Wednesday 31 August 2011

Fall is a coming

There seems to be a slight change in the weather, its still beautifully sunny and warm -high 80's but the high 90's and low hundreds are behind us, The mornings are cool and the grass dewy, Fall is approaching and its time to make plans about getting up into the Great Smoky Mountains, Its an extremely busy place and it gets booked well in advance so i will have to sort my accommodation out in the next day or so, I normally head over to the Tennessee side but this year i will stay on the North Carolina side, There are a couple of areas that i have read about that sound excellent and i also hope to meet up with NC photographer Chas Glatzer for a day or 2 as he lives up there and will share some local knowledge which is not to be sniffed at, Last year the colors were excellent although the year before it never really happened so fingers crossed that we have a good one this year, The mountains are around 3-3.5 hours from where i currently live so not too bad, Where i used to go in Tennessee it was double that, Here are a few images from last year to wet your whistle

For those going this year make sure that you have the following
2.Remote Release
3.Polorizing Filter
4.ND filter if possible around 3-4 stops
I found that my 24-70 on my D3s was my most used combination but i carry lenses from 14mm to 600mm so all avenues are covered, I intend to drop into Cataloochee cove so some wildlife will be on the menu so to speak especially Elk, Its one of my favorite times of year and everywhere in the mountains is a photo opportunity even from the car, North Carolina has over 1500 waterfalls in the mountains so its a lifetimes work to see and shoot them all


Tuesday 30 August 2011

Cat Problems?

In yesterdays blog, David Schenk asked us about how to legally deal with cats in your wildlife garden.

Well, in my experience there is no one solution that will provide you with the 'silver bullet'.

Now as a cat lover myself, I will not and never condone any method that is likely or potentially harmful to the well being of the cat.  They are only doing what is in their genetic profile and that is hunt things that move.

In fact, there have been two recent additions into the Dyer household - a beautiful pair of Burmese kittens.  Having had Burmese before, and with conditions in our lives that make it easier to care for them, they joined us  just a couple of months back.  They are not outdoor cats though - firstly for their own health and safety, and secondly for the wildlife that I offer a refuge and habitat to.

So first tip - don't add to your own problems.

Next tip is think about the physical environment.  Study any feline intruders and see the routes they take - make it difficult with physical barriers where it is easy. Not always easy with their climbing capabilities.

So for example, my side gate is a wrought metal affair that the cats just walked through the gaps - well, I blocked it up with some perspex, carefully leaving a small hedgehog sized gap so any of those creatures can get in or out of the garden.

Next, where there are regular paths, over fences and by hedges, I have planted spiky hedgerow plants, such as Dog Rose, Holly and spiky Blackthorn.  A good barrier, wildlife food friendly and good for butterflies as well.

Finally, we come to active counter measures and these include electronic, projectile and sound based techniques.

A few years ago, I bought an ultrasonic, PIR activated cat repellor - see link below.  It runs off a 9v battery, although you can get a mains supply for it.  These work well when sited carefully.  Again, study routes and place accordingly, or place as a patch protection where you feed the birds.

You know when the batteries have run out as the cats appear again.  Working at very high frequencies, usually out of the audible range of adults, they are also good for repelling small children as they usually have the ability to hear the sound.  I guess it is the same as the Mosquito devices used at shopping centres.

I could do with buying another couple of these devices to give me wider protection.

You can also get a hand operated scarer that you can operate when you see something that you want to repel.

The next device is an old shoe - throw it up the garden but make sure you miss by a long way - as I said, I do not condone the use of anything that would be cruel or harnful.

I have also found just the action of throwing nothing works as well with some cats - as they don't know you don't have something in your hand

The other useful technique is to run towards them clapping your hands - they will soon work out that you don't want to stroke them and clear off.

One other device we use on our own cats to let them know that we dont want them to be climbing the curtains is to put a small handfull of gravel in a little plastic drink bottle and shake it.  It is a good behaviour modifier.  Again, this works at quite a range too.

I have tried using the cat repellant gel that you can put down but it was pretty rubbish, and a waste of money for me.
So to summarise, you need a large 'armory' of tools to help you.

Hopefully, some of these tools might work for you, and at no suffering or cruelty to the cats.

Let us know if you have any good techniques that work for you.

And finally, thanks for the comments from yesterdays blog - questions are always welcome and we will answer as best we can.


Monday 29 August 2011

Blogging-Does it work

I read an interesting article on a forum the other day asking if people blogged and if they did was it worth it, Most of the comments came back saying that they did not feel that blogs were worth doing and most did not read other peoples blogs-so is there anybody out there??, The consensus was that other social networks like facebook and twitter was the thing to do. I have to say that we have been doing the blog for well over 2 years and although enjoyable it does take some considerable effort to keep it updated everyday with something that is worth reading, Its not possible to shoot everyday or even every other day certainly not for me whilst i am cocooned in an apartment and Martin works 5 days a week, I am quite happy to keep the blog going but must admit it would be nice to have some feedback and some ideas for the future-How about a critique blog once in a while, Send an image in and we will give our honest views one way or the other
Yesterday i drove past a huge lake not too far away called Jordan lake, I have one particular area that i have shot in the past with some success for waders when the water is very low, Well its very low again and its time to don the waders and get down in the mud, Hopefully i will have some images or tales of woe by the end of the week


Sunday 28 August 2011

Bumper Fungi Season in the UK this year ?

