Saturday, 10 March 2018

Hey,, its me again.

Very sorry,,, i've been very lax about keeping up to date with the blog this last few months. Been a few ups and downs, none of which is gonna worry you lot too much.
   Last year was a brilliant year in many ways, but this winter has been by and large very quiet for me. Lots of time at home in the office, which i have tried to put to good use, but hey ho. For a togger, the weather/light is key, and not too many bright sunny days this winter. Ok,,, you might say 'moaning old git', but as i've said before,,, 'I'm not a birder, i'm a togger with an interest in birds, and that's the end of my weather moan,,, until tomorrow. It has however resulted in my drifting away from wildlife photography, and getting into other things. I've even been in the shed making nesting boxes, and of course that fascinating indoor pursuit of Photoshopping :-] I won't go down that route here, as this is a nature blog.
   And what better way to start off a nature blog than with a few fungi shots,,, i can hear the moans from here.
Above is one of my favourite eating shrooms. Sitting with a few others by a country lane near Bere Regis. Of course, after i had photographed it i promptly recycled it by frying and consumption, and remnants of it are probably floating in Weymouth Bay as we speak,,, or not.
Another lone foray resulted in me coming across these Jersey Cow Boletus, latin (Suillus bovinus) maybe, if you're interested. Just nestled against these grasses, that are probably the pubes of the wood goddess, a nice find. They are edible if you take away the tubes underneath, and the slimy cap skin, by which time you are left with very little food, that after cooking tastes like boiled slugs,,,,, i imagine. I'd much sooner just take a picture than eat them.
In the same rough area were these (Tricholoma sulphureum), totally inedible, and smelling like old sump oil. If you catch them young they are lovely looking shrooms, and unlike this example, they make a great picture.
2017 was a great year for fungi, and one of my personal highlights occurred when i refound this rare species of Lepiota in an area i had discovered them some years ago. Cast your eyes on these (Lepiota ignivolvata),,, stunning little shrooms, that made my day. I could go on all day about the fungi i togged in 2017, but i sense a little boredom setting in here, so we'll talk about some other species that enjoyed a good year last year,,, The Butterflies
   Had several days out butterflying with Adrian and Helen Read, which always proves fruitful, because Helen is blessed with the eyesight normally confined to Golden Eagles or Spadger Hawks, and last summer found us traipsing around Alners Gorse. I can't stress enough the high number of butterfly species found at Alners. If you've never been, then you must go,,, its near the village of Hazelbury Bryan in north Dorset. There was a lot to see on the day.
Great place for the White Admiral above, several species of Hairstreaks, and lots of everything else.
Of course there is a down side to all reserves, and to obtain pics of the Purple Hairstreaks (pic above) you have to run the 'tick and horsefly' gauntlet. So before visiting you must bath in insect repellent, and a suit of armour is recommended above T shirts and shorts.
There are enormous numbers of the above Marbled White as well as loads of the more common species. If you time your visit to perfection, you can see three species of Hairstreak in one day.
   I also had a pretty good year with the Odonata last year. Getting great shots of most of them, and in particular the Golden-ringed Dragonflies of which three pairs were discovered in a narrow lane not far from Dorchester,,, and some way from running water too. They were mating and carrying on right before my eyes, and the shots were very satisfying.
  So now i'll turn my attention to my first love, and the things i really get off on togging,,,,birds. It really has been an amazing autumn and winter for unusual birds dropping down in Dorset. Some of these proved too difficult for me, but i did connect with some. Can i just take a minute to thank those local birders who spotted these first, and made it known for us all to enjoy,,, you know who you are. Out in all weathers, scanning the skies and the hedges, i certainly have had a lot of pleasure from your finds, and have taken some pretty amazing birds in the last few months. I suppose the star of my winter was the long staying Lesser Yellowlegs, that of which i still have loads of shots to process.
My big disappointments were not connecting with the recent Ross's Gull, although i did get distant record shots.
Also, i haven't yet managed a quality Hawfinch shot, which is really galling, because there are loads around.

And i could go on moaning all day long about the others i missed. Ok, i'm getting hungry now, and the cupboard is calling, so i'll rug up this, and look to fill the Gardiner face, and make crumbs. Good luck in all your endeavours.

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.

Hey,, its me again.

Very sorry,,, i've been very lax about keeping up to date with the blog this last few months. Been a few ups and downs, none of which is...