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This post has been building for a while!

So, photography. In previous years I’ve taken quite a few pictures and even blogged about some of them, but this year it’s been at a different level; in 2010 I have taken something in the region of 14,000 photos, and published well over 1,000 of those. It’s down to a combination of things; moving house and having a better garden in a nicer and greener area of Reading is really inspiring and in the summer particularly gave me an endless array of things to photograph. Also worthy of a mention is my friend MarcT, who lent me his 100-400mm in the spring, enforcing my desire to get one of my own; and it was his lens that I was using when I took my red kite photo in February. In addition he lent me his macro extender in the autumn, and I still have it, muahahahah! Some of the macro shots later in the year were taken with that.

So now to my photos of the year. There are 24 here; two for each month. I’ve really enjoyed developing my skill and imagination over the year and I think it shows; I started this list in the summer which has been great in itself as I’ve been challenging myself to take photos worthy of inclusion! I’m pleased though that I have such a better idea now of how to go about getting the photo I want, though I’m also not too proud to use the automatic settings if there’s no time to think or plan what I’m doing.

While I really like all the photos here, my favourite of the lot is probably obvious (and it has nearly 450 views on Picasaweb in comparison with a maximum of about 200 for any of the others), but I’d be very interested if anyone thinks any of the others are better. I’m a bit blinkered when it comes to red kites! Not all of them are technically excellent, but the ones that aren’t make me laugh (the kestrel in particular). Some of them were deliberately set up and others are snapshots.

January started off with a couple of weeks of truly horrible weather in Reading and these icicles were hanging off our guttering and made us worry quite a lot about the integrity of the house! Thankfully we have sturdy if unattractive concrete gutters and all was fine.

Also January and also in the bad weather; we had been slightly worried about letting the cats loose in the new garden for the first time but because of the snow they weren’t keen to roam far at all. Fuzz had some fun pouncing on snowflakes, though.

On to February. I was trying to get some good shots of Jedi which can be hard as even though he poses, shots of him usually come out entirely dark apart from a glowing white nose, like a monochrome Rudolph. So I was pleased that my tactic of a longer exposure in B/W mode worked here. Plus he looks cute which is a bonus!

Not sure what to say about this one really. In the month or so previous to this I’d taken several hundred shots of red kites; usually singly but occasionally in groups of two or three or more together. This one I got by basically being in the right place at the right time, and making the most of my newfound skill of tracking flying birds with my camera. Since I took this I haven’t bettered it, though not through lack of trying! I think it’s easy to see why I love these birds so much; they are powerful and majestic and yet elegant and beautiful too.

In March we went to the Living Rainforest near Newbury with Tom’s Mum and it was excellent; we are planning to go back in the summer this year when it’s warmer as they have butterflies. With this picture I deliberately wanted the back half of the leaf in focus; I wonder sometimes if it would be better if the stalk in the middle was in focus, but the light wasn’t great and I didn’t have DoF for both. I like the picture anyway.

Also in March our garden started coming to life with bulbs and plants left by the previous owners. This single set of crocuses (crocii?) was a brilliant splash of colour in the otherwise drab browns and greens.

April and the garden was coming into it’s own even more. I adore tulips; they are everything a flower should be. Shiny and beautiful yet tidy!

Also in April, probably my second favourite shot of the year. I took this during a lunch break from work. I wandered around the lake and found this little blackcap shouting his head off; he was perching, singing for ten seconds or so and then moving on to the next perch. I watched him for long enough to realise that he had a set pattern; he also watched me, and decided that I wasn’t too terrifying, although he did keep a close eye on me. He didn't stop singing, though; birds in spring have other priorities, after all!

In May we went to see Tom’s parents and as I always do, I took my lens (I’d bought my own 400mm by this point) and sat in the conservatory for hours watching their bird feeders. This collared dove was pretty tame and didn’t mind me clicking away at all. This picture was entirely accidental; the one previous it’s in a boring pose on the bird house and the one after it’s not in at all! I really like the movement in this shot.

This is the most accidental shot of them all; I didn’t even notice the plane till I looked at the photo in Picasa afterwards! It really couldn’t be better timed, though. It’s a kestrel; if anyone can ID the plane I’ll be really impressed!

On to June. Lou and I went for a lunchtime walk to take some photos (she has a Sony DSLR with a 400mm lens too) and we spent some time watching this heron which was most obligingly posing near to the lake shore. He went for fish a couple of times and I was lucky enough to get this; the shot after has nicer water spray but none of the symmetricality of this one; the reflections were also lost.

