Wednesday 30 November 2011

Photographers prosecuted for disturbing WT Eagles

We have said it many times before on this blog and shared previous examples where photographers have transgressed the law.

Once again, in this story here, two photographers have been prosecuted, rightly so for disturbing a pair of White Tailed Eagles on Mull.

As someone who has made a number of visits to Mull, I know these particular birds and have had the pleasure of seeing them, and photographing them from places far from their nesting site, as a result of seeing where they fly, and huge amounts of patience and a large sprinkling of luck.

I will not give them the honour of referring to them as wildlife photographers as they clearly had no regard for their subject. Go away and don't darken our subjects with your appalling behaviours.

Subject comes first, image last.


Tuesday 29 November 2011

Proof of the Pudding

I sat out in my blind yesterday after watching a hairy woodpecker feeding early on, It took a couple of hours but eventually the hairy woody dropped down and started to feed, They are very small and i wish that i had taken my 1.4x there with me so had to crop a bit to get the best composition, Shortly after the hairy left i could hear the red bellied in the woodland, It didnt take long to see it and although skittish it landed on the perch and had a good feed, The D7000 and 600 was perfect for this larger woodpecker, I was still using the old perch so had to clone some bits in and out to make a decent looking image, I did cut a new perch yesterday morning out its not drilled yet and i have also found some vines in the woodland that i will cut and wrap around it to add to the image, I normally look for dropped branches for my perches but we have a couple of young trees that have bent over due to strangling by vines when they were younger and they are an eye-saw so i cut them down and will reuse then for future projects,

The weather yesterday was perfect, Overcast but quite bright, I had to use ISO 800 to get 1/125 but with careful setting up you can get sharp images, Once the light dropped to 1/60 i packed up,The background is the far end of the garden which is a couple of hundred feet away and at F8 becomes nicely diffused


Monday 28 November 2011

Super Monday - Shop till you(r card) drops

I heard on the radio news this morning that today is supposed to be Super Monday when most of the Internet Shopping for Christmas is being done.

So with that in mind, here are a few gift ideas for you to show your partners/spouses, wife's/husbands/girlfriend/boyfriend or just family or friend.

Lets get the cards out of the way first.

You can never have too many and Dave and I are both fans of Sandisk.

A new and neat little device I got hold of this year for remote wireless and timelapse use is as follows in either Canon or Nikon flavour, and much cheaper than the offerings from the manufacturers

For me, it is vital to have the best ID books on the shelf. Not knowing what your subject is is for me probably the worst no-no as a wildlife photographer.

Here are some suggestions that I have found to be excellent in use from the Collins range

Other gems that have an important place on my bookshelf include

Dave will share a few of his ideas in a future blog and I will also put a few more suggestions up later this week.

Have fun convincing those that are buying you gifts, or alternately do what I do and just buy for yourself anyway :-)


Sunday 27 November 2011

Making a Woodpecker Perch

The woodpecker perch in my garden is now a big hit, Just watching today for an hour we had Carolina Wren, Hairy and Red Bellied woodpeckers all feeding on it, We also had 2 flickers in a close by tree which was nice to see, The perch is very dried out and tired so its time to make a new one, Problem is that my paddle bit has gone missing so a trip to the store is needed, i will run through how i go about making one, Firstly i need a branch around 2-3'' in diameter and around 4 feet long, The width is good for most woodpeckers, I dont want a big thick branch as it will make the tint hairy woodpeckers look out of place, The 4 feet length is a good height as sometimes other birds will land on top and you can get an eye level shot without the 'looking up' at the bird shot, I find one of the best places to look for a perch is either near a lake or a dark damp forest where there is a good chance of finding a good looking mossy branch, Unfortunately here in NC its normally very hot and dry and if you are lucky enough to find a nice mossy perch it will be dry and dead in a few days, Once you have your perch you need to drill 3 or 4 holes around 20mm or 3/4'' down one side in a line about 6-8'' apart, Look at the perch first to find the nicest looking side as this will be the front, Drill 90 degrees to the front, You can drill both sides if you want, Have an idea of the time of day you will shoot and the suns direction so that the perch does not cause heavy shadows when you shoot, Once you have drilled the holes you need to place the perch infront of the hide/blind, I either bang a wooden peg into the ground and then screw and tie warp the perch to it or if you want to be abit more mobile use a Xmas tree stand which work really well, Once the perch is in place get a fat block and dig a piece of fat out with a small spoon, Hold the spoon up to the hole and with your thumb push the fat into the hole, Pack the hole out with fat and push it in tight so that the fat is concave and no fat will be poking out and getting into the shot, Clean around the holes with your thumb and you are good to go, If there is some food in the shot or you can see part of the hole you can clone that section out in processing
Here is my old perch, 4 feet high and 2'' wide, Hold up by tie wraps and screwed at the base to a wooden peg

