Why visit the London Wetland Centre in Barnes?
At any given moment I’d probably be happier if I was doing something with a camera. Out making pictures, telling stories, being nosey and having a good time. Actually, I might be a bit odd compared with photographers I know because the joy of messing with the RAW image comes a very close second to capturing the picture in the first place. The next best thing is printing. The idea of finishing a day printing something to go an the wall that was just an idea a little earlier is magical.
Of course, no amount of processing will rescue a crappy file so, as we all do, I try to get the best file I can from the camera. Like everyone else I’m aiming for the most pleasing composition, good exposure, selected focus point and depth of field and so on, but what arrives on the memory card is data not a picture. When I first came across the idea of shooting for the highlights to obtain the biggest file size it was a bit depressing. Straight out of the camera the picture often looks pale and over exposed, but this is deliberate. A little nudge of a slider corrects the exposure and gives much more details across the range than would otherwise have been captured.
Click any of the pictures for a bigger version.
Thing is, despite a couple of trips to the London Wetland Centre, I’m not at all interested in is wildlife photography. The hardcore wildlife cameraman will work for days or weeks or sometimes years to get the perfect shot of a subject in a way that doesn’t need manipulating. I have every admiration for somebody who can do that. If anyone is interested there are some pictures here from an excellent wildlife photographer called Darren Williams who comes from Norfolk. But it isn’t me.
So, why go to LWC which is set up for wildlife? And why twice in a very few weeks? It’s because the material for making great pictures is there whether or not you are interested in the wildlife.
I can’t enter any of these into wildlife / natural history competitions because they have been mucked about with too much, but they make me happy. LWC has some specific ponds for the casual visitor but also some decent looking hides for the more bird enthusiast. There always seems to be a steady stream of people on camouflage with serious looking spotting scopes. I was greeted by a bloke with industrial sized binoculars on the most recent visit who told me that there had been kingfisher sightings that day. I didn’t actually see one but, for a photographer, I miss an awful lot 🙂 Whatever the reason for your visit, it’s a great day.
Otters at the London Wetland Centre
It’s no surprise that the otters steal the show. They are active, quick, intelligent and adorable. LWC as a pair of what I believe to be Asian Short-Clawed Otters but what they might lack in fingernails they make up for with teeth like stilettos – long, thin, pointed and deadly!
Otters browse through most of the day and, obligingly, two of their four feeds happen when the park is open. This was at 11.00AM and 2.00PM when I was there. They anticipate the keeper arriving with a bucket of fish and crabs by racing around their habitat mewing and growling. They seem to do everything together and are rarely far apart. When the food does arrive it is distributed around the enclosure but they seem very happy to come and sit on the rocks in easy view of the odd photographer to eat it.
They are genuinely engaging and well worth the time taken in setting up in a good spot and waiting. Try to go midweek out of school holidays if you can.
I’m attempting to record behaviour here. Nothing very aesthetic but trying to show that these cute little animals are actually deadly killers at the top of their food chain. But cute nonetheless. There didn’t seem much reason to resist the urge to edit them a bit though 🙂
Click on these too.
The real treasure is the number and variety of birds. The examples here are limited but with a bit of dedication a visitor can tick off a pretty good number of species. These pictures reflect my ideas about what makes an interesting picture. The mallard might be pretty common everywhere but I find them no less interesting than more exotic birds. The next few photos are mostly just playing. Also, although I can tell you that the family Corvidae are crow like birds I couldn’t actually tell the difference between a raven and a jackdaw so don’t take any names as being accurate. I’m quite fond of pigeons though 🙂
These are Berwick swans. I just like the atmosphere and the patterns.
An interloper stealing nesting material.
This is a Canada Goose (I think) but the habit of sleeping like this looked kind of snuggly and it made a lovely abstract pattern. Actually, it turns out to have been a bizarre self-portrait.
This was the picture I had in my head prior but it wasn’t possible to frame it this way through the viewfinder. It took a bit of jiggery pokery and a lot of cloning to simply the scene. The mono treatment is to try to emphasise the sinuous curves of the crane against the hard straight lines of the bamboo.
And finally, Mrs and Mr Mallard – Thanks so much for taking the time to look.