Monday 31 August 2009

Its good to talk

Moving to a new area is difficult enough but a new country is a whole new ball game and finding good areas for wildlife can take some time especially local areas, This has been a bit of a dilemma for me the past year, North Carolina is very different to the places i have lived before, The wildlife around the coast is very good and accessible as is the mountains but they are not on my doorstep, Luckily for me i had a mail a couple of weeks ago from a local Photographer Called Juan a Pons, Now i have seen Juan posting on Naturescapes forum and knew he was local to me but i hadn't made contact , Juan offered to meet and do a shoot together on a large local lake that i had visited many times over the last year, The difference at this time of year is that the water level is very low due to 3 months of very hot weather, This means certain parts are not accessible to boats and jet skis and the wildlife and bird life in particular congregate in these quiet areas, We met early Saturday and had a chat in the car whilst we waited for a shower to pass over then made our way around to the birds, The ground was very boggy and 200 feet before we got to the birds we hit the deck and crawled on our stomachs getting very muddy in the process but it was worth it, There were plenty of birds around although not that close to us and we waited until some flew in and fed, Plenty of heron and Egrets but we were after waders and ended the morning with some very nice Killdeer and Semipalmated Plover, It was quite a slow morning photography wise but quality rather than quantity was the order of the day and i was very pleased with my results, We both had skimmers with wimberley gimbal heads with flash attachments/flashguns and better beamers, As soon as the light improved i swapped my D3 for the D300 for the 'extra reach' along with the 600F4 and 1.4x, Where we were positioned is normally lake but now was very lush vibrant coloured grass making for a nice background, So a big thank you to Juan and hope it wont be long before we shoot together again, You can see Juans work as his website here


Sunday 30 August 2009

Wildlife Trusts

Well I am a bit later today, but the right side of midnight to keep up our 100% posting record.

In the course of my work this last week, I met up with the Regional Corporate Manager for my local Wildlife Trust to discuss the work we do at my place of employment. This got me thinking that I needed to mention them on the blog.

What I found surprising is that there are more members of the Wildlife Trusts than the RSPB.

I found another interesting link of news following my story here about Hen Harriers. Great to see a good news story I found here about these much persecuted and enigmatic birds.

Here in Warwickshire, we have many great reserves that are managed by the Wildlife Trusts. Dave and I went to the main centre at Brandon Marsh about 18 months ago and watched the early arrival Sand Martins flying around over the lakes in a snow storm in March - quite bizarre.

Take a visit to their main website here and check them out, and why not join your local one and see what you can photograph. I am certainly pleased with a number of images I have got from their sites. Here are a couple of Great Crested Grebes, from I think what was my first outing with my 500f4L lens.


Saturday 29 August 2009


Having trawled through forums for a few years one phrase keeps coming up 'my 500 is permenantly attached' Why? is it because you have paid alot of money for it? is it so people think your a pro? or do you feel that thats what you need to take 'wildlife' images, Yes i use a big lens alot but i also like to use 'smaller' lenses to get a different perspective from the mid telephoto animal in context image to the weird and whacky super wide angle images, I have stopped looking at a lot of galleries on forums as the images are starting to look the same-bird on a stick and more times that not not even a nice looking stick to the close up of a lion or tiger-come on guys you have spent a fortune getting to Africa or where ever and used your biggest lens and ended up with a shot you could have got in your nearest zoo-put the big lens down and use something smaller-show the beautiful habitat that these amazing creatures live in-a living landscape, I know in the heat of the moment we all get carried away-i know i have and can look back on a thousand tiger images and think now if only
The other morning i was walking the dog early before the heat got up, I noticed a few small mushroom poking out of the grass in somebodies garden so i popped home and grabbed a variety of lenses to see how they would look from wide to long
So to start-a 600mm f4 on a full frame D3

The same but with a 180mm macro

And finally the same but with a 24-70 @ 24mm

Firstly i will apologise for the crap shots, They were quickly taken and they are just for illustration purposes but they show the same subject in 3 very different,
ways, As you know i am using or trying to get super wide shots of the deer that are in my garden, I have used a 16mm lens to get close ups of squirrels, It takes some thought and time to get these type of images but they are the ones that get more comments from people than the ones taken with the 500/600


Friday 28 August 2009


With lots of moths finding their way into the house in the evenings now, it reminded me that National Moth Night is fast approaching, so now is the time to get ready. This event is now jointly run by the Butterfly Conservation group, who regular readers will know I have been a strong advocate of.

Moth traps come in a range of types such as Skinner, Robinson and Heath. More details can be found here. Skinner is probably the most ubiquitous.

