Wednesday 30 September 2009

Photographer or Videographer

Camera manufactures are now incorporating Video into Dslr camera bodies, Its something that can only be seen as a selling point as i don't know any photographer that has actually said that they wanted it before it happened, Once one camera gets it they will all get it at some point, As if processing wasn't laborious enough to think of then having to edit video-I don't think so-Not for me-well at the moment anyways, The other problem that will come about for people who run works shops for photographers are questions on video-you will need to learn how to use it even if you don't use it-if a camera has a function you will get asked about it on a workshop-what a pain, I looked at buying a camera for my wife and said to her maybe get one of the new ones with video-then i thought to myself-hold on i don't use video now so why would i want to start, I can see myself in the near future sat in a dark room with 12 others all sitting in a circle,my name will be called and i will stand up and say out loud ''my name is David Courtenay i am a still photographer and then in an embarassed tone quietly say ''i don't do video'' everybody in the room will clap and the next person will get up and do the same, This is something i feel is being forced upon us, Live view was something that i could see the benefits of to a stills photographer but Video is a totally separate genre, I have enough kit to carry around let alone carry a dead cat etc, Forums/blogs are all becoming video orientated-fuck off to a video forum if you don't want to talk photography, Canon seem to have grasped the best quality video in a Dslr before they have even put a decent AF in a Dslr whereas Nikon have sorted the AF and seem to have added half heartedly a pretty naff 720 video, What do i want? a camera that takes great video but not the best stills or a camera that takes great stills with a naff video-Nikon leads the way as far as i can see at the moment for 'proper' photographers-get the camera working properly before you add video,surely that's what a cameras main use will be-was that another rant?maybe, Maybe its like when there was the film against Digital debate all those years ago, I was a film user until the 20D came out and now wouldn't want to go back, The difference is that film or digital are both stills-photography not videography


Tuesday 29 September 2009

News - Call for entries to 35th Smethwick International Exhibition

Just a quick plug tonight for the International Exhibition at Smethwick - the 35th - so it is as you can see well established.

Smethwick is now my sole photographic club interest - and I am proud to be able to see other work there and share my own.

As what is probably the largest club in the UK and certainly the Midlands, there is a positive goldmine of knowledge and skill there.

I can recommend entry to this benchmark exhibition, and the system is so easy for all of our overseas readers and distant UK readers too - it is all on-line, so send your entries, even your digitally projected ones via the system - it really is very easy.

Let us know through here if you plan to so I can look out for your work when it is successfully accepted

Good luck


Monday 28 September 2009

Deer and The Rut

Its that time of year again when forums start to fill up with images of Red Deer Rutting-Seeing the clashing of antlers as these huge creatures go into battle is a sight to behold, Of course you don't need to go up to the wilds of Scotland to get good images, Britain has many 'deer parks' like Richmond and Bushy near London and Bradgate in the midlands but there are many smaller parks dotted around the country as well as stately homes that have deer of various kinds in the grounds, A good size lens-300mm+ is the order of the day to get a good close up and not get in the way when they go into battle but don't forget a smaller lens for the habitat shots as well to tell the whole story, Europe has a few species of deer and they rut at different times-see below for a rough guide

Red Deer-Sept to Oct
Roe Deer-August
Fallow Deer-Oct
Sika Deer-Sept-Nov

Here in North Carolina the White-tailed deer should start soon and i am off to the Smokey's mid Oct in the hope to getting some action


Sunday 27 September 2009

Rambling on a Sunday

Ooops - it's late on Sunday and I nearly forgot it was my turn to post.

Things were going pretty well today - a great chill out Sunday plus some work in the garden. Mum arrived with the drain rods that I needed a month or two ago, so thought I might as well have a look in the inspection chamber. So the next two hours were spent cleaning out foul drains with rods that were just too short!! But I got there eventually. A great way to spend two hours relaxing!!!

So anyway, thought I would just put a few random rambles on the blog today, rounding up some of the sightings for the week.

I spent five days at a hotel this last week on an Environmental Management course with my job. It was great to see four local Buzzards at very close quarters, as well as I guess what will be the last House Martin sightings. They were about twenty flying round stocking up their body reserves on insects before their long migration south which I guess they will be on any day now.

Although maybe the local wildlife is not quite sure what season it is at the moment. I saw a large flock of Redwings yesterday while in the North Cotswold's - seem early, followed by fifteen or so Swallows still on the wires while I was out running nearby.

So is it summer or autumn yet?

The Long tail tits are still making regular appearances in the garden - I just have to work out a strategy of how to get some clean images of them.

Finally, we passed through the 300 post mark this week, and looking at the stats I can tell you that they are as follows:

18,437 visits.

4,371 unique visitors

32,159 page views

67 countries (good to see the World Atlas is slowly turning more green than white)

UK, USA, Switzerland, France and Netherlands in top 5 country order

44.56% of you use Internet Explorer v 40.29% using Firefox, with Safari at 12.83% and Chrome in at 1.9%

So many thanks to each and everyone of you that have taken out the time to drop by.

Equally many thanks to those of you who have bought stuff from Amazon through our links - it is much appreciated. And by the way, just because what you want isn't on our front page, don't let that stop you linking through us ;-)

Plus we always welcome your comments in the feedback - we do operate a comment moderation system so that we can filter out content that is not relevant, but we don't filter out negative comments either - so if you do care to comment, then just follow the link at the bottom of each post and we will welcome your inputs.

If there are any areas of photography, wildlife or otherwise that you want our views on then we are always pleased to help out, if we have the knowledge that is, of course.


