Thursday 30 September 2010

Prices Part 2 - a quick follow on

Following my post of two days ago, it was good to see the comment responses we had,

Of course, the points that Peter raised about the Yen to USD are spot on and just salt to the wounds for those of us in the UK,  It was one area that I wasn't specifically going to comment on at the time, as I didn't want to add as a complication to the points I was making, but thanks for throwing that in.

The point Graham raises about replacement costs are also quite valid, and one that you need to be careful of when you are insuring your kit.  Dave and I have both blogged on insurance previously - links here to the three previous posts.

But one thing you do need to be careful is that you have got the replacement value insured.  Now given prices go down as well as up, make sure you are not over insured.  If you bought a 1Dmk4 at the full price of £4500, it can now be replaced for less that £3500, so you are over insuring by a grand.  Certainly, Glover & Howe that I use will refund you any reduced risks.  So check your policy and check the prices on camerapricebuster

Keep the comments coming folks - we appreciate the engagement with you


Wednesday 29 September 2010

Camera Requirements-Whats yours

With the new Nikon Cameras coming out with increased Megapixels its made me look at my requirements and whether or not to go with the flow and get a new body, Photographic agencies current requirements are one of two things, Images taken with a camera with a minimum of 10 MP or a 50MB file, Agencies that take the 10mp camera image will interpolate the image to 50mp for you and store that on file-Why 50mb you may ask, Well in the good? old days of slides if you scanned a slide at 4000dpi you got 50MB and that was good enough to print a double page i.e centre in a magazine, This has stayed with us even though digital images are far cleaner than a scanned slide and an image from say a 1D3 (10mp) which will give approx 28MB 8 bit tiff will easily give an excellent double page spread without the need to interpolate the image, So at the moment i use 2x12MP cameras so images are supplied full frame or with minimal cropping so a few extra pixels would be nice, A camera around 17-18mp will give a 50MB file without any need for interpolation which can slightly degrade an image, I dont sell many prints but i have been asked for very large poster prints before and last night i was talking to a client and we discussed images up to 36x24, So really my own personal requirements or ideal camera would be around 18- 20mp to cover all agency and print requirements-That would mean just one camera in the Nikon range that would suit me and that being the D3X, The problem is the low light performance which to me is more important that extra pixels so for the time being my ideal camera doesnt exist-from any manufacturer, I don't think it will be too long and looking at Nikon's new D7000 images i am sure next years D400 and D4 will be very exciting and a worthy upgrade for me at least,
I was talking to my buddy Pete yesterday and i said what if Canon/Nikon or whoever went against the grain-dropped back in the megapixels like they have done in some compacts-say make a 6- 8mp full frame body-affordable, Imagine the low light possibilities, Is there a market for such a camera-well and know back to my original question-What are your requirements? Just how many pixels do you need, The most basic cameras these days are around 14mp-does a beginner need 40+mp files
So take a moment and think seriously about what you do with 'your' images
1. Do you supply agencies
2.Do you print and if so what size? 6x4 8x10 A3+ Bigger?
3, Do you just use your images for the web
I dont think many of use really consider our own actual needs but get caught up in the 'must have' the newest and highest in the range bodies which is exactly what the camera manufacturers want, Sure the more basic or lower models tend to have less features, But take again Nikons new D7000 which has 16+mp, 6 frames per second and 39 focus points-I am sure thats a lot more than the average Joe needs and its certainly a spec that i could easily and happily live with, Plus it has 1080 video for those how now must have a camera with HD video built in, You certainly get a lot for your money these days but 99% of people going into to get their first Dslr probably dont need more than 6-8 mp, Dont want or need huge file sizes or the powerful PC and all that storage capacity which is now being forced upon us,
So back to the question again-what are YOUR personal requirements and more importantly why and maybe how would you like to see things progress in the future


Tuesday 28 September 2010

A quick look at Canon prices

Every so often, I do a quick check on prices of the main photographic items such as bodies and lenses.  One of the things that those of us who buy gear got hit with big time were massive price hikes back in the beginning of 2009.

Now if you look at the British pound to Yen exchange rate at that time and compare it to now, you will see that it is now at about 130 Yen to the GBP, compared to, surprise surprise, about 130 Yen to the GBP.  So blatant profiteering I hear you say - Canon mugging us off again.

However, if you look at the 2008 graph below and look back to say August/September and you will see that it was about 200Yen to the Pound.  So that's about a 35% devaluation of Sterling.  I have handily provided you links to the graphs for the currency exchange rates below.

2008 British Pound to Yen Graph

2009 British Pound to Yen graph

2010 British Pound to Yen Graph

So how has that manifested itself in terms of bits of kit.  I will ignore new gear, as we know that Canon do mug us off with new gear and the RRP they choose to launch their stuff at. For example, 1Dmk4, launch RRP, £4500, price now, about £3400, 70-200f2.8 IS L mark11, Launch RRP of £2500, price now £1689.

But if we look at a lens I know and love, the 500f4L which has been stable through the financial turmoil, we can see from this graph how the exchange rate has has knocked the price up from about £3700 to up to over £5000.  I make that percentage change about the same as the currency devaluation.

So there are two things at work here.

For established kit, we can blame the legacy of Gordon Brown and his rubbish financial policies for screwing the UK economy and let Canon off the hook.

However, for new kit launched at stupid prices that we then see drop drastically over a period of six to nine months afterwards, we can blame Canon for mugging us off with their stupid pricing practices.

OK I have taken the blog perilously close to political waters - I will steer the ship away again.


