Sunday, March 25, 2007

Springing forward

I hate losing an hour's sleep, I get little enough of it anyway, but I suppose it's a price worth paying for knowing that another winter has been left at the backdoor.

Yesterday I did the Bass Rock trip, so I was up really early having hardly slept in case I slept-in and literally missed the boat.

We took a boat out of Dunbar, and we were a motley crew, two prize winning photographers, plus our two pro judges, a bunch of volunteers going out to cut back the dreaded "tree mallow" (a huge thug of a plant that was introduced to the Bass Rock around the 17th century, when there were people living on Rock, some voluntarily and others not, and the plant was probably used to make medicinal poultices. Now it forms a mini forest that the puffins can't handle)and some Seabird Centre staff who were going out to fix one of the remote cameras and do a broadcast to media on the mainland in aid of the protest against more oil transportation up the Firth of Forth.

The sea was rough, due to the influences of current lunar activity the Forth is experiencing big tidal surges, but it was hoped that by approaching from the south we could run with them.

In the event we got out there, and even though the tide was falling the power in the water was causing 30 ft waves to smash round the corner of the Rock onto the landing station and it simply wasn't safe to land. So we turned to Plan B, which entailed feeding the gannets three boxes of fish, and photographing the feeding frenzy that ensued. This wasn't easy for me, as handholding a big camera, even with a stabilising lens is very tiring, especially due to my surgery, and you also had to allow for the huge rise and fall of the boat. Plus my camera is not the sort of sports job that has a high buffering action to write files across to the memory card while taking x shots per sec. Paparazzi I'm not! But it was still a huge thrill to see these amazing birds dive bomb into the sea 20/30 ft from the boat.

I'm a bit battered and bruised from wedging myself against the side of the boat, and I doubt I got anything remotely good as it's a type of photography I've little or no experience of, but it was certainly an adrenalin rush! As was landing back on the mainland as the tide was out and we had to land outside the harbour, on the harbour wall, and the boat was rising and falling 20ft! I was glad to get off as the fishermen had started cooking their breakfast in the cabin, and sliced sausage mixed with raw fish is not a smell that a stomach takes to when it's been on something akin to a big dipper ride.

I really enjoyed talking to Laurie Campbell, his knowledge of Scottish wildlife, and his gentle stories about the hours he spends capturing his shots - his latest being in a hide overnight for nights on end to catch snipe rising at dawn - were just spell-binding.

I've loads to edit, but this is a gannet about to slice the water.Click on it to see a bigger view. The highlights on the birds are not great,but the metering was really challenging due to the strong sunlight, reflections, contrasts etc, etc. I'm no wildlife photographer, that's for sure, but seeing how it's done was really interesting.

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Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

That photo is pretty fantastic for someone who says they're not a wildlife photographer. For me it instantly captures the smell of the sea and the frenetic sound of feeding seabirds. It puts me right there. I could feel and taste the splashes of salt water!
Your description of the boat ride out to the rock and of the conversations were vivid too. (Unfortunately I could even smell the breakfast the fisherman were cooking!)
Looking forward to seeing the rest of the photos - I bet there's some winners there.

1:37 pm  
Blogger Colin Will said...

That's a shame you weren't able to land on the Bass. The photo is great though, and I loved your description of the trip. There's a poem in there, I think.

10:47 pm  
Blogger apprentice said...

Thanks CB. It has atmosphere, but technically it's not my usual standard, the birds have patches that are pure white, that means the highlights are burned out, so some detail has been lost. Trick with digital photography is to keep the histogram from extending beyong either end of the graph, that way all the detail in the shot is retained. The very light/contrasting conditions demanded a really fast shutter speed,but that increases "noise" ie grain in the shot, so it's a trade off between capturing detail and getting blotchy images. I didn't quite pull it off. It's like shooting a wedding with all that white, while the bride jumps up and down, and you rock from side to side, lol!

Hi Colin, yes there probably is a poem in it, there was certainly a great mix of people on one wee boat, all with different aims in relation to reaching the Bass Rock

11:04 am  

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