Saturday 31 March 2012

A bit of colour

Following my blog of Thursday with the Great Spotted Woodpeckers, here are a few more images from the same time in the bird hide a week ago.

Nothing special here, but a lot of colour from the Pheasant, that always show well when they are in breeeding condition and in nice light.

And I always have a soft spot for Song Thrush. All with 7D and 500f4 IS L.

Have a pleasant weekend



Friday 30 March 2012

Patience is a virtue

The aches and pains are easing but now i am getting blinding headaches, 2 steps forwards and 1 back but at least the pain killers are helping, Hopefully in a day or 2 it will be back to normal, Last night i sat out again hoping for some fox images, Not just any fox images, I wanted a fox to stand up against the tree like the recent opossum images, I pushed some small pieces of dog food into the bark of the tree and placed a few pieces around a couple of trees, I didnt have to wait long before a fox entered the garden and spent 20 minutes walking around the garden scent marking, It fed a couple of times and was very nervous and then left, I could hear it going down the woodland between the houses, I put my head in my hands as my head was very painful and when i looked up there was another fox feeding right in front of me, It was split ear, The male that i have shot before, It hung around for a while and gave me plenty of opportunities for shots but i held back and waited, The fox looked up the tree and took a couple of pieces placed low down and i thought it was about to stand up when it looked behind and shot off, A few minutes later 4 deer came out of the woods and fed on some corn i had placed, Once again i sat back and put my head in my hands and again i looked up and to my surprise there were 2 raccoons around the baited tree, I have never seen more than 1 so it was great to see, they sniffed the air and left to my right, A few minutes later another raccoon entered the garden at the end on my left so there must be at least 3, This one walked along sniffing the air and came up to the baited tree and without thought stood up and started to pick the food out of the bark, I grabbed a few shots as it looked around and then it left, I decided enough was enough and left, I put a few extra pieces of food out just in case something else came and within 20 minutes of coming in i watched a pale grey opossum came up to the tree and fed, Some night, Cant wait to feel better and spend more time out there, the weather is very comfortable and you can sit out in just a thin shirt and still be warm

Favorite shot of the night


Thursday 29 March 2012

A quick couple from the weekend

Jac and I popped out to a local farm shop/garden nursery last weekend that I found out had a bird hide. How cool is that for couples!!.

Anyway, I grabbed a few images while we were there. Light was pretty harsh even after 9 am so here are a couple of one of my favourite birds that proved to be one of about four or five that popped down and was very obliging.

7D plus 500f4L. Processed in LR3 and just finished off in CS5. Quite liking the LR3 now, but must go through a few YouTube tutorials to improve.

I will also have a go with them at some time over the weekend with Capture One to see which I prefer


Wednesday 28 March 2012

Oh poorly me

I have been a bit poorly over the last few day, Very achy in the legs and hips and wanting to sleep all the time, Reminds me of when i had the tic problem, I cant find any tic bites but will keep a close eye on the situation, That hasn't stopped me going out for the past couple of evenings, Things have changed, Firstly the weather has cooled off and we now have spring weather inside of the summer of last week, We even had a frost warning 2 nights ago, I don't know if this has affected the wildlife but they have been acting differently over the last couple of evenings, Monday night when the temperatures really dropped saw the deer and rabbit out early and then nothing, I came in after 3 quiet hours and watched out of the window until past midnight and nothing, The next morning the food was gone and the woodpecker branch was knocked over, I think that a raccoon may have tried to get to the bird food via the branch and toppled it, Last night the fox was in my garden before sundown which was a new one, There was still light in the sky as i watched it patrol the back of the garden, It fed at another tree and started to make its way towards me when i looked up and legged it into the woods and came out with another fox, They stayed for 25 minutes but didn't feed and then left, 2 hours later i was aching and packed up, The deer didn't show and this morning the food was gone and the woodpecker branch was on the deck again, Looks like i will have to do an all nighter and see whats going on (when i feel better)
The red bellied woodpecker was back yesterday which was nice as i havent seen it for a while and the last few days we have had up to 5 brown headed cowbirds on the feeder which is more of a seasonal thing, I think they are passing through but nice to see anyway,
Still no D800 but i am hoping it will be soon, I ordered the grip and spare battery and i see that the grips are hitting the streets which is quick so now i will need to get a L bracket and need to decide whether a Kirk or RRS, Both are roughly the same price, I have an RRS bracket on my D3s,
I have been keeping an eye on the forums and looking for people who have the D800 and 5D3 in real world conditions, There is the usual crap, Cats/dogs and kids playing soccer, Alot that could be taken with a D3000 and would have probably been better but then we knew that would happen, Today i saw some real images from people who knew what they are doing see this image, its a big one but worth the download wait, the detail is just incredible!i=1763885715&k=BN6QTnD&lb=1&s=O
and for a decent write up read Brad Hills blog
Digilloyds 5D3 first impressions of the 5D3 were not overly favorable but it was just a first impression rather than a full review and new bodies do take some time to adjust to, Lots and lots to read and you need to be selective on who and what is worth looking at, Lots of people who have not much experience paraphrasing others as well as a few who are not that experienced now having 36 mp to play with,
One bug showing up early is that some D800's may have a green tint to their screens, I wonder of this is like the early batches of Apples new Ipad which had a yellowish tint and turned out that the glue was still curing and after a few days or using a hair dryer on it the tint goes.


