Friday, 3 August 2012

New Blog

I have started my new blog here
or go to my website and click on the blog link at the bottom of the page



Sunday, 15 July 2012

All good things.....

This will be my last blog on this site, Its been in my mind for some time now and last week i finally made the decision to end my part in this blog, Its been over 3 1/2 years which is amazing in itself, There are a few reasons but mainly time and now a health condition that needs to be sorted means that i have to put my efforts elsewhere for the time being, I have only managed to get the cameras out twice this week and only manged to get some shots on one of those times, The foxes are coming out later and the evening that i shot them i had to shoot at ISO 3200 so i used the D3s and 200-400 which is a great combo, The deer came out first including the fawn which came out to the side of the garden on its own and decided that my plants were more attractive than the corn i had put out, There were already 3 other deer in the garden, one i think was the mother as they fed together, The foxes came out at nearly 8pm and i would normally just watch them at that time as i have decent shots in decent light but as i havent shot them for a couple of weeks i decided to sit it out, The female came very close all but very nervously and in the end was less than 10 feet from me, She is in great condition and her tummy is slimmer an the teets not so pronounced so i guess that she has weaned the kits and that they are now on solids, I have to say that i still get a kick out of them coming into the garden and watch them every night

The next night the animals were out earlier and i had other stuff to do, Isnt that always the way,
On a side note i had an e-mail from my website company last week asking if i wanted a blog on my website, It was a real coincidence and had nothing to do with my decision here but as they will do the work for free i have accepted and once the work is done i will be doing blogs via my site, I am not sure when it will be finished but i hope that by the time i am in California in 3 weeks it will be done, It will give me time to decide how i want the blog to look and feel, If you have any ideas then please drop me a line at, I am not sure what Martins ideas are on this blog and if he will continue to run it, I hope that he does but either way it will be here to come back to and read for future reference
I see that Nikon are doing a Canon and have announced that there will be a 800 F5.6 lens, No other details like cost and weight or minimum focus distance yet, One things for sure is that it will be expensive and i for one wont or cant afford one, I do like my 600VR and i like the F4 aperture, The 800 on the other hand should be lighter than the 600 and should be sharper than a 600 with 1.4x attached, Depending on the minimum focus distance i am sure that it will be popular with the small bird photographers and because Nikon allows F8 focusing on its camera bodies (Canon now doesnt) you can add a 1.4x and still get AF,
Canons new 1DX are starting to hit the stores in limited numbers but some reports i have read look very good, I cant wait to see the head to head reviews with the D4 and 1DX, Both should be great, My gut feeling is that the Canon may be slightly ahead in noise but i am sure it will be close and anybody being able to afford one is very lucky indeed,

So thats it from me, I really do appreciate all those that have taken time to read and comment on my scribbles over the last 3+ years and i want to thank Martin for asking me to participate in the blog


Monday, 9 July 2012

Heat and Portraits

Firstly i will apologize for the lack of images this week-wildlife ones anyways but the USA has been on fire literally, We have just had 6 consecutive days over 100 degrees, Sunday topped the week with 105 and that's without adding in the humidity which takes it over 110, There are heat advisories telling you to stay indoors and that's basically what i have been doing, Its been a very social week having 4th July in the middle and then lots of meets and eating, One evening we had 8 deer in the garden joined by the fawn but once i had the camera outside it instantly misted up and that was that, I normally put the camera gear in the garage to warm up a couple of hours before a shoot but didn't have time and that was the result, The fawn has been in the garden twice this week and i hope to get some shots of it this week before it gets too big, The other deer don't seem to like having it around and it gets bullied a lot, One of the young bucks is getting dominant and will rear up and kick any other deer close by, The foxes are still coming and i have been watching them most evenings and the hummingbirds are still very active, Doesn't help telling you all this without shots but i hope to get some very soon,
We have a very good friend here called Faye, Shes been through a rough time and is recently divorced, We have been helping her to move into her new home and now she is ready to carry on with her life, Like a lot of single people looking to move forward she decided the easiest way to meet people is through on line dating but after a few weeks without much success she talked to us and the first thing that struck me was that the photos that she was using did not do her any justice, So on the 4th July she came to our house and spent the day getting some better images, I set the studio lights up and did the normal black or white background, Like most people they think 3 or 4 shots and its job done but i have shot enough portraits to know that it takes some people time to relax and get comfortable in front of the camera and lights, We shot for over an hour and shot around 210 images, Out of those she really liked about 20, We had a glass of wine and i reset the lights on our upstairs landing and found that she was much more comfortable and relaxed standing as opposed to sitting, Over the next 2 hours we shot a lot with different clothes and background and afterwards sat down with more wine and went through the images and she liked about 80 of the 2nd shoot, A big improvement and it was really hard to wheedle them down further to the final 20, The next day i had processed them and sent them over, She uploaded them and over the next couple of days her e mail box filled up with guys from as far as NY to Georgia, Its just goes to show the power of a good image, I enjoy shooting portraits and am still learning the lights and placement to get the best from your subject, The more mature the person the more critical it is in getting the placement right so as not to show too many 'character' lines, As with ALL forms of photography understanding light will always get the best results

