31/12/2020 Jenny’s topical Nature tips for January 2021

Hello everyone. Well January is going to be very difficult. I am, as always optimistic, but even I’m finding photography quite hard to find with lockdown and tiers. However I will do my very best for you all in these very difficult conditions.

I start my blog with a explanation. I was reminded that in our Society and PAGB Nature rules, they do not accept Geology and Trees as Nature. Basically, I’m saying that you can enjoy taking these “nature images” and enter them into mono and colour within the Society competitions. However, once you start entering outside competitions the rules change and Trees, Geology and Weather are all classed as Nature. To make it easy for myself I base all the rules of my nature images on external competitions not PAGB. Then I won’t mistakenly enter a touched up image, as is allowed in PAGB, only to be thrown out and be blacklisted for 2 years and unable to compete because of the much stricter PSA and FIAP rules.

Be very careful with Nature images. If you alter them or do work on them, place them in a file where you know where they are. FIAP and PSA have strict rules for Nature and Travel and Journalism.

So Nature at the moment is difficult.

Fantastic news we have snow so the birds will come to the gardens for food and water. Bird photos are great. Remember always to plus exposure to compensate for the brightness of snow.

On the first fall of snow I expect everyone was out with their cameras. There are some berries still on the trees and the snow looked nice partly covering the berries. The trees themselves look amazing with their bows bending under the weight of the snow. I always think a tree with no leaves and covered in snow makes an awesome image. All animals and birds become fresh and a present a new image when the snow arrives, very exciting photography.

I think we will have more snow in the coming weeks, well I hope so, definitely not a nature image but sheep on a snow laden field takes some beating.  Again watch your exposure levels. Another awesome image but again not Nature are cattle or horses eating hay in the snow or frost and steam coming off in their breath

Getting back to nature, when snow is on the ground living becomes harder, so be watchful and look for tracks. I love walking on virgin snow looking for tracks. It’s just like reading a book, you will see prints of so many animals and birds that have visited the area.

Apples will help feed Blackbirds and all birds really. Rabbits will be making tracks too. A wonderful image to have is a rabbit running in the snow. Don’t forget the deer parks, everything looks fantastic in the snow.

Sorry for the small blog this month but I hope I have given you all some encouraging ideas.

I hope everyone stays healthy and strong and next year we can try to do bit more.

Jenny Webster

27/11/2020 Jenny’s topical Nature tips for December

Hi everyone, these blog’s come around very quickly, however, before I start I want to say how absolutely chuffed that I am for David Ward and myself, that our suggestions and ideas are being attempted and used by you, all the members. Thank You.

In the last pdi competition, Novice Nature was so well supported and third place went to a non-animal nature image, the judge even remarking about the fact that more flower and berry etc. images should be seen in Nature.

I understand that we firstly wish to take and show animal /bird images and that is fine if you are lucky enough to get them but there are alternatives if you cannot. He also showed pleasure in the snowdrops, so well done.

Do remember, if you are taking a non animal/bird image for nature, the Nature Rules still apply. As with the berries, he was looking for a pattern so you still need to study the chosen image. With the berries a wider aperture of possibly f4 and a smaller composition section with a twig positioned within the image so that it hits a diagonal position would have impact.

December is not the greatest month for Nature regarding animals. They are all still out there but light is poor and days are short. The foxes and badgers can be lured out by food but usually still under the safety of darkness. Lighting spooks them, so bird photography is more available to us and here we have huge encouragement from a BPS member going out and purchasing a portable hide and luring the birds in with food. Dave Ward is to be congratulated on his encouraging talk.

Again we have a wonderful range of birds in Britain with a few who migrate. Also squirrel. So it’s well worth setting up a set of logs and twigs with hidden food offerings in return for a photo.

Be warned! when you encourage the little birds into your garden it won’t go unnoticed. The birds of prey watch so keep your eyes sharp you could have a Sparrow Hawk visit as well.

Buzzards tend to eat dead carrion, so possibly won’t come down but you never know. We actually have permanent mouse traps in our vegetable patch and all mice are offered as dead carrion to hopefully bring down Buzzard and Kestrel in to feed.

The Peregrine Falcon is also a small bird feeder but we don’t see them as frequently here this time of the year, but never say never.

We still have the Deer so with locations already mentioned they remain a possibility for December.