20mm or 3/4'' Holes down 1 side
Use fat from a fat block available at supermarkets and pet stores
Using a small spoon, Scoop some fat out and place the spoon at the hole and push the fat into the hole, Get as much fat in as possible by compacting the fat with your thumb
The hole will look like this when its finished, Clean any fat that's outside the hole with the spoon or your thumb
Check the perch every morning for signs of use, Once the fat is found and they start to eat make sure that its 'topped' up as soon as its empty which will be 2-3 times a day, Consistency is the key, If the birds come and there isnt any food they will soon stop,
To make the perch extra photogenic wrap some ivy or climbing plant around the perch fixing at the back with a staple, Use something that's in keeping and not too big as it will look odd with a small woodpecker, Be careful when wrapping the ivy around as to not get in the way of the holes or when shooting will not get in the way of the birds face


Saturday 26 November 2011

Sometimes the image you see isnt there

A few weeks ago we Jac and I went to Westonbirt Arboretum, there were two shots I had in my head that I wanted to get based on my expectations of the likely weather conditions.

Well I was pleased to share this with you that was one of those shots.

But enough of that.

The other shot I wanted to get was overlooking the village of Chipping Campden, with layers of mists and fog in the rolling valleys into the sunrise.

Well all those elements are the picture, but they haven't come together in the way I had envisaged, in a cohesive composition.

So it is back to the drawing board, I will have another scout around, this time with camera and different lenses. I think want I want is there somewhere, and quite nearby.

Anyway, as you can see the weather conditions were perfect for me, but that is only one part of the story. Till next time

Apart from that, I had a cracking day today, despite the cold/cough being a real pain. We had a family outing to see Gloucester v Leicester Tigers in the Rugby Premier League. It has been few years since I last went to a game, and what a great atmosphere it was.

Have a good weekend


Friday 25 November 2011


We have been in the new house for a month and so far the bird scene in the garden has been slow, We have a family of chickadees, A couple of Tufted Titmice and the odd Cardinal along with a lot of crows, Nothing to write home about and i hope that more will arrive as time and winter comes, I have 3 seed/nut feeders out as well as a fat block, I said to my wife that i was disappointed that we have not had any woodpeckers, The fat block being totally untouched, I dug out my old woodpecker branch that i successfully used last year and put it in the garden, I put some fat in the predrilled holes and 3 hours later there was a hairy woodpecker feeding on it, I could not believe it, It came and went all afternoon and i sat out for a couple of hours trying to get it, I had a red bellied woodpecker come and check it out a couple of times, So it shows that its not the food but how it is presented that matters, The woodies have continued to come over the last couple of days as when i check the holes that are totally empty, What with Thanksgiving yesterday and Black Friday today i havent had the cameras out but that will change tomorrow, Here are a couple of images taken last year using the woodpecker branch and in my next blog i will show you how to make one


Thursday 24 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving from the UK

Very short quickie tonight as full blown man flu has kicked in and I am feeling very poorly tonight. So I will wish all of our US readers a happy thanksgiving on the day the Christmas lights are switched on in my home town of Stratford upon Avon, Willam Shakespeare birthplace and home town too. So I am tucked warm with my first glass of Mulled wine of the season....medicinal purposes of course. Martin

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Thanks Giving and Sales

Christmas is getting close and soon i will put up a recommended Xmas list that you can accidentally leave around for your partner, But here in the States its Thanks Giving tomorrow and one of the main holidays of the year, Friday here is called 'Black Friday' for some unknown reason to me and there are some big sales on, I had a mail from Lenscoat today showing some new products and as its coming up to winter one of the new Raincoats would be a good investment, I use lens coat products and they are excellent and highly recommended so take a look at the video made by my old friend Juan Pons and see for yourself-Here

So a Happy Thanks Giving to all my American Buddies, have a good and safe Holiday


