I’ve had another busy month for photography. It started off with me still working at the BBC’s semi-deserted Television Centre for a few days covering the Local Elections, and I’m still trying to catch up with the backlog of urbex images I made there. I promise to publish more soon! But I have been able to show you some of the Face Down Tuesdays I made there, namely the Dangerous Dentures Edition, Paint Shop Pro Edition, and Silent Escalators Edition.
May meant Mono MayHem was back! A month of mono image making, as well as my usual Photo A Day shots. Here’s one which was nearly selected for 30th May, a view of Dunston Staiths, taken on a murky bike ride along the Tyne:
I found some more great subjects for my 50 @ 50 project too. I made #18, #19, #20 at various locations close to home, and #21 in Newcastle, where I spent the last week of May visiting Alistair.
During my stay, we embarked on various northern outings, including a Tynemouth Cycle ride:
Another sunny day it turned out to be, despite an unpromising start. Alistair and I decided to tackle the big geocaching circular walk around Urpeth in County Durham. We saw lots of wildlife, including a few butterflies who were willing to sit still for us. I’m pleased with this shot, taken with my Canon PowerShot G12 – which is not the ideal equipment for wildlife close up images!
The toys found some Magic Mushrooms along the way, there was Wild Garlic in the woodlands and Green & Pleasant Land all around. Here are the rest of the pictures from the day (including some of the lesser-spotted Alistairius MacDonaldensis) 😉
I’ve had my Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens since mid-2007. I bought a second hand model from the London Camera Exchange, treating myself to this fantastic piece of gear out of a redundancy payment. They took my previous Sigma 135-400mm long zoom, and an old TTL Canon flash in part exchange. I think the final bill came to just under £1000 – which at the time was a bargain for this lens. It looks like you can still get one for about that now, so they’ve held their value extremely well.
At the time, I was attending lots of rugby matches, and taking photographs whenever I could.
During the winter, the matches would often finish under floodlights, so a lens with decent Image Stabilisation was essential. I was taking shots from the stands (not having access to the touchline), with the lens mounted on a small monopod, and supported on the edge of my seat. It worked reasonably well – the lens weighs in at a hefty 1.38Kg so holding that up by hand for 80 minutes would have been almost as brutal as playing a game of rugby myself!
By mid-2008, for various reasons, I was attending fewer rugby games and the lens was largely consigned to the back of a cupboard. Mainly due to its brutish weight. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with it ever since. I love the quality of images I get when I bother to use it. But I hate the bulk and weight of it and use it much less frequently than I should.
Fast-forward to mid-2010 and it had another outing, this time to photograph the wonderful lavender fields, mid-harvest, in Eynesford, Kent:
Having reacquainted myself with its image quality, I was reminded to take it out on a shoot to the Salute For Heroes event at Glemham Hall a few weeks later. It was perfect for the flypast of the B17 during the afternoon:
And perfect for getting up close and personal with the characters, whilst remaining safely at more than a pike’s distance from the action:
Such a long reach means you can capture images of twitchy nervous wildlife without getting close enough to upset them. Below is a Blue Tit in may parent’s garden (taken through the kitchen window):
As you can see, it gives brilliant differential focus, isolating the subject from its background. I also found the lens very useful in a butterfly house during an outing at Tropical Wings – the butterflies would flit away as soon as I tried getting close with my 60mm macro lens – but were blissfully unaware of me stalking them from a distance with the 100-400mm:
On my crop-sensor EOS 7D the lens’ longest focal length is equivalent to a whopping 640mm – that’s nearly a telescope! Which gave me an idea… One clear cold autumnal evening I decided to have a go at photographing the moon. This is a crop from approximately 1/4 of the frame, but I was astonished at the details I managed to record (it was mounted on a sturdy tripod, using a cable release and mirror lock-up to minimise vibrations):
It was at this event that the lens started playing up – something felt like it was snagging when you pulled the zoom ring back towards the wide end – it would “ping” and come back easily if you just exerted a little bit of pressure. Clearly it needed looking at. But sadly I didn’t have the time to get it sorted out until a couple of weeks ago – so it sat in the cupboard sulking for 7 months!
As you can see, the results from the lens speak for themselves. It’s a fabulous piece of equipment for wildlife, sports and action if you have the muscles to carry it about, and a strong enough tripod to set it up on. This time, I refuse to put it back in the cupboard, for it will be out of sight, out of mind – and it could then be months before I use it again!
January kicked off with an interesting photographic outing to the Museum of Power with some Chelmsford Photowalk friends. As it was also my birthday, none of the images made it as picture of the day, but I was rather taken with Regular Reg – one of the fun “robots” at the museum made by a local artist.
A lot of days during the month were rather dull, and some very wet.
There was a bit of sunshine on 9th when I enjoyed a late afternoon stroll by the canal, where I found this teasel lit by the golden low winter light. I was also pleased that I was able to find a dark background to put it in front of.
During Culture Hack weekend, I took a quick wander around Spitalfields Market to catch this colourful shot, which nearly made it for Day #1111.
Come the end of the month, the Chelmsford Photowalk folks met up again and went to Tropical Wings for an outing. It was quite challenging to photograph the butterflies in the hot house – both photographers and gear took some time to acclimatise to the humid conditions inside! For that reason, I chose a butterfly image for Day #1126 but I also rather liked this one of a pair of Black-Cheeked Lovebirds: