After a long bit of consideration I decided to upgrade the gear and future proof it for a good few years. First thing to go was the tripod. The Gitzo was very big, t big. Also I found the legs would stiffen up after a spell in the sand and sea requiring a strip down. And to be honest it was just to big at a 40kg weight limited. So over to Leophoto it was. Must admit their top of the range model is excellent quality. Smaller light adonised not painted and smaller yet able to take 20kg. And easier to strip down when needed. Also got the levelling base for landscapes. Then it was the promedia L bracket for the R5 and what a thing of beauty it is. Multi adjustable and allows a grip and the flip out screen to be used and the battery changed. Very trick. Of course the ancient MK1 24-105 F4 needed to be replaced to resolve the new camera and it was replaced with the new RF 24-105 F4. And yes its also a thing of beauty. Sharp bright and built like a little tank. And finally (for now) f sop Tilopa bag. Yes my savings has taken a hit but hell, you only live once and now all the old gear has gone its time to field test all this stuff.
Review of the Canon R5
I bought the camera to replace my 11 year old 1DX MK1 and 7DMK2. The R5 having a crop mode made the use of the 45 million pixels. One camera same batteries as the 7D less weight so all in all it made perfect sense. First the bad news. Its expensive. Very expensive. The camera plus grip, three extra batteries, a SD and 512gb CF Type B was over £5500. That's a hell of a lot of money. And two brand new LPE6N batteries didn't work. I checked this out online and its a not unknown problem. Well that's the bad news out the way. Everything else is simply phenomenal. Firstly Id advise that if you buy one customise the buttons. I've set mine to change between video 4K and stills, another animal eye tracking to spot focus, another full to crop mode, another for ISO another aperture. I've also customised loads of other settings I wont bore you with other than having the histogram and level always in view. . It just speeds everything up. The autofocus is simply phenomenal but not perfect. No focusing system is. Its so quick to acquire a target its simply ridiculous. The eye and animal tracking works great but at times does struggle but only in certain conditions which unfortunately I got. that day shooting my speciality, seals. With the dark eyes, sometimes dark fur and a hot day it could lock onto the eye but at other times struggled. Given it was hot the animals dry and the eyes dark id say it may have been a lack of contrast. As the light improved as the day wore on it got better. It easily locked onto the animal but at times would also jump to other high contrast bits such as the snout rather than eye. So a quick change to spot focus but again it struggled. Defiantly the conditions id say as in the arctic it was fine, birds fine but on a hot day lacking contrast its not perfect. Best not go when it was so warm. ISO performance is excellent as good as my 1DX and given the pixels that's amazing but I always ensure my exposures are bang on so limits the need for "tweaking" in post production. The crop mode is very handy when the seals were a touch to far and 17 million pixels is enough anyway. The detail you get is quiet simply stunning in those 45million shots. Colour rendition is perfect also. The video quality is just crazy. I've never had any heating issues but then again i only do short bursts. The dual pixel autofocus is great. And 20 fps in electronic can be great but also a pain given how big the files are. Yes you get detail and dynamic range but boy are the files big. I guess its a price worth paying. Then again I also used CRAW, Canons new RAW algorithm. Its a RAW file but much smaller I guess is the easiest way to describe it. It writes so fast and downloads fast and to be honest I cant see any difference in the files. I used it and its great! Then again its wildlife so only limited post adjustments. Landscapes its the full monty RAW files. It also works great with my EF lenses with the Canon adapter. No slowing up of the autofocus.
I wont go on but now its set to my liking id say its one of the best all round well sorted cameras I've ever come across. Its making taking shots so easy. And that's a good thing!
Of all the times I've been to photograph wildlife, the most recent outing to Iceland and Norfolk was without doubt the best set of photography I have ever experienced. Travelling to Iceland then an internal flight to Isafjordur then on via boat to land via a little motor boat on a stony beach in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. The video on Youtube shows what the weather was like sunny to snow storms which did allow a wide variation in photos and really tested the new camera. The farmhouse in the video was a great place to stay, and a perfect base to photograph the Arctic Foxes. They turned up and were utterly amazing. These tough little foxes, sleeping in open snow covered fields, running over mountains, scavenging on shores, , they gave me loads of photo opportunities that I hope did them justice. After a week it was time to return to the UK and a drive to Norfolk to spend two days lying in wooded fields to photograph brown hare. The pics were top draw so a massive shout out to Simon. Luckily by then I really had mastered the Canon R5.. Set up to change from video to photo, full frame to crop, single to multi shot, it goes on and on. Its just so versatile, landscapes with all those lovely pixels, the ability to jump between full frame and crop instantly. But the most amazing part of the camera is the autofocus. Set to animal eye tracking it just nails the pictures and makes shooting sharp images so easy. It takes no real skill. But i guess thats technology for you. getting results i could never get with my DSLR. Is it perfect? No, no system is. But its so far beyond what I had it makes the expense of the camera worth every penny.
