Dateline  25 May 2015

 

Yellowstone and Colorado – 27 April 2015 – Ann Beauchamp

Report by Peter Flower

 

This was an evening to be relished! Not only for the quality of the presentation by Ann which took us back in time to photographs that were taken on a trip to this area in September 2002, but also to evoke memories of the way in which photographic images used to be shown. Ann's presentation was done with colour slides. We hadn't quite gone back to the era of the magic lantern but the rattle of the slide changing mechanism and 'popping' of the slides as they were heated by the bright lamp brought back happy memories for many of us (not necessarily old!) longer-term members.

Anne's colourful photographs documented a two and a half weeks organised photographic trip that went in a large loop around this area of America. The varied scenery, wildlife and autumn colours present endless opportunities to capture stunning images. Members will have seen many examples of these in the past, but Ann's narrative provided a fresh insight into many aspects of the scenes that the casual visitor might see. This area is geologically unstable, with minor earthquakes from time to time. The geothermal activity gives rise to the sulphur water in small ponds and lakes, which in turn house bacteria and algae. These result in colourful patterns being exhibited. Ann showed photographs of elk wading in this type of water, examples of trees killed off by these toxic waters, and examples of the various geysers of the area. Having spent some time at the Old Faithful Hotel she was able to capture the most famous geyser, so called because of its predictable eruptions – about every 92 minutes.

Contrasting to images of cottonwood birches and aspen beginning to show their autumn colours there were photographs of the aftermath of a devastating and widespread fire that had ravaged the forested areas many years before. There were also contrasts in the weather conditions. Although this was early autumn the altitude is quite high. As a result they experienced snow occasionally. So, Ann was able to show similar scenes in both weather conditions, the tour having looped back over the same territory!

The tour took in such highlights as the Yellowstone grand canyon, Teton mountains, Utah's Flaming Gorge dam, Black Canyon and the amazing sand dunes of Alamosa with their mountain backdrop. Towns included Jackson Hole, Silvertown and Durango where old-time trains run, and there was a shot of Cumbres Pass showing an old engine with snowplough on the front. The final images were of a modern and very impressive Air Force chapel, followed by shots at Denver Airport (where photography is forbidden!).

Ann explained that the photographs were taken with a Canon EOS 30 SLR camera, using Fuji Sensia film. The slides have retained their original sparkling colour. Sadly, they have not been scanned to digital so we are unable to share the images with you as we normally do in our reports. However, for those of us who were there this was a happy trip down memory lane.

 

Finding Foxes - 11 May 2015 - Alannah Hawker

Report by Peter Flower

All images in this report are © Copyright of Allanah Hawker

Alannah is just 22 years old and lives in Merstham. Since achieving an A-level and HND in photography she has specialised in wildlife photography. Since 2009 she has been visiting wildlife parks and zoos across the UK taking photographs of a wide range of animals. But her main interest has been in a family of foxes that made their den under a shed in her garden in the past four years. This allowed her to film and photograph them. Her videos were shown by Channel 4 on their 'Foxes Live' TV show in May 2012. It was the photographs of these foxes that were the principal subject of her talk, although it also included some stunning images of other animals and birds.

Alannah first talked in general terms about photographing wildlife and the problems that had to be overcome. She mentioned the particular problems of photographing in zoos and wildlife enclosures where bars, fences and glass very often obstructed the view. Where mesh fences or bars intervened any adverse effect could be minimised by positioning the lens as close as possible to these. This could also be effective where glass was concerned, but wearing black clothing or use of a polariser would be helpful if the camera was positioned further away. However, the most useful tip, which applied both for captive animals and those roaming free, was to get down to their level. The resulting images would be so much more successful. Example of this technique are illustrated by the following images.

  

This photograph was taken at Donna Nook on the Lincolnshire coast. The seals were in a fenced area, limiting the distance by which they could be approached. Most photographers were shooting from above the fence line whereas Alannah crouched down to picture them through a gap in the fence. (Note: She advises visits on a weekday because it becomes very crowded at the weekend)

 

This photograph of the foxes in her garden, Big Sis' , is not only a charming image but gains impact from the fact that it was framed from ground level. It also illustrates the advantage of ensuring strong differential focus to blur the background.

Originally she used a Canon EOS 450D but now uses a Canon EOS 7D, normally with her preferred choice of Canon 100-400mm lens L IS f/4.5 lens. It should be added that she normally uses a monopod to support this weighty lens. This provides support but gives greater flexibility of movement compared to a tripod. Obtaining a low viewpoint without the benefit of a variable angle display is a problem with the type of DSLR that Alannah uses. In order to overcome the difficulties she purchased a Seagull optical angle finder that clips onto the viewfinder of her camera. This is a relatively low-cost solution that allows a downwards optical view. There is also a switch that enlarges the view, easing the ability to check critical focus.

Capturing a successful image in a natural surrounding required attention to detail. A significant potential problem was the interference of grasses and foliage in front of the subject. A branch or blade of grass in front of the creature's eyes could totally spoil the image. The following images are ones that have successfully avoided this problem.

The photograph has been taken at the point where the cub is ideally positioned at a gap in the flowers.

