18-04-2020 to 24-04-2020
Twelve photos taken over the past week...
With every week that passes, the more I struggle to get up before sunrise to head out with my camera. This time of the morning is my favourite time to shoot - with the chance of mist, more abundant wildlife and fewer people around (I feel self conscious walking around my local area with the camera - especially with the new long lends attached!) I've missed a couple mornings this week. In fact, this morning I only just managed find the motivation to drag myself out of bed at 5.15am. I'm glad I did though, the misty conditions were amazing!
Despite missing a couple of early starts, I've still managed to bag a good number of photos. I've been using my new Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary Lens which has helped me get closer (well, zoom closer) to wildlife than I ever have before.
I've also completed a cool little indoor project this week - that I'll no doubt share with you soon.
It's worth noting, that I've now started to take short drives to my walking spots. This follows clarification of the policing of travel for exercise. I found this document issued by the "National Police Chief's Council" online which suggests that - "Driving to countryside and walking (where far more time is spent walking than driving)" - is OK.
Due to the early hours and often remote locations I've walked to from my home, I can be gone for up to three hours - only to see a few other people. I don't take this to mean that I can drive for over an hour each way though - as I don't think that would be reasonable. Instead, this week I've limited my drive time to 20 minutes each way.
This has of course opened up new location opportunities since lockdown. Although it's become a frustration that coastal locations I'd love to visit (North Coast and The Lizard Peninsula) are probably just that too far to drive.
Anyway, if you're still with me, well done! Here are my photos from week 4...
Wildlife shots taken with my new lens. I've tried to be selective in using only the images that either show natural behaviour or have interesting aesthetic qualities...
C O R M O R A N T Phalacrocoracidae A cormorant perched on a pontoon at Stithians Lake. I shot it through some bushes - to both frame it and keep it from flying away! An ISO of 1000 was required at this time of the morning (before the sun appeared over the horizon) - which introduced more noise than I'd like. As I'm generally a landscape photographer, my ISO is usually locked at 100 and may rarely creeps up to 400. I think in these levels of light, I need to make my peace with the noise. That said, when I borrowed a Fuji XT-3 in Chernobyl, it performed brilliantly in low light with very high ISOs. Canon 6D MkII | 150-600mm lens at 600mm | ƒ/6.3 | 1/500 sec | ISO 1000 | Handheld | Taken 20-04-2020 at Argal Reservoir
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I liked this shot of an adult Great Crested Grebe and it's chick preening at the same time - as if the chick was learning by mimicking.
I normally write a little description as I post to Facebook. That description then becomes the core of any copy I put to my images. I've not been able to post all new photos to social media without spamming your feeds! So, keep an eye on my accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) for when I post this with a description...
B L A C K C A P - S I N G I N G Sylvia Atricapilla As I walked around Argal Reservoir, I had one shot at photographing this Blackcap before he flew away out of sight. At ISO 1000 (necessary with the low light), there was again a little too much noise for my liking. It especially stood out on the plain out-of-focus background. I tried to combat this in Photoshop by applying a heavyish "orton effect" and masking out the bird. It worked a little. Canon 6D MkII | 150-600mm lens at 600mm | ƒ/6.3 | 1/320 sec | ISO 1000 | Handheld | Taken 20-04-2020 at Argal Reservoir
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**You may see some "artifacting" in the image here. This is because it's been reduced in quality for faster page loading speed. The original is a lot smoother**
GREAT CRESTED GREBE COURTSHIP Podiceps Cristatus My first shot with the new lens! I had hoped to bag a shot of a deer first. But after two failed attempts walking a route where I've seen deer every time, they were nowhere to be seen. So, I decided to take the lens to the potentially more fruitful Argal Reservoir. I hoped to see a Kingfisher, Heron or even Little Egrets - all of which I've seen there before, once on the same walk! But they weren't around either.
Instead, I shot a Great Crested Grebes courtship display. To get this intimate angle - with the lens inches above the water, I had to lie down in the mud at the water's edge. Luckily I had the foresight to bring a bin bag to lie on! Canon 6D MkII | 150-600mm lens at 600mm | ƒ/6.3 | 1/500 sec | ISO 400 | Handheld | Taken 20-04-2020 at Argal Reservoir
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First impressions of the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary lens
I'm very impressed with the in lens stabilisation. I can shoot handheld at full 600mm zoom at 1/100 of second and get a reasonably sharp image. Realistically though, I'm still not close enough - so I have to crop my images down a little. This means that the shot really has to be super-sharp.
I bought the lens packaged with a 1.4x Teleconverter - which kills the auto-focus. Because of this, I almost sent it back. The lens does though have a function that will over-ride the auto focus with the focus ring. I practised on swans and grebes today - manually focusing to get it pretty close, then letting the auto-focus do the last 5%, This seemed to work - provided that the target doesn't move too much.
R I S E - & - D E A D F A L L I composed this image with the fallen, moss-covered branch, snaking through a bed of bluebells towards a dominant tree trunk and patch of bright leaves. The leaves on these trees almost seemed to glow in the dark woods! I focus stacked (in manual mode to keep settings constant) with three exposures at different focal planes. I also bumped up the ISO and took another, faster shot (taking care to keep exposure brightness similar) to freeze the moving leaves. I blended some of these stiller leaves in afterwards. Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 90mm | ƒ/11 | 1.3 sec | ISO 400 | Tripod | Polarising filter | 3x Exposures for focus stacking + 1x faster shutter at a higher ISO to blend in still leaves | Taken 19-04-2020 at Unity Woods
S T I T H I A N S - J E T T Y A peaceful Stithians Reservoir at Dawn. Shot with a 30 second exposure to flatten the already calm water. The last time I was at this spot, it was after the long dry summer of 2018 - and the water was about 30 metres away! I did my best to line up the jetty to point towards the tree on the horizon as a focal point, while keeping the aspect ratio as wide as possible. I toyed with 3x2 and 1x1 crops before settling on this 5x4. Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 24mm | ƒ/11 | 30 sec | ISO 100 | Tripod | 1 stop ND grad & 3 stop ND filters | Taken 22-04-2020 at Unity Woods
D O C K S - A T - D U S K With a clear sky and not wanting to drive too far under lockdown, there was only one place to end my daily walk - Castle Drive overlooking Falmouth Docks for "Blue Hour." This photo was taken around 20 minutes after sunset, while the sky still glowed - which in turn reflected in the water. The dockyard switched on the lights in their buildings moments before, which added luminance to the foreground. An aperture of f18 (maybe a smidge high) created the starburst effect on the lights. The composition was achieved by fully extending my tripod, including centre column, and narrowing the legs to gain enough elevation to clear the railings. I processed this as a HDR image. I borderline didn't need to, but this image next to a non HDR photo I processed had more detail. Canon 6D MkII | 24-105mm lens at 35mm | ƒ/18 | 30 sec | ISO 100 | Tripod | ND grad filter | 3x bracketed exposures for HDR processing | Taken 23-04-2020 at Falmouth Docks
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Another image I've yet to post to my social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)... make sure you follow them for the details! - Which won't be too dissimilar to the details from the above photo!
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That rounds off another week of lockdown! If I'm off for another week I'll try to keep you filled in with what I photograph. Please let me know what you think by commenting on my social media - especially with regards to my new endeavour with wildlife photography!
For now, stay safe :)
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