Saturday 26 September 2009

Lens Cleaning

Keeping the front element of your lens clean is very important if you want to get the best image quality from it, Its amazing how much dust and water droplets get on the lens even when you have a hood fitted, There are various methods that you can use but i do it the way i have for many years, I use lens cleaning fluid and lens tissues,These are available from all camera shops and are not expensive, First use a blower to get any 'big' loose pieces of debris off the lens, Then tear one piece of lens tissue out of the small 'book', Lightly scrunch the tissue and put 2 drops of the cleaning fluid on the tissue, Starting at the lens centre work out from the centre to the lens edge in an ever increasing circle, Once this is done quickly tear another tissue out and in the same fashion but dry, start at the centre and work out to the edges, You may need to use 2 dry tissues to get rid of all the fluid, You have to work quickly before the fluid dries, Once this is done the lens element should be as clean as new but now if you want you can breathe on the lens and polish it with a soft lens cloth-use this method for your lens elements,filters and extenders but NEVER put the drops directly into the lens element-always onto the tissue in case the fluid runs to the edge and somehow gets inside the lens-better safe than sorry


Friday 25 September 2009

Trip Report, Mothing at Monkwood, Worcestershire, Part 3

As promised a couple of posts back, here is the final part of my trip report from last weekend with some butterfly images.

Now I haven't got any decent Comma or Red Admiral shots this year, so was happy to get these. In fact, Red Admirals have been in short supply this in my travels.

The Speckled Wood is probably past it's best now, but it was quite accommodating for me.

Speckled Wood

Red Admiral

Red Admiral



That's it from that trip then.

I did say that I would do a review of the old Bird Books a few posts ago but I need to do some more reading to get a decent review to do these fine books justice.


Thursday 24 September 2009

Breeze systems Dslr Remote for mac users

Control your Canon from your Mac


Rant-After sales service

I always say that a company is only as good as its after sales service, Unfortunately we normally only find out how good that is when something goes wrong, Well after the Canon 1D3 debacle i lost all faith in both Canon and its products, if you don't have confidence in your camera gear then your photography as a whole will suffer, Canon didn't take me seriously when i said i had a lot of money to spend on new gear so i went to Nikon, I am really glad i did as their products are excellent if not a little expensive and the one time i had a problem with my D3 they acted in a quick,efficient and professional manner and it was all dealt with with no stress to myself, The last couple of months i have had problems with my sofas,washing machine and home theatre, The sofa was re stuffed and was ok for a month or so but i still wasn't happy with it so the other day i received a call to say that they will replace both sofas (which are 10 months old) without question-great customer service from Haverty's, A place where i have spent a lot of money and will continue to buy my furniture from as i know if there is a problem it will be dealt with, Sears fixed my washing machine without problems and within a couple of days of a phone call, When i moved over here i had to buy all new electrical goods so i purchased a TV,DVD and home theatre surround system made by Samsung-a huge company that i thought would sort any problems out professionally if i needed it-WRONG, the surround sound system went tits up 2 months ago-under warranty, I sent the amp back and was told that it wouldn't be repaired but replaced-great I thought, I was told I would get a call back and somebody would discuss my option-2 weeks later and no call so I called them and was told that they needed the speakers back which I did,No calls and no box on the doorstep-6 weeks later and about 15-20 calls I cannot get any body to tell me what's going on, I was told it had been sent and would be with me within 10 days,15 days later and I am again told its not been sent -but-will be, every time somebody will call me back but doesn't, You can never speak to the same person so every time you have to go through the same story-very frustrating, You cant speak to a supervisor-you have to book a call and somebody will call you within 24-48 hours-They don't, i am sick of the situation-they have my money and they have my kit-i now have nothing and cannot get an answer of when i will receive it, I asked for my money back but was told that would take weeks-for a huge company they have THE worst after sales service i have EVER known-What's all this got to do with photography-well Samsung do sell cameras- so based on my experience I will not be buying anything from them again. Its not worth the hassle


Wednesday 23 September 2009

Trip Report - Mothing at Monkwood, Worcestershire, Part 2

Following on from Part 1 of this trip, I promised that I would come back and post some of the butterfly images that I took. Well having had a look through the moth images, I have opted for a change of plan and share some more with you.

Butterflies will be in Part 3 to come.

The first few images are all of a moth species known as The Sallow. There are however many subspecies of this moth, and I will look forward to some feedback from Chris Betts on these who has asked me for them.

The final image was a bit of a challenge,due to the dark nature of the moth, but a large white reflector, a 30 inch Lastolite bottletop, helped to get some light into the scene.

The Sallow

The Sallow

The Sallow

Black Rustic

Well part three really will be butterflies, and I am pretty pleased with a couple of them, as they are species that I have not got any decent images of this year. Not rare species, but pleasing nevertheless.


Tuesday 22 September 2009

Bits and Bobs

Today there are a lot of smaller items that are designed to make your life easier, more comfortable and therefore more efficient, I must admit for being a sucker when it comes to shopping for camera gear and clothing and if the shop has camo then my wife knows where to find me, My local store is Dicks outdoors as i mentioned in my last post and at the moment it has some great offers and being the start of the hunting season it has lots and lots of camo stuff, Here are a few items that i have bought and use

Cap with inbuilt lights-You may think this is a bit of a gimmick but i spend a lot of time walking through woodland in the dark, If you have camera gear in both hands then the only place for the torch is in your mouth which after a short period of time makes you dribble-i know i have the tee shirt, There is a button under the peak that is hidden but easy to feel through the cloth, Press it once and you get 2 green lights, press it again and you get 2 white lights and press it a 3rd time and you get 3 bright white lights-great for freeing your hands up and finding stuff in the dark, I will be the first to say that i am not a fan of peaked caps for photography as the peaks always get in the way but this one uses out way the negatives and when i shoot i just spin the cap around

Seat pad-Sitting/kneeling in the wood land floor can be uncomfortable especially if its wet or cold, This seat pad has a special filling that warms up when you sit on it-great in the winter,There are no chemicals its all in the stuffing and at $5 its a bargain, I use mine a lot and its great, It has a handle so when i carry it i place it in the knob of the wimberley head and it acts as a shoulder pad, protecting my delicate skin when i have the camera and lens mounted on the tripod