There are a range of different light types to consider which will depend very much on whether you have neighbours or not. If you do, then consider the black light 'actinic' types to minimise annoyance and nuisance.

You may also need a good book so I have put the details of my recommendations below.

It would be great to hear of any of your mothing experiences or see any of your photos if you want to share them with us.


Thursday 27 August 2009

White Balance

White balance is one thing that can throw an image off, I remember when digital first came out there were generally 2 pieces of info banded about, The first was to slightly under expose and the second was to leave the camera set to AWB (average white balance), Now we all know that under exposing an image and adjusting the exposure in processing will bring grain out and slight over exposure is the way to go but the AWB thing is still something i see people leave set, Personally i don't like AWB and much prefer to shoot with 'sun/daylight' set, Now adjusting your white balance in processing is one thing that doesn't damage the image at all so you can set it really to what you want and adjust it afterwards-no problem, The problem with leaving it in AWB is when shooting early/late in shadows and in winter when the sun is low in the sky-A camera with AWB set ill tend towards the blue/cool end of the spectrum and your images will need the white balance adjusted or else they will look like they have a colour cast, I shot a couple of years ago with a group in wales at a falconry centre early one cool morning, I noticed that some people there had their cameras set to AWB and that the feathers on the buzzard had a blue tinge to them-easily adjusted in PS but unless you realise this then you tend to let it go thinking that was how things were on the day-it was not the case, in fact there was nice light and a very autumnal feel to the scene-See above image
Here is an example taken a few years ago in France-springtime and the first early purple orchids were out, This image was shot on a damp morning in the shade just as the sun was coming up

You can see it has a very cold feel to it-the colour temp that AWB gave was 4700k, Now you can see the difference with the colour temperature adjusted to 6500k which happening to be a preset of cloudy

This is how i remember the orchid to look-like exposure the camera doesn't always get things right
White balance is very easy to adjust,you can use the presets in the drop down box such as daylight/cloudy/shade etc or you can use the slide bar under the presets and adjust the white balance until it gives the desired effect

I have always said that if you give 20 photographers the same image to process you will end up with 20 different images-white balance is one of the reasons why


Wednesday 26 August 2009

Guest Photographer - Mike Lane FRPS

It is my pleasure to welcome our latest guest photographer to Wildlife Photography across the Water - Mike Lane FRPS

Mike is local to me here in the Midlands and has been quite an influence on a number of wildlife photographers as a result of his publication 'Where to photograph Wildlife in Britain', sadly not available from Amazon anymore but he still has some copies available here.

I am grateful for the book as I have added a number of images in my portfolio from locations that Mike has described, such as the Red Grouse here.

Well back earlier in the year while shooting the images of Long Eared Owls here, I bumped into Mike on a very cold Cotswolds. We discussed the blog briefly and I said I would contact him at some point in the future - which brings us up to date although there is another tenuous link with Mike for both Dave and I, as Dave took me to the site where Mike took these images on Goosanders on Lake Geneva back in February 2008.

Mike has set out a great article below.


I have many "rules of thumb" about wildlife photography.One of them is that you see more wildlife the less you move. Take a drive in the countryside and you will see lots of landscapes and some wildlife from your car window. Take a walk and you will see less of the land, but a lot more wildlife. Sit still in a quiet corner and you will not see much of the habitat, but the wildlife will start to come to you. take it one step further and sit in a small portable hide and you will start to see wildlife that you did not even know was there.

I am a great sitter. There can't be many people who spend more time in small bird hides waiting for something to happen than I do. It is my favourite method of photography. I liken it to a fisherman sitting quietly by the side of a river, very relaxing.

In my early days as a bird photographer we mostly worked at birds on the nest. My prime lenses were 135mm and 200mm, so getting close was vital. I did own a 300mm, but optically it was not that good and best avoided. Nobody owned a 500mm or a 600mm then. Using a hide was the only way of being close enough to the subject and I might have half a dozen in place at any one time as they had to be moved into place slowly over several days. This inevitably led to theft and I worked on the basis of having one hide stolen every year on average. old tatty ones were left in the most vulnerable spots and new ones built every year.

Today nest photography is rare and I have not had a hide stolen for many years. I do not tend to leave canvas ones out overnight nearly so often. If I have need of a permanent hide, at a winter feeding station for instance, I make them out of wood. Wooden hides offer far more comfort from wind and rain and do not get stolen as they are too heavy to walk off with. there have been a couple of occasions when they have been burnt to the ground by someone who thought that might be fun.