A plan works

With the back feeling better i again ventured out into the night for opossum shots, I had an image in mind which is always a good start, I wanted the opossum to be standing beside the tree looking at me, Now you do not see opossums standing up as they walk around on all fours so how to get it up on its back legs, Well it was quite easy, I put a very small amount of food next to the tree where it normally feeds, I then squashed a few pieces of dog food into the bark up to about opossum eye level, I hoped that it would smell the food and raise up, After a couple of hours an opossum came out and up to the feeding area, I watched through the viewfinder as it fed and then once the food had gone started to sniff around and found the food up the tree, I stupidly hit the focus button and the camera hunted in the low light and i only got focus back after the opossum had dropped down and moved off, The camera would snap into focus on the tree but the opossum just did not have enough contrast for the focus system to grab, I was feeling pretty stupid as i had focused on the tree where the food was and using F11 the chances are that the opossum would have been in focus, I refocused and noticed that most of the food was still squashed into the bark, I sat for another 30 minutes and then decided as i was getting a stiff back to come in, I just got outside the camo netting when i noticed another opossum coming out of the woodland at the end of the garden, This one was very dark and obviously different from the other one, I crept back slowly to the camera and knelt down and waited, The opossum was very shy, I went to the second feeding area and with nothing their came towards where the bait was but stopped half way as it looked at the tripod with the flashgun on it, It circled back and made a huge circle of the area before coming to the baited tree, It smell around and then reared up to get the bait, I waited and made a small noise in hopes of not scaring it away but to make it glance over, It didnt so i grabbed the shot and it high tailed it out of the area and back into the woods, I quickly grabbed my gear and packed up, Putting more bait out and left, I was quite chuffed as the plan had pretty much worked and i finally had nailed the exposure.
Once again i used the D3s and 600 along with 2x SB600 flashguns

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Some reflections from today

Fairly short blog tonight as I am feeling a bit poorly, so I thought I would reflect on a couple of things and share with you.

Bad backs? Are they a sympton or an occupational hazard for wildlife photographers. After all we carry around large, heavy and cumbersome loads with big lenses, heavy tripods, hides, plus a miscellany of other gear, using sharp movements to hoik the gear around, when we might be cold and stiff, plus we often walk long distances with it. With Dave experiencing it, another photographer I follow on twitter, plus me from time to time, I think we have to put it down as an occuaptional hazard.

I have thought about and tried various methods in the past. My big lens bag is a good solution but it doesnt actually reduce the weight. I have thought of converting my old golf trolley. This isnt as daft as it sounds, as I saw I guy had a large trolley for his gear when I was at Bradgate Park last month shooting the Red Deer, but haven't been brave enough to avoid the ridicule.

I think Dave now has the right idea with his Mobility Scooter that he has just taken delivery of :-).

Talking of Red Deer, it seems from Twitter that this clip went viral today. Now while this has caused the twitterati much entertainment, and I too laughed when I saw it, it does shows the perils of loose dogs to wildlife, and so I hope that the Deer weren't too traumatised. Having said that, in the environment of Richmond Park, I should imagine this is pretty much a regular occurrence for them along with all the myriad of other disturbances.

Finally, again from Twitter, I see the Welsh WildLife Trust appear to be supporting this reintroduction of Beavers in to Wales. I am not convinced that this should be happening yet. The Pilot trial is in Scotland and I would have thought the more scientific approach is to carry out the trials for at least five years to see all the effects on the animals themselves, the environment they live in, and the effects of the native wildlife. It is poor science in my opinion to carry out additional random trials. Our countryside is full of the effects of uncontrolled reintroductions, or introductions. So while, I am not against this, per se, I would like to see the science and the evidence properly carried out first.

Let us know your thoughts

Right, time to get a hot toddy or three


Monday 21 November 2011

Oh my Aching Head

The back ache is all but gone although it could be that my body is still numb from the amount of alcohol that i consumed yesterday, We had a house warming and around 40 friends and neighbors turned up, 9 solid hours drinking and i think a good time was had by all,
I went into a store the other day and fell in love-at first sight, Our eyes met across a crowded check out and i knew i just had to have her and first think this morning she knocked on my door and now she is mine and what a beauty

I knew that this was the one when i saw Valantino Rossi's number on her side
My wife said it was the width of the cutters but what does she know

The photography will start again tonight once i have wrapped my new love up for the night,
Rumours have started again about Nikons long awaited D800 and Nikon Rumours site is showing some images of it so if they are real i would think that an announcement will be coming shortly,I have to say its not what you could call a pretty camera but as long as it functions as Nikon's normally do it will be a winner,
The terrible fllodings in Thailand will mean no cameras for a while but its now becoming far more reaching than that, Look at the prices of hard drives, Most made in the flood zone for companies like Western Digital , They have shot up in price, I am glad that i bought mine months ago


Sunday 20 November 2011

Weekend Round up

Well following my last post, I was disappointed that they didn't show the Bittern (now Bitterns) from Slimbridge on Autumnwatch, but fingers crossed for the last show next week.

Closer to home, it is fantastic to see lots of returning visitors to the garden and the local river a and roosts.

