Saturday 31 October 2009

News - The killing goes on

A couple of years ago I remember posting about the wanton destruction of numerous birds every year on the island of Malta on the old EOS forums.

Each year on the migrations in both Spring and Autumn, birds are decimated by shooters. There is no discimination and many rare birds and raptors are wiped out. Turtle Dove populations are particularly vulnerable.

Over at Birdguides, the full story can be read here. It is sad and tragic and Bird Life International are doing a good job but it just seems like an unequal struggle.

It is outrageous that this is happening in Europe and I wish the EU would do something with the bloated billions of taxpayer monies that they receive.


Friday 30 October 2009

Canon profits

Well anybody how has recently purchased photographic equipment will know how much new gear has gone up
Last year i purchased a Nikon 200-400 for $5100, Today its $6300 and my 600mm F4VR has gone up $700, When Canon announced the 1D MK3 it was around 3000GBP but the new MK4 is 4500GBP, Everybody blames the yen against the dollar, well Canon have announced their profits and it shows that although sales are down profits are up showing that's its not all about falling currency and just upping prices to allow for falling sales, Not too many companies can increase prices 30-50% in a recession and get away with it, more details here


Canon 1D MK4 Price revision in Switzerland

I still get news from Canon Switzerland even though i ask them not to send it, Today i received a mail saying:

EOS 1D Mark IV: Prix de vente conseillé définitif CHF 7'148.-


Veuillez noter que jusqu'à présent, nous avions communiqué un prix de vente conseillé de CHF 8'148.- pour l'EOS 1D Mark IV. Le prix de vente conseillé définitif est de CHF 7'148.- et les conditions pour les revendeurs restent inchangées.

Basically its says :
Want to note that so far, we had communicated a price of advised sale of CHF 8'148.- for the EOS 1D Mark IV. The advised final sale price is CHF 7'148.- and the conditions for the dealers remain unchanged.

This works out to be about 4300GBP or 7000USD

I dont know if Canon Suisse got their prices wrong the first time or if this is a price reduction


Thursday 29 October 2009

Views - Unpaid Beta Testing

One of the things that the ageing process justifies, in my opinion, is that getting grumpy and cynical is OK. Experience, and in particular bad experience makes it so.

It was while mulling over a few things while relaxing in the bath the other night after a tough running session at the athletics track that I couldn't help think that either the major camera manufacturers are taking the buying public for mugs and making the most of it while they can, or that the buying public are mugs for putting up with it.

OK I hear you ask, just what is he banging on about today?

Well it seems that all the main manufacturers are now just happy to get new kit launched on the basis of doing the barest minimum of testing.

For this I cite the numerous problems we see that resulted in new firmware shortly after product launch of the 1dmk3, 5Dmk11 and the 7D already with two updates.

It is not fair to just pick on Canon as Nikon have had their issues too.

But for me the double whammy situation is that the way that the pricing structure works is that those poor sods (mugs??) that buy early end up paying the most and doing the field testing.

So if you are an early adopter, be prepared for problems and to pay top whack for the pleasure.

Now if you are listening Canon and Nikon and the rest of you why not try this out.

For the first couple of thousand or so early adopters, let them have the kit at half RRP as the price you should pay to avoid carrying the full testing that you know you should have done before you launched

You would get so many advocates that your subsequent sales would increase.

Anyway, please send us your pictures of the flying pigs as there will be much more chance of that.

Oh yes, and in case you were wondering 'Athletics track?' Yeah yeah - I was 50 this year and the last time I was on one of those I had a 1 at the front of my age


Wednesday 28 October 2009

Phase One announce Capture One Pro 5

An updated version of this popular software here


WPOTY Winners

Abit late in posting this but for those who havent seen the winners from this years Wildlife photographer of the year see here
On a personal note i would like to say a big congrats to Danny Green


