May 2013

Martin Mere Wetland Centre

Martin Mere Wetland Centre, A Day Out

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

Time flies when you’re having fun (or very busy at work), and perhaps especially when you have a day out at Martin Mere Wetland Centre. It’s huge, but well laid out, with a number of handy, and very well specified, public hides from which to mix with twitchers and shoot long lens wetland birds. I can hardly believe that it was the 9th of April 2013 that I was last there, it’s now nearly 7 weeks and I haven’t published any of my images yet.

Routes Round the Martin Mere Wetland Centre

The handbook, or walkabout guide, contains a route map, several suggested routes and some very handy information on a variety of species. There is a nature trail map, some photographic plates and a Wildlife check-list to tick off your sightings. The Marsh harrier, Whooper swan, Bewick’s swan, Pink-footed goose and Tree sparrow are filled in at the head of the list to get you started. We did in fact see a Pair of Marsh Harrier’s last time out, but not this visit. I think that my favorite part of the handbook is the fold-out back cover that contains 121 colored drawings of ducks, geese and other birds to help you with identification. WWT Martin Mere is one of nine unique wetland visitor centres in the UK run by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. All the paths have a tarmac surface so they are an easy walk and reasonably clean to lie on to get a good low angle for birds in ponds. Martin Mere Wetland Centre opens at 9.30 am and closes at 5.30 pm in the summer and 5.00 pm in the winter. The grounds are open for one hour after the building closes but visitors must then leave through the exit gates.

Images from the Hides and Ponds

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Post Processing…

Some time is inevitably spent trying to work out what I have photographed, not always with any success. I get swept along by the photography, so tend not to remember to take a note of the species names where those are noted at the pools. So for this reason I am indebted to Belinda Barker, office manager at WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre, for putting names to quite a few of the images you see above.

Otherwise, getting the correct exposure is most of the battle with images of water birds. The brightness of the water or the sky tends to lead to underexposure which can mean blocked up blacks. Post processing involved the usual passage through Photoshop Lightroom 4 for tonal range, contrast and vibrance, with a brief foray into Photoshop to further improve the mid-tone contrast and some very careful multi-pass sharpening.

Best wishes,




Mach Loop Terrain, Bwlch

Scoping the Mach Loop

The Mach Loop in Wales

The Mach Loop is a set of valleys between Dolgellau in the north and Machynlleth in the south of Wales. The Mach coming from Machynlleth of course. The loop is used for low level flight training (as low as 76 metres from the nearest terrain) by the RAF. Geoff and I had heard that it was a simple matter to climb up a bit of bank and take some (nice) pictures of the Jets. Given that there had been heavy snowfalls, we wanted to scope out the terrain to see what might be involved in getting to a reasonable spot above the planes. So off we went to Bwlch to have a look.

The Weather was Against us!!

We checked out a few possible vantage points to visit from information on the internet, and off we went. We arrived at Bwlch at around 10:00am on the first of April 2013 (and it was no joke, even if we felt a little foolish). The temperature was just above zero, but felt about minus 30, due to the sharp wind. It was so cold that within no more than 3 minutes I couldn’t feel the ends of my fingertips. I scampered back to the car to re-group with a cup of coffee, before giving it another try.

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After the second chilling, and a closer look at the steepness of the mountainside, I realized that I would need a helicopter winch to get me anywhere near the summit even if I was travelling without heavy camera gear. So we left to look down the road, but quickly gave up as the snow seemed deeper there. No stamina I suppose, perhaps after a year or two working out?

Decamp to Bala Lake

So a wholesale change of plan was required, and onward we forged to Bala Lake for a few photos. Hopefully it would be warmer lower down? Sadly, in the end, it was still pretty cold so I went with an HDR approach rather than breaking out my Lee Filter Holder and Neutral Density Grads. I did use my tripod though, for a change, rather than hand-holding a high speed burst.

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I did think, afterwards, that I missed out an opportunity to try out my new Big Stopper. But hey-ho it was very cold, and I wanted to keep warm. I can hardly believe that a month has gone by since Bala and I’ve still to tell you about Ludlow and Martin Mere Wetland Centre!