Monday 31 January 2011

Big Garden Bird Watch

The results from the garden yesterday morning were as follows:

Blackbirds            14
Chaffinch              11
Dunnock               2
House Sparrow     4
Coal Tit                 2
Blue Tit                 2
Great Tit               1
Wood Pigeon        6
Collared Dove       1
Blackcap               2  (1m,1f)
GS Woodpecker   1   (fem)
Songthrush            1
Carrion Crow        1
Mistle Thrush        2

Sadly no Robin, Wren, Starling, Long Tailed Tits, Green or Goldfinches - all of which are regulars. 

So a total of 15 species which compares to 12 species last year, which also got the Mistle Thrush and GS Woodpecker - so a good improvement particularly when some of the common species did turn up during the count hour

Let us know how you did


Sunday 30 January 2011

Canon Gear - Sell Off - Winter Sale - Last Call before ebay

Just a quick and final call before the gear goes on eBay.

All stuff listed here and with all components as supplied in each case with boxed, manuals, the lot.

Link to my earlier post is here for the list of items.

And for those who have asked via text or facebook, I am not going to Nikon, otherwise the list would be substantially longer.

I am just looking to rationalise the bodies and the lenses to things that I need rather than have.

5D and the nifty 50 have already gone.

 Important thing to know about the 1Dmk111 - the Blue Spot

As before, let me know via the comments if you are interested and we can discuss prices, but be quick, as they will start going on from  tonight. Leave me a contact number in the comment, which I will NOT publish.


Having different bodies

One the great things of owning the D3s and the D300 was that all the accessories fitted both cameras, Things like the battery charger and remote release were the same which when travelling is a real bonus, If the battery ran out on the D3s i could just steal the one from the D300 grip, Thats now all changed by selling the D300 and getting the D7000, The batteries are totally different as is the remote release, I mentioned last year that i purchased a remote made by Hahnel, very inexpensive but it had the added feature of being able to use it wirelessly, I shot some opossums in my garden whilst i was in my house looking out of the window, I have been getting my gear ready for the Japan trip when i remembered that i didnt have a remote for the D7000, I may not need one but you never know, I didnt really want to buy another, then i remembered that the Hahnel remote came with extra leads, I searched them out and sure enough it came with 3 leads and the leads would allow the remote to fit every Nikon camera body since the D1 and as the remote release socket is the same as the D90 i would not have to go and spend more money on accessories and i would only have to take 1 remote release with me, As i said the Hahnel is not expensive and now being able to use it with 2 different bodies it makes it somewhat of a bargain, One thing to make sure when using this product is that the leads 'snaps' into the main unit, If it doesn't then it is very hit or miss if it will work or not so a good firm push together and all will work fine


Saturday 29 January 2011

It's here - Big Garden Bird Watch

Today and tomorrow are your chance to take part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch.

I have charged the feeders and will have a count a bit later.  let us know what you see and count


Friday 28 January 2011

Travel back ups

A quick one to day as i am cloning my 2TB hard drives and that puts my desk top out of action for about 15 hours and its my wifes birthday and we are out most of the day-Happy Birthday Marian, So what do you do for backing up and storing images when away, I normally take my laptop and a Lacie Rugged 250GB external hardive and keep images both to the laptop and the HD, Last week i purchased another Lacie Rugged 500GB external hard drive from B+H, I have used the rugged HD's  for a couple of years now and they are well travelled, They are small and fairly light and do the job, I have just the USB 2 versions but they do firewire and USB 3 now, When i go to Japan i will take both and not store images on the laptop so as not to slow it down
I would be interested to know what and how you back up when away from home


Thursday 27 January 2011

Review of the Year - Part 8 - August

What with one thing and another, it is taking a bit longer to get through the 2010 review this year.  But maybe a bit of variety of other posts is a good thing for our readers.

Dave started the month off with a weeks trip to California and reported it in a five part series here, here pt2, pt3, pt4 and part 5

The Pond Life series continued from my garden with egg laying Hawkers, and I closed down Frog Blog with it's final part for the year.

On more Tech Stuff, there were a couple of articles on External Hard Drives here and here.

Dave and I gave you the views of our respective experiences of using 10 stop ND filters here and here.  Different types - square and round, slightly different experiences.

New species of moth were caught in my moth trap and photographed.

