Sunday, 9 June 2013

Still more sunshine!

We are being spoilt – three days of sunshine!  Normally a day of good weather brings me to feverishly plan in making the most of the day by deciding on what I will be doing and photographing so as not to waste the precious moment of sunshine, but today I thought, what the heck, I'll just spend the day wondering around and enjoying the weather taking any photographic opportunities that may come my way.

In the Reeds

My travels started around wetlands and reed beds where I came across this Reed Bunting, very vocal and initially quite hidden.  I tried to take photographs through the reeds but every time I found a gap the wind would blow the reeds around so obstructing a clear view.  It took over half an hour of patiently waiting before he came out to a spot clear of reed obstacles by which time my ability to keep the camera completely steady after holding the lens up for so long, was becoming a bit of a struggle and so fewer shots were as sharp as I would have liked.

As he stayed put on this spot I had more time to frame the shot and catch it just at the right time.  I noticed at every time just near the end of the song, his beak would be open continuously and so shot frames off at that point.  I also tried to change to portrait viewpoint to get more of the reed in shot.

Reed Bunting singing

Reed Bunting

By the Lake

Elsewhere, some of the lakes geese and ducks were enjoying the sun on terra firma but I noticed every time a dog walker would come along they flew back to the water.  A good opportunity to get some bird in flight shots, so sat at a spot I thought likely they’d fly past, kept the sun to my back for optimum lighting and waited.  Sure enough after their returning to the spot some dogs were unleashed upon them.   I was able to get quite a few shots of mostly Mallards in flight though even a Jackdaw got in on the act and gave me a fly by.  Unfortunately the best of the images of this bird (see below)had some nearby trees obtruding on the right of the frame.  I did toy with the idea of using the wonders of digital editing and clone the distraction out which would have probably made it a better shot, but refrained.

Canada Geese young

Jackdaw in flight

Mallard in flight

Mallard in flight

Flight of Canada Geese

Mallard in flight

Mallard in flight

Interestingly, after my last excursion photographing Sand Martins in flight, I had less of a problem holding a focus lock despite a ‘busy’ background.  Probably a combination of it being a much larger subject and a more consistent flight pattern as well as having more time to get that lock as I could track them from take off to passing right by me.  What a difference the sun can make to a shot.  It just helps to bring out the colours and give the photograph a more 3d impact.


In the Fields

In many of the fields the foliage was kept short by grazing horses and so had a blanket of beautiful yellow buttercups with the odd, intermittent splash of purples and whites from other wild flowers.  I did notice during the day something that I had already realised in the past week, and that was how few actual flowing plants I come across – six on this day and mostly of only two variations.  It was still a beautiful sight in the early afternoon sun on a sunny warm day with an almost clear sky and so sat down under the shade of a small tree for a much needed drink.

Field of Buttercups

There seemed to be a chorus of competing songbirds in every direction I could here and on a distant perch, a Kestrel was on the lookout for a meal and the call of a couple of Red Kites filled the air even above the songbirds though I couldn’t see them.    What I did see was a leggy Crane Fly flying past and landing on some nearby grass.  A quick lens change and on went my 105mm macro.  A bit of insect stalking later and I was able to get a couple of frames off before it was off.

Lying down photographing this, suddenly I noticed another – a small red beetle crawling around between flying from grass stem to grass stem.  For the last week I’ve been looking for insects to try out my macro ‘talents’ but I had been walking around.  Getting down to ground level and suddenly a whole new Serengeti appears.  Many more of these beetles, small flies and various other assortments of bugs and beasties including a spider that was busy repairing its web.  At least it couldn’t fly away and so gave me a good opportunity to try my new macro skills, or at least that what I thought.  It was constantly moving back and forth, spinning its silk and as I tried to focus on it at a closer range every slight breath of wind literally shook the spider out of frame.  Despite the bright sunshine I had to push up the ISO to 1600 just so I could get a decent shutter speed and the depth of field needed.  That close and with that depth of field, just my breathing was moving the spider in and out of focus.  I ended up settling for 1/1000 second at f10.  I’m thinking some kind of flash is a must for this kind of work.

Whilst shooting the spider I noticed another bug crawl past my viewfinder – literally!  During the many lens changes I had made during the day it had somehow got inside my camera.  I’m normally very careful about changing lenses so as not to get dust onto the sensor, but a small bug!  The whole camera cleaning kit came out when I got back.


Crane Fly

I’m not an expert but I believe the three images below are of a Soldier Beetle


A Garden Cross Spider


By the Pond

Later on coming across some small pond that looked lifeless but for some flies, so I thought I would try the same tactics as with the fields and get down low and just wait.  Sure enough there was a flurry of activity with Pond Skaters everywhere.  Under the water were tadpoles and small fish one of which I watched for a while as it seemed to patrol its area of territory barely a foot square in size, unconcerned by leaning over and pointing my lens at it.

For the first time this year I also came across some Damsel Flies both red and blue, no Dragon Flies though.  Due to their timidness and my clumsy technique of stalking them, I ended up putting my converter on the macro lens so as to help keep a bit of distance between us.

Pond Skater

A Pond Skater


Male Stickleback

Red Damselfly
Red Damselfly
Common Blue Damselfly
Red Damselfly
 Red Damselfly

My first real excursion into macro photography was quite and eye opener.  In some ways it’s similar to the way I go about photographing larger animals except you have to think on a miniature scale.  I’m reasonably happy with the macro shots though I’m sill learning so hopefully will improve.


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