In the garden, we are now seeing the best numbers of Blue Tits that I have seen since I moved here over four years ago, along with lots of Coal, Great and Long Tails. Chaffinch, Green and Goldfinch are also in good numbers , plus the usual suspects of Blackbirds, Dunnock, Robin and Wren.

I wasn't sure if it was the state of the feeders that was putting the birds off, so I gave them a thorough clean, scrub , disinfectant and refill last weekend. My hunch is that with it being a excellent berry and seed year, natures food supplies have been so bountiful that there has been no need for them to come to the gardens.

Just down the round at the river, birds numbers are increasing with lots more geese and swans, plus the winter arrivals of tufted duck showing well.

Tescos in Stratford provides for a great roost for Pied Wagtails, with hundreds most evenings which I also witnessed at Birmingham Airport last week after leaving a meeting there at dusk. That roost in itself also brings in Peregrine, which I have seen before and contacts there often see it resting on the sides of the multi storey car park.

Personal camera use has been limited since my trip to Westonbirt for one reason or another, so it was nice to get the studio gear out today and photograph one of the young grandchildren. Little Jayden was a delight to photograph and had fun during the shoot. Great outputs and happy families resulted - very pleasing and satisfying.


Saturday 19 November 2011

The Sky at Night

Well the back problem persists and anybody who has suffered with their backs will know all to well how debilitating it can be, Many years ago i damaged my back at work and there followed a year of sleeping on the floor and a small op to try and get things back to normal, I would not say that its that bad but its like having a toothache in your back-always there and ready to get worse, The nights have been bitterly cold so i have opted to stay in the warm rather than sit it out and get some shots, Your health should always come first,
Now not many people know that i have for a long time had a fascination with the stars and planets and the last few nights have been awesome for clarity, Being out of the city helps as you dont get the light pollution, The skies where i live are not like Africa or India where you dont get any light and cities are hundreds of miles away but they are pretty good, Jupiter and Saturn can be seen easily and if you have a reasonable pair of binoculars the 4 moons around Jupiter are easily seen if you wedge yourself up against something to get a good stable view, I used to have a good telescope which i sold in France and that allowed good views of the Saturn and the rings that go around it, Its an amazing place and just look with your eyes and then through a pair of binoculars and see the difference that extra magnification makes, Its made me want to get another good telescope but the funds just dont allow at the moment, I quite fancy trying some astophotography, The major constellations are in view with Orion dominating the winter sky late at night, I find star gazing to be a great leveller and if things get too much, a small time looking at the stars brings things into some perspective, The North star or polaris is very clear and great to focus on if you want to get perfectly round star trails, The North Star or Polaris is not the brightest star in the sky which a lot of people think, Look at Cassiopeia and follow the top star towards the big dipper and the star in the middle if the North star, Easy when you know what to look for, If you have never really been into the stars or night sky have a look, especially through a pair of binoculars


Friday 18 November 2011

Canon 500 Prices.....again plus a Bonus Bittern!!

A while ago I posted here about problems with the supply and pricing of theCanon 500 lens, with the Mark1 being shown at the same prices as the Mark 2, and the mark 2 not being available.

Reading Dave's post of yesterday reminded me to check out where prices where.

Well, the Mark 2 shows a drop of £510 from its RRP launch price of 9K, but given the availability of lack of, then it could be any price for what its worth at the moment

But interestingly, the Mark 1 is showing back at its 'old' price of ca. £5.8K here at The Camera Centre. I don't know if they have stock, but if you are in the market, then it would be worth a call.

Tonight is the annual bore fest on TV of Children in Need - all worthy causes for sure, but a guaranteed turn off tellywise for me. The good news is that we have Autumnwatch on in a few minutes time, as I write this. Bittern have been seen this week at Slimbridge, so lets hope we see it on the show.

Some of the first shots I took with my 500 when it was new was of Bittern in the same location that it is this week.