Monday 27 September 2010

Sharpness-How sharp is sharp

When it comes to the sharpness of an image it seems that everybody has their own standards of what is sharp and what isn't, When you are doing photography as a business Sharpness is everything, Show a client or agency a set of soft images and that will be the last call you get from them, I see lots and lots of images on Photographic forums that are not just unsharp but very soft or out of focus, Sometimes the persons opening line is 'i know its soft but' well to me there are no buts unless its a yeti running through a dark forest, These days even kit lenses are sharp and base cameras give excellent results so it must be down to user error, Once again excessive cropping crops up, The thought that a high megapixel camera is great because you crop the image in half to make the subject bigger is fine if the subject is sharp, If it isn't any cropping will make it look a lot worse and highlight any camera shake or subject movement, Technique is everything, The most common cause of an unsharp image is using too low a shutter speed, long lens technique or back or front focusing, The first is easily cured by using a higher ISO-Better a grainy sharp image that a grain free soft image-Long lens technique i covered here a long time ago but the use of a good quality tripod and head is a start, Keeping the tripod height to a minimum helps and a bean bag is even better, If you are constantly getting part of the image sharp but not where the focus point is then your camera is either front or back focusing, If you have a newish camera you could have a go at setting the focus yourself but i would advise sending it back and getting your camera calibrated to your lenses by the camera manufacturer, Now how sharp is sharp, That's a difficult one as you can have acceptably sharp and critically sharp, If the image prints to a certain size and looks good that could be classed as acceptably sharp but an image needs to be critically sharp to be printed huge-one mans critically sharp is another mans acceptably sharp and we all have our own standards, All i can say is that there are a lot of people using very expensive equipment and not getting critically or even acceptably sharp images on the forums but with a little thought and practice its not that difficult to get on a consistent basis
Here is an image i took last week in my home studio

Now heres a huge crop of her eye

Now thats critically sharp
The above was taken with the D3s and a 24-70 lens handheld but the shutter speed was 1/125 so it should be sharp but flash always helps to make an image sharp whether you are indoors or outside

This image was taken with a D300 and 600mm lens so in essence 850mm focal length, The shutter speed was 1/250 which is on the low side but a solid tripod and head and good long lens technique has given a very sharp image that can easily be printed beyond A3+ and look great

And a crop of the eye


Sunday 26 September 2010

Canon 7D - C1 to C3 custom mode settings

I have promised this post on many previous occasions and have finally got round to writing it up - so apologies if you have been waiting for it.

One of the absolute delights on the 7D , aside from an excellent AF system.....that works!, is the mode select dial.

Coming from the 1Dmk3, changing mode was always a two finger, or two handed affair, and not always easy when wearing gloves.

With a mode select dial, you can change modes easily without your eye even leaving the viewfinder if you need to.  This particular feature was never one of the factors for me when selecting the 7D, as it was something that you find you work around when you don't have it, but by you don't half notice the ease of operation when you do have it.

For bird photography, I found I need three basic sets of 'settings'.

Bird in flight against a clear sky background, bird in flight against a cluttered background, say against trees or fields in the distance, and then of course static subjects on the ground, or on posts etc.

Well the 7D comes with three instant dial sets of custom settings - how handy is that!!

So here is how I have mine (and Jac's camera as well as we might end up swapping around gear) configured.

C1 - clean background bird in flight

 I start with a default exposure of Av mode, ISO400 and f5.6, as my emergency 'hit the button' start point in case of an unexpected opportunity.  If I have a bit of time to set up, then these are fine tuned to the light conditions.  I also always have RAW, neutral picture style and AWB set, as I can use Capture One to redefine the white balance accurately if needs be.

So for birds in flight, I am looking for a moving subject so AI servo selected for the AF, with the manual zone AF, with the central 9 points selected.  This way I can get the subject with no risk of anything else, as the background is clean.

If I need to be more precise, it is a very quick job via the Q button to change to a different AF mode such as point of point plus expansion.

Exposure is defaulted to a start point of +1 f stop of exposure, but again refined based on the light at the time.  Drive speed is set to high, which is 8fps on the 7D

   C2 static subject e.g bird on a stick

 For static subjects, the main differences are exposure and AF settings.

Exposure is set to zero compensation this time, with the AF mode set to One Shot as my subject is now static.  AF point selection is now on single point mode.

C3 - cluttered or 'dirty' background

For moving subjects against a dirty or cluttered background, then the settings change again.  AF mode is back to AI servo, AF set to point plus expansion.  Exposure is set to just +1/3 as the general background will now start to play an effect and needs to be balanced in.

I have found that these settings give me great results, and I can change mode quickly when subjects shots of opportunity come my way.  This was something that was totally impossible with the 1Dmk3 could do, without going into a number of levels of sub menu.  By which time, your subject is likely to have been the other side of the hill - not good.

As I say, these are my starting points which can be modified to suit the conditions at the time, to suit the light.

Two other tips.  When the camera switches itself into sleep mode, the amended settings will revert to how they were set when you switched the camera on, but if you go to the third of the 'spanner' settings, or tools I 'spose, then go to camera user setting and the register, and assign the changes to the relevant mode, but make sure you register to the mode you are shooting in.  It doesn't default to the mode you are in.. If you don't do these steps, when you 'wake' the camera back up, you will have to go back through and reset everything again.

My final tip I found out the hard way and told you about it on this post.

Remember to put the C settings back to your own defaults and register the settings, as you will get a shock when you get that target off opportunity and you are trying to shoot it at completely the wrong settings.