Tuesday 27 March 2012

New iPad trial over. Back to the future of Android

So having said that Canon's newest full frame body will get no further mention from me a while ago, I will now add Apple products along with Sport and Politics as taboo blog subjects for the future

But before I do, I need to thank Graham for his feedback on his iPad mk1 (happy customer it seems) and James for his views that pretty much follow my thoughts.

I have long been anti -Apple because of the shackling of devices by iTunes, plus lack of drag and drop file capabilities, lack of USB, lack of Flash blah blah.

Many people have over the years tried to convince me that the Apple products are far superior, no security issues, and they 'Just work'. I have taken the view that for more than double the price of comparable PC's, comparisons with far better sounding musical devices, and better tablets etc, that I was better off without them.

But the Apple marketing and the store is a tempting seductress. Having taken the piss out of the more than 500 sheep that queued outside the Apple Store in Birmingham the other week, and having been taken in by the hype, I walked past a few short hours later to find no queue and I was in and out inside 5 minutes but some almost £600 lighter in the credit card. My first Apple product

First couple of days were OK, except I couldn't get images sorted.

Then after 3 nights of not being able to connect to the iTunes store to download apps, to resetting and taking more than 3 hours to recover, I was spending more time trying to make it work than it actually working.

When it did, it was great. Impressive screen, good battery life contrary to other reports, nice slick interface. But the ongoing problem with 'Cannot connect to iTunes kept recurring. More trips to the store - good job my office was close by.

Got the photo uploads sorted, although it still cannot do Cf Cards, drag and drop, and the only way to get Canon images on from CF cards is to connect the camera. How quaint, but I though we had moved on with card readers ten years ago.

I will give a massive thumbs up to Nik Software for their Snapseed software. That was a great app and I will recommend that for quick, easy and excellent editing. I used it on the Panasonic P & S camera files which has a SD card, so I could use that adapter.

But with more drop outs over the weekend and again on Monday, I finally reached the end of my patience with it, and it was returned today.

So last night, I reopened the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, that was factory reset and ready to go on eBay. Within 25 minutes, I was completely reset back to where it was after 7 months of use, and works a treat.

Checking out Nik today, Snapseed for Android is 'coming soon', so that is good news, and I will be able to process CF card, via USB Canon 5Dmk2, and 7D jpeg or RAW files in my tablet.

Now while tablets are still 'toys' by comparison with the desktop powerhouses, the ability to process and work on the move is very useful with tablets.

With blood pressures and temperatures now returned to normal, I can get on with 'life' and make a note to self to remember to stick to my own thoughts and not get taken in by the victory of marketing hype over substance.

The absolute best Apple product is the 14 day full money back guarantee.



Monday 26 March 2012

NikonD4/ D800 UK Price increase

Nikon UK finally put out a statement re the price increase for the D4, D800 and D800E, The bad news is that its true but the good news is that they will not add the difference to people who have already pre ordered

Due to a local internal systems error, the incorrect RRPs on the D800, D800E and D4 products were communicated in the UK and Irish markets at the time of announcement. The correct RRPs for the products should have been D4: £5289.99, D800: £2,599.99 and D800E: £2,899.99. We would like to apologise sincerely to our customers for this unfortunate mistake, which has been corrected with immediate effect. We know that there has been strong consumer interest in these products and a high level of pre-orders placed with retailers; Nikon will be honoring the original prices to retailers on all customer pre-orders placed before March 24th 2012.

I have just been reading people on some forums who instantly cancelled their pre orders thinking that they would have to pay the extra will now be kicking themselves and will now have a 6 month wait to get one, Its a classic case of how not to do business, Nikon should have put the statement out straight away before stores had time to increase the price and made people panic/mad, Either way the UK gets shafted again price wise

On a brighter note i received a call on Friday from Gary at Hunts photo saying that there is a good possibility that i will get my D800 this week-fingers crossed


Sunday 25 March 2012

New Garden Arrivals

One of the great floral sights at this time of year can be found in a large meadow on the Oxfordshire at Iffley with a great swathe of native SnakesheadFritillary flowers.

As I blogged recently here, I have a few of these coming up in the wildlife garden now. Bought as bulbs from native UK stock in the autumn, I planted them last year and have waited patiently for them to appear.

With the warm weather of Friday and yesterday, they have now started to show properly.

