Friday 30 April 2010

Sad news - Louisana Oil Spill

Of course this story is all over the news streams at the moment, and rightly so. See here.

It will be a disaster for the wildlife across a vast area.  Lets hope that they can stop the leak soon and get this disaster cleaned up for the sake of the natural environment and wildlife.


Photoshop CS5 shipping today

Go to Adobes site to download the latest version of Photoshop


Processing-What a pain

Its all very well going a way for a couple of weeks and taking thousands of images but the real work starts when you get home, I downloaded over 6000 images into Breezebrowser which both Martin and myself have used for years and as far as i am concerned is still the best and fastest browser on the market, Then after culling the crap or repeat images backing up and opening in Capture 1 5.1.1 which i have just bought after using the trial version for a month, after basic processing then finishing off in Photoshop CS4, Not only a long long process but bloody expensive just in software, Martin said in his previous blog that he purchased the basic version of Capture 1 but i found some features that i liked only in the Pro version so i coughed up the $400 for it, The main reason i went with Capture 1 was after my trip to New Jersey for the Harlequin ducks, When i opened and started to process the images in CS4 i just didn't like the colours especially the blues which were way out, I downloaded the free trial of C1 and instantly the images looked good colour wise, Also i found that i could batch process quickly in C1 and this is a big plus for me especially after a trip away, I hate being behind the PC so anything that allows me to get away from it is worth paying for , I have used Photoshop for years and have always found the upgrades worthwhile and looking at the stuff on you tube showing the new tools on the new CS5 will mean another upgrade, They promise better colours as well so i am forever hopeful, it will just probably mean getting a 64 bit machine to get the best from it-where does it all end i constantly hear from the better half and i dont have an answer to that one


Thursday 29 April 2010

Lens Micro AF adjustment

One of the features that came in with the Canon 1Dmk111 three years ago was the micro AF adjustment - the ability to fine tune the focussing point of the camera, to dial out any front or back focussing.

As one of the 1D111 shooters that experienced AF issues, I got all my primary lenses calibrated by Canon.

Now this feature has been carried through into the 7D, as one of the many advanced features that has subsequently worked its way down the range.

As regular readers know I have also been using the Canon 7D as well since the turn of the year.  Well, I have been so impressed with it, I thought I better buy my own rather than keep stealing Jac's, and lumping her with the 1D.

So the second 7D arrived on Monday and I wanted to make sure all functions worked properly before I need to use it on any critical applications.

I frequently see posts on various forums where people get brand new kit just before a big trip, and then get disappointed when something doesn't work correctly.  As Dave has written many times, you should be prepared , test your kit and he covered that very well when he shared his practice dives with his waterproof housing.

Well I sat down with four lenses, two 7D bodies,  two extenders and a cup of tea on Tuesday night with my home made focus target.

Basically an old door set on edge marked up with some permanent marker lines, set at 45 degress to the camera to give some depth.  Camera on tripod, not too far off minimum focus distance, Av mode set wide open, spot AF point which gives the smallest AF area in camera, L jpeg with Landscape picture style (which has the sharpest in camera processing).  Just follow the instructions in the manual - it really is very easy.

Take a picture, zoom right in close and check the main focus line, and the relative DOF blur of the two lines ahead and behind.

One body needed about +2 on most lenses/extenders, the newer body only needed adjusting with the 300f2.8 when used with either the 1.4 or 2 x extender.

Took me about thirty minutes all in all, and reassuring that focus is now spot on.  Plenty more real life testing as well also confirms the settings are now spot on.

Here is one of the test images viewed in Breezebrowser, with the AF points superimposed.

This one is a crop of the central area to show the detail a bit more.  This was with the 300f4L + 1.4EFTC

I took a walk out in to one of the local woods last night, so will update with some of the emerging wildlflowers and let you know when to get out for the best bluebell images in my next post.


