Sunday, 31 May 2009
Another first for me today
I was watching the little froglets, so with some minor tail stumps still other without. Most of the tadpoles still are in conventional form sporting just a pair of rear legs, but some are clearly more advanced. Both Red and Blue Damsels were dancing around too, with one pair of Red's mating.
Out of teh corner of my eye, I noticed something much larger flying around. Well it was the first Broad Bodied Chaser I had seen in the garden since making the pond. This one is a Male, as it is sky blue in colour.
So a good day
Saturday, 30 May 2009
Local patch - Stratford upon Avon
Additionally, there were two male Orange tips, five Speckled Woods, three large Whites, two Small Whites, a Small Heath and finally this beautiful Large Skipper on the second image.
Friday, 29 May 2009
Getting ready for a week away
Thursday, 28 May 2009
News - Cuckoos in the News
I would agree with this situation in England, based on my unscientific observations as I have only heard three so far, all in the same woods last weekend on my butterfly trip.
However, over the last four years I have heard and seen plenty while on Mull. In fact on one very memorable occasion last year, I saw three together, one female and two males. I guess the host nest sites (Meadow Pipits) and source food are readily available.
Hope you have been watching and enjoying Springwatch each night this week too. I missed Tuesday's episode, but will catch up with it at the weekend.
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Of course not all the images in the submission are foxes-they account for around 150 images,But agencies like to have images done in a project fashion so that when some good images of one species come in their salesmen can get the jungle drums going so that books/mags/calenders know that a variety of fresh work is in
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Nikon Mail for 200-400 owners
Trip Report - Warwickshire Butterfly Conservation Site, Ryton
Report from the event posted here
Monday, 25 May 2009
More quick News - Cyprus Shooting Ban in May
News - Late update - Springwatch
Bill Oddie is no longer on it and Chris Packham replaces him wit Simon King and Kate Humble remaining on the team.
So I will be checking this one out a bit later
Update: Just watching it now. Nice to see Gelert the male Goshawk with Paul the falconer. Dave and I had the pleasure of photographing this fabulous bird 18 months ago
Second Update: Gelert the Goshawk pic now added, taken in October 2007
Long Lens Technique
Every wildlife photographer wants/needs a long lens-300mm+ and more than usual 500mm+, This is a great tool to have but brings its own specific problems, Dont just think that now you have a mega lens that your photography will improve, If anything for a while it will go downhill until you find a technique that will give consistently sharp results, This is called Long Lens technique, The longer the lens then more magnification on any movement you will have will be shown up in the final image,If you have a body with live view just turn it on and zoom into maximum zoom on the screen and lightly tough the lens-you will see that even the lightest of touches will create a massive blur-So firstly only have your tripod set as high as it needs which in reality should be minimum height but sometimes you will need to have it higher and that's when things really need to be tightened down and for you to shoot in a calm and calculated manner, there are 2 methods that i use, Firstly by jamming my fist between the lens foot and lens barrel and secondly by having my left hand holding the top of the lens-why would you do this-well firstly it balances the lens and secondly and most importantly it takes out any vibration down the lens that is caused by mirror slap (when taking the shot the mirror in the camera body causes a small vibration that can travel down the lens and causes a soft image) I would say it took me a good 3 months or more to get a technique that i was happy with when i first bought a 500F4 lens 9 years ago, In extreme instances when shooting in lowish light i have actually placed a beanbag on top of the lens to do the same job-When getting a long lens for the first time practice a lot and find what works for you
Sunday, 24 May 2009
Local Patch - My garden, Warwickshire
Overhead the swifts are screaming, and while cutting back some growth yesterday I heard the distinctive 'cronk' of a Raven, there are plenty of Small White butterflies coming through and I saw my first Green Veined White in the garden yesterday.
The tadpoles are going crazy, forming up in large shoals in the shallows warming themselves. There are at least three newts, Common I think, but will check soon.
On the bug front, there are masses of Hoverflies, many bee species, Green Shield Bug, large Red and also Blue Damselflies now in.
The first picture shows the mass of Ox Eye daisies that have sprung up. This particular patch was supposed to be quite short in height but is over a metre high now, but looks fabulous in a breeze as it sways. There are also a number of fabulous blue Cornflowers coming through as well, as per the second image.
The final three were of a very obliging frog that came up to say hello. I was surprised how yellow its markings are. There are at least three like this with the rest being the usual much darker green/brown colour.
