When the walker and author John Hillaby was asked to choose a luxury item on the radio programme Desert Island Discs he very wisely chose to take some binoculars. He reasoned that a few minutes peering at nature close-up always cheered him up when he was a bit down.
I know exactly what he means; it quite literally gives you a different perspective on the world. A long lens on a camera is the same, it changes the world in all sorts of unexpected and delightful ways.
A telephoto lens not only enlarges things, it also has a narrow depth of field. All that really means is that everything in front of or behind the main subject is blurred and sometimes quite attractively
If you point the camera into the sun then things like these newly sprouting reeds suddenly burst into life.
The old photography text books used to tell you not to shoot towards the light, but actually every one of these images, apart from the first one, were taken into the sun. That's not the only rule I found myself contravening. For years I've relied on those three pieces of advice for the photographer "Get closer, get closer, get closer", but if you're using a big lens you sometimes have to back away from the subject - and a very weird feeling it is!
Another thing that happens when the background's out of focus is the appearance of what I grew up calling "circles of confusion" where bright spots transform into a series of coloured discs. Nowadays everyone calls it "bokeh", which has me chanting "OK bokeh" to myself whenever it appears in my viewfinder!
The slightest half-step left or right can change the picture completely. "Up a bit, down a bit, left a bit, a little bit right - click!"
If anyone sees you doing this they'll think you've gone crackers. And if you happen to be on a bird reserve you'll soon collect a group of grumpy bird-watchers with binoculars wanting to know if you've spotted a Cetti's Warbler or a Nightingale in the undergrowth. Well, they will be grumpy when you tell them you're photographing leaves!
I hope you like at least some of these as I foresee a lot of partly-blurred-flower-pictures-with-coloured-discs-floating-around-in-the-background once I'm able to get to the Botanic Gardens again.
The photo above was taken accidentally when I pressed the shutter by mistake! It's turned out better than some of the ones I spent ages over. Such is life!
Most of the others are roughly as I envisaged them, but can anyone out there explain what's happening in the background of this last picture?
It's not a quiz, I'd really like to know. A little magic lurking in the hedgerow, you never know where or when you might find it.