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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Thursday, 2 April 2020

A Short Walk With a Camera

  To stay healthy at any time for a man in his mid-seventies, he needs to keep both body and mind fit, and in the straitened times we now find ourselves, the key to being able to survive, if one unfortunately contracts the Covid-19 Virus is ensuring the body's health at the time.
I am fortunate in having open spaces close at hand, so I am making the most of the fine weather by taking long walks, and a camera; the former to exercise the body, the latter to keep the eyes and brain active, by taking a keen interest in all that surrounds me, and when observing others, being aware of keeping a good distance between them and myself for the safety of both parties.
Either one of us may well be hosting the virus, so maintaining this separation is both selfless and selfish, apart from being a strict discipline that has to be observed. From both personal observation and similar anecdotal evidence from others, it would seem that where say a month ago if someone was walking along either the same path as yourself or on the other side of the road, most would avoid any conversation or even glances; of late on each occasion I have been pleasantly surprised at how almost every person of either sex or any age, now will catch one's eye and offer a greeting, many times with a smile, and often a brief conversation. I wonder – am I being overly optimistic that when the peak of this crisis is behind us, we will still retain this behaviour?
On this trip I once again took along the lightweight, but very versatile Lumix FZ10002 zoom, mirrorless bodied camera, and started recording images of flowers, initially in my own garden, then the nearby flower boxes and front gardens belonging to my neighbours. I spotted a small unusual bee that on this occasion was unable to capture as it was was way too speedy! It is unusual in that unlike other bees it has a pronounced pointy nose (note the highly technical description! – Not!)
I had no fixed plan for the subjects I was intending to capture, but fresh blossom was certainly an early feature, as were Tulip heads as yet not fully open, likewise very young and fresh leaves, beginning to unfurl. Later in my walk it was other buds, a cat and a lone Ladybird, that soon disappeared beneath a leaf.
The walk lasted far longer than it will take anyone viewing the gallery, but I am trying hard to master the different behaviour of a mirrorless camera, and I am certainly not yet as effective with this, but I am certainly impressed with the quality it can achieve when I consider its cost and versatility, coupled to its portability.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Isolation Walk in Thrift Wood

To stay healthy, and keep within the Quarantine guidelines, I have tried to take walks in the nearby open spaces, and to keep my brain active, I keep my lightweight camera, the LUMIX fz10002 handy for such occasions. Although it was fitfully sunny, the signs of Spring in the nearby woods at Marston Thrift gave me the opportunity to capture worthwhile images and be active.
I have tried to find locations that are not packed, yet give me photo opportunities, and are reasonably close, and I had not visited this area for some time. Unlike the Forest Centre which was but a walk away, this destination is just too far to reach by walking alone, so it is fortunate it has a small car park, and upon arrival there was only one other car within.
Like my visit a few days back there were very few people to be seen, and all those I came across stayed well above the minimum recommended distance, and almost all were very grateful for me keeping my distance. When visiting the local Co-op everyone would hail others who were out walking, where beyond a month back everyone passed without even recognition, let alone a greeting! I wonder whether after the epidemic this behaviour between strangers persists.
This leads me to ask another question — can dogs be carriers of Corona virus? So far, I have kept clear of the dogs as well as their owners, but perhaps that should become a prerequisite too.
This woodland is certainly coming alive with Primroses and there seem to be an abundance of small clumps throughout the woods and aside many of the paths. I also spotted a few bluebells, so perhaps these may come soon to add their colour to the mix.
The first part of my walk was beneath the canopy of trees, and on both sides of the path I was following were shallow streams flowing deep in their cuttings, but eventually I came out into what I would describe as the heathland area with small groups of comparatively recent young trees. By following some of the wide grassy stretches, I also came across paths that were more gravelly, and caught sight of two lakes, but I did not see any birds on them.
I circled the larger one, and began to return along a grassy avenue in the direction of the Car Park. It was here that I caught sight of a grey Squirrel in one of the trees to my left. Here was a chance to see how my LUMIX fz10002 fared. For most of the time at this spot, the light level was reasonable, so though the camera still found the branches upon which to focus, the depth of field was generally adequate to cover the Squirrel as well. I was also lucky that although I could hear others along parallel paths, none came along mine, so for about three minutes the Squirrel was undisturbed, allowing me to get a few shots of it without being completely obscured by intervening branches.
It soon decided that my shooting period was over and disappeared into a hole further up the main trunk. I stayed a short while longer, but soon moved on, and later spotted a Robin, but it never allowed me to get anywhere near the distance I had been to the Squirrel, so a five pixel image of a Robin was never going to cut it! The cloud cover was now increasing, so the final shots were really examples of growths on trees that caught my eye.
My trip served its purpose in providing fresh air, some sunshine, and some pleasing images of a Squirrel, and no close contact with humans, and would fill some of my time later, putting together an album of images.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