Work the area

I visited one particular spot on a small river in the smokey mountains, It was extremely scenic and the trees were nice shades of yellow, The first time i arrived there was already a photographer there, I let her shoot whilst i had a quick look around at various angles imagining the images in my mind, She took some shots at track level and went, I say track level as we were above the river-see the image above, I shot a few images and some more photographers arrived and took the same image, I worked that part of the river and then decided i would return and try again in different conditions and when the area was quieter, This one particular stretch of river seemed to have unlimited possibilities but all the photographers that i watched shooting there all took the same images, I returned and when the area was free i clambered down the bank and set up at water level and spent a pleasurable hour shooting all kinds of angles of the same scene and still felt that i hadn't covered half of what a good landscaper could walk away with, Here are a few of the images taken-all HDR of the same scene, I shot the whole time with my D3 and 24-70, I used a Lee filters Circular poloriser to reduce the reflections and enhance the colours, My camera was set to manual mode and daylight white balance, I took test shots to get a perfectly exposed image and then bracketed both side +/- 1 and 2 stops giving 5 images in HDR to create one, In the portrait mode image i also used a 2 stop Lee grad filter at an angle to tone the bright trees on the right of the image, Landscapes don't move so you can take your time and explore the scene,If the area is a good one make sure you return at different times of the day/year and in different conditions


Tuesday 27 October 2009

Watch out for........Pied Wagtails

It is fairly regular at this time of year to see large gatherings of Pied Wagtails at dusk time.

Where I work, an area that has large areas of industrial roofs and large areas of tarmac, interspersed with grassy areas, it has been a popular haunt for them as long as I can remember.

It is great to watch them doing their little floating upwards hover type manoeuvres, and seeing them running at high speed on the ground, their little legs pounding faster than an Olympic sprinter.

Supermarket car parks are another place to watch out for them too - both of the main ones in Stratford have regular flocks.

You will also be able to readily see the difference between mature adults and this years juveniles from their plumage too.

Check out the details in the Collins Black Book - link below if you don't have it. An essential for UK and European Birds.


Canon 7D service advisory

Another firmware on the way

Monday 26 October 2009

The D3 goes back (again)

As i mentioned in my last post the D3 had given me the CD error again when i was away, Nikon sent me the postage labels after discussing the problems so today it will be posted back, So having the D3 for 1 year its the second trip back for repair-sounds bad but doesnt bother me, Firstly i have the D300 as a backup and secondly the D3 problem is only with using the second slot so i could continue to use it, i tested this out yesterday by shooting with the first slot only-no problem, i then put a full card in the first slot and shot for a while with images being written onto the second card and then it showed the cd error again, Once again Nikon have been very proffessional on the phone asking the right questions and acting in a calm manner, Picking up the tab for shipping (canon never did) and telling me that any repairs will not cost me a penny, I guess it will be away 7-10 days like before and in that time i will get them to clean the sensor, When i first moved to Nikon i feel in love with the D300 but as time has gone on the D3 is the one i use first and only use the D300 when i need some extra reach, In the last couple of weeks i have shot landscapes, wildlife,portraits in the studio and some stock images and all with the D3 which just shows what a versatile camera it is


Sunday 25 October 2009

Rain stopped play!!!

OK so not photography but painting.

In a desperate race against time, trying to get my front window frames painted and weather protected before the winter weather sets in, I suppose I should have done them a couple of months back.

While up the ladder this morning before the rain set in, it was a good time to reflect on my nature observations from earlier in the morning while out running.

Warwickshire, like many places is beautiful in bright early morning autumn light - great colours, great skies and fresh air all helped to take my mind off the pains in my legs.

The quiet lanes, tracks and hedgerows were buzzing with bird life today and it was a pleasure to see and hear skylarks, corn bunting, yellowhammer, green and great spotted woodpecker, redwings, flock of 250+ lapwing, numerous wren, long tailed tits, most of the corvidae as well as the more common species that one always see.

Yesterday, I went to a meeting put on by the BTO with a number of other keen birders to go through the work need to put in the Bird Atlas.

The project is now a couple of years in and involves collecting and registering roving records and timed tetrad visits to count and record species.

I half completed my work last year so will look to complete one of my local tetrad for the breeding birds survey so will finish that off for wintering and add another tetrad that I can also walk into from my house.

So another thing to keep me occupied and doing my bit for wildlife.


