Light, and the Edit

Last night, I went out and was able to take some photographs of Tawny Owls.  Sat there, in the dark, unable to speak for fear of scaring them away, low whispers and pitch black in the hide, staring at the pole on which we hoped they’d land – before moving across the area where a couple of flash guns were set up, to land on the target.

I’d envisaged what I wanted – the subtle background of trees in the dusk – the owl in flight moving across the glade on silent wings – me with the remote clutched in my hot hands – staring at that first pole, as the light fell, and fell – a tiny light illuminating the top of that first pole so I’d be able to make out the owl as she landed. The strain of the eye – was that a landed owl, or was I imagining things?

The picture was in my mind – but the reality was twofold.

  1. The owl landed on the second pole straight away – took the bait and cleared off.
  2. The owl went straight for the food and didn’t land on anything.
  3. (OK, threefold then), the owl landed on the first pole, flew to the second as planned, but did it not in a straight line, but in a curve, and so was too small in the frame.

It’s so frustrating – nature at its very best, I love it.

Then the conversation later about how to tackle the low light, the bird, and the background.  One point of view was to keep everything as dark as possible, as tawny owls hunt at night (unlike barn owls which I see fairly frequently in daylight hours). On the other hand, they do hunt at dusk, so some background would be inevitable.

Shooting with flash (and that’s the only way to illuminate the bird), means the background is black anyway.  So what’s the answer.  Maybe a second light on the background permanently, so as to illuminate both things at the same time……… or

Two images, one of the background with a longer exposure, but still dim, and the second of the bird, in flight, or stationary on its post.

OK, well the downside to this is that I can’t use a composite image in a nature competition.  The rules generally say I can’t do this, so back to plan A.

The reality of things like this, is you have to take an image to please yourself, and not for the competition. If you like it, then that’s all there is to it – but in the meantime – here’s a couple of owl images that I like, and you can work out for yourselves how I did it…..

 

Garden Birds

This is just a short piece to talk about the setting up of a garden bird hide at my home.

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I had recently been to a hide out in the Lincolnshire Wolds, and having examined the set up there, decided that I’d have a go at home.  It’s taken a bit of sorting out, but the results are starting to come in.

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It took a while for the birds to decide that they ‘liked’ where I’d put the new feeder, and that they trusted the perches I was putting out for them.

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So far, I’ve had the usual suspects creeping in – Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Coal Tit, Starlings – and the usual crop of Wood Pigeons.  Collard Dove is around but not had them on the table yet.  I’ve seen other finches and I’d love it for Woodpeckers to arrive.  Most years I get a cuckoo in the garden – and it would be amazing to get a shot of one of those.

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Fingers crossed.

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All images were taken with the Fuji X-T3 and the 100-400 lens.  The latter two with a 1.4 extender @f8

The FujiFilm X-T3

Just over two years ago, I started to move over to the Fuji camera system.  At the time, it was with regret that I sold my beloved Canon 1D MK4, and some lens.  I bought the Fuji X-T2, and a 23mm f2 lens, and promptly went on holiday with it.

I could not believe the results from such a small camera – I’d done my research, and quizzed people who already used the Fuji system, and trusted those whom I had asked.  They had assured me I would be happy.

I’ve been a Canon girl my entire photographic life.  The first one I bought was the 350D, and after that a range of their cameras, and lens.  So a switch to a completely new system was a bit of a culture shock.

Once you get over the problem of sorting your way through a completely alien menu though – and realise that everything the Canon did, this does (and in some cases does it better), then you’re away.

Last year, Fuji brought out the X-T3 – and whilst I’m not one for upgrading for the sake of it – I decided that I’d go for it.  I had Canon stuff still to sell, and it sold really easily.  So with an upgrade trade in price from Fuji, and a great price for the X-T2 from the local camera shop, and cashback on a new lens, also from Fuji – the deal was done.

So, how am I getting on?

Well, it’s about image quality, and to be honest it is stunning.  I’ve worked this camera much harder than the X-T2, shooting sport and wildlife.  I’ve also had it in the studio, and shot some portraits.

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There’s a massive amount of detail.

With the X-T3 there are even larger files (the downside is I need more storage), and you do need a fair amount of processing power to move these through quickly. Detail and quality are excellent, and the ever increasing range of Fuji Lens, gives the shooter more and more options.

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This hare was on the other side of a field.  Taken with the 100-400 lens, and cropped in.  I’ve not lost any detail, and the image is still tack sharp.

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Catching small birds means getting the shutter speed up, but using the electronic shutter means I can access a much faster frame rate, and get exactly the shot I want.  Plus it’s a silent shutter.  No more spooking the birds.

_DSF1819I’ve read a lot about ‘worms’ within the xTrans sensor that the Fuji has.  I’ve also read that Adobe Lightroom makes the problem worse.  To be honest I just can’t see it.   I have sharpened the Fuji files in Lightroom, in the same way I did with the Canon.  There’s no difference.  They sharpen up just great – and a bit is always needed as I shoot in RAW.

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The end result is what matters, and it seems to me that whatever I do with this camera, the results are going to be brilliant.

So to those who are ‘sitting on the fence’, don’t wait any longer.  I can thoroughly recommend the Fuji system – and in case you’re wondering – no, I’m not getting paid for this – it’s just my thoughts and my impressions of a system.

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Enjoy your photography, whatever you use………

Bird Photography

It’s been a while since I got out and sat in a bird hide – but finally I’ve been able to manage a half day – well actually not even a full half day – really just a few hours.

