Brian A Keen Fine Art

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News Archive - 2006

Dec 2006

Photography News
Elusive Grey Heron.

On Monday 4th December, I visited Willen Lake with my 35mm camera gear to try and photograph a grey heron. Although there are a number in the area, they have incredibly sharp eyesight and usually fly off before you can get anywhere near.

I've seen a heron at the same location several times recently - probably the same one. As Willen Lake is popular with walkers and joggers, I was hoping that this one had become more used to people so that I would be able to get close enough to use a 300mm lens.

I managed to get a shot several days earlier - it was perched on the railings of a footbridge. The film has not yet been processed but I doubt if it was that good - the light and background were not ideal. I wanted a more natural looking setting - preferably at the water's edge with reeds in the background. I was looking for a pictorial image - not just a straight bird photograph.

This morning, conditions were perfect - no clouds and early morning orange sunlight. Sure enough the heron was there again - this time standing in the water as I had hoped. I stopped as soon as I saw it and moved away to set up my camera gear. My plans were ruined when a twat (Homus Abulatum Ingoramus) behind me carried on walking over the bridge. Naturally the heron took flight.
I wonder if Bill Oddie and David Attenborough ever had these problems?

In the end I had to be content with some close up shots of Mallard ducks instead. Although these birds are often ignored because they are so common, the iridescent blue-green feathers on their heads can look quite spectacular when the light catches them. Unlike the heron you can easily get to within a few feet.

Sparrow Hawk.

On my way back from my failed attempt at photographing the heron, I spotted a bird of prey hovering over the lake shore.

It was quite close by and only about 30ft in the air. I quickly grabbed the F100 from my bag, attached the 300mm telephoto and, thinking it would soon fly off, fired off a couple of frames hand held hoping they would not be too blurred by camera shake.

Amazingly, the bird remained in the same position long enough for me to fit the camera on the tripod, attach the cable release, frame it up, adjust the focus and take a few more shots. It even came down lower and I was able to move in closer before it eventually flew off in hot pursuit of what looked like a small wagtail.

I noticed the remains of what looked like two seagulls nearby - one with the head missing. It may have been a cat or a fox but it's possible that they were killed by the same bird of prey.

After processing and scanning the negatives, I identified the bird as a Sparrow Hawk.

Unfortunately even with a 300mm lens, the bird is quite small in the frame. When magnified, the resulting image is rather noisy and not that sharp.

Sparrow Hawk Sparrow Hawk
Scanning Archived Negatives.

Instead of struggling trying to find interesting landscapes locally (not easy in South East England), I decided to revisit and scan some of the monochrome negatives from my archives.

Some have never been printed. In most cases this is because they are tricky to print using conventional darkroom methods - either because of the tonal range or difficulties with dodging and/or burning.

In some cases, retouching in photoshop is needed to remove dust spots etc. This is much harder to do with a sliver print.

Gulls in Flight.

One windy day, I had a go at photographing gulls on the wing on the eastern shore of South Willen Lake. It was tricky to get a sharp image.

Photography Gallery Updates.
  • 'B&W Infrared' gallery
  • 'B&W Beds, Bucks & Herts' gallery
  • 'B&W Peak District' gallery
  • 'B&W Lake District' gallery
  • 'B&W Scotland' gallery
  • 'B&W Isle of Skye' gallery
  • 'B&W Devon & Dartmoor' gallery
  • 'B&W Macro' gallery
  • 'B&W Norfolk' gallery
  • 'B&W Unclassified' gallery

Nov 2006

Website News
'News' page

I decided to add a 'News' page so that people returning to the site can see what's changed or been added without having to trawl through all the galleries.

It will also serve as a 'blog' for my photography and painting work.

'Information' page

A new page giving general technical information about the website, the image database and my photography and painting techniques.

This will eventually be extended to contain details of the tools I use such as software, cameras, lenses, scanner, printer. Colour management and calibration. Darkroom equipment and techniques, chemicals, toning etc.

I may add a biography section at some point.

'Links' page

A new page containing links to some of my personal favorite art and photography web sites and galleries.
The page is still under construction. Many links remain to be added.

'Contacts' button

A new email contact button has been added to the main index page.

Improvements to icon graphics.

Some of the original gif format graphics and icons have been replaced by improved jpg versions with drop shadow.

Google Search.

The website has recently been submitted for inclusion in the Google Search Engine. I deliberately delayed doing this until I had figured out the best way to prevent web crawlers from trawling for my email address so that I end up being swamped with spam.

Revised title numbering system.

Photograph and print titles for images derived from film based media now include a unique 5 digit id number.
See the Gallery Information page for details.

Photography News
Infrared images of St Lawrence Church, Broughton.