Saturday afternoon - emerging still with slightly harsh sunlight

This morning before the sun was over the fence line, and still with the dew

There are a few more to come out yet. They will never replicate the beautiful meadows of this rare in the wild plant, but it is nice to have my own small patch of them.

In the more shady part of the garden, the bluebell spikes are showing well, with wood anemones, cowslip and Lords and Ladies showing too. Hoping it is going to be a good garden year for wildflowers


Saturday 24 March 2012

General Update

The last few days the camera has stayed indoors away from the heavy pine pollen, Today i drove down a main road near my house and it was like driving through a green mist, This happens every year but this year its early and very heavy, Sit outside with your camera gear for an hour an its covered so i will wait and hope for a very heavy storm to get it over with,
Birds are going mad in the garden chasing each other around and pairing up, We now have a pair of Bluebirds taking nesting material into one of the bird boxes although they come nowhere near the feeders,
The lucky few have now had their D800's delivered but i was one of the many unlucky ones, Nikon have their inventory next week so the warehouses are closed so i guess i am looking at a 2-3 week wait minimum, I read that if you have not ordered by now you could be looking at August!! I have to say that the images that i have seen on the net look amazing and this has been backed up by the DXO mark ratings which came out higher than any other camera full stop see here, This is sensor based scores only but it does seems that Nikon with the D4 and D800 really do have a couple of amazing cameras and it really looks like Nikon is about to have an amazing year,
On a sour note it seems that Nikon are saying that they have fucked up their prices of the D4 and D800 in the UK and yesterday increased the prices by 500 GBP for the D4 and 200GBP for the D800, I sure hope that anybody who has pre ordered doesnt have to pay the extra (edit-it seems that if you have already pre ordered then you still have to pay the extra-Boo to Nikon for that one)

Friday 23 March 2012

The wildlife cams are coming back online

Last year I bought you a couple of blogs with various wildlife cams that you could follw.

Well they are back in action in many cases recording this years events.

At Nottingham Trent University, the Peregrines are being followed here and are on eggs now.

The Ospreys at Rutland snf across in Wales at Dyfi are not quite there yet, but will be soon so here and here.

The BTO are doing a great bit of research tracking cuckoos and this can be followed here.

WWT Caelaverock are showing Badgers and Ospreys and can be seen here.

And finally Beaver Cam (no titters boys!!) from WWT Martin Mere.

Enjoy them this year, and as I become aware of more I will blog them for you.

If you have any favourite cams you follow, please let us know


Thursday 22 March 2012

Photoshop CS5 Beta

Adobe has up the beta version of CS6 out for people to play with and give feedback, There seem some good additions to CS6 and some of the best can be found in a series of short videos here


Pixels do sell

Canon may have been right all these years by bringing out cameras with a higher pixel count than the competition as the Nikon D800 seems to be proving, I am not saying that more pixels is a good thing, Look at the Canon 50D, In its day it was a high pixel count cropped sensor body but anybody who has seen a ISO 800 file from it will tell you that its not a pretty sight, The last few weeks i have trawled through various forums looking for info on the D800 either good or bad and have seen people talk themselves into needing 36 mp for all kinds of photography where the D800 is not based at, I have seen people say that it will be good for birds in flight, There are much better cameras for that, Motorsports as well, 4fps should tell you that there are hundreds of better cameras for fast moving subjects and i have seen wedding photographers who have sold their D3s's and have ordered 2 D800, Well i am not a wedding photographer but have done a few and one thing that sticks out is that a lot of the time you are shooting in very low light and a D3s/D4 would be a safer bet or at least keep 1 and have a D800 for portraits etc, I have seen the justification that if you down size to 12mp the noise will be as good or slightly better than a D3-so keep the D3/D3s then and stop wasting pixels, The D800 should start hitting the streets today so give it a few days and lets see what people have to say, I today read that 1 guy sent his D4 back as be basically didn't like where the new back AF button was after using other Nikons for years, I have hoped that was oen thing that Nikon would change as using the D3s its so easy to hit the back AF ON button with the palm of your hand when holding the camera in landscape mode, I have done it many times, New cameras will take some getting used to and to just give it 1 or 2 days is crazy
My advise when buying a new camera is to look at what you shoot and then get the best body for that style of photography, If possible get to a shop,friend or rent and have a play with the camera, Buying a camera on spec can lead to disappointment,


Wednesday 21 March 2012

Overheating Problem - Request for Help

Regular readers will need no reminding of my views of all things beginning with a small 'i'.

It was quite hilarious to see the massive queue of about 5 to 600 hundered people outside the Apple store in Birmingham at just gone 8 AM last Friday. If only they had a little more patience and gone back in the afternoon, you could be in an out inside 5 minutes with no queue for any model of the 'New iPad' that you might have wanted. I know because I did it.

So now you are back on your seat or have stopped laughing, then read on.

