Breaking the rules of photography

Yesterday, I walked around an ancient woodland. The term ‘ancient woodland’ in itself conjures up something magical and mystical. It describes an area of woodland that has been in existence since the 1600’s. It has developed naturally with unique ecosystems and the woodland has not been disturbed by mankind. Sadly, these special places only account for 2.4% of the UK.

All the leaves on the trees were out in full – brand new, perfect leaves in that fresh shade of almost luminous green. They always look at their peak in May, before the colour slightly fades and the leaves get their lived-in appearance and become tatty looking as the Summer goes on.

The light was perfect, weaving its way through small patches and lighting up the ground where the leaves had not yet formed a complete canopy. It provided that beautiful dappled appearance, great for photography.

I decided to travel light and thought that instead of taking the usual, macro lens I would shake things up a bit and use a portrait lens – breaking the rules of photography. Some pictures worked, others didn’t. I also decided to use some different finishes on the RAW files.

Ferns growing tall.
New leaves.
Light reaching a solitary blade of grass on the woodland floor.

Frothy white bubbles of cow parsley

It’s everywhere at the moment, lining shady stretches of country lanes and stretches of woodland. It has lots of alternative names including fairy lace. Some think it looks like drifts of snow. It is a popular plant with pollinators.

Cow parsley is a member of the carrot family. It can be confused with hemlock and hogweed, one of which is poisonous and the other has sap that can burn the skin.

Orange Tip Butterfly

Amazing camouflage.

At last – I got a shot of one using a mobile phone, but nonetheless it seemed quite happy to sit there and pose. After trying for some weeks to take a picture of one in lockdown (as they can move at some speed), this one seemed happy to oblige.

It was quite remarkable when it closed its wings, it almost managed to fool me with its camouflage against the cow parsley, but the orange tip gave it away.

Stuck in a rut

Sometimes you can get stuck in a rut. With photography you are always seeking that perfect picture, finding the perfect combination of the right ISO, f-stop and shutter speed. Do I need that tripod? Shall I use a cable release shutter? Have I checked the white balance? What mode shall I shoot in – aperture priority or shutter priority? Exposure compensation? Flash? What about focus? Is it framed on the rule of thirds? Do I need VR on? Have I remembered to switch to manual focus? And so on and so forth.

The questions continue when you look at them afterwards on your computer. Perhaps like me you use Photoshop and shoot in RAW? So you go through the motions on Photoshop and usually end up selecting the same kind of edits. After all, we are creatures of habit.

You may also end up taking the same subject matter!

But the main problem?

. You lose that spontaneity.

. Your shots blend into one.

So, occasionally, you need to get out of your comfort zone and shake things up a bit! Try those different photo apps on your phone or tablet, experiment with colour, what happens if you focus on a small part of the picture and turn it neon pink? At least that’s what I tried to do today, to capture those carefree, experimental times when I first had a camera and tried all the camera settings, not just focus on achieving the best manual focus shot I could. Ok so they may not have been technically great, but they were exciting.

Of course, currently, we have an extra challenge. That being that 4.5 billion of us are currently in lockdown. Heavily restricted on our movements. Unable to go to our usual haunts and explore. Hopefully, it won’t be too soon until things relax a little and we can go a little further in our social distancing bubbles.

If photography is your hobby, you suddenly have to think more ‘outside the box.’ We are fortunate to have a small garden, but not much is flowering. We are also lucky to be in semi-countryside and each day we cover the same route, getting an hour of recommended exercise. I am beginning to know almost every square metre of this walk by heart. I know where the bluebell patch is, that there are usually a couple of pheasants milling about in one particular field, I know where a pair of goldfinches live in a specific tree and that there is a particular patch of weeds where something always shifts about, but never reveals itself; I think that perhaps it is some kind of small reptile and I try every day to see it but it remains hidden.

