Yet another visit to Messingham nature reserve. Before I continue to tell you about this latest visit I thought you might be interested in knowing exactly what effort and time goes into achieving the photographs you see in these blog posts and on the main web site.
Many people who know little about photography think that it's an easy task. You just go take a few photographs and put them on here, simple as that. Well taking the few photographs bit is easy enough, to some extent at least, but it's not quite as simple as many people think. Preparation begins the night before when I ensure that the batteries for the camera and flash unit are fully charged up. There is nothing worse than arriving for a days photography to find the batteries haven't enough power in them to last the day. All my gear apart from the tripod (which isn't used much nowadays) is kept packed in a specially made camera bag ready to go. It's just a case of removing the batteries from the camera's and flash unit, charging them and then returning them to the camera's and flash unit in the bag.
Even if I am only going somewhere local like Messingham it means getting up early. By early I mean by 06:00 at the latest. I have a couple of dogs that need exercising, and as they are used to an hours morning walk it's only fair on them to take them out before I go out myself. There are also other chores to be dealt with in a morning before I'm free to go out. My wife works four and a half days a week and I'm retired so I do a good share of the household chores. Messingham is a twenty five minute drive from my house so it means leaving my house at 08:35 to arrive at Messingham for 09:00. I often leave much earlier than that in high summer when the daylight hours are much longer.
The subjects I am photographing don't come to me, I have to search for them. A visit to any location, Messingham included can last anywhere between four and eight hours plus travelling time. Most of this time is spent on my feet, so that's a lot of leg work I have to put in. I often get stung by nettles, scratched by bramble briar's and bit by insects in my quest to get these photographs, not to mention getting hot and sweaty when it's very warm. I generally take a packed lunch with me carried in a small back pack. Fortunately at Messingham there are plenty of seats available so I can take the weight off my feet for a while. I could go back to the car to eat but that would involve extra walking which I try to avoid.
Once I have found anything to photograph I have to ensure that I have the camera on the right settings for any given subject. To some extent this is a relatively easy task as I keep the camera set at a particular setting and usually only make adjustments to aperture values and exposure and metering settings, depending on the subject. Some of the subjects will only give you a brief few seconds to get that photograph, so getting it right first time is crucial. A good deal of field craft skill is required to photograph these subjects. Most of the subjects I photograph with the macro lens are very wary of human beings and will take flight at any sudden movement, or if I approach too closely or too quickly. Knowing your subject well is the key to finding and getting on photographic terms with many of them.
Once the photographs have been taken and I arrive home there is then the job of downloading them from the camera memory card onto the computer. This isn't a long job, depending on how many photographs have been taken. A typical macro days shooting can see me take anywhere between fifty and three hundred photographs depending on how good or bad a day I have had. I don't do a lot of editing to my photographs as I shoot in jpeg format only and they usually don't need a lot of editing. I'm a big believer in getting it right in camera, this makes the editing process much easier as far as I'm concerned. First thing I do when I have them on the computer is to view them at the actual size they were taken in the camera. If they are not sharp they go straight in the bin. My pet hate is un-sharp photographs. That usually gets rid of a good number of them Lol. The ones I think I might keep are transferred to another folder on the computer for editing.
The actual editing process for each photograph only takes a few minutes. I crop if necessary, adjust the shadows and highlights, again only if necessary and add a touch of unsharp mask, (always needed in my opinion) I would say that I get a 10% keep rate most of the time, anything above 10% being a bonus. The rest are binned. Many people tell me to shoot raw rather than jpeg, and I know a raw file contains more detail if you like than a jpeg file. However, I don't want the extra work at the editing stage that a raw file creates. I'm not going to compare raw with jpeg here only to say I'm very happy with the results I get from jpeg files, and to use a motto of mine, if it aint broke don't fix it.
The next stage is uploading them to this web site. This is a very simple process thanks to the great hosting company that I use, http://www.zenfolio.com/ It only takes a matter of minutes to upload the photographs to the respective galleries on the site. From each respective gallery it's a very easy task to upload them to this blog page. From getting home to uploading the photographs to the web site can take anywhere between one and three hours, depending on the number of photographs taken. Well I hope that's given you an insight into how the photos get on here and what's involved in it. I'm sure I will think about something else I ought to have mentioned later. Please carry on and read the rest of this blog post and feel free to make any comments on this post publicly or privately. Thanks.
I arrived at Messingham at 09:00.It was another cool but bright morning. Once again the Canon 100mm and speedlite flash hand held was my choiuce of equipment. There were a few Common darters on the wing in the first meadow but they were too flighty to get any photographs. Continuing through the reserve I spotted a male Southern hawker dragonfly perched up in the grass. He wasn't going anywhere because he hadn't warmed up enough to fly, and this gave me the chance of some nice close up head shots of him.
Male Southern hawker
A pretty good start to the day. I didn't see a lot more until I reached the heather meadow. The heather meadow is always a great spot as it gets the sun from more or less first thing in the morning and is surrounded by trees and large shrubs on all sides making it one of the most sheltered and warm spots on the reserve. I spotted a very worn looking male Emerald damselfly that looked like he was about to expire at any time, so I left him in peace for his last few hours of life.
As I was walking the edge of the meadow I spotted what I thought at first glance was a willow catkin. Then I thought hang on that's not even a willow tree let alone a willow catkin. It turned out what I had seen was a lovely Pale Tussock moth caterpillar. It superficially resembled a willow catkin. It was just sat on a leaf. However, when I took the first photograph of it, it decided to do a runner and all the other photographs I managed were as it was moving. They came out ok though and I have included a couple of photos. This species was a first for me so I was well pleased with these.
Pale Tussock moth caterpillar
Pale Tussock moth caterpillar
Migrant Hawker dragonflies were now on the wing as it had warmed up nicely and I managed nice photographs of the males. A good photograph of a female still eludes me Lol. The next photographic subject was a Hawthorn Shield bug. This one was sat out on a leaf in a nice position. Not very often you find them in such a good position photography wise so I made the most of it taking many photographs from different angles.
Hawthorn Shield Bug
I spotted a Common lizard sat on top of some dead gorse. I did get a couple of shots before it scurried off, but they were not very good ones. Speckled Wood butterflies were the most common butterfly although I did see a couple of Comma's, one Red Admiral and one small Tortoiseshell. No Brimstone butterflies were seen today. I guess it was a little on the cool side for them.
Common and Ruddy darters were seen in good numbers. It has been an excellent season for the Ruddy darter at Messingham. For some reason the darters seem to be much more flighty in a morning than they are later in the day. Often with dragonflies it's the other way round, they are usually easier to approach first thing before they have warmed up but the Common and Ruddy darters seem much more at ease and approachable later in the day.
I had been that engrossed with taking photographs that I had lost track of time. It was now 13:30 and I hadn't had a drink or anything to eat since I left home. I sat on the bench in the corner of the heather meadow to eat my lunch and watch the hawkers patrolling the meadow. The clouds had started to build up now with the sun becoming a much less frequent visitor, so I decided to make my way back to the car to go home. Only a five hour session today, but a very enjoyable five hours.