Friday, 28 June 2013

Hedgehog

Here's my contribution to the campaign to elect the humble hedgehog as Britain's national species. Yes, I know this little bundle of 7,000 spines is established through much of Europe, but for me there is still something quintessentially British about this captivating creature, so very much a part of our literature and our folklore. Furthermore, the hedgehog desperately needs our help – its numbers have dropped catastrophically from 30 million in the 1950s to below 1 million today. To place that in context, it means the hedgehog's decline is on a par with the plight of the tiger. This specimen – a confident and very active male – was shot for my column in The English Home magazine, which in September looks at how householders can help stem the drastic fall in hedgehog numbers. Its release from the PACT animal sanctuary in Norfolk was postponed for a day so I could photograph it and the little wonder obliged by coming towards the click-click-click of my camera's shutter each time I took a shot. Such a rewarding couple of hours.


  


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Miniature marvels

I'm slowly becoming more and more enchanted by the miniature world that lies at our feet and the myriad creatures that inhabit it. I thought, then, I'd put up these three images to illustrate just how abundant and diverse is the life that we pass unnoticed every day. Each of these images was taken as I sat on the ground for half an hour or so and surveyed an area of grass and gorse around a couple of metres square. I love how, in the first shot, the Common Green Grasshopper (Omocestus viridulusis trying so hard – and succeeding – to blend in, its head and thorax looking so much like a leaf, complete with the veins. Is the second one a female in striated form or a different sub-order? Not sure. The Garden Spider (Araneus diadematusis a favourite subject; once the macro lens has worked its wonders this diminutive arachnid can appear large and threatening when it is, of course, anything but. In this shot I like the capture of the spider's web and the composition, with its strands running diagonally from top right to bottom left. Finally, the Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) was being pursued by either a rival or a mate and was content simply to sit on the leaf while the other individual flew around it and occasionally landed close by. I have dozens of shots where the resting Brimstone is obscured by flashes of blurred yellow wings.

All shots: Canon 1Ds Mk III, Canon 100mm prime USM L-series lens







Monday, 24 June 2013

Dandelion head

A simple but pleasing shot taken while searching for early butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies. For those with an interest in photography, the key to this type of image is keeping the lens aperture as wide as possible (f/2.8 in this case). The result is pin-sharp focus where it matters, but a tightly defined depth of field leading to the blurring of the background and the edge of the dandelion head.

Canon 1Ds MkIII, Canon 100mm prime USM L macro lens, 1/250th sec, f/2.8, ISO 250

Large Red Damselfly


The damp and dismal June hasn't been terribly good for early damselflies and dragonflies, but I did spot this impressive Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula), which traditionally is one of the earliest to show. This fellow's colours are fabulous, especially the bronze on the back of its abdomen.  The eyes, too, are quite something.


Canon 1Ds MkIII, Canon 100mm prime USM L macro lens, 1/500th sec, f/7.1, ISO 400

Canon 1Ds MkIII, Canon 100mm prime USM L macro lens, 1/500th sec, f/7.1, ISO 400

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Couple of hoverflies

Canon 1Ds MkIII, Canon 100mm L-series prime lens, 1/320th sec, f/3.5, ISO 200

Canon 1Ds MkIII, Canon 100mm L-series prime lens, 1/320th sec, f/3.5, ISO 200




ID assistance needed

I think this little beauty is some kind of shield bug, but I would really appreciate some ID help from those with a far greater knowledge than I of these.

Canon 1Ds MkIII, Canon 100mm L-series prime lens, 1/320th sec, f/2.8, ISO 250

Canon 1Ds MkIII, Canon 100mm L-series prime lens, 1/320th sec, f/2.8, ISO 250

Scarlet Lily Beetle (Lilioceris lilii)

As with the previous post, here again I was lucky to be able to isolate the background, providing room for the subject to breathe. Though this beetle is generally hated by gardeners, I was rather impressed by this little chap.

Canon 1Ds MkIII, Canon 100mm L-series prime lens, 1/250th sec, f/2.8, ISO 640

Canon 1Ds MkIII, Canon 100mm L-series prime lens, 1/250th sec, f/2.8, ISO 640

Canon 1Ds MkIII, Canon 100mm L-series prime lens, 1/250th sec, f/2.8, ISO 640

Common Green Shield Bug (Palomena prasina)

I often look to the ground when looking to the skies proves unrewarding. Having spent a fruitless couple of hours in a hide hoping for the chance to capture shots of Marsh Harriers, I left and decided to  see what bug and insect life could be seen.

The first results (more to follow in future posts) were of this beautiful Green Shield Bug. Everything worked for me: the bug was happy to remain on one tiny leaf, the foliage behind it was uncomplicated and allowed for an uncluttered composition and the light was absolutely perfect, falling on the main focal point and isolating the background.

The outcome is two shots which reveal a detail in the Green Shield Bug that I hadn't appreciated before and the fabulous colouring in its wings. I am delighted with them.

As an aside, when I was a young boy my parents used to collect Green Shield stamps and I still remember how – when it was time to redeem them – my father would divide up the books with literally hundreds of stamps glued into them so that my sister and I could choose something cool to get. The memories came flooding back as I photographed this gorgeous specimen.

Canon 1Ds MkIII, Canon 100mm L prime macro lens, 1/250th sec, f/2.8, ISO 400


Canon 1Ds MkIII, Canon 100mm L prime macro lens, 1/250th sec, f/2.8, ISO 400

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Abstract landscape (Mayflies)

I spent a spare hour yesterday sitting at a riverbank where kingfishers are known to ply their trade. None showed, but I did witness an explosion of mayflies. Too far away and the light too gloomy ever to get something sharp, I decided to go for a shot that was more abstract and I think the almost luminous green of the river flora works well with the framing shadows and the flakes of white provided by the flies.

Canon 1Ds MkII, Canon 100-400mm IS USM L lens, 400mm, 1/125th sec, f/5.6, ISO 500

Monday, 3 June 2013

Red Kites

On Saturday a friend celebrated her 40th birthday with a party in Oxfordshire, providing the perfect excuse to stay overnight and shoot Red Kites in The Chilterns on the Sunday. And what a day it turned out to be, with high temperatures and a near pristine sky (image three was shot against one of the few clouds that bubbled up). There was activity all day, but in reality there is little point attempting to photograph Kites – or any other large bird against the sky – other than early in the morning or in the late afternoon, early evening. The results at other times tend to be a black silhouette against an over-bright backdrop. When the sun is lower, the birds' underside is lit and the pictures are so much more rewarding, revealing the Kites' subtle plumage variations and those piercing eyes constantly on the lookout for food scraps or carrion.

All shots taken using a Canon 1Ds MkII twinned with a Canon 100-400mm IS USM L lens