Monday 30 April 2012

A Bad week for the Birds

  Monday and Tuesday were cold and miserable, Winter it seemed did not want to let go, I was surprised to see the first hummingbird of the year at the hummer feeder i had put up a few days before, It came and went all day and i managed a couple of shots, I havent seen it since that day so guess it was just passing through,
The bluebird chicks were very vocal and you could hear then way away from the nest box, the parents were busy feeding them and i managed a few shots with a remote camera, D3s with 600 and a Hahnel remote, I checked around the garden at dusk and all seemed well, the fox and deer were coming out earlier and was just dusk when i watched them, I hoped that soon they would be out in good light i.e no need for flashguns, Tuesday morning and first thing that i notice is the nesting material hanging out of the chickadees nest box and also on the ground, I checked in the box and all the chicks were dead and no sign of mum and dad, I guess a raccoon or squirrel had stuck its hand in and pulled the nesting out and with the hole blocked the parents could not get in and the chicks froze during the very cold night, I cleaned the nest box out and put it back, Wednesday night we had a huge storm with heavy winds and rain, Thursday i walked past the bluebirds nest box on my way to the bottom of the garden and it was very quiet, I watched from a distance and did not see the parents come to the nest once, that night i checked the box and there was some movement in side, Friday and still nothing until late and a male came and went, I checked the box and again some movement, Saturday and a male and female fluttered around the box as well as looking in and then going to the chickadees box, They didnt go inside but kept looking in, Today (Sunday) all the chicks are dead, I think they had been abandoned and the bluebirds on Saturday were looking for a place to nest, Very sad indeed, I had popped around to my neighbors during the week-thursday i think and she too had had her Wrens nest predated.
I had moved all my feeders down to the bottom of the garden last week and as in my last blog has made a reflection pool, I decided to give it a whirl although in the few days it had been there i had only seen 1 cardinal and a squirrel drink there, I set up with the D800 and 600 on a very dark and wet day, 10 minutes in and a Baltimore Oriole arrives and lands on the top of the feeder pole along with a catbird, Both new visitors to the garden, I think they liked the quiet and woody location, The oriole was there for a short time but the catbirds came and went regularly,It was a good session and encouraging for a new set up, We had hairy and red bellied woodpeckers, Chickadees, Cardinals,Tufted Titmouse,Catbird,oriole,cowbird and i watched a beautiful warbler in the nearby trees, I shot at ISO 800 and the D800 is very clean at that which is amazing considering the pixel level,

Baltimore Oriole
 Pesky Squirrel at the reflection pool
It was a very nice session and the Oriole was the icing on the cake, The Squirrels are a real pest and even if you chase them off within a few minutes they are back.
Friday evening and i had just put some food out for the deer and fox etc, I sat in the screened porch talking to my wife when i noticed a movement in the garden, It was the fox at 6.30pm so still a good amount of light, I grabbed the D800 and 600 which was already on the tripod and went out of the front door and sneeked along the side of the house, I put the gear down and when the fox wasnt looking i put it in position and took a shot, The fox which was a female looked straight at me then simply carried on, I ended up with over 60 images and had to increase the ISO to 1600 as the light was very low and i was shooting under 1/100, I only ended up with a couple of very sharp images that was very very pleased and hope that she come earlier next time, I could she her teets and her tummy was a bit flabby so she has some cubs somewhere close by, I hope she brings them soon,

On a non wildlife note i set the studio up and had a session with Maze, Our neighbors Cairns Terrier puppy which is as cute as a button, I used the D800 with 24-70 and the images are super sharp, A great combo

And on Saturday my wife and her team did a walk for the March of the Dimes foundation so i went along to take some shots for the team


Tuesday 24 April 2012

Nikon Battery Recall

If you have a Nikon EN-EL15 battery which fits the D800, D7000 and V1 you need to check the back as some have a problem, I have 1, The collection and replacement procedure is very easy, Go here to check