Hope these are helpful to you, if you are a 7D user, and if you are still persevering with the 1Dmk3 - then perhaps you can only dream and weep  :-)


Saturday 25 September 2010

Photokina-Some goodies

The Photokina show threw up a couple of nice surprises for us nature photographers this year, Namely from the Sigma camp, I have always liked Sigma for their originality in their focal lengths like the 300-800, 50-500 and 120-300f2.8 lenses and i have always taken a look at their range when i am about to purchase a new lens, In days gone by i have used their 70-200F2.8 and it was very good and my brother gets very good results from the 300-800 sigmonster, They have just released a new 70-200F2.8 with image stabiliser, The list price is about the same as the new Nikon which is rediculous but the prices in the shops are already much cheaper and a true alternative to Nikon and Canons lenses, I mentioned the 120-300F2.8 and its one i have looked at time and time again, It was always a small chunky, solidly built lens and known as being very sharp, It didnt have an I.S system which it really could have done with and now that has been addressed and really does look like a good lens to have in your kit bag-add a 1.4x on a cropped body and you have a hand holdable 600mm lens with the versatility of a zoom, If i didnt have the 200-400 i would imagine one of these being high on my list, Sigma has always been at the top of the macro lens charts and the 150mm F2.8 is one of the very best and now they have added a stabiliser its another very serious piece of kit-just about perfect in fact, The big guns had already announced their new kit before Photokina so it was nice to have some nice surprises and maybe one or two things on the wanted list, I would suggest having a close look at the Sigma range the next time that you are in the market for a lens or two


Friday 24 September 2010

A quick round up

It has been a relative photographic drought for me over the last few weeks as you will have seen from the content of my postings.  Well after tomorrow, I am hoping that I can get out and about with my cameras again.

50sq m of turf arrived today and once that is down tomorrow, we are going to take a bit of time off from the last.

With the breeding season over, we are starting to see more birds back in the garden, with increasing numbers of Blackbirds, Sparrow, Dunnocks, Tits and the occasional Woodpecker.  Apparently, there was a beautiful Green Woodpecker on one of the feeding stumps the other morning after I had left for work.

Which brings me to some findings from the BTO that I received via email this week.
Apparently, Starlings and Song Thrush sightings at our garden feeding stations here in the UK are getting less, while Great Spotted Woodpeckers sightings have seen a four fold increase.  I would cetainly agree with the first part of the statement in the case of my own garden.

For the full picture of how our garden birds are faring, I recommend you take a peek at this link which will tell you all you might want to know.


Thursday 23 September 2010

Lens Flare

I mentioned in my last blog that i suffered from Lens flare when taking shots of the Smoky Mountains with the sun high in the image, The flare is really bad in the images taken in portrait mode and not quite as bad as those taken in landscape mode, To me this indicates a problem with the lens hood as it has cut aways at the sides when i landscape mode, I tried holding my hands up and out over the lens but it didn't really help, The lens in question is the new 70-200F 2.8 VR which has the nano crystal coating to help with contrast and stop flare, But in this situation it didn't work and neither did the guy next to me who was using Canon gear and was moaning of the flare he was also getting, Just goes to show that nothing is perfect even when using the latest and greatest gear and that faced with this situation either take a shot without the sun present in the image or wait until the sun dropped and the power had gone out of it, I did both and was quite happy with what i ended up with, One problem with using filters is that they can cause flare with the light bouncing around in between the glass elements, I did remove the ND Grad but it didn't seem to make any difference, Sometimes you just have to try and work around problems and thank god again for digital as you can imagine getting a load of film through all with flare on


Wednesday 22 September 2010

WWT Photo Competition

A quick parish notice to let you know about the WWT ( thats the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust) have recently launched the annual photo competition.  You can link to it here - lots of categories, chances and prizes.  Why not give it a go?


Tuesday 21 September 2010

Smoky Mountains Day 3

Its amazing how much you can cram into 3 days, We covered 1200 miles and visited some primes sites in both Tennessee and North Carolina, Th e2nd evening we headed back up to Clingmans dome to watch and shoot the sunset, It was beautiful and very warm, There must have been 100 other people there to enjoy the views and the colours changed constantly even 30 mins after the sun had set, The best time for me was when the sun kissed the mountains and lost its power and flare stopped becoming a problem, The Smokys certainly are a magical and photogenic place and a must for anybody visiting the USA, The Fall colours are not as far ahead as we expected and i will go back in 2 or 3 weeks time when i think they will be at their best, Having the ND gards with me in the evening really made a difference-see here, Both images have identical exposures and were taken within a second or 2 the only difference being i used a 3 stop grad for one of them and no filters for the other, Both are totally unprocessed just resized for the web

Of course you can process filters etc in Photoshop but i much prefer to get as much done at the time of shooting and cut down on the processing
We moved on to Asheville on the NC side of the Smokys and visited lake Lure and Chimney rock, I tried to find a good place to shoot the late evening light which was fantastic and we drove for miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway but it was too late by the time we found a suitable viewpoint and it has now been noted for a future visit
All in all a lovely weekend and the weather was great, Cant now wait to revisit in a couple of weeks


Monday 20 September 2010

Foxes back in the Garden

Back in March, I blogged about a mangy Fox that had been visiting my garden in the middle of the day.  Since then, I haven't seen any although I have seen a few tell tale markers that they have left.  Usually smelt them before I saw them.

