Another iPhone photograph. I woke up at “dark o’clock”, the birds are singing and what an amazing sunrise.
Another iPhone photograph. I woke up at “dark o’clock”, the birds are singing and what an amazing sunrise.
Previously I have mentioned how I am so lucky to live very close to the Snowdonia National Park. Living on the coast I also have the added bonus of having nature reserves used by migrating birds right on my doorstep. So last night I went out to photograph a phenomena that not everyone gets to see…a starling murmuration.
Each evening starlings from all around gather together to roost in the reed beds at Gronant Dunes. Slowly but surely they fly in, usually in small groups, from the countryside and towns where they have feeding during the day.
Those small groups start to become larger groups as they fly around waiting for other starlings to join in. Why do they do it? The thought is that grouping offers safety. It’s harder for predators like peregrine falcons to attack one bird when there is a flock of thousands. Safety in numbers as they say.
It’s also thought that the starlings communicate good feeding areas and by gathering in numbers it’s easier to keep warm during the night.
Slowly but surely more and more birds arrive and the sky is full of them. You can hear a sort of swishing sound as they fly about and the closer they get to you the noisier it becomes. “Take Cover……”
One thing I will say, don’t get underneath them. It can get extremely messy.
Eventually, when the group is large enough they head of to their night-time roosting areas in the reed beds
Just behind this caravan park are the dunes and the marshes, home for the starlings at night. And there they are. One last flourish and down they all settle. It’s pretty safe out there. The marsh has lots of water making it hard for predators to approach the starlings .
Well, that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this quick post – Mike
Now you might have noticed that I’ve changed the blog theme and there’s a reason behind that. I had a conversation the other day with a new reader to Say It With A Camera and after a while it became evident to me that somehow the aim for my blog had sort of gone by the wayside. Say It With A Camera was always intended to be about the photographs and yet there was I using a theme that spent more time advertising how I’d been Discovered, Freshly Pressed and in the Top 100 Blogs. You know I can’t even remember if that was photography or not. Worst of all, the photographs were small.
So I’ve gone back to a simple theme called Plane, taken out all the Widgets to give me a single column that hopefully will show the photographs so much better. Talking of photographs. All of these are 3 shot HDR using the Olympus combination of the OM-D E-M1 Mk2 and the 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens which is hardly ever off of the E-M1.
Anyway it’s that time of the year when the “little house” by the river in Llanrwst becomes probably one of the most photographed buildings in North Wales.
The building does have a chequered history but it’s a tea room now and a very popular one at that. Oh! and the getting wet. First of all the river is in full flow, higher than normal. I came along the river side and had to wade across a large puddle were the river had burst it’s banks. Then to cap it all. I’d just got the tripod set up, the camera was on the tripod and suddenly the heavens opened. Driving rain and where I was standing there is just no shelter.
Not really that productive down by the river, so whilst I was in the area I decided to pay a quick visit to the church, more to dry out a little before going back to the car, than actually taking any photographs.
But seen as I was there, why not? The light wasn’t too bad, late afternoon sun, breaking through the clouds, giving some nice patches of light and shade, ideal for a bit of HDR. Just as a matter of interest the church was built in the late 15th century, although there have been more modern renovations to the church which were carried out in the 1840’s.
Next door to the church is a small chapel which was built in the 17th century by Richard Wynn of Gwydir. Inside the chapel you can find 17th century stalls, a lectern and a communion table. Several stone monuments, dedicated to members of the Wynn family, as well as a 13th century stone coffin, supposedly that of Llywelyn the Great can be found.
So that’s it. All in all I got wet and to add insult to injury, walking back to the car the heaven opened again. Then to add even more insult. As soon as I left Llanrwst, the sun came out, the skies turned blue, with those beautiful white wispy clouds. It would have been perfect down by the river, especially with the sun starting to dip. But that’s the weather in Wales for you.
Last Saturday was a really hot day, well for the UK and North Wales it was. Out in the open my car recorded a temperature of 95oF or 35oC. Too hot for a peely wally Scot like me. But I didn’t care I was indoors suffering “death by slideshow” as I watched the judging for the North Wales Photographic Association (NWPA) Exhibition. 859 images, including some of mine, from 62 photographers in 5 categories, Open Colour, Open Mono, Altered Reality, Flora & Fauna and People. All projected onto a screen, where the judges have about 5 seconds to score each image, awarding a score between 2-5 from each judge.
