Friday, January 01, 2016

Purple Patch

The second half of 2015 wore me down.  Iceland had been fun, and I will go back, but the light was frustrating and then once home a combination of work and weather meant photography sessions were few and far between - even walking the dog it was hard to find shots with my pocket camera.  One grey session in the wood yielded no more than the usual GS woodpecker on the dead tree, the foxes failed to show in the daylight - at least when I had my gear - and the fallow deer were .....fallow.
So it was with some trepidation that I set off last Monday to try and catch the purple sandpipers at Portishead.  This would be my 4th or 5th attempt over the last 3 years.  I seemed to have an unhappy knack of choosing the tides when they didn't show.  Last year from the day I went they never showed again all winter!
All the forecasting apps said we would have some sun in the morning, but it looked distinctly grey to me as I set off across the bridge.  Parking the car I met 'Mrs Trellis' the author of the Avon Birds blog, (sightings, but also GSOH) and he told me the birds were there - and they were!  Although things were looking up to call it a purple patch is in truth relative to the rest of the year, but I did manage to clamber, slip and slide my way over the rocks and wet algae to a lowish level to grab my first ever shots of this species.  Sadly the sun never appeared and the light was very contrasty between the rocks/birds and the tea coloured Bristol channel water.
Still some shots were usable although there was a bit of dodging and burning to try and get them postable.

So Happy New Year to you - surely for me at least 2016 has to be better.  This year badgers are on the list later on, but if we ever get some winter I hope maybe to grab a hawfinch or two first. And the grebes again.  And perhaps those deer ..............

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Land of Ice, Fire ........ Cloud and Rain - Selfoss

Leaving Jokulsarlon along the southern stretch of Route 1 the weather boded well for the remainder of the trip!

We were heading for a town called Selfoss over in the South-west, but stopped briefly to strecth our legs and have a look at one of the rivers.  I took a few snaps with my pocket camera, and was in turn snapped snapping flowers.

Selfoss was primarily about one species, and for a lot of us this had been one of the main targets in Iceland.  Near the town is an area of wetland - many small pools and most with it's own pair of red throated divers - some still on the nest, others with chicks. 

Again the light was a struggle, but over 2 days we had one short spell of sun before we finally had to head for home.
 The fish looked big for the chicks, but they literally disappeared in the blink of an eye
Choices had to be made about lens focal lengths - portrait, bird in setting, etc.  I was set up for a portrait of this bird which had been flexing its wings - prior to take off as it turned out.  I just about kept it in frame some of the time and in the end I quite like this shot although the perceived wisdom would say it needed space in the frame to be flying into.  In truth that's probably true - but I still like it!

There were other birds around - more phalarope, whimbrel, whooper swans and dunlin. 

There were a few terns around with their usual propensity for dive-bombing missions - here a shot of a famous dutch wildlife photographer demonstrating how to use Nikon gear to good effect!

So there it was.  A good trip, good company and thanks particularly to the 3 pro's on the trip -

Danny Green

Edwin Kats

both renowned wildlife photographers who led the trip, and Steve Bond, freelance / sport photographer, monopod expert and the unfortunate soul who had to bunk up with me!
Steve loaned me a camera at Selfoss so the diver pics are down to him - I did have a back-up, but an older model so it was good to have a few more pixels to play with.

As with my previous trip to Finland the organisation by Nature's Images was great.

One thing I am sure of is that I will go back to Iceland, and just hope next time to get more than 3 sessions of good light!
More pics in the web albums - use the link to the right.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Land of Ice, Fire ........ Cloud and Rain - Jokulsarlon

Our next destination - the ice lagoon of Jokulsarlon - blew me away ..... and sadly did much the same to my camera! 

Leaving Myvatn we faced a long drive south and east, mostly on  Þjóðvegur 1 - Route 1- THE road around Iceland.  This is a decent road, although some money was saved on the bridges,

the main drawback being that the coastline is very tortuous and the road much the same.  We knew we could save quite a lot of time by taking a dirt road through the mountains, and it was actually both decent quality and quite scenic if a bit bleak.  Mind you I must say it was one of those times when you would prefer to be holding the steering wheel rather than being a passenger.

Most adverts for Iceland that show several landscape pictures include one of a piece of ice on a black sand beach.  That's Jokulsarlon.  A glacier ends and 'calves' into a large tidal lagoon which in turn feeds out to sea through a narrow channel. 

The ice that gets out to sea can get washed back onto the black sand beach ............... and get duly snapped.  However when we were there our focus (Steve excepted) was on the lagoon itself, not least because there was hardly any ice on the beach and as ever we had only one session of decent light.

The wildlife includes eider duck, arctic terns, gulls - we decided they were mostly Iceland gulls - the odd guillemot, a few snow buntings (just ever so slightly tatty as they actively fed young) and a few seals - but set off against the fabulous ice formations; opaque white, crystal clear, speckled black or perhaps best that blue that only glacial ice seems to have.  I never thought I'd post a succession of ice pictures, but these are truly sculptural (even to the extent that one is a dead ringer for a diver).

The majority of the ice pictures were taken with my pocket camera, the rest being my last shots before the relentless wet on our last session there finally got to my 5D3 which effectively had a stroke, the brain being only vaguely connected with the mechanical bits. 

Not even the Kendal Mint Cake (it's a long story) could make up for that.
More pics in the web albums.