Wednesday 28 April 2010

Manual Metering-Why its a must

Camera Metering systems have come a long way in the last few years and do an amazingly good job in most situations, But not all and we still need to take control to get the exposure spot on, Bright and dark subjects will always fool the camera and these are the times when its a must to put the camera in M or manual mode, Set the aperture and shutter speed yourself and take total control so that you know what the end result will be, I now shoot M mode most of the time and only really use AV when there is sun and cloud and the light is in and out a lot, When i was in Florida i was shooting a lot of the time near water either the sea or over a pool full of gators, I knew that if i had kept the camera in AV and followed a bird flying in the bright sky and then tree lined background or sea would have fooled the meter to either under expose or over expose the images but the light that was falling onto the bird remained constant so M was the only way to deal with the situation and get consistent results, Today's cameras have that lovely invention called a histogram so setting the exposure is easy and once set as long as the light doesn't change or the bird moves into different light like sunlight to shade then you can shoot away to your hearts content and get consistent exposures, Imagine this, Take a bird and put a white background behind in and then swap the background for a black one, The background has changed but the light falling in the bird has remained the same and as we are exposing for the bird the exposure should remain the same but if we were in AV or TV the camera would have changed the exposure for the changing background, If we had used M and exposed for the bird then changing the background would not have made a difference, Cameras expose for the light reflected from the subject rather than the light falling onto it and this is where we get exposure problems
Here is a real life example, This Willett was running alone the sea front, The waves were coming and going but the bird was in constant light, The crashing waves rolling in would have caused exposure problems if the camera was set to AV or TV as the camera would have tried to expose for the bright crests on the waves and then the darker water, but as i shot in M and had exposed for the bird all the images came out with the correct exposure

 The images are 1 or 2 frames apart in a long sequence but gives you the idea, The only thing constant in the images is the light falling onto the willett, The background is constantly changing in colour and tone and that's why when shooting this type of scene its best to set the camera to M

Hope this helps


Tuesday 27 April 2010

New Nikon 200-400

Nikon have announced an updated version of the fantastic 200-400 F4VR ,The original lens is a wildlife photographers dream so i can only imagine what this will be like-I can guarantee it will be hard to get hold of and at $7000 in the USA its more expensive than the MK1 which i have and will be keeping
See here 


Worth checking your garden in the evenings

On Sunday night as dusk was approaching, I took a look around the garden and found a female Orange Tip butterfly settled on one of the bluebells.  I went back in doors to get the camera and got these two images.

Both with the 7D , on board fill flash to help freeze any movement due to the breeze.

I have some minor colour variations here with the colour temp.  Bluebells are very sensitive to minor changes in colour temperature in processing, and show you when you are not consistent and particularly when you share back to back images like this.

Framed slightly differently between shots so you can see more of the flower in the second shot.

Sadly these are not native English bluebells but the Spanish variant.  I will leave them in the garden this year, but they will come out  as I have planted native English seeds that I expect will come up next year.

I didn't expect the Orange tip to go anywhere overnight so I went out first thng yesterday morning , with the hope of a heavy dew to add to the atmosphere.  Sadly, there was only a very mild dew that can just about be seen.

Again a slightly different crop.  I don't normally favour square crops but am reasonably happy with this.  I set the camera up with the tripod and the remote release this time, as I knew that the butterfly wasn't going to go anywhere in a hurry, so was able to use live view, manual focus and the 5x viewing facility to ensure critical focus.  In conjunction with the DOF preview button and the multi toggle, I was able to ensure that all the critical parts of the butterfly were sharp.  This one also used a the fill flash to put some additional light into the shadows.

The final shot was with the 1Dmk111 (no fill flash this time), as the batts on the 7D expired.  A more traditional crop here, but in so doing, I  lose the bottom flower of the bluebell.

If only the butterfly and bluebell had better proportions relative to each other for photographic balance  :-)

Anyway the point of this blog, other than to share a few pretty images with you, and some slightly different approaches to cropping is to check your garden when it is getting towards dusk.  If you have any butterflies settling for the evening, then get up early the next day to capture your photos, and if you are lucky you will get some with dew on them, which really does add to the image photographically.  You will see some on the last two if you click on the image to enlarge, but not much really.

