Calke, Derbyshire

One of the things which always lifts my mood is photography. The other is spending time in wild spaces with wildlife. Combining these two is awesome. I have spent more time in Calke park’s bird hide and attempted to get some slightly sharper images. I have, in the process, come to the conclusion that I need to be using a tripod all the time!

These images are still not sharp enough and, in some cases, the sharpness seems to have become distortion instead, where feathers look overly textured and spiky. I use Lightroom to adjust sharpness in places, where I think it is needed, but I try to keep sharpening to a minimum as it can look awful. I have left some of these without sharpening. I find photography frustrating and confusing at times, and close up bird photography is the greatest source of both of these for me!

Equipment used was a Canon EOS 5D Mk. III with the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5 Mk. I telephoto lens. Handheld. I set the ISO to 400 to avoid too much grain and stuck to using AV mode to gain a shallow depth of field. My shutter speed is often fairly low, and I need to try again using TV mode to increase the shutter speed and capture in-flight images.

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Mull, Scotland.

I spent a magical week in the Isle of Mull, Scotland, visiting Staffa island and Iona too. It was an opportunity to capture images of Scottish wildlife, and to practice photographic techniques. In that sense, it was a relative failure. My equipment wasn’t up to my requirements, and my abilities aren’t up to the standard I needed to make the most of photographic opportunities. However, it was a learning process, to some extent, and made me see how much I have still to learn.

Staffa island blew me away – I had not expected to get so close to puffins and was completely surprised by their proximity (and some people’s willingness to get far too close to puffins and their nests), which meant I was then unable to focus on getting the best images possible of the puffins. I would like to go back and re-try. I was fairly unlucky with sightings of eagles and other birds of prey, not getting close to any large birds. Even the herons were determined to make life impossible for me!

However, I loved it in Mull and plan to go back again, very soon. These images were the result of a couple of late night and early morning drives out with my dog to see what we could get close enough to and capture, and some are from Staffa island.

Spring is sprung

I found a new hide yesterday. Great little find nearby, with so many species frequenting the feeders – including two Great Spotted Woodpeckers at one point! I was excited, it’s true, and spent an hour or so with the camera trying to get some decent captures. However, I was limited in light levels as, by the time I found the hide, it was beginning to darken. To up my shutter speed meant losing depth of field, and I do like my DoF… so I left the camera in AV mode and did my best with low light.

Many blurred images later, I have concluded I need to visit this hide in lighter hours, and use TV mode more for wildlife shots to obtain the really sharp results I want! I managed to get a few sharp(ish) shots, however, and have used LR to adjust the sharpness and shadows in the relevant areas. Here is a small selection – a Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus), a Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) and Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major pinetorum).

Focus Stack-attack (Invertebrates)

As part of my Advanced Method Zoology module, we undertook some imaging coursework. This involved photomacrography, photomicrography and Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) work. I decided to try the focus stacking at home instead, as I can focus much more in my own surroundings. The subject of my work was Odonata (dragonflies) and I had a few specimens to photograph.

I used the Canon 100mm macro lens, which is quite probably the best lens ever for macro work (biased opinion). I have learnt how to focus stack, kinda, and it’s so much fun. I recommend it!

‘Tis the season to be rutting.

I went out into the field to try to catch some action shots of the Red deer and Fallow deer in Calke park, Derbyshire, as the males begin to demonstrate sexual fitness in autumn, select mates/mate and defend harems. I didn’t manage to catch any rutting on this occasion, although there were a couple of individuals with obvious wounds from fighting, and plenty of strutting about and bellowing taking place. I did find some sleepy individuals who were obviously not interested and for whom it all looked like far too much drama and effort! Other individuals were busy practising locking antlers with low hanging branches of trees and rolling in mud, and running around a lot looking quite magnificent.