Saturday 31 July 2010

Garden Visitors

When you read this i will be in California, I wrote this a couple of days ago as i will be busy hopefully shooting sea otters and ground squirrels, My wife got up early to get ready for work and left me in bed to get over the jet lag from the UK trip when all of a sudden she started to call my name, I rushed down stairs to find her in the garden, She said that something was eating her tomato plants and on closer inspection i found a large green stripy caterpillar-what a beauty so i instantly started to get some images,It turns out that it is called a Tomato Hornworm, I moved the plant into the middle of the garden to get a better background and noticed more, In total i counted 8 on 2 plants, I kept an eye on them and throughout the day got images, the light was bright so i waited for the sun to go behind the clouds, Tomato plants are scruffy looking plants and the backgrounds were not as clean as i would have liked so i got some white paper and used that as a background, Not very natural but it made the caterpillar stand out and this kind of photography is becoming popular and is used many times in magazines so who knows, I ended up shooting with white paper in one hand and balancing a reflector with my leg and pressing the shutter button with the other hand, By the end of the day i had around 200 images to choose from so here are a few

Keep your eyes peeled when checking your flowers and veg patch, It may hold many suprises and make your day just like these did for me
All images shot with a Nikon D3s and Sigma 180 macro at F11 or F16

Friday 30 July 2010

Keep your software up to date

One of the great delights with both Adobe Photoshop CS5 and Phase One Capture One is the auto updates feature.  I think I have had two come through for CS5 since I originally installed it not so long ago and a few more with Capture One since the beginning of the year.

It was while mulling over what to write last night that it struck me that I don't get this for a couple of other bits of software that I use.

Dave and I have been strong protagonists of Breezebrowser Pro, but it doesn't always tell me when it has been updated, so I have to remember to check.

If you are a user of this fine software, you will find that it is now up to Version issued on 5th July - which has just finished downloading as I write this

I sometimes use Canon's own DPP - this is now at version 3.8.1 - again I was a version down level so have changed that.

I am still currently on Lightroom v2 which as at 2.7, and as far as that will go as it has now been replaced by V3, which I will get round to getting upgrading soon.

There are links to the full and upgrade versions on the Amazon bar on the right if you are interested.

Well I am sure you are all far more disciplined than me, and have all your software at current levels, but if not then this might have been of use to you tonight.

Note, the above versions are all for the higher end PC platform.  Apple users can also check their links too - except of course for Breezebrowser Pro


Thursday 29 July 2010


Last year i mentioned a software called PTgui, Its designed to stitch images together to make a continuous panoramic type image-great for landscapes but can be used for things like tall flowers etc, Yesterday i finished downloading the images i took when i was in the UK last week, For some reason i also went through some images from last year and came across some landscapes that i took in Colorado with the intention of stitching them together but had not gotten around to it, I remember taking the images one morning whilst driving through Rocky Mountain National Park, A beautiful part of the world with stunning vistas at every turn, When taking a set of images for stitching together i shoot in manual mode so that all the exposures will be identical which cant be guaranteed if shooting in AV, I also set the white balance so that its not on AWB which again can make a difference between the frames tone wise, In this instance i set it to daylight, Make sure that your tripod and camera are level so that when you go from left to right or vise versa the horizon will be perfectly level and then take a series of images making sure that they all over lap about 20-30% for easier matching up, I had tried stitching images together years ago using an early version of Photoshop but there would always be one or 2 frames where there would be a tell tale line meaning time spent cloning which i was never 100% happy with, PTgui solved all that and the final image comes out seamless, Photoshop CS4 and CS5 have improved over early versions and i have seen some good results but PTgui is the one for me-Very easy to use and the results look great
Click on the image to make it larger then use the back button


Wednesday 28 July 2010

Butterfly Week and a bit of catch up

In my last post I mentioned it was Big Butterfly Count Week.  Well by way of linking to that post and also catching up with some of the images I took back in June, I thought I would share these with you for a little inspiration for you to get out there and join in the count.....well maybe.