By June the garden was in full bloom. Mum was very jealous that I have this plant which is called Nectaroscordum siculum; the bees and other insects love it. Though the composition of the plant was deliberate, I didn’t intend to include the bee; that bit is a happy accident.

In July Tom and I went to the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford. It was a brilliant day out. I took 2,500 photos and spent the next three or four days with an extremely sore left arm and shoulder as the 400mm is heavy! It was extremely worthwhile, though and I got lots of photos that I love. This is the best of the lot, though; the Red Arrows.

I spent many happy hours over the summer watching our pond, in particular the dragonflies. I was pleased enough with the swarms of damselflies that emerged from May onwards; the dragonflies coming too was just the icing on the cake. I think these are southern hawkers though I’m not enough of an entomologist to know for sure. We probably had nearly thirty of them emerge from the pond; I saw at least two females come back to lay, so hopefully that was enough to keep the pond stocked with nymphs.

For August it’s back to the cats. Fuzz was being particularly cute this day, sprawling in the sunshine on our bed. This was taken with manual settings to stop his gleaming white tummy over-exposing the whole thing; as a result I’m particularly pleased with how it came out.

At the end of August we went to Cornwall to visit Tom’s brother and his girlfriend Kezia. During the weekend we went to the Seal Sanctuary and had a wonderful time watching two otters charge around their habitat, juggle stones, and eat baby chicks. I like the hopeful expression on his face in this one.

Both of my September photos are from our cruise, unsurprisingly! The first isn’t technically brilliant by any means but was probably the most excited I ever got this year about a photograph, including the red kite. This was the first time I’d ever seen a dolphin; the ship had left Barcelona no more than an hour or so before, and we were standing at the deck rail in the evening sun drinking the first of many cocktails and speculating about when or if we might see dolphins. And then there they were! I almost fell overboard.

The Mediterranean sunsets were glorious and I took many photos of them; some over Naples in particular were lovely. This one takes the biscuit, though; it was taken over open sea while on a sea day in between Naples and Barcelona. I like how it feels almost apocalyptic.

October things in the garden were slowing down significantly but I did have two or three brilliant sightings of a greater spotted woodpecker, which I’d only heard up till this point. I spent a very happy hour or so one weekend morning watching him make his way over the trunks of two big trees in our neighbour’s garden and he was kind enough to pose against the sun a couple of times. I’ve always had a thing about black and white birds anyway and these add that wonderful splash of red too. Very smart.

Switching over to macro mode for the next few! Also in October Lou and I did another lunchtime photo walk and I remembered the monkey puzzle tree on campus which I’d been meaning to photograph for ages. As I suspected, it was extremely photogenic; I deliberately kept the DoF very narrow on this one as I like how each blade pops in and out of focus. It took a few goes to get the central spines correctly focused, though!

November. I think my favourite plant in the new garden is the passion vine; we started with one and I’ve now planted two more because I like them so much! The flowers are spectacular of course but the whole plant is beautiful, especially close up; lots of interesting things to focus on. The rain on it added a whole new dimension; water drops are photogenic in themselves!

I still can’t remember what this plant is called. Borage? I’d complained the garden didn’t have enough blue, so Mum brought me this and it’s very pretty. Again with the dew; I also love the spider silk threads in there and how tiny some of the droplets are.

And on to December! These were both taken in the last few days. I noticed when checking this set in November that there were no people at all, and resolved to rectify that in December. I had Christmas in mind but the opportunity arrived earlier, when Jedi came and sat on Tom while we were watching TV. I told Tom to ignore me; he tried! Jedi could not be any happier.

And finally, one last bird. On Boxing Day we went up onto Salisbury Plain with my parents; we’d planned to look for hen harriers but it was too cold for anything much to be about, apart from a dozen or so redwings and fieldfares stuffing themselves with frozen berries. We were in the car for this, and it was taken through the car window; she was too busy eating to really care. There’s something about bird photos with their beaks open; I guess it takes a picture from being a static portrait to being an action shot.

So that is my 2010 in photos.

In 2011 I hope to finish my garden birds project, or at least get as close as reasonably possible to completing it; I also have a lot of new skills to build on and I know I can get a better red kite, one day! I have tentative plans for a year-long project later on in the year, but that’s another post. I am proud of the fact that in 2010 I have gone from being a keen but bored amateur to a really keen amateur with some nice kit; I also occasionally think I have a flash of talent, though I think persistence normally gets me further than that anyway. That and a generous dollop of patience!
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