Posted on 24 July 2010, 20:24

I’ve recently needed to upgrade my PC.

My old 2 gb/Dual Core Win XP box was struggling with Lightroom 3 so I took Dell up on their “buy now, pay next June” deal to have myself this Dell Inspiron 560 – Win 7/64 bit, Quad Core and 6 mb of RAM hopefully making a difference to the “user experience”. My old box was OK with Lr 3 but it was obviously working too hard, and on the new PC, Lr 3 is as sweet as a nut. Happily I’m seeing nothing of the performance problems others are reporting on the Adobe forums.

Unfortunately, Paint Shop Pro X2 doesn’t work at all well on the new machine: it opens, but as soon as I make any adjustment to an image, regardless of image format, it degrades beyond possibility of use. I’m therefore “forced” to use Photoshop CS3 (that’s a bit strong really – CS3 is excellent, of course – but I do prefer PSP X2 from a usability point of view) and have taken a little while to come up with a Lr/CS3 workflow I’m happy with.

I’m getting there though, and thanks to judicious use of my new Secret Weapon – the Topaz Denoise plugin – I’m broadly very happy with IQ results so far. My workflow has changed hugely though, so an update to that article is definitely in order.

OK enough blather about computers. Amble is a small port about twenty miles north of me, and has a lot to offer a bird ‘tog, not least being the boat trips to Coquet Island – unlike the Farnes you can’t land on Coquet Island, but the trips out are only about a fiver and get you nice and close to birds and seals.

Unfortunately I allowed myself get distracted, and by the time I tried to book a seat on a trip I was too late!

Never mind. Amble is usually a great place to photograph Eiders, and I was hoping to get a few pictures of Eider ducklings: but I’d arrived to a very low tide, and although there were Eider families all over, they were dots in the frame or otherwise just not in the right place to photograph. I did manage to get a handful of adult Eiders though, but these were out of the light and in the shadow of the harbour wall.

As a result – and this is a recurring theme this Summer – I was on 800 ISO most of the time I was there.

Even so, I was able to get down more or less to their eye level and the dark tones of the harbour walls set the birds off nicely, I think:

Eider duck

Eider duck

Eider duck

I spent some time simply watching the antics of the Black Headed Gulls on the beach in the little haven near the pier – noisy, cantankerous little buggers – and as they came closer I thought it’d be rude not to:

Black Headed gull

While I was watching the gulls, a very confiding Common Tern landed nearby. It allowed me to approach close enough that the following are all near as dammit full frame, with just a little cosmetic cropping applied:

Common tern

Common tern

Oddly though, I think my best pictures of the day are of another very obliging bird in the same area – a Jackdaw working the seaweed.

As you can see, this bird has an overgrown upper mandible (or maybe it’s a Jackdaw/Crossbill cross!) but it was obviously managing just fine, and looked striking against the dark seaweed. These are full frame again:





I think I might have another look at Amble – maybe next weekend – and have a boat trip. By now the Puffins should be getting ready to leave and will be gathering in huge rafts of adults and juveniles, which will be an interesting sight; and if I’m honest, I enjoyed the boat part of my trip to the Farnes last year more than I did actually landing on the islands.

What do you think?

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