Friday 3 August 2012

New Blog

I have started my new blog here
or go to my website and click on the blog link at the bottom of the page



Sunday 15 July 2012

All good things.....

This will be my last blog on this site, Its been in my mind for some time now and last week i finally made the decision to end my part in this blog, Its been over 3 1/2 years which is amazing in itself, There are a few reasons but mainly time and now a health condition that needs to be sorted means that i have to put my efforts elsewhere for the time being, I have only managed to get the cameras out twice this week and only manged to get some shots on one of those times, The foxes are coming out later and the evening that i shot them i had to shoot at ISO 3200 so i used the D3s and 200-400 which is a great combo, The deer came out first including the fawn which came out to the side of the garden on its own and decided that my plants were more attractive than the corn i had put out, There were already 3 other deer in the garden, one i think was the mother as they fed together, The foxes came out at nearly 8pm and i would normally just watch them at that time as i have decent shots in decent light but as i havent shot them for a couple of weeks i decided to sit it out, The female came very close all but very nervously and in the end was less than 10 feet from me, She is in great condition and her tummy is slimmer an the teets not so pronounced so i guess that she has weaned the kits and that they are now on solids, I have to say that i still get a kick out of them coming into the garden and watch them every night

The next night the animals were out earlier and i had other stuff to do, Isnt that always the way,
On a side note i had an e-mail from my website company last week asking if i wanted a blog on my website, It was a real coincidence and had nothing to do with my decision here but as they will do the work for free i have accepted and once the work is done i will be doing blogs via my site, I am not sure when it will be finished but i hope that by the time i am in California in 3 weeks it will be done, It will give me time to decide how i want the blog to look and feel, If you have any ideas then please drop me a line at, I am not sure what Martins ideas are on this blog and if he will continue to run it, I hope that he does but either way it will be here to come back to and read for future reference
I see that Nikon are doing a Canon and have announced that there will be a 800 F5.6 lens, No other details like cost and weight or minimum focus distance yet, One things for sure is that it will be expensive and i for one wont or cant afford one, I do like my 600VR and i like the F4 aperture, The 800 on the other hand should be lighter than the 600 and should be sharper than a 600 with 1.4x attached, Depending on the minimum focus distance i am sure that it will be popular with the small bird photographers and because Nikon allows F8 focusing on its camera bodies (Canon now doesnt) you can add a 1.4x and still get AF,
Canons new 1DX are starting to hit the stores in limited numbers but some reports i have read look very good, I cant wait to see the head to head reviews with the D4 and 1DX, Both should be great, My gut feeling is that the Canon may be slightly ahead in noise but i am sure it will be close and anybody being able to afford one is very lucky indeed,

So thats it from me, I really do appreciate all those that have taken time to read and comment on my scribbles over the last 3+ years and i want to thank Martin for asking me to participate in the blog


Monday 9 July 2012

Heat and Portraits

Firstly i will apologize for the lack of images this week-wildlife ones anyways but the USA has been on fire literally, We have just had 6 consecutive days over 100 degrees, Sunday topped the week with 105 and that's without adding in the humidity which takes it over 110, There are heat advisories telling you to stay indoors and that's basically what i have been doing, Its been a very social week having 4th July in the middle and then lots of meets and eating, One evening we had 8 deer in the garden joined by the fawn but once i had the camera outside it instantly misted up and that was that, I normally put the camera gear in the garage to warm up a couple of hours before a shoot but didn't have time and that was the result, The fawn has been in the garden twice this week and i hope to get some shots of it this week before it gets too big, The other deer don't seem to like having it around and it gets bullied a lot, One of the young bucks is getting dominant and will rear up and kick any other deer close by, The foxes are still coming and i have been watching them most evenings and the hummingbirds are still very active, Doesn't help telling you all this without shots but i hope to get some very soon,
We have a very good friend here called Faye, Shes been through a rough time and is recently divorced, We have been helping her to move into her new home and now she is ready to carry on with her life, Like a lot of single people looking to move forward she decided the easiest way to meet people is through on line dating but after a few weeks without much success she talked to us and the first thing that struck me was that the photos that she was using did not do her any justice, So on the 4th July she came to our house and spent the day getting some better images, I set the studio lights up and did the normal black or white background, Like most people they think 3 or 4 shots and its job done but i have shot enough portraits to know that it takes some people time to relax and get comfortable in front of the camera and lights, We shot for over an hour and shot around 210 images, Out of those she really liked about 20, We had a glass of wine and i reset the lights on our upstairs landing and found that she was much more comfortable and relaxed standing as opposed to sitting, Over the next 2 hours we shot a lot with different clothes and background and afterwards sat down with more wine and went through the images and she liked about 80 of the 2nd shoot, A big improvement and it was really hard to wheedle them down further to the final 20, The next day i had processed them and sent them over, She uploaded them and over the next couple of days her e mail box filled up with guys from as far as NY to Georgia, Its just goes to show the power of a good image, I enjoy shooting portraits and am still learning the lights and placement to get the best from your subject, The more mature the person the more critical it is in getting the placement right so as not to show too many 'character' lines, As with ALL forms of photography understanding light will always get the best results

