28 July 2007

Shooting birds

All other photographic plans being dashed, I headed back to Draycote Reservoir this morning to put the new camera through its paces again.
Despite my assertions that my long lens (a relatively cheap Tamron 70-300) is by no means a birding lens, I don't think I can be too upset with the results.
The Chaffinch is a standard test shot at the hide - bird just a couple of metres away, light not too bad. The result is pretty good, although I'm not sure it's better than my Panasonic with teleconverter.
The Kestrel shots however could never be taken with the FZ20. I wasn't planning for them, or waiting for the opportunity, but was able to quickly raise the camera, track the bird as it dropped, and then follow it as it moved away, autofocusing and shooting as it went. The resulting images were relatively small crops from the full image, so I have resized them, sharpened them a little and fractionally adjusted levels (i.e. played around with them a little bit on the computer). The results are not great works of art, but I'm well chuffed, and they certainly show me the potential of the camera system.

27 July 2007

Wheatear for the new camera

OK, OK - I caved. I bought a new camera.
Frankly I'm surprised I lasted this long, with just about every birder I know moving to a DSLR set up and producing the most amazing photography.
The final straw came when the prices of some entry-level DSLRs began to fall below the level I originally paid for my first pocket camera or my current Panasonic superzoom!
So I cracked, and took the plunge with a Pentax K100d, a kit lens and a Tamron 70-300mm lens virtually thrown in. And it is amazing - fast, flexible, sharp and really easy to use after my long apprenticeship with the Panasonic.
I haven't really bought it for birding - I may well carry on using the Panasonic for that, with it's longer lens reach, light weight, compact size and lower value! If I do start birding with the Pentax then sadly I'll need a lens which costs nearly twice as much as the camera itself did, but really I bought it to meet my growing interest in photography in all its varied forms, whether it be portraits, landscapes, macros, street shots or anything else I can turn my hand to.
So having said all of that, where did I take it first? Draycote Reservoir of course! So here are a couple of photos, presented with the following riders. First, the lens is in no way a good lens for bird photography - too short, a bit too soft, and just too cheap (why does life seem to always work like that?!). Second, I've had the camera all of 48 hours and will only get better with it. And third, it was early evening and the light was OK, but not great.
So that's enough of the excuses. The first two shots (a Common Tern and a Black-headed Gull)show what a DSLR can do that a superzoom can't - flight shots. I think I achieved one usable flight shot in two years with the FZ20 - these were taken with no preparation or planning, just raise the camera and shoot. The third is my best bird of the evening, one of two juvenile Wheatears.

18 July 2007

At Brandon Marsh

A fine, fine evening, and an uncommon treat for us all in this damp summer. So I took the opportunity for quick trip to Brandon Marsh.

As I walked up to Carlton Hide, I found myself wondering whether I might see a Hobby, having not seen one all summer. With this objective in mind, I walked into the hide, sat down, opened the window and found myself looking at... a Hobby! (I wish it always worked like that). Sat on a customary perch in a dead tree, it was brilliantly lit by late evening sun, and three times it left this perch to hawk lazily for dragonflies.

After watching the Hobby for a while, and enjoying the spectacle of a Kingfisher flashing by, I left and walked back to the East Marsh Hide. A Redshank was making itself as obvious as it could by calling loudly from a treetop above the hide door (see photo). This was an arresting sight in itself, since it is far more common to see this wading bird up to its knees in mud - indeed I am not sure I have ever seen one in a tree before.

Out on the main water there was plenty to enjoy - Common Terns swooped, there were plenty of Lapwing, three Cormorants sunned themselves and lots of young Herons were squabbling.

And the walk back to the car was itself a treat in itself, with great views of Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, a Garden Warbler, a female Whitethroat, a male Blackcap, two Green Woodpeckers, one Great Spotted Woodpecker and three Jays - not a bad haul in just a few hundred yards.