My early wooden hides were elaborate. I built them to bolt together quickly and to be foldable for easy transportation. That proved to be unnecessary and today I simply nail sheets of plywood together very crudely. All I need to do is hang a hinged door. Experience has taught me that once in place I do not move them much. If I need another elsewhere I simply knock one together. I have not paid for wood for many years either. It comes from factories who take deliveries in large crates and are then stuck with the wood.

Canvas hides I still use on a regular basis. I used to build them myself to suit my own needs on the basis that the more comfortable you are in a hide the longer you are likely to stay. I favoured the old fashioned British square bird hide rather than the quick erecting pop up hides. I use the simple four uprights and four cross pieces, covered in canvas.

We vary the height of our tripods to get the shot we want so it's obvious the hide also needs to be of variable height so each of the four upright poles is telescopic. Also it is rare that I put a hide up on level ground so the poles inevitable need to be different lengths.

The cross pieces simply push into plastic joints sold for the purpose so there is no time lost screwing things together. With the frame in position I throw the fabric over it and all is in place very quickly. I like to have a zipped entrance at the rear to help keep out the drafts. On the front of the hides and on the two sides are large apertures with a panel held in place by velcro. The panel can be completely or partially pulled away and replaced with scrim netting hanging down from above.

The lens is pushed out through the scrim and I arrange it so I can see out through the scrimming along the side of the lens. this makes it so much easier to find a bird through the lens if you can look along the outside of the lens first and line up roughly on the subject. birds can't see through the scrim into the dark interior.

Underneath the three removable panels are three pockets into which I can place spare camera gear. This is very helpful when the floor is too wet or muddy to be able to place a camera bag and also acts as ballast on windy hides to stop the wall blowing about.

Also for windy days are four tabs on the outside corners of the hide for tying guy ropes to, But it is rare these get used. if the ground is soft enough to be able to push the upright poles in deep then the hide is pretty steady.

I prefer to use heavy material for the canvas as the hide is more waterproof, stable and not prone to blowing about in the wind. There is nothing worse than sitting in a hide that is flapping about all around you. It means the hides are not lightweight, but I rarely walk far with them, usually getting the car close enough to where I am working. If I do need lighter hides I have them, but they do not get much use. I even have one that is very thin and feather light that I can take abroad with me when flying. The telescopic pole are also slightly shorter to fit into hold luggage.

The colour of the hide is not that important so long as it does not stand out too much in the countryside. I have some that are DPM. (disruptive pattern material) army camouflage and others that are just a drab green. To the wildlife it makes no difference; So long as they can't see the human shape that is what matters. Size does matter though. The smaller the hide the better, especially height wise. The lower you can keep the hide the closer birds will approach it. This is for the obvious reason that we are all less nervous of something small than something that towers above us.

I keep my hides as low as possible nd the width to about 33 inches, which is more than adequate.

The stool you sit on makes the difference to comfort. When I had a proper job I discovered that office furniture was sold to different standards. there was such a thing as 24 hour office chairs designed for places that worked shifts 24/7. Buy ordinary 8 hour office chairs and they did last so long. It is the same with small camping stools. Buy the small nylon covered chairs and after 3 months they collapse. Shakespear the fishing tackle company make robust stools which are well worth paying a little extra for. I have some with a backrest and some without.

It always amazes me how little birds are bothered from noise in a hide so it is rarely necessary to sit rigidly or still and quiet. I have a small radio with earphones and read books and newspapers while waiting during any quiet periods. However, I usually find there is enough going on around me to keep me entertained by just watching the wildlife that appears when I hide myself away.

Recently I decided I needed to replace some hides and since I no longer have access to a sewing machine have them built to my specifications. As always it is cheaper to get things made in bulk so I have had more done than I need. If anyone is interested I have some for sale.

Links to images can be seen here but here are few to see the general views and here for more details including how to buy.


Many thanks for the article Mike and we wish wish you well with sales.

If any of our readers orders this or Mike's book, don't forget to give us a mention.


Tuesday 25 August 2009

Jonathan and Angela Scott day out

I mentioned this day out in London a couple of weeks ago and was amazed to found out yesterday that there are still a few tickets left, This will be a great day out-aimed at all levels of photographer from true beginners onwards-dont be shy, There will be some educational stuff in the morning and some shooting in the afternoon
more details here



No not with a fork and spade, With autumn fast approaching it will soon be time to think about Fungi, Its something i have always enjoyed shooting but they tend to be in messy areas so one item i always take with me are a pair of scissors to clip any grass or weeds that are in the way-tidy the scene-some tweezers also come in handy so you can remove debris without disturbing or damaging the main subject-take your time as it cant move and go anywhere and constantly check and recheck through the cameras viewfinder to see what the image looks like. Take a shot and review it on screen making sure that the image is clean and that you have the right DOF, if not redo the shot, Time is your friend with this type of shooting and the more 'gardening' effort you put in the better the images will come out, Of course this approach is not just for Fungi but all types of wildflowers, By taking time and looking at your subject and the background to make sure the image is clean will help in all of your photography

Monday 24 August 2009

Forums Part 2 plus some bad luck

Just to quickie add to Dave's post from yesterday, I said we would also mention the latest EOS Forum that has just got underway.