Finally, I had a brilliant day out today with the Warwickshire branch of the Butterfly Conservation Trust, and met some great people. Thanks to Mike, Keith and Val for making me welcome - the site is brilliant, I saw 18 species, including a number of first for me. The food was brilliant to so thanks again. I will post some images from that trip later in the week.
Saturday, 23 May 2009
Long Lens close ups
Its that time of year when everybody reaches for their macro lenses for butterflies/dragonflies and wildflowers, But unless you want real close ups like a dragonflies head i prefer to shoot with a long lens and extension tubes-why? well firstly with insects it gives more working room so they are less easily spooked and secondly you can throw the background nicely out of focus and get great Bokeh, The 300F4 lenses work really well here as they have a minimum focusing distance of around 1.4m and with an extension tube or 2 they work great for close ups, I have used my old 500F4 many times and with 2 or 3 tubes on give great results
Friday, 22 May 2009
Trip Report - Thrislington NNR
The site is the Thrislington NNR in County Durham, a site rich in magnesium limestone so good for wildflowers.
This image was taken with the Canon 24-70f2.8L lens to give an environmental shot of the subject and habitat.
Both were taken with the gear on a tripod set to low level, and manual focussed and exposed.
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Nikon has always held a reputation for having the best flashguns on the market and after some use with the SB900 I can only agree that it is far superior to the Canon guns I have used in the past. As with all technology these days things are getting far more complicated to use-just looks at the menus on the Canon 1D3 and Nikon D3. The manual that comes with the D3 is nearly 450 pages!!, but the SB900 has proved easy to use and the results are superb. Its the first flashgun that I have owned that has actually had a firmware update which is no bad things as small glitches can be ironed out rather than worked around and for the cost of these high tech guns they need to be good, The gun is no lightweight but feels a quality piece of kit,The metal shoe fits nicely into the hot shoe and with a simple turn of a lever locks solidly into place.
Whilst I have used it for some fill flash on birds I have been shooting some local events as well like baseball, Easter egg hunt and a baby shower (I kid you not) not the usual type of stuff that people associate me with but the more you use your kit the better results you will get so i have used these as training events, I feel that flash is under used and often feel that people are a little scared of using it, With digital its all become easier as you can see and adjust the images as you take them.
Like all modern day flash guns the SB900 is TTL which means its reads from the camera rather than you having to put the setting in but it also has a couple of very nice features up its sleeve-firstly FP mode,Now flashguns are set to fire up to a certain speed or sync normally between 1/60 and 1/250 depending on the camera/flash so if you are shooting in bright sunlight the chances are that your shutter speed will exceed this causing over exposure by the flash, On my old EX550 flash I could set FP when needed to allow the flash sync speed to exceed the 1/250 and go to any speed,The SB900 has auto FP and will cut in and out when needed so you do not have to worry about what shutter speed you use and nicest of all it has a BL mode which i keep set which stands for balanced flash and does what it say-it balances the flash in the scene and gives a lovely even lighting-flash for me has never been so easy, One thing i have noticed is that if you shoot close to something dialling in -1/3 helps to stop getting too bright an image-easily corrected in PP but just as easy to get right in camera.
Here is an image taken at an Easter egg hunt. As you can see the sun is directly over head but the D3 with 14-24 and SB900 set as above has given lovely fill flash. So that I didn't put the kids off I just dropped the camera to the floor in front of the kids and let the wide angle lens do the rest-easy
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
News - Butterfly Conservation
I have been recording my garden and local patch sightings on their online reporting tool.
As Warwickshire is my county I will be going along to this event at the weekend, weather permitting.
Check out your own counties for events as now and for the next few months is the season for would be butterfly photographers. There are also sub sites covering the rest of the UK and some parts of Europe as well.
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
Well as i have been away for the last couple of weeks i thought i would report on my local patch, Last night we had 5 deer next to our garden where i put some corn out-2 does and 3 young which are always nice to see,The bird feeders haven't been filled since i went away so they are a bit quiet although the woodpecker has been on the fat feeder along with crows which will eat me out of house and home,The cardinals are still around as well as some American goldfinch in full colour, I was up before light this morning and went to a lake nearby where the ospreys are,They were still there and didn't come off of the nest for an hour but then had a fly around to stretch their wings and then when they re landed one of them picked an old dead fish on the side of the nest and started tearing small pieces off and i guess feeding the chicks that i couldn't see so all seems well there,There were a few other ospreys flying around as well as a bald eagle in the distance, One bird that turned up that i didn't expect to see was a loon in the centre of the lake-the first that i have seen and i think will only be in migration although i hope it stays, Lots of herons on the lake as well and they looked great flying through the early morning mist that was rising off of the lake, I only stayed about 3 hrs as the sun came up the light was harsh,Just as i was about to pack up a sharp shinned hawk flew over the osprey nest and over me aloowing my first shots of this small hawk,The lake level has dropped allowing me to get closer to the osprey nest and not have to use the D300 as much as i don't need the extra reach, I must admit that i preferred the D300 over the D3 for alot of my shooting when i first went over to Nikon but lately the heart has swung the other way and i absolutely love the D3 now-such a capable camera in any situation
Monday, 18 May 2009
Mull Trip Round Up
About 1000 images give or take to download and review over the next few days. Breezebrowser will come into its own there. See Dave's post from earlier this year here.
