The real world, in my opinion, exists in the countryside, where Nature goes about her quiet business and brings us greatest pleasure.
― Fennel Hudson,
An outing with members of Cambridge Camera Club is always a treat. Ann, Phil, Barry, Brian, Miles, Paul, Mike, Jenny, Jane and I arrived at Wicken Fen loaded with gear as always. Some of us were looking forward to taking long exposure landscape pictures, with some tuition from Ann, whilst others wanted to practice their macro shots. A group of photographers is definitely a slightly eccentric spectacle, especially if you are not a photographer. We spread our various equipment on the coffee tables outside the cafe whilst other visitors looked on slightly bemused. Barry began by showing us how neatly he stores and labels all of his filters. Ann’s were also tidily kept in a neat case with pockets although the labels were missing! There was much talk of Lee and Cokin, holders, filters, polarisers etc and for the uninitiated it was all a bit confusing. Finally after Barry had reassembled the whole of Jane’s filter system we set off towards the windmill and the macro shooters disappeared into the undergrowth. Wicken Fen is managed by the National Trust and it is their oldest nature reserve, and England’s most famous fen. There are more than 8,500 species, including a huge array of plants, birds dragonflies and other insects.
A methodical person I am not, so long exposure photography is always a challenge for me. My default methodology is to turn the stabiliser off, set my scene and hyperfocal distance, turn off auto focus, fit holder and filters on to the front of lens, then realising I have moved the focus ring unintentionally go through the whole process again. I could hear Ann giving lots of mathematical sounding advice about settings that went right over my head so as usual I set everything up, plucked some figures out of the air and using manual setting I squeezed the shutter. Oh dear! Not a good result. When Ann checked my filters it was clear I should have a nine not a three and it should be soft not hard. Another expensive lesson learned! I was getting bored with the windmill and was about to move my tripod when suddenly there was a very loud tearing sound. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked around. Poor Barry, something had to give and rather worried about where his trousers were torn, we were all told to tell him if we could see anything hanging! I assumed he meant material!
Failing miserably to get a good shot of the windmill as the sky was far too bright for my number three filter and Big Stopper, I tried to take a picture of the tall grasses and reeds swaying in the wind. I must have tried every setting possible until finally I got a shot I quite liked. At that point Chris joined us. He’d been out taking pictures of an event earlier in the morning. With his battered panama and Nikon he looked like a tourist arriving on safari. Within seconds he had waded in to help Jenny another Nikon user, who like me was not having much success. The mosquitoes suddenly realised how tasty Paul’s legs were so he disappeared swiftly to get sprayed. Never wear shorts at Wicken! We all wished we had brought sprays, as the mosquitoes seemed particularly vicious and unrelenting in their attempts to draw blood!
After lunch and more photography chatter those of us staying on for the afternoon, changed our wide angle lenses to macro. Just five of us set off to find insects in the verdant undergrowth. It was not long before Ann spotted a tiny moth. The humidity seemed to draw out the insects and Jane and I took turns to shoot. There were spiders, hoverflies, butterflies, scorpion flies, grasshoppers, crickets and dammed mosquitoes! I just love my macro lens as suddenly mini beasts become huge works of art in the lens. It’s another beautiful world just waiting to be discovered. We walked, talked, laughed and described each bug as beautiful, odd or just plain ugly. They didn’t seem to mind. Identification of bugs is not easy and I look forward to Ann’s new publication. I will update their proper names as and when I can.
Wicken Fen remains a favourite haunt of mine, it’s never crowded and you never quite know what you might see next!