Dave tried out and reported on the Nikon 105 VR macro lens and I finished the month up with a
story of more new life in the garden.

The full archives of our 36 posts can be found here for August.

A total of 744 of you visited us 1,974 times  from 43 countries


Wednesday 26 January 2011

To clone or not to clone

Yes its that question again, It comes up time and time again on forums, Pretty much like the Canon v Nikon or PC v Mac debates, Processing is an evil necessity of the modern day photographer and if you supply agencies they want all the images cleaned i.e dust spots etc removed before they will accept any images, Selling images is getting harder and harder and the pay is getting lower and lower so if you take a good image and you have the famous twig or blade of grass across part of the subject do you clone it to make it a saleable image? of course you do, I have limits that i will go to and do very little to my images, I know some people are very good at photoshop and add wings/feet or whatever so that they get a saleable image, i dont go that far and probably never will but if it put food on the table you can see why they do it, I have no problems with it as long as the photographer is truthful in what he/she has done, These images will never will a major award as you have to send in the RAW files to prove that what you have submitted is what you actually took at the time, here is an image i took a few weeks ago of a Northern Flicker, Being on the ground there was bound to be something in the way and as you can see on the original image there is a small stick coming up across the breast of the bird which i removed with the aid of the clone tool in CS5, I didnt use the content aware brush as i have little faith that it will do a good job-sometimes its great and another time its crap so here i cloned it in small sections to match the feathers from another part of the breast, Cloning is like Cropping, Everybody seems to be doing it but not everybody will admit to it

As there are twigs everywhere in the image you could go on forever but this is good for me even though there is a twig coming out of the top of its head, As with all things try and get it good in the camera but like the bird above they dont always land where you want them


Tuesday 25 January 2011

Winter Clear out Sale

It is time for a clear out of some of my kit, so with the sales in the shops ending and a payday coming up, maybe now is the time to get a bargain, particularly as Canon prices are just about to go up again!!

All of this kit will be going on ebay and the end of the week but this is the opportunity if any of our readers are interested in what I have for sale before then, subject to sensible and reasonable price agreement.

DSLR bodies

I have already sold the 5D and I now have a Canon 1Dmk111 and a Canon 7D with BGE7 battery grip.

Both come boxed with ALL ietems that you get new.  Straps are still in their sealed bags!!

1Dmk111 is a Blue spot and has been back to Canon when they made the last hardware updates a couple of years back.

The 7D belonged to Jac and and has had quite light useage.

Both immaculate condition


I have a Canon 24-105f4  IS L available and a Canon 100mm f2.8 USM macro lens.

Immaculate condition, boxed and with all items that they came with as standard.

Flash Items

Canon MR14EX Ring Flash - very low use and immaculate

Canon STE2 Flash Trigger

Again both boxed and with all standard items

If you are interested in any of these, please leave me a comment with a UK number that I can contact you on.

Note that comments will NOT be published.

Then we can talk about what you are interested in and prices.

Hope to hear from you


Monday 24 January 2011

Trying to be different

There are many excellent photographers around and millions of excellent images of the same subjects so you need to try and be a little different from the crowd and not just follow everybody else,Agencies are accepting good clean images but they do not want the norm-competitions are not won by the 'norm', So how to be different-well one way is to 'work' a subject and get as many different poses as possible or just watch animal behaviour and try and catch the unexpected, I have a Northern Mocking bird visiting my woodpecker branch, Its very sneaky and when it lands it hides behind the branch and quickly peeks around, bobbing its head from side to side, Its quite amusing to watch so the other day when it landed i tried to get the shot showing this behaviour, One it was fun and two it would fit many of an agency requirements in an image as it fits many  subjects rather than 'just' being a bird, It was a bit hit and miss but i did get a couple of shots and will be interested to see if they are accepted or not, A few years ago when i lived in Switzerland i spent some considerable time with a family of foxes, One of the cubs grew to be very timid and shy and would approach the baited site from a far and would hide behind the log i had placed and peek around in all directions to make sure the coast was clear, It didn't know that i was there as i was always in a hide but i guess it knew that if it came out the 'bush' would click, I tried many times to get this behaviour and in one image i think i captured it well-its still one of my all time favourites, One of the benefits of spending some time with one subject is that it gives you a chance to think out side of the box and capture behaviour that people do not normally see


Sunday 23 January 2011

Big Garden Bird Watch - first reminder

Just a quick reminder to all you UK readers that next weekend is the Big Garden Bird Watch

Link is here, make sure you get registered and get counting.

