistic, because, after arriving by the swim, the tapping resumed, and eventually the woodpecker came into view and with not too much intervening cover! I had by that time had the camera and tripod all setup, like a good Boy Scout, and felt rewarded beyond my wildest dreams, this was the first time I had been lucky enough to be getting shots of a woodpecker! I moved my tripod onto the small jetty to get the best uninterrupted viewpoint and got a reasonable number of differing shots whilst it preened itself interspersed with a brief bit of leisurely tapping every minute or two. It finally moved out of sight around the tree, and so my privileged viewing came to a close. I was thrilled.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Spare Moments at Stockwood Gardens, before Eye Test Appointment

I had around an hour free before my appointment at the Opticians in Luton, so decided to utilise the time in The Stockwood Discovery Centre Gardens trying to really get to fully understand how to get the best out of the mirrorless full-frame EOS R camera; I am determined that I reach the stage where every setting that I need to make is second nature, as currently I am a long way off that state; I spend an inordinate time menu-diving.
The ability to easily and speedily place the focus point into position, and subsequently re-position equally effectively is essential. My conclusion favours using the compass quadrant tilt switch, which though slower than using the touch screen with a spare finger, is precise, whereas the moving finger over the screen, often involves collecting it from the outer regions of the screen, before being able to place it in position, meanwhile the shot is lost!
Feeling completely confident in altering settings on the fly is very much a Work in Progress, and is not made any easier by the lack of space in my ageing brain! However, this is a journey I am determined to navigate, because the improved quality the camera provides, is worth the effort. The single page gallery here gives an indication of the quality that is possible from its clean 30MB files. Most images were captured at ISO 500, at 1/200th sec. at f/7.1 - f/8 and the variations to arrive at the image quality displayed, was around a half an f-stop with the prevailing flat lighting.
From my ongoing observations the extra pixel count versus the EOS 5D MkIII, means I am getting more than either a whole extra stop of light or higher shutter speed benefit. How I take this benefit is dependent upon what I am shooting; often when taking wildlife I need speed, with landscapes it is depth of field, so I can gain more foreground, for sports, dropping the ISO speed gives me greater detail, so images can be larger. I can also afford to take the safe shots first then explore the boundaries with riskier slower speeds say for Sports for added drama, but to do this I still have to reach the stage where everything becomes instinct+give, and I am not yet there!

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Marston Lake – Grebe on Tamron 150-600mm–EOS R +1.5x

This week was not going to give me many chances for an early start to visit a lake, so Tuesday was one that allowed me that opportunity and it was fortunately not overly cold. There were two purposes for this visit, the obvious one was do my best to get some more shots of the resident Grebes, the second was get a further idea of how effective the lighter Tamron lens was, now it could be married effectively with the Canon EOS R mirrorless body. I knew it worked very effectively with the Sigma 60-600mm, and I knew there were times when a lighter lens was essential purely due to the distance I might have to travel with a long lens, and the Tamron had proved to be a good sharp lens before I had bought the early equivalent Sigma, what I was less sure was how it might perform overall with the EOS R.
This trip put my mind at rest on at least that score, but  I still have to master how to deal effectively with placing of the cursor on the screen speedily and consistently. Several times I have lost the focus square to the top edge of the screen when I need to place it more strategically to follow my subject, especially off-centre.
I am improving my success with panning, and living with the slightly stuttering movement as I follow a bird especially if in flight as opposed to on the water, The incentive to polish this aspect is because with the larger pixel count of the EOS R compared to my EOS 5D, if I get the shot it is definitely cleaner, lacking noise in comparison under similar circumstances when light is borderline.
I stayed only long enough to give me sufficient time thereafter in processing the images I managed to capture. I was unable to see a successful fishing foray with the Grebe, but did get a shot of a black-headed gull with a small fish it had just caught, and a lone Grebe, searching and calling for its mate, as it swam to every corner of the lake.