So thats it, a great 10 days and some of my best photos yet. Ill let you judge.
Well to treat myself following the recent award at The National History Museum, I finally decided time and technology was right to jump ship to mirrorless. My 1DX was 10 years old and the 7D always had noise and autofocus issues in some lighting conditions. I waited a year after the R5/R6 came out and reviewed all the usual places on Youtube and the like. The question was R3 or R5. After a long bit of thinking it was an easy decision. The issues with cameras are what are you using it for, what size do you need an image and the three or four important issues, sensor, autofocus, speed and video specs. Well the video of the R5 is as good as an R3 for me. I only do short videos and piece them together. The speed of shooting and writing again 20 or 12 frames is way above what I have and so far dont think Ive missed much. 30 FPS? Dont think I need it. But the big one was the sensor. I do find I need to crop a lot when using the 1DX and many times need to change to the 7D2. So 45 million pixels means one camera not two. And the autofocus is pretty much the same as an R3. And of course I do landscapes and need lots of pixels. So I bought a new one of EBAY at a very good price and have started to use it after I set it up for what I need. Ive set the buttons first, main button for spot autofocus and measuring, the same as my 1DX. The back button AF-ON is spot autofocus the star button eye detect. But does it work? Oh yes. I can honestly say the autofocus is from another planet. Fast and locks onto people, animals and cars/bikes so fast and so accurate im stunned. It makes taking pics so much easier. The video? Again another planet and the quality is staggering. Pics taken from 8K are pretty good. Build quality is excellent, battery life better than an R3 with my battery grip attached. And the image quality? Well that 45 million pixels I thought would be very noisy but I was mistaken. From Photons to Photos, the dynamic range is better than my 1DX the colour rendition excellent But the noise? Well Id say its as good as my 1DX. Not better but as good. Which given it has way more pixels is amazing. I can crop so hard its making carrying 1 camera a strange experience. So all in all, worth every penny. But be warned. Buying the camera is the start. I had to buy a £450 CF card a fast SD card, a grip, extra batteries and a Rode microphone.
Well the secret I've been keeping is finally out. I entered the Wildlife Photographer of The Year Awards at The Natural History Museum in late 2020. It was my first ever entry and the image was one of the two I sent. There were 50,000 entries from 90 countries from many of the worlds top pro and amateur photographers. Its the most prestigious awards ceremony on the planet, the "Oscars" of world photography. I was stunned when i was informed the image was accepted for final viewing and the RAW image was sent off. Then I was informed that of those 50,000 entries 100 had been accepted for awards , to go on display at The Natural History Museum and be put into print. And Its the only picture this year of UK wildlife. I was then contacted by UK tv channel Channel 4 news who were doing the publicity for the awards. I was asked to meet with Dave Young Royal Television Society award winner 2020/21 and asked to meet at Donna Nook Lincolnshire at the spot I photographed the seal for a short film describing how i took the shot and my views on humanity and its impact on these wonderful animals. And to be included in a short film for TV with six other photographers from around the world also contributing from their homes.. The image was also to be used on their Instagram post and online channel. I was then invited to the awards ceremony at The Museum in London which was the most amazing night I've ever had. So many wonderful people, so many great photographers and the most amazing place I've ever been to. The next day was press day so me and five others sat in Hintze Hall under the whale skeleton in the Museum before the press, did a short talk then into the exhibition for more questions including for me German TV! The book is now on sale and I have my own copy.
I,d like to say thank you to all the staff at The Natural History Museum. They are so kind, so helpful and work in one of the worlds most amazing places of science and research as well as a museum of world renown.
And the image? Well its in the book and called "A distressing matter", its in the section Oceans, The Bigger Picture, page 94/95 and in the section Seals. Its the seal wrapped in rope. Be assured, the local wildlife trust were contacted, the ropes removed and the seal treated and released at which I attached it return to the large group.
Now the question is......how do I improve on last year?
