Great birds, scumbag dog owners

Posted on 5 November 2012, 12:18

I fucking hate dog owners.

There, I said it.

Yesterday (Sunday, 4 November) I had a day like no other for seeing the worst that these anti-social, selfish, pig-ignorant bastards have to offer.

My pal Mark and I had decided to find some Sanderling to photograph, but on the way up the coast Mark decided to see if we might hit lucky with the Waxwings that had been reported in the last couple of days at Ashington.

Good call. Right in front of the police station, the birds (about six of them) were flitting between the top of a Sycamore and a small Rowan, and in the gorgeous morning light I managed a few nice images (it would have been more than “a few”, but the birds were pretty skittish):

Waxwing, Ashington

Waxwing, Ashington

Now bear in mind we were right in front of the Cop Shop: there was a lane 50 yards to the right leading to some community woodland, and within clear sight of the station, a scabby old twat with a Whippet casually took it off its lead, whereupon it emptied itself right in front of us and the police station, at which point owner and dog wandered off down the lane, crap left steaming in the cold morning air.

I shouted after him (quite “robustly”, if you take my meaning) to clean up after his animal, but by this time he’d reached some of his buddies and made a point of ignoring me.

We took that as a cue to leave – but that was just the start of my run-ins…

Before long, more by good luck (so we thought) than good management, we fetched up at the beach at Low Newton. It looked fantastic: smooth clean sand, loads of Sanderling and other species, not many people.

In the time it took for us to park up, get into waterproofs and onto the beach, everything had changed.

There were dogs everywhere. Some were on leads, others were being kept under control at the top of the beach and well away from the birds – thanks to those owners – but others were being allowed, and in some cases actively encouraged, to harass the birds.

Initially I bit my lip, waited for a gap in the seemingly interminable procession of dogs, got onto my belly and waited for the Sanderling to move down the beach towards me, which – perhaps surprisingly in the circumstances – they seemed happy to do.

Three separate times, just as the birds got within range, three different owners let their dog(s) charge into the flock, driving them off.

Three fucking times!

I really lost my rag this time – and with it, claim to the moral high ground I suppose – but my God! I was provoked, and I know from past experience that reason doesn’t work with idiots like these.

I’m not proud to admit that I was effing and blinding, accusing them of being ignorant, self-involved fuckwits who need to get it into their thick heads that they don’t have a God-given right to fuck up everyone else’s lives (that’s the abridged, cleaned-up version!) and it was probably only the fact that the third of these arseholes was a woman (I took her word for it: actual visible evidence of gender – and come to that, species – was scant) that stopped me from taking a swing when she said “it wasn’t her fault” that her dogs were charging around, out of control and off the leashes she held in her hand: I don’t think I’ve ever been as angry in my life as I was right then.

There was no hint of realisaton or remorse, of course – the bastards really do believe that letting their animals behave however they want to is a right.

Just for the avoidance of any doubt, I’m just as concerned about the birds’ welfare as I am about the ruination of my photographic opportunities, but these cretins relate to that idea even less than they understand the notion that they’re not the only person on the planet.

What was interesting(?) is that every last one of the dickhead dog owners I encountered was someone who was more than old enough to know better. We’re not talking about stupid kids here, but grown adults.

Mark did the smart thing and suggested that we skedaddle before things really got out of hand. He was right, but I felt bad about doing so, because he’d had no chance at all to get onto the waders, whereas I’d actually managed a few frames between the dogs – rushed and poorly composed, but something:

Sanderling, Newton

Sanderling, Newton

Sanderling, Newton

Sanderling, Newton

Sanderling, Newton

Sanderling, Newton

So skedaddle we did. My apoplectic anger had diminished somewhat by the time we reached Seahouses (though it clicked back up a notch for a while when we found that the town’s public toilets were closed due to vandalism!), but a tasty bag of chips helped my mood immensely, so I wandered down to the harbour and – I hoped – the Eiders.

Happily, they didn’t let me down. I was feeding them bits of chip by hand (the chips were quite cool by this time, so no harm to the birds) and was getting the backs of my legs nipped by birds trying to get my attention – and my lunch.

Eider, Seahouses

Eider, Seahouses

Eider, Seahouses

For good measure, I got a few images of a young Carrion crow that was brave enough to shout about not being offered any chips, but never quite brave enough to do anything about it:

Carrion crow Seahouses

Carrion crow Seahouses

That’s how I ended my day then – obliging birds, beautiful light, and no dogs anywhere near.

Why can’t it always be like that?

Photographic Notes
For those of you who are interested in such things, all of the images above were converted in a new converter (from Picturecode, the people that brought you Noise Ninja) called Photo Ninja.

I’ve had a bit of a love/hate start to my relationship with this converter – some very silly and obvious (as in “should have been spotted long before release to the public”) bugs; “quirky” interface decisions; and a potential show-stopper in the form of rather frequent false colours in recovered highlights – but as of release 1.0.3, most of the main issues I’d identified have been addressed, and it’s very good.

I don’t know if it’s better than Lightroom, although it does seem able to bring out fine detail in a natural-looking way without the “crunchiness” that Lightroom manifests at the pixel level if you whack the “Detail” slider up past 50%. I do like the “only a converter” model on which it’s based, and now that the pink highlights problem is (more or less) under control, I am impressed by how it recovers highlights; and more generally, there’s just something satisfying about the way it renders files, especially how close to ideal its default conversions are – there’s some very intelligent processing going on in the background.

And it’s really fast: half-size conversions to 16 bit tiff (which I use as my starting point for web-based images – still plenty of room to manoeuvre in compositional cropping terms) take – literally – a second. It’s “blink and you miss it” fast.

Added: Hmmm… Dunno, though – Lightroom conversions still look pretty good:

Sanderling, Newton, converted in Lightroom.

I will say though, that I’m liking Photo Ninja a whole lot better than Capture One Pro 7.

All of the images here were converted first in Cap One Pro 7, and even though I really do know my way around Cap One, I could not get conversions out of it, no matter what I did, that looked as good as what Photo Ninja was able to pop out with only minimal intervention on my part.

I’m very disappointed with Capture One Pro 7, despite having been an advocate of Capture One for years.

Camera and lens are the Canon 7D and Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 OS and Sigma 2x converter, used at up to 600mm. Exif is in all the images.

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