I have been out and fiilling all the nooks and crannies in my trees with a suet/fat/seed/mashed peanut/mashed sultana mix.

Already got a female Blackcap in as  a result.

Will post my results next weekend after the count.


Weather Part 2 (& Sod's Law)

A few days ago Dave blogged here on the benefits of being able to pick and choose his time to photograph.
For me the opposite is true, with a full time job to fit around, I can only look out the train window to see beautiful sunrise, blues skies and sunsets between Monday and Friday.  The last two weekends when I have been gagging to get out have been truly awful, with horrible dark grey light.  I have a couple of local day trips that I want to get in but with the light it really just isn't worth the waste of very expensive fuel.  So today will be another lost Sunday and fingers crossed for next week, and hope the fairly rare subjects I want to see will still be around.


Mike Lane-New Photo tour company

This is something that i would not normally advertise but as its one of our Blogging buddies i will make a big exception, Award winning British Wildlife photographer Mike Lane has a new venture working alongside some excellent photographers and tour leaders-offering photographic tours around the world, Check out his new site and make sure that you book mark it for future reference- see here
One bonus that Mikes tours offer over some others is the ability to hire some of the big lenses

Please not that neither Martin or Myself have any affiliation with the above company but would like to offer Mike and his crew good luck in their new venture


Saturday 22 January 2011

Longer days-springs coming

The last couple of days have been beautiful although yesterday the breeze had some bite and today its gone very cold again, I went to the private land yesterday afternoon for a couple of hours, I have been packing up around 4-4.15 but yesterday it was 4.45 before the feeder went into the shade and i left, The days are defiantly getting longer and although winter is still clinging on its days are numbered , I think by the time i get back from Japan it will be very warm here, I watched a red tailed hawk flying into the nearby forest with nesting material yesterday so thats a good sign that breeding season is coming, There were plenty of birds at the feeding station yesterday, I only took the D7000 and 600 along with the 1.4x as i wanted some chickadee and tufted titmouse images that were fill frame, When the bigger birds arrived like the cardinals and woodpeckers i would quickly take the extender off and get some shots, I had a small group of 5 or 6 cardinals perched close together in the tree next to my hide and with the blue sky behind them they looked like Christmas tree ornaments, I never tire of shooting cardinals as they are such a pretty bird and if you are lucky you can catch them with their crests raised, They then remind me of a small Cockatoo, The hairy woodpecker arrived and stayed some some time feeding on the 'pecker' branch but the Red Bellied Woodpecker only came to feed twice and then only on the seed table so i didn't bother to shoot, The light was good although a touch harsh when i arrived but as the sun started to dip everything looked great, Another bird that i wanted to get better shots of was the Carolina Wren and this session it showed a couple of times but showed very nicely, Staying in one spot for some time before moving off, Just before the end of the session it landed on a tree to my right and stayed for 3 or 4 minutes, I could just manage to get the lens on it without up rooting the hide


Friday 21 January 2011

Starling Phenomenon

It is around this time of year that I usually manage to see the flocking Starlings as I reported here from a trip I took to Slimbridge last year.

This natural spectacle is always stunning to watch and with lots of birds and lots of flocks it is really exciting as they wheel around the skies.

So it was with great pleasure that I was able to see it from my living room window last weekend, albeit it on a smaller scale.  We had a couple of flocks of about two hundred birds each, flying and wheeling overhead.  Truly beautiful, in a bijou sort of way.

Here is an image that I took a few years ago, also from Slimbridge that I was quite pleased with.