A Marston Moretaine Walk

Yesterday I needed exercise, and the Marston Vale Forest seemed a good place to walk in sunshine and fresh air, away from contact with other humans. I took only my LUMIX fz20001 and walked along the main road to the gated entrance on the opposite side to the row of houses — encountering no one! Once through the gate, I had walked to the first viewing platform of the wetland area before I met a soul, and these were a couple in quiet conversation, who probably did not even register my presence. I climbed the steps to take in the view from this open air hide — all that was to be seen were some rooks and a lone Greylag.
The flowers in the opening and closing galleries were taken in the walk to and from the Forest Centre. The camera that recorded every image in this group was the LUMIX FZ 10002; which now accompanies me when I am not toting my heavy Benbo with one of my Canon bodies and the Sigma 60-600mm Sports lens. The irony is that the LUMIX should be easier to use, but because it has so many different functions, I find it harder to find the limited facilities I require, at speed! This is why I try to take this camera out as often as possible, so I can feel as confident as using my Canon gear. The drawback is that due to an aging brain, when I then next take out one of my Canons is that I struggle to remember how to do something that used to be second nature!
Initially the route I took kept close to the outer boundary of the reserve, and by pure luck I found myself taking a picture on the far side of a brick structure I had photographed only a few days back; it still has me puzzled as to its original purpose. I suspect it is a remnant from an erstwhile railway line, but viewing using Google Earth did not expose any further answer.
Today’s photo trip does show that Spring is definitely coming on, spurred by the several days of welcome warm sunshine. The wind has also moderated over the last couple of days. At various points along my circular trip, work upon the Covanta Incinerator can be seen with its tall cranes highly visible in red against the blue sky. Of more personal interest, I spotted my first butterfly of this year, the Peacock. The variety of colours and textures is very much in evidence at this time of year, hence why I enjoyed that afternoon trip; young leaves often exhibit far greater texture in their early stages on growth than their later full size. The variety of textures I found in dead wood, dried, crazed soil and discarded bark, and the curves of the paths are all featured in the gallery of images from this walk with a camera. Coming away from the Park, effectively bookended the gallery with what caught my eye once back on the road back to my house in the front gardens I passed.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Marston Lake Sunny Afternoon

I set off to my nearest Anglers' lake, Marston lake to see what life was on the water in the warmth of the afternoon, and spotted some Tufted Ducks, a juvenile Grebe, and a Gull. All at some distance from the shore.
It was therefore lucky that I had decided to use the 60-600mm Sigma Sports lens with the additional 2x Converter, as on this lake, many of the smaller birds stay a good distance from the shore, unlike the Swans.
When I first arrived I met up with the Angler from whom I had learned about the Willington Lakes, and we chatted before I set up the camera a short distance closer to the entrance to the lake, as with the sun so low, the light was at a better angle. I did fire off a few shots at the more distant birds, but they were of no value so do not appear in this small single-page gallery.
Although it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon in the sunshine, and avoid close contact with others, it was not an exciting group of images, but it was good to see the Grebe stretch its wings, and the swan with its upturned wings as it headed straight for the shore ahead of me, when I realised he seemed likely to be coming ashore, I quickly gathered a handful of Sunflower seeds and threw them for it as a reward, but he seemed disinterested at first though once ashore for a moment did start to pick at the few that I had thrown onto jetty, and later even some of the seeds on the water. I got the impression it was some morsels of bread it would have found more appealing. The last shots I managed before leaving were a couple of Mallard ducks heading for the reeds.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Early Venue Change — a New Lake

Initially, and fairly early in the day I load the car with camera gear and head for Brogborough Lake, only to find it open, but bereft of any windsurfers! I head for Sam to enquire whether he anticipates many sailors, and learn that he knows of no visitors yet, but has opened just in case any turn up. Whilst we chat a van turns up, but as the driver steps out, he recognises me and hails me with a wave. He is not a Windsurfer, but an Angler, and we have met on other lakes.
After a return wave, I close my conversation with Sam and walk over to him; during the subsequent chat, I enquire whether he knows of opportunities to photograph one of my favourite birds, the kingfisher, and that and the non-appearance of windsurfers led to a change of location — I learned of Willington and it’s lakes, and that there was one area that was preserved for Anglers with entry only by key.
That conversation decided my destination for the day, and with brief directions from Marc on how to reach the lakes, I took a look at a map, set my SatNav and headed off. Close to the end of my directions, I spotted a man walking a dog, so pulled over, got out and asked for directions — the somewhat surprising response was: “You have come upon the Bailliff!” He pointed me in the right direction of the gate, and I drove on as he followed on with his dog going to right and left, rather than heading in one straight line.
This visit was to get some idea of the layout, and just what I might find, and I stopped to chat to another angler, who handily told me where he had spotted  kingfishers which was music to my ears.

Before setting off, I captured various information boards, so I could study these in more detail, having got some idea of the overall layout.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Bright Sunny Day — Garden Visit

 
 