Saturday 24 October 2009

A week away reflected

The week didn't go to plan, The fall colours in the Smokey's were behind and wont be 100% for another week and even then many trees have been dropping leaves so will be bare, Its because of the long wet period before i went, It seems that by this time of year there is a cold period with frosts and that sets the colours off, Don't get me wrong we did find some very nice places to shoot with good yellows and golds but not the mass of colours normally expected, The snowfall at altitude made many trees shed their leaves before turning-theres always next year and i will be there for the last 2 weeks of oct to make sure i get the full spectacle
My D3 had problems again and will be going back to Nikon in the next couple of days, I phoned Nikon yesterday and they are sending over return labels so it doesn't cost me a penny and they have agreed that any repairs will be free of charge
Canon announced the new MK4 and looking through the specs there are some good and some bad things, Canon say that they listen to their customers but this is clearly not the case, If they did they could do 2 things to make them happy-put a box around the histogram and have a dedicated MLU button, I thought the on/off button on the 7D was an improvement over previous models-Ala Nikon but on the MK4 they have gone back to the old position, There are a couple of nice features on the 7D that didn't make it to the pro model which to me is pure madness-surely the pro models especially at this price should be all singing all dancing but not in this case, I also think that Canon should have made this body full frame with a cropping option-Ala Nikon D3s, This would have kept everybody happy and helped by having bigger pixels and better noise, The huge ISO is just to keep up with the competition and images i have seen at max ISO are hideous, Images at ISO 1600 seem to be about the limit for usability i.e agency work, Again the poof of the pudding will be in the image quality and AF, I read a statement by Canon about the new AF system in the MK4 and they all but trashed the AF in the MK3-Just what existing MK3 customers want to read
So now its time for me to start downloading and processing-the bain of the digital photographer


Friday 23 October 2009

More Garden fungi

Well it looks like this weekend could be a good time to get out fungi hunting. The recent rains have helped and there are various bits of fungi popping up all over my garden now, all sprouting from various bits of dead wood.

The first image is on a mossy log that I have in my reflection pond, the second is in a crack from a tree stump that I use as a feeding platform for the birds, and the last one is at the base of another log stump feeding platform.

For all of these images, I use my standard fungi macro technique which is this.

Set up camera on tripod - you have plenty of time and the subject won't run away from you.

Then with Live view enabled, I set the 5X magnification, histogram showing to verify the exposure in M mode, depress the DOF preview button and use the toggle to scroll the 5 x view around to make sure all key elements are in focus. Then either use the remote release or set the self timer to 2 seconds delay.

Finally, just before I depress the shutter button I use a bit of silver kitchen foil to reflect light into the right places.

All taken with Canon 1Dmk111 and Canon 180 f3.5L macro lens


Thursday 22 October 2009

Keep an open mind and an open eye

The last few mornings have seen me sitting under dark starry Tennessee skies waiting for the gates to open at Cades Cove, I used to enjoy star gazing and thought that i would stop looking and try and get a shot, I put the 14-24 on the D3 and fixed it to my tripod and made sue everything was strapped tightly down, i used a remote cord and set the camera to manual exposure and wound the dial down to 'bulb' Then it was a matter of taking a test shot which meant holding the remote down and counting, i started at 20 secs and worked my way through to 45 seconds, I couldn't see anything through the view finder so i set the lens to manual and to infinity,Orion is very visible in the early morning sky so i made sure to get that in, I made sure that there was some tree tops in the image giving some depth to the scene, there have been lots of shooting stars the last few mornings but i never managed to get one in the image, The line on the image is a plane, If nothing else it gave me something to do whilst waiting and gave me a chance to practice with some long exposure times


Wednesday 21 October 2009

News - Bodies and OS

So finally the rumours can stop along with all the speculation about the 1Dmk111 replacement, that I mentioned yesterday as the worlds worst kept secret is unveiled.

I am not going to spend loads of time repeating the details of the specs. as they are loads of links out there. A couple worth looking at are here from Canon UK and a particularly good bit of detailed analysis from Rob Galbraith here.

What do I like?

16MP - is about where I think would be reasonable for a 1.3 crop.

Higher ISO capability - although as per usual I would need to see the results, but the claim for an extra 4 stops would be great. Usable ISO6400 would be a significant step forward.

All new AF system with all points user selectable - plus a whole load of other controls - see the Galbraith article and this link here from Canon USA plus redesigned AI servo system - provided it all works OK - really don't want to have deja vu again.

Same body, same controls and same battery as Mark3.

What do I detest?

The price!!! This is an outrageous hike.

The 1Dmk3 launched at £3000 rrp and quickly the prices stabilised out and settled to a low of £2300 before Gordon Brown did his best to ruin the £ exchange rate at the beginning of this year.

With the 1DmkIV launching at £4500 rrp this is a massive 50% hike, so even when it has stabilised out in the UK market it is still going to be at significantly higher costs.

