Owls, a Goshawk and Bluebells – 20

Last month a group of photo club friends and I had the opportunity to photograph owls – and a goshawk – in a bluebell wood. These are some of my images.

All were taken on the Olympus EM-1 MkII. The most challenging shot was the tawny owl in flight. We had several goes at this – but owls, being owls, fly quite fast and not usually in a straight line. Tracking the bird in flight, even as it heads towards you, is not so simple!

I tried continuous focus ( or whatever your camera maker calls it ) where once in focus the camera should hold the focus on a moving object, as long as the target doesn’t move outside the selected focus point(s). I gave up.

I took to manually focussing on a point about halfway between the bird’s starting point and myself, and setting the camera on high speed sequential shooting, knowing that if I could follow the owl it would have to fly through my elected ‘plane of focus’. And it does work although you land it up with lots of out of focus shots, plus one or two ( maybe three ) that are just about in, and, with a bit of luck, one that is sharp!

On the day the light was not brilliant under the canopy of trees so a higher ISO was required, and, looking back, the lens I chose ( 40mm – 150mm [ 80 – 300 35mm equivalent ] ) was a touch too short resulting in the owl being a bit small in the frame. And I don’t have too many pixels that I can afford to throw away in a crop.

Having said that, it was a great experience. Many thanks to Robin and Derry our hosts ( and photographic advisors ) for the afternoon.

Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl in fight

Long Eared Owl





Another still life.

Here I was looking for the contrast in textures and colours – mainly between the old food can ( six weeks in the garden, filled with water, to make it go rusty ) and the beauty of the flowers. But I think the muted, soft tones of the background also help.

Key, of course, is the lighting which really makes the image pop – although, at the same time, it is subtle and not overdone. One strobe with a soft box as the main light ( from the left ) and a second light, also softened,  overhead to light the background.

St Ives Harbour, Cornwall – 18

Another image from our recent trip to Cornwall, deep in the south west!


I thought long and hard about the ‘crop’ I have used in this image. I think it is very nearly all of the image as it came off the camera.

However, many would say there is too much sky, or too much beach in the foreground. Their argument being that neither adds much to the image. But I disagree : those extra elements tell of the space around the harbour; they hint at the light ( something that has attracted artists and photographers for many years ); but more importantly they remind me of the feelings of space, freedom and tranquility that I felt here.

A letterbox crop, showing just the buildings, the pier and the lighthouse, would have destroyed all of that. Only my opinion, of course!!


These Engine Houses are on the west coast of Cornwall at Botallack, a few miles north of Lands End and Cape Cornwall.

From the National Trust information sheet : “The lower of the two engine houses was built in 1835 to pump water from the mine. The higher engine house was built in 1862 to provide winding power for the Boscawen Diagonal Shaft, which ran out under the sea.


Men were carried up and down the shaft in a gig, a purpose built wheeled box, which was also used to raise ore.”

The mining levels reached out up to 150 metres beneath the sea. In stormy weather the miners could hear the sound of the angry sea above them. It must have been a living hell!!



It is a little known fact ( that is to say, I didn’t know ) that plants breathe out oxygen. Apparently “Plants produce oxygen as a waste product of making sugar using sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water”. ( Source : http://www.scienceline.ucsb.edu )

The appearance of bubbles in these images is evidence that plants do breathe out.

BUBBLES by John Allen-4BUBBLES by John Allen-2BUBBLES by John Allen-1BUBBLES by John Allen-3

The images were taken by submerging the flowers into a small glass tank of water – and waiting for the bubbles to appear. The flower in image 1 is a chrysanthemum; images 2 to 4 are of blossom – cherry blossom, I believe.

All taken on the Olympus EM1 MkII with a 60mm macro lens. Images 2 to 4 are 1:1 macros; all of the images are uncropped.


IN THE FLOW by John Allen

Taken at Hurley Weir on the River Thames. The 1/10 of a second exposure in the first image accentuates the movement of the kayak through the water. In reality these kayakers are paddling against the water as it pours through the gates on the weir. So it is the water that is moving – and they remain almost stationary in the viewfinder, making them so much easier to catch!!

IN THE FLOW 2 by John Allen



Photography is all about controlling the light. And this image came from an exercise where I was looking to light a portrait with a single light – in this case, a masked polystyrene head ( with sunglasses, fur hat and scarf ). She (?) was lit by a single flash head fired through a light-modifier to produce a very narrow vertical strip of light ( as seen in the reflections in the sunglasses. I’m not sure if those bands of light help – or distract. Any thoughts? )