Sunday, 28 April 2019

Brogborough Lake & Gusty, High Wind

Tamron have just updated their 150-600mm lens that I still own - so on this day I decided I would check it out by shooting with it on my EOS R now that I have it back with me and, I am very impressed!
A bit of back history — I have had this long focal length zoom for some time, and kept it, even after buying the later equivalent from Sigma, because of the weight difference; it is far lighter than the Sigma, and when later still, Sigma brought out the even longer range 60-600mm lens, I still hung onto it when deciding how to finance the Sigma purchase. After doing some testing with a sample kindly lent me by Sigma, it so impressed me, I sold their earlier version for the two reasons that it was largely duplicating the former Sigma and, two heavy similar lenses made no sense. The far lighter Tamron was no slouch in the quality stakes, and the clincher was selling the Sigma gave me the funds to buy its big brother! If the Tamron could benefit from the use of the EOS R and function fully when coupled with a 1.4x Converter, I would have a very handy, far lighter lens when having to carry it any distance.
Having had a dry run at home, the combo seemed just fine, but I needed a proper trial and Brogborough provided just what I needed, and I have not been disappointed, so I shall be passing on my further thanks to Tamron on Monday.
I arrived at the lake with a few sailors already on the lake and after a brief check on who was out there, I assembled the EOS R, the simple conversion ring for my earlier Canon lenses, but added the 1.4 Converter and the Tamron 150-600mm lens, and mounted the combo onto my weighty Benbo, and headed for the jetty, but after only a handful of shots, I decided that in the wind and on there, it was way too risky! Terra firma beckoned! I have already had one accident too many with my camera this year, and should disaster befall me whilst on grass, then the kit will survive.
I was hoping that on this visit despite the wind direction being less than ideal for jumps, some of the fearless amongst the sailors would at least give me a chance encounter. I was not to be disappointed except I missed one completely due to my focus point jumping to the side of the screen thereby meaning I missed the whole action, and what I viewed looked like the best and clear jump of the day. I am glad there were no ladies present, because. I admit I swore loudly! I have since washed my mouth out.
I stayed less long than normal as I knew it was going to be a lengthy time at the Mac’s screen, and I had other chores clamouring for my attention, so I may well have missed some of the later action for which I apologise for not being able to record any of those masterful manoeuvres that were performed in my absence. Another day, perhaps.
For anyone contemplating the use of  the Tamron 150-600mm in combo with or without a 1.4x Converter on an EOS R, or possibly the lesser RF, I can say it worked fine for me.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

DigiCluster Gathering at University of Hertfordshire

I set off from Marston Moretaine for Harpenden In what I had hoped was plenty of time to meet up with Product Designer, Peter Carr to head for another Networking event further South in Watford. I met  more traffic than anticipated, but still with adequate time to relax before the joint run to the venue. 
We should have anticipated that perhaps the traffic I had met was indicative of further delays, as there were similar volumes on this leg too, and we initially chose the wrong Car Park, and neither of us had enough loose change for the one we entered, so added more delay! This meant at least from my angle, there was no time to lose in getting my camera out and covering the assembled delegates already gathered and already buzzing. I did however at least grab a quick drink and put it in an accessible place before spotting the most animated groups to shoot and some of the organisers, such as Syd Nadeem, putting the screens and presentation material together. There were many faces I knew, but also a good number that were fresh, and I did get a few brief words with a few whilst catching up with as many informal shots to get my eye in.
The  light level was good, but the crowd in amongst the heavy furniture meant moving around an amount of carefully negotiated strides over three-legged blue-fabricced seating to choose different groups in animated conversation. In the short time I had before the start of the formal introduction to the presentations, I wanted to ensure I had captured as many of the delegates in the small groups of conversations as possible, before I became static as far as my viewpoint was concerned. Having located a spot from where I had a good view of the group of Speakers, I asked if my seat could be kept before taking a few more shots of the group as a whole. This ensured I had a shot of the audience for the evening, and fortuitously this came as the final shot on Page 2, with the start of proceedings on the following page of images — Phew!
Enjoy. I certainly did, and thoroughly appreciated Mark McDermott’s interesting relaxed telling of his journey. I hope that the images I captured convey the spirit of the evening for those attending.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Marston Lake — Slow Start…

When I first arrived, there was not a sign of bird life on the water, but there were several anglers and their tents dotted around the shores, and I even considered changing venue, however, I am eternally grateful I did not make that decision. When I arrived there was an overcast sky and a gentle breeze, but l walked to the end of the right fork, and found a trio of friends who having set their rods were standing chatting.
I introduced myself as a photographer and asked what I might find in the way of aquatic birds I might find, and to my pleasant surprise they volunteered that kingfishers had been spotted here, beyond where we were, and on the far side. In the ensuing conversation, it became obvious that a very early start was recommended, which was welcome news, since a fruitless early start did not appeal.
So far, I had not even taken a camera out, but on my way back to the car, I spotted some beautiful young leaves, so since I had still not seen anything more than some lone Coots in the distance, so I decided to at least capture some fresh young leaves before leaving. The sun even came out for a spell, but its arrival was almost immediately followed by rain! On my return after grabbing a few shots I got into conversation with an angler whom I later found to be named Sean, who previously had been facing the lake. It was during this chat with him, that we spotted a Grebe fishing some distance out, though I did grab some shots, then decided to head back and change cameras, from the 5D MkII with 24-70mm lens to the EOS R And the Sigma 60-600mm and mounted it on the sturdy Benbo. Sean had some binoculars and very generously began acting as my spotter! He also told me about a   spot which still had the sun behind me which was in the direction taken by the Grebe.
This was to prove the making of this trip, so if you at least take a look beyond the leaf images you will be rewarded with some worthwhile shots of a pair of these Great Crested Grebe which with my added 1.4x Converter are far more detailed. It was very lucky that I found a spot where only my head and camera was in view above reeds, so I did not intrude upon the pair I was shooting. Once I had these shots I headed back to say thanks to Sean and show him some of what I had captured. Then came back to process the pictures and put up the gallery.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Another Visit to Weston Turville Lake

