When I was a young boy, in the Boy Scouts they taught us to "Be Prepared." Its just as well then, that I was prepared last Saturday morning as I woke up about 5am and had the implusive to just get in my car and drive to Oxford Island. I'd been thinking about photographing it for some time having seen others images and I wanted to see for myself what all the hype was about.
So, at just after 6am, armed with my camera gear, a flask of coffee and a bag of cashew nuts (don't ask!) I found myself on the road out of Donaghadee. The early morning mist blanketed the fields on either side of my car as I drove up the road out of the village. It was a beautiful morning...I was so glad I had banished the demon of the quilt to pursue my passion. There's nothing worse that missed opportunities and I was determined not to miss this one.
About an hour later, I found myself exiting the M1 at Junction 10. Oxford Island was just 5 minutes from the junction and in no time I found myself at the entrance to this picturesque nature reserve. Arriving so early, I was greeted by closed gates, but others were already there enjoying the cool brisk morning air. Some on bikes, others walking their dogs. I parked my car off the road and got my Lowepro Vertex 300 on my shoulders and headed off. What a bag! After removing the kitchen sink, a full darkroom and 2 small kittens that had somehow gotten in there, I set out to find water! I'd no map or idea where anything was, but this was adventure, right!? Who cared!? Instead of taking the direct route to the Discovery Centre, I decided to follow the meandering paths for about an hour, thinking they would bring me to water quicker. After traversing said direct route several times I had the revelation that this was not the case! I didn't mind though as I was walking through beautiful woodlands, along the old shoreline which became accessible as the Lough was drained in the 1800's and early 1900's.
With the morning dew spraying off my boots as I walked, I looked ahead down the path and could see the white tails of rabbits bobbing as they beat a hasty retreat to the sounds of my footsteps.
I left the woods and within a few minutes saw the shoreline of the Lough for the first time. I was captivated by the sheer peaceful tranqulility and just stood drinking in the beauty for a moment. I then walked around towards the Discovery Centre and immediately spotted the old ruined dock. Since it was so early, the morning sun was right in my eyes. I had wanted this shot with my wide angle lens and a nice symmetry however the sun was just too low so I walked off to the side and it was then that I saw the perfect shot. The leading lines of the dock and the clouds in the sky all pointed towards the sunrise.
A long time ago I heard the saying "If its not broke, don't fix it..." and so rather than convince myself that I needed a new camera body, I've continued to use my Fujifilm S5-Pro and Nikon D200. The S5 still has some of the best tones out there, for an old DX camera and I've become so familiar with it that I am always reluctant to use anything else. Even the D200, which is the foundation for the S5, pales by comparison.
So, my setup was Fuji S5 and Tokina Dx II 11-16mm and then the D200 with my Nikon 18-200mm.
This first shot was taken with the 18-200mm setup. Everything is subjective in photography. Every thing changes every single thing. For example in this image, with the 11-16, I was seeing just too much, I was losing my subject in the vastness of the water. That's when I knew the 18-200 was a much better option.
This next shot was taken with the Tokina 11-16mm lens with myself virtually laying on the dock and I had to keep changing position to get just the perfect shot with each of the posts in the right place. In the distance you can see the Discovery Centre. The smell of bacon and sausages was wafting over the water towards me. But my will power was stronger!
I think being a photographer is the best and the worst of things. We get to photograph things that we love, that speak to us, that move us. The downside is that so much of the work I do, like everyone else, is subjective and so I have to learn to accept critique and criticism. Not everyone will like what we like. I have come to love my landscape and Fine Art images and its as if I have never shot anything else. I love the symmetry of this shot, and I honeslty feel that black and white is the best medium for me to get the impact that I see in the shot.
As I walked around from the slip towards the Centre again, I decided to walk down a long path towards a bird-watching hut owned by the Sailing Club. I had seen this lonely boater paddling his canoe for some time and as I arrived at the point, he was almost up along side me. There is a perfect little viewing area directly below the hut and as I watched the boater I realised that his path would soon intersect the reflection of the now, well risen sun. I waited for my moment and click.... I had it.
I had a fantastic time at Oxford Island and I am sure that I'll be back again soon. If you like my images please share them using the share button which you can find by hovering your mouse over any of the photographs.
Until next time!