It would great to hear from you if you have seen any such flocks this year and whereabouts


Thursday 20 January 2011

Travelling overseas with your camera gear

I have travelled abroad many times with my camera gear and there are a couple of things that you can always do just in case you have a problem. Firstly and most obviously is to have camera insurance, Make sure that your insurance covers you where you are travelling, I always contact my insurance company before hand so that they know when and where i will be, that way there should be no problems if you need to make a claim, I always take a copy of purchase receipts for all my gear just incase customs ask questions as we carry a lot more gear than the average Joe, Here in the states you have to/should fill in a customs form-CBP 4457, You need to fill in details of all the gear you will be taking along with serial numbers and go to the customs office along with your gear and let them check it and confirm that the details are correct and then they will stamp the form-you need to do this before each trip!!, I am not sure if they think that we will be buying abroad or that we will sell some gear abroad, the USA is probably the cheapest place on the planet to buy gear so i am guessing its the latter, I normally contact the Airline to confirm my baggage allowance, I am flying to Japan with American airlines , Their site show that flights to Japan can only have 1 piece of carry on baggage and yet when you call them you are told that you can also have a personal item like a laptop bag, Its only 1 piece if you are going via another country so well worth the call, Infact i called twice and spoke to 2 different people just to make sure, Going to a very cold climate means lots of big clothes so that means 2 cases in the hold, luckily AA allow 2 bags free of charge which is a bonus as when i flew to California with AA  ALL bags were chargeable, I keep all camera bodies and lenses with me so a specialist bag/case like a think tank or Gura Gear are the order of the day, I have a think tank roller case, I like these as you cant tell how heavy it is unlike a rucksack, The think tank is within the carry on size but with the 600,200-400,14-24,16-35, 2 bodies and flashgun it weighs a tremendous amount, I try to get a seat towards the back as that means you are one of the first on and have no problems with getting an empty over head locker, Be sensible and make sure that you don't have anything sharp in your carry on bag like a pen knife or allen keys, these should be put in the hold luggage as well as batteries for you flashguns, Its getting harder and harder to travel with a lot of gear, Some airlines are better than others, I hear that Quantas is a pain in the butt so ask around, I have yet to have a problem with American Airlines and they have always been very helpful-fingers crossed that it stays that way

EDIT-I have been to the customs office and had my papers stamped by a very friendly officer, It seems that they do not care if you take gear out of the country and sell it, Their concerns are that you buy abroad and bring it back in without paying duty-also once the paper is stamped as long as its in good condition you do nit have to renew it unless you have different equipment-took 5 mins so not too bad


Wednesday 19 January 2011

Mini Trip Report - Norfolk - Part 2

As previously promised, here is the next part of my trip report from my Christmas break in Norfolk.  As I mentioned here, the weather was awful due to mist, fog and general murk.  Dreek I think is a great description of  how it was.

On our second day, we drove to to Horsey to see the Grey Seals and their pups.  Walking up over the dunes, the light remained awful, and with a beach exclusion zone in place I wasn't hopeful of getting any images.

There were plenty of adults on the beach but that was about 20 to 30 feet below us.  There were a few [pups, with the youngest that we saw being just three days old and weening from its mother.  there were the odd dead one here and there which we were advised from the wardens were killed by one of the Bulls.

walking further along the path though we did find a couple of young pups that had shuffled there way up high into the dunes, in amongst where the public were and seemed pretty comfortable with their lot.  We kept our distance from them - well I had to as I only took the 7D and with my widest lens being my 70 - 200 it was not possible to get too close for the photograph.

So here is a small selection of some of them for you.

 Loved the patterns as it curled its tail flippers

 I left the crop to show the bits of white fur that it had shed

 Wave to the camera

I told you it was murky !!

Moving on from here, we went inland to Hickling  and to the Stubb Mill Raptor roost, but with visibility even worse and down to less than 100 meters, we gave it up as a bad job and went back to our accommodation for warmth and beer.

In my final part, I will bring you some of Norfolk's finest - Barn Owls, and there were plenty to see thats for sure.