I used the D800 and 70-200 F2.8 VR for all the shots, Lighting was with 1 Elinchrom D Lite 4 and a large silver reflector, The D lite had a 53'' softbox attached, I had just ordered an Elinchrom Beauty dish which should arrive this week so that will give me something else to play with and learn


Monday 2 July 2012

Boy has it been a hot week, Saturday it peaked at 105 degrees and with the added humidity it was over 110, Most days were either high 90's or low 100's, Way to hot for most animals who kept deep in the woodland and only venturing out once the sun was set, Even then the temperatures were well over 80, One thing to do when the heat is up is leave out water fro the birds and animals, Its the least that you can do, One day i walked out into my screened porch around 5pm and could hear a Barred Owl calling close by, I had just purchased a couple of apps for the ipad so quickly grabbed it and played the Barred Owls call to see if it would bring it into the open, Its something i had never done before and am unsure of the ethics of using bird calls but either way it didnt work and i could hear and see Crows mobbing the tree where the owl must have been, Later that night i could hear the Eastern Screech owls in the nearby trees and again put the bird call out and instantly 2 owls flew into the open, I had the 600 and D800 combo set up with a single flashlight and took a couple of images before they flew off,
The highlight of my week was a trip up to the Great Smoky Mountains to meet with some guys from the CNPA (Carolina Nature Photographers Association) that i mentioned in my last blog, We met up at Balsam Mountain to shoot some captive birds of prey, There were 7 species from the tiny Eastern Screech Owl that i had shot in my back garden a few days before to the mighty Bald Eagle, All the birds had been either in accidents or badly treated and were unable to be reintroduced into the wild, I very rarely shoot captive animals as there is little challenge involved but i decided this time to go and meet with some other people in the group and maybe get some other photography done whilst in the mountains, It was a good distance to drive, over 250 miles each way and as i had to be there by 9am i left at 3.45am to give myself plenty of time to find the place, have a coffee etc, The shoot was only a couple of hours and i decided afterwards to head straight back as the weather even in the mountains was touching 100 degrees and it was just too bright and hot to shoot and get any decent results, A very long day for 2 hours shooting but i did meet some very nice people, made a few mental notes and got a couple of decent images, All the birds had jessies/restraints on them which was not the best and made life difficult getting a clean image, The bigger birds were put on a man made perch which was not very photogenic so i decided to do 2/3 body/head shots, Birds of prey have 3 striking features, Eyes.beak and claws so 2 out of 3 would have to be good enough, There were some nice old fencing around the area so the smaller birds went on those which was much better,I used a variety of fill flash and no flash to see what looked better, The images were taken with either the D800 and 600VR or 200-400VR

Eastern Screech Owl
American Kestrel Male
Barred Owl
Harris Hawk
Red Tailed Hawk, The background was not under exposed by the flash, It was a dark green bank and i darkened it further in processing with Curves and Nik,

Bald Eagle

You can see the restraints in a lot of the images which makes them pretty unsaleable but there you go, What it does show is how well the D800 with the 600 or 200-400 performs, One problem i did have was the SB900 flashgun over heating, Its a known fault and the reason why Nikon announced its replacement SB910, It was more the heat in the air than the over use of the flashgun but it dies for 10 minutes which would have been a nightmare if i was shooting a wedding-good reason to always take a spare


Thursday 28 June 2012

Quick Garden Update

Well you dont need me to tell you about the bizarre weather we are having in the UK this Spring and Summer(?).  Suffice to say it has played havoc with the wildlife in my garden. 

We had a good burst of Red Damselflies a while back, a few Blues and Azures and one beauty that was new to this garden was a Banded Demoiselle.  But not a sign of other other form of Dragonfly yet.

There was a good burst of butterflies in the early Spring on the one or two warm days, but virtually nothing since.  The weather has been so depressing I haven't even risked putting out the moth trap for risk of overnight heavy rain.

On the bird front, we are seeing quite a few fledglings, with our 'home' Blackbird on her second brood which we will see hatched very soon.  Juvenile Thrushes are now a daily sighting to although they are not nesting with us.

On the wildflower front, we have had the regular stuff from previous years coming up, with the pleasant addition of Ragged Robin around the pond edges and lots of lovely blue Vipers Bugloss.  There is no sign of my orchid this year, but again regular checks of my local wild patch has indicated they are all much later this year.

Once again, the Council have mown down the Bee Orchids I noticed this morning  - I despair of the incompetents that we have to pay for.

So when will my camera come out again? - goodness only knows but I need the weather to buck up, and I need to find some time as there have been a lot of other distractions that have been taking my time away, which I will share with you on my next blog.

Happy Summer


Monday 25 June 2012

Garden Wide

I forgot to mention in my blog that last week i decided to put a remote camera near to where i put some corn down for the deer, I have done this before a few years ago and the deer would not come anywhere near the bait as they didnt like the glass, This time i put the 14-24 on the D3s, I placed it on a beanbag next to a tree and put some camo netting over it, All you could see was the glass but the deer spotted it before coming out of the trees and over the period of an hour licked the air,stamped their feet and came closer and closer until one of the young bucks started to eat, Then they all came out and relaxed a little, I had the camera on silent mode and when the shutter went off they did little but raise their heads, I was just testing the water and think with some fine tuning and maybe the use of a different lens i could get some interesting results, the camera was triggered by a hahnel pro remote


Heat, Processing and Memories

Boy has it been hot this week with temperatures over 90 degrees and a couple of days hitting 97, Add to that its been very humid and the heat index has been said to be well over 100 degrees, Its too hot for me thats for sure, Leave the coolness of the air conditioned house and its like walking into a furnace, Last week and for the next few weeks i need to play catch up with processing images and getting submissions out to agencies, Its a must do, I have been putting it off but now must really buckle down and get some money in rather than have images and good images at that just sitting on the hard drives,
Its good to go back through your images as you find little gems that you had forgotten about and also some images invoke memories of good times when everything has come together, One image i reprocessed was taken in the Great Smoky Mountains one fall when the sun was setting, I was sitting on top of Clingmans dome along with many other people and the light was beautiful and just got better and better as the sun went down

I have shot the foxes in my garden on a few evenings and have managed some very nice images, There have been more and more deer coming as well, 8 one night and we had an added bonus of a 'Bambi' come with its mum on Friday evening, I grabbed the D800+600VR combo as it was by the door ready but it was really too much lens and the 200-400 would have been perfect, I got some record shots but nothing special, Its not been back since but mum comes so it cant be far, I have seen a few fawns around the area close to the road with its parents and one was dead the nest day, Its was one of those weeks where everything tried to get killed, I had deer, squirrel and even a black snake shoot out in the road in front of me, The snake was very lucky as i managed to swerve and get it between the wheels, I watched in the rear view mirror as it shot off across the road none the wiser, Its the first live snake i have seen here near my new home, A few dead ones but none alive,
The female fox now comes very very close to me, Infact she will come as close as where i place food, I invited a friend over on Saturday evening for dinner and the opportunity to shoot the fox and deer, Its always a concern incase nothing appears but that's wildlife, On this occasion things could not have gone better, I told her that the foxes will appear anywhere from 5.15pm and sure enough at 5.15 the male walked across the top of the garden, 10 minutes later and he came to feed, The deer the arrived and hung around the garden for some time and then the female fox and in good light, She came very close allowing just head shots with the 600VR,Once she had gone the deer continued to come and go, We hoped the fawn would turn up but that was not to be, We both got some good images and it was a good night with plenty of beer and wine thrown in,