Fungi will mainly have finished now with the onset of frost but some fungi including Bracket fungi will still be possible to see, but a fungi expedition will be much less rewarding at this time of year, but not impossible.

The weather however becomes a strong Nature work contender, frost especially. Get up early and just walk a short distance to the garden or a hedge and look for amazing frosty cobwebs.  A Macro lens is best but a wide or basic lens will capture a pure nature spectacle. Make sure when you take the image that you walk around it to find the best angle that no strong colours or whites appear within the cobweb maze. Again, it’s essential you do use a low f number to block out detail beyond the web, e.g. f4 or less. It doesn’t matter that the spider is not there.

Leaves look amazing with a frost on them – especially if a haw frost, trees look amazing and don’t forget water, it steams on a frosty cold morning. They all make great nature images. A frosted Bracket fungi is a great image.

I don’t know if snow is forecast yet but of course snow is a Nature weather image. So be prepared. Always a challenge, remember when shooting with snow you will need to increase your exposure, at least a whole 1 stop. The reason for this is the camera will be confused and react to the brightness so you need to use ‘plus’ exposure to compensate and you always need to set the exposure for the actual item you are photographing. That snow will possibly also trigger the warning highlighter on your camera but still you should trust the golden rule to compensate with ‘plus’ when shooting with snow.

The flowers we can enjoy will be snowdrops and crocuses. They do grow wild and are a little bit of a grey area in pure Nature but wonderful if we have snow and quite a challenge with white snowdrops. With snow, again, make sure you get the exposure correct for the snowdrops by using ‘plus’ exposure compensation. Crocuses with the rich colours can be a powerful image. Make sure you get low down, don’t shoot downwards on these flowers unless you are after a particular personal look.

Catkins are out right now on hazelnut trees – pure Nature – so try to place them naturally artistic within the photo and as always with any images intended for Nature, remember Nature rules apply regarding post processing. 

Mistletoe, Holly berries – pure nature – images totally enhanced in haw frost and snow mornings.

Mist is another exciting nature weather addition, usually in early morning. It’s a chance to possibly get mono or colour images for your portfolio if people walk out from the mist. A landscape mist image is very eligible for Nature if no human or human evidence is in the image.

The seals on the Norfolk and Suffolk coast have now got fencing to protect them from us. Photography is still possible but limited. They are still there and will be for a few more months. Meanwhile they continue to give birth and raise their pups. With the strains of travel this year possibly best to stay local however it’s worth mentioning for those who wish to go.

That’s all for now. Plenty of Nature images to get.

Good Luck.

Jenny Webster

29/10/2020 Jenny Webster’s topical Nature tips

Hi Everyone, here is the November Nature Blog, I’m hoping you will all enjoy the following:

Obviously a lot of the last Blog will still be very active throughout Oct and Nov but these are additional ideas and thoughts.

Canadian Geese, at the moment fly to and fro to large areas of water, you may know of certain routes they use, I have geese flying over every morning and evening. There can be up to 50 or more in each fly past.

The route they use is from Upton Warren waters, across to the Swan Rescue at Wycbold, right near to J5 of M5. The approximate times geese fly over is 7.00 am morning and evening roughly about 5.30pm.

I suggest a wide angle lens to capture the magnitude of the event… and possibly a telephoto lens 100-400mm and single out a section out for inter flight images. You do need a well lit day as you need a fast shutter speed.

Note that when shooting into the sky, you must manually increase the exposure to at least plus 1 full stop if not 2. This is to expose correctly for the birds and avoid them becoming silhouettes the sky. It will still give a highlight but as long as you are shooting in raw you can pull all the sky detail back into the image.

Remember also, that a shutter speed of no less than 700th. This speed will show some blur in wings which is good to show movement when they are in flight.

Moving on, this could be the time for Field Fares to arrive over from France, but it is warm and they do tend to come when colder, along with Red Wings. These are stunning birds, and quite large, the size of song thrushes.

They come for the berries on the holly and Rowan trees. Also apples that have fallen to the ground and mistletoe berries.

At this time the Haw Finches and Wax Wings will also be arriving for the rich source of berries we have… they are seen up North rather than this low down but sightings are not impossible. However, if you are going North for a reason it’s always a good idea to know that there is a possibility of a sighting. There is a big chance that a sighting can happen at Webbs Garden Centre. It is a fact that Webbs does have from time to time a flock of Wax Wings that arrives for the berries. There is a often a massive collection of photographers that sort of give the game away…… apparently it is best to be on a Facebook bird site to get this valued info…. or like me watch each time I pass Webbs just in case.