Meadow Brown

Male Common Blue

Marbled White

Copulating 5 spot Burnet moths with exuvia

Copulating 5 Spot Burnet Moths on Common Spotted orchid

All with 5D and Canon 180 macro, handheld or supported on bean bag on the late evening sunlight at a location about three miles from my home in Warwickshire


Tuesday 27 July 2010

Back Home

I arrived back home yesterday afternoon after a long and bumpy flight and now only have a few days to get my kit ready for 10 days in California, As i said before the 2nd week in the UK was spent seeing friends and getting some photography done, I have just started to go through and download the images, I thought that i would only be in the UK for a week and as i was travelling alone and to keep the weight down i didn't bring a down loader so only had 20gig of CF cards and i also didnt bring a battery charger for the cameras,I ended up with all the cards just about full and the D3s ran out of juice on the last day, The good thing about the Nikon range is that the D3s and the D300 battery pack carry the same battery so in essence you have 2 long lasting batteries and i never need a spare-take note canon!! I spent the last day 'training' some friends who have just move over to Nikon from Canon, Its good to go through all the functions every now and again to keep yourself up to speed, I didnt take the 600 with me as i was on the limit weight wise and to be honest i never really felt that i was lacking in the 'length' department, I used the 200-400 with and without the 1.4x on the D3s and used the  D300 if i needed that extra reach and as long as the light was good the D300 was faultless, The 200-400 is the travelling wildlife photographers best friend and a joy to use in any situation, I am wondering whether to take the 600 to California or not but as i am travelling with my wife it shouldn't be a problem so probably will as i know a great place for sea otters from the shore and that little extra may help, So here are a couple that caught my eye when downloading and more to come next time


Monday 26 July 2010

Butterflies and Parks

'Weeks', like buses seem to come along in threes - guess it might have something to do with the kids breaking up from school for the summer.

There are three 'weeks' that you can take part in here in the UK.

First up it is Big Butterfly Count week.  With numbers seemingly down this week, I would encourage as many of you to take part.  It will involve just 15 minutes of your time watching and counting, and then a few minutes to submit the results.
If you do, please let us know what you saw - we would love to hear from you.
The second 'week' is 'National Parks' week, celebrating the open and natural spaces of our land.  Again lots to do and see.  Check out the website to see what is on offer.  Maybe something to do if you have kids on holidays.

Finally there is 'Parks Week' - this covers your local parks.   This 'week' also has a photo competition that involves wildlife - so again maybe one that might be of interest to you.

That ends this weeks public service announcements  :-)


Sunday 25 July 2010

Quick Update - ramblings from the garden

It has been a very busy day today.  Up at 5am to switch off and cover the moth trap after an overnight light on it.  I thought it might be a good idea to cover it with an old dark curtain to keep the moths cool and calm, but I am not sure that this tactic is a sound one.  I also tried it when Dave was here a week or so ago.  On both occasions I had the smallest haul ever.  So I can only guess that the moths can detect some form of light leaking in and escape.  I will try again next weekend but leave the cover off.

This was also born out by the fact that the overwhelming majority were actually on the surrounding foliage and fence panels.

There were a few new species today including a few new micro moths, a Ruby Tiger, a delightful little brown moth with red undersides, plus a Brimstone moth - the first that we have had.  I did get a few images but nothing spectacular.

After that I went back to bed for a while and then made a start in the garden.

After felling a conifer for a neighbour, I started cutting back some of the wildflowers that have now gone to seed.  For wildflower meadows it is recommended to cut them back when they have seeded.  With the very hot and dry weather early in the month, one particular area was affected quite badly so I attacked that.  Now previously I have struggled aimlessly with a pathetic little battery power strimmer that had the power of a moth and the battery life of a few minutes.  So with that I went to our local agricultural plant shop yesterday and bought a petrol powered Stihl FS50 brushcutter with a blade head.  Wow - light work and plenty of power.

After clearing out a load of duck weed from the pond and topping it up, I had some food and sat down and watched the grand prix - what a waste of time - back to the sad old ways again.  I will say no more, but it was a sad day for sportsmanship...............again.

Anyway, back to the garden and more digging and landscaping, with plenty of butterflies around me, now the buddleia is in bloom.  Loads of juvenile Blue tits were passing through noisily - at least 50 +, and best of all the Swifts overhead.

All the youngsters have now fledged so I was continually treated to lots of birds flying like agile fighter jets close by me. It was wonderful to watch and an experience I will cherish, as they will surely be heading south very soon.

Hope you all had an enjoyable weekend too.