Monday 23 April 2012

A frustrating but productive week

Its been a strange week, Frustrating even, The weather has been all over the place, 85 degrees one day and 57 the next, We have had a fair amount of rain, More than half the week has been wet, I have stayed busy though and overall have made some progress for future projects, Lets start with some news

Nikon updated their budget Dslr which now sports a 24mp sensor, Now that's a lot of pixels and if you made it into a full frame sensor with the same size pixels it would certainly put the D800 in the shade, I am sure that its the same Sony sensor that they have in their A77 etc and whilst the detail looks good in the Sony it looked noisy, I wonder what magic Nikon have put on it, The samples on the Nikon website look good at low ISO, Either way that must now open the door for future D5200 and D7200 models and lets not forget the most awaited upgrade of the D300, It looks like its going to be a very busy year for Nikon, I just hope that they can keep up with demand, Most complaints on the forums are from people that cant get hold of the D800 or D4, The D800 seems to be showing any weaknesses in the lenses even the mighty 14-24 so i would think that new lenses may be coming in the future, There is a good review from a Canon photographer of the new 5D3 and D800, It shows both have good and bad points but what it really does show is just how good the Dynamic range is on the D800 sensor, Have a read here and have a good look at page 2,
DXO mark's 5D3 sensor review was published and the comparison between the 5D3 and D800 can be seen here, Obviously it only shows the sensor scores rather than the overall camera but the comments about Canon not making much progress in sensor development or words to that effect seem to hold true compared to Sony, DR actually being slightly lower than the 5D2 and IQ being similar to the 4 year old camera,
 So my week started with a trip into the woods to try for the red bellied woodpecker at the nest, I decided to try and get the bird in flight and after a couple of hours gave up, It wasn't a complete waste as i learned a lot about the birds behavior and will be back this week to give it another go, The best i got was this image, Thinking back i should have backed off and cropped the D800 image in

I also tried to shoot the chickadees at the bird box which ended in a few hours playing with flashguns which was not a waste of time and i also set up at the bluebird box remotely and this would have been successful if i had focused better!! It was mainly a testing week in many ways, I set up one night for the fox and gave up when one of the flashguns didn't flash-again my fault and the only image that i got was very under exposed, I pulled the exposure back in photoshop and although 1.5 stops under it easily came back without noise or grain and proved yet again just how good that sensor is-very impressive
My neighbor called me to say that the wrens that we found to be nesting in a large plant pot outside her back door had chicks, I popped around and shot from the car, The chicks must have just hatched and give it a week and they will be poking their heads out when being fed, I took a few shots from the car using the D800 and 600mm and had an off camera flash to the left, The parent birds were coming and  going on a regular basis and bought back a variety of bugs, One being a wolf spider that you can clearly see in the heavily cropped image here

The nest was under a small palm type plant so i had to lift the palm with some string to shoot and then lowered them afterwards to keep the nest safe, You need to be careful when shooting at the nest to make sure that predators are not notified of its presence,
Yesterday i decided to make an infinity pool to go at the end of my garden, I got the idea and inspiration from our blogging buddy Graham Goddard who wrote about making one on his blog, It only took a couple of hours and it was in place, i still have a few things to sort but as you can see in the image its pretty much ready to go, I managed to squeeze a hide into the trees and will give it a work out as soon as the birds start to use it,

So that was my week, Not overly productive photographically but lots done for the future


Sunday 22 April 2012


Weather or blogposts?  Well since most of the UK has been declared to be in drought it appears to not have stopped raining.  Our river levels in Stratford are now well up and as I type this there is an absolute deluge coming down.

On the blog, as I mentioned when I last blogged a week and a half ago we would be cutting back and so it has been a drought on that front too.  It has been quite a lift of a mental weight in some respects.  Blogging even every other day is a big time commitment and so when you dont 'have' to do it, then it is quite a lift.

I have had a successful spring sale on kit with everything that I have looked to sell going for pretty much the expected prices, except for the 7D where I have been dicked about by the winning bidder but will relist soon.

So Canon users, I have mentioned before and I can confirm my theory was true in respect of the Canon big lenses.

