Saturday, 10 December 2011


What a chilly Winter's day today was! Having just finished another module in my long tour of the UK education system, I thought I was due a nice relaxing reward. Right on cue, I woke up this morning to be greated by a stunningly clear blue sky and a crisp breeze.

Lesson 1 of today: Buy some gloves.

As I strolled along the Thames path towards the wetland centre, Teals were nibbling at the waters edge in the low tide mud. I stopped to take a few snaps trying to capture their vivid colours against the streaked and channels muddy shore, but with little success correlating my limited effort - It must be warmer in the WWT hides!

I must say im one of those undesided people when it comes to the cold. Crisp winter days, beautiful light conditions and supreme clarity are all plus plus plus. But my hands numbing up so i can barely set up my camera let alone open my front door when I get home are big 'blehs.' I think spending some of my formative years in a desert made my developing circulation complacent about things to come.

But lets talk about some photography. Having dodged the crowds around the huskie rides and the stream of people heading off to see santa (located in a hut in the north america section!) I settled in the WWT hide. Much like my last visit, I started with the gulls. Less accrobatics today though, infact, there seemed to be much more discontent between our avian friends out on the lake. Perhaps they were chilly too? Moorhen was picked on by coot. Coot was picked on by black headed gull. Black headed gull was landed on by a passing herring gull. Herring gull sqwarked a bit sheepishly at a greater black backed gull. And the crows were up for a fight with anyone.

Life is easier as a duck I think. Whilst all this guffufull was going on the ducks tended to keep out the way and snooze. Moving over the the wader scrape, the somnolence of the ducks was uninterupted, and the light and colours of the reeds, teals and water plants was lovely to behold.

As I gazed out at this peacefull scene, I was given a real treat. Out from behind a reed bed came the first ever male Pintail that I have seen. Sadly, he never really came close enough for my lens to give him the credit he is due, but I managed to get a few half decent snaps of this truely elegant visitor.

Oh, and here is a snap of a teal showing off his colours....

With thoroughly numbed fingers, I headed home for lunch feeling dead chuffed with my Pintail spot. Lunch today was going to be AWESOME. Having hosted a Christmasy dinner the night before, there was a big bowl of leftovers waiting for me. As if sensing my festive mood, A robin popped out of a bush and settled on a fencce just a meter away from me. Sharing a few quizzical looks while I snapped his portrait, I almost felt like he was showing off just for my lens. A lovely end to the morning :)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Now that's aviation


What first comes to mind? "Ergh," "Ewe," "Humph?" How about the echoing cries of "AIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGGG" at the seaside?

I must confess. In the urban sprawl of London, I dislike gulls. Ducking and diving for scraps on the roads and pavements, they are up there with our friends the rats in my estimations. (Sorry everyone)

Things change at the wetland centre. For the reason why, there was no better example than when I visited last week - I was greated by a vast number of them, making the cacophony of noise only gulls can. And they were incredibly active. Ducking and diving, swooping and skimming accross the lakes surface. It all looked rather fun.

So for this blog post, the focus is our friends the gulls. Photos are a mix of old and new - enjoy :D

Sitting in the WWF hide (soon I think I will ave left an impression in the bench where I always find my perch...) I turned my lens to trying to capture the skill and pannache that these birds employ while hunting, socialising or just having fun.

The next two photos come under the theme 'verticle.' Its almost as if the bird has been cut and past back into the photo after being rotated 90˚ as even just before impact, these black headed gulls kept their wings extended.

Next up, fishing. Or... Stealing. Or just play?! Nature does not have the greatest of tollerance for sillyness. And sillyness is what I witnessed one sunny morning at the wetland centre. Feeling very pleased with himself, a herring gull had caught himself a fish. "Yum." Thinks he, as he gracefully wings his way accross the lake.

CAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! Reverie over. The mob begins. Spotted by the flock which was so docile just moments previously, a wall of white wings rises from the lake and mobs our friend and his breakfast. Ducking and diving, the play pans out in a bizarre reverse pecking order: Herring gull loses fish to another herring gull. Herring gull 2 loses the fish to a smaller gull. Smaller gull loses the fish (after much pestering) to a black headed gull. Black headed gull realizes fish is a bit big and after dropping it a few times, surrenders it once more to a herring gull. So. Competing fo food like this is a wise evolutionary strategy? WRONG. After the gulls had spent all that energy, the only chap to get breakfast was a crow. Watching patiently from the sidings, when he perceived the silliness to be drawing to a close, he swooped in, grabbed the fish and was gone. Game. Set. Match.

And finally, to bring this whistle stop tour of gulls to a close. Here are a few pictures from my archive of gulls being gulls. Taken in Cardiff (fishing for minnows) and Henley (the later 2). Enjoy!

Friday, 11 November 2011

10/11/11: An Autumnal affair

"Its getting chilly," I was thinking as I stepped out on a rare day off to scamper over to the Wetland Centre. "But come on, its more or less mid November! It should be much, MUCH chillier. What are you complaining about?!"

"Humph." Thinks I, and casting meterological averages aside I fall back into reality: "I'm chilly".

