Earls Barton, January 31st 2019
This was taken on one of those special mornings where the conditions are breath-taking and every picture you take is a beauty. I’d packed the camera away and was heading to work when I happened to pass this spot so I decided to pull in and see if there was a good photo opportunity. I was blown away by how calm the water was and the reflection was so clear so I set the camera up and managed to capture a few shots before a gentle breeze came in and stirred the water. Probably the best reflection shot I’ve ever captured, and it was a great way to end January.
Piddington – February 1st 2019
This is an image that when I look at it, I’m taken back to that very moment. I can remember so clearly standing there watching the snow falling, listening to the biting wind blowing through the bare trees and the nearby commotion of fieldfare activity (if you look to the top of the tree tunnel you can see a fieldfare in flight). There is something about falling snow that captures your attention and really helps you connect with your surroundings; it brings about a wonderful sense of peace. Our snowy weather was limited to only a couple of mornings this winter so I’m really pleased that I was able to capture this one.
East Haddon – February 24th 2019
I captured this shot from one of my favourite locations on the outskirts of East Haddon. The views looking towards Northampton from the vantage point are spectacular and on this morning there was thick low lying mist covering the vast countryside before me. It felt like I was above the clouds and as the sun began to rise the mist began to fade and reveal parts of the landscape. In the far distance I could see a small hill with 3 trees sat on top of it with mist surrounding it. As I quickly attached my 70-200mm lens to the camera so I could zoom right into the hill, I was blown away by the ethereal atmosphere of the shot. It was almost like the hill was on top of the world above the clouds. It’s a great feeling when you take a picture that puts a huge smile on your face; this one was certainly one of those shots.
Ravensthorpe – April 2nd 2019
An angry sky shot here captured in early spring here. I was driving home from work and saw some stormy looking clouds on the horizon. My initial plan was to include Ravensthorpe reservoir in the shot but the clouds were passing by to the west of the reservoir so I relocated to a nearby field, set the camera up and waited for the conditions to reach their peak. I couldn’t believe how dark these clouds were and they seemed to grow angrier the closer they got to me; I was waiting for some thundery activity but to my surprise it never arrived. As the clouds moved ever closer the wind started to pick up. I was getting ready to run back to the car before the rain arrived when eerily, the wind stopped and all went calm; it was the strangest feeling. It was at this moment that I saw my first swallows of the year as two flew over my head in the direction of the storm cloud. It was a special moment. Minutes later the wind picked up again and the first spots of rain started falling. The rain turned to hail as I was driving home and the landscape turned white, it was almost as if winter was signing off in style.
East Haddon – May 5th 2019
This was a classic spring weather day - sunshine, rain, sunshine, rain. I was stood on a footpath in the middle of a rape field watching the storm clouds creep over the crest of the hill and the conditions were great for long exposure photography. The 102 second exposure time really helped enhance the sense of movement in the clouds and highlighted the energy of spring. A couple of minutes later the heavens opened so I had to run to a nearby tree for shelter. Standing under the tree listening to the rain was very tranquil and being spring, a few minutes later the sun was out again.
Whiston – May 21st 2019
A very simple composition but I absolutely love this image. This was a beautiful warm spring evening, perfect for heading out for a spot of photography. I was strolling down a footpath and was greeted by the sight of a flight of swallows darting up and down a hedgerow. It's such a magical time of year when spring gets underway and our summer visiting birds return and in recent years, I have become fascinated with their activity. I spent a good two hours watching and capturing the beautiful display on camera. A very hard subject to get a good shot of as they move so fast but I was really pleased with this image. I also love the splashes of yellow from the fading rapeseed crop. A wonderful moment in my year.
Guilsborough – 21st June 2019
This shot of the summer solstice sunrise was one of my favourite photography moments of 2019. Up to this point, June had been a bit of a washout and not particularly warm but on this morning all was forgiven and we were treated to a beautiful start to British summertime. I used to struggle to prize myself out of bed for summer sunrise photography but in recent years, heading out at 4am when it seems like the whole world is still asleep is a wonderfully calming experience. I remember this morning so vividly, observing the start of a new day before the chaos of human activity crept into the occasion, listening to the dawn chorus and looking at the warm colours in the sky as the sun pulled itself over the horizon. A very fitting shot to signify the start of summer.