In this case the face has been ideally framed through the out-of-focus foliage in the foreground, providing a stunning image.

This is a further example where the careful choice of viewpoint was essential to avoid the eyes being obscured by the foreground foliage. It also shows that, rather than being a simple 'portrait', the inclusion of habitat adds to the interest.

Alannah mentioned other venues that she had visited, in addition to the local British Wildlife Centre. These included Whipsnade Zoo, Skomer Island to photograph puffins and Richmond Park. The last one required a 5am start during the rutting season in order to capture misty morning images.

The second one is the result of spotting a situation not directly related to the objective of photographing the deer. The silhouetted shape of tree and bird form a strong pattern.

Although most of her photographs were in colour Alannah showed some examples of some that had been converted to mono.

This Grevy's zebra was an obvious candidate for black and white treatment, but gains impact from the fact that the background is totally black. She did stress, however, that it was important to ensure that such images had high contrast to be effective. Returning to the subject of colour, she had experimented with high-contrast images in some instances.

This was done by dialling down the exposure to darken the background. An example of this is shown below.

 

As mentioned earlier, her main preoccupation in the past four years had been the observation and photographing of the family of foxes that inhabited her garden. She was able to record the cubs making their first appearance out of the den, watch and record the cubs suckling from mum and, best of all, see them turn from tiny little blue eyed cubs into big strong beautiful foxes. During this time she has been able to gain their trust, giving her the opportunity to record their activities without causing them any alarm. Initially, the young would have been spooked by any sounds, such a the shutter firing, but would be reassured by the mother who had complete trust that no harm would be done to them.

As an aid to identifying their behaviour patterns and movements Alannah has used a couple of infra-red trail cameras that can be mounted at strategic points. This had made it easier to predict their movements, and prepare to photograph them, as well as obtaining video images from the den underneath her garden shed. By identifying the individual family members, and giving them names, she has built up a comprehensive record of their family tree.

Three of Alannah's charming fox portraits are shown below.

The bottom photograph, entitled Quick Glance, was highly commended in the British Wildlife Photography Awards, Portrait category, 2014.

Some other examples of Alannah's work are shown below.

 

Alannah's talk provided a high point as the last one in our current season. The story of the fox family that has inhabited her garden and which she has observed with such dedication provided us with so much interest. The images of the foxes, especially the small cubs, were predictably charming, but it is difficult to imagine how the photographs could be bettered. Alannah is to be congratulated on giving us such an entertaining evening.

You can see many more of Alannah's photographs and read about the story of the fox family in her garden at the following web address -

 

http://www.alannahhawker.com/

 

Not an April Fool story – promise!!

Peter Flower

The staff at Apple Insider (a web site that observes Apple developments) have discovered another camera-related patent that has been granted to Apple by the U.S Patent Office. "Digital camera with light splitter" describes a smartphone camera module that uses a prism to split incoming light into three colour components which are captured by three separate image sensors, one dedicated to each colour channel. Similar to the Foveon Sensor used in most Sigma cameras such a system does not require a de-mosaic process and can therefore capture better detail than a standard Bayer pattern sensor. The Apple design uses a cube arrangement to split the light. It includes four identical polyhedrons that meet at dichroic interfaces. Light wavelengths are then filtered by optical coatings on each interface. The wavelengths allowed to pass the filter are directed toward three sensors that are located around the cube arrangement. The patent is an extension of another Apple patent that looks at using mirrors and optical elements to implement optical image stabilization and zoom capability in small devices, such as smartphones. In such a design the light splitter could be used for image capture.

Where the Avril Uno goes others follow !!

 

Sony 'Touchless Shutter'

Techman

Sony has released a beta version of a new PlayMemories app for E-mount cameras with electronic viewfinders. The 'Touchless Shutter' app effectively converts the camera's eyepiece sensor as a shutter release mechanism. It brings all the advantages of a traditional cable release without needing any extra camera gear. All that is needed is a hand wave near the eyepiece and the shutter will release.

The application is available now in its beta state for free download from Sony's PlayMemories app store. Cameras to which it can apply -

NEX-5R, NEX-6, NEX-5T, Alpha 7, Alpha 7R, Alpha 7 Mk2, Alpha 7S, DSC-HX400V, DSC-HX60, DSC-HX60V, DSC-HX400, Alpha 6000 and RX100 Mk3

 

For people who need a hand (and a friend!)

PF

The trend for using 'selfie arms' to control the taking of photographs with smartphones is now widespread, but the latest bizarre announcement takes this practice to a new level. In this case the arm also has a hand! Two American artists have created a selfie stick designed to enable lone travellers to shoot selfies that appear to have been taken by a travelling companion. The Selfie Arm is a false arm and hand with a smartphone bracket attached just beyond the elbow. The way that it is used and a typical resulting photograph can be seen in the following images.

In the photograph it will appear that the subject is on intimate terms with a fellow human being. How sad is that? Even more astonishing, the Selfie Arm will be available as a limited edition of 10 pieces, each signed by the artists, at a price of $6200.

 

And finally . . .

 Missed opportunity!