Whilst it has been very dry throughout the summer in most of the UK, the recent wet and cooler weather has triggered off a lot of fungi in my garden overnight.  Not sure of the id yet, but will check it out in my Roger Philips book 'Mushrooms'  -  see link below, and his website here but they are Oak dependant I think as they have come up either on the oak that I have used for the raised beds, and in the grass immediately adjacent to the oak.

But with the amount that has come up, I am hopeful that we might be in for a bumper season this year.

With the seasons appearing to be ahead of their normal stages this year as well buy a week or two, then I shall be taking some earlier trips top the woods than usual.

With the 5Dmk2 with Live view, that I didn't have last year, I shall look forward to getting down, damp and dirty again soon.


Saturday 27 August 2011

Come on Irene

Well it can only be described as warm wet and windy, The winds from Hurricane Irene coming in gusts and its pretty much just a miserable day here in Raleigh, Looking at the local news the beaches have been taking the full brunt and they have had nearly a foot of rain, 3 people dead so far and 400 000 people without power and its yet to reach the Outer Banks, We took refuge in an Indian restuarant at lunchtime and i am sure that if we drove 30 miles or so away it would be a lovely sunny day, We have a wind advisery here until mid night-might have some to do with the Indian food, Looks like there will be devastation over the next few days as she goes up the east coast but at least the hurricane is now classed as a category 1 rather than the 4 that was expected
On a wildlife note the seed and hummingbird feeders are up and last night we saw our first hummingbird inspecting the feeders
Keep safe to all those in the hurricanes path, We have found that good stocks of wine,Guiness and Indian food works well


Friday 26 August 2011

Hurricane Irene

As Dave battens down the hatches in North Carolina with the impending arrival of Hurricane Irene, we will keep our fingers crossed on this side of the water.

However one possible good consequence for us over here is the arrival of American birds on our shores.  Significant weather events can bring about significant wildlife changes, so all you guys down in Cornwall should be in for a bumper twitch time in the next few days so I will look forward to some good images from all you bloggers down there.

No pressure Ashley.

So I hope you all have a pleasant weekend and Bank holiday if you are UK based.


Thursday 25 August 2011

Sony and the Compacts

Well the 24th came and went and it was only Sony that produced the goods, They certain show some aggression in the marketplace and the new A77 has a ton of features including 24MP, 12FPS and GPS, The price is very competitive especially if you take the kit with the F2.8 lens, Time will tell if the IQ is anything to right home about and i look forward to seeing some real reviews taken in normal conditions rather than studio shots, The pressure is now well and truly on Canon and Nikon who showed up with some compacts-woop de do, Talking of compacts the new Panasonic TS3 arrived here yesterday and i have had a play and first impressions are very very good, We have had a Panasonic Lumix for about 2 years and this new waterproof version is lighter, Its lens has a smallish zoom but does not extend like most compacts, Its waterproof to 40 feet and has features like GPS,Compass, Altimeter and Barometer, It also says that its shockproof to 6 feet and can handle temperatures down to -10, So all in all more features than you can shake a stick at, oh and dont forget the 1080 video, Now compacts do not really enter the world of wildlife photography but its always nice to have one in your pocket just incase, And with this version you can at least get in the water hand try a cheap way of underwater photography, Image quality was surprisingly good,Better than my old Panasonic and as long as the ISO is below 400 the images are good and ISO 100 very good, The built in flash was a shock, Its pretty powerful, easily lighting a dark room up and worked well when it was dark inside and light out of the windows balancing the light very well,For $299 that it costs here in the states its a bargain, I took a few images around the apartment today when it was very bright, Here i am backlit and without the flash i was a silhouette, I should have dialled in some negative compensation to calm the sky down but overall the exposure was pretty good


Wednesday 24 August 2011

From the Archives - Puffins

It has been a long time since I have had to do a 'From the Archives' blog, but with very limited photo opportunities of late, I thought it was time to dig out a few old favourites of mine to share with you.  If we don't take time to revisit our images, it sometimes makes you wonder what the point is.  It is also worth seeing what kit was used as well, and it can remind you just how good it was, yet we wouldn't think abut going back to it in a month of Sundays.

Anyway, I was hoping to get a trip across to Skomer this year to take some more images of these delightful characters, but events dictated otherwise, and if they haven't all left their burrows yet, then they are about to, so it is too late now.  So to make up for that disappointment, here are some I made earlier.

These images were taken originally either on Skomer or the Treshnish Isles, just off the Isle of Mull.

