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A race against the rising water

A black swan frantically tries to save her nest and eggs as the river water rises following torrential rains. Colin Munro Photography

A black swan tends her eggs in the nest she has constructed along the banks of the River Exe. Colin Munro Photography

A black swan tends her eggs in the nest she has constructed along the banks of the River Exe.


A black swan frantically tries to save her nest and eggs as the river water rises following torrential  rains. Colin Munro Photography

A black swan frantically tries to save her nest and eggs as the river water rises following torrential rains.

The human cost of the wettest summer in 100 years, lost income and damaged property, has been highin the Southwest.  The cost to wildlife has also been high.  The mute swans that gather on the River Exe in the centre of Exeter have failed to raise a single clutch this year.  At the end of September, an Austalian Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) attracted considerable interest as she tried to brood a small clutch of eggs along the riverbank.  The weather was warm, and drier than it had been for most of the summer.  perhaps she might be lucky.  However Sunday and Monday the 23rd and 24th were to test her to the limit.  Around 2am on the morning of the 23rd the rain becan to fall and the wind started to howl.  For more than 30 hours it rained, and as it rained the river rose.  By the early hours of the 24th she was already frantic, trying desperately to shore up her nest.  By 10am the nest was still there, but floating.  Although probably exhausted she moved incessantly, plucking reed blades of the bottom, trying vainly to build up her nest.  The eggs were still same, but became submerged when she sat on the nest.  She was engaged in a desperate race to raise the nest before the eggs lost too much heat. A black swan frantically tries to save her nest and eggs as the river water rises following torrential  rains. Colin Munro Photography

The black swan tries to move her eggs out of the water pooling in the centre of her nest as the river rises.

Although the rains had now stopped, at least temporarily, millions of gallons were still flowing down the river from high ground and so the river was continuing to rise. Passerby stopped to watch, and throw her bread, which is probably all she had time to eat since she had laid her eggs. No-one knew whether the eggs were fertile. She was the only black swan on the river all summer; tagging along at a safe distance with the larger mute swans that congregated along the quayside. But hybrids between mute and black swans were believed to have occurred in captivity. So it was just possible. And although the odds seemed against her, it was still possible her eggs main survive the flood.
This story will me expanded soon – and the whole story of the black swan and her nest will be told.
All images can be licenses from my Photoshelter website here Search black+swan

Exeter Midsummer Party, Quayside, 17th June 2011

Exeter Midsummer Party, Quayside, 17th June 2011
Exeter Midsummer Party marking start of Exeter Festival, Exeter Quayside, 17th June 2011. Pyrotchnics on the River Exe. Colin Munro Photography.

Exeter Midsummer Party marking start of Exeter Festival, Exeter Quayside, 17th June 2011. Pyrotchnics on the River Exe. Image MBI000919

 A few quick images from the party on Exeter’s quayside last night. It was the most spectacular sunset, but of course I didn’t have my camera with me (Doh!).  I did grab it in time to get some pictures of the finale, which was quite spectacular. 

(If you would like to reproduce any of the images on my site, please email me, colin ‘at’ colinmunrophotography.com, giving the image number and the intended use)

Exeter Midsummer Party marking start of Exeter Festival, Exeter Quayside, 17th June 2011. Pyrotchnics on the River Exe. Colin Munro Photography

Exeter Midsummer Party marking start of Exeter Festival, Exeter Quayside, 17th June 2011. Pyrotchnics on the River Exe. Image No. MBI000918.

Exeter Midsummer Party marking start of Exeter Festival, Exeter Quayside, 17th June 2011. Pyrotchnics on the River Exe. Image No. MBI000917. Colin Munro Photography

Exeter Midsummer Party marking start of Exeter Festival, Exeter Quayside, 17th June 2011. Pyrotchnics on the River Exe. Image No. MBI000917.

The Port Royal Pub, Exeter historic quay, at night.

The Port Royal Pub, Exeter historic quay, at night.
The Port Royal bar reflected on the River Exe at night. Exeter historic quay, Exeter, Devon, England. Image MBI000910.

