Showing posts from 2018

Shooting Birds at Low Shutter Speeds

Shooting at Low Speeds Handheld
Light is the most important component of any photograph, be it nature, landscape, weddings etc.  If you don't have the light, you can't create the image. Or can you?  There comes a time in every nature photographer's sessions, where the light is just not there. It's not that it's bad light, more like there is very little of it.  Using Aperture Priority mode will let you know what shutter speed the camera thinks is best for the current light, and ISO you have selected, so you'll know if the shot is feasible or not.
Auto ISO will give you reasonable speeds, with the trade off of noise when the ISO levels get into 4 figures (1***+), depending on if you are using a crop sensor or full frame body.
Tripods help of course, but are not always practical depending on the situation.

Techniques Everyone who read or youtubed their way into photography will have been told the "don't shoot lower than your focal length" rule.  Simply, th…

Autumn Woodland Workshop

Autumnal Weekend Workshop GoodnessWe had a ball on the woodland/fungi/autumnal photography weekend from Saturday 19th through Sunday 30th September.  Last year storm Ophelia put this workshop back a month and damaged the woodland enough to wipe out all the interesting mushrooms and fungi; this time round we had storm Ali the week before, and although trees were down, the mushrooms survived!

Woodland PhotographyThe woods at Oxford Island are loaded with photo opportunities in the Autumnal season, not least the mushrooms and fungus that thrive in the leaflitter and trees that have fallen over the years.  The sloe berries are ripe, blackberries are providing food sources for insects and birds, the leaves are wonderfully bright coloured as the chlorophyll starts to disappear.....what a great time to be out in the woods with a group of photographers teaching nature, photography and an appreciation of the wild.

FungiThe most obvious opportunity for photography in the woods this time of year i…

3 Autumn Photography Ideas

Autumn Photography IdeasWe've had out first storm (named Ali), the Christmas decorations are in the shops and there's a carpet leaves beginning to form on the ground.  It can only mean one thing.....Autumn is upon us!
The birds are on the move now, leading to quiet periods on the local patches and reserves, but the chances of a special migrant still stay high.  Buzzards are active on the calm days and waders start to appear in big numbers along with the numerous geese we are used to seeing on the wetlands.
If you plan to go out with the camera between the windy, stormy days, here are 3 ideas to keep you busy and to challenge your techniques

FungiAlways a winner this time of year, fungi and mushrooms can make great subjects in the woodland and grasslands of the countryside - they are there in a abundance now, with hundreds of species available to us to explore. Do be careful, many can be dangerous, but taking nothing but pictures should keep you safe ;)
You can use standard macro s…

Macro Workshop at RSPB Portmore Lough

Portmore LoughOur second macro workshop, and fifth in total for 2018 was held at RSPB Portmore Lough near Aghalee today.
The lough and reserve are close to Lough Neagh, and has a host of native insects and invertebrates on the wetlands of the reserve.  Many dragonflies were present including common darter, 4 spotted chaser.
Once we got the theory out of the way (and good friend Rosie had provided my lunch), we started at the giant bird table pollinator flowerbed, alive with insects.  After an hour there, we moved on to the path to the lough, hoping to see dragonflies and butterflies on the way.
The wind was pretty strong so we had no luck on the dragons, but attendee Lucy got a great speckled wood butterfly, and plenty of peacocks were also present.

Caterpillars!On the boardwalk to the hide, we spotted a Grey Dagger moth caterpillar in the railings.  It posed nicely for everyone before being escorted to a safer location. This striking little larvae is easily spotted with pale yellow, red a…

Macro Photo Weekend (Day 2)

Blue Skies AgainThe weather held today and we had brilliant heat and light for Day 2.  Today was a bug hunt day, with the pond & aquatic insects starting off the day, then the wildflower meadow & grass lands in the afternoon.  The invertebrates didn't let us down all day with all the group getting hoverflies, bees, butterflies, damselflies, diving beetles, backswimmers & grasshoppers throughout the sessions.

Pond InvertebratesThe pond provides an excellent environment for water based insects and invertebrates - great diving beetles and backswimmers featured heavily in the trays and the guys got some great shots of the backswimmers eyes.
Damselflies were aplenty with the azure and blue tailed the most photographed.  