I very very rarely shoot captive animals, I have only done it a few times in my life, I know some people like zoo type photography but for me it leaves me cold, The animals do not look like they do in the wild and i always feel very sorry seeing them locked up, I do have fond memories of shooting captive owls and falcons with friends in the UK and when i was asked if i wanted to shoot some Captive owls here in NC i had to think about it before saying yes, I am off to a guy in the Smoky Mountains this coming Saturday to shoot his collection with some people from the CNPA (Carolina Nature Photographers Association), It will be good to meet with some other like minded people and as the place is not open to the general public and only cost $10 it was a no brainer, Two things i hope for is that the birds are not wearing jessies or restraints and that there are some nice perches,
We had the small owls flitting around the garden the other night and i did manage to get a good look at one with the aid of a spot light but it was gone by the time the camera gear was ready, I really thought it was a Northern Saw-Whet owl as i could not see its ears which the Screech Owl has but on Sunday i purchased a couple of apps for my wifes ipad and could confirm that it was indeed a Northern Screech Owl by the call, I could also confirm that what i thought was a whip or will is infact a chuck widows will, Who names these birds? anyway I purchased two apps, One called Bird Tunes which does what it says and the other called Birds Eye which tells you of bird sightings in your area and gives maps of when and where they were seen, Both very good apps and not very expensive,

The above from my Canon days, A memorable weekend for sure


Monday 18 June 2012

The week that wasn't

I was in my garden this morning around 7am, Complete silence, Very eery and the sky looked very threatening, We have heavy rain and thunder for the next couple of days, Its exactly what we had last week, The rain on Monday and Tuesday was torrential, The foxes didn't like it and i didn't see one until Wednesday and even then it was a fleeting glance, I cant say that i blame them, I have seen the male in the garden very early in the morning but i am glad to say that the female keeps her routine of between 5.15pm and 8pm,One good thing about the amount of rain was that it bought a tortoise out into my garden so i grabbed various lenses from my 150mm macro to the 200-400 and 600 and took some images, I like the longer lenses for this type of work and they have a lovely diffused background, I used the beanbag and tried the lens on the deck as well as some handholding, After about 20 minutes of laying in the dirt the tortoise left and that was that, The deer seem to hang around the garden most of the day and go in and out of the woodland, One young male has a liking to my bird food and goes there before anywhere else, What with him and the squirrels the birds don't get much of a look in, I have managed a few decent deer images this week, I haven't shot much in the way of deer as i put food around the edges of the woodland and it doesn't make for a photogenic scene, i used to put food out on the grass but soon learned that its only a good idea if you want big bald patches, The garden has kept me very busy and i spent 2 long back aching days weeding and re mulching, I had 2.5 acres of mature garden in France and here i have only 1.5 acres but it takes 10 times longer to keep it in check due to the amount of flowers and bedding,
So not too much in the way of photography, It was national wildlife photography day on Friday which was started by NANPA (North American Nature Photographers Association) 7 years ago and they ask you to go out and shoot something and post it on their facebook page, Luckily the fox and weather co-operated and i put up and nice female fox image,
When i got my D800 i shot a couple of times in my studio, i set the lights up using a Sekonic hand held light meter and shoot in manual, I noticed that the images were a good 1-1.5 stops under exposed, I didnt take too much notice and adjusted the exposure by using the histogram, I then read of somebody on line having the same problem, I set the studio lights up in the usual fashion and shot side by side with the D3s, I am glad to say that both cameras had the same (correct) exposure with identical histograms and that the test images of me looked good, I can only think it could be 1 of 2 things, Either i had set something wrong like the ISO or there was an secret adjustment in the recent firmware update, Either way things seem to be how they should, one thing people go on about with the D800 is the greenish tint to the LCD screen and its something i noticed when i first got mine, I guess i am now used to it and it makes no difference to the actual image, I was only reminded of it when i did the studio tests and held the D3s and D800 next to each other to check the image and histogram, Although the D800 does look a small amount on the yellow/green side holding it next to the D3s makes the D3s image look cooler, Nikon say that the D800 is more true to life and they may be right, i think its a tad off but its just a preview and the images look great out of the camera.
Nikon announced 2 new lenses this week, A 18-300 DX lens and a 24-85 FF lens, The full frame lens being a cheaper lens for the soon to be announced D600 which already has leaked photos on line so it cant be far away, Rumored specs are 24mp and $1500, Now that would be something if correct and although it will be a base model with a low spec AF system and plasticy body for a landscape photographer it may be all you need as you dont need fast FPS (D600 rumored at 4FPS) and you dont really need lots of focus points and fancy AF system, Its the specs and price are true i would expect to see Canons 5D3 drop in price pretty quickly, If nothing else it will make a good back up body and a great travel camera

Rainy day Tortoise
 National Wildlife Photography Day Fox
 A curious deer that walked towards me giving a decent background, the small ray of sunlight coming through the trees catching its chin and whiskers,The D800 always amazes and when you zoom in you can clearly see the tick around the eye and my house in its reflection
Sunflower seed loving deer
Canons big guns telephotos are starting to hit the shelves after huge delays but it seems from a few people on forums that have managed to get one that the wait was worth it even if the costs are very high and they sound awesome, It would be nice to have some weight removed from the 600 and with the new Canon 600 weighing the same as the old 500 that sounds like heaven, I will interested to see some reviews and tests in the coming weeks/months to see how they compare with the older lenses in both IQ and AF speed.


