Each February I try to spend at least one day at Slimbridge. It is the best place I know to photograph Wood Pigeons, Rooks and a handful of other common but normally quite shy species. These days I tend not to spend much time around the captive collection, not least because developments in recent years have made them far poorer for photography with fewer wild birds being attracted into the pens. But the wild parts are still just as good, but I do miss the big skeins of White-fronted Geese that used to tantalise, always just out of range for a decent shot. This week however a small flock did fly past at reasonable distance during a moment when the sun shone.
When out with my camera I make sure I am always ready for the unexpected, I’m set for the light and a fast enough shutter speed to capture any unforseen action. Just occasionally this readiness pays off, like today. Sat on the side of a big field waiting for a hare I suddenly heard the whirring sounds of a group of Grey Partidge coming toward the hedge. I swung round and captured this image of one bird as around half a dozen came whizzing over, banking as they spotted me.
11th February 2014
This past weekend saw photographers from the Netherlands and beyond gather in Arnhem for the NVN nature photography festival. It was, as these gatherings normally are an inspiring event. Highlights included a spell bounding audio visual show by Sandra Bartocha, Jonathan and Angie Scott entertained with tales from Africa while Vincent Munier’s story of an expedition to the high Arctic to photograph wolves was extraordinary. Andre Kuipers a famous Dutch astronaut spoke on photographing from the Space Station and these pictures were perhaps the most remarkable of the weekend. My two presentations seemed to go down well too.
Typically I returned home wanting to grab my camera and get straight out into the field and so when the sun came out this afternoon I headed down to the coast to a harrier roost. Not much happening but a couple of birds came within range as the sun sunk.
I recently took delivery of a refurbished Nikon D800 and have been itching to shoot something with it. With the sun shining today and hearing that the West Stow Crossbills were still performing, I headed south. Already having spent a day here and drawn a blank I was not too expectant but within minutes of my arrival eight birds arrived in trees at the edge of the car park. I have frequently photographed Crossbills on Shetland but usually perched on fence posts or dry stone walls and often juveniles or scruffy looking adults. These birds are nearly all in pristine breeding plumage, indeed the bright male in this picture sang from the top of a birch.
Picture quality from the D800 is all I was hoping for and with 36 megapixels to play with the ability to crop quite drastically if necessary opens up all sorts of creative possibilities. This image was shot on a 400 mm f2.8 lens with the 2 x teleconverter. I always stop down by at least 2 stops when using this combination to ensure tack sharp images. From experimenting an aperture of f11 seems optimum for best results from the 2x.
Sawbills like the rain
Will it ever stop raining? The weather has been particularly depressing this month and I am struggling to remember a January that has been less productive for photography. Last month however one opportunity did open up as a result of lots of water. I visit Dumfries annually and always visit a local weir pool that normally attracts half a dozen Goosanders. When however the river is is spate many more birds appear and on this occasion 31 birds a third of which were drakes fished in the frothing water.