The first and last images were taken with the 20D, 70-200f4L + 1.4 EFTC on Skomer, the middle two with the 1Dmk2N and the 70-200 f2.8L on Lunga, Tresnish Isles

Not bad for rubbishy old 8megapixels cameras (which backs up what Dave was saying yesterday re. MP count and market/hype/bullshit)


Tuesday 23 August 2011

The clock is ticking

The forums have been buzzing for weeks in the hope of new cameras from Sony, Nikon and Canon, The date of Aug 24th from both Sony and Nikon have been released for announcements-well there are press conferences then, Its strange that apart from Sony who leaked a few pictures of their A77 theres been no leaks from Nikon which is very unusual, In fact people are backing away from the idea that there will be a new D800,D4 or D400 and that it may be just the compacts and new mirror less camera that everybody for some reason is after, So only 24hrs to wait and see, As i said not long ago i am not overly fussed as i dont see me getting rid of the D3s for some time and i have only had the D7000 for a year, My intention for the D7000 was only to keep it a year until the D400 comes out so i guess if the specs match what i would like then i may pull the plug in a few months once the prices drop and firmware is updated but i have been so impressed by the D7000 that i may keep it a bit longer, I would like a bigger pro type body and a bigger buffer but can and have lived happily without that, The only reason that i have been upgrading is for pixels and thats just for agency use, These days when stock images sales are at rock bottom and will not get any better i wonder of its money well spent or not, I have always liked to have the best and latest in everything but cameras these days are amazing, even the base models blow film away, more pixels mean more storage problems-bigger cards and hard drives and the need for more powerful computers which i now have, I do wonder what people who shoot casually-family and friends with the odd holiday feel when they down load and their 6 year old pc comes to a grinding halt and that they have to go and buy 4 gig cards minimum, Its getting an expensive hobby thats for sure and there does not seem to be an end to it,More pixels also mean that you need better glass and thats the biggest cost of all, In the days of film/slide things didnt change that much and cameras were released every 10 years and still held their money,These days as soon as a new body is released your 2-4 year old body is all but worthless no matter how good a condition its in, Canon had always marketed itself on more pixels whereas Nikon has not followed that route, I hope that that remains, One problem is that Nikon still buys most of its sensors from Sony semiconductors who also make sensors for both Sony and Pentax, Both especially Sony want to make big inroads into the camera market and i am sure will follow Canon in the Mega Pixel war which will drag Nikon along with them, The new Sony A77 is reported to have a 24mp cropped sensor, Canons already has the 18mp senor in the 7D so when thats replaced it will be again competing to be better than the Sony so if Nikon bring the D400 out with say the D7000 sensor all but tweeked will it be competetive in the customers eyes-probably not even though its probably a much better sensor and will give better quality image, I still remember a guy asking me about my D3s and asked how many pixels it had, when i told him that it has 12mp his face dropped and he said 'thats the same as my phone'-Thats the mentality the camera manufactures are up against and probably caused if thruth were known, So another 24 hours and we will see if there are any breakthroughs in Dslr technology or just a handful of compacts, I personally would be surprised to see a new Dslr  after all the problems in Japan certainly from Nikon who in the last few months have moved most of their pro plant from Japan to Malaysia as well as staff but maybe thats just what they need, Maybe there will be an announcement and like the Canon telephotos thats all they will be and there will be a long wait to get anything-just wet the customers mouths-time will tell


Monday 22 August 2011

Crop Format - Portrait or Landscape?

With a lovely sunny warm Sunday, I grabbed a  few quick images from the garden yesterday.  This Common Blue was quite obliging for me - unlike the Red Admiral and Gatekeepers that I was hoping to get some decent images of.

This image came out reasonably well in the breezy conditions, resting on dead Knapweed.

I thought I would crop in the two formats from the same image and get your take on it.

Which do you prefer?  and why?

The landscape falls most comfortably on the eye to me, but as Dave has said many times before it is always worth getting your subject in both formats.

For the purposes of this image, the original was taken in landscape, and I have cropped accordingly.


Sunday 21 August 2011

USB 3 Speed Test

Now that i have everything in the new apartment i decided it was time to back up my main photography hard drive onto my 3TB hard drive in my new PC, The last time that i backed up 2 external USB2 hard drives on my old Dell it took 27 hours, I then tried the same on my new PC with 2 external USB3 drives on my new PC and it took around 11 hours if my memory serves me correct, This time it took under 7 hours-way faster and very impressive, So i took a SD card from my D7000 with 223 images on it and downloaded using a USB2 device, It took 14 minutes, I then downloaded the same card with a Delkin USB3 device and it took 2 mins 15 secs, You've gotta love technology


New Toy coming

I decided to treat the wife and get her a new camera, She has had a compact point and shoot Panasonic for the last couple of years and really likes it, It is very good in bright sun light but once the light dims so does the image quality, I read a review on the latest waterproof compacts on Dpreview and again the Panasonic Lumix came out tops in every thing so checking it out on BH photovideo i see that the cost was a very reasonable $299 so i decided to order one and test it out underwater, Now BH as per usual was shut for business until Saturday night which is just plain crazy so they lost the sale to Amazon along with a spare battery and floating strap, It should arrive on Wednesday, If it performs as it should i will take it to shoot some manatees near to Xmas, I will keep you posted


Saturday 20 August 2011

Couple of Stories for you today

Firstly, I was hoping to bring you a couple of images of some moth species that I have not shared or shown before.  Sadly, it helps if your subject stays put.  Clearly there is something about yellow moths that mean that they want to get into hiding as quick as possible.  I guess if you are yellow though, you do tend to stand out a bit to the hungry birds.

The two species were Brimstone, which I have captured in the trap many times, but never got an image.  The second was a Yellow Shell, which is a new species to the Dyer garden.