I used the D800 and 70-200 F2.8 VR for all the shots, Lighting was with 1 Elinchrom D Lite 4 and a large silver reflector, The D lite had a 53'' softbox attached, I had just ordered an Elinchrom Beauty dish which should arrive this week so that will give me something else to play with and learn


Monday, 2 July 2012

Boy has it been a hot week, Saturday it peaked at 105 degrees and with the added humidity it was over 110, Most days were either high 90's or low 100's, Way to hot for most animals who kept deep in the woodland and only venturing out once the sun was set, Even then the temperatures were well over 80, One thing to do when the heat is up is leave out water fro the birds and animals, Its the least that you can do, One day i walked out into my screened porch around 5pm and could hear a Barred Owl calling close by, I had just purchased a couple of apps for the ipad so quickly grabbed it and played the Barred Owls call to see if it would bring it into the open, Its something i had never done before and am unsure of the ethics of using bird calls but either way it didnt work and i could hear and see Crows mobbing the tree where the owl must have been, Later that night i could hear the Eastern Screech owls in the nearby trees and again put the bird call out and instantly 2 owls flew into the open, I had the 600 and D800 combo set up with a single flashlight and took a couple of images before they flew off,
The highlight of my week was a trip up to the Great Smoky Mountains to meet with some guys from the CNPA (Carolina Nature Photographers Association) that i mentioned in my last blog, We met up at Balsam Mountain to shoot some captive birds of prey, There were 7 species from the tiny Eastern Screech Owl that i had shot in my back garden a few days before to the mighty Bald Eagle, All the birds had been either in accidents or badly treated and were unable to be reintroduced into the wild, I very rarely shoot captive animals as there is little challenge involved but i decided this time to go and meet with some other people in the group and maybe get some other photography done whilst in the mountains, It was a good distance to drive, over 250 miles each way and as i had to be there by 9am i left at 3.45am to give myself plenty of time to find the place, have a coffee etc, The shoot was only a couple of hours and i decided afterwards to head straight back as the weather even in the mountains was touching 100 degrees and it was just too bright and hot to shoot and get any decent results, A very long day for 2 hours shooting but i did meet some very nice people, made a few mental notes and got a couple of decent images, All the birds had jessies/restraints on them which was not the best and made life difficult getting a clean image, The bigger birds were put on a man made perch which was not very photogenic so i decided to do 2/3 body/head shots, Birds of prey have 3 striking features, Eyes.beak and claws so 2 out of 3 would have to be good enough, There were some nice old fencing around the area so the smaller birds went on those which was much better,I used a variety of fill flash and no flash to see what looked better, The images were taken with either the D800 and 600VR or 200-400VR

Eastern Screech Owl
American Kestrel Male
Barred Owl
Harris Hawk
Red Tailed Hawk, The background was not under exposed by the flash, It was a dark green bank and i darkened it further in processing with Curves and Nik,

Bald Eagle

You can see the restraints in a lot of the images which makes them pretty unsaleable but there you go, What it does show is how well the D800 with the 600 or 200-400 performs, One problem i did have was the SB900 flashgun over heating, Its a known fault and the reason why Nikon announced its replacement SB910, It was more the heat in the air than the over use of the flashgun but it dies for 10 minutes which would have been a nightmare if i was shooting a wedding-good reason to always take a spare


Thursday, 28 June 2012

Quick Garden Update

Well you dont need me to tell you about the bizarre weather we are having in the UK this Spring and Summer(?).  Suffice to say it has played havoc with the wildlife in my garden. 

We had a good burst of Red Damselflies a while back, a few Blues and Azures and one beauty that was new to this garden was a Banded Demoiselle.  But not a sign of other other form of Dragonfly yet.

There was a good burst of butterflies in the early Spring on the one or two warm days, but virtually nothing since.  The weather has been so depressing I haven't even risked putting out the moth trap for risk of overnight heavy rain.