Camo boots-I bought these as soon as i first saw them, I have always wondered why they were not invented and i have never seen them in Europe, They have a clear plastic over the toes for extra protection and when i first bought them they were bloody uncomfortable and need breaking in, Made from Goretex and have scent lock technology they are fit for purpose

Bum Bag/Fanny pack-A handy item for days when you just want to take a light load-maybe some extension tubes,extenders,a small lens or some food, There are also 2 bottles so you wont go thirsty, I am off to the Smokey Mountains next mouth and i will use this for trekking to waterfalls and keeping my Lee filters in-dead handy and something i wish i had when i used to shoot in the Swiss Mountains

For these items and more check out Cabelas, Dicks outdoors and Gander Mountain


Monday 21 September 2009

Canon 7D ready to ship

If you are one of the Lucky people to put your cash where your mouth is then you may have the new 7D in your hands by the end of next week, Its good when you dont have to wait long after the announcement
Details here

Pond Life

Back a few days ago I posted some images from the garden with a picture of a female Southern Hawker laying eggs. Well she came back to see us again yesterday and I got another few images.

This image was taken from that first session.

Here she is again, but I noticed on close inspection that she has lost two of her legs, just below her knees on the right hand side in the last week. It is the same dragonfly, as I have very carefully checked the spotting to be sure.

At one point, while laying on the grass waiting for her to land she buzzed by my head touching my ear with her very noisy wings, and even came into the lens hood on the 180 macro. She may have seen the reflection and come into to inspect - it certainly made a lot of noise as her wings clattered the plastic of the hood.


Sunday 20 September 2009


Its that time of years again-Deer hunting season here in the USA, That means that the shops are full of all sorts of camo gear from clothing to hides-In all shapes and sizes-even kiddies, There have been some new developments in the clothing line over the last couple of years with soft materials and scent locking technology, The soft materials make walking a silent affair and the scent lock technology means that less of your smell gets into the air,Pop up dome hides are around $60 each so there no reason not to have 2 or 3, If they do get stolen then its not the end of the world, Prices here in the states are very good compared to Europe but it possible to purchase on line and get things shipped over, Places worth a look on line are


Dicks sporting goods

Gander Mountain


Saturday 19 September 2009

Trip Report - Mothing at Monkwood, Worcestershire, Part 1

OK - hot off the press today, following my trip to Monkwood today with fellow members of Smethwick Photographic Society Natural History Group, I thought I would post some images.

As I mentioned here, last night was National Moth night, so with many thanks to Chris Betts for hosting us, and other members of the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, we turned up at his garden to inspect the findings from the moth trap.

With ID's confirmed by Chris, although only reviewed on the LCD on the back of the camera. All taken with the Canon 1Dmk3, plus Canon 180 f3.5L macro, except the Frosted Orange that had the Canon 100mmf2.8 macro.

Light Emerald

The Satellite

Frosted Orange

Blotched Emerald

September Thorn

I did get some butterflies as well, once the sun was up and warm and will post those in Part 2 of this trip report

Update: The first moth I had as a Pale Emerald is in fact a Light Emerald - many thanks for that Chris


Friday 18 September 2009

Diopter Adjustment

When you look through the viewfinder is the focus point and info at the bottom of the screen sharp? and do you have difficulty manual focusing?-if yes to both of these then you need to adjust the cameras diopter, This is very simple, There is a small wheel next to the viewfinder, it may be partly obscured by the eye cup, Look through the viewfinder and touch the shutter button so that the viewfinder info comes up as well as a focus point-now simply turn the diopter wheel until the info or focus point looks sharp-then its job done,when manual focusing if the image looks sharp then it will be, Auto focus is not affected at all by the diopter,if the info is blurry and you are using AF then the image should be in focus and sharp


Thursday 17 September 2009

A few random ramblings

Last week I received an interesting private message from a member from the EOS Magazine forum, and also reader of this blog.

He said this to me

" I am assuming from what I have seen on your blog and on various forums that you are the type of person who has a library of photographic and bird books . I am, as they say, downsizing. I have a couple of books that would intrigue you, you might have seen them or even have copies.

They are:

Birds in Action by Eric Hosking and Cyril Newberry. Published in 1949


Bird Photography as a Hobby by Eric Hosking and Cyril Newberry. Published in 1961

You are most welcome to have them"

Well I was gob-smacked by this kind offer and I said yes straight away.

I have had a quick look through them and they really are classics of their time. The photography is intriguing and fascinating, and incredible for the technology that was available at the time

I need to do a more thorough review of these books and would like, with the indulgence of Dave, my blog buddy make this our 300th post, as I think a landmark post always deserves an extra special subject.

So a massive thanks to Stan Castle - I never cease to be amazed at the kindness and generosity of people.


Many of you will have seen me promote the good work of Birdguides. I receive the email alerts of sightings in my area. This is a great time of the year as we get into various migration patterns with all sorts of rarities turning up. It is fascinating to see what is being sighted near you - so if you haven't already, I can recommend signing up to a fairly basic package and finding out what is happening.


I mentioned here a couple of weeks back that National Moth Night is coming up, as supported by the Butterfly Conservation group. All being well, I will be on a field trip with some other folk from the Smethwick Photo Society Nature Group this weekend, so with a bit of luck I can bring you some moth images - a proper first for me. More work with the 180 macro lens.


