Gift

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I probably need hardly say that I know this isn’t the best photo you’ll ever see of a kingfisher. It’s almost certainly not even the best photo you’ll see of a kingfisher today. But when I tell you that it was 4pm and getting dark, and I was on my way back to the car along Mill Lane in Stratford, which is bordered on one side by a high brick wall and on on the other by an almost impenetrable hedge, and that I caught a glimpse through the hedge of something that looked like a bird on the wharf below Lucy’s Mill apartments, but which was so small and distant in the gloom that I couldn’t identify it until I’d found a gap in the foliage through which I could focus the long lens…. you’ll probably understand why I did a little happy dance when I realised that one out of the thirty shots I took was almost well-enough focused to post.

It turns out that crouching in the middle of Mill Lane in the gathering dusk with your camera jammed against the hedge will get you quite a lot of attention. Under normal circumstances, as you know, I’ll do back flips and balance biscuits on my nose for attention, but I confess that I was a little terse with my interrogators this afternoon, because I had no idea how long the kingfisher would stay in this spot (not long, was the answer). But I did manage to say, “It’s a stabilised lens” to the man who said I was doing remarkably well to be hand-holding a lens as big as that, rather than “I’m already working on ISO 5000 and 1/100 second – please could you not speak so close to me, because the air movement is all it’s going to take to render this unusable.”

Finally learning some manners in my old age…