The Port Royal bar reflected on the River Exe at night. Exeter historic quay, Exeter, Devon, England. Image MBI000910.

 The Port Royal bar reflected on the River Exe at night. Exeter historic quay, Exeter, Devon, England. image No. MBI000910. Please email me, quoting this number if you’d like to license use of this image or purchase a fine art print.

I took this pic a couple of nights ago. The last of the revellers had staggered home and the quayside was quiet.  It was warm and perfectly still, with a clear starry sky overhead.  Perfect for this type of image. So a little after midnight I pulled my gear together and climbed out of my boat’s saloon.  For a pic such as this, relying solely on distance sodium street lighting and faint starlight the iso needs to be cranked up a bit, but not so much as to make the image very noisy, and, obviously, the shutter speed way down.  Depth of field is not an issue as everything in the picture is distant, so the iris can be (and was) wide open.  I used an old 20mm prime lens, a favourite of mine.  The sodium lighting gives the pub and adjacent buildings an unearthly yellow hue.  I rather like  it this so did not atempt to change this, feeling it added to the rather surreal look.  Clearly the stars and buildings differ massively in brightness. To acheive useable exposure of both required melding two images at very different shutter speeds (four stops difference if memory serves me).  Some post processing of the starry sky was also required. The image was converted in to a grey scale image to remove colour noise, then reconverted back to an RGB image before melding.

Greeting for the Festive Season – Snow comes to Exeter

Greeting for the Festive Season – Snow comes to Exeter

Hungry geese paddle across the snow-covered footpath on Exeter's Quayside

Hungry geese paddle across the snow-covered footpath on Exeter's Quayside


This image is for sale at Alamy, click here and search for geese, snow, Exeter.

Snow has finally arrived in Exeter, just in time for Christmas! Despite sub-zero conditions that have lasted for weeks we have escaped the heavy snowfalls that have paralysed much of the UK. This morning I woke to a couple of inches in light, fluffy snow covering my boat, and pretty much everything else. Just enough to look pretty without causing too much disruption.

Close up of an inquisitive goose in snow, Exeter Quayside

Close up of an inquisitive goose in snow, Exeter Quayside


This image is for sale at Alamy, click here and search for geese, snow, Exeter.

Close-up of inquisitive goose standing in snow, Exeter Quayside

Close-up of inquisitive goose standing in snow, Exeter Quayside


This image is for sale at Alamy, click here and search for geese, snow, Exeter.

www.colinmunrophotography.com

The swans of Exeter

The swans of Exeter
Mute swans (Cygnus olor) congregate under Cricklepit Bridge

Mute swans (Cygnus olor) congregate under Cricklepit Bridge

One of the advantages of living on a boat is that you get to see a lot of aquatic life go past. Exeter is famous for its mute swans (Cygnus olor) with congregate in large numbers on both the River Exe and the Exeter Ship Canal. The swans have become very used to the tourists and locals strolling along the river and canal side in the centre of town, so much so they even nest next to the footpath in the heart of town. At this time of year pairs of swans can be seen cruising around guarding clutches of fluffy grey signets. The adults will shepherd the signets along, occasionally pulling bits of weed off the botton for the youngstesr to feed on, or paddling furiously with their webbed feet to stir up weed in the shallows for them.

Mute swan cygnet (Cygnus olor) only a few days or weeks old.

Mute swan cygnet (Cygnus olor) only a few days or weeks old.

Mute swan cygnets (Cygnus olor) feeding in shallows.

Mute swan cygnets (Cygnus olor) feeding in shallows.

Mute swan cygnets (Cygnus olor) swimming.

Mute swan cygnets (Cygnus olor) swimming.

A pair of mute swan (Cygnus olor) cygnets swimming, Exeter Ship Canal.

A pair of mute swan (Cygnus olor) cygnets swimming, Exeter Ship Canal.