The clear blue sky was far too tempting — and I succumbed! I checked over my camera kit, and in addition to the EOS R with the Sigma Sports 60-600mm lens, I decided I would give the LUMIX FZ 20001 an outing. I packed the car having checked my tripod and head were already in the boot, and headed north from Marston Moretaine.
The drive to my planned destination was uneventful, and the blue sky was even clearer than I could have hoped. My arrival had not been announced, so I was pleasantly surprised to see familiar faces after parking my car, and starting to mount my camera and long lens on to my heavy tripod. Once that was completed I entered my friend’s garden and set down the tripod on her patio, and by that time the dogs had presumably barked themselves hoarse, because they now fell silent! By this time I had met other family members and been offered a cup of tea, which was accepted gratefully.
One of the dogs was now happily settled across the open door leading to the kitchen, so using the handheld LUMIX I captured that quiet moment, little did I realise at that point, that the camera on the tripod with its long lens attached was going to spend the rest of my afternoon visit exactly where I placed it upon arrival! I spent the greater part of my time relaxing and chatting, only picking up the camera towards the end of the afternoon as the sun was lowering, and taking a leisurely walk taking pictures of some of the flowers blooming in the beds surrounding the lawn. Unlike a previous visit when the birds were flying in and out of the garden to the trees beyond the drive, it seemed as if my presence with a camera on this occasion was not as welcome as it had been on my earlier visit.
I did take a single picture of one of the avian visitors, but it was not worthy of inclusion to the gallery, and my picture-taking was confined to the family dog and flowers and leaves. The heavy tripod and camera was simply disassembled and repacked into my car without ever coming into service! I had a very relaxing and welcoming visit with more conversation than picture-taking, but the small LUMIX camera once again proved itself very capable and worthy of being with me whenever I venture out in my car.
I am really grateful for the opportunity to take pictures in this garden.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Lemsford Springs Visit

In what now seems ‘Another Life’ I used to regularly visit a Colour Lab in Clerkenwell, that outlived the one for which I had been their Sales Manager, Longacre Colour Labs; that Lab was Metro and their Print Manager at the time was Grant Jenkins. After I left and set up on my own as SOLUTIONS photographic, I began creating 35mm slides initially on a Slide Writer, and then began getting scans done by my erstwhile Retouchers, The Colour Company who had by then also broken away from Longacre.
I started to gain experience of electronic retouching myself, and so I was getting my customers’ transparencies scanned by the Colour Company, I would then often create montages on my Mac, and do any retouching back out at my home in Slip End, and later Caddington, both were in Bedfordshire, and since the files were to be output to transparency, I would deliver the exposed 35mm films to Grant and he would bring them into Metro the following day where they were  processed, and either picked up by myself or someone from Colour Company, or in some instances my clients.
There was a mix of 35mm slides and 10x8 and 11x14 transparencies, but the 35mm slides soon gave way to retouching 5x4, 10x8 and 11x14, and ultimately all the work was being supplied as files. But the friends and business relationships endure to this day.
Yesterday, I visited the home of Grant and his wife Clare and daughter, Elizabeth and it was good to catch up, and in the latter half of the afternoon Grant and I visited nearby Lemsford Springs Nature Reserve, and the gallery of images which I took are linked from the title of this narrative. The keys to this Reserve were obtained from a nearby private house, and arriving at the first hide, we met a charming and friendly couple both of whom were also photographers, and we stayed awhile learning of what they had already seen from this vantage point. The man had a longer zoom on than I was using on this occasion, and he showed me some excellent shots he had got of a pair of Mandarin Ducks. I managed to also get a few shots of the beautiful bird, but mine were way smaller, because on this occasion his lens had a far greater throw.
We also visited another hide, and later found we were unable to complete the entire route due to the height of the water on this occasion due to all the rain we have had of late. It was a warm afternoon despite the wind, which by the river here we were well shielded. It was good to meet up with Grant and his family after a long gap. It was a shame it has been so long, and I hope it is not as long till the next time.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Brogborough New Means of Windsurfing

I phoned Sam to see whether the wind was attracting much visiting windsurfers, and he mentioned that Yes and I might be interested in that there was also a KiteSurfer out on the Lake. That was definitely of interest as the last time I saw something like that was off the coast at Brighton some six or so years back. Fortunately before calling I had already prepared my camera, tripod and lenses, so within ten minutes I was heading towards the Lake.
The sun was out, the wind was reasonably strong, and as I glanced at the lake there was some activity, and as I was putting the tripod up, I caught sight of the kitesurfer, so got the EOS 7D out, added the 2x Converter to my Sigma 60-600mm and got the legs extended on the Benbo tripod and mounted the camera and lens, wrapped a scarf around my neck and locking the car headed for the jetty, but sadly, even though I had not intended being on it, only the support scaffold remained, seemingly recent winds had torn it from supporting structure. Also, in the short time setting up my camera, the KiteSurfer, had come ashore!
I set up from the grassy bank as the wind was throwing spume in the air as the waves hit the shore below me. I was soon shooting away and then caught sight, of our new visitor and his kite sail, and since at least for me this was a new feature for me here, I spent some time trying to capture his efforts in situations that epitomised his sail and stance — I was also able to capture some dramatic moments when the wind scored more beneficially, against him! The sailor was certainly determined as on each occasion that I witnessed he was very soon back up again — spurred on possibly by the temperature of the water!
After a while of my adding to the number of images that I would be having to process, the lake emptied, and I decided that I would curtail that later amount of time in front of a computer screen, and headed off, but not before chatting to a Polish man with a similar length telephoto, to whom after a chat I gave him my card. I also headed toward the Kite surfer who was just beginning to drive off, to whom I showed a few of the shots of him that I had taken and I passed him my card too. I bought a cup of tea from Sam before leaving, to start loading images back at base, and start selecting, cropping and adjusting them and creating a gallery to appear here on the blog.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

LUMIX FZ10002 Visit to Stockwood Discovery Centre

 
 