Thursday 14 June 2012

A few interesting bits for sale

Ok apologies for the lack of blogs from me lately.


Terrible weather (in case you hadn't noticed) so camera just hasn't been out of the bag/cupboard/house.

Too much work on at the moment - lots of bids/long hours etc.

Getting motorcycle touring logistics sorted for later this year

However, I will bring a garden update on my very local wildlife at the next shout.

Having had a clearout of a lot of my gear a while back, I have a few other bits for sale now that are a bit more specialist wildlife gear that may be of interest to our readers.

They are on eBay now and have just two days to run.

So if they appeal get over there, check it out, bid and grab a bargain.

The gear is as follows;

Wimberley Sidekick - probably one of the best tools for use with the 500 lenses and lower in conjunction with an Arca Swiss or other ball head.  Light and very adaptable

Wimberley P40 Foot plate (for Canon 500 amongst other lenses)

Wimberley P30 Foot Plate (for Canon 300f2.8 among other lenses)

Kirk Flash Extender (for Canon 580EX or EX11 flash head)  These are also known as Better Beamers

Naturescapes Skimmer Pod (for use with a ball head and low level to skim across mud/sand/water etc)

Plus a little Manfrotto 484RC2 head - OK for little cameras or remotely mounting flashheads on stands



Monday 11 June 2012

 Its been an interesting week, I have managed to get out to some new places and also meet some new people, I am a member of the Carolina Nature Photographers Association, Its one of the biggest groups for Nature Photographers in the States, I have been a member for a couple of years or more but have only ever been to one meeting, Its something i need to change so last week i went to a meeting which was very good and around 50+ people turned up, I went to a shoot with some of them at a local Eco Station called Prairie Ridge which is not that far from me, Its a nice area with a pond that could be good in the winter,There were a lot of dragonflies around the pond and i spent 20 minutes trying to get a shot of one in flight, I used the D3s and 200-400 but a 300 or 400 prime would have been preferable especially weight wise,
Not great and a sizeable crop
Lots of wild flowers and an area with bird feeders, I didnt do much shooting but instead had a good look around for the future, There were around 10-12 people present which was good for a mid week meet and after a couple of hours shooting we went off for something to eat and a chat, A nice relaxed morning, A couple of the guys told me of a park with some nesting owls so i will check that out this week and hope that they are still there and that i can find them,
I ordered and received a L bracket for the D800/Grip combo, I bought it from Kirk Enterprises and its a thing of beauty-art in aluminum and will make it so that i can now use the D800 with wides for landscapes etc,

The females fox has been coming into the garden earlier and earlier, One night she caught me by surprise, I had just put some food out when i turned around and there she was, 5.15pm, Her circle or fear or acceptance has decreased somewhat and last night i was laid flat out using the beanbag on the ground when she came within 8 feet of me, I had put some food there and wanted to know if she would approach that close or not, She was skittish and quickly backed off a couple of time but she will learn to relax over time, I used the 200-400 and nearly filled the frame with her face, Its a great honor to be accepted by a wild animal and not something to be taken lightly, The male fox has only shown twice in the last week for some reason and i have watched opossum in the garden a few nights during the last week but still without young, One of the problems with shooting in your garden is trying to come up with different images in a confines space, I have been putting the bait where there is a natural looking background but have started to also include some human elements as well, I have 2 garden frogs and thought it would be a fun image to get the fox with them-well its not happened and the foxes steer well clear of the frogs which is strange
On Saturday i went out with my wife and dog to the Sarah Duke gardens or Duke gardens as its commonly known in Durham, I have always wanted to go and never for one reason or another made it but thus weekend i went and its one impressive place and a bonus is that its free apart from parking, The gardens are laid out beautifully and extremely photogenic, There is a large pond with wildfowl on it, Mainly mallards but also pin tail and i believe wood ducks are present, I only had a 24-70 with me but the birds are easy to get near so i will pop back and take the 200-400, A word if you go there is to take food and drink as the small cafe is very expensive, Well worth a full day or more,
Not a great image of a Northern Pintail but it was taken with a 24-70 and its only a small crop