Well 8 days ago, I prepared the part of the garden nearest the house for a new lawn.  I hand removed the turfs, rotivated and tilled the soil, raking it level and smooth, and then leaving it to settle before I turf it in the near future.  I expected all the neighbourhood cats to use it as a giant litter tray, but we have only had one visitor, until today that is.

I looked out of the window first thing to saw a couple of large holes that had been dug out. 

On closer inspection, among the various cat foot prints were some much larger prints.

Checking this site confirmed they were indeed fox tracks.

Guess a hungry fox will dig for worms when food is scarce


Sunday 19 September 2010

Smoky Mountains Days 1+2

We are in Tennessee with one of Marian's nieces so Photography is on a when and can basis, We arrived Friday afternoon and after following a thousand hot rods towards Pigeon Forge we dropped our bags off and ask what was going on-seems that this weekend is THE BIG car event of the year here and the world and its wife/sister (same person) is here so it takes 30mins to get 2 miles-nice, We went down to Cades Cove, The jewel of the Smokeys, Unfortunately for some reason the meadows are uncut and the wildlife is very difficult to see, We ended the afternoon with 4 deer and 6 turkeys-i get more in my garden and to cap it off they now open at 10am on Saturday and Wednesday which is crap as the light is very harsh by then and any mist will have burnt off, I made a decision to get up early and head into the mountains to a place called Clingmans Dome which is the high point and gives great views of the sunrise and sets, I arrived early and it was still dark with stars in the sky but a distant glow meant that i wouldn't have to wait too long for the sky to lighten, I got the tripod and camera gear out then realised that i had left the ND grads in the motel so i would take some images and have to HDR them, There were already 3 photographers there and as soon as the sky started to get light a photo workshop arrived and for some reason decided that they would all stand around-ME, i got my shots and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and left, During the day i enjoyed looking at all the shiny cars and really should have taken a camera but i will be back in a couple of weeks and decided to just have a lazy family day, Back to shoot the sunset tonight and then leave early tomorrow to go to the NC side of the mountains for a day.I quickly put 5 frames together with Photomatix but it doesn't seem to like to mist so will have to reprocess it when i get home but it gives you the idea

HDR Image

Standard Processing


Saturday 18 September 2010

Great News

Following on from my post of a few weeks back on various new or recovered species breeding in the UK, it seems there has been great success up in Norfolk this year with Spoonbills breeding for the first time in 300 years.

These really are wonderful birds.  I have seen them in the UK a few times, going back some fifteen years or so when I first saw one in Hampshire.

Most of us love Red Squirrels and I see that the National Trust has published some information on five Squirrel 'walks' that you can make in the UK.

Let us know if you get to any of these locations and how you got on


Comment Moderation

Dave and I really welcome comments on our posts on here.  Your feedback and views are always very warmly welcomed and we would be pleased to see even more.

In terms on the comments we have received since we started, there have only been a very small handful that we haven't published through inappropriate comment with someone punting something commercial with no relevance to the blog.

But I will make one request going forward please, that even if you choose to leave a comment as anonymous if you don't have a Google id or similar, please can you put your name at the end of the post so we know who we are publishing.

If there are any more where we don't get a name, we shall not publish them, which would be a shame as where we have had anons, they have been cracking content.

So please keep posting, but please let us know who you are

We would be most grateful


Friday 17 September 2010

Be Selective

As you are reading this i am driving up to the Great Smoky Mountains for a few days, We have our niece visiting for a week so lots to do and see, It will give me an opportunity to check out a few places for when i return in a couple of weeks to shoot the fall colours,
A couple of days ago i went onto a forum where a guy was talking about getting a Nikon D7000 for wildlife photography, His reason was that it had more pixels than his current camera and would allow him bigger crops, Now i have mentioned this 'digital' practice before and for those who have never used film or slide in the old days when you pressed the button that is what you got-no cropping, but these days that's how people seem to think you shoot, This is his statement
''Wildlife photography often requires much post shoot cropping and thus extremely small image sizes. Certainly not enough pixels for large prints""
Now i replied saying that i totally disagree with the statement and he is either focally challenged (he stated he had lenses up to 300mm) needed some field craft or a hide and extenders to get closer to his subject, All i got back was a statement saying that i wasn't helping by criticizing,  That wasn't my intention and i wasn't criticizing, I stated that i rarely crop images and if i do its very little but this was met by disbelief, I think its the accepted norm now to grab a shot at some distance and then crop the hell out of it, which is fine if all you want is images for the web to show how good you are?? but at the end of the day you have nothing else-you cant sell them or even print them so what's the use, Be selective with your shutter finger and only shoot when you can get a good image, Other than that just sit back and enjoy the show, Being old school has taught me well and supplying agencies that take a minimum of 10mp files and i only shoot with a 12mp body means that i could only crop a maximum of 2 mp if i wanted to, Knowing this makes me very selective of what and when i shoot and i don't end up with a hard drive full of rubbish images, Now if the yeti showed up half a mile away of course i would shoot and crop but until that happens i will continue as i am


Thursday 16 September 2010

Readers of this blog more IT savvy than rest of world !!

So looking at some of the blurb on the BBC, it seems that 60.4% of the world uses Internet Explorer, while Firefox, Goooooooogle Chrome, Safari and Opera get 22.9%, 7.5% , 5.16% and 2.4% respectively.

Well here on Wildlifeacrossthewater, our stats are Firefox 34.5%, IE 30.6%, Safari 27.8%, Chrome 6.4% and Opera down at 0.4%.