By the way, female Orange Tips don't have a orange tip on their upper wings, unlike the male, in case you were wondering.  I posted the male here last year.


Monday 26 April 2010

Back to reality

Now back on home soil and its time to download and go through and make the final selection, I have already done one 'cull' and now have 6000 images left, I said before that i rarely used the D300 during the trip, This was mainly due to the fact that i shot alot of stuff early and late, I love the D3 in these situations where shooting at ISO 1600 is as good as the D300 at 400, Saying that i have just scanned through some D300 images and it really gives a lovely sharp image and when it comes to birds in flight i much prefer to use it over the D3 as i find the AF to be quicker, The other thing that i like about the D3 is the duel CF cards, Its amazing just how fast you can fill a 4GB card up when the action is thick and fast
Here are a couple that stood out in the D300 files
Laughing Gull Portrait
Running Willett
Hovering Tern

And one for myself taken by my wife-Marian, It shows me after shooting the Manatees using the EWA Marine housing


Sunday 25 April 2010

Done it

Regular readers will know that I do a bit of running when injury permits, and I have reported many of my sightings from my early morning runs on the blog.

Well I did the Rotary Shakespeare Half Marathon in Stratford upon Avon this morning.  I completed the 13.1 miles in 2hrs and 1 minute.  I was hoping to break the 2hour mark, but at the end was pleased to get round without injury, stopping or walking.

Relaxing afterwards with a well earned pint of Guinness

Legs are now pretty stiff as I write this up, but I can still walk


Macro Dunnock

I spent some pleasant realxation time in the garden yesterday afternoon sat by the pond, taking it easy ahead of the run today, enjoying watching the many butterflies around, including mating Peacocks and Holly Blue.  I got the 7D and the 180 macro ready in case I had anything settle.  

Nothing doing on the butterflies photographically, but these Dunnocks came onto the Pear tree to get to the feeder.  I haven't used the macro lens for birds before, but why not.  They were less than ten feet away and totally unperturbed by me, as long as I was steady and moved slowly.

I quite liked the last one with the blossom as part of the image.  Very bright light today so worked the highlights down a little in the processing.

Thes birds are two of at least five that are frequenting the garden at the moment.  I expect to see the young down soon


Saturday 24 April 2010

Florida diaries 6

Like all good things holidays come to an end, Whilst you will be reading this i will be making my way back to North Carolina. Its been a great 2 weeks shooting the Manatees being the highlight i guess and i cant wait for the winter to return and shoot these magnificent giants again, I got some great images of birds that i have long wanted to shoot like the Skimmer and Laughing Gull and have thousands of images to down load and sort through, This week in Orlando i have still managed to shoot some wildlife at the Gatorland rookery and even in the theme parks i have been surprised at how close you can get to wildlife, In the Animal Kingdom i came across a pair of nesting Spoonbills with chicks, I had written these off of my list as i had visited 3 other places for these images and non had any chicks,I was lucky that the nest was near the path and could easily shoot them with a 70-200 which was the longest lens i had on me, I went to Busch Gardens and Typhoon Lagoon and had birds come close as i was eating and i am not talking about sparrows, I was amazed to see white Ibis and Cattle Egrets begging for food and walking around your feet looking for some crumbs, Last night i made my way to the Magic Kingdom to photograph the firework display, The weather was perfect and the world and his wife decided to join us, I set up hoping to get the fireworks over the castle and managed to get quite a few half reasonable images using a tripod/release and Bulb, On the way to the Magic Kingdom we spotted two armadillos on the grass, I only had a 24-70 with me and even after some careful stalking where i got a good view of this strange animal i spooked it and it was gone, This is now one of my 'wants' as its a great looking animal and you rarely see any images of them, So thats it, A great holiday/photographic experience and one that i intend to return to time and time again, One thing i will say is that the camera gear has been faultless, Its been out in hot sun all day and has not missed a beat, I mainly used the D3 and hardly used the D300 at all as alot of the shooting was in lowish light i.e ISO 400 and over, I took the D3 and a wide lens into the parks and tried it on some of the captive animals-see the cuttlefish, This was taken at ISO 5000 and yet still gives a usable image, The flecks in the water are not grain just water particles, I must say i was impressed when i downloaded it

