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