With the restrictions of Covid 19 photography has been restricted to local stuff but a challenge is a challenge. Winter went by with a focus on Red Grouse. They never fail to surprise me and sure enough a good few keepers and a video on the high moors. The little Panda Cross 4x4 came into its own and got me to places i would never have thought possible. With good tires 4x4 and hill decent it was stunning. A few other bits were done but of late a first trip to Bempton and Ravenscar. The video on Youtube explains it more but that evening light, wind and of course peregrine made a great day even better. Ravenscar was a tough one. A long walk down but being pretty good with seals a few really good shots were taken. The motorhomes upgraded for better wild winter camping with more battery and solar. Diesel heater on its way. Photography wise well, i cant say much. More news later. What i need to do is replace the old cameras. The 1DX is still amazing and the 7D2 also but are showing their age. So its either a R5 or upcoming R3. To be fair the R5 would be perfect for me. Decisions decisions.
Well what a way to end the year! Completed the deer project and a good few days doing grey seals!. First pup of the year in the bag and the light was to die for. Got the pics in the sea i wanted so for a difficult year a good way to finish. With lockdown its a good time to throw out the creaking old gear and get new in although not cameras or lens just bags tripods and the like. And with that the year ends. Perhaps its a time for more videos, maybe to go back to Scotland for landscapes who knows. But all in all, a good way to end a tough year.
Well, not much to report photography wise. With the lockdown of the country its been local photos only. Taken a few red kits shots but other wise nothing. Making plane for later in year to finish the seal project and deer also. Did a video for Youtube showing how i do what i do at Donna Nook. Otheriwse a quiet year.
Before I got to old I decided to photograph one of Europes last remaining ice age remnants the Musk Ox. Its a fascinating creature, perfectly designed for the arctic so after finding where I can get some shots I was off with five like minded souls to Trondheim in Norway then a transfer to Oppdal. These were hard core wildlife fellas. Overnight in the hotel then a two hour journey to Dovrefjell National Park. On getting out the van I was greeted by a load of barking huskies and my own dog sled. Yes, no training just a quick five minute guide, load the sled and off. Definatly not British health and safety! Top stuff for an old biker, sliding over the white cold wonderland of Norway, heading toward the mountain where the ox were. Two falls later we arrived in a tiny snow covered valley. Tents up, gear unloaded and the dogs disappeared to leave us with the guides, Larrs and Kim. Toilet dug, yes it was poo city in minus 10 into the little hole even at night!. Three strangers in each tent, unwashed and not changing clothes for four days. Food was dried packet high energy mixed with melted snow. Then up at dawn, full arctic gear and 16kg of camera gear slung on the back, snow shoes on and off we went, yomping up the small mountain. The Ox survive up there as the gales blow the snow of the tops revealing the meagre grass and heather for the animals. Boy was it tough!. The weight, the distance, the wind and snow in freezing temperatures but I never felt down or wanted to stop, I needed those pictures! Day one lasted only one hour before snow and wind hit but day two after scaling the snow covered mountainside I got five hours of wild Musk Ox photography. The last day was a whiteout so we loaded the gear onto sleds for Larrs and Kim to pull whilst we walked on ski shoes hauling the heavy gear on our backs for mile after mile in snow, ice and wind. Four hours later covered in sweat we arrived via GPS tracking at the pick up point. Im proud of what I managed. It was very very tough going and very few photogs would ever give it a go but lifes for living and your a long time dead. I was tired, very dehydrated, hungry and aching all over but I wouldn't have changed anything. The views, the animals and above all to do what so few have done. Got some nice pics too!
A 1400 mile trip in the motorhome to Donna Nook, Horsey,Aviemore and Glencoe. That was tiring! 14 days on my own but a great way to focus on the animals. Doona Nook was as usual busy and only able to get "fence" pics but spotted a pup way of in the grass and spent a good hour waiting for the light and for the damm thing to look at me! Im sure the seals were on viagra with all the mating going on! Then Horsey. Never been before but it was seal heaven. Managed a good few shots and never disturbed a single seal. Seals in the sand, sea, fighting, mating, miles and miles of seals! Then the long long drive to Aviemore with a plan for Ptarmighan. Except it rained rained then rained some more. I walked up into the mountains but noit a single bird. Al that way,the heavy gear for nothing. Oh well, its wildlife. Concerning over the lack of snow. Then Glencoe. Rain, snow sun it had it all and the most wonderfull place for landscapes. Lots of climbing up the sides of mountains but again definatly worth the effort. Next its Norway for my only tour/holiday in years but needs must to do wild Musk ox in snow. Once in a lifetime but again,more learning.
