Thursday, 21 May 2020

First Zoom Camera Club Talk to Ware Camera Club

First Zoom Camera Club Talk to Ware Camera Club 

Yesterday evening I gave my first `Zoom` talk to a Ware Camera Club. I have to confess being a bit nervous beforehand, which is strange considering I never get nervous when talking to a camera club with a live audience. 

It was the technical side that was worrying me, but apart from a small glitch right at the start, it seemed to go down reasonably well. Difficult to say really with these sort of talks because you cannot see what sort of reaction you are getting. 

This was a new talk I had purposely put together with a zoom presentation in mind. It is a talk that not only showed some of my best images, but also a lot of  `how I set it up to get the result` type of  shots as well. The following are a few images from the talk, - Photographing Garden Wildlife.  

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Photography In Our Garden - Part 5 - Using a Moth Trap

Photography In Our Garden - Part 5 - Using a Moth Trap. 

One thing that I have always enjoyed photographing are insects, butterflies and moths. Since the lockdown, I have run my Skinner Moth Trap on three separate evenings, and although the nights have not really been warm enough to have large numbers of moths, I have still managed to attract a few on each occasion, so this has given me some interesting subjects to photograph. 

The interesting thing about using a moth trap is that you never know what you are going to catch. Early in the morning I take the trap into the garden shed and slowly take it apart to examine what species I have caught. If you do this early, - at about 6.00am,- the moths are quite cool and easy to transfer onto plants, twigs and branches, so you can photograph them without much difficulty. Once they have been  photographed, the moths are released unharmed. 

The following are a few images of some of the moths I have caught recently in out garden since the lockdown. All taken with either the EM1X or the E-M1 MkII, and the 60mm F2.8 Macro lens or the 40-150mm F2.8 + MC14 converter. Some are single shot images and others are using the `in camera focus stacking` on the Olympus cameras. 

Popular Hawk Moth 
Earl Grey Moth 
Swallow Prominent Moth 

Close Up Head shot of the Swallow Prominent Moth. This was taken on a tripod using the Olympus EM1X , 60mm F2.8 Macro lens and extension tubes. It was a 15 shot `in camera` focus stacked image. 
Dark Sword Grass Moth 

Cinnabar Moth on bracken fond 

This is my Skinner Moth Trap 

In the bottom of the trap are cardboard empty egg trays/boxes. These are like aa `maze` for the moths. They find there way in but cannot find their way out. They will just sit in amongst the egg trays quite happily. 

Puss Moth 
Treble Bar Aplocera Plagiata Moth 
Muslin Moth

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Photography In Our Garden - Part 4 - Fighting Starlings and Video on the EM1X

Photography in Our Gardens - Part 4  - Fighting Starlings and Video on the EM1X 

Over the last few of weeks of the lockdown, I have managed to get some reasonable shots of Starlings in flight, using the garden shed as a hide.  Over the last week I have been photographing Starlings fighting as they fly into to food on a small post. Because the post is quite narrow, you can only really get one bird on at a time. Consequently when another bird flies in to try to get the food, they will often fly up in the air and squabble. Using Pro Capture on the EM1X and the 40-150mm F2.8 lens I have been reasonably successful getting some nice action shots, as I hope these few images show.

I also had my first attempt as shooting video on the Olympus. Not quite sure what I am doing yet, but having fun learning. This is a link to a short 1min 30 sec YouTube video I did showing the Starlings fighting. Clicking on the link on `blogger` does not direct you to the YouTube video,  so you will have to copy and paste the link to access it.  

Friday, 24 April 2020

Photography In Our Garden - Part 3 - House Sparrows in Flight

Photography In Our Garden - Part 3 - House Sparrows in Flight

The other birds that we have in our garden in quite large numbers are House Sparrows. We are quite lucky in this respect because House Sparrows have declined in numbers quite alarmingly over the last couple of decades. 

House Sparrows like hedges because bushes give them plenty of cover from attacks from Sparrowhawks and other predators. We do not actually have a hedge in our garden, but we do have a very large and overgrown pyracantha bush, and the Sparrows love to use this. We also have our seed feeders sited quite near to this bush, so they can easily fly from the bush to the feeders for food. I set myself the task of trying to photograph Sparrows as they flew back and forth from the bush to the feeders.

Using my Olympus EM1X,  the 40-150 F2.8 lens + MC14 converter, or the 300mm F4 lens, and using Pro Capture , would certainly make capturing small fast birds in flight a lot easier than if I was using mu old DSLR system. The follow is a selection of shots I was satisfied with , as well as some images showing the set up, and the photographic problems I had to overcome to get the images.