Just after we started this blog in January, EOS Forums went off the air as a result of host provider problems, and we kept those fellow EOS readers over here up to speed with events.

We told you about EOS Network, and we told you about Canon Fodder Forums that subsequently were spawned independently.

Well EOS Magazine Forum is now back and live, and certainly getting plenty of new members and contributions, so let's hope it runs reliably in the second incarnation.

On a separate and sad news front, I noted an alert on Birdguides Email Alerts in my local area of a Wryneck that was found in Evesham over the weekend. Now this is a pretty rare bird for most parts of the UK, let alone locally. Sadly, the report was only possible as the bird had been killed by a domestic cat.

We are pleased to have Birdguides as one of our blog followers. If you are not a follower or 'friend' of Wildlifephotographyacrossthewater then just check out the links on the right hand side.


Sunday 23 August 2009


The web is alive with forums that deal with all kinds of photography, I have been an avid forum goer for many years and in that time forums have come and gone but the best survive, I have learnt alot from not just visiting photographic forums but also meeting up with other like minded people who also use them-Its how i met Martin
If you don't already know these then pop in and have a look (NPN)-One of the best Nature Photographers site
UKNP-A division of NPN for UK European Nature Photographers
Naturescapes-One of the best Nature Photographers site
Nikonians-Purely for the Nikon user
EOS Networks-Purely for the Canon user, A new site but one that will quickly grow-tutorials,vidoe and tuition-Run by Canon techy Dave Newton who will be our featured photograher in the next few weeks Photographer Arthur Morris's site
Rob Galbraith-Full of reviews and in depth tests
Dpreview-Covers all aspects-full of squabbling back stabbers but lots of info
Fred Miranda-Lots of tests and feedback from people who use the gear and some good software

As i say there are thousands to choose from and i have visited many but these are the ones that i visit the most and could recommend, Whilst i don't post on many-maybe 2 or 3 of the above the info available from them is invaluable


Saturday 22 August 2009

News - Bird Watching Fair, Rutland

I meant to post about this earlier in the week, but it slipped my mind.

This weekend sees the annual British Birdwatching Fair over at Rutland Water, to the east of Leicester. Details can be found here, so if you read this early enough there will be time today, and it is still open tomorrow.

Of course, if you are not planning on going, I guess it would be a good time to go to any of the hundreds of bird reserves as they will be empty :-)

I will not be able to get to either sadly - painting keeps me housebound at the moment - but the end of that is in sight thank goodness.

On a sad news front, I note this unfortunate response from RSPB about the continuing plight of the Hen Harrier in England. This really is bad news and a sad conflict of 'sport?' over nature.

Finally, a heads up for the blogpost on Wednesday - we will be having our third guest photographer on the blog. Mike Lane, a UK based wildlife photographer will be talking 'Hides' with us, so watch this space for that - it will be a good article, as I have already seen it.

Right I am off to my paint. I'll be back on Monday.


Friday 21 August 2009

Local Area-Raleigh

Well like Martin i have been giving some rooms a touch up with the paint brush as we have the outlaws arriving next month so i haven't been too far afield, But then i haven't really needed to, I live in suburbia and have been pleasantly surprised just how much wildlife comes into my very small garden, Siding onto a farm obviously helps as that where the deer,possum and raccoon appear from but every tree and bush has some form of bird,butterfly or bug in it, I have a small low water container in the garden which helps attract things into garden in the hot weather from squirrels to hawks all have a drink an a bath in it, The hummingbirds are now constant visitors to the nectar feeder and woodpeckers and crows at the fat feeder, The usual suspects of cardinals and goldfinch eat at the seed table and now i have 2 buddlia (butterfly bush) there are swallowtails and skippers constantly in and around the garden,I have been trying various things to attract more and varied species into the garden, I cut a small orange in half and after a day there were all sorts of bugs and flies on it, The Black Widow unfortunately has been killed off but i did enjoy spending some time with her and i am sure if i look hard enough i will find another, There is a very small stream just down the road and the other day i popped down to have a look to see what was around it and came across a Water Snake,which was laying on a rock catching some rays, A first for me, I only managed to shoot it from distance and it bolted off when i moved-it was 92 degrees after all and the snake was plenty warm enough,I didnt really mind not getting too close to it as it made me think about the composition and by having it low in the frame shows some habitat, Its amazing what you find when you look for it and people living in the community have no idea whats close by as they go about their everyday lives,

Thursday 20 August 2009

News - New Kit Silly Season

As normal at this time of year it is the rumours silly season.Justify Full
What are Canon going to launch? What are Nikon going to counter launch? Blah blah blah!!!

