Sunday, 26 May 2013

Same again…but this time with sunshine

With the weather forecasted to be the same as last time I went out (wall to wall sunshine) I hoped this time it might actually be so, so decided to do a repeat of that day – macro, Sand Martins in flight and infrared.  First though, I stopped off at the Long Tailed Tit nest where I tried to photograph them and some tame Robins.

Both the Robins and the Long Tailed Tits where beavering backwards and forth feeding their young and were being even more elusive to the camera than before.  I came prepared this time with some mealworms but, as the Robin seemed to like the pasty I was eating the last time I got another (no improvement in taste) and left some crumbs around again along with the mealworms.  Again, down came one of the Robins, but surprisingly, ignored the ‘tastier’ mealworms and went for the pasty crumbs!  Worse, it seemed to be taking it back to one of its fledglings.  Fortunately the other parent seemed to be more responsible and brought them insects.

Lighting initially was tricky.  The perch was mostly in shadow but the background lit with sunshine.  As the sun moved up it was to the side and slightly behind making for a difficult and contrasted shot.  I tried various metering including spot and compensation.


Strike a Pose – Robin posing briefly before feeding fledgling


Poor Robin not looking its best with all the time spent bringing up its young


Junior waiting to be fed

Long Tailed Tit

Above – best of a bad bunch.  The Long Tailed Tit parents just wouldn’t land where I wanted them too or if they did, it was very briefly!


After more than three hours spent trying to photograph one of the Long Tailed Tit parents, I eventually gave up as they just wouldn’t cooperate by landing and staying still on the perch I had pre-focused on.

With midday rapidly approaching and the sun miraculously still shining, I headed off to the Sand Martin nest sites along the banks of the river. Each year I visit this site and they frequently move slightly either up or down from the year before.  This year they stayed put unfortunately as, as with last year, I couldn’t get a clear shot of the entrances which would make for an easier photograph of these fast moving birds. 

The original plan anyway was to try and photograph them in flight, try being the optimum word.  Standing on riverside bank meant I was looking down on the birds most of the time as that’s where most of the insects were and where their nests were.  Trying to focus on a small, fast moving bird with either the river or the far banks trees as the background was impossible, at least I found it so.  I have the Canon Mk III and which is within the range of serial numbers that was publically affected by focusing issues.  However, I don’t know if I’m expecting too much for it to be able to focus with such a cluttered background and a small, fast moving subject.  It just would not lock on despite trying different settings under these conditions.  Once flying with a blue sky as background, there was no problems in focusing or tracking.  Unfortunately they rarely stayed above the tree line and when they were, they did so at a distance so I was unable to get any close up shots.

I spent two hours practicing photographing them and would have stayed longer but was starting to cook under the afternoon sun.  Although I was unsuccessful in achieving any good images, it was good practice and given more time, blue skies, sunshine and a higher factor of sun protection cream, I reckon it was very feasible to get a decent shot of one of them in flight.

Once I got home and was able to look at the images, it was interesting to see these Sand Martins close up.  Seeing them normally, they just seem like streaks of blur flying around the sky catching insects for their young, but they were carrying various things in their beaks and not all could be identified.

Sand Martin in flight

Unsure what this bird was carrying – clearly not insects

Sand Martin in flight
Sand Martin in flight
Sand Martin in flight

Carrying a large feather, presumably for the nest

Sand Martin in flight
Sand Martin in flight

Little macro opportunities – this was highlighted against the dark, opposite bank of the river


A few opportunities came up to do some some infrared photography.  I didn’t bring my main tripod knowing I would be walking some distances and infrared not being the main reason for the outing.  I did bring a small tripod that I got free from the cover of a computer magazine that is barely six inches tall and folds flat, that I did bring along.  Putting my camera on that and that in turn on top of my back back and connected to a cable release  gave for a relatively sturdy platform especially, as there was barely any wind.

Like macro, infrared photography is something I would like to give a real go at.  To get the best images, ideally you need to convert a camera but this costs about the same as a new lens or camera.  Next best option is the Hoya R72 filter, but for my main landscape lens which is 77mm this would cost close to £100!  Instead I got the cheaper Cokin square version but found this not only as less effective but it lets in a bit of light.  So I used an old protective skylight filter that I used to have on my lens, removed the glass and then reshaped the Cokin one so that it fitted its round frame and voilĂ , a round, light tight infrared filter.

The conditions were ideal – bright sunlight and very little wind meant a ten second exposure and little tree movement blur.  I still need to work on the correct white balance to get the colours I want.



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