Tuesday 18 January 2011


One of the main bonuses of being a full time photographer is that you can pick and choose when you shoot according to the weather, I mentioned in my last blog that i haven't managed to get the gear out for about a week and i was starting to get cabin fever so yesterday i grabbed the gear and headed off to the private land, The birds were very active, I could see the feeders were busy as i pulled up, The weather was cold and overcast and within minutes it started to drizzle, After an hour i gave up, I was using the D7000 and i don't like to go over ISO 800 so i ended up dropping the F stop down to 5.6-not ideal, I could spend my time better behind the PC than flogging a dead horse on a dreary afternoon, I did get a couple of images out of the mini session, The best being a yellow rumped warbler which actually showed the yellow rump, i remember when i lived in the UK that the weather always seemed to be nice during the week when i was at work and come the weekend the heavens would open and the light would go, I now have the luxury of looking out of the window and having the option of shooting only when the light is at its best, Thats not to say that i am a fair weather photographer, I enjoy shooting in heavy rain and snow and as i am off in 3 weeks (today) to Japan and will be in heavy snow i have just purchased a couple of rain covers so that my big guns-600VR and 200-400 will stay dry, The covers arrived yesterday from the Naturescapes store, They really are a great company to deal with, Everything i have ordered from them has been shipped on the same day and have arrived within a few days, You can see the covers here, they come in their own zipped pouch and are very light, Quite a basic design compared to others on the market but at around $50 wont break the bank, the cold spell looks set to stay here for a while and forecast for New jersey and New York is that more snow is forecast for the next few days, My trip to New Jersey may not happen but i will give it until the weekend before making my mind up one way or the other-fingers crossed


Monday 17 January 2011

Spring is coming

With much warmer temperatures here of late, Spring is around the corner.  It was a pleasure to notice a significant increase in bird song as I walked to my morning train today, and I noticed a Magpie carrying nesting material over the weekend.

It will be great to get away from the dark and freezing cold weather of three and four weeks ago.


Review of the Year - Part 7 - July

With an extremely busy weekend just past, I have not had time to get any more processing for the blog done, so the Norfolk Grey Seal Pups will have to wait for a blog or two yet so onto a look back at last year as we move into the second half of the year.

The early part of the month kicked off with a great objective review and demonstration from Dave how critical the lighting on our subjects are, and how it can totally change what we are trying to portray and I shared a tip on how not to store your hot shoe spirit level here.

Here in the UK, it was a busy time as I finished up the last of my North Uists posts with flora, landscapes and my outtakes.

One of the perils of blogging about wonderful places like North Uist is that it makes other people want to go there.  Looking at the accommodation we had last year, which we book in the Christmas period twelve months ago, was that all the key dates for this year were gone by last September.

It might be a bit arrogant to suggest that the blog helped with that, although I do know from some comments that folks have booked up to go there off the back of the blog.  I guess it was really the Monty Halls BBC2 effect from last year that 'sold' the place to so many.

Locally things were quite busy in the garden pond with Pond Life series continuing to report progress.

Dave reported further ongoing success with his Deer project, mentioned in Part 6 of this review of 2010 and also the wonderful Hummingbirds in his part of the world.

One of the many (surely that should be few!!) construction projects I did last year was to build my own Moth trap.  I set out a full article here and followed it with some images here and here.

Dave found himself in some sad circumstances which he reported here and here.  I was grateful to be able to get to see Dave while he was here but would have preferred it under different circumstances naturally.

Finally it was a busy time for butterflies here and here in Warwickshire.

651 of you made a total of 2016 visits from 43 countries.


Sunday 16 January 2011

Lets Talk-Nothing new

Its been a week since the camera gear saw light of day, I have been busy getting new stuff ready for agency submission and have some 'selects' to finish off and send back, Its very time consuming and a real pain in the butt for any photographer but if its not done then the pennies stop coming through the door, Not only that but its very easy to fall behind and get a huge backlog especially after a couple of major trips, I hope to catch up this week and get everything sent off and then hope to have a few days on the New Jersey coast next week before the final push to Japan, I mentioned last time about being scammed over a jacket, The tracking shows its left Shanghai but that's all, I don't know if i will receive it or i will get a call from customs, Either way it will go back and that will be that, I also mentioned that i had ordered some gear made by a British manufacturer called Snugpak, The jacket came but not the salopettes which is what i really wanted, After some too and froing it seems that the salopettes are on back order and wont be available until after i leave,I decided to also send the jacket back and start again, To be honest the jacket was not a patch on my Mountain Hardware jacket in either quality or warmth, I have now ordered what i should have done in the first place-Northface, If they can get people to the summit of Everest then Japan should be a walk in the park,
One other reason for a trip to New Jersey is to give the D7000 a good work out for birds in flight, I have had some nice images from the camera but really want to spend a few days to finally make up my mind if it is a good replacement for my old D300 which has now gone, I dont know why i get a nagging feeling but its there, I think maybe the reason is that out of the camera RAW images are very soft compared to the D3s and D300 although after sharpening they look good,
Camera gear wise things are pretty slow, The rumour mill carries on with hopes of a D800 in the next few months also Sony have announced a 24MP cropped sensor and also put claims out that they will change the face of Dslr photography, A bold statement indeed, They certainly have the capital and the resources to do it, I just hope that they concentrate on bring out a good range of lenses first as that seems to be their biggest drawback,
I guess we should be talking about our Photographic new year resolutions and i think for the first time i have not really made any, I will be concentrating on my foxes, I really need to find some new land so maybe that will be it, I have work left on my home studio which i intend to do as soon as i am back from Japan as i have a couple of clients that want a portrait session and thousands of images that still wait to be processed for new and existing agencies-lots to do and the time is flying,
Have any of you set yourselves a target for this year? if so let us know and if you need any help on reaching those tagets just ask and we will see if we can come up with some answers



