Sika Deer Stag

There are a lot of Sika Deer in the RSPB reserve at Arne in Dorset and they are generally very easy to see.  Dee and I were just returning to the car a couple of days ago, when we had a surprise deer encounter which is perhaps one of the best we have had.  It was fairly late in the afternoon and we were walking on one of the main trails through the woods when I spotted a Sika Stag grazing just behind a ‘clump’ of bracken, about 5-6 metres away.  We stopped in our tracks, stood very still and he seemed completely oblivious to our presence for several minutes.  He saw us, but didn’t seem to care.  He carried on grazing, wandering around amongst the bracken and trees while I fired off a good few shots.  None of these yielded particularly good images, largely because of the challenging light under the trees.

I had my 70-300 mm (140-600 mm full frame equivalent) lens on my Olympus OM-D E-M1, and as a result was using ISO 3200 to help keep the  shutter speed up.  In the event, this shot was taken at the shorter end of the lens’ range, but I didn’t want to ‘fiddle’ with settings while I had such a good opportunity.

Of the shots that I got, I think that this is perhaps my favourite, even though it is not as sharp as I would have liked.  This lack of sharpness is partly due to having applied some noise reduction in Lightroom and partly due to cropping to improve the composition.  Using ISO 3200 is, however, something that I would have never dared to do with my E30, and indicates how much cameras have improved in the last couple of years.

wpid-20140910-_9100179.jpgWe are off to Maine soon.  It would be great, but unlikely, for us to get such an opportunity with a magnificent Moose.  We’ll probably get lots of Lighthouses though!

Please check back to see.

An Elephant photo, treated using Topaz Detail 3

Last year, I posted ‘Elephants 3 – Another White Elephant, with Zebra (Mono)‘.  That image was shot back in 2006, when I was using a Sony DSC-H1 Bridge Camera.  I really liked the image, but the small sensor in that camera made it difficult to obtain much ‘selective focus’ and the image was too sharp from front to back.

Because I liked the image, particularly when presented in B&W, I decided to use a variation of it in a recent B&W Camera Club competition.  I’ve often said that I am not much good at using Photoshop, but regardless of this limitation, I felt that I needed to try to simulate some ‘selective focus’ in this image if I was going to use it in a Club competition.  I spent ages selecting different parts of the image and using layers to apply different levels of blur.  I wish that I hadn’t bothered.  The Judge didn’t like it, easily picking out those parts of the image that I had ‘worked on’.  I just wasn’t clever enough! 😦

Last year, I purchased the Topaz Suite, but didn’t have the time of patience to learn how to use the various parts of it properly.  This week, I thought that I would have a bit of a look at Topaz Detail 3, an application intended for selective sharpening of images.  I’ve still got a lot to learn, and I still lack patience, but I have been very impressed at how this software can produce excellent results.

I thought that I would apply it to the original ‘jpeg’ file of that Elephant photo.

In this post, I have presented a series of efforts to improve this image.  I hope that the differences are clear enough to show just what a ‘pigs ear’ I made of it before moving on to Topaz Detail 3.  Here goes.

The first image is the jpeg straight out of my Sony DSC-H1

Original jpeg from camera.

Original jpeg from camera.

The next image was a B&W conversion using one of the Lightroom presets.  I can’t remember which, but I was going for a fairly high contrast result.

Initial B&W conversion.

Initial B&W conversion.

The next image is where things really started to go wrong.  I attempted to use my pathetic Photoshop skills to simulate some ‘selective focus’ in the image by using a number of layers with differing levels of Gaussian blur.  It took a long time to select the elephant layer and the result wasn’t great.

Attempt to simulate 'differential focus' using Photoshop layers.

Attempt to simulate ‘differential focus’ using Photoshop layers.

It must be remembered that these last two B&W images were produced because I thought that the image lent itself to use in a Club B&W competition.

Some time later, after investigating Topaz Detail a little, I thought that the selective sharpening (and softening) available in this program might be useful for simulating ‘selective focus’.  I gave it a try, and these next two images took only a few minutes to produce.  Maybe there is scope for improvement, but I quite like them as they are.