The good news was that I got six new species to the garden - these being the Yellow Shell as mentioned, along with the Marbled Beauty, Garden Pebble (nice to i/d a micro moth for a change) Rustic, Lychnis and Mouse Moth.  Sadly, none are these are particular stunning photographically so no images to share.

Last nights session also confirmed the theory that full moon conditions don't help trapping.

The last time I put the trap out I got hardly any subjects in, whereas last night I got 79 separate macro moths from 18 different species, plus numerous micros when the moon was much less bright. 

I had some further sightings of Swifts last night as I was setting the trap out - guess they were passage birds passing through.  Delightful though to see them, albeit briefly. 

The second story links in to my earlier posts this week about raptors and persecution.  The story is mostly bad news.

A local man to Stratford (Shipston on Stour) was caught on camera shooting a Sparrowhawk..  It seems that he shot the bird and left it die.  The attack was witnessed by a photographer who was photographing the bird at the time.  The bird was taken to the local wildlife centre but the bird was too badly damaged and had to euthanized.  A prosecution was made and the perpetrator was fined £615 and ordered to pay £986 costs and forfeit his gun for destruction.  It is understood that the perpetrator was a keeper of racing pigeons and was culling the sparrowhawk as he was alleged to have lost some of his birds.

Sad news for yet another raptor - good news the guy was caught and found guilty.


Friday 19 August 2011

A near miss

Yesterday i went back to the house as i had left the pond until last, I have to say its been a huge success and its going to be the first thing that i put into my new garden although i probably will not put a frame pond in and try to make a natural looking woodland pond by making a shallow scrape and using a pond liner, I have to say that i didn't realize how much pond life was still in there until i emptied it, Dozens of Tadpoles and dragonfly larvae along with lots of other bugs and skaters, I managed to get most into a nearby pond but am sure that there were a few fatalities, All in all worth the effort and shows that were there is water there is life, When i made the frame for the pond i had to add bits of wood to level the whole set up, I then put the pond liner in and then put soil around the pond to make it look cleaner and more natural, When taking it apart i grabbed the ledge made by the joined planks and gave it a good tug, On one piece i grabbed the ledge and felt my fingers go into a cobweb, I was concerned about Brown Recluse but when i felt the web something else went through my mind, I carefully turned the plank over and yes there was a huge Black widow female about 2 inches from my finger, I carefully put the plank down, She didn't move and i had a good close look at her, She was a stunner, I am not into spiders but Black Widows are a very cool looking spider with their shiny black and red bodies, She was the biggest i have seen and i was very very lucky that i didn't get bitten-now that would have hurt. Being a Brit you tend to forget the dangers of living abroad and sometimes let your guard down, I am sure i will have alot in my new garden as well as some snakes but i will be more cautious, It was a real shame that i didnt have my D7000 and Sigma Macro lens with me as she was very quite and did not move until i left.
Here is a black widow that was nesting on the side of my house a couple of years ago


Thursday 18 August 2011

Bird of Prey Breeding Successes - Some good news

While I recently reported on desperately bad news for the Hen Harrier in the UK here, it has been a different story for our fish eating raptors.

In Scotland, the release programme of White Tailed Eagles on the East Coast has been considered to be successful this year, with details reported here.  Let's hope these survive those who won't be pleased to see them, and that they cross populate with the ever increasing numbers on the West Coast.

Meanwhile, away from Scotland, Ospreys have done well at Rutland, Wales for the first time in 400 years at Dyfi, that you may have sen on this years Springwatch and also in the Lake District.

Lets hope this years chicks survive the gauntlet of hazards on their first migration and we see them back in coming years.

It makes a pleasant change to share good news with you on our raptors from the usual desperate news I seem to find.

Just one other quickie - if you didn't see Heligan on BBC2 last night, make sure you look out for the repeats or iPlayer it - it was reported to be fabulous, so I will be checking it out later


Wednesday 17 August 2011

Home not so sweet home

What a week and its only Tuesday, It seems to have taken forever to move, We started on Saturday, I over estimated just how much furniture etc we have accumulated since moving states side, Now we have gone from 2800 feet 3 story house down to a 2 bed apartment so most of our gear is now in storage, The last few days i have moved over the bare essentials which is mainly camera gear, Again i didn't realize how much i have until it was all in one place in front of me, I have about 8-10 tripods, Time Warner have been their usual useless selves, I went to their offices the other day, I had to take some kit back, I asked if we could transfer the number-no i was told, Now i used to work with phones so i knew she was being lazy and just could not be bothered, I found that the apartment did not have dial tone so i called them, I explained the situation and the guy asked if i wanted to have my number transferred-voila, Then was told that as she had turned the old number off it was now not possible-think teeth grinding, Whilst i was at Time Warner i picked up a new modem for the new place so we could access the internet-well the modem was a well used and thrown about piece of crap and of course when i got home it would not work and after an hour with tech support they confirmed it was faulty-back to TW which is a 20 mile round trip and now we have internet-no apologies either, The phone will not be on for over a week either, Anyways the feeders in the garden have been taken down and today i watched as the cardinals lined up on the fence and the hummingbirds were circling where the hummer feeder used to be-feel guilty? you betcha, No sign of getting the camera out yet as tomorrow the carpet guy comes and the we final walk around Thursday before we sign the house over Friday and the bank account will look very nice indeed, So next week i will have some bird feeders up here and hope that it will not take to long for our feathered friends to find it, No chance of night time foragers i wouldnt think but you never know-at least we have a ground floor pad so i may drop some bait out and see what happens, Now to start going through 200 e- mails and seeing whats what in the photography world


Tuesday 16 August 2011

Lottery Winners only need to worry.

A few weeks ago we had a record Euro Lottery winner in the UK - over £160m if I recall correctly.

Now I heard people at the time say that that was too much and they wouldn't want it all.  Well you can never have too much - the only problems you have are what you are going to spend it on and the limit on your imagination.

Well for those doubters, Canon have solved that problem for you with their pricing structure, at least here in the UK they have.

Just take a look at the current prime lens prices here for the 500 and 600's - ridiculous - roughly 9 and 11 K in close round numbers.

Well the rumour mill is awash with a new 1Dsmark 4 - see this link, and this one.

Given that the current 1DSmark111 is at 5K, and when the 1Dmk4 came up it had a 50% price shift, it might be a reasonable bet to assume the price will be on the wrong side of at least 6K.

Not that I care - I haven't won the lottery.

No doubt all the would be spec generators that various photo forums gather will be telling us what must be included, what shouldn't be, and then how disappointed they will be when it isn't delivered.

Having been there a few years ago myself, to a degree, it is a pretty pointless position to take.

So it will be what it will be, whenever Canon get round to releasing it, whatever IT is, and dealers getting supplies eventually, at silly prices, that the beta testers will find the faults, for a couple of issues of firmware.   Cynical? - Yes but then I have has some experience to draw on.

Just chill on new kit guys - it ain't worth the stress.

And maybe just buy a ticket for Friday night and keep your fingers crossed :-)


Monday 15 August 2011

British Birdwatching Fair - this weekend coming

Just a note, if you weren't aware already that this weekend sees the annual Bird Watchers extravaganza across at Rutland Water.

Details here if you are interested in going.

As I have spent all the money in the garden - see yesterdays blog, I will not be trekking across there, as my new Leica's I want are now slabs, gravel, furniture, timber and plants!!

If you were expecting a blog from Dave today ( I know I was  :-) ), he is busy packing up house, so good luck to him and Marian.  It is tiring work , but in the temperatures they have been experiencing over there, I cannot imagine how hard it must be.

So with luck normal service will resume soon



Sunday 14 August 2011

Garden Update - Management time

For many weekends this year, I have been working in the 'formal' garden - building structures, laying slabs, painting walls, doors, building  and finishing furniture for the outdoors - which is why you have seen so few images from me.

Now it is looking fabulous but given the workload, I am glad that 60 %  of the garden area is made over to wildlife that pretty much manages itself.

Today was the start of the end of season 'management'.  I have started to cut back the grasses and flowers now that most of it is in the seed stage.  I use a petrol strimmer that is set up with cutting blades rather than the traditional string - this cuts rather than mashes the vegetation and leaves it as cut straw.

I will leave the 'straw' to dry and to drop any seeds for future years for next week or so.

I have cut about 1/3 of the area, so that the insects, butterflies and birds have a constant food source in the rest of the garden.  I will cut another 1/3 in about a months time and the rest a month later.  I have not been good at this management before so I am hoping that this will make a difference for later years.

While having a good tidy up around the pond, I was pleased to see dozens and dozens of frogs from the tiniest froglet to very large females who probably weren't too chuffed at me clearing so of their habitat.  Once again, I only cleared 1/2 of the vegetation around the sides to ensure that they have places to hide and feed.

It was delightful to see my first Common Darter of the year.  Usually, we have seen dozens by now but this year has been noticeable by the complete absence.  With plenty of warm sunshine, we had good numbers of butterflies as well.

I put the moth trap out last night and recorded probably the smallest catch ever - very few and nothing new or special.  Why so?  Well it was full moon and I think that a bright moon source is probably sufficient to overcome the lure of the moth trap lights.

Sightings of Sparrowhawk are increasing all the time - I guess we are seeing this years juveniles adding to the numbers.  As I type this, one has just flown by the window lit in beautiful orange sunset light.

Still no sightings of Wonky Wing, so I think my post of last week was correct - sadly.


Saturday 13 August 2011

Things are looking up

You will have to forgive this quicky as we now have the keys to our new apartment and are currently moving our gear over, There is nothing worse than moving, I got my driving license yesterday so the chains have gone and i once again have freedom, Infact things have gone from crap to great Everything is coming together and we even had some unexpected good financial news so if a new camear is announced in the next couple of weeks as the rumour mill is stating i may be able to get one, I cant see me wanting to upgrade the D3s this year but if an upgrade to the D300 is announced i would be very interested or maybe even the D700 upgrade depending on the specs, The specs for Sonys A77 are slipping out as are the images of the camera and it will set the middle weight camera arena on fire-24mp and 10fps and knowing sony it will be a bargain, I am guessing that the D400 will be using the same sensor, I will wait for a few months for tests etc as i am unsure that 24mp on a cropped sensor will give good high ISO, I am in no rush as i have 2 great camera bodies
Ok back to the grind


Friday 12 August 2011

Glorious 12th?

It doesn`t seem that it was 5 months ago that Jac and I were tying the knot in Scotland ~ the time has flown by. It is against pleasant thoughts of that time and day that brings me to the less pleasant thoughts that once again the Grouse shooting season starts in the UK today.

While putting my thoughts about this blogpost together this morning on my train journey to work, my concens about today were centred not upon the poor Grouse that are shot for expensive sport but on the `cost` that our UK raptors have to pay for this `sport`

I have written many times about the illegal persecution of raptors on this blog before, which I find saddening and depressing, but I found one story today that sums up all of those thoughts very well and so I have linked to it to share with you.

It is
written by Mark Avery, the previous Chief Executive of the RSPB and is here


Thursday 11 August 2011

Breaking down and packing up

In the last couple of days i have started to break stuff down, The hide/blind that has been in my garden for over a year is down and packed, It bleached so much by the sun that parts of the camo pattern is just about gone, I am not a believer that camo make that much difference and once a hide has been up a couple of weeks the animals are used to it whatever the colour, I think that camo clothing is more about having confidence than anything else and if that's good for you then so be it, I wear camo clothing as i kneel around in the mud and it doesn't show the grass and mud stains, Apart from that camo here is going out clothing, We may be going to a red neck wedding soon and i have been told that the bridesmaids dresses are a mix of camo and orange-i kid you not, Just google 'redneck wedding' and see for yourselves, I slowed the food going out for the night animals about a month ago and although the raccoons sometimes raid the bird feeders they are now rarely seen, I will certainly miss those guys, All of my paperwork for the visas arrived yesterday so i can now get my license and start living again, But apart from that my life seems to be packing and making phone calls, Its strange to think that in one weeks time this house will no longer be ours, But we have moved many times in the last 20 years so its just another step in life and a new beginning,
On a wildlife note i was walking down the street yesterday morning when i spotted something flying directly at me, At first i thought it was a bird,about the size of a sparrow but as it neared the wings looked wrong, It flew straight over me and landed on a nearby house, It was a lune moth, The first i have seen in real life-Huge would be an understatement, I never realized that they were so big ,A real stunner to see-now on my photographic wants life


Wednesday 10 August 2011

New moth species

Each time I put the moth trap out, I am getting a number of new species in.  Last weekends efforts bought in a total of seven new species of macro moths.

This delightful Canary Shouldered Thorn being one such colourful example that I am pleased to be able to share with you.

Only a quickie tonight as I have only just got back from a day in London with work.

One of the best bits of the journey was passing through 'Kite country' as the train travelled through the Chilterns.  It always makes me put down whatever I am reading or working on to enjoy seeing them dancing on the breeze


Tuesday 9 August 2011

Some Good News

We got confirmation that our visas have been approved and that we should have them shortly, That means i should soon be able to sort my car test out and be mobile again,
Other good news is that my tree frog image made it to image of the week on the naturescapes site, Naturescapes for me is THE best wildlife site on the web, The standard of photography on there is extremely high so i was just a bit chuffed to say the least, It does prove one thing and that is you do not need to go to far flung exotic places to get good images, I didnt even have to leave my house for this one
Word must have got out as over the last couple of days i have had all kinds of bugs on my glass storm door including a very accommodating cricket, Which stayed on there for over an hour until i started to use flash and then he decided he did not want the fame and left, I was getting on in the day and the light was way to my right, I started outside and had to use the pop up flash to add some fill light as the cricket was silhouetting against the bright glass,The flash made all the difference I tried hand-holding the D7000 with Sigma 150 macro but the shutter speed was low and the images blurred, I tried to set the tripod up but the door way was cramped and i ended up with little more then a monopod but it did the trick, I tried taking a normal shot but the cricket needed some lightening up on the underside, I tried using a reflector but the light was not bright enough so i put the SB900 on a cord and used the built in reflector and diffuser to add some light, I held the flashgun at an angle so as not to get the reflection in the glass and  worked pretty good, The problem with using a flashgun with glass is that it shows every piece of dirt and dust


Monday 8 August 2011

RIP Wonky Wing

Back last month in this blogpost I told you about a juvenile Blackbird that had taken up residence in the Dyer garden. As recently as last Friday she spent a lot of the day with me at close quarters while I was laying slabs in the garden.

Sadly that was the last time that we saw her. We have been out there all weekend but no sign at all. So I have come to the conclusion that she has either succumbed to her condition or has been predated.

We are quite sad as she appeared to be improving but as I said in the original post I didn't think she would survive for too long.


Sunday 7 August 2011

Chimping-Right or Wrong?

I don't know why i bother but sometimes i comment on Dpreview, Its always been know as an argumentative forum and it has more than its far share of jerks that seem to just want to wind people up and live under a false name, The other day a guy put up an image that was very under exposed and asked why his image was so dark, I made a comment that he should take a shot and then check the histogram and adjust using exposure compensation as needed and then retake the shot getting a good exposure, Now i used the word test shot and i am guessing that my comment was mis-read as is easily done as i was basically told that this was bad practice and if you shoot wildlife you do not get the chance to take a 'test' shot and reshoot, I guess the guy does not know what i shoot!!, Now i did not say that i do not know how to take a good exposure without using the histogram i just said that the guy should have checked the histogram and that way he would have known straight away that he had made a booboo and could have reshot, I shot slide film for many years and as anybody who shot slide will tell you its very unforgiving, if you are 1/2 stop out its in the bin, These days i still tend to meter off of something like grass or like in Japan i would meter off of the snow and then add a couple of stops, After shooting for so many years you tend to know or have a good idea of what your camera should be set for, however i have a histogram on the camera and like to check and confirm that my exposure is bang on, This means that i will have to do little adjustments in processing, So the question is, Is it bad practice to look at your histogram or chimp as its known or does it make you a bad photographer?? Well all i can say is that i am happy to use mine, I understand what a histogram should look like and teach people how to check their exposures by using a histogram, We have a lot of features on a modern day Dslr and i think that you should know how to use them and if it gives you a better image or makes your life easier then so be it, I am not saying to take a shot willy nilly and then check your histogram and adjust and retake and adjust, What i was saying is take an image after you have say metered off of some grass or a white cloud or whatever you are comfortable metering off and then have a quick look at your screen and histogram, I like to shoot to the right i.e overexpose the image but not to the extent of blowing highlights, To do this i will meter and adjust, So as a for instance on a beach shooting a white bird i may spot meter off of the bird and add 2 stops, I will check the histogram and maybe be able to add another 1/3 so i am on the edge of getting blinkies on the back of the screen but not blowing the actual highlights, This way i can get the maximum amount of detail in the whites and the shadow areas, I am not saying that this is right, What i am saying is that this is right for me,its difficult when you try to help somebody on a forum only to get flamed by those that should know better but thats the way life is on the internet and certainly on Dpreview


Saturday 6 August 2011

Sad News - They have gone

The first week in August has had happy memories from a few years ago when I used to make the annual pilgrimage to Cowes on the Isle of Wight with some friends and race on their yacht with them.  A great week with fabulous sailing, great partying and good friendly company, and a chance to see a few sea birds while we were at it.  A memory that has carried me over from this time of the year was that when I got home it was always noticeable that the Swifts had left the neighbourhood where I lived at the time.

And so it is this week with the last sighting of this enigmatic bird over my garden being Tuesday just gone.  We did see a few last night over Stratford but from here the main flocks have gone.

My attempts at getting images of them in flight will now have to be put on hold for another nine months.

I did manage a few in the last of the evening light back in June but they are very small in the frame and therefore large crops, so nothing to write home about.


Friday 5 August 2011


It seems that my photography seems to be the opportunistic type at the moment, You know the type where you see something unexpected and try to make the most of the situation, Like the tree frog and toads and also the snapping turtle from a month or so ago, Well it happened again, The other day i was taking a cup of tea up to my wife who was working hard on the top floor of our house, We have some small windows on the side of the stairs that over look the farm next door, I noticed two small bambi's-young deer with spots very close to my blind just the other side of the fence in the farmland, I quickly grabbed the D3s and 600VR lens, I wasn't sure if i would be over gunned but carefully opened my front door and snuck outside, I peeked around the side and they had their heads down, I took a test shot adjusted the exposure, It was pretty much all mid tone but the bright overhead light shone off of the deers coat, I knew they would only be grab shots as i was hand holding and i had either the fence or my blind in the way, I could also hear the gardeners close by and within a few minutes they deer fled as they could hear the approaching lawn mowers, It was great to see either way, They were probably twins, I had seen a very small deer many weeks ago but this was the first viewing since, The woodland between my house and the farm is pretty dense and a great place for them to hang out during daylight hours, Its difficult for people in the UK or Europe to understand just how big a population of deer we have here and most people have them in their gardens at some point no matter where you live, I will certainly miss them when i move out in just over a week but once the new house is built i will have them in my garden everyday/night so something to really look forward to

You can see my Blind/hide in the corner, All images are full frame


Thursday 4 August 2011

Badger Culling - Part 2

Following on from Dave's blog on this subject last month, I heard about an alternate option today that is being pursued in Gloucestershire, the neighbouring county to me so thought I would share it with you.

Back in June, the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust announced it would commence vaccination trials on Badgers in this story here.    Today, I picked up via Twitter that fourteen animals have been vaccinated at one location alone - good news for those creatures, even though the cull that has been much discussed is probably a long way off yet.  Reading on further, more details can be found here as well.

I am encouraged by this and hope that this might prove to be the solution.

If you want to support Badger protection in any way, the Badger Trust website is here.

Finally, one more quick plug for the Big Butterfly Count - don't forget to join in and send in your records.

Mine for my garden is as follows;

6 Large White
1 Red Admiral
2 Comma
7 Gatekeeper
2 Meadow Brown
I Common Blue
2 Peacock

Quite happy with that for a small patch - shows the wildlife planting has worked anyway.


Wednesday 3 August 2011

Dry Dry Dry

The wet has gone and the heat is back, Not so severe as before just mid 90's, The tree frog in my last blog has taken up residence behind the barometer outside of my back door right next to the light so he can just stay in one position and eat and never have to move, Monday night i watched the 2 toads hopping around on the patio eating tint flying ants, I grabbed the D7000 with the Sigma 150 macro and went outside, I laid down on the still hot patio (it was dark and about 9pm) I had the camera in manual mode at ISO 800 (i started at 400 but wanted a little extra shutter speed) I had the SB900 flashgun on, I had the head angled about 45 degrees up and had the white card that is built in pulled out so that i could bounce the flash off of the house walls and bounce some light down onto the subject, The flash works very well like this for portraits as well, If you have a flash without a built in white card then just cut some white card or use a playing card and attach it to the flash with an elastic band, I took a test shot and it was great, Infact i was blown away with the sharpness, I had the camera (with battery grip) resting on the floor to help stop camera shake as the speed was quite low, This also helped get me to eye level with the toad which always makes an image have more impact, The toads are very different and always together so i am guessing that they are mates i.e a couple not friends, The larger one has beautiful bold markings whereas the smaller one is plainer, They seem to have very different characters as well, the small one moves slowly and methodically and tends to wait for the bug to come to it whereas the big guy bounces around quickly to where the bugs are, My ideal shot would be to get the toad with its tongue out grabbing a bug but it happens before you can blink and the one shot i did get was more luck than judgement, Its only my first try and things like this either happen straight away or take some time and effort, I think i know which this will be,
The D7000 is really growing on me, I enjoy using it and the files are very nice, Look at the images at ISO800, I have not used any noise software and they are very clean, I would not have even considered the D300 for this, Yes i could have used the D3s but the D7000 gives me some extra distance from the subject and as the toads were slow moving i did not need the extra speed plus i get 4 million extra pixels thrown in, True 1:1 macro lenses like the Sigma 150 are slow to focus but even the in dim light on my patio it worked OK only hunted a few times and when it locked on it stayed there, The Sigma 150mm macro is amazing, Its soooo sharp that i am going to sell my 180 when it comes back and get one, The 180 is a great lens but the new 150 has OS or is stabilized and for hand holding it was be better, I am super impressed with it and cannot recommend it enough, The toads are very relaxed creatures and you can move around and they take no notice, Put the lens close to its face and blind it with flash and it does bat an eye-the perfect subject and very comical to watch, We leave the house in 2 weeks so i need to get some hours in with these guys if i am going to get the shot thats in my head-fingers crossed

All images are Full Frame unless stated
Click on the images to enlarge them then use the back button to go back

 Now where did that fly go? (smallish crop)
 Crop from horizontal (full height)


Tuesday 2 August 2011

What next?

While discussing wildlife and photography last Saturday with Robbie the subject of time lapse photography and camera traps came up, as Robbie acquired a trap earlier this year.  Thinking about this with time on my hands as I take the train to work, I started to think about what and where to go with some different aspects of my photography.

With putting a lot of time into house projects this year, and the not inconsiderable price of fuel, my trips further and wider have been very limited.  Now the wildlife garden giving me a good degree of interest but there is only so far you can go.

One of the thoughts I came up with is to do a time lapse compilation of a 12 month cycle of life through the seasons on the garden.  But how to do it? What kit to use, how will the camera be controlled, powered, protected from the elements - lots of unknowns that I have never previously had to think about.

I was chatting it over with a work colleague who is also a very good photographer and he recommended a site to check out.  Lots of great stuff on both time lapse and DSLR video can be found here.

Again, with the grey matter whirring, I have often thought about using the camera close to the wildlife using wide angle lenses and firing remotely - both for stills and video.  So with that in mind, I ordered the Hahnel time lapse and remote wireless trigger release today shown below.

It will be delivered tomorrow so I will get testing over the weekend and see how we get on.  It seems to have some pretty good reviews so we will see.

Meanwhile, I need to think further about some time lapse stuff.  Please let us know of your experiences or other useful resources that you have found.



Monday 1 August 2011


In the last 24hrs the weather has changed-Big time, The heat and humidity have dropped to a cool 85 and it has rained and rained and rained, Anybody who has spent time in a primary rain forest will understand the downfall that we have had, It started on Saturday night and that bought out the toads and frogs, We have a pair of toads on our patio every night, One of them (male?) is beautifully marked and i must get some shots soon, We have glass storm doors on both the front and back of the house so we can sit with the main doors open and watch the weather and still be secure, My dog was sitting at the back door looking out when i noticed something on the glass, I went and took a closer look at was surprised to see a Green tree frog which are sometimes called rain frogs as they are so active after a down pour, I hear them a lot in the trees and bushes but have failed to actually see one until now, I grabbed my D7000 which had the Sigma 150mm macro on it, I put it on the tripod and got it all into position, I focused by both manually and also live view and got sharp images with both, I used the 10 sec timer as i didnt know where the remote was, This along with a 4 second shutter speed and i had to hope that the frog did not move for 15 seconds which in most cases it didnt, The frog mainly stayed in the one position but a couple of times it gave a more dynamic stance and i did manage to get some reasonable shots, The frog is pretty small and its difficult to tell its size in the images although you can see the rain drops on the glass, Today i popped out and found the frog under the barometer but let it be, I hope it keeps around as its a nice specimen

Once i started looking for frogs i started to see them everywhere