Now, I posted about throwaway technology a couple of months back, and I stand by that view with the annual launch of what are now very expensive phones and even more expensive tablets, and entry level camera bodies.

So with that in mind, what did I have to lose? Well a lot of money and the need to buy some humble pie. I did the former and will do latter, if I still have the bloody thing on Friday week and haven't taken up the 14 day no quibble return.

After the last two frustrating nights trying to some basic things like load photos, a return trip to the Apple Store is probably more likely than not.

So a very quick review first.

The slidey swipey interface is better than my Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Some of the connectivity is better. Images do look a bit better. The screen is very nice but really not much better, if at all, than the Galaxy, but given that Apple have made a big thing of it, then the previous models must have been pretty crap.

Not noticed any overheating of the iPad as is currently being reported - plenty from me out of frustration with bloody iTunes and photo loading though.

How crap is it that you cannot plug in a Cf card reader into the USB adapter that comes with the Camera Connection Kit

Apple says no - connect camera with an old fashioned bit of wire. Welcome back to technology pre-card readers. How quaint. No Cf card readers by Apple - OK lets leave camera pro body owners in the cack then.

And as for iTunes as the device to upload images - well what a crock!!!

So I get around after my little rant to my plea for help.

Fellow photographers how do you do the following please?

  1. Upload images direct from a Cf Card ?
  2. Upload images from a portfolio on your PC (not Mac) ? - now sorted
  3. Do you use iTunes or some other app ?
  4. When you get the photographs on the Ipad, how do you move them about, create new folders, delete and generally do stuff with them ? - now sorted
  5. What portfolio App do you use and why ?
  6. What editing app do you use and why ?
  7. What File uploader/transfer App do you use ?
Apologies if these questions are bit lame and should be bloody obvious, but it is not obviously intuitive with frigging iTunes.

At the moment, all my pre-conceived notions of why I was/still am anti 'i' products have only been reinforced. But if there is an easy way, and I am sure there must be, then I will give it a second chance, and if it is blindingly easy, then I may well eat that humble pie.

So answers to any or all of the above will really be most gratefully received. Please leave comments and if you want to arrange communications through medium that you want to remain private, then we will not publish any private details so please fell free to that if you can help.

I have until Friday next week to get to 'love' this bloody thing or it is going back, and the Galaxy will see the light again. If the Apple stays, the Tab is on eBay.

Look forward to your helpful comments.

Update - answered a couple of the 'Bloody iTunes' problems!! Slightly happier, but still would like to nail the other questions please


Tuesday 20 March 2012

A nice session

The weather has changed somewhat from last week, Gone are the clear blue skies although we still have the 80 degree weather, Huge thunder storms throughout the night and heavy rain replaced by hot clear weather in the afternoon making it somewhat steamy, The weather man described it as May type weather and we will have it for the rest of the week, Today the storm started hours ago in the night and is still raging with thunder rocking the house, March here in NC is the most deadly month of the year for tornado's so we have to keep vigilant,
Last night i set up in the garden and waited to see what would come along, The weather was great and i sat for over 4 hours in just trousers and light weight fleece, The deer came first and stayed whilst the fox appeared a little later, The fox for some reason has gone very shy and jumps at the slightest noise so with the deer around it kept jumping and running off, It defiantly does not like the flashguns around but after an hour of tooing and froing it came to feed but i sat hoping it would relax, I watched through the viewfinder as it would eat and quickly look around, In the end a deer snapped a twig and the fox left, Later on a raccoon started to come down the garden but was sppoked by a rabbit on the woodland egde and turned around a was gone, I cursed as raccoons here are not that common due to the nature of the woodland i.e small trees but i was lucky and 20 minutes later it came back and i managed a few images before it too went off, i stayed until just after 11pm and at 10.45pm the big opossum came out and made my night, Its huge and must be nearly as big as the fox in length and probably weighs as much as my dog, I packed the gear up and went in a very happy chappy, It really was a nice session, relaxed and comfortable,

All images shot with a Nikon D3s and Nikon 200-400 +1.4x
Manual mode 1/125@F10
3X Flashguns 2 in front slightly to the right 1 high (3 feet) and 1 low(1 foot) and both with softboxes, The rear flashgun at the back and to the left facing back at the set up to give a rim light effect using a Rogue Flashbender set as a snoot
Tripod mounted

100% Crop of above

200% Crop of above

100% Crop-here you can see the back flashgun lighting up the hairs around the head and body

You can see by the crops that this is one sharp set up and that the 200-400 works well with a 1.4x when stepped down, Using the 200-400 allows you to compose the image in camera therefore cropping afterwards is kept to a minimum or not at all,


Monday 19 March 2012

Quick Garden Update

Bird life has been picking up and as mentioned on Saturday, the first of the Chiff Chaffs have been through the garden with another three of them yesterday. Great to see and great to hear.