Thursday 17 November 2011

Oh my Aching Back

After a couple of weeks of lifting boxes, Unpacking and hanging artwork my aching back has said enough, So for the last couple of days i have had to sit in and watch wildlife from the living room window-again, Its given me time to try and sort out the crap that they call customer service here, Take Lowes for example, I order and pay for a sit on mower and the one that i want is at another store, I was told it will be with me in 3 days, After 3 weeks and numerous phone calls and shop visits i cancel the order, We had a new 6 piece L shaped sofa arrive, Cream to be precise except 1 piece is beige and they fit together badly, Its been a week and still no service call to find whats going on even though i went back to the store, I could go on but the gist is that nobody here gives a shit, They have your money now F--K off, Sorry about the rant but people in the UK think that your get such good customer service in the States and that maybe true in Florida or a holiday destination but you try living out here, I am surprised i have any hair left,
We had a visit from the neighbors the other evening and over a couple of bottle of my best wine they told me about the wildlife that they have enjoyed watching from the window over the last 5 years and apart from the fox,opossum and deer they have seen coyote, One that i want to see and photograph here but a threat to our dog so a fence is going up in a part of our garden, Its the reason that we moved, To have some extra land and have good wildlife in our own yard, The last couple of evenings have been quiet outside with just the opossum doing its rounds, The deer have come but they must have been here early morning as the corn has been eaten, Could be because of the hunting season and lots of shotguns going off,
We have had a very warm week with the temperatures yesterday touching 80, Last night a cold front come in and there were a couple of tornado's reported about 30-40 miles north of me, Its supposed to be back around 70 at the weekend when we have our house warming-fingers crossed,
Anybody waiting for the new Canon 500 and 600 will have to wait even longer as Canon keep changing the dates and have gone from December to a don't know, The 200-400 will end up as an urban legend, Its nice to know what a manufacturer has ups its sleeve for the future but nothing is worse than keep changing the dates of availability and you know that when they are finally released that you wont be able to get one because of next years Olympics,


Wednesday 16 November 2011

Autumn Colour - UK Style Part 3

Just a few more images to follow on from my previous posts here and here as a mid week quickie.

I enjoyed working this tree - it was steaming as the sun burnt off the moisture from the mossy trunk

This was a wonderful sight, as the sharp contrast of the red against the green being struck by the powerful strands of sunlight.

Not too many words. Feedback always welcomed.


Tuesday 15 November 2011

Opossums and Prints Sales

I am still spending a 2 or 3 hours a night trying to get opossum shots and am still at 1 image a night max, Once the flash goes off the opossum stops and has a think-shall i stay or shall i go-well thats what it looks like to me and after a few seconds scurries off, It does come back a few hours later but by that time i have left, I will take it slowly as i have as long as it takes, As long as its a bit more settled when winter does come i will be happy, I really would love some snow images with both opossum and fox, The weather here is far from Winter, Today it was warm winds from early on and 72 high and its set to stay that way until Thursday when a cooler spell arrives, I am going through one of the phases where i just cant get my flashguns right, I set up and take a couple of test shots and check the histogram and all is well but the final images are coming out dark, I think i am worried about blowing the opossums white face out and am setting them just a little under exposed,

Now how much is an image worth? $50,$100 or even $500? Well how about $4.3 Million, It must be a great image eh, One in a million shot,Stunning-Well no have a look at this.
Whats its all about? What a crazy world, Anyways i have reduced all my images to $1m for a quick sale


Monday 14 November 2011

Autumn Colour - UK Style Take 2

As a follow on from my first post from Westonbirt, here are a few more images froma morning of wonderful light, great autumn colour and fantastic atmosphere.

Not too many words, just pictures for you. All taken with Canon 5Dmk2, Canon 24-70f2.8 L and no filters.

Oh yes, and there is a Jay in the forth picture too.


Sunday 13 November 2011

Weekend bits and bobs

Its been a bit up and down the last couple of days, I have continued to watch and put a couple of sessions in with the opossum and i have been doing a fair bit of homework on the opossum, Here are some interesting facts that you may find interesting and make it more of an interesting and often overlooked subject
1,Opossum fossils have been found dating back to the dinosaur age, So its a great survivor
2,Its has over 50 teeth, More than any mammal
3,When it feels threatened it foes into a non induced coma that lasts from 40 mins to 4 hours, Thats where the saying 'playing possum' comes from
4,They are immune from snake bites and can eat a rattle snake
5.They dont get Rabies
I set up the other evening using the D7000 and 600 as i wanted big in the frame images, I used a SB900 and SB600 set up but got it slightly wrong as when i took a shot the foreground was a bit dark and the background over light, I kicked myself but there you go, We have to make mistakes to learn i guess and there will be other opportunities,I had a play in PS but its not that good
The background is just too bright,
Saturday morning we awoke to a beautiful if not cold frosty morning, I was sitting in bed drinking a coffee when my wife said that there was a deer in the garden, I had not seen a deer here in daylight and soon realized that it was a male (Buck) with a nice rack, It was followed by another similar sized buck, They were in transit and were gone within a minute but what a great sight to see from your bed, I made sure that there was extra corn in the garden incase they come back.
I had a quick play with the New Acratech head and leveling base on my Manfrotto 055Pro tripod with the 600 with and without the 1.4x, We had 2 nuthatches in the garden and i slowly edged out of the back door and managed a few shots before they went, Firstly its no Wimberley but then i knew that, It needs to be set pretty tight to stop a big lens flopping back or forth, No problem there, With the 600 even locked down tight you could easily induce a rocking motion, So good technique is needed, On the plus side its easy to use and very smooth, I dont intend to use it with the 600 and as i said before its really for the 200-400 and smaller which i am sure it will be great, the light was quite low and the shutter speeds were around 1/100 so i was asking alot but i did get some sharp images so cant complain,More later


Saturday 12 November 2011

New Hides are horrible for Photographers

As a reasonably regular visitor to various wildlife reserves across the country, I continue to be amazed at the lack of decent facilities for photographers or consideration for the very different requirements for photogaphers compared to birders.

