Mist in the Lake District

South Lakes

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Friday Afternoon

At last a clear sunny day

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Digging for Worms

As I watched a man digging for worms on the Camel Estuary, I thought that there can be a great satisfaction in carrying out repetitive manual activities.

For instance it allows the mind to wander and often some of our the best ideas can come as we carryout a repetitive task. I once read about a writer who had their best ideas whilst scrubbing the front step, and had to go back to such activities whenever she had a writer’s block.

The satisfaction gained is not only mental, but also physical. I agree that if you had to carryout the task for eight hours every day, then, the physical satisfaction would be lessened if not almost nonexistent. However it can be enjoyable to get out of the house or office on a cold crisp morning, and expend a bit of energy whilst digging for worms while the tide is out. Just being out there with nature can increase our sense of well being.

So, all in all I think the man is enjoying his digging for worms, the same cannot probably be said for the worms though!

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Seal and Surf

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The Camel Estuary Cornwall

A few views taken over the Christmas and New Year holiday on the Camel Estuary.

View from Polzeath

Padstow Harbour

The Iron Bridge

View from Padstow

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Freedom in Constraint

It seems to me that we have more creative freedom when we are constrained, than when we can do as we please.  This may seem to be a contradictory statement, but I believe it to be true.  To illustrate this belief, I will look at two types of constraint, time and structural, to show that we actually can have more creative freedom when constrained.

Time, nobody seems to have enough time these days.  In the average family home both parents work and have to juggle looking after the children.  This situation is made worse with employer’s demands for longer hours and the difficulty of commuting as the traffic gets heavier and heavier.  It may therefore seem strange to say that we may have more freedom if our available time is constrained.

I personally have a reasonable amount of ‘personal’ time, however I never seem to sit down and write, to sketch, to read, to study Spanish or to take photos, all the things I am interested in but don’t do enough of.  I believe that as I have plenty of time to do these things, I put them off until later and then never do them.  The only way I do get around to them is when I get up and get on with them straight away, when I set myself a period say from seven to nine in the morning.  So despite having sufficient time, I have to have constraints to get things done.  If we know we only have half an hour to complete something we get it done, if we have all day it never happens!

Structural constraints can take many forms, for example, literature and in particular poetry.  It is well known that the restrictive structure of the sonnet provides freedom for the poet, why?  Because the poet does not have to decide what structure to use, that decision has been made, the poet is free to compose within the structure.  The law is another structural constraint, yes it constrains us all, but without it we could never leave our houses knowing they would be ours when we returned.  It protects our assets and thus gives us the freedom to do other things.

To conclude, more money, time and less structural constraints would appear to give too much choice and not only do we not know which way to turn, we become anxious and less, not more creative.  So although we resist constraints, we are often freer with them and if we want to be creatively productive, perhaps self imposed constraints would help us.  With that in mind I went out into the snow with only a 50mm lens to see what I could do.

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Grey Seals at Donna Nook

Donna Nook is on the Lincolnshire coast, south of Grimsby, and every year during November and December Grey Seals arrive on the sand banks to give birth and breed.  The great thing about this spectacle is that it is possible to get within touching distance of the seals.  Although touching is not recommended as they bite!

We visited on the last day of November and at this time over a thousand seal pups had been born, as we walked along the half mile path between the sand dunes and the beach we could see nothing but seals, it was an amazing sight!

There were two reasons for visiting, firstly to see the seals and secondly to photograph them.  Although there are many seals and they were very close, it is not as easy as it might seem to produce an interesting image.  A lot of the seals are sleeping, and a picture of a sleeping seal is not that interesting.

However by waiting for interaction between mother and pup and for fighting between the bulls it was possible to take some interesting shots.

The seal pups, when awake, are quite inquisitive.

Hey, you with the camera

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Find the Owl

Close to where I live there is a Tawny Owl.  I’ve heard it but never seen it.  Apparently they don’t hide, they just sit on a branch and blend in during the day and hunt at night.

It is almost impossible to see them, you can see below how well owls blend in, and the owl in the picture is much bigger than the Tawny

Spot the Owl

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Life on the Water

I’ve often thought that it would be nice to live on a narrow boat, travelling along the canals at a leisurely pace, close to nature.  No doubt it wouldn’t be quite as good as it first seems, but I bet most people would like to give it a go.  It is the simplicity of the life that attracts me, but would this simplicity lead to boredom?  I think I’d miss the convenience of pubs, restaurants, shops and not to mention the golf course all within walking distance of the house.  Still the dog on the barge seems to be enjoying the life.

Dog on a Narrow Boat

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Birds of Prey

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Great Owl

Recently I took part in a photography workshop on Birds of Prey with professional nature and wildlife photographer Paul Miguel (www.paulmiguel.com ). We had a selection of six birds, a buzzard, (of which type I can’t remember!)

Buzzard

A Great Owl, a Barn Owl, a Small Owl, a Long Eared Owl and a Kestral.  This was my first time at this type of workshop, at which the birds are well trained and you have plenty of time to photograph them.  It is certainly different to trying to photograph them in the wild, and my initial thought was that it would be a bit tame.  There certainly wasn’t the excitement you get when seeing the birds in the wild, however it was an interesting and enjoyable day for two reasons.

Firstly you do get a chance to see these beautiful birds up close and if you’re interested, and ask questions, you can learn a lot about them from their handler.  This I saw as a real benefit, as the knowledge gained will certainly increase my chances of seeing them in the wild in the future.

Secondly you get a chance to practice the craft of photographing birds. It seems easy at first, snapping away, and getting full frame pictures of the birds.  However I soon realised that something was missing and that to get a good picture you needed to compose the photo carefully.  My composition improved when I included the bird’s surroundings, but excluded any tether attached to the bird.   It also helped that Paul was good at placing the birds in the appropriate surroundings.  Our skills were further enhanced when we had the opportunity to photograph the barn owl in flight.

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Barn Owl in Flight

Despite all the modern technology, this is not as easy as it looks.  For those who are interested in having a go I would suggest the following settings;

  • Aperture priority, about F5
  • Set the ISO to give a reasonable shutter speed.
  • Set the focus point to dynamic.
  • Set the focus mode to Servo, basically the action setting which will maintain the focus on the subject as you pan to follow the bird.
  • Set the shutter release to continuous.

At the end of the day I had increased my knowledge of both the birds and photography.

Finally, and most importantly, I was pleased to see that the welfare of the birds came first, they appeared to be well looked after and get to fly every day.  In fact as the handler said, it is essential that the birds fly regularly and are fit otherwise they would struggle in the displays in which they regularly take part.

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Barn Owl

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Little Owl

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Long Eared Owl

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Kestral

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