After a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

After a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

B&W conversion after a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

B&W conversion after a few minutes work in Topaz Detail 3.

Here they are again in a carousel so they can be displayed at a larger size where the differences are more evident.  Click on the first one to display the slide show.  Esc to end it.

I think the attempt to simulate ‘selective focus’ in the Topaz worked images is more subtle and was certainly achieved much more quickly.  Please feel free to comment as I know that I still have a very long way to go in improving my PP skills.  In particular, I always have trouble deciding just how much of an adjustment to make.

Springtime in the woods

It’s time for a walk in the woods.  Actually, this is a mere stroll compared with the day before’s hike around Culbone.  After the mild winter, it has been everyone’s expectation that this year will see an early show of bluebells.  With this in mind, we decided to take a stroll around some local woodland to see what we could find.

There was no carpet of blue yet, but where the most light and sun could find its way through, there were some well developed flowers to be seen.  I think primroses were still stealing the show but bluebells were on their way as well.  Compared to last year, I think the bluebells are probably 2-3 weeks ahead, at least in this wood.  There were also plenty of other spring blooms on show.

The final image in this gallery is a very strong clue as to where this woodland can be found, though it doesn’t look quite as it did a few years ago.

I’m not posting very regularly at the moment, but please keep an eye open to see what may come next.

Winter 1 – Ducks and Ice

It may seem a bit late in the year to publish a post with this title.  We have had a pretty bad winter, but not really with the type of weather that is expected.  As it looks as if spring may be on its way, I thought it might be good to post something reflecting what winter can be like before the weather warms up.  To do this, I have gone back into the archives.  This one is from January 2009.

It shows ducks on the ice of Sutton Bingham Reservoir, where many years ago, I used to sail throughout the year.  Sometimes, we would have broken thin ice to get a sail at the weekend!

wpid-P1095821_edited-1.jpgThe dam and overflow of the reservoir are hidden in the mist of this frosty morning, at top left.  The pontoon where the Sailing Club launches its dinghies is off to the left.  A couple of the ‘marks’, buoys that mark the course or start/finish line, can be seen towards the upper third of the frame.  The water available for sailing extends from close to the camera, away to the dam at the top of the picture, and some distance off to the right, down a narrower finger of reservoir to the south.  Although not a large reservoir, Sutton Bingham provides some interesting sailing.

Duck and other water birds like it as well. 🙂

Another shot, taken on the same day and posted a couple of years ago can be found here.

Some shots taken during a ‘summer time’ walk around the reservoir can be found here.  Hopefully these will help us think of the better weather.

Have a good weekend. 🙂

After the Storms – 3

Over the last couple of months it has become impossible not to have viewed many images in the media, showing the effects of this winter’s storms.  Many of these images have depicted the results of the violent winds when combined with high tides around our coasts.  Others have shown floods caused by the wettest winter on record.  The fact is, that the weather events of the last three months have combined to cause devastation and human misery in many parts of the country.  The livelihoods of many people have suffered and homes have been completely lost or badly damaged.  I suspect that even those of us who have not suffered directly, will feel the ‘knock on’ costs in future years, due to the need to pay higher insurance premiums.

You can see from the title of this post that I have made two previous posts, ‘After the Storms‘ and ‘After the Storms – 2‘, on this subject and these were of the floods over the Somerset Levels.

Although the violent wind strengths that we have suffered of late have been mainly linked to coastal damage, significant numbers of trees have been brought down inland as well.  When I took the photos featured in ‘After the Storms’, I met a lady who didn’t suffer from the ‘tripod reluctance’ that I do.  Armed with a very heavy duty tripod and ND filters, she had been intent in capturing the late afternoon sunshine over the floods, and probably with ‘milky water’ to boot.  One of the images that she was taking focused on this willow tree.

wpid-20140111-_1110060.jpgI hope that she achieved the image that she wanted at that time, because this willow has now been uprooted, as shown below, and can no longer form the focal point for any future attractive landscape images.

