Friday, 29 July 2016

Soldiering On

I now have to admit that my previous post was a little down beat, off base, or even pessimistic regarding the Nikon D500, and after using it on numerous subjects, and at several distances, all i can say is WOW,,, and after a lull of 3 or 4 years, i'm finally enjoying my photography again. This camera is a bl**dy knockout,, and i'm 'hard to please'.
   Like its Canon equivilent,, the 7D Mk 2,,,, it doesn't like a X2 converter between it and a lens, but fear not, because with a X1.4 converter it works fine,,, and the better quality shines through, making shots very cropable. I'm not a Canon knocker, because they make the best 100-400mm on the market, and Nikon have nothing comparable, however the quality of the D500 is amazing. This was taken with a 300mm f2.8, plus a 1.4 conv. and as all of my contacts in Dorset know this shot was taken from the west path at Loddy, and features the tern perches,,, not that close.
The D500 astounded me at that distance, but there was another surprise, as i investigated the button designation features. This resulted in my finding of the three fingered focusing technique called 'pinch'. Pinch focusing is fast becoming a natural reaction in my bird shooting, and is an addition to the 'back button' focusing option, which incorporates the middle finger, as well as the thumb and forefinger. Its not difficult with practice, and i've found it a great asset with bird togging. Just a few shots i would probably have missed without the 'pinch'

The Pinch.
I'm not the greatest flying bird togger of all time, so i need all the help i can get, and this technique on the Nikon D500 definitely helped me.
  I picked the 'pinch' focusing technique up on the internet, and i think,,,,, although i'm not completely sure, that it might only be possible on a Nikon D500 or D5.
  What you have to do is program the preview button at the front of the camera to give you a certain focusing mode when pressed, this brings the middle finger into play.
The focusing mode i have chosen to put under this button is 'group area', and it means that you can slip very quickly between 'group area' and 'centre spot', which is on the back button as normal. The thing is you can do this without taking the camera from your eye, and in the middle of shooting.
As Nikon users know 'group area' is a great asset in the initial lock, as it covers a greater area than 'centre spot', and this is the 'pinch',,,, when the thumb on the back button is pressed at the same time as the middle finger on the preview button, and the shutter button comes into play when you want to take the shots. Its a three fingered,,, as opposed to a two fingered shooting technique. If you press all three you're shooting in 'group area', if you lift the middle finger you're just on the back button and 'centre spot'.
Its a bit hard to explain, but it don't half help when shooting action to be able to switch instantly between the two focusing modes.
On the D500 you can put any focusing mode under the preview button, but i haven't been able to do it on the D810 or on the D7200.
  Of course i am a Nikon shooter, and i've little idea about the abilities of other makes. Not seen a suitable button on a Canon, but on a Sony, it might be possible. Enjoy your togging!
PS,, this is the preview button, which when re-configured for 'group area' focusing, will be under your middle finger.