So by my reckoning, you lot are generally more switched on to using safer and more technically capable browsers.

Congratulations to you all.....or at least 69.4% of you  :-)


Wednesday 15 September 2010

New Gear-Nikon goodies

As per usual Nikon have allowed some images of new gear to be filtered onto the internet over the last couple of days, I new they would have an announcement this week on the run up to photokina, The big news is the replacement for their most popular camera the D90, Keeping with the new numbering system the replacement is going to called the D7000 which was announced at mid night last night here in the USA, The specs look excellent and a big upgrade from the D90, Main news is the all new Nikon made 16MP sensor with 39 point AF system and 1080 video, This camera should be a direct competitor to the Canon 60D, Looking at the specs the Nikon looks better value for money even though its a couple of hundred dollars more expensive and has fewer pixels, I guess we will have to wait for the real tests and see just good the IQ is from that new sensor, The Nikon definantly has a better AF system and a better quality body than the Canon and the addition of 2 card slots, This will take sales away from the D300s i should think and find it understandable, It looks a serious piece of kit on the spec sheet and i look forward to seeing what its like when its released next month
Lens wise Nikon have done us proud this year answering lots of peoples 'wants' and now another 2 excellent pro lenses in the form of a fast wide in the 35 F1.4 and a gorgeous new 200mm F2 -God i would love to have one of these in my kit bag just to look at every day-a stunning lens
And thats not all they even squeezed in time to update the SB600 Flash and we now have a SB700 which looks like a smaller version of the SB900, I have 3 SB600's and they really are excellent  and as i need at least one more i may get another before they all go or wait and get the SB700 which is very probable,
So an exciting day for all of us gear heads, Nikon states that the new D7000 will have the best ISO performance of any of its DX sensor cameras so lets hope that thats true, If it is then it looks good for the D300s replacement next year-exciting times in the Nikon camp-Now where is the longed for D700X
More details here


The Butterflies are still around

Last weekend saw Comma, Large White, Small White, Peacock, Meadow Brown and Common Blue still coming into the garden.  It will be interesting to see when the last records of each of these will be this year.

I got a few of the Common Blue to share with you, and use these examples to show a technique that I use a lot, and that I have mentioned before.

Get your first shot in while you are not anything like as close as you want to be.

Then get a bit closer and get a couple more, then do the same and then the same again.

You never know when you are going to scare your subject so a gradual approach means you slowly get an improving shot.

What this also shows in the wider shot is the habitat - in this case Birds Foot Trefoil, with both flower and seed heads.  Now the first is very messy, but the approach I have used shows that you can work your background, and of course the closer you get, the better the depth of fields effects become, throwing more of the clutter out of focus for a more pleasing perspective.

Both taken with the 5D and Canon 180 f3.5L usual


Tuesday 14 September 2010

Eagles on Mull on the TV tonight - UK only

Just a quick notification if you are UK based and read this before 22.20, make sure you check out BBC for a short (ten minutes) programme on Sea Eagles on Mull, filmed by Gordan Buchanan.

Sorry if you are not UK based :-(

But here's a nice little vid that you might like to make up for it


Its been a hot one

I have mentioned many times recently just how hot its been this summer-Well they just said on the news that the record for over 90 degrees in a summer is 83 days, This year we have already had 81 days over 90 and we have another 4 this coming week so it looks like a summer that will go down in the record books-no complaints from me


Capture One 5.2

Capture One have issued an upgrade to 5.2-mainly aimed at us Nikon folk with promises of improved colours which will be interesting as the colours seem great already
see here

Monday 13 September 2010

Lets Talk

Well the year is flying by and the leaves here in Raleigh are just starting to change colour, I was hoping to go to the Smoky Mountains last Friday and come home Saturday night but the weather forecast could have gone either way so i stayed home, I am off to the Mountains this coming Friday for 3 nights and then will be back for a week or more mid-late Oct to coincide with the best of the fall colours, It looks set to be a great fall which never really happened last year, I will be at my usual place in Tennessee so that i can cover landscapes and the incredibly relaxed wildlife that is there-Cant wait, Nikon announced some new high spec compacts last week, One of then states 10FPS for 5 frames and has 1080 video so i will get one of these and replace the Panasonic lumix that we currently have, Its always handy to have a compact with you as you don't normally carry a Dslr around unless you need to, There is promised to be another Nikon announcement this week (15th) where we should see a new version of the popular D90, The specs being banded around look good-16mp,100% viewfinder and 1080 video, There should also be a couple of lenses and a revision of the SB600 flashgun if the rumours are to be believed, No news on the hoped for D700 upgrade that i for one would be interested in but who knows-only Nikon thats for sure,
Yesterday i did a family shoot in my studio for a client and although every thing went smoothly i can tell you when shooting people with glasses with studio lights one turn of the head and the image is ruined, So i have plenty of processing to do to get them their images before i leave at the end of the week
I didnt get out with the cameras over the weekend period but i did watch the 3 amigos come into the garden last night at 8.15pm which is getting to be their favoured time and i will be back out there tonight as well as trying to the deer and birds at my other site, This is going to be a busy 6 weeks and i want to make the most of the fall colours in both landscape and wildlife so long long days and then before you know it it will be Xmas and i will be in Florida-so far its been an excellent year photographically -lets hope it continues


Sunday 12 September 2010

A bit of this and that

Just a few random things to share with you tonight.