Both the 300f2.8 and 500f4 proved amazingly popular, judging by the number of those watching and bidding.

Having bought the lenses before Canon gave all these lenses a 20% price whack a few years ago and with the current lack of Mark2's available and no new Mark 1's left, the only option if folks need one is second hand.  I got a decent amount more than I paid for each of those lenses as I expected I would so if you are thinking about selling/making the switch to Nikon etc, now really is the time.

I learned through the process that nearly all of those that Ask to 'Buy it now' within a few hours of the item being listed are just chancers.  In each case I asked the questioner what they were prepared to offer, after they asked me what price they were prepared to offer rather than me answer their quetion.  With a single exception, they generally came back with an offer of about 50% of what I knew it would sell for, so I politely suggested that they put that on as a bid, and if it was worth that little then they would win.

The funny thing is, in every case, not a single one of these even put a bid in.

Favourite question on the camera body was what is the shutter count and was it a UK or  overseas internet sale, so if you get to sell a camera body, put that information on your listing, it will save you having to answer it later on, even if they never bid.

If selling anything over £1000 then check out the insurance cover.  Royal Mail Special delivery next day was generally my preferred delivery method, but that only insures the item for £1000.  

My 500f4, weighing in at over 20Kg once boxed with all if its gear, fell into that criteria, so I marked it for collection or buyers arranges collection.  The courier cost was almost £100 but the buyer arranged that, but depending on how far it has to go, you may want to think about putting some flexibility in your listing.

So I now find myself in a position that I have not been in for over seventeen years, and that is not having a lens longer that 200mm.  I am not sure how long that will last, but keep watching this space as to what I may or may not do when it comes to kit.  I will not be rushing into any deicisions about either the D800 or 5Dmk3.  In each case, the mantra of letting the early full price payers do the beta testing continues to be proved.

On the wildlife front, I have not been at all active but I did see my first Swallow today, which doesnt make it summer, obviously.  In the pond here, the tadpoles are progressing at a great pace.  After being slow to get off the mark, they are showing rapid growth now and it will not be too long before we start to see 'legs'.

So finally, many thanks for the kind comments of those of you who replied recently about the announcement of less blogging.  We are grateful and your kind words make the previous hard work valued to us.

Until next time


Monday 16 April 2012

Monday Blog

Its been strange not having to come up with a new blog every couple of days, I have decided that i will post a new blog every Monday, That way there should be more and better content and having a schedule to work to will keep me on my toes,
Camera wise it seems that Canon has announced that there is a genuine problem with the 5D3 and is working on a fox, Not sure if that will be a recall which i think that it may be, Either way i would think that 5D3 sales have come to a halt, People in the Nikon camp are saying that the left hand AF points are not accurate when used with a F1.4 lens wide open, I don't have any lenses that fast so cant test it, I have seen various people prove it so i am guessing that may be a real problem for Nikon if it proves to be a badly aligned sensor-The joys of a new model, I did test out to see if there were hot pixels in a long exposure which i had heard was a problem, I went to Falls lake on a hot,windy day and put on a 10 stop and 3 stop filter to get a 30 second shutter speed-No problems what so ever
No Filter

With Filters

It was very windy as you can see by the trees in this crop

Once again i have been plagued by tics, I walked about 20 feet into the woodland at the bottom of my garden and within 10 minutes i had picked 6 tics off of me, A couple of days later i went into the woods to see if i could find the fox den and when i came out i went for a bath as in the woods it was hot and steamy and there was a large tic buried into my hip, I got the tic out but a few days later there is a red bump where the tic was so time to keep an eye on it just incase, What i did find in the woods was a nice red bellied woodpeckers nest so i set up and got a few images, I think that the woodies are on eggs as they stayed in the nest for 20 minutes at a time, Give it a couple of weeks and there should be little heads poking out of the hole and i will again be back for those images

I have managed a few sessions in the night for the garden critters, The fox,deer and opossum are regulars but i haven't seen the Raccoons for a while, I sat and watched the fox feed but still not got into the position that i want so i haven't pressed the shutter, The opossum on the other hand has been quite photogenic and i have plenty of new images

All images taken with the D800, I did try the video out one evening when waiting for the fox, The deer were coming and going, The video quality is excellent and i just need to work out a way to post it
So thats me for this week


Wednesday 11 April 2012

Time for change on the Blog

On Monday January 5th 2009, Dave and I started to blog continuously. We had a few trial posts before the start of 2009, but it kicked off in earnest on that day.