In the garden, the Marsh Marigolds are now out in the pond, and the first of my Snakes Head Frittillaries are popping their heads up where I planted them last Autumn. I planted 20 bulbs and have about 15 showing so far.

Some are quite advanced and I grabbed these couple of shots with the little Panasonic P & S lst Thursday as a record shots.

I am looking forward to getting some decent shots with the 5D and 180 macro when they are in full show.


Sunday 18 March 2012

An Exciting week ahead

This week will see some lucky people get their new Nikon D800 and Canon 5D MK3 and in the last few days the first shipment of the Nikon D4 has been delivered and a few images have hit the forums, Hopefully it wont be too long before proper reviews hit the internet, Here is a quicky about the D4, As the guy says its more evolution than revolution and not much of an upgrade over the D3s unless you are into video, It might be prudent to grab a D3s now either new or a good secondhand one and grab a bargain, i am interested to see if the 5D3 is much of an upgrade over the 5D2 or is it again a video upgrade rather than stills, At least it will have a decent AF system, Canon made a big deal about it being 2 stops better than the 5D2 but thats in Jpeg only and the images that have been released show heavy noise reduction and lack of detail so i am interested to see how the RAW files perform, I know one of the main complaints with the 5D2 was banding so hopefully the new sensor will have that sorted, I think the specs of the 5D3 are very impressive and will make a great all round camera whereas the D800 is a big more specialized due to the high pixel rate and slower frame rate, The manuals for the D800/D800E and 5D3 are now available for download so you can have a good read before your new camera arrives, Strangley the first camera to be announced being the Canon 1DX is the last out of the box and it was only last week that BH started to take pre orders, I dont know what the hold up was or why they could not take pre orders before but lets hope that Canon have the problems sorted

On a local front the spring has bought out the bugs, The tree's have started to drop their pollen which in NC is a big deal as we have a month of everything covered in a green dust and the snakes have started to appear, I know this as we have had 2 run over on out street this week, A large black snake and a young snake which i think was a king snake, Either way its time to watch where you tread in the woods, Oh and i have had my first tic of the year as has my dog so be careful out there


Saturday 17 March 2012

Frog Blog '12 - Part 3. New life

Having survived the 'Terror from the Skies', our little garden friends have managed to hide well in the depths of the pond in the daytime and 'done good'.

With numerous blobs of spawn that have all been merged together, it looks like we are in for another bumper year of tadpoles and frogs. I just hope we don't get to much cold weather now.

Last year there were over 30 blobs of spawn. This year, it really seems impossible to tell as they have merged them together, but I would estimate that there is at least as much, if not more.

It is possible to differentiate that it has been laid by many different individuals from the differing consistency and size of individuals eggs.

In the second picture, this large mass is about 1 metre long x 0.5metres wide, so a sizeable mass.

When I dug the garden pond three and a half years ago I made in two distinct parts. The area where the spawn has been laid, is a shallow shelving area, going from nothing at the edge to approximately 300mm deep. This area is good for the spawn, and great for bathing and drinking birds to use. From the middle of the pond, it then drops to a deep sump approximately 1 metre deep. In here, I have put some large bricks with a slab over the top, on which I have set the pond recirc pump to feed the top pond to run the stream. It is this deep sump that is vital for the frogs, newts and damsel dragonfly larva to seek stable temperatures during the winter avoiding the ice, and also provides refuge from the avian predators such as Heron.

We had our first Spring migrant bird through the garden today, with our first calling Chiff Chaff. Great to hear and a taste of things to come. Twitter reports are full of sightings of Sand Martins and Wheatear coming through now, so I am looking forward to the next couple of months as things change with the new season.


Friday 16 March 2012

Fun in the Garden

The last couple of days has seen me at my garden set up trying to get a decent shot of a bird perched on my Plum tree which is in blossom and will be past its best in the next day or 2, So far it hasnt gone to plan, I have just a short time before the sun rises above the trees in the morning and then late afternoon, All other times the light is just too harsh, Whilst i have been waiting for the birds which can be some time i have been entertained by the squirrels although a few times they have chased the birds away


Not sure of ID here-Either a warbler or Vireo

Hairy Woodpecker

I set up in the garden last night and wanted to use a remote release so that i could use a wide angle lens for the fox but we ended up having one of those late heavy showers and then found out that the battery was dead in the remote and unlike me i had not bought a spare so that was that, I did watch the fox come and feed and then later on a huge opossum arrived and had a sniff around before leaving, It looked like it could hardly walk and guessed that it was pregnant-i hope so, About an hour later another opossum normal sized and very dark arrived and fed so that along with 6 deer made a busy night for the garden


Thursday 15 March 2012

Frog Blog '12 - Part 2 - Terror from the Skies

Well it is always great to get new species in the garden, rather than over it. But what on the face of it is always impressive bird to see for its size, impressive call and prehistoric look, is the last thing that our frogs wanted to see.

