Monday, 12 June 2017

The Monday Blog (Blurry Eyed and not ready to go!)

I've decided to try and do a short blog every Monday to try and keep my followers updated on what I've been doing over the previous week and more usually the weekend. In the week the full time job tends to get in the way.

Last week was a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. I had one early morning start before work to try and get some images of the fox family again. I'm a bit worried about whats going on here as I haven't seen them for over a week now. As we live next to the A1 I am always concerned that mum could get hit if she crosses over the carriageway. In fact i was so concerned I had a check along the section of road nearest to us just to be sure. Obviously I will keep trying with this one, I'm not even worried about getting more images as long as they are all ok.

With visiting the foxes I had noticed that there is a female roe deer who seems to have laid claim to the small wood where the fox den is located. This is unusual for deer as in my experience they tend to move around daily and have always moved to another part of there territory the following day. The reason for this became clear in mid week when I changed my route across the field slightly and almost stepped on a roe deer fawn. We where both startled but although the deer ran off I can confirm it was back with mum later in the week.

When theirs nothing doing on the mammal front doing I tend to switch to using my macro lens. The warm weather seems to have brought quiet a range of insects out between the showers! I
also took delivery of a new field guide which I can highly recommend. Britains Spiders is a Wildguide by Lawrence Bee, Geoff Oxford and Helen Smith. For me this is the best guide on spiders I have had. I did have the Collins guide but found this very difficult to use as it really needed you to dissect the spider under a microscope to get an ID. This guide uses photographs of spiders in the field which is much more useful for me as a photographer. Most spiders I can get a reasonable identification accepting that there are lots that can only be positively identified with a microscope.

I had the weekend to myself as Mel and Leia where off to the Chatsworth flower show and the Newark Retro Festival respectively. On Saturday I got my long bike out of the way, the twenty miles of headwind on the way back was not appreciated!

Sunday saw me head off to Bleaklow in the Peak District. This is one of my favourite parts of moorland. Leia and me first explored it while looking for aircraft wrecks. I can highly recommend the Dark Peak Aircraft Wrecks by Ron Collier. The wreck site of the Super Fortress is particularly

I was up there early and on the look out for Golden Plover, Mountain Hare in there summer coats and was hoping I might see Short Eared Owl hunting. The wind was a big problem making it hard to keep the big lens steady. As it turned out Golden Plover where right on the top but just wanted to keep out of range of my lens, although I did get a few shots. I also managed to get close to another wader the Curlew but disappointingly I didn't see any owls. The hares as normal seemed content to snuggle down out of the wind. The only rapter I saw was a Hobby chasing a martin but at distance, still it was nice to see as I headed back to the car.

I was trying out my new Vanguard Uprise 48 and tripod on Bleaklow. Both worked really well although I would be grateful if any of my followers have recommendations for a small flask that doesn't leak. The Vanguard has a super space for personal items at the top of the bag. Unfortunately this means a flask is located above all the camera kit. Can anyone see the issue with this! Now I don't criticise Vanguard for this as all camera bags seem to have the same configuration. Anyway please get in touch with your recommendations for leak proof flasks.

More next week!


Thursday, 4 May 2017

My Photography Kit - And Why I Use It!

On my website I have a kit list of the kit that I currently use to image wildlife. A kit list is very nice but it doesn't really tell you anything. And for the aspiring photographer it might be of interest to know why I use a bit of kit or why I've switched from something else. The opinions here are my own and come from my experience of using kit over a long period of time. I am always interested in what other photographers think or if you require more information or detail on how I came to my decisions please feel free to contact me.

Ok lets get right into it.

Camera - Canon 70D

I have been a long term canon user since I first bought a digital camera in 2005. For me this was a game changer with the groundbreaking Canon 10D. I loved this camera and it was built like a tank, in fact I think its body shell was more on a par with the top end professional cameras of today. As technology progressed I moved to the Canon 50D and finally to my current body the Canon 70D.

I will admit to a brief fling with Nikon in 2013 when I switched to a Nikon D700. I am not a photographer who believes in this Canon/Nikon feud. The Nikon was a fine camera and my only issue with it was that for me although all the features I wanted where there, they always seemed a little difficult to get to compared to the Canon I was used to.