As always my images are available to license and as fine art prints. If you’d like to use one of my images for publication please contact me. If you’d like a print of one of the images drop me an email stating image number and print size (costs for prints can be found on my fine art prints pages, e.g. Fine Art prints of Devon. Email me.
To my main website www.colinmunrophotography.com

Exeter historic quayside at night

Exeter historic quayside at night

Exeter historic quayside at night. Cafe live on a warm summer night, Exeter, Devon.

Exeter historic quayside at night. Cafe live on a warm summer night, Exeter, Devon.


Feels like summer has finally arrived. We’ve had a few great days recently, and for once it’s co-incided with schools half-term so I’ve had the chance to take get the boogie board out with my son, rather than watching DVDs as rain lashes the windows (the norm for holidays!). I’ve been playing around with High Dynamic Range images a little bit recently. I’m not always keen on the effect, sometimes it works for me sometimes its just too lurid.

There has been a quay in Exeter since Roman times; the main trade was wool and woolen cloth, with the Customs House being built in 1680 to collect taxes on this burgeoning trade. The square riggers and the trade has long gone but many of the fine old buildings remain, converted now to cafes, bars and craft shops. I took these two images while out bat watching along the river bank with my kid (an extra treat as way past his normal bed-time). Each image is a composit of three long exposure images (these varied from 1/8th to around a second, from memeory). I actually took around 10 images of each scene but selected only three for the final images.

Exeter quayside at night. Cafe life along the river Exe by Exeter's historic quay in central Exeter, Devon, on a warm summer evening.

Exeter quayside at night. Cafe life along the river Exe by Exeter's historic quay in central Exeter, Devon, on a warm summer evening.


Larger images (and additional images of Exeter) can be viewed by clicking on this link here. If there is sufficient interest I may produce some prints of these images for sale.

Mute swans at midnight, River Exe, central Exeter, UK

Mute swans at midnight, River Exe, central Exeter, UK

Standing on the edge of suspension bridge crossing the River Exe in central Exeter a little after midnight attracts a little attention from passing dog walkers and late night revellers. Was I suicidal? Those that came closer breathed a sigh of relief when they saw my camera and tripod. No! I was obviously simply deranged; why else would I be pointing a camera down towards almost totally black water.

The swans of central Exeter are a glorious sight, skimming low over the water or congregating along the quayside to be fed by tourists, children, couples….pretty much everyone really. At night they float noislessly along the river like luminous ghosts. Sometimes they gather in large numbers, as in this picture, to squabble, converse, exchange ideas, debate, bicker, cogitate, fraternise and flirt – who knows? In early spring (as this was) the water is muddy and dark with suspended soil washed in from moorland upstream. At night the darkness enhances the already striking contrast between the pure white swans and the inky water.

Mute swans (Cygnus olor) gather at midnight, River Exe, Central Exeter, UK

Mute swans (Cygnus olor) gather at midnight, River Exe, Central Exeter, UK

Ice cold in Alex ….or Exeter

Ice cold in Alex ….or Exeter
Boats locked in ice at midnight, Exeter Canal Basin, Exeter city, Devon, England.

Boats locked in ice at midnight, Exeter Canal Basin, Exeter city, Devon, England.

Apologies to John Mills and co for the bad pun. By chance this next blog was going to be about Alexandria, Egypt (well, Abu Qir actually, a small seaport nearby). Things came up and I haven’t quite completed it yet. As temperatures plummet and my boat is once again locked in ice I somehow managed to prise myself away from my woodburner last night to play around with some long exposures and high dynamic range shots. Returning to the warmth of the saloon around midnight, after a couple of hours freezing my butt off, I decided I had suffered exposure long enough and a warming whisky was required. Feeling began to return to my fingertips and I felt reassured they weren’t frostbitten after all.

Reviewing the pics afterwards I felt reasonably satisfied my time wasn’t entirely wasted. The one I’ve attached is an HDR composite of three exposures, ranging from 30 seconds to around 10 seconds. In the end I decided to combine them manually rather than use software such as Photomatrix, layering alternative exposures and combining as looking pleasing to the eye (well to mine eye anyway).

I’ll upload more images as i get around to editing them. Expect a blog about Abu Qir soon too (possibly titled ‘Soaking wet in Alex’)