Bluetit-1Having said that – it was frustrating to travel down to my favourite hide, as the Christmas traffic was terrible.   Arriving though was a great relief, and the pools and hides were as fantastic as I remember them – it seems a long time, but in reality it’s only been about 2 months.  The birds were co-operative, and it was good to watch as well as photograph them.

I was most impressed by the Great Spotted Woodpecker, a youngster turned up a couple of times whilst I was there, and didn’t even immediately fly off when I came out of the hide.  He was full of confidence, and so handsome.

DSED8263There are around 140,000 breeding pairs of woodpeckers in the UK, though I don’t see them very often, and this one was a delight.

The cold of the day, and the knowledge that I had an appointment in the evening, and ‘work’ to do eventually made me leave, though reluctantly.  Hoping to return between Christmas and the New Year.  Already I can’t wait….

A Summer of Dragons

This week I was out walking with the dogs, and noticed a good number of Damsel and Dragonflies.  By Friday I had a bit of time, and decided to go hunting Dragons…. The majority I saw were Brown Hawkers…

Brown HawkerThe Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) is a large dragonfly about 73 millimetres (2.9 in) long. It is a distinctive species and is easily recognised, even in flight, by its brown body and bronze wings. At rest, blue spots on the second and third segments of the male’s abdomen can be noticed; these are absent in female.

It is widespread in England but commonest in the South East; local in Ireland and rare in Scotland. It is found on well-vegetated ponds, lakes and canals. It patrols a regular hunting territory around margins which is vigorously defended against intruders.

The flight time is mainly July to September. The nymph has stripes on the side of the thorax and distinct banding on the legs. (Text from Wikipedia)

Brown HawkerYou can get more information from the British Dragonfly Society
http://www.british-dragonflies.org.uk/

Martin Mere, and the Ruff

It’s been a while since I got out to shoot birds, and nothing else… this last weekend we made a trip out to Martin Mere – we’ve not been there for a long time, and it was good to meet up with some friends, including some I’d spoken to on Facebook, but never actually met.  Although the day was a bit overcast, the light was nice in the morning.
We spent a good part of the morning in the SwanLink hide, and the Ruff showed particularly well.

The ruff is a medium-sized wading bird. It has a long neck, a small head, a rather short slightly droopy bill and medium-long orange or reddish leg. In flight it shows a faint wing-stripe and oval white patches either side of the tail. It breeds in a very few lowland sites in eastern England, and it appears that numbers are dropping. It is a migrant but in the UK some birds are present all year round. Many young birds from Scandinavia visit the UK in late summer, then migrating on to Africa.

Overview – Information from RSPB

Latin name

Philomachus pugnax

Family

Sandpipers and allies (Scolopacidae)

Where to see them

Best looked for on passage in spring and autumn in suitable habitat, particularly on the east and south coasts of the UK. Some birds overwinter, generally near the coast. Try some of the RSPB coastal wetland reserves, where there are lagoons, such as Titchwell, Norfolk.

When to see them

All year round

What they eat

Insects, larvae, frogs, small fish, seeds

Population

Europe UK breeding* UK wintering* UK passage*
37 males 800 birds

Mammals

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend a small mammal workshop – and we were treated to an array of harvest mice, hedgehogs, mink, and voles.  It was lovely to shoot a hedgehog (which usually are in hibernation at this time of year).  The hog was ‘borrowed’ from a local rescue centre, and is due for release this spring.  It was good and round, and fat – a great stage for a hungry animal.

The Harvest Mice were tiny, cute as a button, and jet propelled fast – the hit rate was low, but when we got shots, they were fabulous.

DV7B8198 DV7B8293 DV7B8301 DV7B8539 Hedgehog

The 2012 Rut

Every year I try to get pictures of the stag rut – and every year, I come back with super images of deer, but not of them fighting.  I dream of seeing two huge stags scrapping away, preferably on the brow of a hill, with a dramatic sunset going on behind them; and one of these years I’m going to get my dream shot.

In the meantime, I’m plodding all over the place to get the best I can, and this week, although I didn’t get them fighting, I did get shots of Fallow Deer Calf born this summer – looking like Bambi…

In Britain, the Red deer rut peaks in October, though does usually kick off in September. The male Red deer are fighting for supremacy, to allow them to control and mate with the largest harem. The best time to see the rut is, as with most wildlife spectacles, early morning and evening, but don’t get too close as the males can be very aggressive at this time of year.

The fallow deer rut peaks a week or two later than the Red deer, but is also definitely worth a watch. Fallow deer can be found in most counties in England and Wales, and there are large populations in pockets spread across Scotland. Young fallow start breeding when they are about 18 months old. The mating season, or rut, starts in late September and peaks in mid October. Usually, the doe gives birth to a single fawn between late May – mid June. The fawn is weaned by October.

Back to Birding

It’s been a long while since my last post – we’ve had such a lot going on here, with some good and some bad stuff.  I’ve carried on working, but not done much photography for myself.  Last week though, a big effort was made, and I headed over to a bird hide, and sat there for a good few hours contemplating nature, the world, and chatting with friends.

It was a great morning to be out – soft light, loads of birds, and some splendid shots….

Loved this chap for the aggression he was showing… get out of my territory !  So small yet so feisty.

Good to see a Nutthatch make an appearance too

And a woodpecker….. all in all a great day out….