 
The sun was shining and I felt it was an ideal opportunity to take only the LUMIX camera along with me to see just how it fared — overall, this small lightweight camera performed incredibly; there were some snags, but in all honesty they were down to me. Some images proved difficult to accurately focus where I intended, but this was due to my trying to rely on the autofocus, and could easily be overcome by my resorting to manual focus.
The array of different features offered by this camera is astonishing, and I have barely explored any of the more complex capabilities, because I was intent on mastering the basics. The back and top are awash with various controls, many with sub-features, and these take time to become familiar. On this occasion, I was not trying to explore beyond the basics, I was concerned simply with deciding composition, focus, where in the zoom range I wanted to be, whether I used single shot, or a burst to allow for the breeze, whether I flipped out the screen for a low level viewpoint, or whether I altered the aperture to gain extra or less depth. The difficulty I encountered with relying on the autofocus, was due to the subject having a low contrast, whereas beyond and to a lesser degree in front of the pale yellow/green flower it was surrounded by crisp, dark, fine twigs, whose contrast was far greater.
I purposely took the opportunity to break off from shooting a closeup of a tiny flower to get shots of an overflying aircraft taking off from Luton Airport. I was pleasantly surprised by the result. I did not make the purchase of this camera for the same reasons as my other three, Canon bodies; it was as a camera for those times when I was out and about and the circumstances offered unexpected opportunities and this was the only camera that was to hand.
This trip to Luton was made to purposely limit me to just this camera, and to check how I fared in such a situation and, for me to gain experience of its handling. It passed, and more than met my expectations, so will often now join me in the car for those serendipitous occasions which present me with opportunities where I can capture images with a very reasonable and acceptable quality. There are possible ways in which I can tailor some aspects of the features so they reside nearer the surface as opposed to being buried deeply, but that needs further exploration.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Brogborough Lake Two Brave Sailors

A bright sun and a brisk wind was enough to entice me to find the time to visit the lake, even though my daughter, her husband and their two children were due to pay me a visit. The failure of my boiler meant that there was little to keep me from venturing out, and a bright sun and brisk wind favoured the odds that there would be some hardy souls grabbing the chance to take advantage of the wind to go windsurfing.
For similar reasons, there was a window of opportunity open to me to drive over and get some photographs, before the arrival of my family, and the generous delivery of an additional electric radiator to bolster the efforts of mine. I was however arriving late due to my needing to tidy the house in preparation for the onslaught of two young grandchildren, and the need to ensure my daughter and her husband could not criticise me for a lack of either tidiness or cleanliness! So, by the time I had arrived, the two sailors had been braving the bitter wind for at least two hours, and I was only witnessing the tail end of the sailors’ energy.
So, I feel I was very lucky to capture the number of shots I did in the short time I spent at the lake, and even more so capture a single jump; whether there had been more prior to my arrival, I did not learn. I certainly was far from disappointed in my brief visit; the only frustration was that I had gone back to using the. Sigma 60-600mm with its 1.4x Converter on the 7D MkII, and I failed to get control of the focussing square to alter where my sensor was positioned — whether this was finger-trouble on my part, or not, this was not the time to go searching for the answer, so that was a slight irritation, that comes about from jumping between different camera models, and the debilitating feature of increasing ‘Anno Domini’ or diminishing mental faculties! I now will explore that later (which does seem to be an oxymoron!)
To have captured one jump in the short time I was at the lake has to be considered a bonus, and because the activity was short lived, gave me more time to tidy the house before my family arrived.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

EOS R Trial 70-200mm, Marsworth Lake

My plans for testing the two EOS R lenses, kindly loaned to me by Canon, have been badly compromised by initially, an appointment to remove a molar tooth at a Dental Practice at Houghton Regis. However, I did manage to get some use from the 70—200mm lens at the lakes at Marsworth.
The bird numbers were good, and I was lucky with the light, so I did get a fair idea of what I could expect from this native R-specific lens. I did find that I faced difficulties with using automatic focussing consistently, and often missed shots due to delays bringing my subject into focus, unless the setting was close to the needed point from where it had been set. This came as a surprise, because my earlier 70—200mm on either my 7D MkII or 5D MkIII never, under average lighting conditions, fail to obtain focus when using first-pressure on the release. For greater success, I reverted to using the Manual mode with “arrow-align” feature, because seemingly the manual override ring seemed inoperable as an override, when in Auto.
I felt sure that the issue was down to the User not the lens, ‘RTFM’ was the next option, I have also spoken to a contact at Canon and learned of a way round. I fully understand and appreciate the move to mirrorless, so am determined to forge a route that gives me the results I seek using the new technology, but is kept within my personal means.
The other lens I wish to check out is the 28—70mm, and hopefully, that will be very shortly, as the sun seems to be making a return, but this was of lesser interest, especially as the balance of such a weight when using such a light body as the EOS R, seems difficult to accept for what is such a generally all-rounder zoom range. Is it just me, that considers this focal length range should be for hand-holding, yet despite its undoubted image quality, the weight and balance simply make it a burden.
I am off out to help make up my mind. The gallery of images here at least leaves me no doubt as to the native quality of the images, and I am very grateful for the generous offer to experience these R-version lenses afforded me by Canon UK.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Lone Windsurfer at Brogborough