Saturday 15 January 2011

Review of the Year - Part 6 - June

At the half way point of the year, the main theme of the month from me were my reports from my Scottish trip to North Uist on the Outer Hebrides.  In a nine part series, I reported and shared images from our week there with images from each day.  Best link is probably to pick up the full archive of June and take it from there, or just click on any of the North Uist tags at the bottom of a contribution.

It was probably the best wildlife trip I have ever made to Scotland, with the diversity and frequency of the wildlife. 

Dave moved across to the Nikon D3 S and reports on it here and here and also gave some views based on his use of the D5000.

Meanwhile, Adobe launched Lightroom 3.  The new processing engine in that for RAW images making a much better fist of it than any previous Adobe RAW processor  and my favourite camera strap maker, Op Tech launched a whole range of camo straps (shortly after I had bought another couple of green ones.....Grrr!)

Dave started a new project concentrating on Deer with contributions here and here as well.

I started monitoring the progress with the local Orchids and reported from my final day in Scotland with a day over at the Cairngorms

494 of you visited us exactly 2000 times from 37 countries around the world


Canon Price increase

As from Feb1st, Some lenses going up by as much as 16%-Ouch

See Here

Friday 14 January 2011

Japan-Getting ready and Getting scammed

I have been busy selling some gear and buying new stuff for the soon to be Japan trip, I dont like to buy stuff on line and never use E Bay as there are too many unsavoury characters that are willing to shaft you whenever they can, My friends here have jackets called 'Canada Goose Snow Mantra', Known as THE warmest jackets in the world, They are big and heavy but boy are they warm, They said i could borrow one but only had a medium and a 2XL, The medium was ok although a large would have been better, I have it here, Looking at the web i read some reviews and had a look at costs, Normally around $800+, I noticed a couple of places selling them off at 70% or so discount, Large discounts like these are not uncommon here in the states, the TV is alive with these type of ads, i went ahead and ordered one, I carried on googling the jacket when i found a place in China selling rip offs for $65-alarm bells started to ring, I went to e mail the company and found the e mail to be a hotmail account-alarm bell number 2, I asked to cancel the order-too late, I asked for conformation that this was a genuine article-They said it was-The website sounds like a French Canadian name, I thought maybe a guy was selling them from there until i asked for the shipping details-China, I contacted the Real manufacturer and told them the story and they came back saying that the company is known to send fakes and are under investigation, So thats $240 down the pan and i doubt i will be seeing anything arrive through the post, I have now informed my credit card compay and they are going to try and deal with it, I feel pretty stupid and should have gone with the 'if sounds too good it probably is'
You can by looking at their website that this is a big concern-selling fakes around the world

Do not buy anything from these people and please keep your guard up when things look very cheap, This is the first time i have been 'caught' by scammers and i will make sure its the last
The web can also be a great thing, This week i have sold 1 lens and my D300 battery grip, The D300 will also be gone today, I have 2 new jackets, 1 from Mountain Hardware and the other from a British manufacturer called Snugpak and i have snugpak salopettes following,I had not heard of snugpak before but was tipped off by Mike Lane, They are used by the British Military but the main benefits are that they are very light and pack very small into a stuffer sack, i buy a fair amount of kit from Cabelas and they are sending me some of their military range of base layers, So hopefully i wont be feeling the cold when i am in Japan, I have my flights booked from here and Pete has been busy working on the flights to Hokkaido and also most of the accommodation


Thursday 13 January 2011

Mini Trip Report - Norfolk - Part 1

Each year in the period between Christmas and New Year, I have always kidded myself that there is loads of time and I am always going to get so much done.  Well after the excesses of Christmas, and the compulsory family visits I find I run out of time and end up achieving nothing in that huge amount of time.  Well this year was different and on 28th December, Jacqui and I got up very early and headed off to Norfolk for four days.