Along with the Manatees its been an interesting trip, Both above and underneath the water, Birds in flight and on the nest as well as some scenics


Friday 23 April 2010

A First for me in Warwickshire tonight

On Sunday, I will be pounding the local lanes in the Shakespeare Half Marathon as part of the Shakespeare Birthday weekend celebrations here in Stratford upon Avon.  I have done all the training that I have been able to complete but tonight I wanted to just give my legs a stretch and spin around so I rode the route that I will take on Sunday on my bike.  Parts of the route I was not familiar with so I thought I would kill two birds with one stone as it were.

There were lots of birds out - Green and Geat Spotted Woodpeckers, Kestrels, Buzzards, finches, corvids and various warblers.  It was on the last part of the run back towards Stratford that I saw a Wheatear.  Now I am used to seeing dozens of these when I go to Scotland, but have never seen one in Warwickshire - so a county first for me.

We also had the male Bulfinch back in the garden this evening which was a pleasant sight - sadly it went before I could get the camera.

My final thoughts for you tonight are about the Dawn Chorus.  With a good number of migrants now here and still arriving, these next few weekends will be the time to set your clocks for 'Stupid a.m.' and get out there and listen and see the wonderful spectacle of the Spring, or at least if you are one of our Northern Hemisphere readers anyway.

I will be planning to do this over the next two weekends.


Thursday 22 April 2010

More from the Cotswolds

We took a trip to Bourton on the Water in the Cotswolds for a day out to celebrate Jac's birthday.  While walking through the pictureseque village I saw a couple of Grey Wagtails.  So a few minutes back to the car, grabbing the 7D, 300f4 with 1.4EFTC, as a nice lightweight walkabout wildlife option, I was in business.

The first three images show the female bird as you can see the yellow is not so pronounced and nor is the bib as dark as the male.  This bird has some red plastic twine caught around her left leg, but it did not seem to concern her.  Lets hope she clears it and it doesn't get snagged on something.

These second two show the male and you can see the differences with more pronounced markings around the head.

In each case, I used the pop up flash to fill in and give a litttle more light as the birds were in heavy shade with very bright light overhead.

On another aside, we had two new butterfly species in the garden today for this year, with our first Holly Blue and male Orange Tip of the Spring, so we are now up to eight species this year.

Welcome Kah Wai Lin, our latest follower to the blog.  We hope you enjoy the blog


Greatest Nature Images of all time

I see today in the Daily Telegraph that some of the greatest nature images are up for auction to save the Earth.

They can be seen here.

I do like the dancing Polar Bears.


Wednesday 21 April 2010

Quick and Late Note - One to watch

For our UK readers, make sure you watch or record BBC2 at 9pm tonight for Monty Halls Great Hebridean Escape.

He will be on North Uist, a great wildlife place and one that is high on my places to visit.

First one tonight of a series


Florida diaries 5

Since we have moved inland the challenge  has been the weather, The last couple of days have seen a lot of rain along with some lightening especially in the afternoon and evenings, I have been doing the Disney thing and have wanted to get the firework displays at night but so far its been rained off, Today (Tuesday) i got up early and looked out of the window to see fog, Not good or expected, I decided to get my gear together and head to Gatorland where news was that the rookery is the place to be, I only had a max of a couple of hours and having not been there for 20 years it was more of a recce, Well 2 hours and 8 gigs later there were a few nice images in the bag, I decided to concentrate on the Egrets with chicks but i always keep my eyes open for birds in flight of which there were many, Gatorland in Orlando is very different to Gatorland in St Augustine, Here the big lens came into its own whereas in St Augustine i never used it, The good news for me was that i also managed a couple of new species to my portfolio, The Black Vulture and Ahinga, I also improved my Cattle Egret images, I purchased a photographers pass for today which allows me entry early and late so i will do both sessions and hope the weather is kind which looking at the forecast it will be
Since being in  Orlando i dont seem to have a minute to spare so here are a few images that caught my eye