The wind was just below gale force in gusts, which I was certain would attract windsurfers to gravitate towards Brogborough Lake to take advantage of the dry conditions; the missing factors were sunshine and warmth! I gathered the serious kit as well as the mirrorless LUMIX, and as I approached the entrance I wondered whether the gate was open, and it was, which is always a good sign.
I pulled into the spot I generally used; and looking around, found I was only the third car into the car park. As yet, it looked as if only one person was considering taking to the lake — Geoff, and he seemed to be in no particular hurry to be putting on his wet suit.
The wind was brisk, and I soon realised that I was not as well-prepared as I had assumed. I had presumed that a coat was in the boot should I need extra protection, but when I opened it, I was soon disabused of that! So, my time was going to be spent exactly as I was dressed presently, as it was far too much trouble to go back for extra clothing.
For the first time for quite some time, I lost several images, and I think it was due to my using the same memory card in two different cameras. From now on having formatted a card for my Canon camera, I will avoid using it in a different manufacturer’s unless not only it is re-formatted, but specifically it was reformatted in the specific manufacturer’s camera. There were several shots of Geoff that I took on a card that had the remnants of a previous visit to Brogborough taken on my Canon EOS R, that became unreachable later when, I came to download them.

I will now designate specific cards to my Canon gear, and try to remember to Always reformat a card in camera after download has been completed, rather than just Occasionally. Also designate a Single, Specific card for the LUMIX. I was aware that many users format every time, but having never before faced this issue, possibly because all my gear was Canon till now, this situation had never occurred. So, my apologies to Geoff for so few shots.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Harrold-Odell Avian Observations

In the lull between the wind and rain of recent days, I headed for the lakes at Harold-Odell; at first there was some sunshine, but that became milkier, as the afternoon wore on.
        At this time of year, the capturing of images is determined by the nuances of weather; dull days with wind can often be the source of dramatic monochrome shots that give drama, wind and sun can provide the drama on the nearby lake for its windsurfing community, sun with less wind can attract powerboats on a different equally close lake. The lakes at this location feature a variety of birds, and on this visit, the two species in greatest numbers were Swans and gulls.
One species I had not encountered before was the Goosander, and there was a pair, sadly at too great a distance for really good shots on this occasion as I had made the decision to use the LUMIX 10002 on this visit; it was the male I had spotted as being of interest as  a bird I had not encountered before. It was only in a conversation later in the afternoon that a local Warden to whom I was showing some of the shots informed me that I had in fact got some shots of the female! There is a lot to be learned from conversation with others.
The gallery started by my hoping to capture a sighting of a grey Squirrel in the trees on the left as one enters, but actually what caught my eye were clumps of flowers, the first tentative signs of Spring, no Squirrel on this occasion. I made my way to the fenced off bank by the break in the shoreline trees, where the more fearless of birds come, knowing that parents of young children are to be found offering seeds and bread to bring them close.
Mallard ducks and drakes were the most numerous, followed by swooping gulls squawking loudly in the hope of diving in earlier than other species on the water. A behaviour that surprised and baffled me somewhat was how presumably the parent swans would aggressively drag Cygnets away by the neck, or with heads low on the water, chase their young away.
The light was fading, and by the back of the Restaurant were some raised flower boxes with an array of coloured Spring flowers that caught my eye, so colour topped and tailed the gallery of birds.
My phone alerted me that the time had arrived for me to take my next antibiotic to calm my raging toothache, so I sought out a glass of water with which to take it, which was how I had come into contact with the warden who had told me of the Goosanders.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Windy and Sunny at Brogborough Lake

               Sun and wind was forecast for the Saturday afternoon, and for a change I was arriving fairly early, as I expected that combination would attract some interest amongst the windsurfing fraternity and certainly there seemed to be a fair amount of interest, so I set to immediately opening the boot of my car and erecting the heavy Benbo tripod. The camera I chose was the EOS R and I decided to put the 1.5 Converter on the Sigma 60-600mm Sports lens. This combination would allow me to capture a good overall range from the shore to the anticipated distance, judging from those sailors already on the water.
                The first observation I made was that there were at least two sailors who were out on hydrofoils, so this aspect of windsurfing is gaining traction. As I noted that the jetty at the far end was already under water, I decided that working from the shore would seem to be a sensible idea, since with the wind, had I been on the jetty, my camera gear was very likely to be at risk of suffering from waves breaking over the end that was already awash.
I was pleased that the wind direction did give me some opportunities of the sailors heading straight towards me on occasion. I was soon shooting, but after those whom I had seen preparing their boards were out on the lake, I did not see the overall numbers growing, which did surprise me a little, as although what wind there was, was often in short gusts, there was both sun and a reasonable amount of wind for most of the time.
                It was good to see that the numbers of hydrofoilers was rising, and amongst their number they were gaining experience of staying aloft for longer in the turns. It will be interesting to see whether the numbers will rise still further as the year progresses.
                On this visit, I tended to shoot more, due to the quality of the light, and cull far more shots back here when I was putting the gallery together. Also, I only shot from the same spot as I did not fancy a trek through mud to select a different viewpoint.
                I did not stay all that long as I knew that I would not get through my editing in good time if I stayed too long taking many more shots. I hope they give as much pleasure to those whom I captured as they did me in their taking.