The frog chorus at nightime has been very impressive for the last few nights, and a number of clumps of spawn have been laid. Up to 6 now as I write this on Wednesday evening. Although I did put one clump back in the water this morning that had been fished out on the grass - Crows I suspect.

On Monday evening on my drive home, I had an excited call from my wife, Jac, to tell me that we had a Heron in the pond and waddling around in the reflection pool.

Well It was still light when I arrived home last night and I was greeted by teh arrival of the Heron again.

It came and went a few times, and I witnessed the loss of at least a couple of frogs sadly. our neighbour says it has been in an out all day.

So this year is looking bad for the adult frogs. I hope they hurry up and get the spawn laid.

Having said I wanted to sell my 300f2.8L, it was the perfect lens last night, shooting with the 7D and from my bedroom window.

Overall a bitter sweet moment - cruel nature. It was sad seeing the loss of frogs that are our garden friends and companions through much of the year, and that have grown up in this place over the last few years.

The end of a Frog


Wednesday 14 March 2012

Spring-its hot

Spring has certainly sprung here in the Carolina's, A typical spring day here is like a good summers day in the UK, This week its going be between 75 and 80 degrees and a nice clear cloudless blue sky, I haven't had the cameras out for the past week due to spring cleaning, Helping a friend settle in to her new home and lots of gardening, The soil in the Carolina's is a heavy red clay, Just like you get in Africa, Its a real pain to try and dig into and in the heat it really takes it out of you but there are some nice looking areas in the garden so the hard work is paying off and i need to loose a few pounds anyways, I want to get it all out of the way so that when the D800 arrives i can play to my hearts content, It will take a day to sort out the custom functions and micro adjust all the lenses, When i was at the garden center the other day i bought a dwarf plum tree that is heavy in bud and will put a feeder under it and hope to get some birds landing on it, Its only around 3 feet high and will grow to a max of 5 feet so it can be planted in a pot and moved around the garden as needed and use year after year, I am always on the look out for something photographically pleasing and this should be just the ticket.
Talking of the D800 i read that Nikon has said that the preorders were 'unprecedented' and its already hit the No1 spot on Amazon for Dslr sales, I sure hope that Nikon will be able to keep up with demand, Rumors are that Canon has a large stock of the 5D3 so customers who preordered wont have a long wait which is how it should be
I have been looking at SD cards for the D800, I nearly bought some a couple of months ago but held back in the hope of 2 CF card slots, I have a 32GB CF card (Sandisk Extreme Pro) and will likely get a 32 GB Extreme Pro to go along side it, I have always used Sandisk and can highly recommend them, I see no reason to change and if you are listening Sandisk-yes please. I have never been one for having huge cards but the files on the D800 will be pretty big so a 32 GB card is not really that big, The D800 should be shipping around this time next week


Facebook and the Blog

If you use Facebook you will see a link on Expoimaging's page showing the blog that i did last week on their excellent flashbender product-cant be bad


Tuesday 13 March 2012

Guest Photographer - John Colson goes to Focus on Imaging

As promised a while back a fellow work buddy took a trip to the Focus Show a week ago yesterday, and shares his thoughts about it with us.


There was a palpable air of excitement within the throngs of people walking the hundreds of miles from the NEC car parks to the exhibition halls for this years Focus on Imaging. Talk of the recently emerged Canon 5Dmk3 was every one's lips and the fact that it was being 'launched' at the show was a bit of a coup. There was also talk of Nikon's new offering (D800 ? ....excuse my ignorance but as a Canon user I don't really follow what's happening at Nikon....I would get far too jealous!)

For me, as interesting as new bodies are, I was there for different reasons.

I'm primarily a wedding photographer and portrait shooter, so I was particularly interested in what new lighting gizmos might be around, and if there were any new wedding album products that suit my work. I was also hoping to catch up with a few friends.

However, the biggest reason for attending the exhibition was to try and find a deal on a lens I have had my eye on for ages. I have for a while been shying away from using zooms, and now shoot primarily with primes. My love affair with prime lenses began a while back with the Canon 50mm f1.8 (still for me the lens with the best 'bang for the buck, of anything out there) Over the last couple of years, I have added a couple more (replacing the 1.8 with the slightly more robust 1.4, and splashing out on the gorgeous 35mm f1.4L) but I have been wanting to add something with a bit more reach for a while. So the 85mmf1.2L was my main target....but more of this later.

We (I went to the show with another photographer @andrewhackett1) entered the exhibition hall probably 15 minutes after it opened and completely unsurprisingly the Canon stand was rammed.....and stayed that way for the rest of the day.

Consequently the most I saw of the new 5Dmk3 was a flyby glimpse. I am sure that it's going to be a wonderful camera and if I had the money I would probably buy one, but as I don't I didn't hang around to find out anymore about the body. There are already stacks of reviews online so no need to add my two penneth.