My first attempt at this shot at the beginning of the year was a bit of a disaster. The felt light trap in the back of the old Nikon FE that I use for infra-red film had deteriorated over the years. Parts of it had broken up allowing light to enter. Kodak High Speed Infrared film is very sensitive to stray light and it was badly fogged. It's not a good idea to have small specks of felt loose inside a camera either.

Considering how bad the fogging was, my Epson flatbed scanner made a reasonable job of recovering a usable, albeit very grainy, image.

St Lawrence Church

After replacing the felt seal in the camera, things now appear to be back to normal.

I only discovered the problem after processing the film following a subsequent visit to the 'supposedly haunted' ruin of St. Mary's Church, Clophill. The images of the ruin were usable but the sky that day was bland and I was unable to find a pleasing composition. Didn't get to see any ghosts either. The ruin had been covered in graffiti by the Common Yob (Yobus Graffitii Vulgaris). Consequently I haven't included the images in the gallery.

Despite the earlier fogging problems, the St. Lawrence Church composition with its adjacent tree looked promising so I decided on a return visit this month. Unfortunately, despite it being late autumn, there were still too many leaves on the trees so the tower was partly obscured. I think the image still looks ok.

St Lawrence Church St Lawrence Church

I've recently been back a third time when there were fewer leaves and blue skies - perfect conditions for infra-red. The B&W and colour shots I took on this occasion using conventional film look good.

St Lawrence Church St Lawrence Church St Lawrence Church
Images from Milton Keynes.

These include the Peace Pagoda at Willen Lake and St Lawrence Church, Broughton with the last of the autumn leaves. The clear blue sky resulted in some lovely saturated colours with a polarising filter.

Peace Pagoda Peace Pagoda

I originally only took my 35mm kit but the Church, blue sky and the tree with the autumn colours looked so good that I went back home to fetch my medium format camera and shot the same scene using Velvia. Velvia makes the colours look richer and more saturated.

It's unfortunate that the only wide angle lens I have for the 6x4.5 camera (40mm) makes the converging verticals on the Church tower appear more exaggerated than with the 28mm lens I used on the 35mm camera. I really needed a 50mm lens for the Bronica.

St Lawrence Church
Butterflies & Dragonflies.

I attempted to shoot some macro photgraphs of these insects around the banks of the River Ouzel near Woolstone. I was hoping to get some more shots of a Red Darter dragonfly but they proved elusive.

I managed to get one shot from a couple of feet away but as I was about to move in closer it flew off - thanks to a twat who came flying past at high speed on a mountain bike. I really must try and get a photo of the Great Spotted Flying Twat (Twatus Velocopede Maculosus) - they seem to be quite common in Milton Keynes. Often found sharing the same habitat as the Common Dog Walker (Canis Ambulatum Turdus Vulgaris), these can be almost annoying as the dreaded 'Red Anorak Rambler' (Anorakus Cardinalis). Although fairly rare in the South East, these creatures can be much more troublesome for the colour photographer in places like the Lake District, the North of England and Scotland. I'm hoping for the introduction of an annual cull. It would give the hounds something to do now that fox hunting is banned.

Red Darter

Photographing butterflies can be frustrating. They rarely remain settled long enough to set up a tripod. Attempts to hand hold a macro lens almost always results in blurred images unless you use flash. Light from a flash often looks harsh so I rarely use one. Perhaps the ideal solution would be to buy one of the new Nikon vibration reduction lenses.

Often a butterfly will return to the same flower so it's best to set up the camera and tripod and wait a while after it has flown off. Patience is required. A couple of times I had a butterfly return and land on the camera itself.

Red Admiral Red Admiral
Colour London Gallery.

This has some recent night shots taken around Westminster, The London Eye and Trafalgar Square.

I waited until the brightness of the sky was about the same as the floodlighting before shooting the Houses of Parliament.

Westminster Houses of Parliament

By the time I walked over to the London Eye and, later, Trafalgar Square, the sky was pretty much black. Oh well, you can't be in two places at once.

London Eye London Eye London Eye London Eye Trafalgar Square

The main problem was the constant stream of Japanese tourists who stand in front of the scene, take flash photos of each other with their digital cameras and then wonder why the background appears completely black. For normal film speeds you need an exposure of around 4 to 8 seconds at f5.6 to render floodlit landscapes at night - not much use for a portrait. I suspect they are an oriental species of the Common Twat. (Twatus Japonicus).

Painting News
Jenny Agutter Oil Portrait.

I've just completed this portrait from a photo I found on the web. I'm quite pleased with the result. It will appear in the gallery once it has been photographed. I discovered that it's better to photograph an oil painting before it's been varnished - otherwise specular reflections from the surface can be a problem.

Jenny Agutter
Winter Landscape in Oils.

This is based on a painting by Charles Vickery. It is a snow scene with a stream and trees. I had big problems with the water to begin with and ended up wiping it back to blank canvas twice. The third attempt is starting to look ok. There is still much work to do on it.

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