Friday, 7 February 2020

1st 2020 Visit to Harrold-Odell

I needed to practice how to get the most out of a recent acquisition, the Fujix FZ1000 MkII. How I came to purchase the camera in the first place was fortuitous in the extreme. It came about when I recently visited the London Photography Show by SWPP in West London. I was due to meet up with fellow Photographer, Steve Scrase, who joined a photographic studio just as I was leaving, many moons ago, and with whom I have remained in contact ever since. I was coming from out of London, parking up near a Tube Station then using the Underground to reach the venue where later we would meet up after his arrival. We arranged to meet on the Panasonic Stand, from where he was phoning, I met up with him moments later and he related that a colleague of his had bought the Fujix FZ 1000 MkII, and was highly impressed with the quality of the results. I did play with it and asked lots of questions
The clincher was the Show price. The price point was achieved by the use of plastic in its construction and the lack of extensive weather-sealing, it therefore meant there would be limitations to some of its use, but I possess kit that has that level and more of protection, so it does not compete, but with a Leica lens and such versatility it very definitely has a place in my kit! It was one of the fastest decisions I ever made for a camera, and placed my order at the Show and received it a few days later. I left the decision of buying a spare battery and charger till later, when I had had proper opportunities to understand and use it for real.
The outcome of the decisions I made can be seen in particular in the gallery of pictures on my blog, headed: ‘A Church and the River bank’, in which every shot was taken with that camera, and all handheld. Although I can say this camera will not supplant my use of the Sigma Sports 60-600mm lens, I can equally state I will not be using that lens handheld, so this is very much a case of ‘Horses for Courses’.
I took along both mentioned cameras lenses to this Lake and made just one mistake, I generally used the Sigma with the 2x Converter attached, which due to where my chosen subjects were was a wrong decision as I should have only added the 1.5 converter bearing in mind the low level of light on my subjects! However, it was worth my while to always keep both converters with me and their caps, but in this gallery, only the metadata will answer which camera was used.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

A Church and a River bank

Relying on my Memory is increasingly an issue, and so it proved this particular morning. I was aiming to take a look at the state of the water level, at a particular spot on the River Great Ouse, so I duly set a destination at the village that my failing memory suggested was one of the previous destinations set into my SatNav. I was way off as my SatNav confidently said that my destination was now just ahead – in 200 yards! 
Well, I recognised the spot, but certainly not for this reason! I recognised that I had in truth visited this destination on a previous occasion, but it was most definitely not the destination where I wanted to be!
I searched for a suitable spot to pull in so that I could investigate further, and in safety. This took me a further mile before there was anywhere that I would not be a problem for other drivers, and as I had been travelling slowly, I now had a queue behind me, with the lead car sitting right on my rear bumper! It was almost another mile before I could see a spot that I could accelerate ahead far enough to avoid annoying the leader of the queue behind and then park up!
I then had a further look at both my record of journeys and a separate printed map and realised my mistake, and hoped that my new destination choice was correct. It was soon after setting off, I came into Felmersham, and there was the briefest of moments, when the sun broke through the gathering clouds, so I had to choose a suitable gap in the traffic to be able to stand in the road for the best angles, and obviously miss some opportunities when the cars were then in my picture, but my patience was rewarded and on each lucky moment the light was subtly different almost every time as can be seen in the shots I took. I soon returned to the car as by now the cloud cover was almost complete, so got back on the road.

Fortunately, this time my guess of the destination was successful, though the turning to the lane did not seem familiar, but as I drove further down it became familiar. After I had turned the car round to park up facing my journey’s return direction, I tried the door of a lady I had met on a previous visit, but sadly she was not in, so I took out my camera and walked to the water’s edge, and the water level was still very high, so no chance of walking along the bank, but at least there were a couple of interesting views, though in very lacklustre lighting. As I headed back to the car, I spotted the lady with whom I was hoping to meet. She kindly invited me into her house and we spent a relaxing time chatting over a cup of tea, and biscuits. Before leaving I took a few shots of some of the early Spring flowers, and hoped that they would survive the frosts that would soon arrive.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Brogborough Test of Lumix FZ1000 MkII

The weather brightened for a while, and enticed me to consider taking just the Lumix FZ 1000 MkII, the mirrorless body with a fixed zoom equal to 25-400mm, out to the lake at Brogborough. Since there was a reasonable wind blowing I anticipated there would be windsurfers out on the water to take advantage.
  By the time I was ready to leave, much of the promise of sunshine was rapidly dwindling, but the chance to find out how this camera might perform was too great a draw, and my only slight disappointment was just how few sailors had decided to grab the opportunity. Certainly, compared to setting up my Sigma 60-600mm on the heavy Benbo tripod, to ready this camera, was a mere matter of removing the soft cover and switching the power on – a breeze!
  It was not long before I had taken a few shots of the meagre number of windsurfers who were out on the lake, and I broke off to chat to some of those on the lakeside, before seeing just how effective this new ‘toy’ was able to perform; certainly compared to the Sigma, this was way short in terms of the size of image I was accustomed to expect at the long lens end, so I needed to position myself as close to the shore as possible, even at the long end of the range, since the sailors were at a reasonable distance from me. At first this seemed a bit of a disappointment, but once I had ‘chipped and zoomed in on the shots I had managed, I was fairly happy with the results. The cloud cover had increased from the start, but after I had taken some two hundred images, of which I would only use a mere forty-five, I felt I had enough material to look through and assess this camera’s potential for use here in the future. My conclusion after creating the gallery, was that if time was short and this camera were at hand, it would definitely be usable, but it certainly was never going to provide the same coverage I can get with my Sigma Sports lens, more especially as that is absolutely excellent when I also can attach the 2x Converter!
  I now knew if this camera was with me, and there was activity on the lake, I did have an excellent backstop to capture some action. As a technical reference, these were all taken at ISO 2000, so the quality achievable is more than adequate. I now know there is still more potential here once I really understand how to get the best out of it.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