I did enjoy watching the fellas testing out the massive Canon lenses (presumably 500's etc) in the hall. No idea what they were looking at with lenses like that, but the presence of the lovely Katie Green on the Lastolite stand about 20 feet away might have had something to do with it.

I have photographed Katie a couple of times so it was great to see her again, and I also said hello to the first model I ever worked with, Chloe Jasmine Whichello. Cloe's career has gone stratospherically well over the last couple of years and she was at Focus to promote her new book of images, all shot by Damien Lovegrove. It was great to see her again and introduce me to Damien. The book is stunning and well worth checking out.

However, during all of this, the call of the 85mm was still nagging away at the back of my mind. For me, it would be one hell of a financial commitment so I have given it a lot of thought over the last few months.....and still I hadn't made up my mind.

Nevertheless, after agonising over it for a couple of hours (and annoying Andrew with my should I/shouldn't I musings) I decided to go for it. I knew that if I didn't, I would be cursing myself for not doing so at my next wedding.

I found a lovely shiny new lens on the Jacobs stand for a reasonable price (a little less than the best online figures I've found from reputable dealers) and went ahead and bought it.

Obviously once I had done so, my only thought was to leave straight away at get home and try it, so it was a not so quick walk back to the car and off we went.

This is the first shot with the 85mm (on a Canon 5Dmk1 body). It is safe to say that from a portraiture point of view, it is everything I wanted and more. The depth of field at 1.2 is razor thin and the bokeh is just gorgeous. I've tried shooting wide open, practically in the dark, and the results are stunning.

I read that prior to buying the lens that the focusing is slow, and this is the case. I tried it out at a Roller Derby bout this weekend and missed far more than it hit, but I want the lens for portraits/wedding preparations etc and not fast moving subjects so this really isn't an issue for me.

The lens does weigh a tonne and this might become something of a problem for me during a long wedding, but if that is the only downside, then I'll just have to go the gym a bit more often.

Focus on Imaging for me was great (as always). Yes, it was rammed and yes I didn't get anywhere near the 5Dmk3. But I did meet up with some old friends and some new friends, had a particularly nice Tuna sandwich from the cafe and finally got hold of the lens I have been coveting for ages.

I shall be back next year, but hopefully I won't spend quite as much money.


Hah - bet you do spend more John.

Thanks for that report, It was good to hear it from a completely different perspective and from a different genre of photography. I recommend you check out John's website here and book him for your wedding if you need some work doing. Send me the cut on that John please.

PS, if there are any typos, blame me as I re- typed the article. Still haven't worked out how to C & P without getting lots of html code errors.


Monday 12 March 2012

2012 Trip planner

Flights seem to have reached a new high and the last couple of weeks we have been trying to decide on where to go this year, We started looking at Australia and worked backwards but the high price of flights will keep us pretty grounded and our trips i think for this year at least will be USA based, So we have booked a week in Florida in mid May, This will have given me time to hopefully get the D800 and have had a play with the settings, I will try to do the whole week on the D800 to give it a good work out for birds on the nest and in flight, We are splitting the week in 2 and will start in St Augustine for nesting birds with chicks and then carry on down the coast to Merritt Island for ospreys etc, I haven't been to Merritt Island before but its one of the birding hotspots in Florida and its nice to go somewhere different, We will end the year with a 3 week tour of Florida taking in all the birding hotspots on both East and West coast and also the Florida keys which i am really looking forward to, In between i am hoping for a week or so in California and a week or so in the Smoky's during the Fall, Things are always subject to change but it will give me something to aim at and hopefully next year the gas prices will have fallen and so will air travel and then we can look further a field
Here are a few images from a Florida trip a couple of years ago


Sunday 11 March 2012

Springtime - new life blooming

These last few warm sunny days have bought out the new life in droves this weekend. With our first butterfly sighting of the year yesterday, a Brimstone and then lots more of them today as well as Small Tortoiseshells, Comma and Peacock , the garden has sprung back to life.

Marsh Marigolds, Speedwell, and Red Dead Nettle are all in bloom and the Snakeshead Fritilary bulbs I planted in the Autumn and now well up and bloom heads forming.

Pond activity is very busy and noisy. After a brief spot of spawn a while back, nothing more has happened, but they are certainly 'at it'

The Crows still amaze and entertain us with their antics. Yesterday it was pulling dead strands of leaves from some of the pond plants, then flying away with beak fulls for nesting. They have also taken to turning over stones from the pond and I found one today about six feet away and up on one of the feeding logs stumps. Very strange behaviour.

All in all it is shaping up nicely to get out their very soon with the 5Dmk2 and 180 macro.

Talking of gear, here is an early notification that I will be selling my Canon 300f2.8 IS L lens. It is not the current Mark 2 but the previous version. It is as sharp as a very sharp thing, and one of Canon's fastest AF response lenses. I am selling it as for my type of photography I am not using it. A check through the catalogue function on Lightroom tells me so.