Well I have been guilty in the past of being interested, and followed various sources of rumours such as here.

But I guess once bitten, twice shy - I will not be among the first 'beta' testers of any new gear again, unless Canon are happy to send it my way of course.

' Beta testing' when you pay seems to be the worst of all worlds - you get 'buggy' kit and it costs you more as prices stay close to RRP!!!!

Dave and I are both guilty of this - with the 1Dmk3. And from Dave's recent post, it seems that Nikon are up to the same tricks as well now.

So whenever a new body, or new lens for that matter comes out, I will remain happy to sit back and watch............and wait.

On a more positive note, Canon launched the G11 yesterday. If you had read my post on Tuesday, I would be quite happy for one of these to live in my Netbook bag.

So anyway all you rumour jockeys, keep your eyes peeled for whatever comes out in the next couple of weeks - so that will be the 1D replacements then!! :-)


Wednesday 19 August 2009

Off Camera Flash Cord

I use Flash quite a lot in my nature photography and the off camera flash cord is one of my most used accessories, It allows me to put the flash on my wimberley head totally separate from the camera body and lens so that i can switch from Landscape to portrait without moving the flashgun-staying above the lens so as not to cast any unusual shadows

The cord also allows me to handhold the flashgun away from the body/lens so i move the flash into the position that i want and give the lighting effect that i want, I find this particularly useful when shooting macro images

This was me this morning taking images of a very beautiful spider that had made its web outside my back door

I shot both sides of the spider, Here the first image has flash and the second image doesn't, Both are perfectly OK and sharp however the flash brings out extra detail in the spider and also shows the web with isn't evident in the unflashed image

You can see in the image of me that i held the flash slightly above the lens and just to the side,This gives quite an even light, I could have held it further to the side if i wanted to add shadows etc,
The Nikon cord i feel is better than the Canon one that i used to use for two reasons, Firstly its much better quality, I used to break the Canon one all the time and secondly its longer than the canon which i felt was way too short, With the Nikon i can hold the flash a meter away from the body if i need to, Of course if you have a Canon ST-E2 or Nikon SU800 remote transmitter you don't really need to use the off camera cord but every photographer should have one in their kit bag just in case and its something that doesn't break the bank


Tuesday 18 August 2009

Local Patch - Just outside my office!!

I was sitting at my desk in the office yesterday on my first day back after a week off when I got a call from the Estates Manager.

"Martin - there is a huge moth here, see if you can identify it"

So I went out into the middle of a large building complex, and found this.

It is a Poplar Hawk Moth - female, buff phase.

So now you regular readers are probably thinking what has happened to the quality of Martin's close up work!!!

Well I don't take my gear to work on the off chance, so out came my 5 mega pix camera phone - a Sony Ericsson to get this, about 8 feet off the ground, so at arms length, on black glass with bright sun mirrored in.

However, I hadn't seen one before, like Dave with his Assassin bug, so thought I would get the shot that I could.

I really need to put a Canon G10 in my Netbook bag and carry with me at all times.

Canon - you heard my whinge two days ago - how about sending me one!! :-)


Monday 17 August 2009

Nikon Recall

It seems that Nikon have dropped a bollock with certain D5000 bodies and have issued an advisory, So check your serial numbers to see if your D5000 is the list and needs to be returned
More here

Actually after trawling through various forums it would seem that the D5000 has been recalled twice!! double bollock dropping by Nikon

After Martin last post about Canons service or lack of it please keep us informed to how Nikon handle this current situation


Sunday 16 August 2009

Views - Another Canon Whinge

It has been a brilliant 24 hours or so - saw a great band last night at my local entertainment venue, a Fleetwood Mac tribute band called Fleetwood Bac, made great progress on the decorating and a wonderful relaxing afternoon supping pints of Guinness in a warm and sunny Stratford upon Avon, while being serenaded by a great entertainer in the Dirty Duck, playing the lute and singing Shakespearean songs.

So what has that got to do with my headline above.

It was while I was into my second pint, while watching a traffic warden go about his business that I recalled a recent unsatisfactory interaction with Canon that remains unfinished as far as I am concerned.