The Canon 70D is a lovely camera to work with. For me I find the touch screen a great asset, as is the ability to move the screen at all angles. This feature comes into it's own when you are crawling around doing macro photography. Build quality is good but I do look back with fondness to the tank like construction of the old 10D. Funnily enough I had the chance to get hold of an old 10D body the other week and it feels twice as robust as the 70D. I am actually due to upgrade to the canon 7D Mk 2 at some point but keep putting it off. I have to say the 7D Mk2 outclasses the 70D, as it should, however I find the swivel screen on the 70D such an asset I am reluctant to let it go for the fixed screen of the 7D Mk 2.

Big Lens - Canon 100-400 Mk 1

Where do I start with this one! I have had a lot of the sensibly priced telephoto lenses. I started with a Sigma 170-500. This was out of date when I bought it and I had my first encounter with a sparrowhawk with this lens. I thought I had some superb images only to find that they where all slightly out of focus. Apparently it needed re-chipping for a digital camera hence the OOF images. I wasn't pleased but it performed well enough after that.
I have also had a Canon 300 F4 with teleconverter Another excellent lens but slightly less versatile than a zoom.
Canon 100 - 400 Mk 1 Twice. Both have been good performers despite them getting mixed reviews. I think it may be down to the luck of the draw as to weather you get a good copy.
Nikon 300 F4 with teleconverter. Another great lens and I had no complaints.
Tamron 150-600. This lens was a surprise. The picture of the kestrel on the post was taken with it that leaps out at you when you enter my website. I don't think I realised how good it was until I upgraded to the lens below. This may also explain when I felt the next lens was so short after the 600mm. Build quality was not on a par with Canon and it felt pretty plastic in the hand, but it took some cracking images.

Canon 100 - 400 Mk 2. Now this might be controversial but I never got on with this lens. I know people rave about it but my first bugbear with it is the reach. Is it actually 400mm? I have seen loads of reviews that say its more like 370mm. Now to be honest a 400mm lens itself can leave you wanting a bit more reach on some occasions but to be using a 400mm that's short is a bit of a con. I also didn't rate the picture quality as hugely better than anything else I'd used. Anyway I would let you decide if it's really worth the £2000 price tag.
After having  a break from wildlife photography for a while I ended up getting an old Sigma 50-500 (Bigma) from a sale at work. It was now I realised the full value of image stabilisation! This lens was one of the first versions and didn't come with Sigma's OS system. Don't get me wrong it was capable of taking a nice image, but you had to have perfect conditions, and unfortunately as a wildlife photographer this is not often the case.

My current lens see's me go back to a Canon 100-400 Mk1 and to be honest at the minute you would do well to part me from it. I think I again must have a good copy. image quality is superb and the two stop image stabilisation has not let me down yet. It cost me less than a third of the price of the Mk 2 and doesn't feel short!

Macro Lens - Canon EF 100mm USM

This is quite an old lens and has no image stabilisation. Until recently it seems that an image stabiliser was not thought necessary on a macro lens. To be honest I have had an Old Tamron 90mm and a Sigma 105mm They have all performed well. Again the Tamron was a surprise as I picked it up really cheaply and it provided some lovely images. I would only say that the build quality of the Canon is great and is a notch above the other two. To be honest I would happily shoot with any of them!

General purpose Lens - Canon EFS 17-55

I upgraded to this lens from the kit lens that came with the 70D Build quality is good but not quite matching that of the professional range. It is a nice lens with a useful range. I really like it because for me it has never failed quality control when submitting to stock libraries. Now this may be a fluke but although I could see little difference I used to get regular fails with the kit lens.

And that is it for my camera and lens combinations. I don't keep loads of lenses because you don't use or carry them and I have found that this combination covers most of the situations I get into. Please feel free to contact me if you want to know more about this kit or which images on my website were shot with what. Next time I will look at all of my ancillary stuff that I use to take my images from tripods to bags and even clothing.

All the Best for your Photography!


The Monday Blog (Blurry Eyed and not ready to go!)

I've decided to try and do a short blog every Monday to try and keep my followers updated on what I've been doing over the previous ...