We have never missed a single day, and this is the 1437th post we have made.

But 'chatting' with Dave over the weekend, we have agreed to knock back the frequency to either one per week, or one per week each.

There are a number of reasons for this.

From a purely selfish point of view, it is a big commitment of time and effort, and after 1437 posts, new material to talk about can be hard to come by on a daily basis. You have no doubt worked that out if you are regular reader.

So, like all good things, change is needed from time to time, and we have agreed that time is now.

My photographic interests and commitment have changed over the period since we started, and I am less inclined to go out on long and cold trips that I have been in the past.

With fuel prices in the UK, it is a major consideration and not inconsiderable cost to bear, particularly when this is, for me, a hobby.

I will continue with my wildlife gardening and my photographic work of my 'local' wild world and those areas of wildlife that interest me.

Dave is a good 'gear' guy and will no doubt continue to bring his view and invaluable experiences of that along with his stunning images.

So, the long and the short of it is that there will be less posting. Probably slightly longer and hopefully more 'quality' in the blog, but you will be the judge of that.

My gear sales are currently going well, and time is running out with the stuff currently listed running until Friday and Saturday. Check out my seller id of madzone19 or go to this link.

There is a great opportunity to get my Canon 500f4 L IS. You know that the new one is not available and will be a stupid price, as I have blogged about many times before, and that no dealer has any of the mark1 stock. If you want one, you will only get them through private sale. With the number watching and bidding, get in quick if you need it.

I will be back for an update, probably on Sunday with a sales and what is left to sell overview, and who knows, maybe a few pictures.


Tuesday 10 April 2012

D800 General chit chat

The D3s is sitting in the corner sulking, Its been over a week since i used it and i think the trend will continue, Its only when you get a slower camera that you realize how much high speed work you do, There will be times when the D3s will be the main camera but for what i am shooting now the D800 rules, We had some of our old neighbors around at the weekend and i offered to take a couple of portraits, I showed them the results of the images straight out of the camera on screen and it started with oh wow and then turned in my god look at my-lines/wrinkles/bags/spots/pimples/hairs/you name it, Yes the D800 takes no prisoners, the detail is amazing and anybody who does portrait work will have extra processing to do, I have just purchased Portrait Professional V10, Its a huge improvement over the old version that i used to have, Its much more subtle and the skin tones stay true unlike before, that should keep some people a little happier, PP is on special at the moment for under $40 so its a bargain,
I sat out last night in the hopes of getting some fox images, The fox did come and feed in front of me but it didn't get in the position i wanted so i ended up just watching until it left, the deer are coming out before dusk and i hoped to get some shots in daylight but they arrived as i was setting up and soon left the area,
I have bluebirds in one of my nest boxes and Chickadees in the other, I have some of the plants that i recently planted coming into bloom and they have an assortment of bees and butterflies around them which is nice, The planting continues,
The 32gb SD card for the D800 arrived yesterday so it will come in handy for my Florida trip next month-cant wait, I think the D3s will come back into its own there but we will see.
The forums are doing what forums do when a new camera is announced, One person says that they have a problems and before you know its its a major problem spread mainly by people who do not even have the camera, At the moment on the D800 its the far AF points, I have to say i haven't checked mine but i have used them and they seem fine,
Here's a shot from the weekend using the 14-24

I wonder how many Canon users have stuck their thumbs over the 5D3 viewfinder to see if the exposure changes when you turn the illumination on-pure madness but it seems to happen with every new camera, If you want a perfect camera wait for 6 months or more after the launch, If you get one of the first models then don't complain if there are glitches,The only real problem that i have with the D800 is the color of the screen and i have to admit it doesn't bother me and i am sure that it will be rectified,


Monday 9 April 2012

Big Spring Sale - Update

OK, after my last post, this afternoon and last night has seen Jacqui typing furiously as we put various bits of kits up for sale.

