Sunday, 10 December 2017

Longships lighthouse

Peter Tonkin and I arrived at Lands End as the sun came up this morning,  We were there looking for pictures of the Longships Lighthouse as a storm passed through at high tide,  The Longships are around a mile and a half offshore from Lands End the most westerly point in England  { As shown in the image below } They take quite a bashing from incoming Atlantic storms and high seas and can create dramatic storm images such as the one posted above,

The weather forecast had suggested that we might get a clear patch in the storm clouds between Eight and Ten Am but breaks in the cloud for the sun to shine through were few and far between so even though we had the wind and waves  to create many pictures like the second one below they lack the colour, contrast and impact that the morning sunshine can bring to the Longships.

At around 9.30am a break in the cloud gave us ten minutes of unbroken sunshine before the wind gusted strongly bringing with it horizontal rain and rainbows but ten minutes of sunshine had been long enough for us to capture images like the Lead in image and the one below,

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Garden visitors today

Apart from my early visit to Marazion marsh this morning the wet weather put the damper on visiting any other locations through the day, I settled down to producing this years crop of Xmas cards in my study but my wife kept coming in to inform me that she had spotted  a 'This or That' bird somewhere in the garden and perhaps I should snap it,  So I did and the images below represent some of the sixteen species that I snapped away at as the day progressed,  The male and female Bullfinch are the first ones sighted in our garden in seven years of living here but the female Blackcap has to be my favourite and takes the first and last slot in the portfolio below and yes I have just finished the Xmas cards somewhat later than intended.

Portraits of Big birds

Big birds give us the opportunity to work from a distance and some locations such as the Reserve at Marazion marsh tend to demand it with the distance from the road boundary to the waterline being a challenge to all but the finest lenses that Canon and Nikon produce, Working with  500mm lens fitted with a 1.7 converter to achieve a focal length of 850mm produces the opportunity to reduce distance without losing to much quality.  Working from a good strong tripod fitted with a gimble head allows for flexibility of movement for subject location while controlling vibration the ever present enemy of long focal length lenses.    Long lenses also give us the opportunity from a distance to regain details of behaviour, action and reflections to enhance portrait photography without disturbing wild subjects such as the ones below that grace Marazion Marsh on a daily basis

Friday, 8 December 2017

Close portraits of small birds

Wildlife photography has its share of challenges and when it comes to taking close portraits of small birds they will drive you crazy as they always seem to move on just as you get a clear view focused but before you can the shot !    My approach is to work from a reasonable distance without chasing after the subject using a 500mm  F4 lens and a 1.7 converter to achieve a focal length of 850 mm which will work down to a minimum focal distance of 3.5m, This will record the likes of the Blue Tits below full frame,  With a heavy camera and lens I do not consider hand holding for anything more than an ID shot,  I always work from a tripod with a gimble head that allows freedom of movement, critical composition and point of focus while taking the weight of the equipment for the duration of time that any one small bird might present itself at a close enough distance for a successful portrait,  I often find by being static that many birds will keep on moving towards me rather than chasing tails while on the move, sometimes they even end up closer than the minimum focal range but this should not matter for they do as you will already have had the opportunity to take your full frame image before they move out of focal range.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Millpool Squirrel and Pheasant

I tried my luck with the Millpool Kingfisher pm today,  No joy but as I was waiting a feisty little grey Squirrel arrived in a close Sycamore tree and began foraging on its seed heads,  It was interesting to watch its behaviour for then it had filled its cheeks with seed heads it descended the tree and buried the seeds within long grasses at the base of the tree and was straight back up for some more gradually moving outwards onto very thin branches as the nearer seeds were exhausted,  I looked at my camera on its tripod that was locked onto a vacant kingfisher post and swung it into action on the Squirrel that kept me busy for a very pleasant half an hour or so

As I walked back towards the main road where my car was parked I first heard and the saw a noisy Gaggle of four Male Pheasant fly into the field that I was passing, They landed on the far hedgerow which was a bit of a stretch for my lens but one of them split from the group and moved closer to me while foraging within the field stubble  and to complete the show the sun came out for the first time this week,  Excellent !

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Using montaged images to display bird behaviour

It was another very grey day here in Cornwall which didn't really help the theme for today's  blog which was to produce close sequences of birds in flight to compile as a montage to show details of movement that are not demonstrated in single stills images,  Due to the light levels all of today's images were taken on ISO 6400 which the Nikon D5 copes with very well,   Maximum apertures of F4 to F 6.7 were used to gain as much light as possible through a 500mm lens both with and without tele-converters fitted,  These settings allowed for shutter speeds of between 1/800th and 1600th Sec depending on converters used so that speed would freeze the movement of the birds in flight,  I spent around five hours this morning working on two sequences of images and was pleased with the final montage of a landing Great Spotted Woodpecker posted below,

So what is wrong with sticking with traditional individual well composed portrait images of any given subject such as the three Chaffinch posted below, Absolutely Nothing !!  and it is the norm in most peoples photography but if you are taking multiple images at the rate of up to10 or 12 frames a second to achieve those flight shots then why not consider merging a few to gain that feeling of movement and behaviour that as opposed to a fleeting moment in film or video can be appreciated within one single finished montage for as long as the image holds your interest,

The above Montage has been produced from the previous three single stills images which I was happy with in their own right and I love the way that all of the background colours are echoed within the birds plumage but I enjoy taking images in a manner which allows for this sort of Photoshop creativity to re-produce that feeling of movement in my subject

I would be pleased to receive viewers comments with regards to working in this manner  !!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

A Mix of new and old subjects

Today was a mixture of new and old subjects at Stithians southern cut-off Hide, I did some flight and reflection shots on the local pair of Magpie but in the end I used a perched image from one of their rare visits onto the feeder frames,  One of the old favourite a Grey Heron showed good reflections as it fished in front of the hide,  A bold little chiffchaff came within and pasted the minimum focal distance of my lens at 3.5m and I tried for flight shots on the regular squadron of Long-tailed Tits,  Later in the morning I moved closer to home at Marazion marsh and was surprised to see a guy that had no concept of the reserve or its sign posts as he was walking along the waterline of the Rabbit warren 50m inside the reserve sending birds scattering in all directions,  When challenged he just said ' Look at all the birds flying' and walked off along the causeway presumable  Brain Dead !!   Well I did look at all the birds flying and took a few images of a tight flight formation of around a hundred teal catching about thirty of them within my 500mm lens field of view before they all finally settled down again.  Its an ill wind that brings no man good.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Stithians today

The Kingfisher put in a good show at Stithians southern cut-off today but at around 150 metres to the trees that it fishes from is a big ask for any camera and telephoto lens especially in the prevailing low light levels but we watched it fish several times so I had a go at putting a water exit  sequence montage together, No fish caught here but it is always good to see the Kingfisher in action

Snipe are one of natures masters of disguise and without a telephoto lens and a fair bit of Photoshop control you would not know that these lovely birds were in residence.

The Lapwing were the star performers today coming closer to the hide than I have seen them before,  It is perhaps a shame that we had no sunshine to bring out their iridescent wing colours but there was plenty of movement and reflections .

A distant shot {200 to 300m}  of a male Manderin duck that seemed to have paled up with a male Mallard was my parting shot of the day, It will probably prove worthy of a bit more attention when and if it comes closer to the hide