Well its been some time but things have progressed as planned. I had a look onto Bass Rock, a stunning place if you like Gannets. Shame the weather was poor to much sun but I got a picture of a gannet with a plastic bag in its mouth. Rare, only I got it given I wasn't on any planned tour, I will be back with much better weather I hope. A further trip to Finland went great. It really is a top place and going myself meant I got pics no one else got. The bears were as usual on their best behaviour but I was the only person to photograph wild wolves. Lucky yes but knowing the weather, sun direction so picking the right place was maybe a bit more than luck. The Capercaiilie meant spending 16 hrs on my own in a tiny hide in awfull weather. Again it was worth it getting pics I love with a stunning bird. Of late I returned to Donna Nook. That long walk out to the sandbanks in the worst weather I have ever had in taking pics of any animal. The wind was howling which I wanted to get sand battered seals then it poored down. It was so bad I managed 4 hrs then had to retreat back to the motorhome. Not a single photographer which was great in getting pics no one ealse got but boy did the gear take a kicking. I then went on to photograph some deer but it was pooring down which managed to kill the 7D2. But the 1DX soldiered on. A week in Norfolk to come then maybe a few moor landscapes.
Well, as starts to the new year go, that was partially good. Headed of on my own in my motorhome to photograph wildlife in Holland. Went to De Hoge Veluwe national part which was stunning, hugh but not a single animal in site. No mouflon, boar or deer. Weather was poor also so after two days I left and met up with a top dutch wildlife photographer. He taught me loads about flash, remote camera trapping and camera settings that will have major benefits in the future. Sadly only a single fox came out to play. Loads of people around probably disturbed where they were. Still theres always next time. The squirrels in Germany did appear where we wanted them briefly and I got a nice back lit red squirrel. Rim lighting! I love it some may not. Learned how to set up remote cameras then off in search of beavers who sadly had got up very early and gone. Again no luck but things changed in a reed bed when the sun lit up the reeds and the Buntings and reedlings came out to play. So all in all a great learning experience and ill be back but at a better time of year. Thn it was landscapes at Saltwick bay. I wanted the old wreck covered in water with a brooding sky to simulate the storms and wrecks when it sank. Bit iffy getting to it at higher tide but got the shots. Then off to north Yorkshire for more landscapes. Again the weather was poor but its all a learning experience. So...I learned a lot got a dozen nice pics and alls set for a big 2020.
Well, that was a tough one! Back photographing grey seals. Tough as the weather was awfull. The gale blew the water over the sandbanks so it was very wet 1.5 miles out at sea. When it eventually dried I spent a long time crawling over sand, sea and sea crap to get close but no so as to disturb them. I was rewarded with great shots of seals playing in the sea, in pools and on sand and not one seal was disturbed. Great studying their behaviour so I can get so close. Tides wernt exactly perfect and the cloud cover spoiled late day shooting but still some excellent pics. Then it was a long drive to photograph red der. Again the weather was appalling, rain rain and more rain. Luckily the 1DX 500f4 mk2 and the little gem that is the 100-400 did a marvellous job. I know the deer behaviour so well now I was able to get head shots, stag in red ferns, stag shaking of rain and a whole host of other great shots. Knowing the area well I managed to get close to a large herd of reds with one large and angry stag. Then on top of a small rise I was approached by two evenly matched stags. I had no chance to find cover so knowing their ways and behaviour, threw the 500 to the side, put the 100=400 and stood up. They looked surprised but sort of looked at me, thought im nothing, turned and all hell broke out. They battered eachother for approx. 30seconds and all 50ft from me. What a sight. Still it was either lay down or do the right thing, let them see you, dont surprise them and what a reward. The camera worked a treat even at iso 6400 when you nail the exposures. Managed a holiday in Scotland where I was able to get semi wild Reindeer in the rut, some landscapes and a few other bits. A few videos to upload onto YouTube to do which really does show the craziness that is wildlife photography. As for other gear Ive purchased more Harkila gear, hat, trousers and soon to arrive jacket. Yes its expensive but with a 5 year warrently, as well made as it gets I fully recommend it. Next its red fox!
At last, my little videos are uploaded to YouTube.Im no video maker as id rather be taking pictures but it gives a flavour of the difficulties of wildlife photography. Ill upload others as I do them with the next being what gear I use and advice if you want to take up wildlife, what to consider you may want to buy. Im off to Scotland to photograph Ospreys, booked next week to do more Capercaillies and have planned more seal, deer and a host of other stuff.Just hit the little red button on the web page and see where ive been.