Monday 4 June 2012

A good week for the foxes

I have managed to shoot the foxes every night except 2 for the last 7 nights, It was only bad weather that stopped me shooting the other 2 as we had the aftermath of tropical storm Beryl, I think it was Wednesday night that we had Tornado warnings and extreme rain, I watched the very dark clouds overhead looking very threatening but i don't think any tornado's touched down until near the coast, its that time of year here in NC, I have my gear set up around 5.30 and watch from my house until the fox or foxes arrive then go out, The fox stop and watch as i sneek into position and then carry on as if i am not there, I have never had semi tame foxes to myself, Some neighbors semi habituated them long before i arrived here, Its something i have never really agreed with and have always shot totally wild foxes that would run even if they could just smell you so this is something totally different, Saying that if i move or make a noise they are ready to run but if i stay still they will just keep an eye on me and carry on, The food is obviously more important to them and the cubs than i am, The male is far more skittish than the female who has walked as close as 15 feet from me, A couple of nights i have laid out flat or as flat as my stomach will allow for a better point of view and used the beanbag for camera support, Its by far the best way of getting super sharp images and better than any tripod, The foxes come out anywhere between 6.15pm and 8pm or as i say ISO 400 and ISO 1600, I sometimes use the D3s as its the better camera in low light but i do really try to use the D800 purely for the file sizes although i dont like to shoot over ISO 800 due to grain or noise starting to show, Its a good stop below the D3s for noise but the file sizes keep me reaching for it first, Shutter speeds average 1/100 shooting wide open at F4 and using the 600 lens means that good technique and waiting for the fox to be totally still is the way to go and be prepared to bin a lot of images due to slight movement in the head, Saying that i have been taking around 100 images a night so at the end of the week still have a lot of keepers.
I had mentioned to my wife that the deer and fox look tick free but the female clearly had a huge tick under her chin and on close inspection of one of the shots of her she has a lot of smaller ticks around her eyes, We take ticks off of our dog every night so any animals that live in the woodland must be covered,

You may also notice that i have over cooked the exposure a small amount and there is a small blown out area near the mouth, Its something to keep in mind when shooting foxes and shooting to the right, Around the nose area is very easy to blow out,
One night i set my D3s up on a tripod so that it shot over my head to give you a view of me shooting the fox, The wide angle makes the distance between myself and the fox look bigger than it is and is actually around 20-25 feet
The wildlife high light of the week for me was sitting in my screened porch late last night (Sunday) i could hear a commotion in the nearby tree and saw a bird fly out of it, The noise was nothing i could identify and then another bird flew out and landed just above my head on the guttering, A third bird flew and then the bird above me followed it, They were very small owls, About 10 minutes later i took my dog out into the front garden and could again hear the owls nearby, I looked up into the tree and could seem them clearly but as silhouettes, I checked my bird guide and would say that they were  Northern Saw-Whet Owls by there call, I am guessing it was an adult and 2 young or both adults and 1 young, Either way great to have around the house, Strangest birds in the garden this week were 2 belted kingfishers which flew around the garden before landing on my neighbors roof and then flying off, Last night we also listened to a distant Barred Owl and for the last couple of weeks have had a Whip Poor Will calling in the woodland behind my house which looks like a night-jar and extremely difficult to see


Wednesday 30 May 2012

Happy Big Birthday to Dave

Well it doesn't seem five minutes ago, that I started writing this blog site with a young 46 year old Dave so my how time has flown

Anyway, here is a big Happy Birthday to Dave from me and Jac - hope your day is a great one mate, although we know you had your big bash and the weekend,

But many happy returns and may you have many more


PS - I will back with a bit more a a longer blog from me on Thursday with some things to share.

Update:  Ugggh - lots of typos now corrected

Monday 28 May 2012

Software and Foxes

Its been a busy week and not just photographically, I have spent most of the week stuck behind the PC going through the Florida images and trying to get the hang of the new Nik software package that i recently purchased, I have to say that its most impressive but does take a while to go through it all, Just the color effects pro 4 takes a couple of days to look through all the filters, Nik has plenty of on line instruction One to watch is their 55 filters in 52 weeks, This gives a good idea of what each filter is capable of, I have also watched a couple of their webinars which are also excellent, I have to say that photoshop has very little use once you have used the Nik software,I have found that a lot of the filters work very well on landscapes but you have to lower the presets which is easy with the use of sliders, The detail enhancer in CEP4 is amazing, As a prest it gives a look of HDR which my wife liked but by dragging the sliders down you get great detail but a more realistic look,

