Saturday, 29 June 2013

the birds and the bees 28/06/13

I try not to be superstitious. I try to avoid buying into the idea of luck, either good or bad. I accept I am lucky in many respects but mostly respects I take for granted. For instance, being able to enjoy an exhilarating run round the perimeter of Holyrood park on a warm Friday evening carrying a camera to capture anything visually arresting. Already I am waist deep in good fortune and luck but I fail to appreciate large wads of this because otherwise my whole life would be spent in a state of gratitude and there would be no time to strive for even greater good fortune and running even faster.

However there was an almost tangible luck out and about today, and really I should have been buying lottery tickets. Although the sun was lurking behind clouds I took a few photos as I circumnavigated the park. The paths are dry but dangerously overgrown and you have to wade through all sorts of jaggy things (or as Mary says biters and scratchers.) There are masses of buttercups this year – must be buttercup weather. I think they need more sunshine than there was tonight to look their best (in photos) but I put them in a couple of pics. They brighten up the floor. The wild roses too when they're not being blown all over the place, are looking lovely and are full of insects.

Now it's the living things that I really got lucky with. (And a chair.) First up some of the darker recesses of the perimeter were setting off the flash so I was trying to zoom through the undergrowth getting a bit of motion blur, and streaks from overly lit undergrowth catching the flash. (And hey if I didn't go fast enough for some blur I could always add it later in photoshop. I have no scruples about this as that was how I was seeing the jungly undergrowth – zipping past in a blur as I shredded and mottled my shins on the thorns and nettles – and so it's fair game in my opinion to match the photo to the experience. I don't see the camera and its choice of image as the purveyor of ultimate truth. I use a photo out the camera as a starting point, although often it is very close to the finishing point as well.)

ICM at the IRT

Which brings us to the Innocent Railway Tunnel. I was feeling so fine, that instead of heading back along the road when I descended the steps to Duddingston Loch, that I took a left out the park and round to the Innocent Railway path. I picked up the pace along the boring long straight and when I got to the tunnel I stopped to take a photo (perhaps only subconsciously realising I might enjoy a breather while taking a photo.) There is a movement in photography (literally) called (the) Intentional Camera Movement (movement) where one deliberately shoogles the camera while taking a picture. Not so popular with portraiture, the subject matter is often a stand of trees and the movement on the vertical axis. I don't know why, google it, there are loads of photos like this. Maybe in darkened copses of trees where shutter speeds are often slow you are drawn to look up as you take a photo. I have one just like that I took myself, I'll look it out in a moment...

Some trees near the River Almond with unintentional camera movement that I liked more than the steadier images. This is a similar image to many Intentional Camera Movement pics.

Anyway the tunnel was a bit dark and cyclists kept insisting I didn't stand right bang in the middle so I did some ICM along the horizontal plane and I think you'll agree it's come out, well, quite lucky. Though I did crop and tweak it. If it wasn't for the movement it would be largely dark with just the overhead lights and a small arch of daylight (with some angry cyclists' reflective gear, reflecting.)

Next up 2 bugs in caught in the flash. Pure luck – I never saw them (until I saw the photo) and although it looks like I might have brought at least one home glued by sweat to my forehead, it might have been rubbed off by the chair. (More on the chair later.) So down towards Holyrood and along for a lap of Hunter's Bog. The grass is very high here and hay fever sufferers should probably steer clear. However, as I was looking for excuses to slow to a jog or stop entirely, I saw 2 bumble bees riding piggy back. Now dragonflies, yes, pigeons, yes, sparrows, frogs, toads, cats and dogs yes, but bumble bees? Don't they have a queen who lays eggs or spawn or termites or something in a hive or an old shoe? (Apparently that would be honey bees.) Anyway another one for google.

making honey

I then meant to do several laps of Hunter's Bog but sort of forgot and headed back after one, across the playing fields next to Holyrood. As I did, I was swooped past by a few swallows. I stopped to take photos but the task is virtually impossible as they are travelling at 300mph and not in a straight line and I am a bumbling fool. I took a few photos of where-they-had-just-been, before putting the camera on burst mode: a rapid fire of a few shots per second shots while pointing the lens in the general direction of the arcing and swooping birds. They were utterly fantastic and seemed to be deliberately using the humans crossing their patch as markers about which they wheeled and turned. I am not sure they were feeding on flies so much as just enjoying carving through the air at a tremendous speed and showing just how graceful they could be. I shot off 321 rapid fire snaps in a couple of minutes turning with them, spinning till I was dizzy. They would come really close, circle around, shoot off then re-appear. Maybe they were being territorial, they didn't say. A guy walking past on the phone seemed to be getting loads of attention. Right enough if I moved more, they came swooping by. So close you would think I could have got a big sharp portrait with NO intentional camera movement. Nearly. I might go back in the sunshine with the good camera and see if I can do better. I can see the computer filling up with mostly-grassy-blurry shots. I got one nice shot (out of 321) of a swallow with its tail and wings fully spread out in the centre of the picture. But burst mode is not best quality. But what a joy. Highly recommend it.

As I was running down Easter road I noticed an office chair sat outside one of the second hand furniture shops. I asked how much the owner wanted and he said “£10 – its worth more but I can't fit it in through the door and past the other stuff easily.” I had planned on going past the co-op so had £10 in my back pocket. I walked home with an office chair that I would have paid £50 in IKEA for, on my head. Wiping off the glued-on insect collection. I'm sitting in it now, feeling pretty lucky I can tell you.

Another photographic effect I have been trying is overlaying textures.

OK this never happened - I had a lot of grass per swallow so put a few of the birds together in the one pic to save space. (They weren't all flying in the same direction either.) I love the aerodynamic shapes they make.

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