Wednesday 16 September 2009

Local Patch-Bonus Time

In answer to Martins post yesterday i am in the camp of DIY, I much prefer to do my own thing and find my own subjects whether its near home or abroad, The satisfaction of the DIY approach far exceeds being shown where and how to shoot a subject, You do your own fieldwork and use field craft which is something that you learn along the way-anyways

This week has had its ups and downs, I have continued to go to the Kingfisher perch but he seems to want to pose on every other perch around the lake, He is always in sight or hearing range but that's life and in time it will happen-persistence normally pays off, Last night i left the perch and walked towards the car, I stopped and watched the KF from a distance and 5 mins later he caught a fish and landed on the perch i had just left-DOH, The light was gone there anyways and it was good to see him still using it, Whilst waiting i noticed a large turtle half out of the water,He made a sudden dash and was nearly out of the water when he stopped, I didn't know what he was doing until a few minutes later a smaller (female) turtle scooted away from under him-so i got my first reasonable turtle shots in the bag-look close and you will see the smug look on his face
Yesterday morning i noticed a small flock of birds shoot out of the garden and when i looked outside a sharp shinned hawk landed in the tree, I grabbed the D3 and600+1.4x and grabbed a few shots from outside my back door, The light wasn't all that and thank god for image stabilisation, A beautiful bird and difficult to get on camera-bonus
Today i was back in my garden looking for spiders and found 8 webs with spiders on, I shot from every angle and changed various setting to try to get a different shot, One spider had a meal so i shot him eating and afterwards it repaired its web, Black and yellow garden spiders like the European wasp spider have a thick zig zag design in the center and it was this that the spider repaired, First it laid a thick multi strand web and then a single thread-incredible to watch and very difficult to shoot without a proper macro lighting system, You can see the multi thread web in the first image and then in the second spider image the back legs are holding the web whilst the spider lays thread fixing them together-amazing nature at its best
So far the week has been far from unproductive-maybe not what i had set out to get but so what


Tuesday 15 September 2009

What kind of photographer are you? - Part 2

Just over a week ago, I posed the question What kind of photographer are you?

In this instalment, I will cover the options I mentioned - Rent a guide, rent a hide or DIY.

Rent a guide is easy enough - Google is your friend here as are the many photography magazines. Outdoor Photographer is full of small ads at the back with individuals offering their services.

Typically her,e you can hire their services to take you to sites that they know of, which may well be publicly available sites, so you are paying for their knowledge, or they may have access to private sites, in which case you are paying for that privilege. Either way, they will basically do your fieldcraft for you, and probably advise you on set up as well.

This type of service may be of use if you are passing through an area and have very limited time, or haven't been able to get your own research completed ahead of your trip.

Rent a hide is a term I plagiarised from Mike Lane, our last Guest Photographer , who wrote a very good article for the Spring 2008 edition of The Iris, the in house magazine of The Royal Photographic Society Nature Group.

Again here Google is your friend, with a few key words around the subject you are interested in.

Scandinavia seems to be a great place to go, if your pockets are deep enough, where you can get access to hides for Golden Eagle, Osprey, boats for White Tailed Sea Eagles, Common Cranes, Brown Bear and many other species, such as Capercaillie and Goshawk - all the rare protected species essentially.

There is a sort of combination of the two, I suppose, where you end up going on holiday with your guide and getting the hide and the guide in one.

He will probably even take the pictures for you to save you getting up I suppose too (that was a joke by the way)

Finally, there is DIY. Do it yourself.

It is all down to you - the planning, the logistics, the travel, the research, finding the subjects, and getting access.

It takes longer, you may well not end up with anything, but then you can blame yourself for that.

But you can guarantee that the results will be all yours.

I am not going to air my judgements on what is best or appropriate - that is for the reader to make up their own mind.

I could have made this a much longer article, setting out all sorts of links to hides, guides, photo tourist sites and done it all for you - but maybe you should do that yourself.


Monday 14 September 2009

New Monster speed CF Cards

Sandisk,Transend and Photofast have all announced super speed CF cards-full details here

Time in the field

Today i was up early and down at the lake before sunrise, I set up in my usual Kingfisher spot but didn't really expect to get anything-why? well the sun rises behind me but the lake is surrounded by tall conifers, My side of the lake doesn't get any sun until after noon, I have yet to see the KF on my side of the lake in the early hours and i guess that's because its easier for the bird to see through water with light on it rather than in shadow-I was right, The KF was around all morning and never once came near me but was pretty much always in view, This was not a waste of my time as i spend alot of time observing my chosen subject-learning its habits and in the case of the KF when and where it likes to perch and fish, Over a period of time you can put together all the info that you have gathered over the weeks/months and then really get to grips with the shooting-where it comes as a matter of fact rather than hoping, I have done this with various subjects like badgers,fox,swans and grebes and all have ended up with a nice portfolio of each subject-project fashion-find a subject and work hard on it until you have all the material you need or carry it over to another year if your subject migrates/hibernates-Time in the field is very important if you want to be consistent


Sunday 13 September 2009

Done it!!

................................and now I am knackered.

Just made it under the hour - 59mins, 28 secs.

Thanks to those who have supported me.

Back to wildlife on my next post


Quick Update - The Run!!!

It is early Sunday morning - bright blue skies, and looking to be hot again.

Perfect!! - except if you are about to undertake the longest run of your life.

OK - so it is ONLY 10K, and not a marathon. But that is longer than I have done before.

Tee off is at 11.30 this morning - so bananas and water for breakfast

Many thanks to those who have contributed to my Justgiving fund - have nearly reached my initial target, so any more would be most welcomed if you are in a position to do so.

Will pop back in later for an update

For wildlife photographers - apologies that I have strayed off track with this post.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Local Patch-Kingfishers

