Saturday, 25 July 2009

On Japanese Anemones

It's been quite a wet summer. Bad news for holiday makers, but good news for plants. My parents garden has been overtaken by a mass of Japanese anemones. So prolific they are almost a weed - but they have beautiful flowers which attract a lot of wildlife. This morning they were alive with hoverflies - often five or six to a bloom.

Better yet, after last night's thunderstorms the light this morning was perfect for photography, and the ideal opportunity to see how the 24-105mm performs at the macro end.

The budlea was doing well also. This morning it was covered with painted ladies and some smaller, white butterflies. The 24-105mm proved slightly too short for the latter as every time I approached they fled. This evening I had another look and there were six or seven peacock butterflies (but the light had gone). Note to self. Take a longer lens home next time!

On an unrelated note, I have recently popped up a new slidehow featuring some of my Falkland Island penguin photographs on YouTube.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

What is it with Warblers

This was the second Saturday in a row I've been able to get out with my camera - and it seems now to be working perfectly. Any problems now are firmly behind the camera! Today I returned to Bushy Park. It's my old stamping ground, but I've not been there much recently. To start off with there was not a lot going on. A large number of Jackdaws, but not much else. Eventually, however I encountered a large group of long-tailed tits feeding young. They were being their usual hard-to-shoot selves, flitting around rapidly, hiding behind twigs and then flying every time I moved to get a better angle. I did manage a few nice shots - this one included.

The other catch of the day was this warbler shot. Problem is, I'm never very good at identifying warblers. They all look the same to me! My initial thought through the lens was that it was a whitethroat, but looking at the picture I'm now wondering if it is a garden warbler.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

BlogFocus 7: Wildlife Photographic Journals

For the last post in my scheduled BlogFocus series we come to Wildlife Photographic Journals, the blog of Richard Steel. As the name suggests, in Richard's blog the photographs take centre-stage. The images are much larger than most blogs feature and the quality is remarkable. Richard uses a Canon 500mm lens (handheld!) and really demonstrates what this lens is capable of. His images are sharp and vibrant, with interesting subjects beautifully separated from the background.

Redstart by Richard Steel

I love the energy in this photo of a cormorant (from his recent seabird-safari entry).

Cormorant by Richard Steel

And I am massively jealous of his feeding juvenile swallows. This is a stunning sequence of images - well worth checking out.

Swallow by Richard Steel

So this is the last - but by no means least - planned entry in this little series. I've enjoyed writing them and hope to return to the idea periodically as I discover more blogs which catch my eye. In the meantime, happy blogging everyone and thanks to everyone who has allowed me to feature their blogs.

Images in this post by Richard Steel. Reproduced with permission

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Abstract London

Some time ago I was looking back over my website and realised that whilst I've been concentrating on wildlife photography, my favourite images are abstracts - many of which I took with my Minolta A2 when I was finding my way in digital photography. So today I set myself the challenge of shooting some more. I don't have the Minolta any more - but my 1D MkIIN is now back from Canon and I recently picked up a secondhand 24-105 f/4 so I headed into London armed with these.

It was not an ideal day for photography - the weather was distinctly grey with intermittent drizzle. My initial plan had been to head towards the Gherkin, but in the end I just let my feet lead me. It's quite enjoyable to wander aimlessly in London. There's so much to see. Every street corner becomes a choice. Eventually I found myself at the back of Fleet Street - which is where the best images of the day came from.

I'm not sure that they are up to the standard of my Minolta images, but I had a great time. Definitely something I plan to repeat - hopefully on a day with more dramatic skies and better light! The good news is that the 1D performed flawlessly, so I am now hopeful that the recent repair has indeed fixed its problems...

Thursday, 9 July 2009

BlogFocus 5: Bogbumper

The fifth edition of my BlogFocus feature brings me to Bogbumper, the blog of Cambridgeshire-based (self-described) 'nature-fiend' Katie Fuller. Bogbumper is another blog that is difficult to sum up in a few words. Katie is quite prolific - seven entries already in July and I'm only writing this on the 9th! The blog bounces (or should that be bumps?) around all manner of nature, birds, insects, flowers and mammals. There was even a fascinating post in April featuring pondlife!

Backswimmer by Katie Fuller

And, as you would expect from this series, Katie is also a photographer. The blog is liberally peppered with interesting photographs. I particularly liked the colour and composition of this image of a mating pair of azure damsel-flies.

Damsel Flies by Katie Fuller

Another blog which is well worth the visit - and with so many entries in a month you're pretty much guaranteed to find something new each time you do!

Images in this post by Katie Fuller. Reproduced with permission

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Skomer (Part II): Puffin Flypasts

Last week I posted up some of my puffin portraits from Skomer. Puffins are relatively fearless and as such are quite easy to get close to on the ground. In flight it is a different story. They are small, fast and tend not to travel in straight lines - all of which makes them quite difficult to photograph. Unfortunately my EOS 1D MkIIN - which I bought especially to help with flight shots - was back at Canon being repaired (again!).

To start with I positioned myself at the top of the cliffs to photograph them as they slowed down to land. However, they were mostly coming in below me and ascending at the last moment. This presented two problems. The 20D's auto-focus struggled to pick the puffins out from the clutter below and there was simply too little time to bring the camera to bear and acquire a lock. It was hard for the puffins as well - two of them nearly hit me in the face!

After an unsuccessful half hour I decided a change of tactics was needed. I moved further along The Wick to a place where they were flying along the cliff rather than coming directly into land. Here there was a reasonable stream of puffins above the horizon - which cut out the clutter and enabled me to see them earlier. I also switched to a longer lens. Even this was no picnic. Despite plenty of targets all too often I didn't even hit the shutter release as the camera struggled to focus. However, with a lot of patience I fired off over two hundred frames in the course of a couple of hours. When I got back to check them I was praying for at least one decent picture. In fact I had about fifteen - far better than I'd expected.

The day after I left Skomer I had a text from Canon to say my camera had been repaired and was on its way back. The good news is that this time they appear to have fixed the problem, but I'd have liked to have tried it on Skomer!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

BlogFocus 4: Peter Beesley

The fourth installment of my BlogFocus series features the work of Peterborough-based photographer, Peter Beesley. Peter is an enthusiastic birder and prolific blogger (check out his profile for an impressive list of all the blogs he runs). Peter's Portfolio is his birding blog and has been running since 2004. Over the years Peter has posted up lots of photographs from across a wide range of species - making this a very interesting blog to dip into and a hard blog to represent with just a few images! However, highlights for me include his recent image of a redshank.

Redshank by Peter Beesley

One of the reasons I like Peter's Blog is it is nice to see someone getting great shots of smaller, common birds which many other photographers ignore. For example his shots of Dunnocks (in beautiful light) from back in March.

Dunnock by Peter Beesley

I'd also recommend checking out his flight shots of skylarks. Now that cannot have been an easy series of shots to get!

Images in this post by Peter Beesley. Reproduced with permission