  
I took a swift look at the nearest lake just down the road, but without a camera, and I walked all the way to the water’s edge; there was not a single bird on the lake and only two anglers on the far side, and sadly no sign of the water bailiff whom I had hoped to contact.
I returned to the car, after I had spoken to the Water Bailliff for Tringford Reservoir who told me that it was already packed out down there, so I decided to drive down again to the lake at Weston Turville. I had no idea whether it would be equally packed at this lake, but felt it was worth a try, and if it was then I could take a look at how easy it would be to park close to the nearby canal, as I had learned that there were kingfishers along that stretch.
It was a pleasant surprise to find that the long lay-by was far from crowded, yet once I had got through the entrance and climbed the Bank steps to the top, I found numerous groups either walking or gathered at some of the jetties. Out on the lake the main species of bird were Mallard and Coots, and in the distance Swans; at first I saw nothing of the Grebes, but then I spotted a flash of white in the distance, and took a look through the camera, and it was one, but way too distant. I spotted its mate after a bit, and they spent a lot of time diving, and then I had to scan far and wide whilst counting to 35 to 45 seconds — I have never been able to predict where they would reappear! Occasionally they would come closer, sometimes    further out.
On this lake visit there were also a couple of dinghies out on the water, only one glider was soaring above in the warm sunshine. Occasionally I would get into conversation with some of the other visitors, with my enquiring into where I might catch sight of kingfishers either here or on the nearby canal. Today’s different subject was a brief encounter with a radio controlled speedboat. And later I even met up with the parents of the boy whose speedboat it was!
I had earlier thought that the far shore was only accessible to anglers, but. Learned there was a higher level path that led behind the reed beds, and the last images were taken from a hide. I cannot claim this gallery of shots were exciting, but I was using the 1.4x Converter and some of the Grebe shots would haven impossible without it.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

A New Lake to Visit — Weston Turville

On the last visit to my nearest lake, Marston Lake, I met a man who mentioned two others that may well be worth a visit, one at Clayton, and the one I chose to visit first, which was at Weston Turville, which looked very promising as parking close by seemed to be achievable. So on a very warm and sunny Good Friday, I set off in hope. My SatNav however, possibly due to an overload of families heading off for the Bank Holiday weekend, was definitely not being at its most helpful, and the lags meant that on several occasions, it was so slow in informing me of direction changes, I missed several vital turnings, resulting in various diversions to get back on course. It was not however a bad omen.
Initially, so that I had a good idea of the location, I took only one camera, the 7D MkII with the 24-70mm lens so that I could cover the ground speedily to get some idea of the layout, and I travelled a good distance to reach the farthest reach of the lake and to the canal beyond, which was the Wendover arm of the Grand Union Canal, at Halton.
This walk provided me with further signs of the new season, with its fresh young leaves emerging all around, after I had made various detours to reach the lakeside and get an indication of numerous possible vantage points, that might prove useful, I headed back to the car to get a tripod, the Benbo, and the longer lens, the Sigma 60-600mm Sports lens on the EOS R body. With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, I should also have picked up the 1.4x Converter. Initially, I tried setting two the tripod’s legs in the water, hoping to remain really low, but there was no satisfactory way I could get a convenient height, so erected it on the Bank instead. For quite a while after having spotted a lone Grebe in the distance, he never came particularly close, which was a shame; had I taken along the Converter, it would have been a considerable advantage — next time!
It was good to wind down as for various reasons, the last couple of weeks have been stressful, so much of the time was spent observing and hoping, and my patience was rewarded by the Grebe coming very slightly closer, but the ‘pièce de resistence’ was the Swan making a noisy flapping from the far end of the lake and heading straight towards me! It alerted me, and I managed to twist around and fire off a few shots before he came in to land. I was so pleased, that it rounded off the afternoon, and I immediately packed everything up, and headed very happily back to the car. Once all the kit was safely packed, I headed home, very happy, and I hope what I captured makes anyone viewing the gallery equally as pleased with the end result.