Kingfishers can be very difficult birds to photograph but if you keep am eye on them and find their favorite perches then your chances of getting some shots in are very good as long as you either use a hide or some kind of concealment, The lake where i have been shooting is a very busy joggers lake so a hide is out, I dress in full camo and have made a small gap between the trees/bushes for the 600 to get a clean shot as well as making sure that the flash/beamer isnt obstructed, The bird that uses the perch is a male and unusual for a bird the males are more drab that the females, The Belted Kingfishers here in the states are big birds-similar to a blackbird size in Europe, I have managed a few sessions at the lake in the evening when the bird seems to use the perch, Early last week we had some rain which was good as the lake was very low but the increase in water height for some reason made the kingfisher arrive later, Instead of around 5.30pm it was coming at 6.30-7pm which meant very low light and shooting at ISO 1600 i was getting between 1/40 and 1/60, These low shutter speeds along with a 600 + 1.4x meant that if i was in any hope of getting a sharp image i would need to use a remote release cable and not touch the camera at all, So after composing the shot it was hands off and a quick shot with the remote and check the screen, This way of shooting means fewer images but 100% sharpness which is fine for me, Flash as well is the order of the day and the SB900 and better beamer has been working over time, The bird at this time of day is heavily back lit so a good burst of flash is needed to balance the front of the bird making sure that the bright white chest doesnt blow out, The kit works very well at sorting it out, I am using AV mode and compensating up to -1 2/3 to stop the neck from blowing then using the fill flash to lighten the bird hopefully without giving the impression of too much flash-a difficult balancing act and i am grateful for digital so i can quickly adjust the exposure if needed, I will continue to shoot this bird into the Fall (Autumn) and hope to get some shots with a nice golden background-fingers crossed


Friday 11 September 2009

Local Patch - Back in the Garden

Having had a couple of half days off this week, I found a little bit of time in between jobs to get a few photos taken at last. Having seen Common Darter, a male this time, and a female Southern Hawker this afternoon, thought it was time to dust off the camera.

The Hawker was great to watch, as she was busy egg laying all over the small log in the image. She even landed on my shoe as I sat cross legged by the pond, and tried to lay some on there too. It was great to see the compound eyes at such close quarters, and see the transparent outer layer.

Both of these are first in the garden, so again I am pleased with the work I put in last year digging out the pond.

I even had a few frogs pop up and say hello while watching too.

Common Darter (male)

Southern Hawker egg laying (female)

All shot with Canon 1Dmk3, plus Canon 180f3.5L macro. 580 EX flash for fill on the second image


Thursday 10 September 2009

Tiger crisis

More bad news about the Tiger from the David Shepherd wildlife foundation, Voted the worlds favorite animal and surely the most magnificent-The poaching continues

Tiger Crisis ...

Beleagured in the wild and with numbers as low as 1,400 in India, the tiger continues to live in crisis. With over 66 reported cases of tiger deaths in India this year alone, a Chinese State Forestry Administration document - which seemingly provides tiger farmers with a licence to make products from tiger parts - has sparked fears that the demand for wild tiger parts will create a boom among poachers.

Ashok Kumar, of the Wildlife Trust of India (with whom DSWF works) says that any relaxation of Chinese rules would have a catastrophic effect on the Indian tiger population. The Indian Government is sending a delegation to China to discuss the plight of the sub-continents tigers and with NGOs around the world gearing up for the Chinese Year of the Tiger in 2010, the eyes of the world will be watching and waiting to see whether our collective will can save the tiger from extinction in the wild.

"In the face of increased poaching, tough and effective anti-poaching operations are a major factor in protecting these precious cats," says DSWF CEO, Melanie Shepherd. "And, despite its proximity to illegal trade routes, your support means that DSWF has been hugely effective in protecting the wild tiger population in Kaziranga, Assam. But, it's vital that we maintain and increase our support if tigers are not to be consigned to history books and zoos."

Visit DSWF here

Spiders and Walmart

Each evening this week i have been up shooting the Belted Kingfishers at a local lake, During the days when i have some spare time i have been out in my garden shooting some spiders and bugs, There seems to be an abundance of yellow and black (wasp) garden spiders at the moment so i have been trying to shoot these at all sorts of angles, After shooting some yesterday i thought how nive they would look with some dew on the web like you get in the early mornings in Europe, We dont get much dew here so i thought i would make my own, I popped down to my local Walmart and purchased an atomiser or spray mister for the princely sum of 89 cents and this morning i took some straight on shots then gently sprayed a fine mist on to the spider and web, The spider took no notice and i thought that the water droplets gave the image an extra dimension, Either way the agency will have a choice of with and without

I noticed a spider next to one of the small bushes and noted that there was some of its left overs and a nice leaf caught in the web above it so i carefully set up and took a couple of shots, I checked them on the screen and thought the image would look better if i moved a foot to the left, This small move gives the image a much different cleaner look, I think with a little more work in processing-cleaning up the damaged leaf on the left and toning down the leaf above it will be a nice image and a good lesson in composition


Wednesday 9 September 2009

Business, Wildlife and Charity - Can they mix?

Yes and no. Like many things - it all depends!!

Fortunately, here in the UK, much of the new planning requirements place the emphasis on developers to carry out Habitat and Environmental Impact Assessments. Developers live in fear of having Bats and Great Crested Newts on their potential sites for that reason.

Clearly, we can all think of many examples where business is bad for wildlife. Major oil leaks from tankers create local disasters for sea life and seabirds, although nature can very often recover , provided the weather and conditions allow.

Many businesses take a far more proactive response to wildlife, and my own discussions recently with the Wildlife Trusts demonstrate that.

Where I work, we have a strong management protocol to look after our habitats and wildlife, as I mentioned on this blogpost, as to the lengths we went to manage the situation for a breeding pair of Great Crested Newts.

This brings me to the main point of today's post.

On Sunday I will be visiting Blyth Valley Business Park, near Solihull in the West Midlands, and hopefully completing a 10K fun run around the park, which has been sympathetically designed and layed out to help and assist nature and wildlife.

So I will be getting a close up view of 2.5K's worth of it - four times.

I have never done a run of this type, so thought I had better get on with it, as I was 50 this year, so now is as good as any other time.

I have done a bit of training, and hope to complete (un) comfortably in an hour.

I am setting out to raise money for the Marie Curie Cancer Care charity, which is the nominated charity of my work this year.

Here is my Just Giving link, so if you are in a position to and feel you want to, the charity will be grateful for any contributions, as will I be.

And then hopefully, I can get back there later in the year, and get some wildlife images from the Park.

Finally, a quick thanks and acknowledgement to Alex, over at Canon Fodder Forums, who was also happy to post my appeal.