And whats more, just as I got to the Wetland Centre car-park, my previously 'full' camera battery was now reporting a rather measly 1 bar out of 4. No hundreds of rapid shutter shots for me today then! This is NOT a bad thing. I dread to think what I would have been like if I had discovered photography before digital. "Considerably more in debt" I think would be the key phrase.

So, flashing my card and bustling past mothers with babies, watchers with telescopes and strollers pondering along with autumnal whimsy, I scamper to my hide of choice and make myself comfy.

It was a good day. There were HUNDREDS of birds on the main lake at the London WWT site. HUNDREDS.

Gulls. Ducks of bewildering variety. Lapwings. Grebes (Small and Gr Crested). Herons (10). Cormorants. Coots (angry). Moorhens. Crows (devious). And I'm sure there were many more! AND everyone seemed to be active and on full display for my lens.

The first two of todays photo focus on a rather handsome duck. After much flicking through books I believe he is a Gadwall. It took be bloody ages to realise this because most illustrations show no hint of the dashing auburn flash at his side, and I only confirmed his identity when i spotted the short phrase, "gadwalls also have white and brown colourings but tend to be rather too shy to display them." Not this chap, his lovely hazlenut flash was proudly out for all to see.

Moving on!

This is not that great a photo. But I have a soft spot for little grebes. They look like little balls of fluff when above water, but submerged they are the terror of many a little fish. Here he is in the Autumn sunshine, and again below diving for his lunch.

And finally, and without further adoo as I need to make dinner for some friends... Here are 2 fun photos of a (Black headed?) gulls. Neat.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Blogging reborn in black and white....

Ok, so I have a number of appologies to start off with. Firstly, and largely to myself, I am sorry for not blogging in so very long. Sadly this is largely due to my camera lying dormant on my bedroom floor gathering dust, while I was a tad overwhelmed with work.

Secondly, the post that follows is not the normal focus on the nature of London that would normally fill this page - In fact, the shots arent even from a captial... BUT, what i have for your delectation today is a foray into the world of black and white, and I hope you enjoy :)


So, these pictures are a short sequence from my recent trip out to Vietnam. In the past, I have generally stayed clear of black and white photography - largely because it is completely new to me. Havng toured a few galleries, it occured to me that black and white can very easily make a picture look good - deep contrasts and a sense of monochrome romance - but to take a great photo in black and white that stands out in the crowd is no mean feat. 

Experience lacking, I have used this skirmish with B+W to practise the things that I had been working on last time to went to the WWT centre. Along with my bird photography, I have been aiming to improve my compositions, bringing more depth and atmosphere to my photos. The subjects that attracted me in Vietnam were the markets. Walking through them was like wading through humanity - alive with sounds, sights and (of course) motorbikes. There was huge contrast not only between individuals, but between calm and chaos - These are the things to wanted to capture.

 Pictures 2 and 4 are from a little town called Hoi An. The town itself is frozen in time - designated a heritage site, the old architecture of centuries of trade have been preserved, leaving the only real change being the change from traders of the old world commodities of asia to those of the new world, i.e. the trade of the tourist.

The photo below is one of my favorites. When I was perusing this stall, the lined features of the man behind the table really caught my eye. It seems I want alone with my interest in him, as the little girl in the darker background also sits watching him. This is the picture which really sums up the Vietnamese markets to me - goods of all shapes and sizes, sellers of all ages.

The next photo is the last from vietnam for the blog. Taken without tripod, propped against a building to try and steady my hand, this lantern shop really shone out of the darkness late in the evening in Hoi An.

 Last, (and possibly least!) this was an earlier experiment with B+W that I thought i would tag on. Taken at HORR in Putney, it shows the Imperial 2nds coming back in to the boat house after a very sucessfull race. The 1sts were already landed and dry and I wanted to catch the rowers as they passed the bundle of oars on the foreshore. Sadly, in my haste, the end of the oars was just cropped out of the photo by my zoom. Humph.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the pictures this week. Next post (which will be soon!) Will be back to wildlife with some shots from Singapore. If anyone has any advice or comments in general, please write them below :)

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year one and all! Now, for some reason my blog is not allowing me to arrange the photos in this post, so the best will be saved until last!

To get the ball rolling, here are a couple of (heaven forbid!) landscape shots. I took these before Christmas whilst walking through the South Bank Christmas Market :) The winter sunshine was really bringing out the colours around the sights and I snapped these two in passing.

The London Eye

View of parliament

So that was 2010, now on to 2011 and more familiar photographic subject teritory for me! A sunday brought the first crisp, sunny day of 2011 for which I was back in london and free to wander up to the Wetland Center for just an hour. The late afternoon winter sun was really highlighting the main lake to creat a wonderful atmosphere to photograph the wildlife.

The first highlight of the afternoon was some activity on the islands as a new heron flew in to join his compatriots roosting in the reeds. i caught this shot as he drifted in to land.

And now the highlight. I suddenly realized my time had run out and i needed to head home when a juvenile grebe popped up from the reeds directly in front of the hide. One further dive and he surfaced with a catch. His timing was impeccable, I had not yet packed up and I fired off a stream of shots as he consumed his afternoon snack.