The Smew and I…
Last Thursday was a fine sunny day for a change so I managed to take a half day off work and visit Tophill Low. I was a little surprised that the hide at North Marsh wasn’t empty but delighted to see that budding young wildlife photographer Rory Selvey was there with his grandmother. Rory is a remarkable young photographer and a recent member of Driffield Photography Society. Only twelve years old, he has already has gained a comprehensive knowledge of photography and has an interesting Blog too.
For a while, there was not much of interest to photograph, then Rory spotted a pair of Common Buzzards in the sky (thank goodness for his keen, young eyes). Both he and I managed to get several images of the soaring Buzzards before they flew southwards along the River Hull.
The weather on Saturday was typically unpleasant, so I rose early on Sunday morning and drove to the replacement hide at Watton Reserve. I had done a quick check the night before on the direction of the sun as I didn’t want to be blinded by the early morning light. It is well worth downloading a fantastic and free bit of software called The Photographer’s Ephemeris. It enables anyone to check the direction of the sun or moon at anytime from any location on Earth.
I arrived at the hide an hour or so after sunrise. A couple of cormorants were drying their wings in the sun. A Grey Heron flew overhead and landed in the distance. I was hoping to get a shot of a red fox or perhaps a Barn Owl but no such luck. However, a pair of Smew were feeding on the lake and I settled down with my flask of tea and waited for them to swim a little closer to the hide. There was sufficient light for me to use my 1.7 tele-converter with my 500 mm lens giving me an effective focal length of 850 mm. I also knew from experience that this combination requires a very steady hand in order to avoid a blurred and useless image.
It was fascinating to witness the Smew feeding. Diving under water for up to twenty seconds at a time; it was almost impossible to predict where they would surface. At last I got lucky and managed to get a photograph or two of one of the birds surfacing with a fish.
The only problem was that the strong light that made it extremely difficult to capture detail in both their white and black plumage. That’s why I always shoot in Raw rather than Jpeg. It gives me the necessary ‘wiggle room’ during post-processing so that I can reveal the plumage in all its intended glory.
Finally, a pair of Oystercathers were once again involved in their amorous activities. This time I was lucky enough to photograph two separate sequences of such behaviour. All I can say is, “get a nest!”