Gimme a Break of Dawn
It’s happening at last! The days are getting noticeably longer. It’s no longer nighttime when we arrive at work, nor when we leave at the end of the day. Granted it’s barely light – dawn and dusk – but it’s a start! It’s cold, though, and that’s still an issue.
As you would expect, January has seen an abundance of dull and overcast days. The opportunities for photography of course continue to fall on the weekends, and of course sod’s law has meant that any bright days have happened during the week while the weekends have predictably been mostly drab and dark. There have been a few moments of “different” weather, and I did my best to take advantage of those.
I was fortunate to pick up a new toy; a work colleague was selling a gimbal head and I jumped at the chance to buy it. I’ve only had one opportunity to use it in anger since buying it, but it made all the difference when I did. The Sigma 150-600 is a very hand-holdable lens, but it is not light. I suspect that all super-telephoto lenses become a challenge to prop up after a while and it becomes harder and harder to get steady shots. While shooting red kites near Kearby in Wharfedale, the tripod and gimbal head combination enabled me to shoot comfortably and with great results for two hours, until the light was completely gone. It takes a little getting used to – similar to the difference between a steering wheel and a rudder – but I was over the moon with the results. I wasn’t so sure if the gimbal head would make much difference but it turns out that it makes a huge amount of difference.
With my photography time in the week being so limited, I have been gravitating to locations that yield semi-predictable results. The hillside above Kearby is one of those locations, but also the Woodland Trust’s hides at Golden Acre Park. This is where I spotted my first ever kingfisher. It’s now several months since I’ve seen a kingfisher at this location or any other but I’m doggedly persistent and try my luck anyway. The pond at the marsh hide at Golden Acre has often been frozen these last few weeks, and there’s been no chance of seeing a kingfisher when it is, but I’ve seen many other birds and got some surprisingly good results despite the dreadful light.
Undermining The Narrative
It’s impossible to convince people that I’m doing anything that requires effort when the wildlife is as friendly and complicit as it is in one specific clearing at Golden Acre. I visited this location quite a few times last year, with spectacular results. This year things are looking even more promising. During my first visit, last Saturday morning, at one point I had two squirrels literally sitting on me and begging for food, and another at my shoulder audibly munching a peanut.
There are coal tits and chaffinches, wrens and bluebirds, great tits, nuthatches and more at this location, and there is no need for a long lens. The photos I took last year were with a macro lens, from less than a foot away. With some persistence, as well as some experience under my belt, I think I’m in for a good year at this particular location.
I’ve recently been inspired to start work on a couple of essays. I’m not sure if or when they’ll be completed but they are occupying my mind quite a lot at the moment and I’m quite excited about them. The first revisits the question “Is Photography Art?” and I hope will bring more insight to the question, and the possible ways to resolve it. I’m less sure of the direction of the second but it’s possible that some elements will tie in with the first essay. If this all sounds a bit flimsy or cagey it’s because the scope and parameters of both the essays are yet to fully form in my mind.
Photographs from January
Below is my gallery of images from the month of January. I do feel much more upbeat, as the days begin to grow in length and, looking through them, I think it probably shows in these images.