Thanks for indulging me this once - I will try not to make a habit of it. It is too painful anyway.


Tuesday 8 September 2009

Lets Talk-A year in

Doesn't time fly, Last week we celebrated 1 year living in the States, Settling in to a new country takes time as well as finding your way around and likely photography sites, I have covered North Carolina from the beaches to the centre and up into the Smokie mountains, I have also shot in South Carolina,Tennesse and Colorado and shot birds from Hummingbirds to Hawks, Mammals from Bears to Beaver and reptiles and insects from Black widow spiders to Northern water snakes, The weather has been great-too hot really but we had some good snow in the winter which i love to shoot in, When we first moved over i instantly ordered a tonne of Nikon gear and over the year have steadily added to it, I have a new 70-200 VR on order and hope to have that before xmas and that will pretty much complete my lenses having the 14-24,27-70,70-200,200-400 and 600 plus extenders so covered for all eventualities, The Nikon gear has been great-truly great, I have never had such sharp images, The D300 has been brilliant for birds in flight and the D3 has to be the most versatile camera body available today, It was a good move getting a full frame and a cropped sensor-each have their place, The D3 for when i need to up the ISO and the D300 if i need some extra reach, I will be the first to admit that i have not used flash enough in the past but i use it alot now-mainly for fill in, The Nikon SB900 i find easy to use and very accurate, I know some people have had problems with it over heating but i havent suffered that fate-yet, I have used it for birds,community days and even a baby shower so the kit offers a lot of diversity, I have a week next month in the smokies where i hope to get some more landscapes in-the trees will be turning there so i hope i get lucky with all the colours, I am also after some good white tailed deer shots and know exactly where to go for those, I have a few days in New York as well next month so apart from a trip to B+H i will try to get some bird shots in, In the winter i will be back to the coast for all the snow geese and tundra swans as well as a bear or 2, So to sum it up its been a pretty good year, Lots of new gear, a new house, car and nice people and the amount of rainy days that you can count on your fingers, I haven't managed any grey fox images yet but i have a couple of sites to check out and they will be a priority come next spring


Monday 7 September 2009

News - More bad news, sadly

Had this just come through from the RSPB.

Please support it if you can.

Not a happy bunny reading that :-(

Birds of Prey - Help Stop the Killing now


Hardware & Software - Staying connected on the move

Well as regular readers of this blog will know, I am a strong protaganist of my Samsung NC10 Netbook, as I have written here.

I have been using for over six months now, and cannot recommend it highly enough.

One of the great benefits is the ability to stay 'connected' to the webworld while on the move.

So I needed to sort out mobile broadband. Like choosing a mobile phone, the right network and the right tariff are not the easiest to find.

Should we go contract pay monthly or pay as you go.

AS I have Orange mobile phone and broadband in the home, I started looking at tat option, but they didn't do Pay as you go (PAYG) then, and I didn't see the point in shelling out £15 per month for 18 months to be honest.

So I looked at the PAYG options. So what was it to be.

I checked out the coverage and the price per MB of download. Some charge for the dongle and some don't. Don't let a 'free' dongle fool you tho'

The one key thing you need to check is the 'lifespan' of your credit.

I found that 3, T mobile and O2 had a lifespan of 30 days, whereas Vodafone had 180 days, although you had to get £15 credit, and not £10.

Check out the best options here.

Well, after 180 days, I had used a total of £9 of my credit, so after a top up, I am back to £21 as they carry over your unused.

So if I had gone for a 30day option, it would have cost me over £60 rather than £15.

So check out the small print.

So as well as recommending the Netbook as a storage device, a mobile processor, , it is also a fantastic mobile comms. device, and it has enabled me to keep on blogging, chatting via Skype, MSN, and keeping up with my emails, while I have connectivity. Sadly, 3G coverage doesn't always extend to the more remote parts of the country. There is, as they say, always a compromise.

I appreciate we have many overseas readers of the blog, so check out the same sort of things when you are looking in your own countries.


Sunday 6 September 2009

Keep em peeled and take advantage

When i ever i am out i take a pair of binoculars with me, I always have my eye out for whats around me-even when i go to the shops i look at the birds nesting in the signs and when i see something of interest i will go back and work out the best way of getting good shots, A couple of weeks ago i was walking my dog around one of the local lakes when i looked over at a small dead tree that was on the opposite side, I could see a white blob on top so i stopped and looked through the 'bins' and noticed a Belted Kingfisher on the top, Firstly i was very excited by this as i had only seen one since moving here a year ago and secondly i was very surprised as this is an incredibly busy place with dog walkers and joggers every minute of the day, I made my way around to where the dead tree was and found a small track through the lakeside trees that fishermen had handily made, The kingfishers instantly saw me and flew off, I kept it in mind and would look at the tree when ever i was there, A couple of days ago after seeing the bird there again i decided that mornings would be best for the light and set up early,3 hrs later and nothing so before leaving i thought it best to be totally hidden and made a hole on the trees and bushes for the lens to poke through, I returned that afternoon and set up, I took a few test shots but now the light was in front of me meaning that the bird would be back lit, I would need fill flash and so put the flashgun and better beamer on and fired off a couple of test shots to make sure that the light hit the perch through the foliage and that the exposure was ok, I was concerned that if i gave too much flash that the whites of the bird would burn out, I was also concerned that the flash would spook the bird and that it would fly off after one shot, I was there about 45 mins when the bird arrived and landed on the perch, Luckily it was facing me, I let it settle and then took a shot, The bird jumped but stayed put, so after checking the screen for exposure and making sure that there were not any highlights blinking i carried on, The bird stayed about 1.5hrs and in that time i managed 187 shots, It also caught 2 fish, I noticed that when i caught a fish i would land back on the perch for a few seconds before going to another branch sticking out of the water to beat its brains in and swallow it before coming back, I will need to have a look and see if its at all possible to get a position on the other branch as its very low to the water and you will get nice a reflection, So an amazingly succesful first session and i will be back tonight for another go, I have some shots that i would like in mind so now i have some shots in the bag maybe time to be abit more adventurous, I used the Nikon D3 body as the light would be low, Now everybody nows what a great camera this is and how good it is at high ISO,Well i started shooting at ISO 400 and soon upped that to 800 but i still like to keep the ISO as low as i can so i dropped the ISO back to 400 and once i had the focus point over the birds eye i would use a remote cable to fire the shot so getting a sharp image at very low shutter speeds for the length of the lens (600+1.4x), The shots here were about 1/60 @ F11

Saturday 5 September 2009

Views - What kind of photographer - Part 1?