OK so there is the '1D lite' version in the 7D - but no thanks - not all those pixels on a 1.6 crop body.

I think Canon are well off the mark here with this pricing and it does not sit well when compared with the Nikon equivalent.

However, as far as I concerned this is all pretty academic at this point in time as I will not be an early adopter of any new Canon product after the 1Dmk3, as I am very happy for others to do the testing - I have earned my scars already, and of course the beta testers always pay top whack for the privilege.

The other bit of news today is Windows 7 is due out. Having checked out the specs. and upgrade routes, I will hang fire on my main PC as a back up, full install and reinstall of apps is required.

Not sure I can face that prospect, as XP is pretty good for me these days.

I may take the less risk option and do the upgrade on the Netbook after a while to see what it is like on there.


Tuesday 20 October 2009

Smokey Mountains-sun sun sun

Well what a difference a day makes, After the wet conditions we now have bright sunlight after a misty cold morning, I have spent the last couple of days shooting white tails, Conditions today were fantastic with some deer appearing out of the fog, Its also a landscapers paradise with mist in the valleys and snow on the mountain tops along with the fall colours, Lots of people here are the main problems with some idiots chasing deer to get shots-nearly had a fight yesterday after some prat run up to deer that i was shooting and chased them into the woodland without any thought of what i was doing,there is no need here,the deer are used to people and very calm
I will post some images once i am back at home as i have very bad connectivity here and am at present sitting in the car outside the motel office as that's the only place i get any any sort of Internet access

On another note i see Martin beat me to the MK4 news-initial specs look very good but time will tell, Note that there is already a firmware upgrade for the 7D


The answer is yes!

I posed this question yesterday.

Details here.

Specs look great - price looks appalling.

I expect Dave will have more to say and I will with time


Monday 19 October 2009

Is tomorrow the day...................

..................for the announcement of the replacement for the Canon 1Dmk3? There are certainly plenty of rumours around with a possible announcement tomorrow.

One thing is for certain, if you thought that the 7D got plenty of noisy airtime on the forums, I would expect that the 1DmkIV or is it V (apparently 4 is unlucky in Japan - although I think all the bad luck hit the Mark3) will almost certainly make significantly more.

I certainly won't be leaping up for any replacement just yet. Once bitten twice shy when it comes to being a beta tester for Canon when they launch new kit.

Two reasons - bugs and price. It usually always take quite a while for the prices to drop to something more stable, at least here in the UK anyway.

Unless Canon did actually listen to the comprehensive feedback I gave them when they asked a good few months ago after the last recall?

But then I think I am wise enough to know the answer to that one, so will keep breathing.


More Local Patch - Garden

Last week I was asking where all the fungi was.

Well I only had to look in my back graden.

Here are a couple of mycena species that I spotted that had popped up.

They were resident on some small bark offcuts that were lying around, so with their portable home I was able to put them in a more convenient location to photograph, and put a bit of moss as carpet. Cheating ? - yes of course, and in this case it makes for a better image than where they were located.

But then I have gone and told you all now - so at least I am being honest with you.


Sunday 18 October 2009

Smokey Mountains-wet wet wet 2

Today was an improvement over yesterday, The rain stayed most of the day but I had changed my plans to match, Instead of joining the masses at Cades Cove I had a lie in and after breakfast went to a small lane that runs at the side of the river, here were many rapids and small waterfalls and at the end after a 15 min hike a larger fall, the tree colours here were great, not the deep reds but various shades of yellow/gold, The inclement weather was good for this type of work where low shutter speeds are the name of the game, I would normally fit a polariser filter to saturate the colours and slow the shutter speed down but due to the rain and low light I decided against it, The only reason I would have liked it would be to take the shine off of the rocks, So all was well with the world-not quite, After taking a couple of hundred images in sequences of 5 for HDR the D3 packed up giving me the cd Error again, I had this problem in Colorado in June and the body had been sent back to Nikon for repair, It seems to me that the problem lies with the 2nd card slot and it was the same then, I havent had a chance since to shoot enough to fill the 1st card and spill over to the 2nd until today, Unfortunatly for me I didn’t have any other cards on me and it only happened after I had climbed down to the base of a waterfall and I only managed 3 images which luckily were enough for an HDR image-see below, Tomorrow will see the last of the bad weather with a chance of frost and snow on the higher ground and after that clear skies and sunshine for the rest of the week, Monday will see me back in Cades Cove for the white tails, Once again these images were processed on my uncelebrated laptop


Saturday 17 October 2009

Local Patch - Quick Garden update

With the full effects of autumn in place, the garden is now in need of some work.