On the bird front, we are seeing quite a few fledglings, with our 'home' Blackbird on her second brood which we will see hatched very soon.  Juvenile Thrushes are now a daily sighting to although they are not nesting with us.

On the wildflower front, we have had the regular stuff from previous years coming up, with the pleasant addition of Ragged Robin around the pond edges and lots of lovely blue Vipers Bugloss.  There is no sign of my orchid this year, but again regular checks of my local wild patch has indicated they are all much later this year.

Once again, the Council have mown down the Bee Orchids I noticed this morning  - I despair of the incompetents that we have to pay for.

So when will my camera come out again? - goodness only knows but I need the weather to buck up, and I need to find some time as there have been a lot of other distractions that have been taking my time away, which I will share with you on my next blog.

Happy Summer


Monday, 25 June 2012

Garden Wide

I forgot to mention in my blog that last week i decided to put a remote camera near to where i put some corn down for the deer, I have done this before a few years ago and the deer would not come anywhere near the bait as they didnt like the glass, This time i put the 14-24 on the D3s, I placed it on a beanbag next to a tree and put some camo netting over it, All you could see was the glass but the deer spotted it before coming out of the trees and over the period of an hour licked the air,stamped their feet and came closer and closer until one of the young bucks started to eat, Then they all came out and relaxed a little, I had the camera on silent mode and when the shutter went off they did little but raise their heads, I was just testing the water and think with some fine tuning and maybe the use of a different lens i could get some interesting results, the camera was triggered by a hahnel pro remote


Heat, Processing and Memories

Boy has it been hot this week with temperatures over 90 degrees and a couple of days hitting 97, Add to that its been very humid and the heat index has been said to be well over 100 degrees, Its too hot for me thats for sure, Leave the coolness of the air conditioned house and its like walking into a furnace, Last week and for the next few weeks i need to play catch up with processing images and getting submissions out to agencies, Its a must do, I have been putting it off but now must really buckle down and get some money in rather than have images and good images at that just sitting on the hard drives,
Its good to go back through your images as you find little gems that you had forgotten about and also some images invoke memories of good times when everything has come together, One image i reprocessed was taken in the Great Smoky Mountains one fall when the sun was setting, I was sitting on top of Clingmans dome along with many other people and the light was beautiful and just got better and better as the sun went down

I have shot the foxes in my garden on a few evenings and have managed some very nice images, There have been more and more deer coming as well, 8 one night and we had an added bonus of a 'Bambi' come with its mum on Friday evening, I grabbed the D800+600VR combo as it was by the door ready but it was really too much lens and the 200-400 would have been perfect, I got some record shots but nothing special, Its not been back since but mum comes so it cant be far, I have seen a few fawns around the area close to the road with its parents and one was dead the nest day, Its was one of those weeks where everything tried to get killed, I had deer, squirrel and even a black snake shoot out in the road in front of me, The snake was very lucky as i managed to swerve and get it between the wheels, I watched in the rear view mirror as it shot off across the road none the wiser, Its the first live snake i have seen here near my new home, A few dead ones but none alive,
The female fox now comes very very close to me, Infact she will come as close as where i place food, I invited a friend over on Saturday evening for dinner and the opportunity to shoot the fox and deer, Its always a concern incase nothing appears but that's wildlife, On this occasion things could not have gone better, I told her that the foxes will appear anywhere from 5.15pm and sure enough at 5.15 the male walked across the top of the garden, 10 minutes later and he came to feed, The deer the arrived and hung around the garden for some time and then the female fox and in good light, She came very close allowing just head shots with the 600VR,Once she had gone the deer continued to come and go, We hoped the fawn would turn up but that was not to be, We both got some good images and it was a good night with plenty of beer and wine thrown in,

I very very rarely shoot captive animals, I have only done it a few times in my life, I know some people like zoo type photography but for me it leaves me cold, The animals do not look like they do in the wild and i always feel very sorry seeing them locked up, I do have fond memories of shooting captive owls and falcons with friends in the UK and when i was asked if i wanted to shoot some Captive owls here in NC i had to think about it before saying yes, I am off to a guy in the Smoky Mountains this coming Saturday to shoot his collection with some people from the CNPA (Carolina Nature Photographers Association), It will be good to meet with some other like minded people and as the place is not open to the general public and only cost $10 it was a no brainer, Two things i hope for is that the birds are not wearing jessies or restraints and that there are some nice perches,
We had the small owls flitting around the garden the other night and i did manage to get a good look at one with the aid of a spot light but it was gone by the time the camera gear was ready, I really thought it was a Northern Saw-Whet owl as i could not see its ears which the Screech Owl has but on Sunday i purchased a couple of apps for my wifes ipad and could confirm that it was indeed a Northern Screech Owl by the call, I could also confirm that what i thought was a whip or will is infact a chuck widows will, Who names these birds? anyway I purchased two apps, One called Bird Tunes which does what it says and the other called Birds Eye which tells you of bird sightings in your area and gives maps of when and where they were seen, Both very good apps and not very expensive,