Just a short philosophical blog post today.

So are you a photographer that likes to shoot wildlife (photographically speaking), or are you interested in wildlife that likes to photograph it?

Why does it matter?

Well it doesn't really, at least not to me.

However, where things can come unstuck for the former category is when one goes blindly trying to capture some images without consideration for the welfare of the subject.

We have said many times through this blog that the welfare of the subject always comes first, and will continue with that mantra.

The other area of course for the former is that identification and understanding of behaviour can be difficult, but of course it can be learned. There are so many books and web resources, far too many to name here that lack of ID for the overwhelming majority of stuff can be done by a bit of self research.

I guess I was probably a bit of both. I loved my wildlife, and I liked photograph, but until I could afford some half decent kit, I tended to watch wildlife and photograph other things.

OK - as I said just a short one today. But would be good to hear a bit of feedback with your views, and we know that there are lots of you these days, looking at the analytics.

In part 2 that I will do next week, I will delve a bit more into types of wildlife photographer. I will look at rent a hide, rent a guide and DIY.


Friday 4 September 2009

Photomatix HDR software

HDR or high dynamic range has been popular for sometime, Its where you take an image at a variety of different shutter speeds and blend them together to make an image that would be impossible in camera due to the huge difference in the tonal range, A scene where the sky is bright but the foreground is dark for instance, When i was in Colorado in June i took some scenic shots with HDR in mind but have only recently purchased the software to do it, I have tried HDR in Photoshop but the images never really came out the way i had hoped, Photomatix name comes up time and time again and seems to be 'the' HDR software so that's what i purchased, The software is very easy to use
1.Take the images that you want to process under generate HDR, In the image below i shot 5 images with the camera bracketing shots at -2,-1,0,+1 and +2 so i had a well exposed image and then under and over exposed images giving me a good range of tones
2.Once you have clicked ok you get a menu where you can tick boxes for aligning image,reduce CA,reduce noise and ghosting and change white balance etc if needed
3,Once you click OK it will blend all the images together and come up with an image which looks truly awful-full of blocked shadows and blown highlights, but if you place the cursor over the image it will show you what the image will look like in the small window
4,Click on the Tone Mapping button
5, Now the image has been transformed,There are 2 tabs at the top 1 says Details Enhancer and the other Tone compressor, The detail enhancer gives a Paintery effect and the Tone compressor is more like a photograph, For the landscapes i took i quite liked the paintery effect as long as you don't over do it
6,The screen on the left gives a list of things to play around with so you can customise the image as you like, Once you have moved a slider you can either click on the 'show original' tab above the image to see what the image was like or just click on the go back button at the bottom to go to the previous setting,
7, Keep an eye on the histogram top left when making adjustments
8,You can click on the image and a loup screen comes up so you can take a closer look
9, Once you are happy press the Process button the image is ready to be saved
10, Open up in photoshop and finish levels,sat etc
The software is very intuitive and not expensive at $99
Its still early days for me using this but the results so far are OK

Here are 3 images
The first is normal processing in PS-No HRD
The second is HDR using Detail Enhancer (paintery effect)
The third is HDR using Tone Compressor

3 very different looking images from the same RAW files,HDR images can look very over done if you are not careful but like all processing if you are subtle with the changes it can really enhance your images

And here is an example of where HDR software comes into its own, Again in Colorado, I shot this scene but to stop the snowy mountain tops blowing out i had to under expose the foreground and the tree area was dark, If i had used the traditional ND Grad filter to even the sky and foreground out i would have ended up with the tops of the near mountains and the top of the trees darker than the rest which would have looked unnatural, By blending the images in Photomatix HDR software i now have detail in the sky/mountains and the tree/foreground area


Thursday 3 September 2009

Looking Ahead - Fungi Season

OK today is a 7D free day - I am bored of it now!! :-)

So September is here already and as I look back at the year it really has flown by. The last three months have been a bit of a blur as I have been far too engrossed in decorating the house, but the end of that is is in sight, thank goodness.

So my thoughts can once again turn to getting out with my camera.

The fungi season is around the corner, as you will have seen from Dave's post last week on perspective.

Fungi is a great subject and half the fun is trying to identify what you have taken. One of the great resources that one of the EOS Magazine forum members alerted me to a couple of years ago is Roger's Mushrooms. It is a fantastic site with a great guide with visual and descriptive clues to help you identify your subjects.

He has also written a great book, see link below, that is worth having on your bookshelf.

Fungi has really got to be the easiest of all the natural history subjects to photograph. Why? Well it doesn't run or fly off, you can get right up to it, it won't bite you, and it doesn't tend to flap about about in the breeze. The biggest challenge of course is getting the right light conditions, but again with reflectors, tin foil etc. you can manage that too.

Take care if you are out and about though, and it is worth going out in at least two's from a safety/security perspective. And if you are laying down in the leaf mould, don't suddenly get up when the dog walkers appear, you will probably scare them witless.