Sadly, the weather was very unkind to us in terms of photographic light with misty, murky and foggy conditions and at the darkest time of the year, I found myself wishing for Nikon like ISO resolution.  While the 7D is very good, I don't think it is as good as the Nikon's that Dave is used to.  Anyway - we make do with what we have, make sure we expose correctly and do our best.

This mini trip report will be in three parts with this bit covering some of the general bird pictures, Part 2 will cover the Grey Seal pups and finally the best bit, the Barn Owls.

With the light, as I said, beggars cant be choosers so here is a small selection.

 Winter plumage Black Headed Gull at Salthouse

 Black Tailed Godwit with shellfish

 Teal Drake at Salthouse

Teal Drake at Salthouse, blowing bubbles

 Turnstone shaking its head at slow shutter speed - bizarre effect

Turnstone at Brancaster

Turnstone at Salthouse

I was grateful to the Turnstones as they are such entertaining and very friendly little characters.  I was laying on the ground at Brancaster getting photos of these, while there were dozens of twitchers looking at very distant tiny speck dots of a couple of Hen Harrier. I preferred to photograph bids I could actually see with the naked eye.  The Turnstones were coming up to me, closer than the minimum focus distance of the 500 and taking a good look at me, and virtually taking seed from my hands.

Sadly, there were no Snow Buntings down at Salthouse yet, although we did see 11 of them while we were up at Titchwell on the first day

Back with the Grey seal pups next time,


Wednesday 12 January 2011

Camera durability

I was on a site the other day where a guy asked if he should buy Canon or Nikon, One of the replies back was that he should go with Nikon as if you drop a Canon they shatter, I relied that it was a crazy statement as i believe that the equivalent model from Canon is as strong and durable as the Nikon model, Its a difficult thing to test, Even the base models these days are very strong even if they are not metal bodied, The guy came back and said that 2 friends had dropped their Canons and they either had body cracks or the screen had broken, Well thats not shattering and any camera can have the same damage, I then watched these videos on You tube-very light hearted but gives you an idea of just how much a modern camera can take and stay working and i will never worry about some dust on my lens again


Tuesday 11 January 2011

Review of the Year - Part 5 - May

May is a very busy time, or at least it is here in the Northern Hemisphere for wildlife.  I usually make a trip to Scotland around this time, and last year was no exception.  Moving further north this year, I went to North Uist on the Outer Hebrides, but I reported the trip in June so you will have to wait for the next part for those links.

Frogblog ran its course and transmuted into the Pondlife series as there were other interests coming from the pond such as these Mayflies, emerging damselflies, and more procreation

On the software front, Dave gave us his first thoughts on Adobe Photoshop CS5 , shared some of the secrets of manual flash, and processing with Capture One.

We were both out and about with local trip reports from Raleigh and the Warwickshire woods for Bluebells.

Dave showed us how to manage wildlife photography on a tight budget, and did a technical article on backgrounds for bird in flight photography.

Chris Jones was our guest photographer and themed his blog on a great trip to North Africa. 

All 42 blogs from May can be found here if you want to see all of them.

581 of you visited us a total of 2003 times from 39 countries.

Apologies for the slow posts from my Norfolk trip, but I was away at the weekend, and am struggling to find processing time.  They will be here soon......promise.


Monday 10 January 2011

Welcome to the recent friends to the Blog

Dave and I would like to welcome the recent additions to the friends to the blog.   There have been quite a number of you, and we are up to 96 friends now.