Some of the new designs and incarnations are truly awful as can be seen at the monster hide at RSPB Titchwell and the latest 'thing' at RSPB Minsmere.

Massive windows, strange mechanisms to operate the glass, and really high view points. Now for birders, I understand that this is fine - get up high, have a massive vista in front of you, and with your 60X scope, you can watch Wrens and Goldcrest from 50 miles away.

Now photography is not that unpopular a pastime, and judging by the numbers I see at these locations lugging their 500 and 600's around, there are a lot of us, but sometimes, it feels like we might as well be a bunch of lepers.

Where are the low viewpointrs, sympathetic positioning with light and habitat management? These things are not mutually exclusive to wildlife, so go on you lot at WWT, RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts please try thinking about us the next time you build hides.

Now I know there was a great little photographers hide at Snettisham, tha required the photographers to go in and out at certain times, and this got abused by some, and so it was spoiled for all. I know as I tried to book this a couple of years back when it was taken out of service.

I dont think we are asking for that. General access is fine, but get us down low please. One of the best for this that I have used is the South Lake at Slimbridge, when the water levels are up.

Here is an image from South Lake at Slimbridge to show what I mean, plus a Marsh Harrier in flight at the Bittern Hide at Minsmere. Which other than this type of in flight is hopeless for photography.

So you reserve people, feel free to give us your thoughts. We will even let you have a right to reply blog spot post if you want it, and to our regular readers, let us know what you think or the good hides around the country.


Friday 11 November 2011

Garden Abstracts and new gear

The other morning i awoke to a misty morning, I quickly put some clothes on and grabbed the gear and headed into the garden,Now firstly i should explain that we do not have any shutters on the windows at the moment (that will change Tuesday) so if i wake during the night i can see whats in the back garden (we have a first floor master bedroom) and when i wake first thing i can see what the weathers like and if its worth getting the gear out, One morning i looked out and could see the trees at the bottom of the garden beautifully lit but by the time i got out i had missed it and the sun had moved,One thing that i noticed when i first moved here was that the trees are very straight and perfect for some abstract photography, The type where you use a slow shutter speed and pan the camera smoothly up and down to blur the scene but still have some recognition of what it is, I have not tried it before but have seen it done many times and sometimes very very well, Its very hit or miss and i did shoot quite a lot until i got something close to what i had in my head, I made a mistake of using the 16-35, It was a bit too wide and tended to bow the scene at the edges when used towards the wider end, I had meant to grab the 24-70 but as they look alike and i was rushing i grabbed the wrong lens,
Here is a scene of part of the garden showing the nice straight trees

And here is a shot using a 1.5 sec shutter speed where i panned the camera that was tripod mounted up slowly whilst the shutter was open
I think that the autumn leaves add to the image and you can still tell what the scene is, Its not the best but its the best from that session and something i will try and perfect as time goes on,

I did some shopping at BH Photovideo which arrived late last night, As i said last week Sandisk (and now Lexar) have dropped the prices on their memory cards big time and i quickly ordered 2 16gb Extreme Pro 90mb/sec CF cards, Nothing much to say about them really and i will soon be using them, The bigger capacity will help when i am Florida shooting manatees underwater, I also treated myself to a new tripod head as my back up tripod head which i have had for many years has frozen solid, It was an Arca Swiss and always suffered from a stickly/jerky feel, I know that they did have a problem with a batch and think that i had one which i should have sent back but never got around to it, I was never really happy with a ball head even though thats all i used for many years until my life changed and i bought a wimberley gimbal head, it really made such a huge difference that i would never go back, the drawbacks of the wimberley are that they are big and very expensive, I cant afford to have 2 and i want something for the 200-400 so probably do not need something like the wimberley so i purchased a long lens head by Acratech, ,my buddy Pete had one in Japan and the first thing that you notice is that its small and very light at under 1 pound, Its beautifully machined and works similar to a gimbal where you can pan left and right and up and down at the same time, But its not really a gimbal in that if you push the lens forward it will flop down, It takes a little setting up to get it 'balanced' and like all my heads i like to have a little tension in the settings rather than have everything totally loose, I have my 600 sitting on it now but as i say its going to be for the 200-400 and will be great for traveling or if i have to walk any distance due to the weight saving, To go with the head i also bought an Acratech leveling base, I have a leveling base on my Gitzo tripod with Wimberley head and the base makes life so easy that again i would not do without one, The gitzo leveling base is very heavy but the Arcratech is very small and light and a perfect combination for the head, Again small and beautifully machined, It only goes to 10 degrees whereas the Gitzo goes to 15 degrees but thats a small point, Once i have had chance to play with my new toys i will post back a small review with the likes and dislikes if there are any
Here is a review on the Acratech levleing base by Luminous Landscape