As regular readers will know, following a recall of the 1Dmk3 by Canon earlier this year, I posted a number of blogs of the process here, here, here, here and here.

As you will deduce, I was pretty happy with the service and the results - and I still remain so after a further five months.

Following this up, Canon sent out an email to all those who went through the recall process to respond with their feedback - which I chose to do.

Well it was easy enough, the questions were quick and easy to respond to (although I would always recommend that when you give the respondee the choice of options, don't select a middle 'sit on the fence' position - make sure you ask customer whether they are satisfied on not).

And then I got to the last question 'We would welcome any additional feedback that you care to give us about the recall process' - or words to that effect.

Well I did - I spent about fifteen minutes giving a carefully worded and detailed response about the difficulties that users have had with the whole 'mark 3' process - and those who have them or used to have them (Dave) will know exactly what I mean.

The body now works and I am happy with it, the second recall process has been handled exceptionally well as I mentioned in the previous posts - but if you ask you customers for feedback then for God's sake -RESPOND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I did this over ten days ago - but no acknowledgement.

My company has a policy of responding immediately to any complaints with a holding position that let's the customer know that we acknowledge their concern and will address in full when we have had the chance to consider.

Canon UK choose not to do so.

So in future Canon please don't bother to ask for a response if you are not going to have the decency and respect of your customers to respond.

Conversely, I know that Dave has been full of praise for how Nikon has done it (customer service that is) - so take note!!!!!

Normal service will be resumed with my next posting :-)


Saturday 15 August 2009

Beauty and the beasts

Like Martin i have only been shooting around my garden, because we have had such hot weather with temperatures in the high 90's and a couple of days where it hit 100, which is great and one of the reasons we chose North Carolina to live in, The downside is that its hot during the day and still 70-75 at night so most of the wildlife choose the nighttime to come out and rest in the shade during the day, The garden is in bloom and that has bought lots of bugs and butterflies out so i have decide to document these, The light is/can be very harsh so most of my shooting has been with flash to try and even the lighting out, My best find so far has to be a beautiful Black Widow female with egg sacks attached to the side of my house under a hangover, I have noticed that during the hot days she has the egg sacks in the open and in the evening she carefully cuts the web around the sack and moves it tight to the house bricks, i am guessing as well as keeping it safe from rain etc the hot wall will help keep the young warm

I must say that the Sigma 180mm Macro has been great when tripod mounted and working with these deadly spiders, I shot @ F16 in manual mode and on some images used an off camera flash as the spider was partly under an over hang which caused heavy shadows
At the bottom of my garden there are a couple of bushes in bloom that are covered with every type of fly/bee and bugs, Whilst shooting some bees here i noticed what i later found to be an Assassin Bug-never seen or heard of one before and i was abit apprehensive of getting too close as i knew nothing about it, It was very concealed and in the end i had to move a branch and use the camera with one hand to get the shot-so most were OOF and the others were not to brilliant, I soon found out that it could fly as i got closer so the shots ended up just as record shots-see below

This is something i will continue to look out for as i would like to get some decent images of it,
Butterflies are becoming very common especially the beautiful swallowtails so i now have 2 buddlia in my garden and they are there everyday along with assorted skippers

truly beautiful and great to have in such abundance, I shot these handheld with the Nikon 200-400 which suits big butterflies well

I mentioned a long time ago that i had purchased a Hahmel remote release and that i doesn't work at line of site as it was radio frequency, I have been feeding the local deer that coming into my garden with some corn and they come every night,I can even be on the BBQ and they will come and feed, I tried to set a camera up a couple of weeks ago on a beanbag and with camo netting over it near the corn but the deer spooked at the large piece of glass on the 14-24 so i put an empty water bottle there and after a few days they got used to it and now take no notice of it so the other day i again swapped it for a 24-70 on the D3 set at 24mm and had the lens hood on to try and hide the glass abit more,The deer noticed it straight away and i was amazed at how they know what small changes you make even when covered it was all covered in camo netting, The 2 deer circled for a while and got closer and closer before backing off them after an hour one approached and took some food,after a couple of minutes i managed to get a shot which made the deer jump but they come back and i ended up with 8 shots of which only 2 were ok-this one being the best

Exactly what i had envisaged and now i have something to work with, Next time i will try portrait mode, The remote release worked great, I was on the second floor!! looking out of a small window-all for $60


Friday 14 August 2009

A quickie today - a few new images from the Garden

Well I am still busy decorating, or rebuilding it feels like on my week off!!