Finally managed to upload my 60 favourite pictures from five years of Farne Island pictures. I visit about twice a year but with the huge increase in landing fees over recent years parking and getting there its approx. £70 a trip so Ive reduced it to once per year. Its a great place to Photograph birds. The species in the main are Puffin, Actic Turn, Eider Duck, Razorbill, Guillimott Shag, Seals, the odd Cormorant, lots of Gulls, some Sanderling Turns and a few other species. I wouldn't go if its windy as if theres a sea swell the landing on Staple Island, the more rocky of the two main islands will have a high probability of being cancelled. Its difficult I guess for those with mobility problems to get onto the island. Still, I get x4 hrs on Inner Farne as opposed to two hours on Staple and Inner Farne. Sun is also a problem as its mid summer and bright sun makes the pics look flat and the birds will have shadows on the shots. Best look at the weather forecast, a nice calm dull, rainy or diffused light. Wind direction also dictates where the birds land and take of from. Take a hat in high season as the Arctic Turns are pretty aggressive and will attack you. Best lens combo is between 24mm as you can get very close up to 700mm for longer shots. I generally take my 24-105mm, 100-400, 500 prime and an extender for the 1DX. If I had to take only one lens its the 100-400 and an extender. Big primes are pretty useless for in flight shots although I did get a Artic Turn head in the water in flight at about 1200mm with the 500, 1x4 and 7D2. When you get the four classic shots, Puffin in flight, puffin on rock with eels, arctic turn overhead and shag on the nest, you really can expand your mind and get thousands of pictures and it gets easier the more you go. I hope the few Ive uploaded give a decent representation of what can be done but it did take about 10 visits over five years at different times. So....book ahead, check the weather, nice dull/dfifused day. Take a decent lens coverage and enjopy an amazing if a tad expensive day.
Finally back from Finland and again an amazing place for all things wildlife. Eight days of wildlife, Capercaillie, Black Grouse and Brown Bear, all in the snow. Admittadly it was very tiring with a lot of sleep deprivation, a lot of solitude having gone on my own and the occasional disappointment The bears in snow were great but it was the black grouse beating each other on an ice lake was better but the most amazing sight of all was the male capercaillie lekking in a forest in the snow. When they fought, they really do beat each other for many a minute. So much so im going back to take more, such was the amazing sight. The trip went amazingly well as it is in Finland, everything just works perfectly. The Canon gear worked perfectly as it always does. The photos of Reindeer in arctic conditions in Scotland, the landscapes, its just been excellent. So now its summer, its finish the secret Farne Islands project, perhaps an Osprey or two then some stuff in Orkney. Having a motorhome really is a big bonus!
I managed to get to Donna Nook at bag some shots Ive been after for ages. Luckily I have a motorhome now and its so much easier having a lie in then getting up when I want. Ive done a few selfie videos for the YouTube channel I'm sorting out so hopefully my ugly mug will be on there soon. Another trip is planned soon then maybe some local landscapes to end the year. All in all a very successful year.
At last! The house is finished and I can pick up the camera. I can now see why so many wildlife people go to Mull, its full of all sorts of wild beasties. Buzzards on poles, eagles in the sky but for me it was otters. Spent four days looking for them with barly a sight until the last few hours in a sea lock when around the corner he came, fishing for crab. Sat on a rock and posed. I couldn't have planned it better. The of to do some landscapes although the weather wasn't to kind. Back to the Farne Islands and over the course of the last four years I'm putting together a nice portfolio that I wont upload until its finished. The best shots of the year I feel were done a mile from my house of brown hares, basking in the sun, cleaning their paws and running around. That said it took a lot of work to get close but it did pay of in the end. The gear is standing up to all the punishment, the Gitzo Tripod is as tough as a tough thing. I didn't replace the 1DX for the new model as:
1. Its very expensive
2. I don't do video
3. The upgrade isn't to big to justify the expense
4. The 1DX is already better than me so why change?
That said the 7d2 is awesome as a back up when the focus works. Its seems in low contrast conditions it still miss focus's. I guess ill have to put up with that. The 500f4 is just an amazing workhorse and as reliable as a very reliable thing.
Next its back to Finland to try some hide based stuff then more Farne Islands, a few months of then maybe some more seals.
It never ends.