I let all the planting of last year run its course this year, so I am cutting back strips to clear back down to ground level to let nature take it's course once again as space and light comes available to other seeds that are laying dormant in the soil. I will leave other areas long until the growing season starts again to give refuge to the wildlife that is still out there.

The hedgerows established themselves well this year and have coped with the dry conditions, with the exception of the holly I put out as it was rooted in potting compost that dried out earlier in the spring.

The regular birds are still here, with the addition of a solitary Blackcap the other day and a Green Woodpecker also flew through last weekend.

I am hoping the Grey Wagtails find their way back soon, as I have recently seen them about half a mile away by the Avon in Stratford.

Friday 16 October 2009

Smokey Mountains-wet wet wet

Firstly my apologies for any bad English in my previous posts, My time lately has been extremely limited and many posts have been made late at night with the few minutes i have had-so bear with me
Yesterday was another long day-traveling across country,over the NC smokey mountains to Tennessee, I dropped my bags and drove to a place called Cades Cove, Its a very historic place with early settlers dwellings still in place, I came here in April and shot the wild turkeys in their mating plumage, Now i am here for the 'fall' colours and some white tailed deer, late yesterday afternoon i did a quick drive around the 11 mile loop road and was surprised by the lack of wildlife so today up very early and made my way to the gate and in front of me-15 cars and it was still an hour to opening, by the time the gate was opened there were 40+ cars,what a nightmare,The road is very narrow and as soon as somebody sees something they stop instead of pulling over so its a constant traffic jam, The weather was very miserable and raining, I stopped to shoot some close by Bucks but had to shoot as ISO 1600 and 3200 wide open at F4, a guy next to me was shooting with a Canon 300F4 with a 2x on and i guess all his stuff will be in the bin when he views them-mine were, i decided to call it a day early and left to check out some landscape/waterfall areas, i took a few images and did a quick HDR on some,My laptop isn't calibrated so excuse any colour errors, At one of the waterfalls there were some fungi growing out of a tree trunk so used the 14-24 to good use
I am now going to spend a couple of hours driving around looking for some areas to shoot over the next week


Thursday 15 October 2009

Views - More on Pixels (Yawn!!!!!)

Just a quickie tonight as I am going out to a music gig. I suppose there is a tenuous wildlife connection. The band is called Talon - they are a cover group of The Eagles.

So having thought about the various philosophies that have been adopted by Canon and Nikon when I comes to mega pixies, I face a personal dilemma.

I am about to upgrade my mobile phone to the new Sony Ericsson Satio - it has a 12MP camera - not that that is the reason I am buying it, I just like SE mobiles, and I am due an upgrade. And no, I am not falling for the marketing hype of expensive style over substance offerings from a certain fruit company either :-)

Now if I were to adopt the Canon mindset that MP's are everything, then I need to get shot of my 1Dmk3 as it only has a mere 10MP, so surely the SE will be better by that analogy.

And the 1Dmk3 can't even make calls or make text's to boot!!!

Of course I jest, but my point remains that despite what Canon think we want as users, Nikon seems to be the manufacturer that is listening to photographers and not their own marketeers.

Now maybe Canon will prove me wrong next week when the 1Dmk4 is expected to be announced - but I certainly do not want or need more than 15MP. Not at the expense of good basic camera performance on professional quality kit.

I just want low noise performance at high ISO's - and pixel cramming doesn't work as has been shown by the results from the Canon 50D and early feedback on the 7D. Canon even know this themselves as evidenced by the new G11 where they have down sized the pixel count.

I also want an fast accurate AF system that works on subjects that move and in low light.

And I want more dynamic range.

