Lasting two weeks or so, mayfly time is special with both the fish and fly fishermen. I wanted to get a shot of mayfly spinners swarming over the river in the early evening. A very fast shutter speed was required to freeze the flies in the frame and avoid a blurred mess. I needed to be close enough for the flies to be recognisable which meant standing on a bridge looking over the river Avon but keeping the trees in the background to give context. The second image, shot with a longer lens to isolate a single fly, was next to a bush, again to give context.
Last week on the Avon I spotted a very localised area of mayfly male spinners returning to the water. To get close I used a very long lens but this made focusing on an individual fly next to impossible because of the unpredictable flight and extremely narrow Depth Of Focus. Fortunately one mayfly settled on a stalk long enough for me to get my shot.
The next post will show a close up of a male mayfly spinner.
It was critical to include wrens in the book as they flourish in the chalk stream valleys. Getting a good photograph of a wren was however tricky as almost always I saw them too late and disturbed them by my approach. I have yet to work out how they do it, but when spooked wrens go into nearby bushes and then I get up close, the wren has disappeared yet I have not seen it move off. Occasionally one sees a wren resting on a branch or feeding when it should then be possible to get a photo of them - but no. They are not usually still long enough. So, two options, either set up a hide in a likely place and wait for hours (not my thing) or persevere with very slow and careful approaches along the river bank over a number of visits and sooner or later get lucky. As with many of the shots on the book, perseverance pays! The shot above was from the Avon earlier this year.
I needed to get shots of brown trout mating activity for the book but, as with many of the shots for the book, the wildlife do not do things to order. The timing on my chosen rivers is late December through to end of January for the best chance of spotting them spawning. Craig of the Piscatorial Society reckons you can almost guarantee spawning activity the day after Boxing Day on the upper Test. This is not an ideal time to leave the family but I spent a day searching likely spots. The river level was very low and of course the weather did not perform so I had a wasted day as the trout decided to wait a bit.
I needed to find the redds the trout make in suitable clean gravel where there is also good flow. Several contacts suggested locations but after three 140 mile return trips I had spotted a few redds but no trout action.
Then Nick Gooderham came to the rescue as we were tipped off that there were redds viewable on the Bourne Rivulet. So in January 2019 Nick gained the permission from the owner and we walked the length of the stretch and right at the end came across a fabulous sight - several sizeable trout going about their mating activity. I think we were both blown away to see this so clearly in very shallow crystal clear water. The summer drought and very low water levels did me a favour as normally the trout activity would be underwater so getting decent images from the bank would be impossible. They would have come out murky even with a polarising filter. My luck was in today and the trout were thrashing around and breaking the surface in a bit of a frenzy, giving me some highly visible action shots. Nick and I felt privileged to see this. I have included a sequence of the action in the book.
While on the walk mentioned in the previous post, it was interesting to note that because we were all focussed on finding subjects to photograph, we noticed things that would otherwise be missed if we had just been wandering aimlessly along. Also, each person saw quite different things in a scene. This was evidenced in the photographic images shared afterwards. Also, some people are more observant that others. My eagle eyed wife Lynne spotted a Stoat just off the path. It had been missed by others walking in front of us. Rarely seen as they are so nervous of humans, the Stoat stood still just long enough for me to point my long lens and grab a couple of frames before it vanished. Lesson? Walk slowly and quietly and keep your eyes peeled!
March and April is the time to look out for Pussy Willows. Last year Nick Gooderham organised an early Spring photographic event on the Avon. Expectations were for more of a social occasion and pleasant walk rather than any magical photo opportunities. But there were ample things to see and record even at this time of year. Many photos were taken of willing Swan models but for me the best was the Pussy Willow. I tried a number of angles and compositions Normally for the book I have been careful to show subjects in the context of their surroundings in the chalk stream valleys but in this case I decided a close up to display them at their best. Perhaps surprisingly for those who are photographers, these shots were not taken with a standard or macro lens but with a very long lens which had the effect of isolating the subjects from the rather messy background and instead gave a rather atmospheric soft coloured back drop.