So how did I end up at this “prestigious” event? Well I’ve joined a camera club. Shock! Horror! You’ve got to be kidding….I here you say. Well maybe you didn’t but trust me it goes against everything I love about photography. Stuffy, competition based, cliques, you’re just a beginner, you don’t use CANNIKON, you can’t be a photographer. Been there, done that, had my fill of them.
When I first moved to North Wales, one camera club was touting for new members, so I went along to their open night…you never know. Without introducing himself, this fella comes up to me, shoves a DVD from Digital Camera Magazine into my hand and says, “this might help you”. I later find out he’s the chairman of the club. FFS. You could have introduced yourself, asked my name, asked my level of experience before insulting me in the way you did.
So back to this exhibition (salon). The goal as a photographer is to get an award or at least an acceptance. In “A Beginners Guide To Photography Salons” David Candlish explains;
“Unless you’re a stunning photographer with a huge portfolio of world-class images, the goal of most photographers entering a salon is to earn acceptances. This means your photograph is officially recorded as meeting a minimum standard by the salon judges and they want to include it in that year’s suite of exhibited images”.
The camera club I have joined is not into competitions. A few of our members have come from other clubs, feeling dissatisfied with the way they were run. Instead, we are more for the social aspect of photography, get together, chat, help each other with editing etc. It’s still in it’s infancy, our members have mixed abilities but the main thing is we want to help each other.
But we did decide to join the NWPA and as such we can enter their competitions, something I have never done before. In each of the categories you can enter up to four photographs to be submitted to the judges. More for interest, than anything else, I decided to have a go and also attend the judging day. Cost me £10 ($12.50) to enter my photographs.
Having never attended one of these events I didn’t know what to expect, but I was interested in seeing what other photographers submitted and how the judges went about their job. First category was the Open Colour. I had four photographs in this one. As the judging started it was clear that the judges were marking low. Or at least i thought so, most images being presented were scoring 9, 10 or 11 with the occasional 12. But one thing seemed to be standing out to me. The more you Photoshopped, the higher score you were getting. How did I do in this category? Well not too bad. Out of four images submitted by me I got two “accepted”. These were the two above.
Open Mono, Altered Reality, nothing there, but I had better success in Flora & Fauna, once again getting two accepted.
I was particularly pleased the Red Squirrel scored a 12 as I thought it was one of my strongest images.
Finally in People I got this image accepted. These two ladies were fun to photograph. They had come out of the pub to have a cigarette and a bit of a chat. They asked me to take their photograph and all the while they were smiling.
Well that about rounds it up. I have to say that I was impressed by the standard of photography, we have some great photographers here in North Wales. But like most things, it’s all down to perception. Photographs that the judges were scoring low I thought were worth far more. Just as equally, some photographs scoring high, I wouldn’t look at twice.
By the end of the day I was flagging, the temperature had been steadily creeping up in the building we were in, no air conditioning here, it’s North Wales, we don’t need it. I had seen enough photographs to last me a lifetime and my interest was definitely dropping. Which made me have a thought. How do the judges keep their interest, from the first right through to the last photograph, especially as we had been there from 10:30 through to about 16:00 with a short break of an hour for lunch.
I’m on a roll at the moment, so here’s a quick post about the Mach Loop. It’s an area here in North Wales where low flying military aircraft can be photographed as they fly through the valleys. There’s no timetable of when this will happen, but generally you can say Monday to Friday, usually during daylight hours, although Friday is usually POETS day so there may be limited traffic then.
To get there I have to leave the house at six and after an hour and a half drive it’s time to climb up the side of a hill to the vantage point which puts you level or even above the aircraft as they fly through the valley. In reality there are several vantage points but my favourites are CAD East and CAD West. It’s very rare that you wont find other photographers up there waiting for the same thing as you and often that wait can be long. Sometimes it’s three hours of boredom followed by ten seconds of sheer panic as you spot the incoming aircraft, get you camera up, focus and fire the shutter, hoping that you’ve got a least one in sharp enough focus.
But of course, we’re photographers with a common interest so it’s not really hours of boredom, we chat, talk about gear, which aircraft we seen, keep in contact with the other photographers who are on the other vantage points, have a look at flightradar 360 to see what military aircraft are flying and where they are, and most importantly listen to the radio scanners for those magic words “low level LFA7”. And the tents? Not normally for sleeping, more to keep your kit dry, the wind off, it can be cold at those heights, and generally act as your own little shelter against the elements.
