Nearly May already

Wow, it's been a long time hasn't it?!   I've been out photographing since last October but I just wasn't getting images I really liked.  Well nothing other than trees that is but I figured multiple posts about trees would eventually lose their novelty for most peeps.  Maybe I am a tree hugger at heart...
Many things have happened since I last posted.  First Christmas (belated Merry Christmas), then New Year (belated Happy New Year) and now Easter (belated Happy Easter, too).  But what have I been up to?
Back in October last year, I was fortunate enough to meet a local photographer who took me to some local sites to look for Deer and Dipper.  We didn't strike lucky with the Dipper but we found the Deer.  One beautiful stag complete with a huge set of antlers had me captivated.  That was the closest I have ever been to a big stag like that.  And the last thing I wanted to hear at that moment was being told the field they were in only had one exit which was where we were standing...  So if these deer got a little irritable and wanted out, they were going to charge straight for us...  right....  We moved away a little and they exited out the field giving good views but terrible images.  I went back a few times but they were streets ahead of me and knew I was coming long before I even worked out where they were!  But terrific animals to watch.  You can see a long distance image of the stag below photographed through the overhanging branches to give a blurry frame.

Red Deer Stag
Strangely, my favourite images from October weren't of the Deer but of a Redwing and... yes, you guessed it, a tree!

Sun bathed trees
But when trees are bathed in light like that, how could you not resist taking a photo of them?  You can click on the images to make them bigger if you want more detail.  The image on the right looks like one image doesn't it?  Wrong.  It is actually numerous images stitched together as I wanted the telephoto effect but with the field of view of a smaller lens.  It was also because I only had one lens on me so I had to make do.  Therefore, I started taking images from the left and moved towards the right of the scene before stitching them together in Photoshop.  I have to say I love the ability to make these panormas in Photoshop and I love watching my computer have mini heart attacks each time I make an adjustment to such a large file (we're talking gigabytes).  Best to go make a cup of tea or something if you try it and leave the computer to it.

Redwing angel
Whilst we were standing watching the trees, I noticed that some newly arrived Redwings were flying onto the Hawthorns to feed off the berries.  As they did so, the backlighting was making them appear as angels.  The challenge was then on to try and make an image of this and retain that highlights of the wings.  The left hand image was the best I could manage.  I did have to exaggerate the backlighting in Photoshop but I think it was worth it and I hope you do, too.  You're seeing what I saw. 
Another migrant that fell into the range of the camera was Pink Footed Geese.  Such a magical Autumnal sight and what a noise.  A noise that can make your day even on the murkiest of days like that one.

Pink Footed Geese skein

Then I kind of lost my way with photography.  I just wasn't getting things I liked and this persisted for months and months... and some more months.  I was still taking images but didn't feel I had anything worth processing.  I was literally taking my camera for walks.  I had a little reprieve from this spell when I went home for Christmas.  You can see some of these images below.  But this luck didn't seem to stick when I came back to that there Cheshire.

Tufted Duck
Carrion Crow taking flight

Hiding Treecreeper


The weather didn't help either for photography either.  But, for me at least, it's always a pleasure to be out whatever the weather.  It's not all about coming away with photos.  What can be better than when you're sitting atop a hill and watching the valley below on a murky day that's full of atmosphere (sometimes quite a damp, even hailing atmosphere)?  Please don't say a hot chocolate whilst you're curled up in front of hearth with a good book!  Though that does sound tempting...

The forest doing magical things...
Shuttlingsloe from a damp Teggs Nose.  Did you spot the walkers?

After a while, I resorted to photographing the Forest drive and even cows...   I know what you're thinking, "a cow?"  It was a very pretty cow though... actually it might have been a bull...  But anyway, the point is I was looking for something that would set my photography off again.  It also allowed me to practice some different techniques and use different lenses.

The Forest drive

I was being watched very carefully!

Now it was Easter and I was at home.  We had some beautiful sunny days and I decided university work could entertain itself for a few days.  My camera needed some attention.  I went to the local reserve and enjoyed every moment.  That was when I took two images I really wanted to edit.  Not like so many other images I had just left on the memory card.  You can see them below and, if you want, click on them for a better view.

Kestrel hunting

Male Pheasant

These two images were taken on different days but at the same reserve.  I was lucky with the Kestrel.  He had been quite active all morning but always a little far away.  He looked beautiful through binoculars in the Easter sun.  Then, just as I was deciding to leave and go home, I was hanging around on the road when he flew up over the hedgerow and hovered just up the way.  I can't tell you how excited I was!  But where was the light...  Oh, that didn't matter!  Look at him hanging there motionless on a perfectly clean canvas.  What more could you want?  When I got back to the computer, I figured monochrome would be the best choice for this image.  I cropped in so you could follow his gaze downwards before using Niksoftware (love this by the way) to convert to monochrome and add a sepia tone.  Finally I added a vignette and here we go.  I just like the simplicity.
The next image of the pheasant I like partly because it reminds me of the sounds he was making.  I am pretty confident when I approached him, he didn't know I was there.  He was showboating.  Standing tall.  Shouting and drumming.  Flapping and strutting.  But in between these episodes, he kept making this low pitch noise.  I can only describe it as a hum hum hum.  I am guessing a contact call of some kind?  I've never been close enough to hear that before.  Then he seemed to clock my camera - a big reflective thing on the other side of the bush that kept clicking.  He didn't panic and flea but simply hide in amongst the low hanging branches and nettles.  In amongst that foliage the light kept illuminated him and the branches created a frame.  I knew what I wanted to show.  Post production required removal of a green cast but here you are seeing very much what I saw.  It's just a shame you can't hear him calling out, flapping before his little hum hum hum.  Maybe he was just pleased with himself?  Anyway, perhaps you'll listen out for it next time you're close to one of these guys.  I have my fingers crossed for you.
Well that was long.  What did I learn?  Never rush anything.  Take your time when you're outdoors.  Don't get despondent when photography doesn't work out.  Keep looking and enjoying Nature.  As someone once told me, seeing Nature is a privilege and getting photographs is just a bonus.  
Until next time, fare thee well.


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