I mentioned in my last post about the migrating Ospreys.  Well it was fantastic to see one circling and moving southwards while I was on the eastern side of Nottingham on Friday afternoon at a family birthday party.  It was about 750 feet up, ringing up to gain height and slowly drifting southwards.  Wings too long and narrow for a Buzzard, no forked tailed for a Kite and different wing beat to a Harrier.

The migration is in full swing with some great sightings up in Shetland as reported by our friend Robbie - some fantastic sightings.  Take a look at his blog and see what I mean.

Here at home, my camera has seen limited use lately as I have still been working hard in the garden still - the back of the hard stuff has been broken thank goodness.  All ready for a complete new lawn now.  Still plenty of visiting butterflies and dragonflies to keep me company, and a regular Green Woodpecker is now mostly being heard, and occasionally seen.

I came home one evening last week to find feathers everywhere in one part of the garden, caught up in the hedgerows as well.  Looks like a Sparrowhawk had visited sometime during the day.

I mentioned a short while back that we are coming towards fungi season.  We have the first two species in the garden out now.  I am hoping that with the decent amount of rain we had had throughout August and September that we will be in for a good season.

OK that's enough rambling for now.  Hope you had a great weekend.


Saturday 11 September 2010

Memory cards

I know we have covered camera memory before but things move on and with increased pixels comes the need for bigger and faster cards, Not just faster to clear the cameras buffer but also to download to the PC, Now i haven't increased my camera mega pixels much in the last 2 years going from 10mp to 12mp hasn't increased the file sizes that much,Now Martin has gone from 10 mp to 18mp which will give huge files, But i am shooting a lot and also doing a small amount of underwater stuff and you cant change cards there so i have decided its time to buy bigger and faster cards, ALL my cards are made by Sandisk, I have always used Sandisk and probably will, But there are some new players in the market, Sandisk and Lexar probably being the best known but there are quite a few more like Kingston, Delkin and now Hoodman, I looked into all of them at sizes from 8 to 16meg, My D3s has 2 CF card slots so that means i could have 32 gig and not have to change the cards at all in the day as i have never shot 32 gigs worth of images in 1 day, However if and when i get a new high MP camera that may or will change, Obviously costs come into the equation and i ended up ordering 2 8gig Sandisk Extreme cards from Adorama, The cards at 400x speed are slightly quicker than my current Sandisk extreme IV's, I would have liked some of the Extreme Pro's but they only start at 16gig and are vastly more expensive, I don't really want 16 gig cards at the moment and by the time i get a high MP camera the cost of the cards will have come down, Big suprise to me are Hoodman they have a 675x card out with a mini SSD (solid state disk) built in-extremely fast and very expensive but obviously the way things will go


Friday 10 September 2010

Humming Bird Hawk Moths

....and Painted Ladys are subject to a migrant watch by the Butterfly Conservation Group.   They are after reported sightings of either of these two migrants.  Report your sightings here.

I saw one Humming bird Hawk Moth a few days ago nectaring from the Hydrangea at the front of my house, and saw another two nights back nectaring from a hanging basket outside a pub in the centre of Stratford upon Avon, while I was sipping my own black nectar.

So I have now recorded two.  Just a shame I wasn't able to photograph them.

Let us know if you see either species and record them.

Update: Added hyperlink for recording sight


The ospreys have headed south

Here in the UK, I have been following the fortunes of two sets of Ospreys this year either on webcams or via Twitter.  these have been at Loch Garten in Scotland, and closer to home at Rutland Water.

Well both of these feeds have closed as the subjects have started their long migration to Central Africa.

Let's hope they safely run the gauntlet of shooters in France, Spain and other places en route and we see them back here next year.


Thursday 9 September 2010

The 3 Amigos

I mentioned last week that we have had 3 Raccoons visiting our garden, I nicknamed them 'the 3 amigos', I had decided that i would like some shots of them and for the last week i have been avidly pursuing them, It hasn't gone to plan and when i am in the hide they are nowhere to be seen and when i look through my back door they are there for the world to see, Very frustrating, I have seen them at 8.15,9.15 and 12.15 so no real set pattern and i have spent up to 4 hours in the hide without a peep, Not a fox,opossum or Raccoon, Its been the graveyard shift, last night i had decided that i would stay in and watch a movie, but kept getting that nagging feeling that if i didn't go out they would be dancing around the garden and it would more than annoy me, So there was nothing for it, I would just have to grin and bear it, If i wasn't there i wouldn't get them and so i would be in for the long haul, Luckily for me i struck lucky and at 8.15pm a little head popped around the tree and went to the food i had put down, I waited a couple of minutes hoping that the others would turn up but in the end i took a couple of shots, The 'coon' wasn't bothered by the flashguns but looked straight at me as it heard the quiet mode shutter on the D3s, I was using the 200-400 with a 1.4x on so their hearing is very acute, Another 'coon' arrived and started to feed and i waited again hoping the light coloured one would turn up and i could get all 3 together, It didn't happen, I am sure it wasn't far away and maybe the flashguns spooked it but i did manage a few shots of the two of them before one left shortly followed by the other, So some persistence has started to pay off and i hope it continues, They really are great looking creatures and as cute as a button-and cute sells

Heres a 100% crop of the above, that 200-400 combo sure is sharp

I have a couple of things to change lighting why, The background is a bit bright so i will turn that down a stop,but overall things are now looking up


Wednesday 8 September 2010

Long Tailed Tits

These delightful little birds have generally eluded me photographically for a long time.  They are regulars in my garden, but have never really obliged for me.  Maybe I need more of Dave's patience.

