Archive for April, 2005

Reservoir Sheep

Saturday, April 23rd, 2005

Curious Lambs

We’re fully into Spring here in Cumbria and that means only one thing. Lambs. And lots of ’em. If you’re one of those folk who’re nervous about livestock, this isn’t a good time to be out and about in Cumbrian fields. Every single square green mile has sheep and their lambs on it at the moment.

When they’re just born, lambs peg an 11 on the Cute-O-Meterâ„¢. However, they soon bulk out and get a little bolder. I was working on the River Mint last week and looked around to find these 4 bulky lambs behind me, trying to look tough. Then I realized I was between them and the last bit of long, juicy grass in the field. 🙂

Of course, once they heard the camera shutter, they fled. They’re really not that tough.

St Catherine’s Estate

Wednesday, April 20th, 2005

Fence In Warm Sunlight

One of my photographic sources of inspiration for the past few years has been the St Catherine’s estate, a National Trust property located outside of Windermere. The estate nestles between between Orrest Head and the main Troutbeck road.

The property itself doesn’t have any visitor center and general public access is only via a couple of public rights of way across the property. School groups do visit, though, for educational programs.

In late 2002, I obtained permission to work around the estate, documenting the woods, wildlife and environment for a personal photography project. As a result, I spent the end of 2002 and most of 2003 working in and around the St Catherine’s estate. It was an experience that completely re-awakened my love of landscape photography (in all of it’s many forms). I was lucky enough to be able to spend many quiet days wandering the beck, woodlands and meadows. As the seasons rolled by, I became intimately familiar with the estate and the photographic possibilities it offered.

It takes me ages to get comfortable with a location and start to see the images I want to make there. Often I find myself dashing around, unable to decide where to work first. As a consequence, it usually takes me two or three long visits to a location to really start to settle down and see the possibilities.

I return to the St Catherine’s estate from time to time to recharge my photographic batteries. When you’re really familiar with a place, it’s often refreshing to step back into it after a while. There’s no pressure to find new photographic sites in the time available – you simply wander familiar paths, soak up the changes since the last visit and appreciate it for what it is.

Dippers

Sunday, April 17th, 2005

Dipper

When I”m in the UK, I spend my time in Kendal in the Lake District. We’re pretty close to the River Kent, which flows from the top of the Kentmere Valley (to the north of Kendal) down into Morecambe Bay to the south.

The River Kent has a surprising amount of birdlife in and around it for a river that passes through an urban area like Kendal. In addition to the usual litany of ducks, we regularly see goosanders, grey wagtails, pied flycatchers, grey herons, kingfishers and dippers. As you walk north up the river (and out of Kendal and into the surrounding countryside), the Kent and it’s tributaries become ideal territory for dippers in particular.

I became interested in photographing dippers a few years back. They’re fairly challenging as a photographic subject: their white bib blows out easily and the rest of their natural color is dark enough to be 3 or 4 stops below the bib. They’re also very small, always on the move and can be quite easily spooked by movement on the bank.

They’re absolutely facinating to watch though. When they’re feeding, dippers spend a lot of time underwater and are forever in and out of the fast-moving sections of water looking for insect larvae and other food. I often find myself working to track them as they float down with the river current, completely submerged.

I’ve recently started to try to photograph dippers again during my walks up the river. Most of my dipper photographs from 2003 and 2004 were taken with my Canon 300/4 IS lens, 1.4xII convertor and my D60, which wasn’t an ideal combination for small bird photography. The 300mm lens is a little short for small birds and the D60 can have horrible auto-focus in the low light conditions you often find working along the river.

I’ve now got a Canon 500/4 IS lens for wildlife photography, which with the 1.4xII convertor and Canon 1DII lets me start to fill the frame with a dipper when working from an opposite bank. The image quality from the 500/4 is pretty astonishing and, when paired with the 1DII, it’s quite amazing how quickly you can focus in on small birds. I’ve basically run out of excuses for bad dipper photos now. 🙂

You’ll find most of my dipper photography in my River Kent and River Mint (a tributary to the Kent) galleries in my portfolio.

Welcome

Monday, April 11th, 2005

I’m still tinkering with the Notes section of smackie.org so things might be in a state of flux for a while longer. My plan with with using WordPress to keep a Notes section is to post a weekly(-ish) photo diary with some pointers to new work, add articles covering image workflow and generally try to add some context to some of the photos I make.