Oh boy… Do I miss the mountains

I’m back!! BACK!! After a whole year, I’m finally back on a mountain!

Yeah, I know there are “mountains” in Ireland, but it’s definitely not the same. I mean, today I managed to hike to the Pratignano lake (Lago di Pratignano) in the province of Modena. It’s at 1,307m above sea level: not particularly high up… But it’s still more than 200m higher than Ireland’s highest mountain!!

And the weather… well, it’s absolutely impossible to compare  🙂

It didn’t feel like December at all!

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On the ridge

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Along the lake

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Blue and ice

Great day and hike. Tip of the hat to our wonderful guides!

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Monte Cimone (Mount Cimone, 2165m)

Oh, and a very happy new year 🙂

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Mountains! At last!

I must admit that since my Irish adventure started I have been somewhat in withdrawal… I need the mountains to function properly and Irish mountains, while very nice, are not enough…

So yesterday I joined a group to go on Monte Cimone on our mountains in Italy (God bless holidays!). It should have been a walk on snowshoes due to the altitude and, you know… winter…

But, it turns out there is almost no snow on our mountains these days, so we decided to go without snowshoes. That was a good call.

Once I got out of the fog bank on the plains (horrible…), there wasn’t a siongle cloud in the sky. On the mountains there was almost no snow, and it was incredibly warm for December…

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View from Monte Cimone to the south

One of the first thoughts that came to mind was a solemn curse because I forgot my polarizer… No, none of these photo has been taken with a polarizer… And no, I haven’t bumped up the saturation in any of them…

This is what the sky really looked like 😯 …

So anyway, we climbed from Fiumalbo up above the tree line, where we had a pleasant hike in the sun.

We even enjoyed a meal in the sun and a few minutes rest before making our way down.

I really needed this!

And tomorrow we go up again!

A day in a natural park

Today I was going through some old pictures…

Spoonbill

Spoonbill walking in the water

Heron

Gerey heron landing

It was a day I spent in a natural park back in Italy, shooting animals and birds (with a camera, of course…); after seeing them, I decided to write a post on shooting animals (again, with a camera… stop looking at me like that!). All the pictures in this post were shot at Oasi di Sant’Alessio, PV, Italy.

Many people think that bird photography is extremely expensive in terms of gear and time invested (and it can be). However, that’s not always the case…

Depending on what you want to shoot you might only need a camera (DUH!) and a long-ish lens (the longest focal length I used was a 200mm on a crop sensor camera, 320mm equivalent). While this two items are not exactly cheap, they won’t make you break the bank either…

So, my gear for the day was:

  • crop sensor camera;
  • 70-200 f/4 L;
  • 100mm f/2.8 macro.

And, to be completely honest, you might need even less than that.

 

So, anyway, the first thing you need to do is getting to know your gear, and I mean INTIMATELY know your gear. If you are at the point where you don’t even need to look at you camera to:

  1. change drive/focusing mode;
  2. change your main focus point (yes, turn off automatic focus on all points… I mean it!);

and you can eaily guesstimate aperture/ISO settings for your desired shutter speed (of course you’ll be shooting manual. What did you expect?!), then you might be at a good starting point…

If you’re not at that point, maybe you can be lucky enough to find a park/zoo/thingy that holds animal shows (like I did :)).

Birds of prey!

 

Great practice!

But the hardest part is to shoot birds in the wild (well, almost…). Before anything else (even photographic knowledge) you’ll need patience… Patience to stand still and wait for the reight moment, patience not to curse (too much) when that moment comes and you’re not ready, patience to realize that half the times you were actually ready, your focus is off (or you ISO is too high/low, your shutter speed too slow, your hand is shaking…). I have no idea how many shots I deleted… but that’s how it works…

Yet, there’s nothing like trying to shoot unaware animals in the wild (well, almost…)…

If you are ever around stilts, be extra careful: they’re very small and not that afraid of people. I almost stepped on one: that would have been very sad, not to mention difficult to explain to the park guards…

In the park there’s also a section dedicated to small animals and butterlies: MACRO TIME!

In the end, the trick is to master patience and know what you’re shooting. If you know the animals’ habits you’re already halfway there. The other half is knowing your gear as well as you know the animal ;).

If you have that, you don’t really need super expensive gear…

Modena through 50mm

There aren’t many focal lengths that can claim to be as versatile as 50mm (except, of course, for 35mm, but that’s a story for another time).

On a nice November afternoon (last day at home before heading back to Ireland) I went for a 50mm walk (the lens, not the walk). Lucky for me, they had just finished working on the square in front of the Military Academy and I had the perfect chance to go check it out.

Military Academy (photo admittedly taken the evening before :) )

Military Academy (photo admittedly taken the evening before and not with a 50mm 🙂 )

There used to be a car park in the square before, and now they completely opened it and forbidden the access to cars.

Cadets returning to the Academy

Cadets returning to the Academy

Women chatting

Women chatting

Fountain

Fountain

After spending a good hour and a half just shooting the square, I moved to other parts of the city centre. My 50mm remained solidly mounted on my camera. Even though my lens is old, and battered, and noisy, and the autofocus doesn’t work that well, and the focus ring seems to be held together by glue (seriously, you should try using it) I still love it. After a while you can frame your shots without even looking through the viewfinder. You set your aperture and you know exactly what is going to be in focus and what is going to be completely unrecognizable. Set the aperture wide open and you can shoot in almost complete darkness (and get a wonderful bokeh, while you’re at that).

In the past 6-8 months my fifty has been my main lens, and it was rarely changed on my camera. It was some kind of love: I shoot with other lenses, but I always come back to it…

Smile!

Smile!

Flea market in Piazza Mazzini

Flea market in Piazza Mazzini

Just before evening, I ended up in the main square, by the cathedral. I just spent the rest of my afternoon there.

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Good day! I also managed to get a few lights and colours:

In conclusion, yeah, 50mm is a great focal length to photograph the streets and people. It allows you to be close, but not too close. It’s great if you, like me, are too shy to get very close to people you don’t know.

All things considered, it was a great day, and I found myself wondering whether my town would miss me when I’m gone…

That’s when I found this:

:(

😦

Lesson learned:

You shouldn’t forget, that even if a 50mm allows you to stand a little farther from your subject, you still have to be careful not to stand out too much…

BUSTED!

BUSTED! 😳

Photowalk addiction

Having returned home for a few days and really missing my weekly photowalk, I decided to take Sunday afternoon to go on one…

I headed for the city centre, and I was pleased to see a great crowd of people taking advantage of the beautiful day. I also found out that there was a lot going on that day.

Looking for shoes

Looking for shoes

People for peace and rights

People for peace and rights

Marching for peace

Marching for peace

Sicilia viva

Sicilia viva

Lots of events ranging from a march for peace and human rights all the way to a flea market and a Sicilian food fair.

Also a good chance to visit the most iconic places of the city center…

Always nice to be back…