wpid-20140220-_2200025.jpg

This post was only intended to show the manner in which the storms have permanently changed our landscapes, however, as I write this post, I am very conscious of what many people have lost during the storms, and I feel huge sympathy for them.  This leads to somewhat of a feeling of guilt when I capture images of the storm and flood devastation.  The fact is though, that weather events like this, can produce dramatic images that many photographers would want to record.  Would it be more acceptable to shoot only hard hitting ‘documentary’ images, showing houses and cars that are submerged, rather than apparently pleasant looking landscapes?  It is my view, that all the images in these 3 posts are ‘records’ of the floods and are therefore acceptable, even if they sometimes appear ‘artistic’.  By the way, I’m obviously not referring to either of these images as artistic.

Any views?  Does anyone else worry about whether to shoot this type of subject?

Robin Redbreast

I know that Robins are one our most friendly birds, at least where humans are concerned, but this little chap ‘tweeted’ to attract my attention as I was walking past him, just a couple of feet away.  He then continued to sit there as I took a few portraits of him.  This was in the Nothe Gardens at Weymouth a couple of days ago.

Here’s one for the Big Garden Birdwatch Weekend.

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I also met a Grey Squirrel that day, who climbed my leg, but as I didn’t have any spare nuts he didn’t hang around for long enough for a photo.

Elephants 4 – Watched by an Oryx (Mono)

This is the fourth post in this elephant series and again, I have gone straight for the monochrome treatment.  I may post the colour version if anybody asks for it, but at the moment I feel drawn into presenting B&W elephants because I think this treatment really works for them.

I think that the elephant framed between the watching Oryx and the Zebra herd seems to work quite well but it is a pity about the Zebra back growing out of the Elephants neck.  Should I have cloned it out?  I couldn’t do anything about it when shooting, since I couldn’t move the vehicle that we were in.  This photo was also taken at the same nearly dried up water hole in the Etosha National Park, Namibia and is another example of the Etosha White Elephant.  Perhaps that might have been clearer in a colour image.

White Elephant, Kudu and Zebra (mono)I haven’t mentioned it in the other elephant posts so far but, by today’s standards, these are a bit ‘pixel limited’ by the Sony DSC-H1 and its 5 MP resolution.  I don’t think it shows too much though.  More elephants will follow, but if you haven’t seen the earlier ones they are easy to find from the list of recent posts.

Elephants 2 – A dusting of White Elephants (Mono)

As promised in a previous post, here is an experiment in mono conversion of a photo of an elephant family dusting itself in the Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Elephants 'Dusting' (mono)I think that the process of dusting is not as clear as it is in the colour version.  What do you think?

For anyone who loves elephants as I do, there will be more to follow.  Please came back and take a look.

Elephants 1 – A dusting of White Elephants

Elephants have always been a favourite wild animal for both my wife and myself.  Recently, two of my favourite bloggers, Helen and Adrian have produced posts featuring elephants, which can be found by following their links.  Since I love elephants, their posts have prompted me to start a series of posts of my own, which may be ongoing for some time.  This is the first.

We have all heard of ‘pink elephants’, though perhaps not expected to see them unless in a drunken stupor.  We may also have experienced ‘white elephants’ at some time in our lives, almost certainly wishing that we had not.

Real elephants can come in a range of colours, though of course most people expect them to be a ‘greyish/brownish’ colour.  Their apparent colour actually depends on the environment in which they live and the lifestyle that they like to adopt.  They love bathing in water, which I guess is good for turning them their natural ‘greyish/brownish’ colour.  They also like to use the natural ‘cosmetics’ of the wild by wallowing in mud and/or ‘dusting’ their wet bodies after bathing with whatever powders they can find.  The reasons seem to be mainly to do with protection from the sun and parasites.

This first post in my elephant series features the elephants of the Etosha National Park in Namibia.  These are real, wild, white elephants, created as a result of their behaviour.

The photo shows a family of elephants coating themselves in dust on the Etosha Pan.

Elephants 'Dusting'

When I saw in Adrian’s post, how well elephants could come out when given a monochrome treatment, I thought that it would be good to experiment a little.  Please keep a look out for some B&W ‘white elephants’ in future posts.