Wollaston – 26th July 2019
Often with photography I find that I’m so focused on what I’m doing with the camera when out taking pictures that I go into autopilot mode and although I see so many wonderful things when out in nature, a lot of my photography sessions pass by in a blur. That being said, I’ll occasionally capture an image and find I am completely absorbed by my surroundings; whenever I view the photographs I am transformed back to the time when the shot was taken. This is one of those images. Whenever I look at it “I’m there”; I can remember the breeze, the humid air, the rumble of thunder in the distance. I took this shot the day after the intensely hot day on July 25th when the temperatures hit the high 30s and like most of our hot spells, the heatwave ended abruptly with some thundery activity. As many of you know, capturing stormy skies on camera is my favourite thing so this shot is one of my favourites of 2019 not necessarily because of its technical merit but because I remember every little detail like it is imprinted on my heart. Am I in Northamptonshire or on a vast plain in tornado alley? Who knows…
Chadstone – September 1st 2019
This was a beautiful evening at one of my favourite photography spots. It was that time of year when the evenings start to turn a bit chilly and the first signs of autumn are in the air. This was a spontaneous photography session so you can imagine my joy when I turned up to find the moon perfectly placed above the tree. After capturing my shots, I packed the camera away and went for a little stroll along a nearby footpath just admiring the gorgeous colours in the sky, reminiscing about the lovely memories from the summer… it was a "great to be alive" evening.
Denton – October 23rd 2019
This was one of those spectacular misty autumn mornings that just kept on giving. When I first arrived at my chosen location the covering of mist and fog was too dense for still photography so I switched to plan B and sent the drone up to see if it would fare better. I was blown away by how beautiful the landscape looked from the drone’s perspective. The mist looked so ethereal as it stretched on for miles around. I love how the road leads the viewer into the scene and how the morning sun just catches the autumn colours in the trees. As the mist slowly started to burn up, I was also able to capture some great shots on my regular camera, but it was this drone shot that pleased me most. A gorgeous morning.
I hope you enjoyed my favourite moments from 2019.
Thanks for reading :)
I thought long and hard whether to buy my DJI Mavic Air drone; “can I justify the expense?”, “will I use it enough?”, “will I be able to operate it?”. These are just a few of the questions running around in my mind before I finally committed to investing in this amazing piece of kit.
Since that purchase back in April 2018, I’ve definitely got my money’s worth and still continue to be blown away by this fantastic little gadget. In this blog I’ll explain how my drone has helped enhance my landscape photography offering an alternative perspective on our beautiful countryside and showcase the conditions where it really comes into its own.
My journey into nature photography has made me aware that it really pays to get to know the equipment you possess inside out. The subtle tweaks you can make with the camera’s settings can help maximise the opportunities that present themselves when the conditions are favourable; as a landscape photographer I am in endless pursuit of the perfect conditions. Chasing that beautiful moment where all the elements fall into place, it really is a reactive process as a scene can change in a matter of seconds. I still think the most beneficial technique I have learnt to date was manual focusing, it really has helped take my photography up another level.
I love standing looking out over a beautiful landscape, the camera planted on my tripod with my bag of lenses and filters close to hand but I often found myself longing for different perspectives on the gorgeous landscapes I explore. My fascination with seeing land from the air naturally sparked a bit of curiosity in drone photography. As I said earlier, I thought long and hard about purchasing a drone but I eventually bit the bullet and bought a DJI Mavic Air for just shy of £1000 once you take into account additional batteries and memory cards etc. What I love about the drone is its simplicity; unlike my camera there are no lenses or filters to change, no tripod to set up, you simply turn it on, plug your phone into the remote control and away you go. Within moments your drone is up in the air and you see the landscape before you from a completely new perspective.