Thursday 10 November 2011

Autumn Colour - UK Style

After Dave's great post of Autumn Colours, and as mentioned in recent blogs by me, here is my take on Autumn Colours.

Taken nearly a couple of weeks back at Westonbirt Arboretum, which is where the Autumnwatch programme was coming from at the time.

I have been to this place many times in my past as I used to live about three miles away for a few years so it was a local haunt. I have been back about three times before, specifically for photography in recent years, but I cannot remember a year as good as this for colour. Maybe the mixed up weather has played a positive part. The downside being that the duration of the colour has been short.

Anyway, the forecast the night before I went was looking to be what I needed. Foggy/misty and then sunny, and quite cold - perfect.

Some of the pictures that I got this time around I had seen in my mind for a number of years, and it still feels like a great adventure setting out in the car in the dark, and travelling a good distance to get the image you only see in your mind.

I wasn't disappointed - just the sorts of images I was looking for.

Walking the reverse direction around the Autumn colour walk, it meant that I was constantly walking into the sun rather than have it behind me. Perfect for what I was looking for.

Not bothering with a tripod, filters or other paraphernalia, I was able to work in a free form style, quickly and capturing the changing moments fast, and avoiding the traditional photographers setting up wide shots around me with the sun behind them on their tripods. I did respect their work though and ask before I walked across the front of their lenses.

Using the 5Dmk2 and my trusty 24-70 f2.8L lens, I really enjoyed the photography.

Here are a few of the images that I got that morning. I will do another post with a few more next time around.

All of these images were taken in the aptly named Acer Glade, a wonderful collection of Maples from around the world.


Wednesday 9 November 2011

And so it begins

After watching the floodlit garden every night for 10 nights i felt it was time to test the water and get the flashguns out, Now i was not expecting much, 1 image was the goal to see how the animals would react to the flashguns, Every animal will react differently, Some take little notice and some are gone before your eyes have had time to adjust, The opossum as been out around 9pm but the night before i saw it at 7.30 so i set up early, 5.45pm to be precise and at 6.45pm i heard a movement in the nearby trees and then a small dark shape passed by and went to the closer of the two feeding areas, it was perfect and with the 600 lens i could get a nice portrait which is what i was after, Unfortunately i had been sitting still for an hour and as i moved towards the camera i got cramp in the hips and had to move which spooked the opossum , i cursed but sat it out hoping that i would not be too long before it returned, It was about 30 mins or so before it returned and went to the further feeding area, I watched it through the viewfinder for a couple of minutes to let it relax and feed then as it looked my way i pressed the shutter which was set to quiet mode and with a pop of the flashguns i had the first image in the bag, The opossum turned around and walked off into the woodland and i took the opportunity to grab the gear and go back indoors, The 1 image was all i wanted and i didn't want to put pressure on the animals by waiting and getting more images, Slowly but surely and the results will come, I would be interested to see what you think about the composition, I put the tree base large in the frame which is quite unusual but i liked the result, It gives a sense of scale to the animal, The tree is not big as you can tell by the size of the bark, I would really have liked to get a full face close up but that will have to wait for another time, Along with the D3s and tripod mounted 600 i used 2x SB600 flashguns triggered by a SU 800 on the cameras hotshoe


Tuesday 8 November 2011

Hard DriveProblems?

As a bit of a follow on from Dave's post of yesterday, there could possibly be trouble brewing on the Hard Drive Front.

I understand that the majority are manufactured in flood torn Thailand as this story will testify.

What does if mean for us? Well almost certainly prices will rise as availability becomes scarce and lead times increase.

S, if you need more External HDD capacity get in quick, and if you are putting off getting a new PC or laptop, think hard, but think quick.