2020 1st DigiCluster Meeting – West Herts College

 
 
On this occasion, I travelled without company, and the journey was slow with heavy traffic, which was further exacerbated by a Breakdown Vehicle in attendance on the Exit Slip Road from the M1 Motorway, but I still managed to arrive reasonably early at the venue, the West Hertfordshire College Campus. Those already present were in several groups engaged in animated conversation.
Even as I assembled my camera and checked settings the room was filling and among several faces I knew I was greeted warmly and it was not long before I was capturing the growing numbers of attendees, and groups were forming with genuine interest in involvement, and there were obviously some newcomers. Whilst it was less than full, I took the opportunity to capture some images involving the majority of those attending so that there was a good chance that all were captured to individual advantage in lively conversation.
Many of those attending were gesticulating with great energy, and that is always something that attracts my attention, just as much as those to whom the actions were reinforcing either their individual descriptions or the underlying humour of situations they were retelling. Not being a movie taker, but a moment capturer, I have tried to record the varying emphasis being made by some of the moments I followed.
It was quite a time spent socialising before formality was brought to the occasion as speakers Jeremy Freeman of SmartGiving and Loiuse Towler of Indigotree took the floor to give their ninety second pitches, both of which were received intently by the audience.
There followed the Fireside chat, with Syd Nadeem introducing Lucy Mann of Gunpowder Consulting to the audience, and gently providing questions to maintain the momentum, and ending by inviting questions from the audience.
During these talks, I observed the audience activities as well as the speakers to give a balance to the atmosphere and later, the attendee interactions and further conversations both amongst themselves and with the speakers. I thoroughly enjoyed how much non-verbal communication in terms of gesticulations and facial and body language plays such a part in these human interactions. And, this camera I was using for the very first time gave me the opportunity to often distance myself further from my subjects because of the range of its zoom. For those interested in the technicalities: it was the Lumix FZ1000 MkII with its extended longer focal length reach zoom.
However, despite spending several hours beforehand attempting to familiarise myself with this camera, I came unstuck a few times, and so missed shots, despite taking a total of 640 and only putting out a mere 245, so the Cutting Room Floor, read ‘Bin’ was reasonably full! I hope those attending enjoy reliving the moments I captured.

Monday, 27 January 2020

First Visit to Stewartby Lake, 2020

         I noted that there was some wind and at the time I made this observation, the sun had burned through the overnight mist, so though rather late in the day, I decided it was worth taking a look at the boating lake with its sailing dinghies and catamarans.
         Initially after parking, I locked the car and went to take a look at the activity on the water, and was pleased that there were several boats sailing around the course. I returned to the car to assemble the camera and lens, and found that I had missed that my Benbo tripod was not in the boot, so I had to use a far less steady one, and also missing was my tripod head, so, Note to Self: check all the gear I needed before leaving in the car!
         I set up the less than ideal tripod and took a few shots of the activity, and it was just a shame that the sunshine which on arrival had been fading rapidly was now completely clouded over. This was a shame, but with the EOS R and the Sigma 60-600mm Sports lens with the 2x Converter, the distance I was from the boats was still within an acceptable range. The only available tripod however was very limited in its panning, making it necessary to re-site the tripod, shortly after I had initially positioned it. What I learned was that despite the minimal lighting available it was still possible to obtain adequate quality from where I had set up the tripod, and with the converter attached to the lens.
         After the weekend I will be taking delivery of another camera — the mirrorless Panasonic bridge camera which may well be able to allow me to travel with a long reach camera whenever I am unable to lug my dSLR with my weighty zoom, and heavy tripod. I hope to put it (and myself) through our respective paces as I am assured the quality is there, but really what I am interested in, is its burst rate and the serious possibility of being able to hand hold it, or at worst use it with my monopod.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Arrival at Turvey

Today was clear and bright, and I did have an initial destination in mind, but Road diversions put paid to that, and I found myself on a diversionary route, and this meant I was losing daylight, so I ended up heading for Turvey, where I found a different subject of interest; architecture. On this occasion, not avant-garde, but historic. But a look at my route taken before arriving there, involved several ‘about turns’ because every time a convenient turning appeared oncoming traffic would have meant holding up those motorists behind me, so I drove on! This added considerably to the mileage I encountered, as simply stopping was not a viable option due to the available width. However, upon my return I did now know where I was able to turn around, and find a suitable spot to park up.
On this occasion, the choice of lens was straightforward, so I was back to using my 5D MkIII with the 24-70mm, and the subjects I chose were all well lit except for one. Also, since I am somewhat pedantic in relation to verticals being vertical, I was invariably shooting with spare space enough to make such adjustments on the Mac when in post-production in Lightroom. I only took enough images to create a single page gallery, but it was therapeutic, and satisfying, especially as it was the first occasion for several weeks that I was not shooting with my mirrorless EOS R.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Very Brief Visit to Marston Lake