Here is a shot i took and after a couple of clicks in the Nik software
$400 for the complete package is a lot of money but i think that here its well spent, You can each individually and if you do then CEP4 and Viveza are very good and i like the Dfine noise reduction, Even if you are not in the market yet i would take some time out and look at the videos and webinars, Sometimes you look at peoples work and think wow how did they get that look or cleaness/detail-well now you know,
We are having a hard time here with ticks, The other night i took 6 off of my dog and within 5 minutes of him going into the woodland he had more, I know of at least one photographer at the moment who is suffering from lymes disease and its very nasty, Take care when you go out, Here is a huge tick that i removed from my dog last week

The foxes are now coming out in light, Not great light but light where you dont need flashguns, One night the female came out a lone and i sat out on my patio and she was less than 25 feet from me and stayed until i had over shots of her, I used the D3s as the light was low and i had to use ISO 1600, Get the exposure right or shoot to the right and there is basically no grain
Heres one from the D800 ISO 400
 And from the D3s at ISO 1600
Both the above are of the female but they now sometimes come and feed together, Heres the male, Much smaller and thinner than the female
Its my 50th Birthday this coming Wednesday so we had a party yesterday at our house so i am a little delicate today, Just as well as its a holiday here so time for a snooze


Tuesday 22 May 2012

Mirrorless cameras

As Martin has just purchased a mirrorless body and many people with long lens gear are also adding them i  would take some time out and have a read of Thom Hogans (of Nikon Fame) other site that just covers Mirrorless cameras and lenses-see here


Sunday 20 May 2012


I have to say that getting up between 4am and 6.30am is not every bodies idea of a break and i am now at home feeling like i could do with a holiday to get over the last one, Our week basically went like this, Drive to Florida on the Saturday and stay at St Augustine until Wednesday, I would shoot at the Gator Farm early morning and evening, After the Gator Farm closed i would shoot at the beach until dark, During the day we would shoot at the old town for scenics and have day trips around the area as far as Daytona Beach, Move down the coast on Wednesday to Satellite Beach and shoot at Merritt Island and surrounding areas, That was the plan at least and as i had never been to Merriit Island i was exciting to go,
So lets start at the beginning, St Augustine Gator farm that i ended my last blog with, Its a great place to shoot all kinds of  herons and egrets with the bonus of Spoonbills and Storks, Its a busy place bird wise and there are thousands of birds coming and going, It can get too much and you have to stand back and make a plan if you want to come away with great images, I found it best to keep and eye on a couple of nests in the right light and get the birds coming and going to those particular places, The birds stalling as they try to stop giving the best looking images, Whilst waiting i would keep an eye open for any birds flying in my piece of sky and by that i mean i had the sun on my back and had chosen an area of sky that would give good results right in front of me, Either side would not get such good light, I used a flash with a better beamer set at +1 to light the under side of the wings without blowing out the whites, I came to the +1 after some experimental shots and for that place it worked well, You can get incredibly close to the birds at the nests, Look back at the last blog of mine and you will see a head shot of a tri-colored heron, That was shot with a Sigma 150 macro lens!! It has been 2 years since my last visit and at that time Roseate Spoonbills had just started to use the park, Now there are plenty there nesting so and a couple of nests were close to the boardwalk and visible, The chicks were quite active so some nice shots were on the cards, One day i heard a loud pop/splash near me and looked as a young Woodstork landed in the water, It looked around dazed as gators came from every angle, A few seconds later it was taken, To my surprise the gator popped up and headed my way and as it got closer the chick lifted its head took a breath and then the gator dived and that was a very sad end for the chick but thats nature, People ask why the birds would nest in such a dangerous place and the answer is that there is a higher success rate there than in the wild where raccoons and snakes etc take the eggs,
One day we went down to the famous biker hang out-Daytona beach, Like Martin i am a bike lover, After Photography its my biggest passion and i rarely miss a Moto GP or World Superbike race on the TV, I was hoping to get to Laguna Seca this year and cheer on Valentino Rossi but will miss that by a couple of weeks so hopefully next year, Daytona beach is a great place although busy with people, the beaches are flat and very clean, the sand is fine and there are few shells, You can drive on most of it without the need for a 4x4 so thats what we did and found a spot with some birds on it and set up, People come and go and you either get strange looks or questions but over all i came away with some of the nicest cleanest images i have made so far and without the need of much processing, I used a skimmer pod with the Acra Tech long lens head and Acra Tech leveling base, It worked well with the D800 and 600 as long as you found the balance point and kept a small tension on the head to stop it flopping over, I see a lot of people using Gimbal heads and have them very loose, I prefer a small amount of tension in both axis and find i get a sharper image that way,
The weather at the start and middle of the week was not the best and on the Monday and Tuesday the afternoon sessions at the gator farm were rained off, I have to say that after a couple of days there i had had enough, Its very enjoyable but i preferred my beach sessions where it was just me and the birds, I am not one for crowded places but either way its a good place to learn and experiment,
I used the D800 most of the time for 2 reasons, Firstly the AF is better than the D3s and by a fair margin, Shooting them side by side you could easily tell that the D800 is both faster at acquiring focus and keeps focus even when the bird is flying in and out of busy backgrounds, The D3s is no slouch in that department but the new AF in the D800 simply out classes it, The D4 with its speed and same AF must be some machine, The 2nd reason is that i am shoot for stock agencies and the files sizes are all important, I can crop an image in half and still have a bigger file than the D3s uncropped, add to that the extra resolution and detail captured by the D800 and the D3s becomes the back up camera-who would have ever thought that, The D800 really is a big step forward in digital imaging rather than the normal incremental step associated with new bodies,
We went to Satellite beach which is close to Cocoa beach for the last few days so that i could travel to Merritt Island NWR,  MIWLR is a big place but unfortunately there seemed to be little in the way of wildlife, I only went twice as it was an hour or so from where we were staying but apart from some Green herons with chicks there wasnt anything better than i had shot before, I have seen some great images from there so it can be a great place but just not when i was there, One day when we left there we stopped at a State Park to see what was there, It was on the edge of a large river and there was a small bay off of the river, Whilst we were there a Manatee entered the bay and we went into the water and it came over to say hello which was a real bonus, There was some turtles nesting on the beach each night that we were there but we never managed to see them, Just their tracks left in the sand, We even went to the beach at 4am on the last morning in the hope of seeing some turtles and also a rocket going up at Canaveral which was set for 4.55am but was aborted, We also missed the turtles and not by much as the tracks we clearly visible all the way down to the sea, There were 3 turtles nesting that night and about 15 nests in the few days that we were there, Great to see that they are still about. Whilst i was there i did manage to get some sun rises so all was not lost.