Monday 7 November 2011

Sandisk Bargains

A couple of months ago i was going to order some bigger capacity Sandisk CF cards for my D3s, I held off as i thought that the new D800 was about to be announced and wanted to know if that would have CF or SD card slots, Well i am glad that i waited as last week the price of the CF cards tumbled, A new 16GB Extreme pro (90mb/sec) is now down to $66 at BH Photovideo and i will be ordering a couple before the stocks run out, Now you may wonder why the cards have dropped so much so quickly, Maybe there is a new faster card coming out and you may be right but the Extreme pro is faster than most cameras can handle but you gain with the download speeds, I certainly wish that they were this price when i went to Japan earlier this year and i am sure i lost some shots by having to change cards over when the going was fast and furious,
A quick garden update and the dog problem is getting worse, Last night the big hunting type dog chased the deer away and then this morning 2 other dogs appeared twice, So i will need to replace the fence that the builder took down and quickly before the animals are perminantly spooked or my own dog gets attacked, The bird numbers are increasing as are the species, A Northern Flicker has been hanging around the garden, I hear it more than see it and i had a white breasted Nuthatch on the feeder a couple of times today, Crows are in the garden most days and the numbers of morning doves have increased to six, We worked hard all weekend getting boxes emptied and i have been sorting the garage out today, The last of the new furniture arrives this week and then its job done and back to shooting and processing, Only 6 weeks before i am in Florida and boy will i enjoy the break, 2 days with Manatees and 3 days birding should get the cobwebs off the gear


Sunday 6 November 2011

Late Sunday Quickie

6th of November and we still have Red Admiral butterflies whizzing round in the garden, along with spring flowers such as Red Campion and Cornflower popping up - bizarre? or just unusual.

Jac and I went across for an early morning walk upon the Malvern Hills today to enjoy the lovely crisp light. There were few few birds about, but we did see a number of Meadow pipits passing through.

I loved the BBC Autumnwatch show on Friday night, in particular the section from Islay focussing on Twite and Raptors. I have never been to Islay as I usually go further north, but after seeing the programme it is definitely on my 'must do' list now. I particularly loved the views of the Merlin - what a fantastic bird. So it was a remarkable coincidence that while driving back home yesterday morning, we spotted one very close to home. Stunning views, fabulous bird and only my second sighting in Warwickshire.

This blog was originally going to be much longer, and I had just about completed it when I lost the lot - my fault for finger trouble as I deleted the lot, and then it autosaved about three words before I realised and had a chance to go back.

So I need to wrap up now as I need to get off, and I will save what I had written on my views on hides at reserves for another day.


Saturday 5 November 2011


Whilst the cameras have not been out since the last blog mainly due to rain and a large dog running a muck in my garden at night i have been busy preparing for the future, Its easy enough to get birds to the feeders but its nice to have a captive audience such as when they nest so i have put up a couple of bird boxes so that they are settled and awaiting the spring, Last year the bird boxes did well with Eastern Bluebirds having 3 broods, I have put up 1 box for bluebirds and 1 for chickerdees but whatever takes residence is more than welcome, I will leave the boxes empty for the winter but as spring approaches i will put some soft nesting material in just to make it more attractive, Do not put in saw dust as it will hold water/wee and will get in the checks eyes, I normally put in a small amount of cotton wall and let the birds do the rest, Not only is it nice to have birds use the boxes but i enjoyed watching the too and frooing last year as well as having the chicks follow their parents to the feeders, I think its a bit like decorating,80% preparation gives the best long term results, I have also started to turn the base of the screened porch into a blind with the help if some camo netting and plan to start using this very soon for the opossum that visits every night (dog permitting)

Bluebirds Nest Box

Chickadee Nest Box
Make shift Blind/Hide under the screened porch

Just need to make a few slots for the lens to poke through


Friday 4 November 2011

Deer Rut Season Pt 3 + Bonus Birds

Following on from my last post, I said I would bring you some Fallow Deer images.

Bradgate Park has two deers species - Red and Fallow. While the Red deer stags are mighty and noisy beasts, the Fallow bucks are much more delicate in looks, size and sounds. They still make a fair old noise but it is somewhat less impressive than the Reds.

They have wonderful markings too - much more 'Bambi' like in appearance so they tend to get the ahhh factor.

I also got a few bonus bird images and here are a few that caught my eye.

Crow Silhouette

Beautiful Mistle Thrush (large crop as it was a way away from me)

Cock Yellowhammer

I have not been successful with Yellowhammer much before as they are quite skittish. This one decided to plonk itself down in front of me for a change, so I got lucky.

I will be back next time with some Autumn colour of my own from Westonbirt Arboretum where the first four episodes of the BBC Autumnwatch programme was held, and I will be off now to get settled in for the next episode where they are now moving across Gloucestershire to WWT Slimbridge.

Have a great weekend wherever you are.