A weekend wander

dscn1141It was almost windless today; the column of smoke rising from the farmer’s rubbish fire was proof of that. But it was also, even without windchill, bitingly cold – that seeping, bone cold which seems able to penetrate any number of layers without the temperature ever needing to go below freezing. We kept moving and were glad of any uphill stretches to generate a bit more heat. As is often the case, my thumbs were the last of the extremities to warm through; although even then the cold was replaced by an ache for a while. Perhaps I am becoming soft as the years tick by; if so, I am not alone, judging by the number of insulated jackets, zipped to the very top, the wearer’s nose tucked away inside, like a quilted balaclava.

dscn1132On the far side of a field – maybe a hundred metres or so away – a decent-sized buzzard was resting on a fence-post, feathers fluffed out against the cold. It was just about at the extreme of the zoom range on my camera and even leaning on a gate the shot wasn’t completely steady. The zooms on some of these modern cameras are remarkable in technological terms but there are limitations when it comes to using them towards the limits of their range. Mine is a Nikon bridge camera (a P510) with a supposed 42x maximum zoom: at anything beyond about 30x the light gathering starts to fall away appreciably; add in the effects of camera shake and quick, precise focussing becomes a problem. Wildlife subjects can be gone in the time it takes to frame and focus, but attempting to hurry the process can give mixed outcomes. No doubt things have moved on in the few years since I last bought a camera, but I can understand why those whose primary hobby is photography choose to carry SLR cameras, multiple lenses and tripods. I’d be unable to walk very far carrying that much gear, so there has to be a trade-off.

dscn1143Walking along a stretch of canal towpath in rapidly fading late afternoon light, we came across some cattle drinking from the side of the canal; something I’d never seen before. Although, as canals go, this stretch is relatively ‘pastoral’, I still couldn’t imagine January canal water being the most appealing of refreshments. It must be the case that animals in the wild have to take hydration wherever they can find it, and my judgement is probably still distorted by the altogether different canals remembered from my distant youth (see here).

dsc01140Spotting the Brush Class 60, returning steel coil empties along the Worcester-Stourbridge line and headed for the Round Oak terminal (and there’s a whole other story for a different day) was a bonus. At one time threatened with total withdrawal from operations this charismatic locomotive was one of the last made in numbers (100 were built) by Brush Traction’s Peterborough works, and has thankfully returned from the brink.




2 thoughts on “A weekend wander

  1. I have had mixed results with my Panasonic TZ60 zoom. There is a temptation at first to indulge in the maximum, but now I tend to use the zoom more for framing the picture, by pulling in and eliminating unwanted foreground.

    I have never been a train buff, but I did watch the BBC 4 documentary on the development of the Diesel engine tonight before the next documentary which gave rise to a post I put up ten minutes ago. and it contained a lot of stuff about locomotives. I wondered, do those things have gears and a cutch? In order to get a huge train moving there must be a massive amount of strain on any clutch system.


  2. Hi Conrad, for years, I’d hankered after a camera with a longish zoom, hoping it would allow me to get better wildlife shots. It’s helped to some extent but I now think that those who are primarily wildlife photographers tend to sit and wait more and walk less. Partly that’s down to the equipment they’re lugging around but I also think some of it is that experience has taught them they see more when they’ve been still for a while.

    I’m not an engineer, but I believe that the transmission is clutchless but with manual gear selection; at least on that generation of diesel locomotive. Some of the freight locos put out around 100,000 lbf of ‘tractive effort’, which I think is the equivalent of what we call torque on a car (the class 60’s output is a bit higher still). How much of that actually gets transferred to the wheels I have no idea.


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