Weather conditions were rarely perfect - either bright harsh sunlight or when the light was spot on it was windy which made it tricky for the smaller birds and also turning to plants was also difficult.
I was pleased to get a lot of species photographed this year that I had either overlooked or where the opportunities hadn't previously presented themselves.
It was good to see the moth trap in action and understand a little about that side. I just need to get a book now and identify the ones I saw.
I also filled in some more gaps with mammals, plant life and the topography. All these areas will be important for widening the scope of my Mull talk, which I have to give twice more this year at least.
I will post a summary of some of my images later in the week as a final round up.
Sunday, 17 May 2009
Andy Rouse Viper Bag
Saturday, 16 May 2009
Reviews - Orchids Website
I have a number of different types near my home in Warwickshire and so will look forward to getting some images as they bloom.
Friday, 15 May 2009
Trip Reports - Mull - Day 6
Out and about the wind made it difficult for the small birds so I found a few plant species to photograph including milkwort, sundew and helleborine. I used a series of flashes with the macro ring flash acting as the master to wireless trigger. I will do a separate technique section on that at a later date.
Then it was off to Craignure for the talk tonight and my thanks to the thirty or so that turned out. I enjoyed it and hope they did to.
Good view of a Tawny Owl on the way back. Final bird count at 89 species for the week so hoping for an early morning barn owl on the way to the early ferry to make it a round 90.
Thought I wasn't going to be able to post tonight, but just made it, keeping up our record of posting every day since Dave and I started the blog back in January.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
Trip Reports - Mull - Day 5
It has again been warm here in Scotland, although quite breezy again and grey for a while.
I got up early again this morning and inspected the moth trap - a much better result as it was less windy overnight.
Here is one of the more spectacular captures. If anybody could identify it for me I would be most grateful.
I then spent an hour or so in the hide to get some of the garden birds here. Best of the bunch were the siskins today.
After a decent breakfast it was down the glen with a brief viewing of the Loch Frisa pair of White Tailed Sea Eagles as they flew almost overhead before I went to a location where I has seen Dipper. Well I drew another blank today. So that makes it about five hours in total watching for Dipper now and not an image to show for it. Some days work and some days it doesn't.
After a few other great spots around the shores of Loch Na Keal, I found a small flock of Golden Plover looking fine in the summer breeding plumage.
These really are great birds with such fine markings on their backs.
A quick sighting of another White Tail and Golden on the way back rounded the day off nicely.
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Trip Reports - Mull - Day 4
Watched the garden stuff this morning first thing with a lovely Male Redpoll, plus numerous Siskins. I altered the set up after a while so am hoping to get some time in the hide tomorrow and get a few of some of the species I am a bit light on images of. Also got some great images of Rock Doves who also pop in every day.
Further afield, I had a great time watching Male Hen Harrier again as well as more Golden and Whiter Tailed Eagles.
Also find a nice small herd of Red Deer which enabled me to add these to my Mull image bank.
No other new species today to add, as it was quite a tricky watching day, plus I was feeling pretty lazy after the two previous tiring days.
As I mentioned previously on the blog last week, I am giving a talk on Friday to close out Wild Isles Week on the programme so caught up with the projector today to make sure it all connects properly. There is nothing more infuriating, particularly for the audience when IT difficulties surface. So preparation is the key.
So two days left - time flies by, sadly, when you are having fun.
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Trip Reports - Mull - Day 3
Male Sparrowhawk made two appearances in the garden, but disappeared before I could get my camera to it. It certainly sent the Siskins for cover.
After breakfast, it was up to Caliach Point right at the north western tip of the island for a bit of sea watching. Not many birds although I got some decent Gannet shots, and also added Razorbill for my weekly list.
Best sightings were five porpoises, followed by a second pod of three.