One of my early drone projects was to capture an image of my favourite lonely tree located near Chadstone, Northamptonshire. From the ground, my average shot captured here consists of a featureless foreground with the tree often silhouetted by an interesting sky behind it. With the drone the scene changed completely, including the tractor tracks around the tree, which I particularly love. As the tree is located on private property and in the middle of a crop field you can only photograph it looking west from a path that lies in an easterly direction to the tree. With the drone I can now photograph it from any angle as with the shot below which was shot looking east. I think this shot would look better if the sun was lower as it would enhance the shadow from the tree… a project for a future date perhaps. But as you can see, the drone opens up new possibilities.
Another project where the drone came into its own was a recent trip to The Welland Viaduct, in Northamptonshire. This kilometre long viaduct is an amazing feat of engineering and from the ground it looks impressive enough but with the help of the drone I was able to get above the viaduct which really helped to showcase its scale as it stretches out across the valley below.
One of my favourite occasions to photograph is the harvest and as summer comes to an end you’ll find me driving along the country roads in Northamptonshire in search of harvest scenes. It’s a time of year I cherish as the summer slowly starts to wind down and we get the first glimpses of autumn. With my drone I am now able to observe and capture the harvest from the air and the shot below is one of my favourites captured on the drone so far. It’s such a simple yet powerful composition as the combine harvester munches its way through the crops leaving a harvested path behind it. The animal tracks in the scene also add interest to the shot and from the ground these tracks were not visible.
Without a doubt it is my weather photography that has benefited most from the purchase of my drone. I’ve always been fascinated with extreme weather, so I’m constantly tuned in to the weather forecast looking out for the days where dramatic skies and changeable weather are predicted. I get such a thrill when I’m out in the countryside and a storm front begins to move in. Capturing these moments on the drone really shows you how localised downpours can be. A pot of rain will be falling on a small portion of the landscape whilst the surrounding area is dry. It can be unpredictable and chaotic but it is such a rush when my drone is way up above me and I’m watching the rain move in photographing it, waiting for the moment I have to quickly land the drone and get packed up and back in the shelter of my car before the heavens open. It’s such good fun. Luckily this year we’ve had many days where conditions like these have been present and although on a couple of occasions, I’ve pushed my luck and have got a good soaking, I’ve never got bored of capturing it all on camera.
For now, I’m patiently waiting for the misty autumnal mornings to come our way so I can capture the misty landscape from above and then as autumn turns to winter I have my fingers crossed for a day or two of heavy snow as the prospect of drone photography above a snow covered landscape would be an incredible sight. Another project I’m yet to chalk off is to capture a complete rainbow using the drone. I had a good opportunity one evening this week, but the rainbow faded before I was able to get the drone to a suitable height. I’ll keep trying and will strike it lucky one day!
It’s lovely to know that when the conditions are at their best, I have all the equipment I need, be it the drone or my regular DSLR camera, to capture our beautiful countryside in all its stunning glory. With all this fantastic equipment at my disposal I’m loving my hobby more than ever 😊
I had read great things about the image quality of the Canon L series lenses so when I switched to Canon from Sony back in November 2014 I treated myself to the Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens. I bought this for wildlife photography and it performed well enough initially, however it wasn't until I was photographing a kingfisher on the River Nene one evening that I realised this lens just didn't allow me to get in close enough to the subject. It was at this time that I decided to purchase a second hand Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM Lens for £680. The extra 200mm of the Canon EF 400mm lens has made a huge difference to my wildlife work and again being an L series lens, the image quality is fantastic.
After buying the Canon EF 400mm lens I thought I'd have little use for the 70-200mm lens and was contemplating selling it; a decision that in hindsight I would have really regretted. Many of my landscape photography shots were taken using my Canon EF-S 15-85mm lens so I was worried that the 70-200mm would just sit in my camera bag gathering dust but around this time my photography style started to change, and rather than capturing the big landscape shots I'd previously favoured, I started to home in on smaller sections of a landscape scene and found that my 70-200mm lens was by far the strongest lens in my collection for the job. It has now become my go to lens for my country lane shots but it is when I'm out taking woodland shots that this lens really comes into its own.