At this time of year the Wild Saffron can be seen, another pure nature image. This is just like an over sized crocus…. it only comes in a light mauve colour and is extremely short lived so very difficult to catch at its best. It is prevalent in Arboretums and can be found in old mansion grounds like Heritage and National Trust…. don’t confuse with Cyclamen small flowers as these are not wild. they started as cultivated.

Another Nature sighting is the Severn Bore…basically where the river runs backwards..only in UK and Japan does this occur, there is a dedicated web site listing all times to see this but remember, yes it is Nature, but you cannot use the image as Nature if you include into the image any human elements. However, with people in the image it is eligible for Colour and Mono.

Deer Images were spoken about in my Oct Blog and I was asked about specific areas where to find deer. Because it’s such a popular genre I am adding some info here…

  • Woburn Abby Zoo Deer roam free
  • Broadway Tower at the top of Fish Hill Broadway.
  • Ashton Court Bristol. Free and open all Year…..please check under Covid-19  at the moment.
  • Croome Park, Worcestershire.
  • Eastnor Castle, Malvern

Deer images in rain or snowy frosty mornings all make awesome images….. the New Forest is another gem for stags and wild ponies.

We have 6 kinds of Deer,  Roe, Red Sika, Chinese, Muntjac, Fallow I think the prettiest…….

I do know getting these images is a high on the wish list for many people, so anyone knowing an easy and productive site to add to my suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

At this time of the year… water will be bringing many, many migrating water birds …Arrow Valley Wildlife Park is a great area to visit and also any local water parks and RSPB areas Joining local wildlife trusts is cheap and helps support local wildlife.

The chances available to build up your Nature Portfolios is immense and exciting, you start with a small snippet of information and it grows so quickly …however remember if you are in a birding hide there is an etiquette you must not poke your lens out of the hide you must use a tripod and try not to disturb the birdlife…. this means you do need a decent long lens when shooting in RSPB and wildlife trust areas because you are not that close to the subject.

Fungi has a small mention, I have said a lot but do read up about FUNGI, it will help you to find it…remember there are 3 kinds…

  • Parasitic this fungi grows on a tree 
  • Saprophytic this fungi lives on a dead tree…. 
  • Symbiotic Live in the web of the root system the host and the Fungi support each other

It’s important to know the fungi that like certain trees. Then all you need to do is look for the tree to find the fungi. 

You can see how nature photography can teach you so much more. This is why I love it so much even though it has taken a long time.

Weather is nature and as long as no “Human Elements” are in the image it is a Nature image. A tree in frosty morning or snow is Nature

However while I have been searching for Autumn colours, I have collected some acorn specimens and holly and chestnuts…. I have placed them into still life images and made up some images for future colour competitions…. these cannot be placed in Nature. They have been artistically arranges and were not naturally in the position photographed and will not be eligible for Nature. For me, the great satisfaction is that I have collected pure nature and placed it in position and shown it in all its beauty in a Colour competition..

This is just a suggestion for you to think about……I hope this helps you all in these difficult times…..I know without photography I could not have dealt with it all.

Jenny Webster

13/10/2020 Jenny Webster’s topical Nature tips

Hi to all B.P.S Members and website visitors.

I’m hoping to send out a monthly blog , for everyone to have a idea on what nature is possibly available to photograph each month and to give you all some advice on what equipment you could need and possible settings to get a certain effect.

I hope to give you best ideas on where to go, but I will not be organising any trips…. this email is helping members to team up in small groups or with one other, keeping legal within Covid-19 rules and keeping a safe distance.

At this point i will also suggest no one goes alone in isolated places, go with a friend… you will be carrying a camera which is a temptation for theft to some. So please take care and always be on the side of caution.

We are halfway through October. November will be very much the same however I will include more ideas in November….

The most common nature work at the moment is Fungi. It is new, fresh and at its best.

However we don’t want too much rain.. I feel the last days of this week will be excellent Wed onwards… always take something to lie on as you have to shoot low down. Take a tripod reflector if you have one or some tin foil will suffice. Maybe a torch or a speed light… be prepared to tidy the area around the fungi, shooting low down makes everything seem big. A small twig will spoil the image. Any light used is best placed at the reflector rather than on the fungi itself.