Friday, 15 July 2016

The Great Nikon Catch-up

Well at last,,,,, if it had been oxygen for a fish,,, the fish would have been floating on the surface, five or six years ago. The Nikon D500 DX format wildlife camera body,,, jumping from D300s has finally arrived. People have died waiting in the meantime... :-(  Obviously the 'young' Nikon 'get ahead,, go ahead,, jump ahead,,, bound ahead',, marketing team has got the last 5 years completely wrong. Us amateur wildlifers don't want full frame cameras. Landscapers yes,, portraitists yes,,, fashion togs yes,,, but not me/us. The rise in wildlife photography interest globally having passed them by completely,,, but then the young 'get a head, go ahead',,,, blah blah blah,,, as a group,, can see no farther than the next sexual encounter., and i was no different at their age,,, which is far too young to grasp that its old buggers like me that like wildlife,,, and old buggers that buy high end cameras,,, am i being ageist? While i have been waiting for the D500, that which i had no idea when or 'if' it would ever get here, i've bought 2 cameras more than i would have bought, had the 'leap ahead, go ahead' Nikon team got their act together earlier,,, and so i suppose that really makes them marketing geniuses. I now have the new Nikon D500, the D810, and the D7200, and while you can take brilliant pics with them all, the D500 is far and away the best for birds, and wildlife at distance IMHO,,, some will no doubt disagree.
   So what have we got, after waiting all those years,,, not a lot... LOL!  Loads of speed,,, yes 10fps. A few more megapixels,, yes. However the issues we always wanted a solution to are still there,,,, bloody awful noise, at anything above 2000 ISO,,, crop dependent, of course, and applying to most current DSLRs. Autofocus is a bit better than it was 6 years ago. Most of the new autofocus features are unsuitable for what i do, with the centre spot, and group area being far the most reliable for wildlife,,,,, and you can muck about with the fine tuning if you wish,,, if you think it will help,, and it probably will, if you use any sort of teleconverter. I didn't want a touch screen that tilted, and probably won't use the movie capability. Are there really wildlife movie cameramen out there that think,,, i must get a D500? Doubt it! Is Simon King, when he's out in the African bush filming lions, wishing that he could get his hands on a new D500? NO! Its a gimic,,, and if i get into that, i'll probably have to spend thousands on movie camera equipment,,, ever felt manipulated?
     I think the wildlife market is wide open to the mirrorless manufacturers , if they want it, and can get a range of long lenses built quickly. So its wait and see,,, as far as i'm concerned. As regards wildlife, the next five years will probably be an open playground for some stunning development, and maybe the main players now,, will have to review their plans drastically to keep up.
    However,, soldier on do your best with what you've got, as there are no miracles with the new breed DSLRs. C'mon Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, and the rest,,, bird, and wildlife  toggers are waiting for you to astound us with science.
D500 is probably the best wildlife camera i've ever owned, but i've only owned Nikons. This distant, low contrast flight shot, held focus well for about 10 frames,,, i think its a Curlew.

Taken with a 300mm f2.8, plus X 1.4 conv. A combo that i haven't micro adjusted as yet. Right i've had my moan, now i suppose i'll have to buckle down and try and use the out-dated rubbish.

Monday, 30 May 2016

The Transition

Well,,, i'm slowly weaning myself off of birds, and onto insects again. It has been a 'wrench', but as our birds become quite tatty with the work of breeding and nesting,, so they become less appealing to my lens. Of course,, one has to be flexible,, and after a few weeks,, i succumbed to my urges,,and went after the Portland Great-spotted Cuckoo'. The pictures were a bit naff, because of my lens to camera, to X2 converter micro adjustment problems.

But thankfully a few of these shots were focused properly, and i hope that this problem is now resolved.
    After having a few seasons of 'birds in winter, and insects in summer' i'm now trying to avoid getting the 'same old', 'same old' shots every year. This involves getting different angles, more action, and maybe might involve getting closer than i have in the past.
    Although birds and insects represent different challenges, i probably will be mixing them up during this summer, and will be going for both over the coming weeks. As usual my best shots will always be on Flickr, but i hope to make the Blog interesting too.
    The Terns are now in at Loddy, and if any togs want a challenge, then getting a shot of one in flight is great practice,,, saying that,,, about one in a hundred of mine are viable. I call the shot below 'The Kiss'.

Leaving birds behind for an while,, the insects were slow to start this year. I blame it all on climate change of course. My garden now needs cosseting well into April, and i believe the seasons are shifting,,, look at all the polythene on the fields now,,, the farmers are having a problem too, the Spring is happening later.
    I had a bit of a problem with the Green Hairstreaks this season,,, i couldn't find a fresh one, although that has been rectified in the last week, when Dennis and myself came across some in prime condition.
Loads of Dragons and Damsels appearing now, around ponds and rivers all around Dorset. If you like to photograph Demoiselles, then i reckon go to Fiddleford Mill,,, where both the 'Beautiful' and the 'Banded' are to be found,, although the 'Beautiful' are in less abundance.

