Friday, 21 April 2017

Two Days in Kite Country, and back to the Local Raptors

Last month i left Dorset :-[ .. For the first time since my Devon trip to tog Cirl Buntings, i risked breakdown, home sickness, and constipation just for the chance of a shot of the Welsh Red Kites. In spite of these many misgivings, i was sort of looking forward to seeing these magnificent birds in their homeland. Needless to say, the trip was fraught with unfortunate incident, as is always the case when i cross borders. The first one being, when i got into the wrong lane on the Severn Bridge,,, nuff said, but the signage was very poor there, and got worse as i pushed ever deeper into the land of the dragon.
After hours of driving we arrived at the feeding station at Llanddeusant, which i feel compelled to recommend to Kite toggers, because of the ample elbow room (about a dozen people), the low entry price, and the 'stay as long as you like' greeting i received upon paying. It seemed to be run by a diversifying farmer and his partner, who marched out during the brightest period of the dark, dismal day, and chucked a bucketful of chicken portions about.
The display was spectacular, and the togging challenging in the poor light, but i managed to come away with two or three hundred shots,, some of which were reasonable. Minutes later the skies got even darker, and the rain set in,,, for the next two days. On the day i had planned to search for Choughs, the rain was horizontal, coupled with swirling fog, and gusts. The ten to fifteen minutes with the Red Kites proved to be the highlight of the trip, and on the third day i was glad to point the old bus at Dorset, and beat a hasty retreat from the Welsh hills. Skillfully avoiding the bridge on the way home, we called in at Slimbridge for a look, but my heart wasn't in it, and the sphincter was pleading with me to please cross the border into Dorset. I don't travel well.

On my return to the mother county, i spent a couple of mornings at RSPB Radipole Lake, Weymouth, where they have constructed a new viewing screen between two of the northern scrapes. At first i thought that this would get me nice and close to the resident Marsh Harriers, at a time when the males are display flying, and pair bonding. It seems tho' that the birds in question have a set distance that they feel comfortable with, and i've not, as yet been able to get much better shots, than i was getting from the viewing point that is set further south, or from Radipole Park Drive.

Now that the spring migration is in full swing, i'm experiencing the usual equipment niggles. My 300mm f4 VR is making horrible noises that are still under investigation, and a flies leg has appeared on the D7200s sensor. On the bright side, my sphincter has settled down again, after the Wales foray. All have a brilliant spring,,, i'm getting the urge to take some bluebell landscapes.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

D7200 and 200-500mm Dull Weather Test

All shots taken at the full 500mm, and at iso 1600, and wide open at f5.6. I reckon the results are amazing. It seems like a marriage made in heaven, because in fine weather the results should be much better.
Above @ 15ft
Above @ 25ft
Above@ 35ft
Above @ 25ft
 Above @ 75ft
Above @ 70ft

Note: The same +12 increment of autofocus micro-adjust was applied. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Nikon 200-500 lens Tweaks on a D810

I'm not really big on too much technicality when setting up a new lens to suit my purposes.The 200-500mm is a good lens, and that can't be denied, however when i stuck it on my D810, it did need some autofocus micro-adjustment, and after my tweaks were completed, it seemed that the combo worked best from 480mm down, and with an adjustment of +12 increments. Which indicates that it was front focusing quite a lot, and that the focus point required pushing back.

Totally un-technical, but end result works quite well. It will require a tickle back from 500mm, to get the sharpness sweet, 480 or 460mm seems to work well. All pics were taken at the long end, and hand held from my office window. I found it to be good at f6.3 and f7.1, and very reasonable at f5.6

Friday, 27 January 2017

The Photoshop De-hazer

Sorry,,, its been ages since i blogged.
Last year Photoshop added a new De-hazer feature to its vast photo enhancement tool. I had seen about it at the time, but i recently met Paul Williams ( on Portland, and he drew my attention to it again. Not having taken much notice of it at the time, i decided to try it on some foggy owl shots.
   While it is definitely always best to tog in good light, just out of interest here is a shot which i applied it to,, just for a rainy day experiment.
Above is the original foggy shot.
And here is the de-hazed version.
And cropped, and roughly tidied up.

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.

Two Days in Kite Country, and back to the Local Raptors

Last month i left Dorset :-[ .. For the first time since my Devon trip to tog Cirl Buntings, i risked breakdown, home sickness, and constipa...