Wildfower MeadowThe meadow is our go-to place for the macro workshop outdoor sessions, boasting orchids and wildflowers galore, it hosts an array of insects and pollinators just waiting to get snapped.
Bombus Lacrourm & Pascorum bees were seen in abundance …

Macro Photo Weekend (Day 1)

Macro Photo Weekend - Day 1
Heatwave? What heatwave?We arrived to find an Amber warning from the Met Office for thunder/lightning and torrential rain with flooding on the roads.  Right in the middle of the biggest heatwave in 30 odd years!  Not great for macro shooting.....BUT, Sandra made good with the moth trap last night, 30+ moths, and we did get 45mins outside before the storm hit.
The group got to take some great images of bees on the onion and leek heads, nice big white tailed bees, and some smaller workers, and we released some moths at this point for photographing, and everyone in the group got some great images.

Marvellous MothsThe moth traps at Oxford Island catch some real beautiful creatures overnight - I've got some lovely images from the releasing of these, elephant hawk, poplar hawk, canary shouldered thorn, and the excellent gold spot.
The gold spot is named for the shiny spots on the wing markings, and its a striking creature with a rich red colour all round.  As wit…

Terns of Blakeney Point

Terns of Blakeney Point
Blakeney PointPoking out into the North Sea from the Norfolk coast, this spit of land hosts seabirds, land mammals and the largest grey seal colony in the UK.  Managed by the National Trust, wardens look after the vulnerable ground-nesting birds and many wildflowers that thrive on the shingle, and sandy soil based environment.
You can walk a good few miles to the point, but access to the tern colonies is restricted, and the easiest way to see these birds is from the vantage point of a boat - there are a few companies running trips out of Morston Quay, but by far the most knowledgeable and professional outfit is Beans Boats and I take a few trips each year with them for just this purpose.
As always, please click the images for a sharper view!

GearFrom the boat, the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens was on my main Canon 7dMk2 for the trip.  There is no room for tripods or any kind of bracing, so all shots had to be handheld, but the relatively high shutter speeds nee…

Avocets on the Marsh

Avocets on the Salt MarshesSince their return to the UK in the 40's, the Avocet has taken up residence across the country, and has become one of our most iconic wading birds because of this conservation success.
With the upturned bill, and the striking black and white plumage of both sexes, this elegant wader is hard to miss out on the scrapes and marshes it calls home.
One of these marshes, and a particularly bird rich one, is Cley Marshes up on the north Norfolk coast.  Being the oldest NWT reserve, it is heavily and carefully managed to ensure the breeding population of birds remain, and is a vitally important site for all kinds of nature in the area.

Photographing the AvocetsI based this photography session from the hides on the reserve, as they give the best views out on to the scrapes and pools - the paths can afford some views, but the birds are well used to hides and you can get some cracking closeup images if the conditions are right (and the people in the hides quiet.....)

Photographing Norfolk Raptors - Lightroom Workflow

Raptors on the North Norfolk CoastOne of the reasons for our yearly trek to this part of the country is the wildlife that is crammed into such a small area.  The north Norfolk coastline is relatively small stretch of land, but it is a unique mixture of habitat that encourages some of the best birds in the country to establish nest sites, not least of all some of our raptor species.

Red Kite FlypastAlthough we have these kites at home in Northern Ireland (I've snapped them in Co. Down and at my local patch Oxford Island thanks to a successful re-introduction scheme), the coast here is now more and more popular with these graceful big birds of prey.
RSPB Titchwell gave us great views of this one one morning, and the current weather makes for a great sky for snapping raptors, if the sun is coming over your shoulder of course.

The above image was created using the Canon 7Dmk2 and Sigma 150-600mm C lens, handheld from a low hide window, with the sun coming in from the right shoulder angle…

Wood Mouse in the Common

Wood Mouse Encounter
Barrow Common is a large undulating patch of predominately grassland and gorse, and is home to a diverse range of wildlife.  Birds I've seen on my visits include yellowhammer, marsh harrier, buzzard and kestrel.  Turtle doves now breed here, but I haven't been lucky enough to see one just yet.  You can also see a loads of butterflies and solitary bees, lizards and lots of small rodents like the wood mouse below.

Wood mice are found in woodland, as the name suggests but are also known as field mice and are widespread on grassland and agricultural land.  They are mostly nocturnal but come active an hour or so before sunset.  This mouse I found was a youngster, and really quite friendly, but they are known to be less flighty than most rodents.

The above image was created using the Olympus E5 body, still going strong, handheld with the Sigma 105mm F2.8 macro lens, 1/125, 105mm, ISO125 at F/11.  Light was fading in the evening and shot in medium under growth.
The f…