In the beginning of last month, I spend a week in the Hautes Vosges in France together with my father (Ronald Hofmeester). We spend some time photographing landscapes and flowers, but the most impressing memories are of the moments spend photographing chamois. In comparison to other areas where I have seen chamois, the chamois in the Hautes Vosges are relatively easy to see up close. With a little bit of patience, perseverance and luck you can get pretty close to the animals and photograph them showing natural behaviour. We have photographed them in the mist, in early morning light and in evening light (see also my portfolio page: Light and Dark – Hautes Vosges), but the most intense was the last evening of our trip, when we had about 30 chamois all foraging in the evening light. This picture was taken on that last evening, of a relatively young chamois looking up the hill into the sunset.
Spring was early this year, and halfway April, the leaves were appearing on the beech trees again. As I wrote in my text for the Photo of the Month March I wanted to spend part of my photographic time this year on the many shapes and forms made by trees. So when I saw the fresh spring leaves appearing, I immediately set out to get a photograph depicting the feeling I got from these fresh leaves. Finding the right setting took some time, but I found what I was looking for in these three leaves. What really amazed me, was that the many insects feeding on the leaves had also appeared already, as shown by the many holes in the leaves. Amazing, what a little rise in temperature and lengthening of the days does to the natural world!
Last month I organized a field excursion for the Youth group of the Dutch Association for Nature Photographers (NVN). With a group of about seven youngsters we got up really early to make the most of the beautiful light before sunrise. I had chosen the Kootwijkerveen as a location for the excursion, as it will provide plenty of photographic opportunities, also in winter. We had a lot of fun photographing the landscape and birds on the water. The most outstanding bird was definitely the little grebe. We saw multiple fights, a lot of calling, and all kinds of other spring behaviour. Just before sunrise, I took my favourite picture of the day of a little grebe on the water. I really like the juxtaposition of the blue and orange tones, together with the small grebe in its surroundings.
Spring is in the air! Last weekend multiple records were broken, as the highest temperatures for this time of year were measured in the Netherlands. This also means that all of a sudden flowers are popping up everywhere, birds start singing and ticks are active again. Good for my research, but also great for photography. A winter without snow and ice is not very interesting for photography, so I am happy that spring has arrived.
I found some Ficariavernanext to a ditch near my home, which gave me some ideas for photographs against the sun with reflections. Unforunately, a small dike next to the ditch blocked the setting sun, so there were no light reflections, which meant I had to try some other things. In the picture above, you see the last sunlight on the trees on the dike, some reflections of the sky in the ditch, and of course many of the flowers. In the picture below, you see some of the flowers in the blue light after sunset, changing the mood completely.
Both pictures are taken with my Canon 5D mIII and Canon 100mm macro lens.
Last month I spend most of my days working in the field, finding new sites for my PhD research. One of the new sites is located in the Amsterdam Water Supply Dunes, one of the areas in the Netherlands with the highest deer densities. The main deer species in this area is fallow deer. You can’t go for a walk without seeing at least a couple of them grazing next to one of the many roads. There are some plans to start culling this population as it has increased tremendously over the last few years, but culling has not started yet. Therefore, this area is very interesting for my research, as I want to know what this high deer density does to rodents and ticks.
Also this picture depicts my latest ideas for photography projects for this year. I am going to work on two projects, one which has something to do with mammals, and the other will focus on the many shapes and forms made by trees. For me, both of these elements come together in this picture.
This year started for me in Norway, and therefore, I chose another Norwegian landscape as my Photo of the Month. This picture is part of a series I will post on the website somewhere this month. On my way to Norway I read a book by Freeman Patterson entitled “Photography and the Art of Seeing“, which made me think about photography, and the road I want to take to become a better photographer. I have always believed that making pictures is something personal, and therefore, a picture should, in part, reflect something of the photographer. I think that intuition, and feeling are just as important when deciding what to photograph, as composition, visual design and the story. Therefore, in Norway, I went on a different tour. I took pictures of everything that caught my eye, taking the pictures quickly and without thinking (consciously) about composition. What I ended up with is a series of photographs which I would never have made if I had not decided to enter this road, as most of them are taken at moments which are not most suitable for photography, during a walk, without a tripod, in the middle of the day (if you could call 3 hours of daylight a day anyway).