Saturday 24 July 2010

Phils Birds

After the amazing evening shooting badger and fox Phil asked me if i would like to shoot Green Woodpeckers the next morning-of course the answer was yes, We were up and out just after 4am to a beautiful morning, We set up at one of his sites where he had various types of feeder and branch/log set ups, It wasnt long before birds started to arrive and during the morning a variety of stock and collared dove,Wood pigeon,robin,magpie and jay along with Rat and Fox arrived, Woodpecker wise i shot great spotted but the greens stayed distant and although i could hear them i didnt see them, I shot with and without flash and used the D300 along with the 200-400 and 1.4x, The entertainment came from a rat and a magpie how chased each other are every opportunity,


Friday 23 July 2010

Garden catch up

A quick post tonight for the natural history and wild flower community.  All of these images were taken in my wildlife garden in May this year.  We had a great flush in May and June, but it has tailed off in July with the heatwave and dry weather.  Many of the species that we saw last year have been either missing or much less this year, but these have been more than made up with additions such as the campions and birds foot trefoils.

Anyway, here is a selection for you to see.

 White Clover

 Birds Foot Trefoil



White Campion

Red Campion

Ox Eye Daisy

It has been wonderful having these a few steps from my backdoor, and waking each morning to seeing them


Canon 7D firmware upgrade

See Here

Thursday 22 July 2010

Badgers,Fox and birds

Yesterday i went to see my buddy Phil Shaw in Essex, I teamed up with Phil last year in Colorado when we shot the Mountain Goat, Phil is a very technical photographer and has some stunning images on his new website , Phil took me to his 'own' reserve where he has worked for many years, He has transformed the place for wildlife and his hard work and dedication has really paid of, In a few hours we had taken both fox and badger and at one point we had 4 badgers and 2 fox in front of us at the same time-in daylight!! truly fantastic and i think most of my time with him i had my mouth open in amazement, I only have my uncalibrated laptop with me but it will give you some idea, The Nikon D3s really shone as the light dropped and the badgers were shot with a mix of ISO 3200 and 6400 and then some with a multi flash set up, Phil runs workshops for the badgers and foxes along with various species of bird that i will come to in my next blog, Check out his website and if you want images like his then drop him a line and enjoy a great day out

ISO 3200-No Noise Reduction

ISO 6400-No Noise Reduction

The images above were taken with a Nikon D3s and 200-400+1.4x


Wednesday 21 July 2010

News Update

Well done to her.

I also see that the Ospreys at Rutland Water are doing very well, based on the Twitter feed I get from there.  More on their website here

Apologies for two quick short blogs today - but time pressures have overridden blogging.  Back with more content tomorrow


Welcome to New friends

Welcome to Nigel our latest blog follower.  We hope you enjoy the blog and our posts.  Check out our substantial archives of posts - we have amassed a lot of content now

Please feel free to respond and leave comments.

So three more to number 70


Tuesday 20 July 2010

Local Patch - catching up 2

A short while after we got back from North Uist, we went down to the River Avon in Stratford as I expected to see Banded Demoiselle.  We went disappointed - there were hundreds of them, along with Blue and Azure Damsels.

The male Banded Demoiselles were the easiest to see initially, as there wing patches 'strobed' as they flew,  It was still quite warm at the time, and so it wasn't that easy to get settled subjects.

The females are also beautifully coloured, but without the black wing patches.  I caught this one eating an unlucky Mayfly.


A few seconds later and no wings left on the supper

All taken handheld with the 5D and Canon 180 f3.5L macro lens.

The first image looks a little soft at small size so it is worth a click to see at full size


Monday 19 July 2010

A big thanks and some snaps

I would like to say a big thank you to everybody who has sent well wishes to myself and my family, My brother lost his fight on Sunday morning and to say last week was difficult would be an understatement, My thanks especially go out to Martin for blogging, Its hard enough every other day but everyday is really tough-cheers mate, I went out today with one of my other brothers to a place that i used to visit called the Warburg Reserve near Henley on Thames, Its a really beautiful part of the world and a great place to get away from everything, there are 2 hides and miles of walk ways, Plenty of birds and mammals including doormice, Its the best place i know to see Bullfinches which show regularly at one of the hides, I say 'to see' but thats not mean shoot as the background are busy but its always great to see these colourful birds, I a couple of hours we watched blue tit,great tit,long tailed tit,pheasant,robin,bullfinch,chaffinch,blackbird and greater spotted and green woodpeakers, The images were nothing special but thats partly my fault for forgetting my extenders so the 200-400 was a touch short for the smaller birds, i used the D300 for extra reach and had to push the ISO a bit more than i would have liked, The reserve is a great place to visit if you have never been and there are always plenty of red kites flying over head


Sunday 18 July 2010

Garden Update - A quickie

Last month, Jac and I spent a fairly pleasant day at Gardeners World Show at the NEC  in Birmingham, looking at various garden stuff and plants.  A couple of the plant stands were selling seed grown native British orchids. Well regular readers will know that I enjoy photographing orchids so it didn't take too much temptation to get a delightful little Dactylorhiza species to bring home and plant.  It was sold to me as a Southern Marsh orchid, but I had my suspicions.