I know I am not alone in this - let's wait until next week to see if Canon have ears


Wednesday 14 October 2009

Nikon D3s in the field

Check out Vincent Murniers images taken whilst testing the new D3s-Yes ISO 12800 is grainy but probably no more than ISO 800 film/slide-incredible

see here


Nikon announces the New D3s

Its been talked about for weeks but today Nikon announced the new revised D3-The D3s, Nikon sometimes adds an 'S' model to extend the life of a current model for another year or so, But i feel this is slightly different, Instead of just adding video like the D300 and a couple of small tweeks the new D3s has a new sensor which takes the ISO range up to a whopping and incredible 102 400-making flash all but redundant, I recently read that Sony who makes the sensor as new technology that help increase ISO but moving wires to the back of the sensor instead of in the layers of its make up and i guess this is the first of what i guess will be a new wave of higher ISO models, The D3Xs will certainly be a worth contender for it as it will add at least 1 or more stops so now we could have 24mp cameras able to shoot at 800 or 1600 and give good quality low grain images, Finally Nikon have added a sensor cleaner to the D3s which it really needs as the D3 is a magnet for dust, I have said that i would love a dedicated live view button and this model has that as well as a silent shutter mode which i found extremely useful on the Canon 1D mk3, By Nikon releasing this model and keeping the MP to 12 it shows the different philosophy's now between Nikon and Canon and i as i said previously it shows how much Nikon listen to their customers and don't want to get involved in the MP war, One other feature worthy of note is a 1.2 crop mode, This enables the camera to shoot faster and given the crop it gets a 8MP images making the camera very similar to Canons much loved 1D2n this should keep the sports togs very happy-all in all this has evolved from a great camera into a dream camera for me and ticks just about every box that i can think of, Once it has been in use for a couple of months to test for any bugs i may make the jump from 12mp to 12 mp
More details here


Tuesday 13 October 2009

News - Where is all the fungi then?

I went out on a soggy Sunday morning this last weekend to check out my favourite local fungi sites. Well where is it all?

Very few specimens to be seen - a few that had gone over, one of two little bits here and then, a few puff balls and that was it.

The site has always been prolific for me, even in poor fungi years. I guess the very dry run up to the autumn has been part to blame.

So here are a couple of images from previous years.


Mycena family group

Let us know what it is like in your area. Plenty of fungi or very few?


Monday 12 October 2009

New York New York

I am writing this late Sunday as we leave early for the long trip back to NC Monday (today) Today i travelled south to the New Jersey beach but apart from great weather it was a waste photographically-ca la vie, You cant win them all i guess and a couple of places have been noted for future reference, Last night i went to the Hudson river and from the New Jersey side took shots of the Manhattan skyline as the sunset-it was a fantastic view with perfect weather conditions, I took a couple of hundred images as it turned from sunset to night and will stitch them together when i get home,i will cover this later as well as the settings and technique for this type of landscape shooting, We will only be home for a couple of days before we head off to Tennessee where the photography will go into over drive-cant wait


Sunday 11 October 2009

Local Patch - the last few Daters of the year

A couple of weeks ago I took a walk out on to my local nature reserve that is about ten minutes from my front door.

Well by one of the many ponds there it was Darters galore - all being busy with each other on the wing. Never seen so much naughty Darter business before - I guess they were making hay while we were in the last rays of summer.

There were also quite a few Southern Hawker males bombing them too, but I didn't manage to get any images of them. While I was busy getting these photos, I was told excitedly by a friend that a Kingfisher had just flown by me. So while I was disappointed to miss it, I am pleased to know that they are so close to my home.

These two images show the colour differences of the male and the female of the species of the Common Darter.

Male Common Darter

Female Common Darter


Saturday 10 October 2009

New York day 1

I arrived in New York late yesterday afternoon after a nice 500 mile journey, Today as expected the weather had turned and it has been over cast and rainy, I had a trip around the local area taking in the New Jersey side of town, Some of the trees have turned and are stunning in colour, A couple of weeks and the whole place will be in all its glory, We made a couple of stops along the Hudson river and i was surprised to see osprey and bald eagles close by and catching fish in the river, There were also some other raptors circling around the cliff tops but it was the bald eagles that really surprised me and typically i only had a small lens with me-full tourist mode, Canada geese are more than plentiful and grazed close by as well as a few killdeeer, In the city tomorrow for some more tourist stuff, Its been nearly 20 years since my last visit here so have some places to reacquaint myself with and hopefully the weather will improve


Friday 9 October 2009

From the Archives - Little Owls

A couple of years ago, I followed the fortunes of a family of Little Owls at the time the young were fledging. It was great to watch from the comfort of my car as my hide, and I studied them at first and last light on many occasions. Mornings worked well as the barn was east facing and it was bathed in beautiful morning light. Evening was obviously more difficult, but if it was a greyish day, the light worked OK.

Sadly, the following year the barn was subject to significant renovation and I haven't seen them again either last year or this.