The Skimmer pod available on the Naturescapes web site is awesome for ground photography, If you make sure that the sea is distant you loose any horizon giving a magical feel to the image, Nothing has been removed from these images, The beaches were fine sand and very very clear of stones or shells,
I placed myself where the receding sea left the sand wet for this shot and waited for the birds to arrive, This Sanderling was very relaxed with my presence and slept
Semi-Palmated Plover on Daytona Beach, These pretty little birds were at every beach we visited in good numbers
The birds were attracted to the sea weed bought in on the tide and gave a nice addition of color to the image as well as give a size dimension to the bird
The D800 and 200-400 made a great team for hand holding, This is full frame and i could zoom in or our as the bird got closer
The joys of the D800, A large crop but still over 40mp file, Roseate Spoonbill chicks, Not something you see everyday
The D3s did pretty well in the hand holding game again with the 200-400, Lots of detail in this full frame image
 Gator with Chick, I doubt i will forget the look on its face or the sound of it fall in for some time
 Storms over Cocoa beach, My favorite image of the week, We watched the huge storm building as we were sitting on the beach, I went and got the 14-24 and put it on the D800, When the lightening started i watched through the view finder, The bolts tended to come in 2's or 3's so i would miss the first bolt but could sometimes manage to get the 2nd or 3rd, The first image was as the storm started to gather strength and the 2nd image was at its darkest and time to run for cover, I held the camera up to my eye for nearly an hour and my arm felt like it wanted to fall off, I did have a tripod with me but not a bracket to attach the D800 to it, That was on the D3s and i didnt have a key to get it off, A 'L' bracket is at the top of the list to buy,

Sunrise at the same beach as above, We missed the turtles and NASA aborted the rocket take off so this was all i got
 Turtle tracks

All in all a very nice week, Now comes the downloading and processing, All the images above were processed on the laptop so may be a tad off as it needs recalibrating.
When i got home i checked the bluebirds nest box only to find that all but one of the eggs had gone and the egg that was left was broken, I guess another case of being predated by something like a raccoon , The hummingbirds are now very active with 2 males fighting over the territory, Hopefully i will find time to get some images of them this week when i am not stuck behind the PC