An aperture of f6.3 max is desirable to blur out background and it allows some light to get in.

If using a tripod or bean bag, the camera is steady so you can shoot at 1/80th lowest shutter speed. If you have a cable or wireless connection on your shutter you can reduce shutter speed to under 1/80th. This will allow enough light naturally and no added light will be needed.

If you have none of the above, for hand held, a must have is a torch light needing a shutter speed of 1/160th minimum…aperture no higher than f8.0 but also check ISO…..

Fungi can be found in ancient woodlands. Worcester Wildlife Trust lists them all on computer.

The soil conditions vary. This enables different fungi to grow in different environments so there is always exciting new fungi to find..all can be named by looking at computer.

Cut trees provide bracket fungus. This is amazing. It grows on live and dead trees, it is exciting to photograph, and easier as you don’t need to lie down.  Take fungi from underneath and above, for variety.

Churches are brilliant for fungus. They have ancient areas full of old trees and unfertilised grounds with  no manmade fertilisers perfect for fungi.

Just slowly walking and checking slowly, the fungi will slowly appear when you look for it…..only photograph perfect specimens…. fungi feeds many insects and creatures you are very lucky when you find perfect specimens.

A Reflector will help throw light on your image. Pairs work well one shines light and holds reflector then swap….

Remember fast shutter speed cuts out light as does a higher number aperture cuts out light. Fungi images do need light so your image settings are trade offs.

Please note, if you are a National Trust member, you have access to the grounds of old houses that all boast ancient grounds. This is a tremendous fungi opportunity.

Could talk more on fungi but more to talk about….

The birds in the garden are hungry….. but not exciting to take them alongside the feeders….

So try a block of lard pressed on the bark of some trees or fence high up and attract some garden birds and definitely Woodpeckers all through the Winter… be discreet with the lard and your images should look. Good lard can be as cheap as 19 pence a block….Green and Spotted Woodpeckers will use the lard and Jays are keen on the fat also….

Blackbirds will eat apples and pears…..these are excellent nature images stick them onto the trees…bread crumbs in the lard are even better…..keep the birds on the lard longer.

Don’t use peanuts. They will spoil your image and not look natural with peanut in beak.

There are Deer on the National Trust Estates. They won’t be in rut so much now but they will still give amazing photography .

Autumn is nature… some images in a natural state will be eligible but any still life made up images will be good for colour entry. Some amazing colour Autumn images would make a welcome change in Nature club competitions. No people in them….or pets. Keep natural and pure for Nature..

Mistletoe is Nature and pure…as is Holly…. in abundance right know and loads of berries.

Pheasants are all around us at the moment…..they are wild but I would not enter in wildlife comps but definitely club Nature ….. they are in ploughed fields foraging….. they make great images…. they roost up in trees in woodlands so again can be found in woodlands or open land next to woodland…

The next big natural Nature treat is about to happen. It’s not quite cold enough yet but it’s coming …..the Murmuration….

There is a Murmuration map on the computer and nice people fill it in from now until Jan when they see a Murmuration… the Starlings meet when it gets cold and fly up high forming wonderful shapes in the sky… they usually roost in a church or a coppice of trees… a wide angle lens is best to catch the shapes fasting shutter speed to freeze the movement but it’s really the authors choice as to the effect that they want.

I would suggest you do several locations to get different backgrounds… Otters are about in the waterways…this is a difficult subject and is more luck that chance hide work would be the benefit…..they can be seen at Upton Warren but not constantly…and here you need to be a member of the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust.

Badgers will be foraging at night on fallen apples and pears….foxes also scavenging for scraps. However these are very hard to get night images of and hide work is recommended… learn as much about nature as you can as by understanding what the animals and birds need and do helps you to spot them.

Our churches are hundreds of years old they have been responsible for bird’s habitats for centuries….feeding grounds for all our wildlife….I rate churches highly for nature photography probably your best place to spot owls and kestrels. We don’t have red squirrels but we do have grey and at the moment they have a sense of urgency to collect all food available. There are many squabbles and a great opportunity to catch a fight… so up the shutter speed and fire away and get a great Nature action image…..

Thats it for now…..hope there is something there for you all to have a go at…….if you don’t understand anything I am happy to explain…. but really just enjoy the challenge….. stay safe….. and embrace all that we have right at our feet….

Jenny Webster.