So I need to find an alternate location for these enigmatic little birds. There must be one very close to my house as I did hear one out in the garden a couple of weeks back - so maybe next year.


Thursday 8 October 2009

The best laid plans

Can you believe that i haven't been to NY for nearly 20 years and the one weekend i go B+H is shut and doesn't open until the day i leave is this some undercover espionage by my wife-lol I had even given the credit card a good buffing-well i have plans to return next month for a long weekend so hope the Jewish holidays don't get in the way of that trip,
Anyways a trip away is always a good time to lay all the camera gear out and give everything a good clean, I have permission to take Sunday off and get away from family business and spend some time on the beach in New Jersey-the weather looks good-dry and overcast so hopefully there will be some waders and hopefully a skimmer or 2
The shops are in full sale mode here so bargains are a plenty, I bought a new waterproof camo suit-jacket and trousers for $99 so will give it a workout on Sunday crawling on the beach, I seem to spend a lot of the time on my front crawling through wet grass and mud so if this does what it claims it will be a god send

So a quicky today but will hope to have better news the next time


Wednesday 7 October 2009

News - some bad, some good, some not so sure

Well you regular readers know now that when I do one of my updates on news it is because either I am a bit light on new photo stuff or am short of time to write.

I guess today's is a bit of both.

But there were some stories that caught my eye that I thought I would share with you - all from a site that I have shared with before Wildlife Extra.

Firstly, back in February, I posted this blog about problems for the Formby Red Squirrels. Well sadly, things have got worse with a 90% drop in numbers from as recently as November 2007. This really is bad news and I desperately hope they can make it but it doesn't look promising. The full story can be seen here.

The next story is one of mixed feelings for me. This is about further reintroduction of White Tailed Sea Eagles, this time in Suffolk. Now as a lover of these fantastic birds from my many visits to Mull, I do have concerns about further reintroduction. OK you say, they were initially reintroduced to Scotland to get them going again, and that would be a fair argument. The full story is here, and I do find myself tending to agree with the comment left by Mal Tyler on the thread. Let us know what you think in the comments.

Finally, the good story also concerns White Tailed Sea Eagles who have had record breeding successes in Scotland. Again the link to the story is here. 46 breeding pairs have produced 36 chicks, with a total of over 200 of these birds in Scotland. So I suppose my conclusion to the previous story is that I would be in favour of natural dispersal of these birds to find their own way now they are considered to be established.


Tuesday 6 October 2009

Lets Talk

I have the in laws staying with me for a month so photography will slow down a little-although we are off to New York on Thursday and a visit to B+H should be on the cards as well as checking out Jamaica bay for a visit next month and a few hours shooting on the New Jersey beach, So a long action packed weekend in store before we head off to the Smokey Mountains at the end of next week where i have a week shooting landscapes with the 'fall' colours and hopefully plenty of wildlife to keep me quiet
I did have one surprise this week, I moved a cover i had left on the ground in my garden and under it was a mole salamander-very rare to see so i believe as they are as they name says mole like, had i known that i would have taken some time over getting some decent shots, Instead i took some record shots and left it alone-see image above
I have been umming and arring over the last few weeks on getting a decent compact for the wife, I rather fancied a 'pro' model like the new Canon G11, But they are not yet in the shops and neither is the Canon S9 so i thought of a Panasonic LX3-Hens teeth as is the Nikon P6000 so after much deliberating i decided that as i wouldn't be using it much and the wife only wants a point and shoot that i would get her Panasonic's LX3 baby sister at almost half the price and i must say its been great fun, The lens is a Leica and in good light the images are very nice indeed and i have shot off about 300 images in the last couple of days and have been very impressed-like all compacts low ISO is the order of the day but for our needs it fits the bill nicely,Even the shutter lag isn't too bad, The screen is big and clear and it has HD video- I have even taken a couple of (cough cough) videos with it, it will certainly be coming to NY with us and will probably get more use than the D3
The rumour mill is at full speed with lots of reports that Nikon's D3 will shortly be replaced with a D3s-adding video and a few other bits and bobs to the already brilliant body to keep it fresh for another year-So i will then have 2 cameras 1 year old and out of date
The Canon 7D has been around for a full week and there are lots of mixed feelings about it already-some people having problems from the off and some having to have their cameras replaced due to faults, I have been looking at all the forums for decent images showing the cameras full potential and haven't really seen any-lots of crap which i think says more about the photographers than the actual body but as Martin said before its release-best keep the pennies in your pocket for a month or 2 until its fully tested


Monday 5 October 2009

Local Patch - Deer

Following Dave's post last week about Dear and the Rut, I popped along to my local deer park as the sun was going down hoping for some nice contra-jour shots. Sadly, the deer weren't where I needed them to be, but thought I would take a few record shots to illustrate a couple of things.