If you go to this link for my seller id, you will see the current sales list as it stands. There is still much more to go on there, and the big lenses are coming up later this evening. Please bid away, if you wish.

There are also number of items that I haven't put on my previous list that will also be coming up, including a number of bags, and a heavy duty Chinese copy Gitzostyle carbon fibre tripod, a Benro amongst other stuff.

Note, the 5Dmk2, Canon 180 macro, 24-70f2.8L, and 70-200f2.8 IS L are not going to be available just yet, but give it a while and they might be.


Saturday 7 April 2012

D800 general use

I took the D800 to a classic car show/shop, I was expecting it to be mainly outside but only a couple of cars turned up and the rest of the cars were in a shop, I thought that i had bought the wrong body with me as the light wasn't the best and even ISO 800 had quite a low shutter speed, So i thought what the hell, i am here now so took a variety of images from ISO 800, 1600 and even 3200, I have to say that when i downloaded them and viewed them in Breezebrowser i was taken back, Even the ISO 3200 images showed little grain and what there was was very fine grained-mighty impressed, I used the 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200 and all performed brilliantly. Here are a few images from the day, The camera was set in AV and i let the exposure sort itself out i.e comp was set to 0, Processed lightly with just a small adjustment to curves, There is no noise reduction added and i think you will see that with a small dusting of NR the ISO 3200 are more than usable, In fact even without NR they are very usable

ISO 800

ISO 1600


ISO 3200

100% crop

Obviously you can grain but i expecting much much more, The grain is very even and fine, Easily removed if needed, I don't think that i will have any hesitation in using this camera at ISO 1600, Very similar to the D7000, All the images were taken handheld which should dispel some myths about needing a tripod with this camera although i would always advise using a tripod where possible


Big Spring Sale - Canon Gear

Following on from my Thursday blog, I have taken a serious decision to have a major gear flush out and the following will be put on eBay over the next couple of days, so in keeping with previous posts, if there is anything of interest here, please get in contact with me via the comments.

Contact details will as always remain private.

List as follows;

Canon 500f4L IS (mark 1)

Canon 300f2.8L IS

Canon 300f4 L IS

Canon 17-40 f4 L

Canon 50 f 1.4

Canon 580 EX 11 flash head

Canon 1.4 x EF11 Extender

Canon 2 x EF11 Extender

Canon 7D Dslr body

Canon BGE-7 battery grip for 7D. (Will combine if sensible offer)

Canon LP-E6 Battery (for 7D or 5Dmk2)

Various bags which I will put in more detail to follow.

All lenses with original boxes, cases, bags, caps etc as appropriate. Even still have the delivery box for the 500f4L as well.


Friday 6 April 2012

D800 studio test

They say that the D800 is primarily a landscape and studio camera so i set up a couple of studio lights and again Alfie was the unfortunate model as he is cheap and my wife said that she wont let me shoot her with the D800 after seeing some images on the web where you can see every bump,pimple and hair, It was a quick test and really i was getting ready as my neighbor has a new cairns terrier puppy that i will soon be shooting, I set the lights up using a hand held light meter and set them to 1/125@F11, The aperture at F11 puts me into diffraction territory as the D800 has so many pixels that after F8 the image will soften slightly as you stop down, I thought that i would start with F11 and see how good or bad the image would look as a dog as a longish face and i didn't want a blurry nose and its quite a nice aperture to use outside for landscape work, As you can see the D800 really is at home in the studio, The files are beautiful and the images has plenty of sharpness and detail

This image is cropped by 25% from the original

And this crop is 100% of the cropped image above

Alfie soon showed that he was bored and so we stopped the session

And a couple of 100% crops of the above image showing the detail

So the D800 passes the studio test with flying colors which was hardly surprising, Now if the weather brightens up i will see if i can get some macro images


Thursday 5 April 2012

For Sale - Canon 300 f2.8 IS L Super Prime Lens

I have finally made up my mind to sell my 300f2.8 IS L lens. It is the mark 1 version, not the latest and very very expensive mark2.