We had our first Keeled Skimmers, and Broad-bodied Chasers at Kilwood yesterday,,, not fabulous shots by myself, but good records.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Slow Start

I dunno why, but i feel that this Spring is having a slow start,,, but then all of us want it to come quicker than it actually does. Birders,, waiting for those arrivals from the south, and insect lovers waiting for the weather to warm. The Sand lizards are colouring up nicely on the Dorset heathland, and mating, and fights will soon be happening. Myself,,,, i've been having camera issues, mostly with camera/lens/converter combinations of various sorts. Its part of the hobby, and i just tend to use what works, and dismiss what doesn't. I can't see that fiddling for hours with autofocus micro-adjustments does any good at all,,, if it don't work it don't work,,, so bin it,,, that's my dictum. The latest flush of high megapixel cameras do seem fussier in this respect than models of years gone by. The way i look at it is,,,, its not my problem,,,, its the manufacturers. So onwards and upwards with the combos that do work :-]]
   Looked at a well known Dorset birders blog on Tuesday,,(fatal for a togger),,, loads of interesting stuff seen at Loddy... Committed myself on Wednesday,,,,  all moved on of course. So quiet,,, it was almost barren.
    Just a couple from a poor day :-

Loads of toggers still giving our favourite Hoopoe a visit on Portland. Seems to be a very confiding bird, even tho' we did struggle with 'distance' when it first arrived.
I gave it two attempts,,, failed to get very close, and decided to leave it be. Since then its warmed to the companionship of humans and dogs alike. Best of luck to it,,, hope it breeds in England.
    I did get a few more shots of other species in the past week, but most were flawed in some way, and i don't want to inflict that on you all.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016


Certainly livening up now, birdsong everywhere. Great to be woken by the dawn chorus in full swing at 5am. We've been skulking around on the heath a bit recently, trying to sneak up on Dartford Warblers and Yellowhammers. Quite successful with the former, but struggling somewhat with Yellowhammers this season. The ones we have located, have been very wary, and have kept at range so great shots not really possible.

Back down to Loddy, and a lot of Willow Warbler action going on in the lanes recently. Me and my sidekick Den had some good sport trying to get shots of them in the willows, with mixed results.
A rare visit from a Slavonian Grebe on the reserve recently. They usually stay out in Portland Harbour or in Weymouth bay. It looked a bit tatty and knackered, and stayed to feed up for a while.

So lots of spring migrants arriving here knackered, and some not so knackered. Either way there should be some shots to be had out there. Methinks Portland might be good for a few weeks now. Good luck in your efforts.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Gloom Lifts and Togging Begins

Been a great few recent weeks for me. I've mostly been split between RSPB Radipole Lake, and Loddy. With a detour over to Portesham, and a trip to West Dorset. These are some shots i've taken recently.
Radipole first:

The trip down to Lyme Regis was a great experience, and i was chuffed to get Chris on the birds again. He's been a great inspiration in the past, and likewise my regular buddy Dennis. We did quite well on the day.
The little gem that turned up at Portesham has been a major attraction this winter... Pallas's Leaf Warbler in Dorset,,,,, amazing.

And what with the Spoons at Loddy, and a few other visitors. Life is picking up, after the dull days,,, and spring is in the air.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Harry, Spoons and the Skins

Had some great days in Weymouth recently. A big thrill to photograph Siskins away from human feeders,, its how they cope when we're not there :-]]

Some great moments at Radipole with the Marsh Harriers too,, i can guess why crows mob predators, but they don't give them a minute's peace at Radipole, and i can't think that these hawks bother crows that much, but it is no doubt inbuilt behaviour developed over thousands of years. Too many crows there anyway IMHO, but hey ho,,, tiz nature.

The Spoonbills have landed at Loddy again, and a couple look pretty good in their spring colours, although, they do appear quite dirty plumage-wise. Four there this morning!
Clocking off,,,, i wish you some great bird shots.