Having now seen an advance copy of the book, I am delighted /relieved to say it is exactly as I wanted. And heavy at 164 pages! The colour reproduction is really pleasing.
The image above was taken at a lake in the upper Test valley, fed by the River Test which runs next to it. The last rays of the sun poking through the clouds made a wonderful picture captured on my iPhone. No trickery, that's how it looked.
The majority of the landscape images in the book were taken in the lush green times of Spring and Summer but now in late October and into November the rich Autumnal colours are very photogenic. The image above was taken in early November on the upper Test. To get this kind of effect was a matter of waiting for the early afternoon sun to make an appearance between the clouds. Without the clouds it would not have been possible to get the mottled effect of light on the trees and the interesting sky.
In the final editing for the book it was necessary to reduce the number of images slightly. This photograph of a juvenile Song thrush didn't make the cut. I had arrived at Langford Lakes in Wiltshire early in the morning hoping to get a glimpse of the elusive otters. After a couple of fruitless hours of searching for the otters, I came across the Song thrush on the path. The colouring and the fluffy feathers are the indications this is a juvenile.
I have frequently found unexpected and interesting subjects to photograph when on planned trips for other species. It helped balance the times when the planned trips did not work out - otter trips being a good example.
My book is due back from the printers in early November, so will be available for Christmas presents! It has a sequence from the "drowning" of the water meadows in the south of Salisbury. The Harnham Water Meadows Trust floods the meadows in the traditional way a couple of times a year. A "Drowner" opens the hatches and after a brief gush, the water flows gently along the network of channels and then over the surface of the field to a controlled level before returning to the river via drains. Quite a spectacle and open to the public. The meadows were a favourite of Constable and he painted the view across to the cathedral a number of times. The image above was taken from the same viewpoint as Constable used in one of his paintings. The scene has not changed much.
Shot in early October it captures the changing colour of the leaves at the start of Autumn.
I decided to use the classic view of the Eel Traps at Leckford on the River Test as the back cover to the book. I really liked the flowing weed which, for the image I wanted, I brought out with a polarising filter and a little extra exposure to that part of the photograph. There are many images available of this view taken by scores of photographers - moody shots, shots through dawn mist and, the camera club favourite, with a long exposure to make the river look milky and smooth. Personally, I think it looks best when shot straight like this in good natural summer light. Believe it or not, when I did a Google search, this seems to be very unusual.
It might be thought that such a location would be out if sight to all but a privileged few who can afford to pay for a days fly fishing on the John Lewis owned fishery at Leckford, but no, this shot was taken from a public road!
Just gathering up the funds for the pre-orders of the book and I have now sent the finished book off to the printers. There were lots of revisions to the layout and to the image captions / text, but I am now very happy with the end result. Hardback book with glossy jacket. 164 pages in total. Phew!
The image above is the cover for the book.
Coincidentally, Salmon & Trout Conservation UK used this image of the upper Test in their newsletter on Friday.
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In due course there will be a link to the catalogue of the publishing partner - Riverside Publishing Solutions.
I sat quietly for several hours by the middle Itchen during one of my stake outs to capture an image of a Kingfisher. I had been waiting for a kingfisher to appear on the perch on the other side of the river. It was in a really good spot, immediately above an eddie on a bend and sure to be full of minnows and fry. This was not to be. The bird just flew by several times at high speed in an iridescent flash.
By early evening all was quiet and the fishermen had gone. Then it all came alive. A significant hatch of Blue Winged Olives (BWO). Spinners were swarming over the bankside reeds. A bit of quick work with my bug net and I bagged one for a photo session. The image above is, I believe, a male spinner. If only the fishermen had stayed, because the fish were rising all over the river!
The book describes and illustrates the source of our chalk streams and the different stages of the river course - from winterbournes and headwaters to meandering channels through wide flood plains. First though, an image of the chalk downs through which rain water permeates and replenishes the aquifers which in turn feed the springs. This shot was taken in the Wylye valley one morning in June after a 5.30 AM start from a local B&B. The task was to show the hills at their most colourful with the early sun. Worth getting up early for.
It was vital for the book to show the weed in the chalk streams which, apart from being an iconic feature of the habitat, is so essential for invertebrates and the food chain in general. I have photographed the weed such as Ranunculus (River Water Crowfoot) in a number of ways. Some images were achieved from the bank with a camera fitted with a polarising filter to reduce the inevitable reflections on the water. However, most photographs of weed were taken by wading into the river and using a camera that can be used underwater or, in the case of the above image of the bridge over the Itchen, with a standard camera but held perilously close to the surface of the water. Note that again I have used a bridge to give a focal point. This time, a typical fishing beat bridge made of wood with guide rail on one side. There are scores of these across the chalk streams.
Inevitably a book on chalk streams will feature many images of the rivers themselves as well as the intended record of the rich variety of flora and fauna they support. In the book there are many images of beautiful chalk streams but sometimes I needed more of a focal point. I frequently used bridges for this purpose. The bridge above on the upper Itchen has been used several times. It can be seen in photographs that capture views in different seasons and times of the day and has also been used to demonstrate that some sections of the protected chalk streams are accessible to all (this bridge is on the Itchen Way public footpath). It was even in the shot of me, taken by my wife Lynne, which will be be used in the bio for the book!