I have watched the seasons change from late winter to spring. Now there are leaves on the hedges and trees, the daffodils are over and the cow parsley is growing taller everyday with its white flowers unfurling. Usually, we would not notice these things in detail with our busy lives and fast cars. So today, I shot a few things in the garden and stopped occasionally on my walk with my family (protesting for holding them up) and tried to look at and process things in a different way to normal.

Cow parsley III
White dead-nettle flower macro with bee.
The surface of a White dead-nettle, top of the flower.
Dandelion I
Dandelion II
Dandelion IV – flower head (taken last week).
Surface of a Red dead-nettle leaf.
Photobombing ant on a Red dead-nettle leaf.
Small blue flower – any ideas?
A red campion bud.
The surface of a young leaf.
A bay leaf.
Leaves on a young Japanese Acer tree.
Black clover weed.

The Super Pink Moon

Tuesday 7th April saw a brief reprieve from the gloom currently encapsulating the world. The evening provided the biggest supermoon of the year, and for once, the sky was clear in our part of the world to view it.

The moon was at the closest point to the earth in its orbit (perigee), making it look 7% larger and 15% brighter than normal. The moon appears bigger at moonrise and moonset when it is near to the horizon. This is an optical illusion.

The Pink Moon is so called not because of the colour, but that it is named after a pink wildflower (Pink moss phlox) that blooms in early Spring in North America. The colours of the moon can vary due to the atmosphere, but it does not really appear pink, my picture is courtesy of a little help from Photoshop.

The best photos of a supermoon can only be obtained in an observatory using special moon filters, because it is so bright. This gives the wonderful details of the craters. These are my attempts:

Moon rising – partially obscured by garden foliage.

The moon appears bright, almost like the sun.

A golden moon appears from behind a chimney pot.

Moon has visible craters, bottom right edge.

As the moon rises higher into the sky, it appears whiter and brighter.

When all at once I saw a crowd, A host of golden daffodils;

I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: –
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth.

Spring has come early

Well at least as far as the flowers are concerned. Technically, it’s not supposed to be Spring until Friday 20th March.

The skies were a steely grey and the gusts of wind made it difficult to capture the plants.

The soft pink and white flowers of Helleborus Emma swaying in the wind.

In the 14th Century, the term ‘springing time’ was used instead of the old English ‘Lent’ or ‘Lenten’. This was referring to plants springing from the ground. It then became ‘spring-time’ and by the 16th Century was shortened to ‘spring.’

If you were to stand on the equator during either the spring (or fall equinox), you would see the sun pass directly over the top of your head.

Persephone was the Greek goddess of spring. She spent winters as Queen of the Underworld but returned in spring to preside over rebirth.

Corkscrew hazel with catkins. Soon Winter will be a distant memory …

Late Winter Colour

The sun was shining this weekend, so it was time to get out into the great outdoors and see what was growing.

Witch hazel.
Swathes of snowdrops.
I am not sure what this is, so please feel free to help me out.

Nature – Seasonal Decorations

Yesterday morning was quite chilly and I noticed that the river mist had spread across the fields in the lower parts of the valley. This made such a change to the seemingly unending flat grey steel skies and/or torrential flooding rain we have been experiencing of late. There was bright sunshine too, so I thought I’d go for a walk with my camera to see if I could capture some ghostly silhouettes of the trees. I brought my telephoto with the intention of zooming in and cropping the trees. However, as with many things in life, not everything goes according to plan. I soon realised I’d missed a trick by not bringing my macro lens too.

The trees were not as ghostly as anticipated, but the light was soft and golden and I caught a couple of rays of sunlight through the mist using a standard lens.
The diffused light made the water droplets on the cobwebs and cow parsley seed heads appear like twinkling lights.
Although the macro lens would have been infinitely better to use for definition, the telephoto still managed to produce some pretty images from a short distance.
A haphazard spider web on an old stinging nettle plant.
A cobweb lit up like Christmas lights.