Friday, May 28, 2010

Recent Pictures

I haven't posted recently due to some computer problems. All sorted out now, so here are a few pictures I've taken recently.
The first five are shots of vegetation growing in a small stream that flows into the sea at Blackpill Beach, Swansea, taken as the sun was setting, and going in and out behind clouds:

Blackpill is a well-known birding spot, as many waders and gulls gather here at high tide, particularly in Winter. However, at this time of year, there are rather fewer birds, and, on this particular evening, this single Whimbrel, passing through on its migration, was one of the few birds of note:

As the sun set, and turned the sea a subtle pinkish hue, this group of Shelducks drifted past on the calm water:

A Great Crested Grebe was also present:

Moving on to the Gower Peninsula, this was the scene at Pennard Cliffs, looking west across the flowering Gorse towards Oxwich Beach in the distance:

I was able to sneak up to this Raven, as it perched on the cliff edge:

Early Purple Orchids were growing in profusion nearby:

Back to Swansea, and I made a visit to Clyne Gardens, a large area accessed from Swansea seafront, which is a mixture of exotic plants and native species. Here, I photographed this Ramson plant:

and this Bluebell:

and these Dandelion 'clocks':

There is a semi-natural Bluebell wood at the top of the park. I took a couple of 'straight' shots of this typically-British Springtime sight:

as well as a couple of more 'abstract' pictures:

On one recent sunny morning, I climbed up a hill to the north of my house. There is a mixture of grassland, woodland, scrub, and farmland, up here, and it affords wonderful views of Swansea Bay:

In the last year, the local farmer has ploughed up one some scrub and created a grassy field from some rough grassland, which has led to a reduction in small birds which were previously here: Yellowhammers, Stonechats, Whitethroats, Linnets, Grasshopper Warblers, etc. However, there does seem to have been an increase in the number of Pheasants, including this dark bird which I was able to sneak close enough to to photograph:

I also spotted a Red-legged Partridge in another ploughed field, although I couldn't get close enough for any decent photos. Instead, I contented myself with a couple of low-perspective, wide-angle views of these Meadow Buttercups:

Here's yet another blur shot of Oxwich Woods:

And here's a shot of a Burnet Rose growing in the nearby sand dunes:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Woodland Impressions

In my local park, there are a few small areas of semi-natural woodland, with an attractive ground flora in Spring consisting of carpets of Ramsons and Bluebells, with smaller numbers of other flowers such as violets, primroses, etc. Difficult to get a pleasing photo of these woods due to their parkland location and the number of paths and litter-bins nearby, so I went for an 'impressionistic' effect with these two pictures - by moving the camera up or down during an exposure of about one second:-

Ramson woodland:

Bluebell woodland:

I then took some more conventional photos of the local flowers:-

Red Campion:




Monday, May 10, 2010

Cowslips and an Orange Tip

Late yesterday afternoon, I visited Oxwich, a nature reserve on the Gower Peninsula. Several times, I had gone past a field here, about this time of year, that was ablaze with Cowslips, a typical flower of British meadows, but now in decline. It was a calm day, so I thought it might be a good time to stop and photograph these yellow beauties - assuming they were there and in full bloom. I needn't have worried, as the field was choc full of these distinctive plants:

As I entered the meadow, an unfamiliar bird flew low towards me; its long-tailed and -winged appearance giving it a bird of prey-type profile. I thought it was perhaps a Hobby, or maybe even a Kestrel, but as it flew past, almost overhead, I realised it was a Cuckoo. These birds are rather scarce around here, and it was so long (several years) since I had seen one, that I had forgotten what they looked like!
This was a good start, and I thus spent the next hour or so wandering the field, taking a few snaps, and sitting just taking in the peace and beauty whilst refreshing myself with food and drink.
I took these two pictures with my Canon 7D and a 70-200mm lens:

I then switched to a 17-40mm lens with an extension tube to get a wide-angle perspective:

As you can see from this shot, there were a few other plants amongst the Cowslips, including plenty of Bluebells, and this Dandelion seedhead:

As I was walking away from the large bulk of Cowslips, my eye was caught by a single plant growing in a sheltered corner on its own. An Orange Tip butterfly was resting atop, which made a beautiful colour combination. It was so docile, I was able to approach very closely, and photograph it from several angles. Using extension tubes on the 70-200mm lens, I was almost on top of it. I wished I had brought my 90mm macro with me for some even closer close-ups. That's what I get for being lazy! Anyway, a few photos:

All in all, it was a pleasant way to while away a couple of hours on a calm Sunday evening, at a place I will have to return to very soon!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Mumbles Pier

At the far western end of Swansea Bay, is Mumbles Pier:

At least since I have been visiting Swansea (about 13 years), it has been home to a thriving colony of Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla):

I had heard that the birds had returned to their nestsites, and so I went round there today to check on their progress, and also to try out my Canon 7D coupled with a Canon 70-200 f/4 lens, to see how the combination performed on the birds in flights. I had been very disappointed with the results I had obtained with the 7D in conjunction with my Sigma 500mm f/4.5, but as this lens has also been producing out-of-focus images with my 40D, I wanted to see how the 7D performed with the shorter zoom. Looking at the results of the flight shots from the day, I have to say I am not too pleased: About half of the images were fairly obviously unsharp (possibly due to user error), and the other half (user the central autofocus sensor and servo focus mode) were of dubious sharpness (borderline if they would be accepted by my agency). Here's one of the better images:

Doesn't look too bad at this size, with a bit of quick sharpening and saturation added to the RAW file, but have a look at this 100% unsharpened crop with no adjustments:

This isn't the sharpest flight shot I got today, but it is typical of the results I was getting. Does it look sharp to you? To me (and I haven't done a direct side-by-side comparison yet), it looks rather less sharp and detailed than shots I was getting from my 40D which have been upsized to similar dimensions as the 7D files. The 7D also seems to produce much more noticable grain than uprezzed 40D pictures (this shot was taken at ISO 200).
Anyway, here are three more shots taken at the colony: