Friday 30 September 2011

Lizards and Filters

The house nightmare continues as the house in the last blog fell through last night and all for $2k on a $400k house, Very silly business sense by the selling agent, Some people do not seem to understand the housing market at the moment, I am not overly concerned as although it was a beautiful house there is a tonne on the market and last night we saw a couple of house reduced by $100k on what they were purchased 4 years ago-ouch, So we have a busy weekend planned looking at houses,
Yesterday i was sittting on the couch surfing the net on my laptop with the backdoor open, Something caught my eye and it was a very small green lizard (anole) running along the top of the balcony railing, It hoped onto the bird feeder pole and run up, I grabbed the D7000 and Sigma 150 macro and managed a few shots, The light was pretty harsh but it was nice to hear a shutter going off
I finally unwrapped the ND filters (2+3 stop) from Singh Ray and took a snap to show the difference along with the Lee 10 stop big stopper

The 10 stop one comes in handy for welding as well-lol, The Singh Ray filters come in very nice individual leatherette cases, They sent a free cleaning cloth and fluid which i have to say is the best i have ever used, Spray and wipe and the fluid instantly dries and although i got my fingers all over them they were clean in one swip-excellent stuff
Now i am going to put the kettle on and watch the free Singh Ray DVD-Highly recommended company


Thursday 29 September 2011

Sad to see

While thinking about what I was going to write for today's blog on my train commute today, I had originally planned to tell you about my Tuesday trip to the WWT London site where I did a few crappy 'live blogs', that judging by the complete lack of comments was not a success.

Anyway, I still have the images to process and will do those over the weekend and share some of my impressions of the place and my frustrations with wildlife reserves when it comes to hides and photographers.

Due to train problems on my usual route home, I ended up on a different line which require me asking for Jac to come and pick me up.

On the drive back, she said that there was something she wanted to show me, which obviously we would not have ordinarliy seen.

Sadly it was this dead Tawny Owl beside the road, less than a mile from our home, it has obviously been hit by a car and succumbed to its injuries.

I took the image, not out of any macabre sense of gore, but simply because it is very rare to see such a bird close up in daylight unless it is captive.

I see substantially more Little, Barn and Short Eared Owls each year compared to Tawnys.  We hear them plenty of times, particularly at this time of the year.

Image was taken with the Samsung Galaxy S2 phone, and its not bad is it really, for this sort of instant blogging style. Certainly the first half decent camera on a phone I have ever had.

Back next time with a range of different images from  London


Wednesday 28 September 2011

Bloody Nightmare

Well last week was one of the worst that i can remember, We were being buggered about by both the builder and the apartment company so today started just as bad and i had had enough, I had to threaten the apartment company to get the problems solved and viola solved, Its a shame that you get to a state where shouting and threats happen but they seems to work, The big news is that i wrote to the builders and have asked to cancel the contract-many months wasted as well as a few sleepless nights buts it done and there is no going back, Fortunately we have managed to find a beautiful nearly finished new house in stunning countryside and are close to getting a signature on paper and maybe in the new place within a few weeks, I have to say its a weight lifted, There were a few deer prints already in the garden and we saw a couple of deer in the neighborhood walking around in daylight, So on a photographic side apart from taking shots of the new place (hopefully) the filters from Singh Ray arrived today and i hope to get out this week and put them through their paces,

I have to say sorry to Martin as i was hoping to talk on Skype over the weekend about a possible trip stateside next spring, Now that i have this sorted we can get together and start to make plans-cant wait


Tuesday 27 September 2011

Live blogging from WWT London

At last some decent light and a close Little Grebe

Live blogging from WWT London pt. 3

Sparrowhawk flyby and land. This juvenile put a few bird up to flight. Big crop of the bird sat on top of the vermin fencing

Live blogging from WWT London - Parrots

Ring necked parakeets going for house martin nesting material

Live blogging from WWT London

Seems like the young Moorhens are partial to a bit of chocolate cake. Guess that's kids for you. A couple of posts today live from London with images c/o the phone. Sadly grey and dull weather, rather thanks the blue sky forecast.


Monday 26 September 2011

Sigma Service

You may remember that a few months ago i sent my Sigma 180mm Macro in for an upgrade as it did not work at all on my D7000 although it was fine on my D3s, Sigma said that they hoped for a new firmware update from Japan but could take months so kindly sent me a 150mm Macro loaner which has been stunning, Today i received a mail saying that the 180mm Macro will be very expensive to repair as it has an old type HSM (motor) so i could either have it back and return the loaner or keep the loaner or part exchange for the new o.s model, I have decided to keep the loaner which was like new and is a stunning lens, i do not know of any other camera/lens manufacturer that would offer this, Normally i would expect a return or a large bill-well done Sigma


Snakes alive

Due to the crappy nature of the building company that we are using we have decided to keep our options open and keep looking at houses, If the right house comes up then fuck em, We went out to look around on Saturday and went into a very nice community that we had visited last year, The houses are beautiful but expensive, They had an open house at one house and we walked in and there wasn't anybody around, The door was open and we had a look around, As i walked in i viewed a large stone fireplace in the living room, The first thing that struck me was a thick black line zig zagging through the stonework, I walked over to have a closer look and jumped back when i realized that it was a snake, A black snake to be precise, It was around 2 feet long so not a huge snake but very unexpected to say the least, I phoned the agent to tell them and they said that they would meet me there in about 30 minutes, i popped down to the local shops and came back, When i walked in i asked her if the snake had been removed and she said that by the time she got there it was gone, So some lucky person will own a beautiful new house with a guest, I managed to get a quick shot with my wifes iphone

Being a Brit its not something that you think of when viewing houses or even where you live, Having a door or window open is a normal thing that you do without thought-until now

Sunday 25 September 2011

A couple from just outside the back door

Not a euphemism but from the garden in the last 24 hours. 

These delightful little fungi, which are some form of Lepiota came up in the lawn overnight on Friday night/Saturday morning.

As I don't like grass as a subject matter, I chose to keep the DOF to a minimum in camera, but that means you lose sharpness across all parts of the subject.  But I can live with that, and added just a little 'lens blur' in Photoshop CS5 on the base grass for effect.

I also put the moth trap out again last night, and apart from mostly Yellow Underwings, the catch was sparse.  I did get two new species which come around at this time of year.  These being the Barred Hook Tip - no images sadly and this Pink Barred Sallow, which I could only get to stay put on our 'dirty' breakfast table in the garden.

Finally, commiserations to our Scottish readers for an abysmal performance in New Zealand this morning (sorry we don't normally do sport on this blog do we? )

I have something planned for Tuesday this week that I hope will mean I can bring you some more images. - but you will have to wait and see.


Saturday 24 September 2011

Ramblings 2

As Martin mentions frustration i have had this big time this week but from a different source-Builders, When we moved into the apartment the main bath was cracked and unusable, We were told that it would be fixed before we move in and it wasnt, I have sat around for about 10 days in the past month after promises of a contractor coming to replace it, In the end the handyman here was told to do it, A week later its still not working even though we have had up to 8 guys in here, The old bath is out but the new one wont fit so they have removed part of the wall and thats how it ended until Monday, The electrics are also partly working in the kitchen, I then find out yesterday that out house builder has been holding back on the truth and now the move in date has slipped before a brick has even been laid, All in all a very frustrating time, I have had the camera bag ready for the last 3 days but weather has been unkind and very wet, So what to do? well ask any woman and they turn to retail therapy and thats what i did, The new blind arrived and i will cover that at a later date but i did order some filters, Remember a couple of weeks ago i purchased a Singh Ray Blue and Gold filter and mentioned that i was thinking about their 2-8 stop vari ND filter, Well i new that it had its limitations and after 5 stops could give strange colors, I looked around the web and forums and found under 50mm it could give strange and weird effects, I dont need that for the $400 it costs so i decided to order the Singh Ray 2 stop and 3 stop ND filters, That will give me 2 stop,3 stop,5 stops added together and 7 stops with my poloriser, I also have a 10 stop so in essence i am covered from 2 stops to 17 stops if needed, As Singh Ray filters are made to order i called them and it takes 3 days to make so they should be here before my trip to the Smokys in about 3 weeks, Now lets hope that next weeks see the bath finished and the electrics and some movement on the house, then maybe i can actually get some photography done


Friday 23 September 2011

Perspiration & Frustration

....often are close partners to inspiration.  A few recent outings or planned outings have lead to nothing photographically.  I was out after Barn Owls last night, and you know that you have to give up when you run out of ISO - no joy there.  But that is the way it is with wildlife photography, and although I have always tried to live by the mantra of enjoying the experiences in nature and that any photo is a bonus, it is always still a hard one to reconcile at times.

Frustration and anger comes from another shocking story from the West Country with Peregrines now being poisoned.  My blog here summed up that frustration of the total ineffectiveness of extremely well funded organisations such as the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts to not make this one of their deliverables. 

Would still like to see your views and comments on that blog please.

With the Autumnal equinox here in the northern hemisphere, perspiration will now reduce as the days get darer, shorter and colder, but with that comes different photo opportunities,m and the wader migration is in full swing, and inbound migrants are joining us with the first of the Pink Footed Geese arriving, and it wont be long before the Thrushes and Redwings are back with us.  They can expect a bumper feed this year as the bushes are very heavily laden with berries and fruits.

So my glass stays half full and I keep optimistic that there is some good photography to be had next time out.

Have a good weekend, and for our UK readers, lets hope for some good results from New Zealand for the home sides of the proper gentleman's game.,  I am of course talking of the Rugby World Cup.


Thursday 22 September 2011


Its something that well all need to get the best best from our photography, It can come in many forms but when you are inspired it makes a huge difference, Since moving into the apartment i must admit i have lacked any inspiration and the shoulders have been somewhat dropped, Today i got an e-mail from Singh ray filters, You may remember that i purchased one of the blue and gold filters last month for my Smoky Mountain trip in 3 weeks, The video is around 30 minutes and cover the main filters used for landscape photography, Some of the places in the video i have shot at and i must admit that after watching the video i wanted to grab my gear and head off out, Watching the video you will see that American photographers like to hold the grad filters rather than use a holder, This is something i have noticed since moving here, Personally i like to use a filter holder so there is no way of knocking the camera, So grab a cup of tea and a biscuit and watch the video here
One thing i will say is that you can get the soft focus effect in processing rather than buying the filter, I did a blog on the 'Orton' effect a whilst back-see here


Wednesday 21 September 2011

The bad news never ceases and has set me off on one

So now it is four Goshawks poisoned in Devon.  The sad tales of wanton and criminal killing just don't stop do they?

This is one area for the wildlife NGO's to really get after in my opinion.  Organisations like the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts get millions and millions of pounds each and every year but never appear to address this issue with any lasting results through their lobbying and politicking.    Yes we hear the stories and their 'outrage' but that's about it in terms of getting things done.  They seem to be too far up their own parts having a pop at the government of the day trying to stop the economic development of our land.  With their over dramatic posturing on such proposals as reforming the planning legislation and building new High Speed rail lines, setting out their views that it will be the end of the world and wildlife as we know it, it is about time they put their efforts into the real activities like this that needs to be stopped.

 Watching a re-run of Birds Britannia on BBC4 on Monday night reminded me that these organisations are keen to extract our money with honeypot schemes like White Tailed Eagles, Ospreys and Red Kites, where they can easily be seen, but we need much better work from them against the vested commercial interests of the large shooting estates, and against farming policies where the large prairie like, sterile monoculture fields represent our 'green' countryside, that is yellow one week, green the next, brown the following one, devoid of wildlife.

We know that it is the Common Agricultural policy that has caused the biggest destruction of the UK wildlife through farming practices.  It is not building, it is not transport projects.  Some of the best wildlife sites in the UK are from brownfield sites that have had the hand of man on them in times past.  Here in Warwickshire nearly all the best wildlife sites and reserves are 'hand of man' sites that have been reclaimed.

In fact, the only truly wild part of the UK is in small parts of Scotland and on the Arctic plateau of the Cairngorms - the rest of our green and pleasant land has been totally shaped by man.

Sadly our biased media in this country don't focus on these aspects as I suspect there are too many commercial and vested interests at work.

Our wildlife organisations do good things with their reserves, and I am not decrying that, although it should be remembered that unless there are wildlife corridors connecting them, we are just building fence less wildlife zoos.  

So I will stop now before I get too tedious.

Would love to hear your views and comments on these subjects.


Tuesday 20 September 2011

Improved image viewing on the Blog

Scrolling through the blog tonight, I notice that when you click on an image, it opens it up to full size and you also have the slide show at the bottom of the image so you can see all the rest of the images.

All in all a much better viewing experience, so well done Blogger for the improvements.

Hope you enjoy.

Just means we must take some more photos as we have both been distracted lately.



Not much photography going on in my life at the moment, A mix between sorting stuff out for the new house and a lull in my photographic mindset-it happens, I saw a couple of cicadas mating on the ground the other day-nearly stepped on them whilst looking up into the trees for them, I took a few images but they can only be described as unclean and not set up, I have been watching a Northern Mockingbird that hangs around the apartment and likes to sit ontop of a sign and also a couple of the bushes, Its quite a friendly chap and a few times when taking the dog out i have noticed it at the last minute and its only been a few feet away-easy photography and the possibility of some good shots of a very common bird,
Seems that there is to be an announcement tomorrow from Nikon but it looks like it wont be a Dslr but their first and late steps into the mirror less market, Something that both Nikon and Canon have left to others and now at their peril are loosing valuable market share in Japan which is a very important market for them, Strangely i saw that Canon sent out a questionnaire last week asking if their customer would be interested in such a product, What have they been doing apart from walking around with their eyes closed?? Its something that i am not at all interested in although as things progress maybe a pro slr type mirrorless body may come out so its worth keeping an eye on, I like the idea of having an electronic viewfinder where you can see a live histogram without looking at the screen but as i say very early days,
It seems that global warming is not all bad, Sure that certain animals like the mighty polar bear and the tiny Pika are suffering but birds are spreading their wings and moving into new northerly ranges, A few years ago the Snowy or Little Egret was an exotic in the UK and now they are there all year around, Here closer to my home there are reports of Wood Storks at Jordan Lake, I have only ever seen these in South Carolina and Florida


Monday 19 September 2011

Morning Light

With a day off work today, I had planned to go to Slimbridge today to see if I could get some new images, but within a short time of leaving , and against an iffy weather forecast, the cloud bank that I was driving towards meant that I was likely to get a another crap light day, and I have had plenty of grey ducks from Slimbridge, so I turned round and headed back around my local patch.

These following shots were all taken within 50 metres of each other and shows totalling contrasting results.

The first image was with the sun directly behind me and shows a mother and calf Fallow deer in a tender moment.

Walking directly into the light, this Blue Tit and Buzzard where directly in front of me, but there was no way I was going to get a  front lit shot, so I took these silhouettes.
Now, I am not sure that they work very well.

I have never really been a fan of such type images, but they are something different, and we should always try something different every so often, and maybe to somebody's taste.

The good thing was that I met a dog walker who advised me the location I was at had regular visits from Barn Owl and Little Owl - so looks like a trip back for the early and late shifts so will keep you posted.


Sunday 18 September 2011

Beware the scammers

One of the great things about the internet is that it has changed our way of shopping and bargains can be had without the hassle of traipsing around shops, The down side is that there are plenty of scammers out there looking to cheat you out of your hard earned cash, I fell prey to this just before my trip to Japan when i ordered a coat for the trip, Luckily i acted very quickly by informing the bank and credit card company and after i had sent it back to the bastards in China the bank informed me that it had been dealt with, A couple of years ago it came to light that there were fake Sandisk CF cards hitting the market, They worked ok but were not made by Sandisk and the differences were subtle, Yesterday i saw that the scammers had upped their game and were selling look alike Nikon products, This is very worrying that they are getting to a stage where its difficult to tell the real thing from fakes, Take a look here
It almost makes you by at your local store, All i would say is only buy from reputable dealers if you buy online and be careful out there


Saturday 17 September 2011

Phone Fungi

It's the middle of September, so that means its car MOT time for my seven year old BMW.  Yet another straight pass, no issues, five in a row.  Always a relief to get through at no extra cost.

Never mind that though but on the way back home, I dropped into one of my favourite fungi woods to have a quick look to see if there was much about and whether it was worth making a foray over the weekend with all the main camera gear.  Dodging the heavy showers that we are having at the moment, the only camera gear I had was the rather cracking little camera that is on my Samsung Galaxy S2 android phone.  With a macro AF setting, a reasonable flash, and anti shake, as camera phones goes it is better than most.

The only fungi I found was a few Fly Agarics, nesting exactly where I expected them, in a small area of Silver Birch trees.

So in the darkish setting, using the flash, I got this shot.

One of the delights with the ultra small focal lengths with camera phones on tiny CCD chips is that you can get wide angle close up shots, something a bit difficult with a lot of DSLR close up work.

So clearly not in the same quality league as my usual macro kit, here is one of the them from today.  A bit bright in the highlights, but sadly no control over the flash power.

So it is still early in the fungi year, but I will keep checking and keep fingers crossed for a 'good fungi' year.


Friday 16 September 2011


Have you ever sat down and looked at the amount of different processing software programmes there are out there these days, Not only do you have the camera manufacturers own like Nikons NX2 and Canons DPP but also Adobes photoshop and lightroom and even Apple has Aperture, infact there is software for every type of work and every budget even free like Bibble, It all starts to get expensive if you want more than one or two programmes
I have been looking at the software that i use and they are

1.Adobe Photoshop CS5 (RAW Converter)
2.Capture One Pro (RAW Converter)
3.Breezebrowser Pro (Image Browser)
4.Photomatix (HDR)
5.PTgui (Photo Stitching)
6.Helicon Focus (Photo Stacking)
7.Nik Ultimate Edition (Noise reduction, sharpening, selective colour,HDR and B+W)
8.Portrait Professional (portraits)

Not everybody knows of the Nik software products and i have people getting confused thinking it has something to do with Nikon, But for the last few years it has gained a great reputation and i have friends that use it with great effect, My order for it will be placed this week
Luckily you can normally get a months free trial on most software so you can try before you buy but the above is what i currently use and recommend


Bad year for Butterflies in the UK

Mirroring my own experience so far this year, it seems the weather has dealt a bad hand to the butterflies with the release of the results from the Butterfly Conservation Big Butterfly Count that I blogged about earlier in the year. Results and commentary here


Fruit Tablet

Orange,Blackberry or Apple why are so many telecom products named after fruit?? So anyways we have bitten the bullet and bought a tablet, An Apple as it happens (sorry Martin) Totally over priced as all Apple products are and the camera is a F+++king joke however i bought it for the wife for all her hard work and for keeping me in style (Nikon), I will of course be using it once i get the Dell stickers on it-lol as the screen is pretty nice and i will have a portfolio on it. My wife has an Apple iphone and will at some point go over to a macbook pro for her work so it made sense to get the ipad so she can intergrate everything, Specs wise we purchased the 64GB wifi model which was the price of a good laptop but what do you expect from Apple, I have no doubt that Apple will now introduce the ipad3 as there are plenty of rumours but if you look at all the rumours about Nikon and Canon which have still not happened you could hold off for ever, It will be interesting to see how much i can incorporate the ipad into my photography, We have the capture one 'capture pilot' app so i will be trying that out


Thursday 15 September 2011

Osprey Drama

I have mentioned a few Osprey websites here in the UK that I have been following, but this week has been pretty dramatic and I have been following the story through both twitter and on Facebook through the medium of my smartphone.

The location I am talking about is the Dyfi Osprey Project and the twitter presence is @DyfiOspreys and Facebook here. Just 'like' it to follow.

The drama is playing out so don't hang about, get following and enjoy.

I reckon from the track of Dulas, he was overhead here in Stratford on Monday.  Be nice if one of the Dyfi team could share with us.


Wednesday 14 September 2011

36 minutes

Yesterday i did the photographic equivalent of speed dating, I took my dog for a walk and had my 200-400 and D7000 over my shoulder, It was early afternoon and although the sun was high and hot (88) it was quite cloudy, I went to Lake Lynn which is fairly local to me and really the only place around here that i know that you can guarantee bird-life, Its a very popular place for walking and jogging and the birds get fed my parents strolling with their kids, At this time of year its the same ol same ol Mallards,Geese etc but there are a lot of garden type birds from cardinals to hummingbirds and woodpeckers, I have had good results here in the past with Kingfishers which are not the easiest of birds to shoot without a set up,The problem i had was that it was going to be in and out as it was too hot for the dog, Looking at the exif info i too my first shot at 2:01 and my last shot at 2:37 so a total of 36 minutes, I took nearly 200 images, the main reason for this was that i wanted to keep the ISO fairly low-under 800 and handholding the 200-400 along with the cropped sensor meant that camera shake was very possible and so it proved, so multiple images of the same subject to guarantee some sharp images, I found a very nice dragonfly on a thin branch and just could not get a sharp image of it even resting the camera on the boardwalk edge, Out of 50 images i got just 2 that were acceptably sharp-thank god for digital!! The lake is one of the best i know for herons or rather tame herons, I started the session with a heron and ended with the same bird, I managed to get my photographic fix as its been a while since the camera was pointed at anything wild, The one bird that i did see and only as it spooked and flew was a green heron, I do not have any images of these and its the first time i have seen one there, So a good reason to go back with a longer lens and tripod


Tuesday 13 September 2011

A couple of dates for your diary

Here's a quickie tonight for you with a couple of key dates for those of our UK based readers.

Starting on Friday October 7th, we have the return of BBC Autumnwatch.  No Kate Humble this time as she is filming another BBC series, but she is replaced with Michaela Strachan, as well as Chris Packham and Martin Hughes-Games - wish he'd get a haircut :-).  So looks like a rematch of the Really Wild Show from many years back, for those of you that remember that.

Anyway,, as usual with BBC Nature programmes it is bound to be a good series - I wish for those of you outside the UK you could get he BBC iPlayer as it would be great it the rest of the world could see the series.

A week later on the weekend of October 14th and 15th, there is a Wildlife Expo, down in the smoke at the Alexandra Palace.  I know we have lots of London based readers so an easy one for you guys.

Meanwhile, I am hoping to pop down to the WWT London reserve later this month as Jac has a trip on business to London, so I might just have to be the chauffeur and get a day there as I have WWT membership this year.

Sorry it is just a quickie - too much other stuff going on to try to sort out today, so needs must.


Monday 12 September 2011

Back Button Focusing

I have covered this before but i think its worth going over again as i see it come up time and time again on forums, The last few years have seen cameras coming out with an AF-ON button on the back of the camera, This is so you can focus by using your thumb and use your shutter button just to take images when the time is right rather than have one button do all so to speak, Before the AF-ON button appeared many people would use the AE-L/AF-L button on the back of a camera and reprogramme it for AF using the custom functions and this is what i have had to do to the Nikon D7000 as the body is too small for the extra button, If you use AE-L/AF-L button then you can reprogramme another button for that feature, I used to use the back button focus when i shot Canon but when i first started using Nikon for some reason i stayed with the traditional way of using the shutter button for everything but for the past 2 years or more i have converted back to back button focusing, I prefer it for various reasons, One being that my camera is pretty much set to continuous focusing all the time, If i want to focus and recompose which is rare as i prefer to move the AF point i can simply focus using the back button then take my thumb off of the button and recompose and take an image with the shutter button, if the subject moves i can quickly hit the back button and focus is quickly regained, So in essence you have continuous focus and single shot all in one, People new to photography may find it a strange way of doing things but once you get used to using the camera in this way you wont go back, Just remember when handing your camera to somebody else to take a shot to explain how to focus, One feature that i liked from my Canon days is that the image stabiliser is activated using the back focus AF-ON button but for some reason on the Nikon its not, You have to lightly tough the shutter button, Its no big deal but i would really like Nikon to change it or at least give the photographer the choice in the custom functions and whilst i am at it can Mr Nikon please add the blinkies to the histogram image just like Canon and not have to move to a different screen shot, So if you have not yet tried shooting using back focus then we highly recommend it


Sunday 11 September 2011

Tourist Time

Earlier in the week, while waiting on the railway platform for my train, I heard the unmistakable sound of a Raven 'cronking' overhead.  Great to see and hear these fabulous birds in Warwickshire.

On Friday, Jac and I took a day off work and went to London to be tourists. One of the places that neither of us had been to was the Tower Of London, so that's where we started.  I was particularly looking forward to seeing the Ravens , probably more than anything else.

Now they are obviously not wild, and each of those that we saw had one of their wings clipped to prevent them flying off.  We can deliberate over that and while I have my views, I understand both sides of the argument.

Notwithstanding, it does give lots of people chance to see these iconic and friendly birds at close quarters.

I grabbed a few images with the Panasonic P & S, and the 5Dmk2 and 24-70 f2.8L.

Easy to tell which is from which camera.

 Canon and converted from RAW

 Pana in jpeg

Canon but in jpeg

While I sometimes shoot in RAW and jpeg with the 5Dmk2, the jpeg images just never 'cut it' in quality after a bit of Capture One processing, IMO.

With a windy period coming up in the UK as we get the leftovers from Hurricane Katia, I hope all of you stay safe.


Saturday 10 September 2011

Impressive Ospreys

@rutlandospreys: 5274km in fourteen days - AW has made it to Guinea and probably his winter home  -


Focus Stacking

I have noticed that the area where i currently live has a high number of cicadas, Not only are they very noisy throughout the day but they are constantly flying from tree to tree, I have also seen a few dead on the paths, I have wanted to photograph them for a while but most either are high in the trees or spook on the lower parts and fly away, I was walking the dog when i noticed something on the side of a large pine tree, It was slightly higher then me but i could clearly see it was a cicada exoskeleton, It would have been great to have got it coming out but this would be the next best thing, I grabbed my D3s and Sigma 150mm macro, I was shooting slightly upwards and the angle was all wrong so i grabbed a chair and balanced precariously whilst getting some shots, I downloaded them and checked them in Breezebrowser, They were sharp but even using F16 they did not have sufficient depth of field to get the whole cicada in focus as they are quite round, So i decided to set a tripod up and shoot various images from the closest foot throughout making small focus adjustments and taking another shot until i had covered all of the cicada, This was easier said than done, I had to set the tripod on 3 large paint tubs to get the height and then balance on the chair myself, I then downloaded Helicon Focus software and using the 30 day trail i stacked the 7 images together, It was quick,easy and worked perfectly, I was extremely impressed, I had seen this done before but it was the first time that i had done it myself, I think focus stacking will be a thing of the future for many reasons, Firstly macro where the depth of field is extremely shallow, Secondly you can take say 20 images of say a rose at F2.8 and after stacking out have a sharp image of the total rose but with a clean background the same as if you had used F2.8 for the image and more importantly the future of high megapixel cameras, Take the new Sony A77, 24 megapixel cropped sensor, After around F8-11 you will start running into diffraction problems where a smaller aperture will have a negative effect on image quality, You may need more than F8 for landscapes so now you can shoot at F4 and take various images 'through' the image and stack them together to get front to back sharpness

Here is the final result of 7 images stacked
 This was my first attempt but was unsure that the back of the tree was intruding
 This is the first of the 7 images, Just focused manually on the nearest foot, Then manually move the focus in and take images so that the whole subject has been covered
The light was high and harsh, The dark background is shadow in the trees


Friday 9 September 2011

Hides - UK style

Following on and complementing Dave's blog of yesterday, over here in the UK pop up hides are naturally more expensive.

But they have come down in price since I got my Ameristep Doghouse a few years ago, although I did buy mine in direct from the US, via eBay, which meant I got it for less than half the UK price, although it took about four weeks to get to me.

There are a number of wildlife photographic specialists hides made, but they are generally a lot more money.

There is generally more demand through shooting outlets and these links here and here will show you what I mean.  I cannot vouch for the quality of these, but I can my Ameristep which has seen good service, been left out in all weathers for long periods of time, and also has bleach out a little too.

The nice thing about the Ameristep is its portability.  Comes in its own carry rucksack, and goes up in a flash.


Thursday 8 September 2011


I have mentioned many times how much of a fan i am of the cube type hides/blinds, Ever since i used one with my friend Phil Shaw in the UK last year i was sold, Never have i been in such a solid and secure hide, The plus side of Phils actual hide is the window system which is secured by magnets and is totally silent, The minus side is the cost which at the moment is around $400, I currently have 2 cube type hides and will be going to Bass Pro shops soon to buy some more for my new land, I had a mail from Bass Pro the other day and they are now offering cube hides from as low as $80 so now they are about the cost of a pop up type hide but 10 times better, I tend to put up a hide and leave it in position for many months, One of my current blinds is very bleached by the strong sunlight that we have here but still in perfect working order, My new land will be woodland so they should not get so bleached although i do not feel that the colour affects the animals/birds at all as they just get used to what ever is there, The blinds that i am looking at are made from Primos which i think is the same as Phils but just slightly cheaper, One thing that i have struggled to find here in the USA is a chair with individual adjustable legs, i still use my chairs that i purchased in the UK which are design for anglers but will be in the need for more so if you know where to get some within the USA please let me know

p.s If you are in the UK and want to get the best wild fox and badger images that you can imagine then contact Phil through his website above, Check out his site, They will blow you away

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Sad story for the Manxies

Frogblog '11 update

There are still a few tadpoles in the pond that seem to be happy as tadpoles.   With the changing weather they probably need to think about hurrying up to become frogs.

With the second phase of brush cutting in the wildflower garden this last weekend, the froglets and adult frogs are starting to run out of hiding places, although to be fair there are still plenty for them

As a result, after cutting the brush, at about a height of 50mm, the ground was alive with little jumpers.

This one posed for me by the edged of the reflection pool in the sun for a while and had a little mate join him on his back.

It was great to see so many at different sizes and colours from light yellow through to very dark green out there.


Tuesday 6 September 2011

Singh Ray Gold n Blue Poloriser and Active D lighting

I mentioned last week that i had ordered a Gold n Blue Polarizer from Singh Ray, It arrived very quickly which i guess it should as they charged $12+ for the shipping, However they do state that filters are made to order so i guess that i am lucky, The quality is superb and its very very smooth to use, I quickly fitted it to my D3s and 24-70 and popped out into the car park, A quick turn of the filter turns the scene from blue to a goldy color just as i expected, I think the golds will look better over water and in lower light but it gives you an idea

Last week when i was at the site of my new house i took some shots for the scrap book, It was bright and the sun was over head so the light was extremely harsh and in the woodland there are heavy shadows and bright areas-very contrasty, I took some shots not being too bothered as they are just for personal use, Then i thought i would put the active D lighting on as this helps lift shadows, I do not normally use this feature although it does work well, Its similar to Canons Highlight Tone Priority which i used a few times when shoot goosanders in Switzerland with the 1D MK3, As i said it works ok but its easy to life the shadows in processing and using HTP can induce noise in the shadow areas, I think that if you are wanting quick results and sat shoot Jpegs and do not want little to no processing its defiantly a good feature to have and use

Without Active D lighting


Monday 5 September 2011

Blogging on the Move

Regular readers will know that I use twitter @martind01, if you want to follow.

Many times during the day, I see stories that catch my eye and occasionally link to some of the stories I have blogged about here.  So by way of explanation, for the future, if you see short links posted, as the one below was at lunchtime today, with strange squiggles in it from say Uber Media or the like, then you will know why.

 With the fast moving pace of twitter, and having to rely on my memory to go back to stories, I will use the feature more.

Having checked out a few more photograpers apps on Android lately, I will bring some thoughts and feedback on some of these for  those of you who prefer the better phone OS in forthcoming posts :-)


Good going for one of the Rutland Ospreys

AW flying south through Mauritania - details here


Sunday 4 September 2011

1st Septmeber

So whats so special with 1st September?? Well 2 things for me, Firstly  3 years on that very day we landed in the USA to live and secondly on the 1st September 2011 the permits for our new house arrived and the first tree was felled-another new start, Its been a more stressful experience than i imagined to get the house under way but now i must admit that i am very excited, The good thing about a recession is that there are a lot of builders hanging around and the house should be finished around Xmas time, Today i managed to walk the land, All the trees that need to come down have been taken down, I think that they went a bit over board in placed but now that the tiny trees are gone the sunlight can get through and i do not think that it will take long for new under growth to come through, I will have a site meeting with the builders next week to run through some final stuff and hide the chainsaw and then weather permitting it will all happen very quickly, The plot is around 2.5 acres and the house will be set back well into the trees, the drive is nearly 200 feet long, I have already seen some great looking trees where i can hide bait for fox,raccoon and opossum and an area for the pond, The soil is incredibly fine-almost dust like and i could see that some deer had crossed the new opening as well as fox so all good signs for the future.

Work starts
From road-Driveway into the trees
 Drive leading to the house /garden
 Back of garden-wildlife area, Pool will go around here, Nice open area for deer and fox images once the soil has settled and grass etc starts to grow

Saturday 3 September 2011

Bitterns continue to thrive in the UK

It was pleasing to hear the good news late this week of the continuing success story of the Bittern in the UK.

From just 11 males in 1997 to over a hundred across the country this year.

It seems strange that there were so few as I remember really good sightings of more than one bird at Minsmere in about 1993.  The full story can be found here and is worth a read.

Meanwhile here are a couple I was fortunate enough to get a few years ago, about a month after I got my 500 lens.

I was lucky that day  - it turned about 20 mins after I gotinto the hide at Slimbridge


Friday 2 September 2011

Fall is coming part 2

There seems to be 2 types of landscape photographer, Those that use filters and those that don't, I fall into the first category for 2 reasons, Firstly i like to get as much done in camera an secondly i am crap at photoshop and the thought of blending 2 images (1 for the sky and 1 for the foreground) together baffles me, I use the Lee filters system which is one of the very best and most expensive that you can buy, One of the problems with using cheap/er systems is that you can get a colour cast when using longish exposures, I have the Lee filters holder along with a wide angle adapter and ND grads of 1,2 and 3 stops, I would advise that if you just get 1 filter then the 3 stops would be my choice, Along with the grads i also have a Lee polarizing filter, Do not look at the price of one of these without sitting down, So far these have done me proud although i have to say that i dont shoot as many landscapes as i would like, A couple of days ago i decided to bite the bullet and spend another chunk of money on a filter that caught my eye years ago, Its a Singh Ray gold n blue filter, Check out Singh Rays website, their filters are second to none as are the prices, there are some good articles from photographers that use their products as well as the odd video tutorial, The filter is now in the post and should be here in a few days, I hope it will pay its way when i am in the mountains next month, Another Singh Ray filter that keeps coming to mind is their Vari ND which gives the option of using 1 filter to give differing amounts of filtration all in one filter, Again its an arm and a leg in price and i have heard from many good photographers that its best to use it from 2 to 5 stops as after that you get some crazy colours, Either way its a nice piece of kit and would be ideal for the type of photography that you find in the mountains, Some thimngs you just cant  (yet) do in photoshop like slow water down to a blur, I have a Lee 10 stop filter that is excellent for this but sometimes too much, A poloriser will drop your exposure by 2 stops so its just the but in the middle that i need


Thursday 1 September 2011

Where have the birds all gone?

A few weeks ago, I was mentioning that the birds were eating us out of house and home, getting rid of more than 6 fat balls each day, plus half a tall feeder of seed.

Well fortunately for the wallet, the rate of depletion is virtually nothing.

But sadly, virtually no birds in the garden, except for plenty of blackbirds grabbing worms from the damp morning lawn.

So whats going on?
Lets wind the clock back to early Spring.  One of the great benefits of train commuting through the Warwickshire countryside is having plenty of me time to think about things, listen to music, read and observe the countryside.  It is this latter activity that probably takes most of my attention.

Back in Spring, the trees were laden with blossom - Elderbflower, Blakthorn - great clouds of fine white flowers more dense that I have ever seen before. Thats not all - other fruit and berry bearing bushes are totally laden down in these parts.

With plenty of seeds, thistles and other natural food sources, the wildlife has left the offerings from my patch and filling out with what nature has supplied for a short window.

So if you were wondering where everything has gone - don't worry, it will be back soon, and you will have to start spending on bird feed again.

For many other birds, they are much further away.
One of the Rutland Ospreys has been fitted with a tracker and can be seen here.  Follow the Dyfi Ospreys on Twitter to see how their progress is going amd the BTO are following five Cuckoos here and we can see that they are now already in sub Saharan Africa.

Meanwhile, across at Worcester Catheral, Bobbin the female Peregrine has returned after spending six months away from her regular haunt.  Follow her at Worcester Peregrines on Facebook

Let us know if you have any favourite wildlife that you follw the fortunes of.