Its been some time and Id like to thank renovating my old house for that. I did manage to get the final seal pics id been after. Those "seal covered in afterbirth" ones and a few others a month earlier so that's all complete. Then it was up to the Cairngorms in January. Initially it wasn't looking to good. Headed of into the hills and managed to get some real good shots of Mountain Hare without snow. That said scaling some real steep cliffs at my age with a ton of gear and no one anywhere for miles was a bit stupid but hey, you do what you do for the pic!. Met up with Neil and did four days doing all sorts, hare, red deer, ptarmigan and IT SNOWED! The pics are just amazing, I'm so buzzing and barly a tweek in Lightroom needed. Best four days ever and to be uploaded in a years time. Then I went to Glencoe for landscapes and again, snow, lots of snow, great cloud cover and top stuff. Walking past loads of people and looking for places I never went to. Funny but in such a crowded place, if you look you can find stuff that's so easy to miss. The best bit of all is managing to capture so much wildlife in camera. I must be learning something all this practice. Next up Mull with Neil then back to the Farnes for my project and more seals.
Another successful couple of days taking photos of Hare. Thanks Simon for the fieldcraft and all the learning I can use round my neck of the woods. Must admit lying ion fields and on paths for hour after hour may not seem like fun but learning important skills in how to get close to wildlife is one amazing experience. Managed to get a good few decent shots. On the last evening when the light was poor two males ran in front when I was lay in a grass verge covered in camo. They stood up then battered eachother for a good minute. What a sight! Should go well with the same fighting in snow in Scotland. Having to put the camera away for a few months due to moving house and serious consideration of upgrading to a ef 600. Must work out in the gym! Its a beast. Next up Bass Rock and more Farne Islands before a two month sabbatical.
Can this year get any better! Just spent three days in Scotland on the UK's best Lek. Up at 3am, drive to meet the fellas then its of to sit in a dark freezing box till 9am. Light was different on each day but it the snow on day two that was the best. Loads of really beautifull shots. Found a valley with squillions of wild red deer, a few top places for the odd landscape including a hike to the top of a mountain! Im a bit fitter than I think. Back using the old 1DS3 for landscapes. Its just really good at them. Managed to get back to the seals for a few days in February. Standing for over an hopur in sea water waiting for the tide to drop in mid Feb in a howling wind wasn't the most fun thing to do but learned so much more about these fascinating animals. Sio next its The Farnes, some Brown Hares then more Osprey.
As for the gear, well the 1DX still amazes me. The 7D2 is excellent if the light is good and the autofocus has enough contrast to lock on. The new 100-400 continues to amaze at its image quality and 500f4 is what it is, the best lens Ive used outside the 300 f2.8MK2. My new chest waders work a treat. Sitting in a pond all afternoon wasn't most peoples idea of a fun day but managed by luck to catch a big flock of Whoopers landing for a rest as they headed north. So all in all, its going great.
Well the new year has started with a bang! Some really good stuff from my favourite place , Scotland. A new place to go, a valley with winter hare, a definite for next year. Some snow bunting, red squirrel, cresties and some deer. Stalking Reds on the moors all alone wasn't pleasant. Snow snow and more snow. Still it was worth it, snow on deer. Missed the Ptarmigan but theres always next year. Must thank Paul and Neil. Found a great place on the moors close to me for Red Grouse. I really love those birds, great colours and I think a better looking bird in the heather than the Blacks, of whom I have now found a Lek and its local! Scotland was a s usual great for landscapes. The new 1DX2 is out. Amazing for video. The specs are excellent but Its very expensive in the Uk and not the biggest upgrade from the my model so ill skip this one and spend the money on travel. Alls sorted for this year and half of next. Next stop...more seals. The joys of laying in sand for two days all alone just me my cameras and a few mars bars! Then its Budapest then Scotland again!
Back from Scotland. Great place wonderfull people and some really nice whiskey. Didn't do much photography wise but great to get to Mull and check it out for later next year. Did a couple of weekends on my own taking pictures of seals both common and grey. A few pups around so shot at 1200mm ish so as not to disturb any. Used what ive learned to get pretty close and not disturb any with the sun to my back. Definatly go again in the winter. Still getting focus problems with the 7D2. Some days bang on others just way off. Ive tried, ive microadjusted but still it persists so its of to Canon for a tweek. One more week with deer then its back to try for better landscapes. So all in all a very successful year. Next year is planned already, no foreign trips just me my gear and wandering around the UK.
