Monday, 28 June 2010

Sunny Mill Road

Taken a few days ago at lunchtime in the Mill Road area of Cambridge.  It's a bustling part of town, and even busier now that it was when I lived there as a research student.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

21 Today!

Frances, my "little girl", is 21 today, so...


She's just graduating with a degree in Engineering from Manchester, and her chosen birthday present was a digital camera.  Truly a chip off the old block...

Monday, 21 June 2010

Burwash Manor

Another camera club outing yesterday afternoon, this time to Burwash Manor Farm in Barton.  A fascinating place run by a farmer who is obviously passionate about wildlife and working organically.  We were treated to a ride around the farm on a trailer with plywood seats - a bit like a South African Game Drive, but without the South African Game!

Several shallow ponds have been dug specifically for birds and insects - especially dragonflies.  There was a family of mallards going quietly about their business, but all of a sudden panic set in and they all decided to abandon ship.

Otherwise the ponds were very peaceful and, with one exception, crystal clear.

This is the farmer himself, explaining why red clover acts as a natural contraceptive for cows because of the level of oestrogen it contains...

Who's a shitty boy, then?  Another of the farmer's stories related to a solitary calf which was wandering around the field covered in excrement.  Apparently it's all down to the fact its mother had died, so spent its time attempting to steal food from the other cows in the field.  The only way to avoid being kicked is to approach the udder from behind, but this has obvious drawbacks...

Once the official tour was finished we were dropped off by the ponds in order to wander round on our own.  Apart from a couple of damsel flies and some water boatmen, there wasn't much sign of activity in the ponds themselves.  Slightly further afield, though, I came across a male Broad Bodied Chaser which was sunning itself on a twig.  It flew off for a while, but then came back to a different branch close by.  In terms of photography, though, it's clear that the background makes a huge difference.  Both shots were taken at exactly the same camera and lens settings, but I know which one I prefer...

The farmer had planted beetle banks to split up his large fields, and these were absolutely full of insects including Large Skippers and the humble Bumble Bee.  The picture with two Skippers shows some interesting behaviour: when the second butterfly arrived, it spent the whole time while on the flower vibrating its abdomen.  I've seen bees "dance" before, but not butterflies.

The flowers were superb, although not being a botanical type I'm not sure what some of them are.  I recognised Poppies (obviously), Scabious and Knapweed, but I don't know what the big Daisy-like flowers are.  Any help with identification gratefully received!

This posting wouldn't be complete without the usual selection of Homo Photographicus specimens.  A couple clearly found something fascinating to photograph in the soil (heaven alone knows what) while others were unusually shy and elusive.  Good camouflage in the final picture, though...

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Wicken Wildlife

An intrepid bunch of individuals from Cambridge Camera Club ventured to Wicken Fen on Sunday.  We were treated to the spectacle of an emerging dragonfly, although there was quite a queue when it came to photographing the beastie.  We also had to run the gauntlet of some rather vicious mosquitos, which soon developed a taste for photographic flesh...

While waiting patiently to photograph the dragonfly, I turned my lens on other subjects.  The first was an unsuspecting Azure Damselfly which was soaking up the sun on a fence post.  [Later: a wise man has informed me that it's a Blue-tailed Damselfly, not an Azure.  Who am I to argue?]

I then ran out of insects (and patience) so started to look at my fellow mosquito fodder.

I was even lucky enough to capture these specimens of homo photographicus exhibiting some interesting behaviour.  First there is the illicit gardening while nobody is looking, followed by some kind of ritual dance to get back behind the viewfinder.  Finally, I was extremely fortunate to see two individuals interacting in their natural environment.

The poor dragonfly is visible in the final picture - just!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Lowry Outlet Mall

When it started to rain (this is Manchester, after all) Frances and I ducked inside the Lowry Outlet Mall to have a look around.  Not many people there, but there was a Costa which produced a Damn Fine Cup Of Coffee (TM). 

I just love the distortion of the 15mm lens, and the low-light capabilities of the 5D mean that hand-holding in this kind of environment is eminently possible.  I expected to be accosted by a burly Mancunian security guard, but nobody seemed to mind one iota that I was taking pictures...

Monday, 14 June 2010

Salford Quays

Life has been a bit hectic at home recently, which is why I haven't done much in the way of photography.  This wasn't helped by the fact that my super-duper new fisheye lens didn't work properly, so had to be sent back to be repaired - twice.  I finally got it back about a week ago, so when I found I had to collect my daughter from Manchester at the weekend, I decided to give it it burn in Salford Quays.

Unusually for Manchester the sun was shining - for a short while anyway.  After the overcrowded, grimy back streets of Rusholme, Salford Quays felt very different indeed.

True to form the sun went behind a cloud, and then the whole sky went grey.  Even in the dull light, though, the area was pretty impressive.  I didn't go into the Lowry Centre itself, as my daughter was intent on finding something to eat in the "Lowry Outlet Mall", pictured above right.

We'll be going back to Manchester in July for graduation day, and I fully intend to jump on a tram and visit Salford Quays again.  Assuming it's not raining, of course...