A few shots of House Sparrows in flight

I found that photographing House Sparrows in flight to be a lot more difficult than photographing Starlings in flight. For a start they are half the size of a Starling, and they appear to fly faster.(to me anyway )  I did however manage to get some reasonable shots of them, although my initial first attempts were a bit disappointing. The problem photographically was the situation of the bush and the feeders. They are sited quite close to the house because we like to watch them from the kitchen window. Because of this, I could not use the garden shed as a hide (as I had done for the Starlings) because it is at the bottom of the garden. The answer was to erect my old canvas hide halfway down the garden, and photograph from there. 

The Set Up and Hide Positions

Because the pyracantha bush is quite close to the house, I initially tried photographing the Sparrows from inside the house. By pulling the lounge curtains together and poking the lens through, the birds took no notice of me. The problem was that the light comes up in the morning from the bottom of the garden, so in the morning I would be shooting into the light, so the birds would be in dark shadow. Later in the afternoon when the sun has move around more was better, but the light was then coming from my right hand side, and the birds were still in partial shade which was not ideal.  There was a whole F stop of light difference between the light falling on the bird, and the light falling on the grass in the background. It still managed to get one or two reasonable shots though, but ideally, I needed to be photographing from the other side.

These three shots are taken from inside the lounge. There is one F Stop of difference between the lighting on the bird and the brightly lit grass in the background.

This is the view from inside the house. The arrows show the direction the Sparrows fly from the bush to the feeders and back again
By poking the 300mm F4 lens out between the curtain, it gave me the right focal length and distance to photograph them. 
EM1X from inside the lounge
You can see on this image that the Sparrow is in shadow because there is strong side lighting coming in from the right hand side. The light is falling on the lawn in the background, but the shadow from the house is putting the bird in the shade.

The solution was to erect my old canvas hide, and position it facing towards the house about 20 feet away from the feeders. I would then have the sun directly behind me for most of the morning /early afternoon, which was ideal for photography. It took the birds a day or so to get use to this being there, but after that they then took no notice of it whatsoever. FRom this distance I could use the EM1X and the 40-150mm F2.8 + MC14 converter, which would give me a combined focal length of 210m (420m on a full frame DSLR)

My old canvas hide sited about 20 feet the other side of the bush and feeders

The only problem with this new position was that it gave me lovely lighting on the birds, but a very distracting background ( the back of the house and patio doors )  Because of this, I had to erect a false background with green plywood and camouflage netting. This was held in position in the vice of a black and decker type` workmate`. The advantage of this was it could be moved around if necessary. The camouflage netting would give a nicely out of focus background.

The background from the hide when looking through the 40-150 F2.8 lens +Mc14 converter. I have focused on the feeder, and although the background is nicely out of focus, it is a very distracting background. 
This is the view with the same lens from exactly the same position but with the false background erected. 
 A shot of on of the Sparrows taken with the false background. Because the sunlight was directly behind the hide, I was easily able to obtain shutter speeds of 2/000th sec and higher which would stop the action yet give a little blur to the wings.  
This shot is a wider angle view that shows the false background. 
This shows the construction of the `mobile `background. The advantage of having it on a `workmate` is you can pick it up and move it if necessary. This is the green plywood/cardboard with some scrim netting
This is the finished background with the camoflage netting
The view on the screen of the EM1X from inside the canvas hide. 

With the false background in place, this hide position was fine for the light in the morning, and was ideal for getting shots as they flew backwards and forward from the bush to the feeder. Using the Pro Capture High mode on the Olympus EM1X and the 40-150mm F2.8 lens + MC14 converter, I was able to get some really nice shots of the Sparrows in flight.  Because the birds were in bright sunlight, I could use ISO 200 and still achieve shutter speeds of between 3200 and 2000th sec at F4.

You have to use manual focus with Pro Capture High, so I had to pre focus on an area where I thought they would be coming in to land. This was a few inches to the side of the cage feeder. Half pressing the shutter button activates Pro Capture, but the images are not written to the card to the card until the shutter button is depressed fully. This way you stand a lot better change of catching the bird in flight between the bush and the feeder. Because I had to pre focus where I was estimating they would be flying, I did get a lot of pictures that were just out of focus. The bird only has to be an inch behind or in front of the area I had focused on, and the bird would be out of focus. Depth of field at F4 is very narrow, but with perseverance, I did manage to get an number of `keepers` that where nicely in focus.

These next two shots show the finished `cropped` image and the original. 

After a couple of sessions photographing from this position, I decided to try photographing them from a different angle in an attempt to get some shots of them `head on to me`. I moved the hide to the left so that I was getting the afternoon light and moved the `mobile background` around because of this. This way I was able to get some shot of them flying towards me rather than around the field of view.
Also, because I had moved the hide further away from the feeders, I could use the 300mm F4 lens, which would make the background even more out of focus

This shot shows the new hide position. 
This shot shows the view without the false background with the water butt and fence as background
This shot show the same viewpoint but without the false background moved into position. The arrows and circled area are the area that I pre focused on for the shot.

Male House Sparrow in flight - 300mm F4 Lens