The first image came out quite nicely, although light was going fast so I had to get the ISO up to 1600. All were shot with the 500f4 + 1.4 converter, and shutter speeds were less than 1/100 sec, resting on a fence, so they are not brilliant, but it was nice to use the 500 again, after a summer long of using the 180 macro.

Fallow Buck with out of focus stately home behind

Behavioural rubbing of foliage with antlers

This shot was to show the tell tale scenting as the buck 'leaks' as it comes up to the rut. As you can see I used flash here. Clearly it doesn't work and nor did I expect to , but again to illustrate the effects that you get back when using flash in this light. Spooky!!

This is posted so you can see the tell tale hind area markings of a Fallow Deer of the black and white 'horseshoes' around the tail.

Hopefully, I will be back there a few times through this month to capture some better images in better light


Sunday 4 October 2009

September-The deadly month

I don't know if you have noticed the amount of fox and badgers that are flattened on European roads that this time of year as well as raccoon and deer on USA roads, Well the deer i am sure of the start of the hunting season and deer getting spooked by gun fire and having to move around more but fox and badgers get kicked out of their homes by the parents and need to find their own patch of land to call home, That may require a long journey which means crossing busy roads and hence the amount of road kill sky rockets during Sept and Oct-Drive carefully around country roads especially at night


Saturday 3 October 2009

News - A Mystery solved

Through the later part of the summer and into early Autumn I have noticed many of the Horse Chestnut trees going brown very early - or at least much earlier in the year than I am generally used to seeing during my travels.

It seemed sporadic and inconsistent across the trees though.

Well I solved the mystery a couple of days ago when I found this story from The Woodland Trust.

It seems that there is a reason and it is a pesky little import known as a Leaf Miner, which appears to be making rapid progress across Europe.

The Horse Chestnut is one of the target species that is being tracked by The Woodland Trust, so if you want to help with his programme in the future, here is the link to Natures Calendar.

Let us know if you are already reporting.

Finally, another thing I have recently seen a lot of is dead Mink at the roadside. Know given that this is another dreadful import that has devastating impacts on our indigenous wildlife, I am not at all saddened by this, but it has been interesting to note that there have been so many over a period of a few weeks. I guess it is that time of the year where they go into dispersal, and subsequently become casualties on possibly unfamiliar surroundings.


Friday 2 October 2009

Better Beamer warning

Just as the better beamer concentrates and magnifies light out from the flash so it does the same when used facing the sun, This i found slightly to my cost the other day after a hot afternoon waiting for kingfishers with the sun in my face, I remember as a kid using a magnifying glass to burn the end of my shoe laces-well i now have the same effect on the front of my SB900 flashgun and you can see its burnt in a line as the sun moves, Luckily for me its only melted a fine line into the flash and hasn't burnt through it, So a word of warning-try to keep your flash out of direct front on sunlight until you are using it i.e turn the camera slightly away and never leave the beamer on in your house by the window-you have been warned


Thursday 1 October 2009

Chancing my luck - not very well

Last night when I got back from my run - yes still at it - I was just cooling down outside in the back garden when I saw a bat flying close by and very slowly.

It was quite light at the time, and I watched it for a while, and then thought, why not!!

So with the 70-200f2.8L - needed the fast light gathering of that lens to give the AF a fighting chance, popped the 580EX on, set a manual exposure and tried to capture it.

First few goes weren't too good - only had single AF point set, but then I closed down the aperture to give me a DOF chance in the darkening skies, and relied on the power of the flash.

Set the ISO up to 1600

First one isn't so good - second one is a bit sharper.

Well I learned a bit from this and will try again.

I will use the 300f2.8L as it is about the fastest focussing lens I have, plus I won't need to crop so much (these were big crops), I will set AF points to all, plus all assist points, as there is only sky for background so nothing to confuse the AF points, and I will get out there earlier when it is lighter.

So watch this space for future attempts.

Not classic usable images - but good fun trying