Happy Fungi Forays


Wednesday 2 September 2009

Canon 7D-My take

Well the forums have gone mad-more so than normal with the announcement of a new camera body-even the Canon boys seem up in arms at the specs-18 mp in a crop sensor, This does seems excessive after the 50D which although an outstanding camera at low ISO-up to 400 but horribly noisy after that, My guess is that Canon have aimed this body as a back up for the Pro and not a new 60D for the mass market,Canon seem to get their panties in a twist sometimes and although they say they listen to photographer's i feel that their marketing men still have the last say, They know a thing or 2 about sensors and pixels-the new 5D2 shows that but they don't seem to be looking at the bigger picture,Nikon seems to have one over on them here, When the D3 was announced it had less pixels than the D2X it replaced but on a bigger sensor-it took a while for people to understand what Nikon where up to until the first real tests took place and then BOOM,I think Canon could have taken a lead here by using 12-14 MP with the latest sensor technology and announced a crop sensored body with the ISO capabilities of the Nikon D3, Now i know high ISO isn't everything-what did we do in the old days of film/slide when we somehow managed with ISO 50 and 100 as standard and dare not use ISO 400 as the grain was like pebbles, If you shoot at ISO 200-400 then i would think the 7D is going to be right up your street, I would use it as a backup as that's exactly what i do with my D300, I don't shoot that over ISO 400 and as soon as the sun comes up the D3 comes off and the extra length (crop) of the D300 takes over, But i am a nature photographer and we will have to wait until the camera is in capable hands before we can see if the 7D is going to be in any nature photographers bag, There are some nice features on the 7D which as always will filter down to the cheaper cameras-obviously video but even that's changeable,the built in level as per the Nikon D3 will be a welcome addition for Canon togs, I love the new live view button-good move there as a quick push will bring the live histogram into play so you can check your exposure before taking a shot,A nice big viewfinder as per Nikon's D300 and the built in flash with transmitter as per D300 (I bet there are a few Nikon's in pieces in Canons HQ) and decent weather proofing show that this is a camera for the experienced tog , One problem for me is the single card slot-2 would be nice especially on high MP cameras even the new D300S has 2, I was surprised the 5D2 has only 1, I guess most people will wait until the new AF system is tested before rushing out with their credit cards after the 1D3 debacle,I am surprised abit with the battery grip, I would have liked to see it take a 1D3 battery as opposed to 2 smaller ones, As i say this looks a good back up body to a pro body and a pro battery makes sense-1 charger when you go away and the same spares if needed-even Nikon do this with the D3/D300/D700, It looks quite a complex camera-more so than the 1D3 and high customisable, Since my move to Nikon Canon togs have said that they didn't like the ergonomics of the Nikon system and that there are way too many buttons-well have a look at the 7D-12 buttons on the back compared to 8 on the D300 and 11 on the D3-maybe Canon wanted to win that battle as well, Screens have come along way since the early Dslrs and the 7D outdoes the recent 5D2 which shows as soon as you buy something its out of date but its all good news for the rest of us-screen res is very important and knowing that something is sharp and not hoping its sharp is great,But at the end of the day the proof of the pudding will be in the IQ and i guess we are all looking forward to seeing if both IQ and AF work as well as Canon hope although with so many Nikon features maybe it should be called a Nikcan!!
One things for sure as soon as the dust settles then people will start talking about the 3D/8D or whatever

Tuesday 1 September 2009

News - Canon 7D & 100 f2.8 IS L macro lens

So the next Canon body and a new macro lens have been announced.

Firstly some thoughts about the new body. It is an 18MP, APS-C sensor size, so a 1.6 crop, at 8fps, ISO up to 12800, 100% viewfinder, 19 cross type AF points, with centre one f2.8 sensitive, a new metering system, dual Digic 4 processing, full HD movie mode, a new 3" LCD screen, an integrated wireless flash transmitter and some environmental protection. More details here.

So is it a scaled down 1D type? Well here are some first thoughts from me.

Apparently Canon sought the views of 5000 photographers to arrive at this spec. Well I see the views of lots of photographers on a number of forums and nobody has been going on about the need for even more mega pixies. Apparently, there are new gapless sensors and better signal to noise processing at the sensor sites. Well forgive my cynicism, but they said that when they launched the 50D, a 1.6 crop with 15MP twelve months ago. Now I tried that body out earlier this year when I went to Mull in February. Sure the AF was pretty good and an improvement, although never found too much wrong with the 40D with good fast glass on it. But the noise was appalling and definitely a retrograde step.

So I will reserve judgement, but on the face of it, it looks like a step further the wrong way. Most views I see are asking for less noise and a greater dynamic range - so Canon stop falling for your own marketing hype and give more credence to those views.

However, there are some really good new additions, on paper, to this body. I like the idea of grid and level overlays in the viewfinders - finally caught up with Nikon on that.

If there really is better noise performance with ISO capabilities up to 12800, that too will be a good move.I personally have never found too much wrong with the Canon metering system, or maybe there is I can work my round it without thinking about it - but OK if necessary then.

Any AF improvements are always worth having, and I guess 1D users will be happy for a different type of user to trial the AF before the next 1 series gets launched.

Dual Digic 4 I guess is needed to handle that amount of data at that frame rate, particularly at 14bit.

Full HD movie mode - well you either want it or you don't. As a wildlife shooter, I can see the benefits, particularly when we are shooting interesting behaviours.

The integrated wireless flash transmitter could be great - my only reservation would be on how easy it will be to use in practice. Will it be multi levels down in the sub menus or easily button pushable, like the STE-2 already is?

There is also talk of better environmental protection. So is it capable of being used in heavy rain or not?

Time will tell.

I see it is up at £1699 rrp in the UK. Well again, I would not get to worked up over that, although many will. Time and availability will drive the price down to more realistic levels.

Just wish they really would listen to photographers, instead of saying they do, and just stick to sensible MP numbers and giving us better noise and dynamic range.

On the lens front, there are a couple of new Ef-S zooms. Aren't there always!!!

But the best looking is the new 100mm f2.8 IS L macro lens. At last, it has an L category, and IS will be a welcome addition.

But again I would say that if Canon were really listening to customers, then where is the replacement 100-
400. The Canon community are still waiting.