Once again I started out way too late, but despite this I was still determined to make the most of my afternoon, by visiting my nearest lake, Marston Lake. There was edge-to-edge blue sky, and I parked right at the nearest shore to the entrance. And the number of birds on the water was way more than on my last visit which was heartwarming, and also as I scanned the water, I spotted one of my favourite birds, a Grebe.
It was surprisingly close, but sadly it took a while to get the camera mounted on the tripod, by which time it was at least twice the distance from me than I had first caught sight of it. Undeterred, I patiently watched to see whether it would come closer, but after each dive, it seemed to be increasing its distance from me.
At a much greater distance were Cormorants. Although not one of my favourite birds, Cormorants can sometimes have some interesting traits, and I was interested in the behaviour I observed of a couple near some stunted trunks of dead trees a good distant from my position. Their greater size slightly nullified the extra distance from my position, and there was some interesting interaction between two of their number as they occupied the branches of a long-dead submerged tree. It appeared the bird that was perched on one such stump was considered by another to have a good position, the other decided that s/he had been there for long enough, so was attempting to dislodge it, with little success; as the incumbent was unmoved, and stared the usurper down! Stretching its wings to dry them, the incomer seemed to be a tad threatening, but to no avail — the stand-off continued.
There were some Gulls, Coots, and a Swan also on the water, but all way closer to the farther shore, so I presume they knew that I was unlikely to venture to that far shore as I would be shooting against the light – birds are quite canny, and know quite a lot about humans; their behaviour, and what kit these pesky humans use to photograph them – on numerous occasions, kingfishers have approached really close, knowing full well that my long lenses have no chance of focussing that close! They are bright enough to perch on the static rods of Anglers, who in turn use those opportunities to get better shots than many a professional, by quietly using their phones to capture those fortuitous visitor events! We often study animal behaviour for any number of reasons; self-preservation, curiosity or to extend our knowledge, should we therefore believe that other species do not make similar observations and react accordingly. The time a Kingfisher circled twice really close to my camera, was I wrong to consider it might actually be fully aware that I did not track its movements when it approached close, from previous examples of such dismissive behaviour by others of my species?
My earliest sightings of Grebe on this occasion were when I had yet to assemble the camera on a tripod, and just before leaving, I ventured beyond my car in the direction of the dead-end of the lake path which is marked off-limits to anglers, when one Grebe came similarly close and I was shielded by high bushes on this occasion and was able to get my final shots.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Exploratory Visit to Sydlngs Copse

This time of year, is a chance for me to explore the possibilities for new locations; to seek places offering photo opportunities. So out come maps and various books to give me new places to visit and explore.
‘Where to go for Wildlife in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire’ is just such a manageable sized book to offer a good selection of places to visit and help plan such trips, and Sydlings Copse seemed worth a look, so that was where I headed, but due to a mixture of mildly unhelpful signage, reaching its Car Park involved a tad more than my SatNav and three three point turns to actually arrive, but perhaps that was a cunning plan to ensure the small Car Park was not overwhelmed! 
I had not packed my gear in the ideal manner for the task in hand as the weather had been unkind to this environment as much of the area was waterlogged due to the recent rains. I wasted much valuable time changing shoes from those suitable for driving to plodding through mud and putting the chosen lens on the camera and monopod, because I was fairly sure there was a good trek before I would actually be shooting. Also, I decided to sling a second camera round my neck, to ensure I did not have to make a premature return for a lens change. That precaution proved to be superfluous, but it was hardly a burden.
The shots I captured were hardly world-shattering, but what I did find later that was not expected was yet another site with numerous anthills much like those I encountered at Pilch Field, and this little nugget of information was to come up in a conversation with a fellow visitor to this spot, as this gentleman had been unaware of the true nature of theses mounds! After a shortish, but careful plod through the slippery path, I was able to negotiate the kissing gate to the wide vista offered by the open undulating grassy slopes to which I had arrived.
It was an interesting venue that I will definitely pay a future visit, because I had seen but a tiny fraction of this place, and had arrived way too late for this time of year, and the sun was setting by the time I returned to the car, and the scraping sounds from the indefatigable Park Ranger as he bent to the task of clearing some of the mud from the parking area. Once I had completed the task of restoring my camera gear to the boot to the sounds of his ongoing battle with the mud, I stopped for a chat with him, but I was not alone in preventing him from his delayed labours, because he was deep in conversation with yet another visitor when I bade him farewell in the now deepening gloom!

One of the lasting memories of this short visit was the vivid saturation of green, in the moss-covered stumps of long dead trees. Another aspect was where I had photographed some of the other visitors and apologised for my intrusion upon their privacy, how easy it was to involve those fellow visitors in conversation, as they either walked as couples, or exercised their canine pets in the great outdoors. I hope I have captured the atmosphere of the place in such a brief visit, and hope to return for a longer and earlier visit when it is drier underfoot.