Monday, 29 April 2013

Singing Robin

A couple of shots of a robin I spotted on a fencepost. The images are not cut-outs – they were taken against pretty harsh light and any background has simply bleached out. Not perfect, but hey-ho. I love capturing birds singing and this one certainly made it easy – he wouldn't stop.

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100-400mm IS USM lens, 1/400th sec, f/10, 400mm at ISO 250

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100-400mm IS USM lens, 1/400th sec, f/10, 400mm at ISO 250

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Common British Moth

No time to get out today (my son's 16th birthday took precedence – rightly!) but I did spot this moth on the skirting board on the stairs and thought it worth a quick shot. I love the alien eyes – we are, I guess, just not used to thinking of or seeing moths in this way – and also the detail on the twin antennae.


Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 110mm prime macro lens, 1/200th sec, f/18, with flash

Thursday, 25 April 2013

New magazine column

It's always great when a passion turns into a job and I'm really thrilled to have been asked to write a monthly column for The English Home magazine. Entitled Through the Kitchen Window, each month I will be presenting a portrait of one aspect of the myriad wildlife that frequents the English garden. In the first issue (May) – which is on sale now – I write about the pecking order at my garden feeding station and focus on the Coal Tit in particular. In next month's issue (June), the spotlight is turned on dragonflies and damselflies and the fascinating folklore surrounding the Common Blue Damselfly.


Monday, 22 April 2013

Flight of the Bumblebee

I grabbed this snatched shot while sitting waiting for adders to show. Taken at distance, detail was never going to be great but I do think it works nicely, with a palpable feeling of sunshine and vibrant colour.

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100-400mm IS USM L lens, 1/640th sec, f/13, 400mm at ISO 500

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Selection of adders

What a morning! I resisted the temptation of a Sunday morning lie-in and I'm so glad I did. It turned out to be my best adder-spotting session so far. After leaving it far too late yesterday (the adders were nicely warmed up and far to lively to stay around for photographs) this morning I got up early and was in position in Holt Country Park in North Norfolk as the spring sun began to spread its warmth. The result was that the adders were keen to bask in the early morning heat to warm up their metabolism rather than shuffle off and I bagged a number of sightings – 12 males and two females, the second of which was a vivid pearlescent lime-white with a black head. Then, as I was preparing to leave, I bumped into Ian and Jane, a lovely couple who'd set out from Norwich in the hope of seeing their first adder. They, too, had been searching for a couple of hours, but with no luck. Together we walked back to where I had last seen a female and two males and, fortunately, they were still around and I was able to take the couple straight to them. The couple were thrilled, but I really enjoyed being able to pass on a few tips and help them achieve their very first encounter with what I think is one our most enigmatic, engaging and beautiful wild creatures.

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100mm prime macro lens, 1/200th sec, f/13, 100mm at ISO 400
Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100mm prime macro lens, 1/200th sec, f/13, 100mm at ISO 400

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100mm prime macro lens, 1/320 sec, f/13, 400mm at ISO 400


Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100mm prime macro lens, 1/640th sec, f/8, 100mm at ISO 400


Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100mm prime macro lens, 1/640th sec, f/8, 100mm at ISO 400

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100mm prime macro lens, 1/250th sec, f/4.5, 100mm at ISO 400

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100mm prime macro lens, 1/250th sec, f/4.5, 100mm at ISO 400

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100-400mm IS USM L lens, 1/400th sec, f/13, 400mm at ISO 400

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Fly (macro)


Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100mm prime macro lens, 1/125th sec, f/10, 100mm at ISO 400

Robin in a dreamy light

I saw this Robin perched on a branch in a clearing in a wood on the way back from my first Adder sighting of the year. The light filtering through the foliage was glorious and the bird – always alluring, always cute – here also seemed unusually elegant. The result is, I think, a very pleasing composition.

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100-400mm IS USM L lens, 1/500th sec, f/6.3, 400mm at ISO 400

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100-400mm IS USM L lens, 1/500th sec, f/6.3, 400mm at ISO 400





Thursday, 18 April 2013

Mr and Mrs Ruff

As so often in nature, the male Ruff can call on something a little bit special when he wants to impress a potential mate. While her wardrobe is a little drab – more Sunday afternoon on the sofa than serious courtship – he can dress to impress with the brilliant white collar display that gives him his name. As the weather warms up and their thoughts to turn a little avian ooh-la-la I plan to try to capture the full display of that ostentatious signal that the time is right to think about a little Ruff on the side.