Followed by this Seal in bottle pose.
and finally this Dog Otter who was quite a way out to sea when he caught a fish
Monday, 11 May 2009
Trip report - Mull - Day 2
No pictures tonight as this is just a quick update. Left the accommodation at 0600 this morning, after scraping ice from the car and drove the 90 minutes it takes down to Ffinnaphort at the south western tip of the island to get the ferry across to Iona. Lots of great sights en route, including a lovely backlit heron that I got a few images of.
The Lochs were glassy calm and with the clear air the scenery was stunning.
While waiting for the ferry, I was entertained by a few Gannets fishing, with their characteristic dive bombs into the water.
Corncrakes on Iona were remarkably quiet today. I heard a total of five but just had brief sightings of one, of which I managed to get a few images, although sadly against a mown grass background.
I did see my first Painted Lady butterfly of the year which was an unexpected bonus though.
Great sightings of both Golden and White Tailed Eagles on the drive back through Glen More.
I stopped off at a couple of locations where I have seen Otter before but sadly none showing this evening.
A final drop in to a Sand Martin colony yielded a few more images to end the day. A great day, out for a total of 14 hours.
The light was stunning this morning so will be looking forward to a few more early starts.
Arthur put his moth trap out for the last two nights - I was hoping to photograph whatever we caught, but sadly none on either night.
Sunday, 10 May 2009
Trip Report - Isle of Mull Day 1
Once on Mull I went to one of the first of the Wild Isles Week events, Confessions of a Wildlife Cop, an illustrated talk by Sgt Finlay Christine of the Argyll Police Force.
Finlay is a great guy and does fabulous work protecting the wildlife on Mull. My advice to all photographers who visit is to get in contact with him and let him know you are going to be on the island photographing. I make a point of letting him know before hand, with my car details so it is one less for him to worry about. There is a great network on the island who guard there wildlife passionately.
Great weather today - it has been pretty bad the last few days so I am told so was grateful for that.
I went on the Discover Mull trip today with 7 others. I usually do this on the first day as it is a useful reconnaissance to see what is about. Successful day with 68 bird species, 6 mammals, tow butterflies and a Common Lizard.
Saw all the big five of White Tailed and Golden Eagles, Hen Harrier, Red Deer and Otter by 2 pm. In fact the Golden Eagle count was seven separate birds by the end.
Wheatears, like this one were very common.
And just as I sit outside writing this, a Male Bullfinch has just flown over my head, glowing in the evening sun. Simply beautiful
Off to Iona tomorrow and will probably stay out overnight in my little tent so if you don't hear from me tomorrow you will know why.
Hope to be back the following day with some Corncrake pictures.
Saturday, 9 May 2009
Trip Preparations - the final touches
My final preparations include checking the Met!! So it is off to The Met Office to see what weather we can expect or Met Check is another good source, which also gives sunrise and sunset times.
If you have a way to drive, check out the Highways Agency site for travel conditions, and if I want en route up to date, I sometimes call their Information Line on 08457 504030, the old cones hot line for routing information.
The car is packed but I make sure I have what I need ready to hand to shoot that sudden situation that presents itself. So the camera is set with all the settings that I think I might need, the 500 with the 1.4 eftc fitted. Bean bag at the ready and binos too.
You can bet your bottom dollar that something will present itself to you, your gear wont be ready and by the time it is your subject will have fled.
One of the first things I also do when I arrive in a location is to get a tide table, as this will be vital for those seascape shots plus all of your wildlife that is water dependant
Finally, I have just been reminded don't forget your sunscreen and anti midge juice (which I have)
Friday, 8 May 2009
News - Bird Ringing is 100 years old
Now clearly they can be a pain to us photographers as they show the 'hand of man' on our wild subjects. It is particularly galling when it is a rarish or difficult to capture subject.
But it is clearly vital to monitor our valuable wildlife and the research has been critical for understanding behaviours, movements and lifespans.
Thursday, 7 May 2009
Tips & Techniques - Spring Cleaning
For me that starts with getting all the bits and pieces that I need together in one place and sorting out what bags I need.
Then I make sure I get all my batteries charged and then on to the cleaning.
I use a number of methods. Firstly, I get the blower brush and the Rocket blower and I clean the area around the lens cap, at the rear of the lens. This little area can harbour all manner of dust that is waiting to get onto the rear element of the lens and then ultimately into the body and the sensor.
Then I remove the cap and clean the inside of it - another dust trap that is easily overlooked. An inspection of the rear element and a clean if required with the blower. I never use compressed gas to clean - I don't want any liquid propellant in the wrong places.
I also do the same with the body cap that is on the camera body.