Well thats the MOTO GP finished. Its very expensive down at Silverstone. £5 for a bun and what looked like a year old wafer thin burger. Thats just one example. Luckily the facilities are excellent. Shame about it being so flat and surrounded by a hugh fence but safety is what safety is. Anyway after a year of planning I went down and to be honest it was great racing wise, poor photography wise. Only a few really top places for shots, one through the fence was good, sun behind me to light up the bikes. You loose loads of shots panning due to blurr shooting so slow, more with the grey fence in them but now and again a bike is bang on centre of the mesh and pin sharp. Luckily it rained on Sunday so faster shots, more keepers and rooster tail water. The racing shots are fantastic, great colours and top racing. Rossi, Lorenzo, Marquez, Pedrosa, Smith etc etc some really good stuff. Im a bike nut so a few will definatly be in print for my wall. So all in all some really great stuff and nearly my last bike shots.....well.....at least for some time. Funnily the 7D2 and 100-400 MK2 was used most of the time due to the fences and weight. ISO isnt a problem shooting so slow. It is a great combination for sport. So next its Mull to scout out a few things then more wildlife then back to landscapes in my new fav place.
Well, that addiction to buying lens's didn't last. The new 100-400 MK2 is now a firm favourite. With the advances in ISO tech and the delicate balance of depth of field, f5.6 is actually in many situations still to thin so taking it out to 7.1/8.0 is used a great deal so buying the lens seemed a winner. Its small, light, fast focusing and the images are amazing. Its equally as good as my 70-200 and in zoom terms that's as good as it gets. It really is that good. Ok its not quite big prime territory but its not far off. Remember, printer, ink, paper all impact on quality so pond for pound can you really tell the difference when all things are equal? Well yes but only just. The primes do have an "x" quality but this zoom is soooo good it makes it a darn close ran thing. Anyway, Ill upload some stuff when I get time. The squirrels are the best ive ever done, all shot in my region too! The lanscapes I do off and on I still wont upload as I don't want anyone to see them yet. They were very difficult to get but worth it I think. And local too.
Well, I finally finished three weeks of taking pics of Kestrels near my home. I managed to get down around 15 nights after work and on weekends. Five different positions tried, two cameras, two lens combinations a set of Pocketwizards and my old bag hide. It was a bit dangerous being so high at times, very hot on occasion, hours of nothing and seconds of excitement. Luckily using what I now know I managed to get the family to accept me so the adults came in and out and the chicks started to pose, wondering what that strange shaped object was (me under the hide). I managed to save one when it was pulled from the nest by the adult. Good news is all five fledged and I was there when no 3 went. An amazing site and a hell of a lot of work but I think it was worth it. Now....Kittiwakes! The 1DX was amazing and the 7DMK 2 was also excellent if you shoot below 1600ISO get your exposures ok in camera. It doesn't have the richness of a full frame image as the pixels are to small (stop chasing pixels you don't need) but its actually a great camera for what it is. Booked for MOTO GP more deer and a host of other stuff. Must admit I do get tired after a long day at work. Getting old!
Hungary....what a fantastic place. Stunning scenery, perfect roads, new airport and friendly people. The birdlife is amazing. The national park grasslands seen to go forever. Weather was mixed. Golden hour sunshine some days dull and wet another. Still, pics look good. Roller, Hoopoo, Red Footed Falcon, Beeeater, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, and a whole range of waterbirds. Ill upload when I get a chance.
The gear worked as expected. 1DX perfect. 500 and 300 prime sharp as a sharp thing. 70-200 excellent. What I learned about depth of field helps but also the sensitivity of outer focus points and the closer top the centre the more accurate the autofocus. More light I expect. The 7D is very good if the lights good. ISO 1000 max. That's not to say its that bad above this but detail loss is more pronounced.
So its back to Britain. Popped up early to The Farnes for a bird not often taken pics of. I wont upload as there for my Blurb book and I don't want anyone to ha#ve a peek. May go again soon. Im onto a Kittiwake nest that im eye level with. When the chicks hatch I should get a few decent shots. On a Kestrel nest to. Never tire of my fav bird. Chicks will be in a line maybe this weekend. So all in all, some nice stuff to come. Preparing for just British wildlife for next year. up to Scotland then a week looking over Mull for wildlife. All alone for #a week. Bliss!!
