Kingston Wildlife

I took the chance weekend before last, whilst my wife was getting her hair cut, to take a stroll along the Thames by Kingston to have a go at capturing some goings on. Kingston is one of those places that, a short distance from the busy town centre, is a quiet river walk leading all the way round to Hampton Court Palace (and beyond, for that matter, if you’re feeling adventurous. Last time the wife and I cycled in that direction we ended up in Woking).

It’s also a part of the river well inhabited by swans, geese and other birdlife.

Having already spent some time around the river, not just in Kingston, but at Twickenham, Richmond and Isleworth, the problem I faced, as I find myself often facing, is trying to create images that aren’t just a lot of what I’ve done before. On a related note, I’m finding it more interesting to play about with the 50mm f/1.8 lens as it is so different not just from my other lenses but from anything I’ve used before it. I constantly use it at or around its widest aperture, using the shallow depth of field it creates to shoot some different looking images. Well, a bit different. I’ve also played about a little with the UV and polarising filters I have; the polarising filter especially can do interesting things when pointed at water.

One of the traits I’ve found myself guilty of whilst out shooting is taking a while to get warmed up. This might be a good thing, I don’t know, but often I will either take some bad (or at best, mediocre) shots before I get into the feel of things, or just take a while to actually feel like it’s worth grabbing my camera out of my bag. Either way, before long I’ll often be shooting with abandon and racking up hundreds of images, which I will then have to go through later to figure out which one of half a dozen near-identical images is the one to make the cut. But I digress. The point is, the next two shots are of swans to get us warmed up.

Exposure 1/800sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.67
Exposure 1/640sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.67

I like the look of the water on these two, especially the latter with the darker patch on the right side on the image. I’m not sure whether it was the fact it was a bit of a grey day, the presence of a UV filter or just whatever happened to be behind what I was shooting, but it looks different, almost smoother.  Hopefully any photography capable people might be able to shed some light on that one.

As you’d expect, it wasn’t long before I broke out the f/1.8 lens to have a play about with it.

Exposure 1/1600sec, f/1.8, ISO 100

I guess I just really enjoy the ability to draw the viewer’s (or viewers’, if I’m feeling optimistic) eye to a particular part of the screen. I am becoming aware that I could overuse this technique, however.

Exposure 1/1250sec, f/1.8, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.33

After some unexpected success capturing a bee having a rummage around some plants a few weeks ago, as soon as I caught sight of another having a poke around I had to try to capture it.

Exposure 1/800sec, f/2.5, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.67
Exposure 1/800sec, f/2.5, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.67

I was very pleased when I got home to find that the bee was in focus.

Not long after, whilst sitting around seeing just how many pictures my camera would take in a high speed burst (as it turns out, 15 in three seconds, resulting in over a dozen identical images of some stinging nettles), I saw some rubbish floating by on the Thames (shocking, I know). I found the colour of the apple therein against the greyness of the water to be quite pleasing, so I tried to grab a few interesting shallow depth-of-field shots:

Exposure 1/2500sec, f/2.5, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.67
Exposure 1/1250sec, f/2.5, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.67

I’m slightly disappointed the depth of field wasn’t more obviously shallower (partly my own fault; had I shot at f/1.8 instead of f/2.5 it might have made all the difference); the portrait image is my favourite of the two, even though the apple is not quite as visible, purely for the shallower focal depth.

Speaking of portrait images with shallow depths of field…

Exposure 1/3200sec, f/1.8, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.67

… I really need to work on my segueing techniques. Anyway, back to the wildlife.

Sometimes I forget which batches of images I’ve taken in the past have ended up on this blog or date back to the days when I would put them on Facebook. On various occasions I’ve traipsed the Thames betwixt Richmond and Hampton Court and encountered much birdlife. Swans, geese, funny orange geese, ducks, I’ve seen and photographed them often.

I can’t however say I’ve seen too many of these up close.

Exposure 1/1250sec, f/5, ISO 100

Which is all the more surprising, because on this occasion there was two of them.

Exposure 1/320sec, f/5.6, ISO 100

Now, even I know that’s a cormorant. Probably. Thus, this must be two cormorants:

Exposure 1/500sec, f/5, ISO 100

One constant issue I face with something that’s actually happening, as opposed to something that is just there, is getting that balance between getting a great shot, and just getting a shot at all. Is it better to at least get an image of what is going on, or is it worth missing that in favour of a more creative picture? This is something that I will be facing head-on over the coming weeks in a couple of trips I have planned – but more on those later. And by ‘later’ I mean after I’ve been on them, just in case something goes horribly, horribly wrong.

This is as close as I managed to get to them before they scarpered:

Exposure 1/800sec, f/1.8, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.67

I would like to point out that I don’t class this next fella as ‘wildlife’, I just like the image.

Exposure 1/640sec, f/1.8, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.67

Nor, for that matter, are these people, but the thing in front of them is:

Exposure 1/2500sec, f/1.8, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.67

This is quite a good example of the shallow depth of field drawing the eye towards the actual subject of the image. I am determined to photograph more actual people, but I tend to try to do it without their noticing. The pictures are better that way, plus I don’t have to talk to them. I find the swing-out screen of the 60D combined with its ‘Live View’ mode quite useful in pretending you’re not actually taking pictures of people. I think I’m beginning to sound a bit pervy at this point, so here’s some more wildlife:

Exposure 1/1600sec, f/1.8, ISO 100
Exposure 1/1600sec, f/1.8, ISO 100

Then the cormorants came back.

Exposure 1/4000sec, f/1.8, ISO 100

I should note that the main reason I was shooting with my 50mm prime lens for these images was because that was the one that happened to be on my camera at the time. Not great practise I know.

Still, on the way back I passed a line of geese, and at that point I was very happy for having such a large aperture:

Exposure 1/2500sec, f/1.8, ISO 100
Exposure 1/1600sec, f/1.8, ISO 100

And finally, I did a little more experimentation in moving the focal distance:

Exposure 1/1600sec, f/1.8, ISO 100

I’m quite pleased with the results from this little jaunt (I would be, otherwise I wouldn’t have posted them). I definitely seem to be trying to get different styles of image when I’m out and about – at the very least, I’m taking more portrait images, which must be indicative of something.

However, I still need to work on my closing paragraphs on my posts. Try as I might, they always seem to just end.

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