So here are a few images that I took the opportunity to get during tea or lunch breaks. All of these are firsts for me in the garden. There was a delightful Holly Blue butterfly that came in too, but sadly I was not able to get an image. Haven't seen it since either.

Sparrowhawk has made a couple of unsuccessful swoops that I saw - stunning!!, and the Great Spotted Woodpecker is back in grubbing on a dead branch on the apple tree.

Common Darter

Male Gatekeeper

Male Gatekeeper underside on Blackberry

All taken with the Canon 1Dmk3 and Canon 180 f3.5L macro


Thursday 13 August 2009

Focus limiters

Certain lenses like macro and telephotos have a switch on the side that can limit the amount of distance that the lens can focus-why would you have these and in what situations would you use them?
Well firstly they will speed the AF up by only using the distance that you need to shoot in rather than the full- close in to far away, for instance if you using a Canon 500mmF4 I.S the focus limiter button has settings of 4.5m to infinity,4.5m to 10m and 10m to infinity,if you are shooting birds on a perch (branch) and the perch is say 6m away set the focus limiter button to 4.5m to 10m as you do not want or need the lens to focus either side of that, if you are shooting birds in flight then set it to 10m to infinity as the birds will not be closer than 10m and if you find that need to shoot both close and distant subjects then use the 4.5m to infinity, The 500F4 I.S has a minimum focusing distance of 4.5m so if anything is closer than that then you either cant focus,will have to move back or use extension tubes
My Nikon 600F4 VR has just 2 settings of 10m to infinity and FULL which will take me from the closest focusing distance of 5.5m to infinity, If again i shoot birds in flight i will set the switch to 10m to infinity, by not having to focus from 5.5m to 10m the AF will be faster and the lens less likely to hunt
Macro lenses are another type of lens that have focus limiters as one they are slower to focus than standard telephotos and you tend to work at certain distances,Look at my Sigma 180mm F3.5 macro below

you will see the switch has 3 settings 0.46-0.61,0.61-infinity and FULL which will be 0.46 {minimum focusing distance) to infinity,True macro lenses magnify to 1:1 which is at minimum focusing distance so if you are using AF with your macro lens and you want maximum magnification then set the limiter to 0.46-0.61 if however that makes the subject too big and you have to move back then use the middle setting and if your subject is farther than 0.61m then you will have to use the FULL setting
This may sound abit time consuming and fiddly but it will help you by having better/faster AF


Wednesday 12 August 2009

Guest Photographer - Tony Wharton FRPS

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, we would be running our second guest photographer slot on the blog today. So it is my pleasure to give over today's space, our 250th post ( I mis-counted a couple of days back) to Tony Wharton FRPS.


I'm both pleased and honoured to respond to Martin's invitation to contribute to his blog by being his second " Guest Photographer", following an excellent contribution from John Bulpitt FRPS.

I'm afraid I cannot link my contribution to a recent trip overseas, as John did, since I haven't made any for the last three years or so, due to various health problems. I used to take groups abroad quite a lot, mainly Photo Travellers to places such as The Falklands, Galapagos, Antarctica, South Africa, Spain, Crete, Cyprus, Switzerland and Finland, although I have taken quite a few groups to East Africa under my own steam as it were. I have also led trips to India.

I took up photography in the mid sixties, when, as an avid angler, I bought my first camera to photograph the fish I caught. I was quickly bitten by the photographic bug and settled for natural history, a long standing interest of mine, for subject matter. There's more about that on the home page of my website,

Over the years, I have been very active in the RPS Nature Group, did a two year stint as it's Chairman, and served on it's committee for twenty years or so, although I have now settled for a more comfortable rocking chair in the background. I'm very grateful to the Group for awarding me it's Silver Medal some years ago and making me an honourable lifetime member more recently.

Obtaining a distinction with the RPS appealed to me quite early on, and I gained an Associateship in the then pictorial section in 1971, followed by a Fellowship in the Nature Category in 1978. I took great pleasure on serving the Nature Distinctions Panel for many years and, for my sins, am currently it's Chairman. The RPS awarded me it's Fenton medal a couple of years ago, which I consider a great honour.

I first met Martin when he joined Smethwick Photographic Society, of which I have been an active member for over 30 years, being particularly active with it's International Exhibition. A few years ago, I started a Natural History Group in the Society and Martin has now taken this over.

One of my great joys is judging exhibitions. I've had the pleasure of judging most of the UK's International and open Exhibitions, some of them two or three times.

With regard to my own photography, I enjoy most types but especially nature. Asked my favourite subject I can only say that it is whatever I'm photographing at the time, be it a bird, mammal, insect, flower, fungus - whatever.

I hope Martin has continued success with his website and this blog, and most of all, his photography.