At 705 grams, the 70-200mm f4 L USM lens is fairly light and compact and the ring-type USM (ultrasonic motor) allows for faster, quieter focusing. The lens doesn't have image stabilisation which could be an issue for some photographers however this does not effect me personally as 90% of the time my camera is placed on a tripod. Because of the lens' long tele focal length you can zoom in on a section of landscape from quite a distance away; this really compresses the perspective from the front to the back of the scene producing some really intimate and atmospheric shots. I tend not to go below f8 for my photography shots but this lens will go down to f4 which enables you to blur out the background and place strong focus on your chosen subject.
Here are some more of the key specifications for the lens:
Filter thread size - 67mm
Lens mount - Canon EF
Maximum aperture - f4
Minimum aperture - f32
Size mm - 76x172
Manual focus switch
Teleconverter compatibility - 1.4x/2x
Minimum focus distance - 1.2 metres
You can buy this lens for around £500-£600 brand new and I personally think it's worth every penny. I get such joy from using this lens and it rarely disappoints as proven by the shots in this blog, all of which were taken using the lens. It's a superb low to mid focal length lens and the Super Spectra coatings give accurate colour balance and enhanced contrast. Some of my most powerful atmospheric shots were captured when using this very efficient lens.
Overall lens rating 4.5/5
Here's another harvest shot captured back on Sunday 5th August. There is an amazing story behind these harvest shots when, for the Trusler household, utter heartbreak turned into pure joy and relief.
My parents' garden backs onto this field so during the harvest I always head over with my camera to capture the occasion. I was really pleased with this year’s shots; the conditions were fantastic with a big blue sky and small white clouds to really compliment the harvest action. However, the satisfaction soon turned into despair when the day after the harvest my mum informed me that our cat Millie had not been seen since the morning of the harvest. This was out of character for her as she is a timid cat and rarely ventured beyond the house and garden. She would however, occasionally nap in the field particularly during hot weather.
Our fear was that she was in the field when the harvest had started and had perhaps panicked, got disorientated and sadly met a tragic end. Despite our fears, we remained optimistic that she had just been spooked and was lying low somewhere and would return home in the next couple of days. The week slowly rolled on and Millie was nowhere to be seen. Our optimism was fading so last Friday I looked back over the photos and videos I'd taken on the day of the harvest to see if I could spot her. My heart sank while watching one of the videos; you could clearly see a grey cat run into the crops moments before the combine arrived. There were plenty of tears as it seemed that tragically, and in a very horrible way, Millie was gone.
However, this story has a happy ending and our sadness and heart ache turned to joy when later that evening I received a text message from my sister, "James, you won't believe it...", followed by a picture of Millie in the kitchen. After being missing for more than 5 days she came home healthy (but hungry!) and oblivious to all the drama she had caused but very much enjoying all the attention she was receiving.
A very lucky cat :)
My first photography interview. Thank you Picture Frames Express for featuring me as Photographer of the Month. Click on the link below.
Winter is officially over. It's felt as though it's dragged on for longer than usual (perhaps because we had snow just last weekend!) but as the days get longer, and colour slowly returns to the landscape, the wonderful sense of hope and optimism synonymous with spring grows day by day.
Looking back over the last few months, this winter actually felt like winter should with a healthy number of frosty mornings and at least 4 significant snowy periods. The mild, gloomy weather that we've become accustomed to throughout December, January and February in recent years was definitely not what this winter was about. I think I took as many snow pictures this winter as I have in my entire 10 years as a landscape photographer.
With spring upon us, here are some of my winter highlights
The bird activity in the garden was in full flow during the recent cold snap known as "Beast from the East".
We had a pied wagtail visit that before now I'd only seen out in the street, The long-tailed tits who usually stay in the trees at the back of the garden ventured down to the feeding table allowing me to get some lovely close up shots of their adorable faces, we had frequent thrush sightings and I also got my first fieldfare shots of the winter.
Here are some of my favourite shots :)
Northamptonshire based nature photographer