I then check the front elements of the lens themselves. I do not use front element filters, unless I am in dirty, dusty or sea spray environments. So a quick look tells me whether I need to clean. Again blower and if friction is required, I use a Lee Filter cloth, and their cleaning fluid if required.
The outsides of the lenses and bodies are cleaned with a small brush and the wand of the Dyson vacuum cleaner held just off the item to take away the dust.
A clean lightly dampened cloth is then used to wipe the external surfaces down on my L lenses.
One other point if you use the neoprene lens coats - take them off from time to time and also give a thorough clean - grit, dust and sand can get trapped behind and caused more damage than they are designed to prevent.
So finally to the sensor. One of the benefits of the latest breed of bodies is the self cleaning sensor, and the 1Dmk111 has been excellent in this respect........that plus it has been back to Canon a few times means it gets cleaned there, although I would have preferred that were not the case.
With a fully charged battery, the manual sensor routine is used and the Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly 724 is used.
Be very careful with this as it is possible to smear shutter oil residues from within the chamber on to the sensor. I know as I did this on my old 5D and to my embarrassment on a friends 1Dmk111.
You will then need to clean the Artic Butterfly brush if that happens and you need to get the proper cleaning tablets from Visible Dust for that - but they do work. I think I was eventually forgiven for the 1Dmk111 mess up - as the camera got changed out in the AF issues
If you have got sticky crud on the sensor, then it is out with the Sensor Swabs (make sure you use the right size for your sensor) and the Eclipse E2 fluid - again very quick, very easy, and will take you longer to read how to do it than actually do it. Also make sure you get E2 rather than just Eclipse fluid for the more recent sensors (last three years) as it is correctly formulated for the tin oxide coatings used.
Finally, there is no point putting all your lovely clean kit back into a dirty bag. So take everything out, and vacuum it out. I take out all the dividers in either my Think Tank or Lowe Pro Photo Trekker, put the wand on the Dyson and give the bag a full clean out. Final wipe down externally with a clean damp cloth and you are ready.
So if you have dirty kit, now is the time.
Wednesday, 6 May 2009
They are back!!!
Swifts are one of my favourite birds which is a shame as they spend the least amount of time with us in the UK.
Well I saw my first ones last week, but not mine where I live.
A great welcome home after a tedious hour in the supermarket.
I will look forward to a glass of wine in the garden soon, when the sun is shining and watching them once more for the few short months until they go back again.
I will be back tomorrow with some camera gear spring cleaning tips for you and covering your preparation for trips.
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Just a quick thankyou
I am sure he will be touched by your thoughts and concerns and will respond when he can.
Monday, 4 May 2009
News from around the world
One site that caught my eye is Wildlife Extra, a thoroughly comprehensive site, with a great section on wildlife news. While it is my preference to shoot UK based wildlife, this site has given me some good insights to other parts of the world. Certainly one for the bookmarks in my Firefox browser.
Looking forward to just over a weeks time, I regularly check out Arthurs Blog, on the Discover Mull website. I am pleased to hear that the Slow Worms and Toads are in the garden so look out for those when I start to post trip reports in a week's time.
I should also mention the Durham Bird Club website with extra special thanks to Gavin who I met yesterday by the River Wear. Thanks for showing me round to one or two places. Had some great sightings today. Always amazing how when you meet a stranger how common interests can be shared. And yes I got to see my Kingfishers, although not close enough for images, but saw it fishing, so was well happy with that.
Sunday, 3 May 2009
Mull Wildlife - Wild Isles talk
During the week of 9th to 15th May, it is Wild Isles week on Mull with a wonderful series of events and acivities on the Island.
Last year Pam and Arthur Brown of Discover Mull asked if I could give a talk to the Isle of Mull Bird Club as part of the wonderful week.
So if you are on the island or nearby, let me know as it would be great to see you there.
Some of my trip reports from least visit can be seen here, here and here
Saturday, 2 May 2009
That time of the Year - Dawn Chorus
You need to be up and about at least an hour before sunrise and see what you can hear and identify.
I have done a few organised RSPB dawn chorus walks in the past at Pulborough Brooks in Sussex and Minsmere in Suffolk and it really is a fantastic experience.
Not always easy for photography, but great for the wildlife. Much of your recognition skills will come about from recognising the subject by their song.
I bought myself the Collins CD sound guide a few years ago to help my recognition skills, link below. Great to listen to in the car on the way to the site.
Many of the species song are quite distinct so the benefits will come from being able to identify the subtle differences between say a garden warbler or blackcap.
Friday, 1 May 2009