Anyway, getting home from work tonight, I put the kettle on and walked into the garden for the usual look around.  I could hear the little 'check-check' calls and could see quite  few.  So I went back into the house, stuck the 500 + 1.4 on the 7D and went outside and sat down on the log pile still in my bright white work shirt.

I was taking it as an opportunist chance rather than a planned shoot.

Well I got a few images that I am pleased to share with you in lovely evening light.

I had a little chuckle to myself as I was processing these images of this bird in my apple tree, thinking what sort of comments would I have got had I still posted on photo forums.

Too cluttered, crop is wrong, distracting bits of apple tree -  blah blah

Well that was the environment folks, so that's what you get.  I am not cropping out the environment it was in  :-)

Anyway, it was a pleasant little interlude before I cooked the supper


Tuesday 7 September 2010

Maintenence-Gitzo Tripods

Gitzo tripods are without doubt THE BEST tripods currently available and they have a price tag to match-you really do pay for the best, However like everything that is used often it will need some maintenance to keep it working as it should, I have a 1548 model which i have had for some years, Martin on the other hands has one of the new 6X models-The 5541 is my memory serves me right, My tripod has been getting stiff and harder to use for some time and so i decided it was time to see how and when to service it, When i lived in Switzerland i used to use the tripod in water-all the way in up to the tripod head so i know how to take it apart and clean it but i havent done so for a couple of years or more, I go on the Naturescapes forum and like all good forums its a wealth of imformation and there is a great article on there and when you should clean your tripod see here, Naturescapes also has a good online store where you can purchase the bushes etc needed to keep your Gitzo in tip top working order


Monday 6 September 2010

A few sightings in the garden

As mentioned in my blog on Saturday, this past weekend was a busy one again for us, and once again there was plenty of visiting wildlife to see or hear.

Another female Southern Hawker popped by and layed some more eggs in and around the pond.  This post shows the second one of the year from a while back.  So we have had at least three this year, but of course that is only the ones that we have seen.  I wonder how many others have been by?  While clearing some of the mess from the surface of the pond, including apples from the nearby tree, I did scoop up a very well formed Southern Hawker larva that was quite active.  This would have been one of last years.  So we now know that there is at least three types of Damesl, Broad Bodied Chases and the Hawkers for the future.

Other great sightings included the resident large flock of mixed Tits previously reported as well as a beautiful little pair of Goldcrests working through the conifers while I sat down for a while drinking a well earned cup of tea.

There is still a few more weekends of work to do until I can finally take some time out and concentrate on getting some more photographs from the fruits of my labour....but it is looking good for the future.


A quick Hello and Welcome

to a few new friends to our blog.  Welcome to Jo Pool, Dave and James 1 - it is good to see you.

We hope you enjoy our posts.

Please feel free to comment as you wish as we are always pleased to see feedback and comments from our visitors


Sunday 5 September 2010

Taking an opportunity-Mantis

Its funny that Martins last blog was on moths as mine has a moth undertone, A couple of nights ago i went into my hide next to my garden in the hope of more fox images, I have a 100 watt spot light near the hide that illuminates the area where i am shooting, This allows the use of AF and gives me a good view of the area, The animals walk into the light so cant see what's happening in the hide in anyway, The light attracts all kinds of moths and night bugs, This has started to attract some predators -namely the preying Mantis, Last week when i left the hide i walked to the garden gate and was startled by a mantis on top of the gate next to the light, It actually looked directly at me and then reared up-it looked fantastic and i rushed to the front of the house to get my sigma 180 macro, as i returned it flew off, I hoped that it would return and a couple of days later it did, I watched through a tiny gap in the zip on the hide as the mantis started at the bottom of the gate and over an hour very slowly made its way up to the top and towards the light, When it was at the top and in position i had to make the decision as to whether i should just watch and carry on waiting for the fox or to take the opportunity of getting some mantis images-i chose the mantis, The foxes will always be around but i haven't seen a mantis for some time, You have to take any opportunity that you get so i slipped out of the hide and hidden i put the tripod up high and took a couple of test shots to try and work out the exposure, it was pitch black and only the mantis was catching the light, I adjusted the exposure until i started to get 'blinkys' on the LCD to show over exposed areas and then backed off a little, it worked out that the exposure would be long unless i really cranked the ISO up which i didn't really want to and as the mantis stays in one position for some time i didn't need to as long as i tightened every thing down and used a remote release, I ended up shooting for about an hour and managed lots of different angled but head on came out the best,The Sigma 180 really is sharp and i must admit i am very happy with it, i manual focused and used the live view feature to help make sure that focus was on the eyes, At the end the mantis moved down the gate rail and within a minute had caught a moth Heres my favourite


Saturday 4 September 2010

A few moths from this morning

It has a been a few weekends since I set my home made moth trap out.  A combination of events and weather have worked against me.

With the sunrise getting later, it means at least I am not having to get out of bed until 7 am now, and with a period of time elapsed, I was keen to see what new species I might get.

It was clearly the night of the large yellow underwing, I counted a total of 63 of them.  For images you can see them here from when I photographed them in July.

I got a few record shots from a short while ago that I have shared below

Angle Shades

Common Wainscot

Unknown - Help  - Any ideas?

I have been through my i/d book over and over again, but cannot be sure if this last one.  I know there are one or two 'moth'ers read the blog, so any help would be appreciated

The best catch of the day was a lovely Red Underwing.  A large drab looking moth, but with a beautiful red speckled underwing.  However, in spite of my best efforts to place it in a suitable photographic location, it wasn't keen to stay put, so I had a great sight of it flying away from me.