Well anyway after a few weeks we had this beautiful little Common Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii come into bloom in amongst the long grasses.  It is just starting to go over in this picture but this is a big as it got, so no quite up to some of the wild species we have that grow locally, but just a few steps from my back door so that is OK by me.


Saturday 17 July 2010

Local Patch - Common Blue Butterflies

In my post yesterday, I mentioned that it was early June when the Common Blue had just taken to the wing.  Well I was only a month out - those images were taking a month after they had really taken to the wing, and were in full mating mode.  Today's pictures were the ones I got when they had first emerged and were taken before we went to North Uist at the beginning of May.

These images were of a number of different individuals, but wanted to share a photographic study of different compositions, plants and angles.

These were among the first images I took on the new 'old' 5D and with the fabulous Canon 180f3.5L macro lens.  Let us know which if the styles shown here you like best and why?


Friday 16 July 2010

Local Patch - catching up

May, June and July have been very busy months for me photographically.  As you will have seen by my posts these days, macro or at least close up photography, to be more technically accurate, is one of my favourite genres.  These last three months have been wonderful in the garden, around the pond and at my local patch.  So much so, that I have many blog posts worth of images that I haven't shared with you.

So going back to the start of June, Jac and I took a trip to our local patch to check out the progress of the various orchids there, and had some great sightings of moths and butterflies when we were there.

On a warm and still evening, we timed it to perfection as it had clearly been the turn of the Common Blue butterflies to take to the wing.  I gave up counting when I got to 100, and being very fresh, they were not inclined to clear off when you got too close to them.

Common Blue (female)

Common Blue pair (male on top)

Burnet Moth Caterpillar

Cinnabar Moth

Dingy Skipper Butterfly

Lattice Heath Moth

All of these were taken with the 5D and Canon 180 f3.5L macro lens, generally with a bean bag or hand held.

I do miss the live view and self cleaning sensor on the 'old' model, but do love the full frame DOF effects that you get compared to the 1.6 or 1.3 crop bodies.  

Maybe I should have stock sale and get the newer 5Dmk2, before they go and bring out a new one and ramp the price up disproportionately.....again.


Thursday 15 July 2010

Feeding and Breeding

About a month ago, Jac came and told me that there were nesting Pied Wagtail at her work location.  So one very bright Saturday I took my self up to the business park to see a very busy pair of Pied Wagtail parents ferrying back and forth with food for their nestlings.  Setting my car up away from the nesting box, a couple of pallet crates just in the middle of a very busy area where business comes and goes all week long, I set the 7D, 500f4 and 1.4 EFTC on a bean bag on the car window cill and watched and waited.

It didn't take long before the male came back with a beakful and looked up to the nesting area.

Flying up about a metre, he got on to the pallets and made the precarious walk to the entrance hole

After a couple of minutes in the nest, he came out again and then after another five minutes he was back to take in another mouthful of insects.

After he went back for about the third time, the female popped out for a stretch of her wings and get another load of food.

This picture shows the marking differences very well with the female being less well marked, and you can also see the brood patch on her side from the time on the nest

While I was watching these come and go, I also noticed a pair of Swallows flying into an office building that had a door left open.  Timing my entry when the birds were away , I went in to see a mess on an emergency light fitting on a stairwell bulkhead.  Taking myself to the top of the stairs and hunkering down with the 70-200f2.8L on the camera, I jacked the ISO up to 1600 and was getting f3.5 and 1/80 second so not the best, and a strong cream/beige hue from the painted walls. 

The birds looked up when the shutter clicked, but then carried on building.

Since these pictures were taken, I believe the Swallows moved themselves on as they made an opportunistic attempt at a totally inappropriate nest when the offices were unattended, and the five young Pieds have been successfully reared, fledged and moved on.