The lens is a stunning piece of kit.

Unbelievably sharp, great IQ - contrast, colour etc, and ridiculously fast to focus.

There is a picture of it here, complete with neoprene lens protection. This has meant that it is in pristine condition, and has had very little use, and never in cruddy weather

It will be available with all standard accessories, include the fancy big make up case in comes in, lens hood and cover, manual and the extra lens coat.

I recently saw a really ratty tatty version go for just over £2700 on eBay, so I am looking for offers higher than £3K. Yes, it is a lot, but it is a lot of lens, they are rare-ish beasties, and not easy to get hold of from Canon, in any form.

So if you are interested, and I mean seriously interested, please contact me, with your contact details via the comments. We will NOT publish so don't worry about that.

It will go on eBay, probably this weekend, but I wanted to give our loyal and discerning readers first shout. Only UK delivery - sorry to non UK-ers.

If you want to know more, or see pictures either from it, although that wont tell you much, or of it in detail, please contact me


Wednesday 4 April 2012

Nikon D800 field test

Yesterday i took the D800 to a lake in Raleigh that i have been to many times, The birds here are used to people and do not fly off when you get within a hundred yards like they do elsewhere here, Its a great place to test equipment and a good place to teach people how to use their cameras and walk away with some results, I haven't been there for a while but as its a popular place for joggers and walkers nothing had changed in the behavior of the birds, One thing that was noticeable was the amount of kingfishers, I watched a group of 3 fly past followed by 2 more,
I used the 600 tripod mounted and without any extenders as i wanted to test the AF and not have any variables, One thing i will say is that i still haven't had time to check for calibration so until that's done you really cant do proper tests but the images seemed pretty good, I arrived mid afternoon and stayed for a few hours to allow the sun to sink somewhat and get better lighting, I wanted to get some birds in flight and although there were a lot of geese none of them wanted to get airborne although i did get some mallards in flight and against a very busy background, I will say that the AF performed very well against the background even when the birds were small in the frame,
I had the camera set to AF-C or continuous and 9 point AF, The 4 FPS really showed how slow the camera is for this type of shooting and if you do birds in flight and do not have another camera the D800 is not the best choice, Saying that it worked well and as long as you took your time and only shot when the time was right the results were good.
The heron there was a very obliging and a few times came so close that i just got a head shot, It was a very skilled fisherman as well and caught fish in rapid succession and some were pretty big,

Sad to say that the top image isnt as sharp on the birds head as i would have liked and it was the best shot of the day but that was my mistake,
The AF felt a bit faster than my D3s certainly in acquiring focus, At one point i turned around and the heron was flying towards me, i quickly swing the rig around and managed 17 images of it in flight and all were sharp
Heres the first image

And here is the last

And a 100% crop

One thing with the D800 is that you have to careful with whites as it seems that exposures are on the light side compared to the D3s
Busy background were not a problem as this image shows, its a big crop and the birds were very small in the frame

I also shot some birds at distance to see how well cropping held up as i think alot of people will shoot this way and it was fine

The images are full of detail when zoomed in on a computer screen or even on the camera screen which is very good-apart from the greenish cast i mentioned last time.

Crop of above image

On the way back to the car i noticed some birds bathing in a small stream so i stopped and grabbed some images

Crop of above

I think i was there around 2 hours and the weather was a bit on the bright side but as this was just a test session i think it went ok, The D800 gives great files and has amazing detail even when cropping close, The files come out at around 103MB in an 8bit tiff so even cutting them in half gives more than a D3s file uncropped
All images were shot at F5.6 so that diffraction did not come into play, I now need to order some cards, I do have a 32GB Cf card so i will get a 32GB SD to compliment it, I put a 4GB card in and it showed 50 images-not much more than the old roll of film, The upgrade in PC last year was worth the money as it opened the files very quickly and worked through CS5 without problem