alan frost photography

in monochrome with occasional colour lapses

Posts tagged ‘nature’

The best catch of the day

Mist on the Test

Mist on the Test

I can’t describe myself as a fisherman, but when a good friend of mine invited me to join him for a day of fly fishing on the River Test in Hampshire the answer was always going to be yes please! I had been fly fishing before, but never caught anything apart from a few weeds and the odd tree branch when my cast was less than accurate.

We wanted to get to our destination quite early as we had booked a gillie for the morning. Hopefully he would teach us a thing a two which might increase our chances of success. As we drove towards the village of Timsbury, which is just to the north of Romsey, the morning mist had yet to clear, so I had already anticipated there might be the chance of a quick photograph before the sun burnt through.

When we arrived no one else was there so we pieced together our rods, attached the reel, chose our flies and prepared ourselves for the first cast. All this time I was admiring the scene that surrounded me. The mist rising from the river, obscuring the view of the fields in the distance. It was calm and serene but I knew it would not last long. The camera came out and ‘Mist on the Test’ was taken.

We saw a fleeting glimpse of a pair of kingfishers, watched grebes diving for their food and swans enjoying the beautiful spring sunshine, but neither of us caught a single fish; in fact we didn’t even get a bite. But it was a glorious relaxing day if a little frustrating at times. I also committed the cardinal sin of not charging my batteries over night, so the low level battery warning was blinking before the day had even begun. Even the spare battery had little or no charge. So I gave up the photography and concentrated on the fishing. Little did I know that the first release of the shutter turned out to be the best catch of the day.

And just to prove we were fishing here is my friend Nik making his first cast of the day.

 

First cast

First cast

Into the woods – a shallow depth of field

Into the woods

Into the woods

 

Up until the summer of this year I had never used a 35 mm full frame digital camera, nor such a fast lens. This all changed with the arrival of the Leica M Monochrom and a Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux lens. I am only just beginning to appreciate the creative possibilities of this combination.

This image was taken back in September in a wooded copse fairly close to my home. I was largely experimenting at this time and took the shot wide open (f1.4) and focused on the near post of the hand rail. Even though this post was some distance from where I was kneeling, the plane of focus is very narrow. Only the leading edge of the path and the branches of the small holly tree to the left are in sharp focus. Checking the depth of field chart Leica provide for their lenses, at a focusing distance of 5m at f1.4, the depth of field is only 4.6m to 5.5m. i.e less than a metre before things are no longer sharp. This means two things – focusing is critical even on a subject which is not that close to you and secondly and more importantly, the careful selection of the focusing point can greatly influence how the image is rendered. It becomes a creative choice just how much or how little is in focus. I like that!

Had I used my Olympus Micro 4/3rd’s camera with the Panasonic 12 to 35 at 25mm (50mm in 35mm sensor terms) and set at its widest opening of f2.8, the equivalent ‘full frame’ aperture opening would be f5.6 because of the crop factor. As a consequence I suspect all of the handrail would have been in focus, together with the foreground. The background trees may have ‘softened’ a little, but I think the appeal of this picture is how the background is very soft. Call it ‘bokeh’ if you like but it adds depth to the image which would be lost if everything was in sharp focus.

There was very little light when this shot was taken. Not only did I use a fast aperture, the ISO was set at 2000 and this still only gave me a shutter speed of 1/750, so that I could happily hand hold the camera.

As I grow in confidence and develop a greater understanding of how best to use a shallow depth of field I think f1.4 might fast become my favourite aperture setting.

 

Oh what a tangled web we weave…..

Tangled web

Tangled web

 

From a very young age I always remember the saying – ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.’ Whilst I have always tried to live my life accordingly, its relationship with the image is quite simply the fact that it was the first thought that entered my mind when I took the shot at the end of October. The cow parsley was absolutely covered in cobwebs, woven in amongst the drying flowers and stems. The dull and damp morning added another ingredient. Poor lighting but I knew I could add contrast in post processing.

Focusing and composition was a challenge, but I was more aware of the background and how it affected the overall appearance of the picture. I didn’t want it to be in focus, far from it, but I did want it to compliment the subject and provide the contrast necessary so that the cobwebs and lower stalks were clearly visible. The dense backdrop of trees provided the dark upper layer and the grasses in the field the paler lower layer.

This photograph may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it is very much a feature of the countryside in the autumn.

Tangled web yes, deceitful no; just testimony to the creative talent of the humble and sometimes scary spider!