It is in immaculate condition, with all the factory gear, including fancy case, and will also have a neoprene camo lens coat, plus additional lens hood. If you are seriously interested, and based in the UK only, please contact me via the comments. Leave me a contact name, number and email and we can talk. Comments are not automatically published as we moderate, so pleased be assured we will not publish your personal details. I know the price these are going for so I am just asking for what I know I will be able to get for it. So it will not be let go of wither cheaply or overpriced, as I just want the going market rate.

If you are wondering where the Focus blog report is, John has sent it across to me and I will get it published on Tuesday for you.


Saturday 10 March 2012

Nikon D800-Ordered

The Nikon D800 was announced about 5 weeks ago and all the big retailers sold their pre orders in a matter of hours, However Amazon and BH reopened their preorders with the same delivery date of March 20th, I managed to scrap the money together and just as i was about to phone around when Gary from Hunts Photo phoned me as he had seen that i was interested by a comment on one of the forums and we came to an agreement and the order for a D800 with battery grip and spare battery was placed and now i will sit and hope that in the next 2 weeks i have one in my hands, Hunts have a great reputation here in the States and i would rather deal with them than say one of the bigger dealers here, I have to say that i have ummed and arred for a couple of weeks whether i should go for the D800 or the D800E but in the end i decided to play safe and go for the plain D800, I do shoot a variety of subjects and looking at the samples on the Nikon website i think the D800 was the one for me, I also had to get my head straight that another full frame camera to go with my D3s was the right way to go as i like to have a FF and DX to cover all eventualities, The D400 will be out this year at some point and i did wonder if that may be a better bet for what i do but there is lots of rumors that it may also be FF and by the time i find out and then get one in my hands it could be 6 or more months away, Both Martin and myself have always said not to be a beta tester and rush in and get a new model-let others test it and sort the firmware out etc and i totally agree with this, However i think that Nikon have had extra time to get stuff sorted due to the tsunami etc and all the raw files that have hit the market have looked great and for the amount of megapixels look amazing, I have also kept an eye on the D4 and have looked at a lot of the Raw files from that at all ISO's and to be honest its not much of a jump if you already have a D3s and although it does look an amazing camera i will sit this upgrade out, If the D800 arrives by the end of this month i will take it away for a weeks testing and will probably go up to the Smoky Mountains for both scenics and wildlife, Fingers crossed


Friday 9 March 2012

Lightroom - A quick play

So in keeping bang up with technology, I bring you the first images on the blog processed in the just superseded Lightroom 3. As regular readers will know we are both fans of Phase One's Capture One RAW processing software.

Well I have generally shied away from Lightroom as a processing tool, and have just generally dabbled with it as a library tool. I did some processing with it in the beta test stages and was quite impressed as it was the first Adobe RAW processor that didn't make Canon 7D files in particular look worse unlike earlier versions of the Adobe RAW processing engine.

So here are a some side by side comparisons of firstly the Capture One RAW conversion with some Photoshop CS5 work to complete the cropping and sharpening functions with the second image processed in Lightroom

Images taken at Gigrin Kite feeding station in Wales in October 2010 with the 7D and 500 f4L

While there are actually very obvious differences in the processing in terms of sky colour, due to operator error on my part, I have say when lookiing at the full size images on my screen, I am very impressed with the Lightroom images.

I will do some more tesing and watch a few YouTube tutorials to improve my skills, but loking good so far.

There is a long way to go before I decide whether I will stick with full Photoshop or not. With upgrades massively cheaper than the full version, (ca.£150 v £600) it will be a brave move to bale out of future upgrades now.


Thursday 8 March 2012

Rogue Flashbender

I mentioned in a previous blog that i had purchased a Rogue Flashbender from the NC Trade show, I had not seen one before and they were not on show, For under $30 i was not expecting much as a simple plastic stofen costs around $15, So when i opened the package i was amazed at just good the quality of the product was, Its made from a thick nylon with a white interior, You can feel the quality just by picking it up, I now wish that i had bought 2, I intend to use it mainly as a snoot so that i can direct the light to the back of a fox or raccoon without the fear of light bleeing into the image but it can be bent into various shapes as there are 2 flexible 'rods' built into the back as you can see from the images so would also be great when you want to bounce some light but also fill the face, It will fit just about any speedlite/flashgun as it attaches by an elasticated band and velcro-all of which are again good quality, I can see this being taken everywhere with me as it folds flat
Here are some images to give you the idea

And with careful placement of you flashguns using a snoot you can get images like this

As a side note, With all the talk about the new Nikon D800 and D800E, The D800 not having the AA filter to give a slightly sharper image but at the cost of possibly have Moire in certain circumstances-you can actually see some moire in the images of the flashbender using the D3s which has an AA filter