So when your up that hill you have to carry, camera, lenses spare batteries, food, water, hot drink, and the tent. The only good thing is the load is lighter on the way down. Is it worth it? To me yes. If I get one good photograph on a day, I’m a happy guy. If I don’t there’s always the banter, and amazing scenery to enjoy. On a clear day you can see so far.
On the CAD east side you get to see the underside of the aircraft as well as head on photographs as they make their approach. It just gives you that little bit of extra time to pick them up and focus.
CAD West, you’ll get cockpit photographs but the difficulty is that you are photographing into the sun which can make it difficult.
At the end of the day I’ve been on the hillside ten and a half hours, it’s six o’clock and it’s time to go home. Faced with another hour and a half drive home I’m eager to get off the hill, and I’m not alone. Military activity has slackened off. The scanners have been quiet for a good hour the radar picture shows nothing up flying in the vicinity so we all make the decision to head home.
The tents get packed up, camera gear is stowed, we take all of our litter and head home.
Sure I’m Scots but it’s not me I’m talking about, it’s the train.
Probably one of the UK’s most recognised locomotives, the Flying Scotsman has returned to service hauling tours around Britain after an extensive refurbishment, and I was lucky to catch it today as it passed through North Wales.
Built in 1923 for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) at Doncaster Works to a design of Sir Nigel Gresley, the Flying Scotsman was employed as an express train on the East Coast Main Line running from London to Edinburgh, a distance of 392 miles. During it’s time in service, before it was retired in 1963, the Flying Scotsman a world record; it was the first steam train to reach 100mph. Later in the 1980’s it would be the first steam train to clock up the longest ever non-stop run of 422 miles during a tour of Australia.
Being mainly a landscape photographer I really applaud the choice for this weeks challenge. And to celebrate I went out and photographed some fresh landscapes from one of my favourite areas in the Snowdonia National Park: the Ogwen Valley and Cwm Idwal. Easy to get to, a well constructed path leads up from the car park at the side of a main road to the shore of the Idwal lake. Along the way you get some spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Like the photograph below showing Tryfan which forms part of the Glyderau group. Although not the highest mountain in Wales by any means, it is one of the most famous and recognisable peaks in Britain, but at 917.5 m (3,010 ft) above sea level it is only the fifteenth highest mountain in Wales.
Now Pen yr Ole Wen, on the opposite side of the Ogwen Valley to Tryfan, is the seventh highest mountain in Snowdonia and Wales and forms part of the Carneddau range.
Down in the Ogwen Valley lies Llyn Ogwen which lies at a height of about 310 metres above sea level. Llyn Ogwen is a very shallow lake, with a maximum depth of only a little over 3 metres. In the photograph below yu can see Llyn Ogwen, Tryfan to your right, Pen yr Ole Wen to your left and the path coming up from the car park. It’s a popular walk and probably one of the easiest in Snowdonia. Even on a weekday you can see quite a few people are heading up to Cwm Idwal which is behind me.
Cwm Idwal is a valley in the Glyderau range of mountains in northern Snowdonia, within the valley lies a small lake called Llyn Idwal. That lake drains down to the Afon Ogwen by a small river which tumbles over rocks all the way to the base of the Ogwen Valley
Other small tributaries come down from the mountains but eventually they all end up at the Afon Ogwen.
All the while I was up at Cwm Idwal, the light kept changing as did the weather. A little bit of sleet, some hail, sunny patches, but hey, this is Snowdonia and we are in the mountains. But look at the light. Some great patches of light and shade, constantly changing, what more could I ask for.
That wraps it up for this week and as usual here’s what other bloggers are saying about this weeks challenge.
The Photographer Smiled… Polder View
Wednesday Lensday- Sunshine and Solitude – Aloada Bobbins
Claire Rosslyn Wilson Fishing Rods
Dr D in Oz Outback Trio
Elizabatz Gallery Weekly Photo Challenge- Irish Landscapes in Psykopaint
Maria Jansson Photography Amazing Places in Northern California- McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial
Weekly Photo Challenge- Landscape – Sky Blue Pink Design
Rebecca Gillum Photography I Love Rainstorms
Beyond the Brush Photography Dalveen Pass
Weekly Photo Challenge- Landscape – Connie’s World