Here are some of my favourite images.

Grass Snake at Rest.
Taken during a Smethwick PS NH Group field trip.
Pentax *ist D with Pentax 200mm macro lens

Grevy's Zebra Quartet.
One of my favourite images. Taken in the Samburu in Kenya.
Pentax Z1 with Pentax 600mm lens.

Jay with Hazelnut
Taken from a friend's hide in Warwickshire.
Pentax *ist D with Sigma 50-500mm lens

Keys of Field Maple
Another of my favourite shots. Taken in the
Severn Valley Country Park
Pentax *ist D with Pentax 200mm macro lens

Male Brimstone Feeding on Knapweed.
The backlighting appealed to me. Photographed in
Trench Wood, a Worcestershire Trust reserve.
Pentax K10D with Pentax 200mm macro lens

Sticky Coral Fungus
Taken during a Smethwick PS NH Group field trip
to the Wyre Forest. Pentax *ist D with the 15-55 mm lens
and a 3 dioptre close up lens


So many thanks to Tony for taking the time to send us some fine images, depicting the breadth of his Natural History photography. Tony is a genuine friendly, extremely helpful and amazingly knowledgeable about his subject. He has helped me out on a number of occasions either with identifications, field trips and with his amazing width of knowledge.

Tony is also very modest, so if you got the Digital Photographer magazine a few weeks back when it was printed in July, check it out as Tony was features in there. So we are honoured that he has supported the blog.

If you would like to feature as a guest photographer, then why not contact us, either via the comments on here, or via our respective websites. We would like to hear from you.


Tuesday 11 August 2009

Sigma 180mm F3.5 Macro

A couple of blogs ago i mentioned how the Tamron SP90 macro had trownsed the competition and taken top honours in a brit camera monthly and said that to get the best results you don't always have to by a Canon lens for your Canon or a Nikon lens for your Nikon body, I bought a Sigma 180mm F3.5 Macro lens when i swapped systems, I did look at others including Nikon's own 200mm F4 and Sigmas other Macro the 150mm F2.8, Nikon have recently upgraded their 105mm macro and it now has VR (vibration reduction) and it gets rave reviews but i wanted the extra length that a 150-200 would offer and make it easier for me as i wouldn't have to get soo close to the subjects which in nature macro photography are spooky enough, Nikon's 200mm F4 macro still has its champions but its a little long in the tooth so that just gave the Sigmas, My brother has the 150mm2.8 and i know a few others how have it and love it, Its newer to the market than the 180mm F3.5 but i know a few pros who get fantastic results from the 180mm so i went with it, Now i don't do much Macro work although i can see its easy to get the 'bug', So last week i decided as there are alot of bugs and butterflies around at the moment to dust off the macro and give it a go, I normally use a tripod when shooting macro as you tend to use a small aperture and shutter speeds tend to be slower than normal, but over here the biggest problem is the heat, its been in the high 80-mid 90's for a couple of months and even in the dead of night it doesn't drop below 70 degrees, Now when i shot in Europe you could get up early an catch the bugs before they warmed up and sometimes with dew on them-here its a different matter as they are already warm and buzzing around at first light so i had to shoot handheld as they flitted from one bush to the next, this meant that i had to up the ISO and not use as small an aperture as i would have really liked, but as this was more of a test of the lens than anything i wasn't so bothered, I used the Sigma 180 F3.5 macro lens on both cropped sensor (D300) and Full frame (D3) and it performed well on both, I was shooting around F11 so vignetting wasn't an issue, AF isn't as fast as it would be with a normal prime, This is also the case on Canons 180mm F3.5 Macro but fast enough, I used the focus limiter to help here but more of that in my next blog, I also tried using manual focus as i would normally do and move back and forwards until the subject is in focus but most of the time as things were moving around too much i had to rely on the AF and focus point placement to get the shot, The lens feels nice in use and in the hand, The controls are nice and smooth and i like the dark grey matted finish, Nikon's 200F4 macro is in the shops here for over $1600 and Canons around $1350 but i paid only $699 for the Sigma so a saving of 50% or more and results that are equal to the factories own lenses, for somebody like myself who only gets to do macro a few times a year that well worth the savings as it is for somebody who does a lot of macro work, Its a robust lens and feels like it will last a fair few years, Here are a couple of examples from last week

with a small crop for presentation

and with a 100% crop

One where i wish i had some extensions tubes on

and 100% crop of the above

A standard Butterfly image

and a non standard Bee image

Nikon owners note:when using the Sigma 180 F3.5 macro make sure that the aperture wheel is set to F32 otherwise you will get a 'FEE' error message