The above from my Canon days, A memorable weekend for sure


Monday, 18 June 2012

The week that wasn't

I was in my garden this morning around 7am, Complete silence, Very eery and the sky looked very threatening, We have heavy rain and thunder for the next couple of days, Its exactly what we had last week, The rain on Monday and Tuesday was torrential, The foxes didn't like it and i didn't see one until Wednesday and even then it was a fleeting glance, I cant say that i blame them, I have seen the male in the garden very early in the morning but i am glad to say that the female keeps her routine of between 5.15pm and 8pm,One good thing about the amount of rain was that it bought a tortoise out into my garden so i grabbed various lenses from my 150mm macro to the 200-400 and 600 and took some images, I like the longer lenses for this type of work and they have a lovely diffused background, I used the beanbag and tried the lens on the deck as well as some handholding, After about 20 minutes of laying in the dirt the tortoise left and that was that, The deer seem to hang around the garden most of the day and go in and out of the woodland, One young male has a liking to my bird food and goes there before anywhere else, What with him and the squirrels the birds don't get much of a look in, I have managed a few decent deer images this week, I haven't shot much in the way of deer as i put food around the edges of the woodland and it doesn't make for a photogenic scene, i used to put food out on the grass but soon learned that its only a good idea if you want big bald patches, The garden has kept me very busy and i spent 2 long back aching days weeding and re mulching, I had 2.5 acres of mature garden in France and here i have only 1.5 acres but it takes 10 times longer to keep it in check due to the amount of flowers and bedding,
So not too much in the way of photography, It was national wildlife photography day on Friday which was started by NANPA (North American Nature Photographers Association) 7 years ago and they ask you to go out and shoot something and post it on their facebook page, Luckily the fox and weather co-operated and i put up and nice female fox image,
When i got my D800 i shot a couple of times in my studio, i set the lights up using a Sekonic hand held light meter and shoot in manual, I noticed that the images were a good 1-1.5 stops under exposed, I didnt take too much notice and adjusted the exposure by using the histogram, I then read of somebody on line having the same problem, I set the studio lights up in the usual fashion and shot side by side with the D3s, I am glad to say that both cameras had the same (correct) exposure with identical histograms and that the test images of me looked good, I can only think it could be 1 of 2 things, Either i had set something wrong like the ISO or there was an secret adjustment in the recent firmware update, Either way things seem to be how they should, one thing people go on about with the D800 is the greenish tint to the LCD screen and its something i noticed when i first got mine, I guess i am now used to it and it makes no difference to the actual image, I was only reminded of it when i did the studio tests and held the D3s and D800 next to each other to check the image and histogram, Although the D800 does look a small amount on the yellow/green side holding it next to the D3s makes the D3s image look cooler, Nikon say that the D800 is more true to life and they may be right, i think its a tad off but its just a preview and the images look great out of the camera.
Nikon announced 2 new lenses this week, A 18-300 DX lens and a 24-85 FF lens, The full frame lens being a cheaper lens for the soon to be announced D600 which already has leaked photos on line so it cant be far away, Rumored specs are 24mp and $1500, Now that would be something if correct and although it will be a base model with a low spec AF system and plasticy body for a landscape photographer it may be all you need as you dont need fast FPS (D600 rumored at 4FPS) and you dont really need lots of focus points and fancy AF system, Its the specs and price are true i would expect to see Canons 5D3 drop in price pretty quickly, If nothing else it will make a good back up body and a great travel camera

Rainy day Tortoise
 National Wildlife Photography Day Fox
 A curious deer that walked towards me giving a decent background, the small ray of sunlight coming through the trees catching its chin and whiskers,The D800 always amazes and when you zoom in you can clearly see the tick around the eye and my house in its reflection
Sunflower seed loving deer
Canons big guns telephotos are starting to hit the shelves after huge delays but it seems from a few people on forums that have managed to get one that the wait was worth it even if the costs are very high and they sound awesome, It would be nice to have some weight removed from the 600 and with the new Canon 600 weighing the same as the old 500 that sounds like heaven, I will interested to see some reviews and tests in the coming weeks/months to see how they compare with the older lenses in both IQ and AF speed.