Right, I must go and catch up on more landscaping work in the garden that a bad back prevented me from last weekend.   I will have the camera to hand as there are still dragonflies and butterflies around.


Friday 3 September 2010


I was once told that i am the most patient unpatient man that the person had ever know, Which basically means that i am normally very impatient but when it comes to wildlife photography and angling i am happy to wait and enjoy the moment knowing that if i put enough time and effort in i will get my goal or trophy, Since i moved to the States 1 year and 2 days ago i have wanted to get some good images of the Grey Fox that live in this area, I have never seen a Red fox around these parts and its nice to have something different, The problem is that 2 years down the path and still no decent images to speak of, I did get a couple last year when i was playing around with a remote set up but not up to the quality that i want, A couple of nights ago at 9.15pm i looked out of my glass back door and noticed that there were 3 raccoons eating the food that i put out every night for them and the fox and opossums, I had had my new hide in position for over a month so the next night i hoped that the 3 raccoons or the 3 amigos as i nicknamed them would return, I have been putting a small amount of dry minced type dog food out nearly every night for over a year in 3 places in my garden and every day its gone, Now lately i have had to chase a dog away from taking it so i was unsure if it was the dog or the wild animals that was the reason it was going so it was great to see the 3 amigos, I haven't seen any opossums for about 6 months and have no idea why they have disappeared although i have an idea that i will keep to myself, I see the fox regularly and sometimes 2 together which is nice, I had a great run with the opossums in the spring and although the fox would sometimes come it would never get near the food and would be very nervous around the set up, Raccoons will come and go, Sometimes you see them for a couple of days then weeks go by without a sign, So a couple of nights ago i set up with 4 flashguns, The D3s and 200-400 with the 1.4x and sat and waited, It was very hot and humid and at 11 pm when i packed up i was still sweating, At 9.30 a fox came into the garden and noticed the flashguns, had a very quick look and was gone in a blur, 20 minutes later it returned and did the same, This wasn't looking good, then 10 more minutes passed and it came back and went up to the et up for a closer look, It was extremely nervous and at one point as it moved closer a leaf touched its ear and it nearly took off, It made it to the food and took a piece and legged it, then came back, I waited and it did this a couple of times, I watched through the camera and then it eat and stayed, I waited until it took another bite and as it went down again i took a shot, It bolted but not far and came straight back-great i though but after 1 more shot it was gone and didnt return, at least i had 2 images from the shoot but one was just slightly soft on the head where it kept looking around so that just left the 1 and first image-not great but a start and something to work on, I tried again last night but it was like the grave out there and after 4 hours i gave in, North Carolina is just about to get hit by Hurricane Earl and although its off the coast more than 3 hours away i wonder if the air pressure has changed and the animals know that some bad weather may hit-who knows, It just means that i now have the taste of success and i want more-lots more


Thursday 2 September 2010

Get ready for Autumn

Now is the time to start planning your Autumn trips.

As I drove past a load of Fallow deer looking fabulous in the evening light, I was reminded that Dave posted this Deer Rut timetable last year, so thought it timely to post a reminder.

The Autumn bird migration is well under way, and it will be worth dropping into many of the bird reserves around the country as the reverse migration takes place.  Lots of great sightings at the moment are being reported all over, so the next month or two should be fun.

Not too far off now will be the fungi season and here was last years heads up

Update:  While not being a fan of Apple products, here is a useful app for you from Rogers Mushrooms, a great place for your fungi ID's when you get out there photographing them.


Blogging - How are we doing?

Usually at the end of each month, I take a look back at the stats that Google Analytics churn out for us and see how many and where our visitors come from.  I had a feeling that numbers were down a little this summer period, but they have pretty much held up.

In the three months of  June to August this year, 1689 of you dropped by for a total of 5990 visits from 58 countries. Checking back to the same period last year, the numbers were 1642, 6159  and 42 respectively.  So more of you from more places this year.

So I guess we must be getting some stuff right for you.


Wednesday 1 September 2010


I have said it before and i will say it again, The background in your image is just as important as the subject, I still see lots of very nice images on forums with comments like-'nice but the background is distracting', Now its not always possible to get a very good clean background and you don't need to, It just has to be pleasing on the eye and have the right kind of light on it i.e make sure you know at what time of the day that the light will or will not hit the background for the best results, Case in point, I was in Monterey California and i had been shooting Sea Lions from a restaurant entrance-well the light was the best there, so i grabbed a bite to eat and the when i was finished i headed off and bumped into a group of grackles feeding close by, I was already set up so i quickly took a shot, I checked the image on the screen and histogram etc but noticed that the background was a bit distracting and uneven

So 2 steps to the right and its was much better

And a quick shot in portrait to keep the agencies happy

As i said you don't need a perfectly clean background and another image to prove my point is this Heermann's gull
There was a very colourful bush in the distance behind the bird if you positioned yourself at the right angle, Just down the road from this image i took another image of a Herrmanns Gull with the late afternoon light on the bird with an ocean background

And tonight i was at my deer set up where i now have a bird feeder set up, I set it up so that the evening sun will light the distant fir tree

Mocking Bird

Notice how the light has changed on the last 2 images as the sun was setting, The images were taken within about 30 minutes of each other but have a totally different feel, Its always worth taking note of your background when using a garden set up especially the light direction and time of day and also when taking images like the ones in California-before you press the button look at the scene and move if need be for a better background