Sunday, 27 June 2010
Going to Patterdale (a village at the bottom of Ullswater lake in the Lake District) this weekend was always going to be a bit hit and miss I thought to myself. Ullswater Steamers which run boat cruses on the lake had a photography competition on and so, doubtful as I was to go I thought I'd it a bash with the old idea that "nothing ventured, nothing gained" or perhaps "I might as well push myself, I have just as much chance of something good as bad" and so caught the bus down to in the hope that I might photograph some worthy entries. My reasons for being hesitant by the way was that this was a whole new ball game. I have never worked like this before, nothing was certain, but it was good practice. I had to think like a pro, learn to see an opportunity and work in the moment. I have to say I did miss a few.
This time the morning woke up groggily. I pulled myself out from under my tarp and surveyed the situation. Bellow the rocky outcrop I was on I could see the water enshrouded in a cold fog and the road running as a ribbon along the far shore. Everything was grey. The sky, the water, hills, trees, the lot. The light just seemed to flat line from daybreak, this morning really hated itself. But as I packed my things away and clambered back onto the path I saw the strangest sun I have ever seen. It burnt its way through the cloud cover like the red smoulder of a cigarette, a perfectly round near orange to blood red sun in the sea of grey sky. I tried to take a shot of it but no luck. The photograph above is where I started the morning.
Brothers water is a tiny lake thats waters flow into ullwater via connecting rivers. Its surrounded on one side by ancient oak woodland and is an absolutely stunning place for some wildlife watching. This was where I spent the Sunday.
I couldn't sleep, a time check told me it was midnight. I thought about it and then decided enough was enough, time for a early start. Brothers water was eerily still as I entered hours before dawn. Sitting beside the shore near to where the lake narrowed to carry on it's flow as a river I paused to listen to the night and sort my gear out. Headlights in the distance could be seen occasionally as cars came over the hills, their beams illuminating the sky like search lights funnelling off into darkness before descending back onto the road. It was only me, the fish, some rowdy blokes in a house on the far side and their dogs awake at this hour in the morning. I could hear their voices travelling out over the lake and the beat of music pulsing just audible in the still air. Its amazing that even where silence reigns there will always be someone to ruin it. Splashes in the water in front of me as fish broke the surface to feed on midges and two tawnys called just behind me quite low down in one of the trees. Pasties for breakfast. I swear by them as they last well, don't need cooking, taste nice and are everything I need on a good trek.
As I was finishing breakfast the moon came out and I took this image. I had to hold the shutter down for five minutes to get this exposure and I timed it on my phone just to make sure. The midges were giving me hell. It was virtually impossible to stay still for five minutes with them around and so I did get camera shake in most of my images.
On the wildlife side of things highlights of the trip were 3 spotted fly catcher, nesting swifts, 2 mistle thrush and 2 female goosanders both with 7 chicks each so I think it was worth the visit.
As an additional, the things I missed my chance on was once at the crag pictured where the sun was low and four lads were standing looking out over the lake, another was sitting on the ground. They looked the part for a good winning people shot on the crag and it did cross my mind to ask if I could photograph them for the competition but I ended up letting a good chance slide as I weighed up asking them then decided against it. Another main one was a triathlon where a hundred or so people swam so far, ran so far and cycled the last leg. Why I never considered photographing this I don't know. The third and final thing I really should have been on the ball with was photographing a international motorbike group that was in the town. They more than anyone are the kind of people to show off for the camera. This one I never realised until I caught the bus back. Talk about things staring you in the face. Lesson learned.
Friday, 25 June 2010
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
It was four 'O' clock the next day as I headed down into the reserve. Though it was getting light the sun had yet to surface over the horizon and the morning was crisp and clear. Mist collected over the pools and as I went deeper into the reserve in the hope of seeing a Barn Owl from one of the hides it began tinting orange in the light. I stopped at a small wooden bridge where a still channel of water separated the reeds. (see top image) Silhouettes of warblers and tits darted over the water and into the reeds as I set up the tripod and experimented with the framing. I stayed there taking shots as the sun came up and time ticked by. I think I'll have to get up for mornings like this more often.
The last hide I went to known as Lower Hide was the furthest situated hide into the reserve. The path to it is long but your guaranteed to see or hear something interesting before you get there. The sun was hot as I trekked the thin path with the tripod on my shoulder and my bins around my neck. A sign stated frogs and toads crossing. They weren't joking. I counted 50 but there must have been in excess of 100 frogs along this one thin path which makes sense really. Its a hot day in summer and I'm surrounded by water. But still, there were so many you'd think they were spiders. It was so difficult to know where to put your feet. I could already see casualties that lay before me, the tiny splattered remains of their former selves. Once in the hide it yielded nothing much, most what was interesting stayed to the back just in sight.
The RSPB were very helpful as they showed me where I might be able to see Peregrine, the best place to find the harrier and I also investigated the Lancashire coast as they recommended and saw a 30+ flock of Oystercatchers. Leighton moss is good and I will definitely go back however I have seen the Somerset Levels which makes Leighton Moss look like a pond. All told a good few days. Thanks to anyone who has read even half of this ramble. Hopefully it might give some people some good info.
Monday, 21 June 2010
Monday was the same day I took the Bull Finch image. As the day wore on and the sun broke through an overcast cloudy morning I sat there and watched the world go by. By now squirrel activity had slowed down to nothing much as it always does. Now being around mid day. Generally speaking any activity after 10am or before 6pm is pushing it if you're a squirrel. The calls were the first thing to get my attention. Using the cameras viewfinder as the lazy mans answer to binoculars I looked through the lens just to take a look and photographed what I saw. Interestingly enough there was a count of only one adult Bull Finch all day. It was busily going back and forth constantly between the feeder and a high branch of the nearest tree trying to satisfy its hungry young. Two young Great Tits also clambered in the branches of the same tree.
Sunday, 20 June 2010
These gulls are superb characters clamouring thuds on the hide roof, gliding and screaching as they fill the air all around the reserve. They dive-bomb anything, I saw one constantly dive-bombing a coot and they will also harass the harrier. The image is not 100% technically but still. Notice the feather near its foot, I like it when I occasionally find the little extra touches that I never realised were there add something to take an image slightly further.
Saturday, 19 June 2010
Wednesday, 9 June 2010
Today I also watched an adult Pied Wagtail feeding a single juvenile. It was interesting that the young one followed the adult around waiting for food when usually even when fledged the adults for example Robins and Blue Tits find and feed the chicks from safety (as far as I have seen). Perhaps it was just reluctant to leave yet it wasn't collecting any supplementary food itself as in it relied an the adult alone to run around collecting and feeding it invertebrates. It also occurred to me that I hadn't seen Pied Wagtails on campus for at least a month or two when before you were almost always guarantied to see one near or on the building opposite and so I presume they must keep a very low profile when nesting.