Tuesday 20 April 2010

Flash with Butterflies

One of the things that regular readers will know is that I like to get images in my gardenas and when the opportunities present themselves.  On Sunday, while working the second Speckled Wood butterfly of the year came in and I had the camera ready. 7D with the Canon 180 macro.

The subject was settling in area that was difficult to get a good shot and also straight into the bright sunlight.

 This is the uncropped, just sharpened image - lots of bright highlights and not brilliant light on the subject.

This is the uncropped, just sharpened image but with fill flash - much better lighting control.  I used the pop up flash on the 7D - totally convenient in situations like this.

This final version is how I have processed the second image, with some minor subject cropping, and a little toning down of the highlights on the left hand side to minimise the distractions.  Just a few seconds work in PS as an adjustment layer.

On this occasion, the subject wasn't concerned about me and stayed in position


Monday 19 April 2010

Photoshop CS5 Pricing

Last week when I announced the launch of CS5 here, had it on their site for about £200, wheras Adobe were offering it at £186 for the upgrade version.  So against that I was not prepared to put it on the site here as you could get better deals elsewhere.

Now Amazon have matched, so this is as good as any at the moment.

Link here for either full versions or upgrades, in Windows or Mac.


New Facebook page

You can now follow me on my new facebook page-

Florida diaries 4

Weather has changed my plans in more ways than one, Firstly our trip here was originally planned to meet up with our buddies from the UK and if you have seen the world news lately you will know that the icelandic volcano spewing ash into the atmoshpere has halted all flights from Europe,Needless to say that our friends holiday has now been cancelled and we are here in Orlando alone, So we have changed our itinery abit to allow some time at Gatorland where the rookery is supposed to be at its best but we also have a day or 2 of rain, So its Mickey Mouse time for a couple of days taking snap/holiday shots before back to business with the wildlife, I have processed a few images for the blog but as its on my laptop i will do them properly when i get home, I supply photo agencies and these days when everybody is having a go at selling or giving away images its very competetive so to get images accepted you have to have your subject doing something interesting as well as having good light,exposure,composition and sharpness, In other words your images have to be perfect and appealing, If it doesnt tick all the right boxes then its rejected, so with this always in mind i rarely shoot a standard/stock type image and will always try to get the subject doing something, Here is a fairly standard type image, Nothing out of the ordinary apart from its beak is open, On the skimmer is does show its rather strange beak so i took the image

Skimmers were one of my main targets, I had never seen one before but had wanted to shoot them for a long time, I really wanted to get them 'skimming' where they fly with the lower beak in the water, I only saw one try to skim once during my stay and he kept bouncing back into the air when his beak went into the water, this was the best i got from just a handful of shots

Most of my time was spent watching the birds behaviour, I noticed that the skimmers and gulls would bathe in the shallow water then dip under the water time and time again faster and faster and then suddenly flap their wings and take off, I spent a whole morning capturing this, As i dont like to crop or crop very little i ended with hundreds of great images with clipped wings but i did get some images that i was very pleased with and exactly what i had in mind-this one in particular which is my favourite Skimmer image and is full frame

The Laughing Gulls were very vocal and in full mating mode, There never seemed to be 10 minutes between gulls mating which gave plenty of shooting possibilities, The problem was getting a clear image, Again i watched them for sometime and noticed that at the end of the mating the female would start to walk about with the male still on top, This would be very quick before he either finished or fell off, I tried to get this on camera and one of the clearest images was this one

