Experimenting with photography

I have a new lens. It is a manual one but attaches to my normal, automated camera. I am still figuring it out… It does not record normal camera data, such as aperture etc, which feels strange, because unless you write it down, you will never know what combination of settings you used for a particular shot! However, you do have to set the ISO on the camera beforehand. I experimented with it yesterday in the countryside after a rain storm and also in a garden. I think it helps you to visualise using manual settings and what they can do, more so than just moving a small dial on the camera, it is more clunky and solid.

I have an old camera which uses film and I am hoping that it will improve my understanding of that. I must also remember to use my tripod with it for extra sharpness! How funny that photography is taking me in a backward direction with old technology.

In terms of post-processing, there was very little to do, other than perhaps resize images.

Cow parsley.
Pink campions in the evening sunlight.
A leaning tree with young leaves.
Pink geraniums
White lilac
Pale purple lilac

Wildflowers, plants & lichens

Today there was an article in the Guardian that said only 3% of the world’s natural ecosystems remain intact. That is quite a scary prospect. 

This leads me to some pictures I took recently of some wildflowers and plants. In recent years in the UK there has been a small movement to not spray grass verges with chemicals, or to have a small patch of land where it can be left fallow, or to grow ‘insect friendly’ or indeed wildflowers in your garden to encourage more biodiversity.

In lockdown, I noticed lots of little plants that I had not really taken much notice of before. Although still considered ‘weeds,’ they are quite beautiful if you stop and look at them closely. Here are some I took with a macro lens. 

Many wildflowers, plants and lichens have been used historically to treat various ailments and some hold the key to unlocking future medicines such as antibiotics. Which is why it is so important to hang on them!

NB Some of the plants are quite difficult to identify and I am still learning their names, so they may not be all correct!

Lesser Celandine
A Red deadnettle.
A Wood anemone
Clematis vitalba
Xanthoria parietina. Future uses may include antibiotics and sunscreen.
Cow parsley.
A Field speedwell.

February

In early February, the ‘Beast from the Baltic’ roared in and we had a lot of snow and cold temperatures, so much so, that the snow lay on the ground for 7 days. After the rain washed the snow away, it felt like Spring was finally here. That dismal, grey cloud that just seems to hang around this time of year was suddenly replaced by bright, sunny days and warmer temperatures.

Nature is emerging. In gardens, there are daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths and primroses. Carpets of snowdrops have appeared in woodland and next to the roadside. Buttercup yellow celandines are growing, as are little green shoots of cow parsley on the verge of the roads.

Daffodils – taken with a zoom lens
A bird of prey
Catkins dancing in the wind – almost translucent, when lit by the sun.
Winter wheat beginning to grow in fields.
A robin enjoying the sunshine.

Early signs of Spring

There is still time for a blast of Arctic air and for the landscape to disappear under a layer of snow and ice, but the days are gradually pulling out and there are early signs of Spring. Already, I have spotted carpets of snowdrops and clumps of primroses. Catkins are in abundance and the daffodils are not far off flowering.

When the cold winds subside and the sun appears in the sky, the birds come out from their hiding places and sing.

It won’t be long until the leaves start to unfurl from the buds on the branches.

January

We are in the depths of Winter.

Traditionally, January is the coldest month in the Northern hemisphere.

Sometimes it feels a little dark and gloomy, but you have to look for the light.

We have certainly had a wide range of weather. Days of lingering mist

Frosty mornings where the sun catches individual ice crystals, creating mini rainbows, as the light moves through the air and water.

Frosty mornings can give rise to bright sunrises …

And crisp, sunny days.

The promise of new life.

Then it vanishes again into bleakness and cold.

The unusual spectacle of ‘hoar frost,’ formed when water vapour in the air comes into contact with solid surfaces already below freezing, producing unique ice crystals.

It’s a miracle how these little birds survive.

Then a sprinkling of snow …

Disappears as quickly as it arrived.

Happy New Year

At this time of year, plants and flowers are a bit thin on the ground. So, I have abandoned my trusty macro lens and have been experimenting with my zoom lens.

From the trees and hedgerows, I have notice little rustlings and tweets. As the trees are bare, some wildlife has been a lot easier to spot. Here are a few birds I have spied recently. I hope you enjoy them.

The ever faithful Robin.
A grey wagtail.
A Sparrowhawk
A curious blackbird.
A Mistle thrush

Petrified

The petrified oaks of Mundon on the Dengie Peninsular are not actually fossilised, but are dead. They are thought to have died as a result of salt water breaching the water table.

The oaks exist in strange shapes, some almost look half human. Can you see an eye, nose and beard?

Some look like they are twisted and screaming. They have been linked to witches ….

Indeed, the puritanical Witchfinder-General, Matthew Hopkins resided in Essex. He sought out those practising ‘the dark arts.’ Nineteen were convicted and hung. Four died in prison.

Others think that the oaks may have once been part of an ancient woodland. These oaks began life around 1100 when Henry I was crowned King of England.

They are certainly intriguing.

Probably best viewed on a day shrouded in fog from the North Sea, to capture that eerie feeling!

High Summer

Another heatwave and 6 days of high temperatures and an opportunity to capture an unnatural evening glow in the still heat.

Sweltering Summer days are sometimes referred to as the ‘dog days of Summer.’ This comes from the Roman phrase ‘dies caniculares.’ It was noted by the Romans, that the star Sirius (also called the Dog Star) began to rise in the sky before the sun towards the end of July. The star was so bright that they believed it gave extra heat to the sun and was responsible for the hot days of Summer.

The rising hot air and moisture provide perfect conditions for thunder and lightning. At 30,000 degrees celsius, lightning is five times hotter than the surface of the sun.

A single thundercloud is more powerful than any nuclear power plant on earth. It has been calculated at approximately 1 billion volts.

Isn’t nature amazing?

Heatwave

The intense heat appears to give an eerie golden glow in the evening.

Barley field.
Tall grasses illuminated by the evening sun.
Gold.
Wild flowers.
Cobwebs elegantly draped over a nettle.
Backlit wildflowers.
Blinding sun.
Fading sun.