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100-400mm IS USM L lens, 1/200th sec, f/9, 400mm at ISO 400

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100-400mm IS USM L lens, 1/60th sec, f/9, 400mm at ISO 400

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The decline of the Turtle Dove

Once a relatively familiar migratory sight in the UK, the Turtle Dove is now in real danger of disappearing from our shores. A three-year project, led by the RSPB, is aiming to reverse a decline in the population of the farmland bird, which is now classified as the species deemed the most likely to be extinct in the UK by 2020. The reality is that the Turtle Dove population here fell by more than 90% between 1997 and 2010. The RSPB project will aim to restore to the countryside many of the plants the birds feed on. Their diet consists almost entirely of small seeds from wild plants, which grow among crops. Changes in farming practices in recent decades mean these wild flowers – including vetch, fumitory and clover – are now scarce. The BTO for one also points to widespread use of herbicides as a contributory factor. It says: "There is good evidence to support the hypothesis that the primary demographic driver of Turtle Dove declines is a shortened breeding period, which has reduced the number of nesting attempts. This is thought to be driven by reduced food availability due to increased herbicide use." This chap was photographed at the Pensthorpe reserve in North Norfolk.

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100-400mm IS USM L lens, 1/80th sec, f/11, 400mm at ISO 400

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100-400mm IS USM L lens, 1/80th sec, f/11, 400mm at ISO 400

Bearded Reedling

A couple of simple shots from a recent hour or so spent at Pensthorpe, where I often find myself trying to pin down these charming little birds. 

Note: rings removed in post-production on both images

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100-400mm IS USM L lens, 1/400th sec, f/6.3, 400mm at ISO 400

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100-400mm IS USM L lens, 1/800th sec, f/6.3, 400mm at ISO 400


Friday, 12 April 2013

20-minute beauty

At the risk of sounding like a Blue Peter presenter, here's a great way to motivate yourself to get out and take pictures even if it seems there is no time for such an indulgence. I set myself a challenge this afternoon – to go into the garden for no more than 20 minutes and see what natural beauty I could find in this limited time window. There were many shots that didn't come off, of course, but the results below do prove, I think, that photographic opportunities are all around us and it needn't take a great chunk out of the day to capture interesting shots. All were taken using a Canon 1Ds MkII twinned with a Canon 100mm prime macro lens.

Can you guess what it is?


I love how so much of the rest of the garden is reflected in the water droplet

A very accommodating Leopard Slug (Limax maximus)

The colours make this shot of a humble earthworm

Even on the dullest of days the use of a little flash can bring out scintillating colours

An alternative view of the world

While I was waiting for honeybees to land on the first flowering shrub in the garden, I spotted this fly. The image is unremarkable, but that's not true of the fly's impressive compound eyes; what a magnificent feat of natural engineering they are. Have you ever stopped to imagine what sort of view of the world they present? Is the image presented as if distorted by a fish-eye lens? Is it fragmented as if viewed through a kaleidoscope? Well, it seems the answer is that each of the hexagonal lenses in the fly's compound eye captures both a slow-motion view of the world and a real-time version. These millions of mini-images are then processed by the brain into one coherent view of the fly's immediate world.

Source: Discover magazine/UCLA 

Canon 350D, Canon 100mm prime macro lens, 1/500th sec, f/6.3, ISO 500

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

First honeybees of spring

I generally enjoy the colder months, but this winter has seemed interminable and it is good finally to see the first signs of a spring that is unlikely to be a false dawn. One of the highlights in the garden is the arrival of the first bees. This afternoon I saw my first large Bumblebee of this year, although it didn't land to attempt to retrieve some nectar from barely open flowers. There were, however, a few Honeybees around and I managed these two shots which do, I think, have a real warmth about them.

Canon 350D, Canon 100mm prime macro lens, 1/250th sec, f/3.5, 100mm at ISO 500
Canon 350D, Canon 100mm prime macro lens, 1/320th sec, f/5.6, 100mm at ISO 500




Thursday, 4 April 2013

Sunset Over Wiveton Church

This shot was taken while crouched in a hedge waiting for barn owls to show up. They didn't – or at least not in range of my camera – but I was compensated by what I think is quite a pleasing composition. Shooting contre-jour (or directly into strong daylight) is something of a balancing act; a case of keeping down the amount of light entering the camera, so the whole picture is not horribly over-exposed, while still retaining definition and detail in more shaded areas. I'm particularly drawn to the way the rays from the setting sun carry on through the stained glass window of the church and also the way the onset of the end of the day is conveyed through the deep yellows of the sky contrasting with last residues of blue sky reflected in the creek as it wends its way through the salt marsh.

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100-400mm IS L lens, 1/640th sec, f/25 100mm at ISO 200

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Barn Owl

I took an hour out as dusk approached to see if I could capture a shot of a Barn Owl. This one was hunting in salt marshes just in from the North Norfolk coast but stubbornly refused to come into range. There was no chance of catching any detail – including the freshly snatched vole between its talons – but I took the shot in dwindling light simply because I liked the gentle colours of an evening drawing in.

Canon 1Ds Mk II, Canon 100-400mm IS L lens, 1/200th sec, f/5.6, 400mm at ISO 500