As Gulls go the Laughing Gull is very nice-Good looking, Always up to something and has a really nice red mouth, All in all very photogenic
The light was always very consistent allowing me to shoot in Manual mode, Very few of my images had bad exposures and most like the shots above needed no adjustment other than some curves and a small amount of saturation
All images above are Full Frame with the exception of the Skimmer in Flight which has a small crop


Sunday 18 April 2010

A few from the Cotswolds and the garden

I had to take an early trip up to the sawmill yesterday to sort out some more timber for the ongoing garden project.  As I knew I would be going near one or two places where there would or could be some wildlife, I put the 7D/500f4 and the 1.4 TC plus bean bag in the car on the off chance.  Well what a fabulous morning it was.  Silence in the countryside thanks to the Icelandic volcano stopping all UK air traffic.  I got out the car at one point to hear six Skylarks, two Yellowhammer, a Corn Bunting and a Raven all calling at the same time.  What a great pleasure.

I went to a site where I have seen Dipper and Grey Wagtail, but no signs of Dipper at all, buut I did get the Grey Wagtail in bright early morning sunlight.

Further up the lane I managed to get an image of a female Yellowhammer, and a male Chaffinch.

I went along a lane where I had seen Corn Bunting before.  Sadly, I didn't see any but did get a good sighting of a Common Buzzard on a fence rail.

Back home and on with my work, but I was fortunate enough to get three Peacock butterflies in.  This image is quite the best as I wasn't able to get fully square so have lost a little bit of focus on one of the wings.

Another first for the year also was the first Speckled Wood butterfly through the garden, but it did not set down.


The Pain and the Pleasure

This time next week I will be setting off on the longest run of my life.  OK so it is only a half marathon here in Stratford while another 25,000 set off in London to cover twice the distance I am going to do.  but for me it will be a triumph over a number of minor injuries over the last few months that I get to the start line even, let alone the finish.

Having got up early this morning to see the first thirty minutes of The Chinese F1 GP, it was most entertaining watching Sparrow after Sparrow line up to strip the furry fronds  from my neighbours Pampas grass to take away to line their nests.  I guess she will not be too happy now as all that is left are the reed stems now.

So having seen the start of the F1 race I set off for my final longish distance training run before next weekend.

The Pain part came in the first couple of miles and the last couple of miles.  I did a total of 9 miles and as I write now, am feeling pretty comfortable and happy at the prospect that I will get round OK next week.

The pleasure for me all the way round this morning was the bird song.  I see lots of runners going about their exercise with 'ears' in listening to music.  I have never done this as I cannot get on with them while running.  I also think they prevent you maintaining awareness of traffic too.  But the main thing I would miss would be the birdsong.

Who needs music when you have countless Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Robins, Skylark, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting,Chiff Chaff, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Wren, Raven and Buzzard singing to you.

I saw my first House Martins of the year too.  It really was beautiful and the sights and sounds helped me overcome the pain of the run.

So now it is off out into the garden to do some more work.  I will be back on here later with another post with photos from a drive I had up in the Cotswolds so drop by towards the end of the day for some images.


Saturday 17 April 2010

Florida diaries 3

I am in St Petersburg near Tampa, In a hotel that backs onto the beach, The sky is blue and cloudless, Its low 80's and i am surrounded by bikini clad young lovelies and thats the bad part, The good thing is that there are birds-EVERWHERE, Even densely populated beaches have birds, If you see a fisherman he will have an egret or pelican sitting next to him, I have spent the last couple of morning and evening at Fort DeSoto, The mornings being good for shore birds and gulls and the evenings ospreys and diving pelicans, I did have an osprey drop into the ocean one morning right in front of me, Nearly drown itself trying to drag a fish that was too big out of the water, In the end it let go and flew over me-amazing, I have new species on file which is always nice, I said before i came that i wanted laughing gull, Skimmer and Osprey and i have some absolute crackers and thousands of images to select, Today i was talking to some brits whilst shooting some ospreys and they gave me a tip off about an Owls nest so i will be checking that out tonight, I am leaving here tomorrow and making my way to Orlando see see Mickey Mouse but have been told that Gatorland in Orlando is really on fire at the moment with great birds in the rookery so i will be dropping in there for a quick look, So far its been a trip from heaven apart from loosing my $200 Oakley shades yesterday, Here are a few images (not the best either) taken over the last couple of days
All FULL Frame except the last Osprey which is a crop of the one above it