This picture was taken during a hike, leaning against the wind (there was a strong wind that day) and being a little bit frustrated that we could not reach the fjell we wanted to go to, because of the high amount of snow on the road. It was a dark cloudy day, which resulted in a dark, noisy picture, which beautifully portraits my feeling at the moment.
During the Christmas Holidays I went to Norway to visit my girlfriend who is doing voluntary work at a research institute in Trondheim. Lucky for me, because the weather in the Netherlands is far from winter like, so I had a white Christmas and some snow to photograph. The only down point was the little amount of sunshine at that latitude, the sun rose above the hills around 11am and went behind the hills around 2pm. So little light for photography.
This picture was taken at 2.30pm near the National Park Forollhogna during a snow drift. It was the most beautiful day of the trip, although it was very cold with a very hard wind. As the sun coloured some of the clouds red, I could not believe my luck and took the picture.
The autumn went by in no time this year for me, as I had very little time to go out and take pictures during the weeks with the most intense autumn colours. Fortunately, I did bring my new G15 (see previous post) with me during my last week of field work for the year, and I was able to take some pictures in between work.
The above picture shows exactly that feeling, that the autumn has already left before I could really enjoy it. Fortunately, next year there will be another autumn with new opportunities! And for now, I have to do with the memory I still have of some beautiful patches of forest I visited during fieldwork, some of which (such as this birch forest) were beautifully coloured and lit by the sun.
Canon Powershot G15, 27.8mm, 1/500 @ f/2.8, iso 80
Photographers are sometimes more concerned about the material with which a photo is made, instead of looking at the picture as it is. I think this is ridiculous. I don’t care if a picture is made with an Iphone, or with a full frame DSLR. It’s the product that counts. Google on anything, and I bet that some of the pictures that will pop-up are made with a smart-phone, and some of these will be really nice pictures. Therefore, I would argue, that the best camera is the one you carry with you.
I actually noticed this last summer, when I was doing fieldwork for my PhD research. I did have my DSLR and some lenses with me in the car, but carrying around all this equipment while catching rodents is not very handy. Therefore, my camera mostly stayed inside the car, and when walking in the field and presented with beautiful light, I could do nothing more than enjoy the light, without taking any pictures (although I did take some pictures with my phone). When looking back at the pictures, I kept on wondering about what I could do with these pictures, had they been taken in a RAW file format on a camera with a better sensor, so I made the decision to buy a compact camera with the option to shoot in RAW, so I can always carry a decent camera with me.
I don’t have a special fondness for Canon, but I really liked the specs of the Canon Powershot G15, so I bought one. Next time when the light is beautiful, I will be prepared!
Yesterday, while doing fieldwork, I took the picture above, showing the sun shining through the autumn forest.
As I wrote last month, I have been working in the field for my PhD research during the summer, which meant that I did not have a lot of time for photography. By know I have just finished, and the grant result is that we caught 179 rodents in 10 areas. These 179 rodents carried a total of 3966 ticks (both nymphs and larvae), which gives us a mean tick burden of a bit more than 22 ticks per rodent. Luckily, this gives me enough data to spend the next couple of months analysing the dataset and writing my first publication on ticks!
Last week we caught very few rodents, leaving me time to start taking some pictures of the species that I study. I had one picture in mind, a wide-angle view of a rodent (either a wood mouse or a bank vole) in the forest, to show where and how these animals live. This is easier said than done, and after some attempts I got the picture that is shown above. It is still a work in progress, as I would like to have some different elements in the picture which are not there yet (and I would like to have the animal a little bit bigger in the frame), but for now I like this picture a lot, so I selected it to be this months ‘Picture of the Month’.