Sometimes muted grey skies can be a blessing in disguise, as was the case with this shot. High contrast full summer light can be tricky to contend with during the day. This soft pastel palette of sea lavender in Holkham bay was only possible thanks to some heavy leaden grey cloud skies creating soft even light conditions. Taken with the new Olympus 300mm pro-lens.
I was spoilt for choice in picking December’s photo of the month, having enjoyed a repeat festive trip to Cologne Weihnachts Markt (blog followers, the piano man was still there playing) a beautiful walk at Cley beach as well as having a multitude of landscape photos from my second visit to Los Gigantes in Tenerife. Yet it was this simple, stark shot of a lone pine tree in a blasted lava landscape on the flanks of Mount Teide volcano that has stayed with me.
Perhaps because it simultaneously represents both the fragility of nature and its stubborn resilience. The barren lava flow depicts the sheer magnitude of devastation that nature can unleash – despite Man’s hubris these are forces well beyond the power of humankind to influence or control. Yet in that small, vibrant splash of green the image also contains a germ of hope. However bleak the landscape may become, nature soon starts to fight back; this young little pine tree is the first tree in a slow process of recolonisation of the lava-blasted the volcanic foothills centuries after the violent 1798 eruption that created this strange landscape.
On my last landscape trip I witnessed a truly beautiful natural phenomenon. As I arrived at Hunstanton beach and gazed at the sunset it appeared as if there were not one but two setting suns in the sky, both positioned low on the horizon, the second with a hint of a rainbow-hued glimmer in an arc shape. This optical atmospheric effect is called a parhelion, or sun dog and is one of many types of ice halos caused by the refraction and reflection of sunlight through small ice crystals high up in the atmosphere. I discovered that the atmospheric conditions had also created the faint sun pillar in the photograph, which is not caused by a vertical ray of light at all, but by the glinting of many tiny hexagonal-shaped plate ice crystals, the same shape of ice crystals that create sundogs.
Many thanks to atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley for his assistance in identifying the specific type of atmospheric optical effects I observed and photographed in this image and to the clear scientific explanations provided by his website of the many unusual atmospheric phenomenon that can be observed by day and night. Click here to see a scientific diagram explaining the optical effects in my image
I’ve been out of action for a bit , so it was a real pleasure to take a short trip out to the coast yesterday evening for a gentle landscape shoot in some interesting weather conditions. This shot is of a sea squall passing across the beautiful saltmarshes at Stiffkey in Norfolk.
Though we have long nights, its a tad chilly right now to be outside doing star trail shots, so I confess this long exposure night scene was taken from the balcony in a rather warmer Tenerife. Many star trail shots are composite images made up of multiple photos of exactly the same scene blended together in post processing using software in the same kind of way that HDR images are, however it is possible to take a long exposure to create shorter star trails in-camera in just a single image.
It was a blustery evening and not really ideal conditions for taking razor sharp long exposures, but Tenerife is renowned for its clear skies, even being home to a well regarded observatory, so I simply couldn’t resist the opportunity. I was particularly fortunate to have the pole star so visible and placed above the cliffs. It was amazing how many more stars became visible even in the 4 second photograph than could be seen with the naked eye.
In the second image you can see the starry sky as we humans see it, taken using a shockingly high ISO of 6400 and a 4 second exposure and then as the camera captured it over a period of 20 minutes (1236 seconds). Both shots used an aperture of f 4.0 and had long exposure noise reduction switched on. One other thing to remember is that it will take as long to store the image on completing the shot as it did to expose it in the first place, so this definitely isn’t something to try in a rush.
On my dog walk this week I enjoyed a beautiful rainbow in front of an ominous inky sky… oblivously enjoying the colours, I completely forgot to check the wind direction, I got caught out by the hail squall it was caused by!
January has been an odd mixture of golden sunrises and vivid sunsets with heavy overnight rainstorms, though here in East Anglia we’ve escaped lightly compared to the western half of England that faces the onslaught of the sou’westerly Atlantic storms. Here are three of my photos taken in the month attempting to capture these contrasting elements of winter in Norfolk.
The brief hiatus of Christmas and the end of a year always makes me a little introspective and thoughtful, of both what has gone and what lies ahead.
For me, 2012 was a year of upheaval and transformation and in many ways quite a challenging year, leaving my beloved Ridgeway behind in Oxfordshire to start a new life here in Norfolk.
The changes it brought now see me based in a new, yet familiar, part of the world. One that I am rapidly growing to love, as indeed I knew I could, and one that has led me to form solid foundations from which I can build my new home and new life. I’m very much looking forward to putting down my roots and establishing my new life here in Norfolk
It seems that the theme of change and transformation will certainly be continuing with me into 2013, for the first quarter at the very least, with work to renovate and transform my new home set to begin soon and coinciding with the launch of my new photography business.
Well I had to move quite suddenly away from Oxfordshire to the county of Norfolk. This is a quick, belated post to say farewell to the county that brought me back to nature and introduced me to wildlife photography. I will miss the rolling open countryside and the shadow of the Ridgeway on my dog walks greatly. Although I only lived near South Oxfordshire’s chalkhill downland for four years, it became a true home for me and it will always have a place in my heart.
During some of my farewell walks in my favourite places I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of short-eared owls and a beautiful brown hare silhouetted against the skyline, so I leave Oxfordshire with those images as a beautiful memory.
Red Deer rut in the month of October, and there are many very accessible places you can witness this natural spectacle. I went for the first time with my husband John Stuart-Clarke to Bushy Park in London. The best time is at first light, before the park becomes busy with humans going about their daily activities.
We arrived shortly before sunrise after a chilly clear night which had created a dense fog. As we walked into the park grounds visibility was only a few feet, and I started to hear the bellows of the rutting stags.
The sound echoed in the fog and seemed to come from all sides. It was an eerie, atmospheric experience. Then gradually the fog thinned and I started to make out shadowy figures of the stags. As the mist cleared I witnessed more of the Stags’ rutting behaviour – staring and snarling, licking their lips, tossing their antlers in bracken and charging each other. Within couple of hoursthe sun had risen, the park was filling with people and all the action had subsided and the deer settled down to rest. As we left it was funny to think that these joggers, dog walkers and parents with prams were using the park totally oblivious to the drama that had unfolded at first light.
Note: Please take care if you decide to visit a deer park during the rutting season. Even in parks such as Richmond, Bushy or Bradgate, where they are semi-habituated to humans, deer become extremely aggressive at this time of year. Several people are killed each year trying to approach too close to rutting deer.
Please exercise caution and common sense at all times and bear in mind the following hints and tips for watching the deer rut safely without disturbing the animals:
Keep a respectful and healthy distance away at all times when observing deer and be watchful for any sign of response to your presence or disturbance. Retreat calmly straight away if you find any deer starting to stare, pull back its lips or show teeth – they are warning you you’re too close and they could charge. Always move slowly and steadily and avoid sudden, unpredictable movements. Keep your arms and tripods low. Never wave or try to attract their attention. Always avoid a deer’s path and move out of its route if one approaches you. Be aware of you position in the herd and avoid getting between a stag and his hareem of females or a mother and young, which could trigger an attack. Never approach a deer directly, head on or or from behind -antlers are daunting but they can buck and kick too.
Photo of the Month October – Stag Silhouetted In Fog Taken: Bushy Park, London