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No. 62, 7th January: Dipper

This was taken on the first day of 2021. If it had been a day earlier, I probably would have said it was my best wildlife experience of the year - but as we haven't had much of 2021 yet I realise that doesn't mean very much! When I was 12, a dipper nested in a hole in a bank opposite a rusty garage. I spent many hours crouched in that garage with my lens pointing through a crack in the corrugated iron. Back then, I was more interested in filming wildlife than photographing it, but I still consider it quite an important time for cementing my love of nature and cameras. Sadly the nest failed, and although I've often seen brief glimpses of dippers since, nothing has ever quite lived up to that early garage-experience. However, on New Year's Day my luck finally changed! I was out on a walk by the stream below my house when I spotted this dipper. To start with I was desperate to get any photos I could, as I knew from previous experiences that it was likely to be fleeting. However, once the dipper seemed settled and began feeding further up the stream, I crept over the muddy tree roots to get a closer view. I ended up spending nearly an hour with this dipper, following along as it made its way upstream and gradually getting closer. The stream was running fast and full, allowing me to try out a technique I've always wanted to attempt with dippers. By using a slow shutterspeed of 1/40 sec, I could blur the movement of the water but keep the dipper sharp - even without the use of a tripod! Of course, most of the time the dipper was moving as well! But every now and then everything came together and I got an image like this. I love the way this technique is able to turn a seemingly boring section of stream into a magical painting of water and light. I hope you're all bearing up with the lockdown news here in the UK. It's a grim situation but we've got through many grim situations in this last year, so we'll just have to trust we can get through this one too. Today I noticed the first snowdrops coming through the frozen soil!

Technical details: Canon 7D MKII + 100-400mm lens with 1.4x extender at 560mm; 1/40 sec at f/8; ISO 1000.


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