Friday 16 April 2010

Sparrowhawk Attack

Since I bought you pictures of the juvenile female Sparrowhawk, and the mature male, I have been seeing them more and more around the patch.

I was outside on Wednesday night, working in the garden when I saw the rapidly moving shape of the male, dive through a small gap of about 2' diameter between my side gate and some shrubs, across the top of my neighbours shed, less than a foot above that, through a small gap and out of my sight.  Almost immediately, I hear what can only be described as the death squeals of a bird.

Getting up to get a look at what is going on, the commotion continues, and then another grey flash as the Sparrowhawk flies anyway, and a lucky male Blackbird lives another day and flies off in a different direction.

It was dramatic, it was lightning fast, and very close to where I was sitting.

Just for good measure, here is a repeat image of the bird in earlier times, assuming it was the same Male.


Canon 5D Firmware update V 2.0.4

While looking through some stuff yesterday on the 7D firmware updated, I also found the following on the 5D firmware update

Canon launched v 2.0.3 in March, but a few days later launched this version as there were problems with it.

This version deals with enhanced capabailities of the video performance with different frames rates, and exposure control.

Sorry we were a bit slow on this


Thursday 15 April 2010

New firmware for Canon 7D

Download link here for you

Firmware v1.2.1 - sorts out a few bugs and tweaks for you


Florida diaries 2-Manatees

I phoned the captain of the boat i had booked in Crystal river a week or so ago and got some bad news, The weather had made the manatees leave the clear springs and they had gone into open water-water that was very murky, My heart sank, I knew i was late in the season but had hoped to still get a shot or two, I said to my wife that we would still go and do a recce and then return in the winter, First morning out and 17 manatees spotted and 3 shot, The water wasnt as bad as i had thought and one manatee loved to have his image taken and his tummy rubbed, I swam with it for over 30 mins and my manatee dream that i had had for 20 years had come true, Its an awesome experience, over 1500 pounds and as gentle as a new born, The water was clear but with a green tint to it, The second dive bought the same manatee but along with a pup, I shot both but only managed a couple of shots together and the water was very cloudy as we had other people with us and the silt had been stirred up, We ended the dive in one of the springs where the manatees spend the winter-its an incredible place-sooo clear its unreal, two suprises, firstly a manatee was sleeping in there all but in a restricted zone i still managed to get some shots and there was a gator lurking in the shadows so i can now boast that i have swum with both manatees and gators, An added bonus was a gar-a long fish rarely seen in the waters and a clear image, The captain/videograher thought i had golden do das and had luck where ever i seemed to go, I have arranged to go back for a week in the winter to get the manatees in clear water, Its been an almost life changing experience, firstly to realise a dream and to shoot underwater, The EWA Marine bag worked a treat after using 6LB of lead to help it sink, The images have not been effected by it and they are nice and sharp-well most, two dives and 700 images taken its been amazing and well worth the effort,Anybody who has seen the UKNP or Naturescape forums will have seen one of the images but here are a couple more, I have only my uncalibrated laptop here so will have to process them properly when i get home, i am now at St Petersburg near Tampa and have just my first recce at the famous Fort De Soto, An early start tomorrow will see me there for Laughing Gull,Skimmer and Osprey, More to come next blog-keep tuned
Here is the videographer shooting me shoot her

The 2 dives were videoed for me in HD so i will try to get a clip on the web when i return-its the business