We look forward to your comments and hope you enjoy our posts.

four more to go to the magic 100


Martin & Dave


I didn't take my first flight until i was 25 but since then i have travelled quite extensively covering 19 different countries, That's countries that i have stayed in rather than just touch downs, Next month i will be rounding that number off to 20 as i will be visiting Japan, I will be teaming up with my good friend Pete (Pierre le suisse on forums) and we will be taking in the Japanese Cranes,Snow Monkeys, White and Stellas Eagles as well as swans,deer and fox, It will be a trip of a lifetime and an adventure as we are doing it all ourselves and not through a tour/workshop,
The internet is the best place to start your search for information, We have been discussing this trip for about a year, There are a lot of workshops there now and itineraries can be had to give you an idea of where and when, My first purchase when doing my own travel is a lonely planet, I have used these for the last 11 years or so and they tell you everything from where to stay and how much from budget to expensive, Where to eat and cultural advise which is always good to know, It covers wildlife and festivals and information is normally accurate, One reason i like to do my own thing apart from saving some money is that if the wildlife is performing for you then you can stay longer whereas if you are  a workshop with a fixed itinerary then you have to go, Blogging friend and excellent photographer Mike Lane has done the trip and lead workshops there and his website is a wealth of information giving exact detail of where he stayed,how much it cost and even the phone numbers, One of the main places we are visiting is the island of Hokkaido, There is a very good possibility that the weather could be as low as -35 with a lot of snow, The good bit is that it will be incredibly scenic but the minus points are that at that temperature you need to take precautions and dress appropriately or you could get frost bite or even die, Good quality clothing and dressing in layers are the order of the day and i have been busy buying extreme weather clothing which must be included when you budget for these type of trips, Still lots to do before i fly out on the 8th Feb and i will keep you informed of what's what as we get closer to the date-exciting times


Sunday 9 January 2011

Big Garden Bird Watch is coming

A quickie today to give an early notice of the annual RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch.

All the details are here for you.  So get yourself registered soon and take part on the last weekend of this month

I have taken part for as long as I can remember and it is always a useful way to spend an hour.

Have fun and let us know how you get on via the comments.


Saturday 8 January 2011

A Good Day-2

After the last session i was itching to get back to the feeding station, I could see the birds on and around the feeders as i pulled up, I quickly got into the hide and within seconds the birds were back and the same as before, I was now being a bit more selective on taking shots as its pointless getting the same as before, The light was lower as it was over cast, Not a problem as you dont get the harsh shadows that you get with sun, I had to shoot with ISO 800 which is higher than i really like even with the D7000, No problem with the D3s but for the feeders the D7000 is perfect, There were a couple of newby's at and around the feeders in the names of Eastern Towhee-female, White Breasted Nuthatch and White Throated Sparrow, Always nice to see and shoot a new specie, The nuthatch only came to the feeder once and then just landed on the feeder grabbing some food and going, A great looking bird and i do hope to be able to get some images of it, Highlight of the afternoon again went to the woodpeckers and in particular the Red-Bellied Woodpecker, The female landed awkwardly on the perch and nearly fell backwards, It hung on for grim death before being able to right itself and then posed nicely for me, Being pleased with the session i came home and again set up in my garden,10 minutes in and 2 young male deer fed within feet of my hide, There antlers where the thickness of a finger and only a few inches long, I chuckled as they noisily crunched on the corn and they then quickly looked up as a fox trotted by, It came into the garden and straight up to the baited area, I wasnt going to make the same mistake twice, I watched it through the viewfinder, It nervously looked around, backed off and came back,back off and came back, I was thinking 'come on settle down' when it shot off to my right and stopped, it looked around and started to come back when it looked at one of my flashguns hidden in a pile of rocks, it stopped dead and backed off and left the area it left, I inwardly cursed but a few minutes later it came back, It came up to the bait and sat down, I was shocked, it started to feed and i took a shot, When i looked at the screen it had dropped its head as i shot but stayed, it feed and then looked straight at the hide-bang got the shot, It shot up the garden, stopped and came back, I managed 4 images before it went, I stayed another hour and although i could hear the foxes fighting in the woodland they didnt come back so i happily packed up and left, I have been here in the states for a little over 2 years and have had a hide up and have done night photography for over a year, getting some great opossum and Raccoon images but in all that time i have only managed 4 or 5 decent fox images, The Great Fox is without a doubt the spookyist animal i have tried to shoot but well worth the effort as they are stunning, Very pretty faces, Great colours and really cunning.
Carolina Chickadee
 Cardinal-Male and Female

 Eastern Bluebird-The best markings and colour of any of these i have seen so far
 Hairy Woodpecker-male
 Female Red-Bellied Woodpecker

 Female Eastern Towheee
White Throated Sparrow
The Fabulous Mr Fox