Well, its trip time again!. Off to Hungary tomorrow. Got all the gear ready. Taking pictures in warm weather! Makes a change from pouring rain and snow. With the rail strike its going to be tough getting home but landing in Luton, cross to Victoria Bus Station then a 5 hour bus journey north after sitting in a marsh isn't a great idea for a spring break but it is what it is.
Been out and about testing the new 7DMK2 I bought and it was a surprise. Small, light, easy to use and shoots pretty quiet. The autofocus is...well.... not a 1DX. Theres a lot of chatter on the net over a possible problem. I can say it isn't a patch on the x but it is what it is, a dam good crop body. A lot of bang for your money. The image quality is far superior to the previous model, around 1.5 stops worse than the x but for those far off shots you don't want to crop its great. Yes the x autofocuses better, faster and produces amazing rich images but the new 7D is pretty darn good. Well see more after Hungary.
Been lying in a pond checking out Great Crested Grebes. Should be great next year now I know where they are. Yesterday I was lying on a stone wall about 10ft in the air with the 300 on the x looking into a Kestrel nest. Again ill get the shots when the chicks hatch. A whole host of afternoons on my own in uncomfortable places just to get shots of birds. All planned for next year aswell. The winter landscapes look great. Wont post them as I don't want them copied but Im pretty amazed how good the x is at landscapes. Anyway, work tomorrow then its a long train journey to London, then another to Luton, a flight to Budapest then a two hour car journey. Fingers crossed it goes well.
Finally got time to do another blog! Few, what a few months its been. Completed a tough four months. Did the best photography Ive ever done in Greece doing Dalmatian Pelicans. Big, slow, dumb and not that hard to do. Stayed in a hotel just over the border in Bulgaria. Drive each morning to the lake. The weather was perfect, difused sun, amazing clouds and mirror lakes. Birds and landscape all in one. Lots of shore based and boat based stuff. Finally all the learning worked out and the results are the best ive ever done. The 1DX was as usual great but the lens choice fisheye, 16-35mm, 70-200 500 prime and the big daddy of all Canon lens's the 300 f2.8MK2. I really cant praise this lens more. Its lazer sharp, fast autofocus and the images are beyond any other lens ive ever used including the 500. With them in the bag it was of to Wales. Did a few Buzzards close up then found a top place for some other none wildlife related stuff. You know your getting old when climbing up a steep hill/mountain around 500metres and you have a 500 and tripod on your back and you keep stopping every 50 metres. Anyway, more of that stuff I checked out over the next few years. Bit of landscapes in the snows of northern England which went great. Snowstorms, mountains even the light was excellent. To be uploaded next year. Then it was of to Poland. The White tailed Eagles performed way beyond what I thought it would be like. All uploaded with barly any use of a computer. Got a top contact in eastern Europe for future outings. Sitting in a freezing box, urinating in a bucket whilst it snowed outside. Nice. Then its back home and chill out for a month. Im knackered. Now everything is booked for Hungary in May. Multiple trips to The Farne Islands, MotoGP, Red Deer, Donna Nook and a few other bits and pieces. Next year looks like its lots of UK stuff. Got a few ideas for eastern Europe in the fire so to speak. I was supposed to slow down! Anyway, more old rubbish removed from the site with new better stuff uploaded. Just bought a 7DMK2. Ok its not a 1DX but its got the reach I need and is good for video. Now where can I get a snorkel from.............It is strange but the more I use my camera the more I learn the less I use a computer. I suppose that's what it should be unless you're into photographic art which Im not.
Its been a while but finally got round to summing up the year. Well, following the top trip to Finland it was back to motorcycles for a short while. If only I could get a pro pass to get near the track. Most of the best places to get top shots at Oulton are now no good with boards and hordings blocking the view but with a bit of luck and knowledge a good shot can be done. Did a load of local stuff including The Farne Islands. If there was an award for bad luck id win. Six times trying to get on Outer Farne only to fail every time. Stil, managed Inner Farne and got shots I wont upload until my project is finished. What I can say is the learning has progressed and the shots definatly arnt the usual but will be good for a portfolio or blurb book. Went to Scotland for a few landscapes in Glencoe. Used a camera not noted for landscapes the 1DX and did shots I havnt seen in the area before at a time "summer" you arnt supposed to do landscape in. Again I wont upload them until next year but again, with time unusual shots of a familiar place can be done. The new Ospreys are deliberately uploaded as done in camera. Not a single pixel was blown but to expose lighter in what was the worst rain in living memory for the locals would blow the highlights so shadow recovery will need to be done post processing (grrrr). It is what it is, no choice weather dictates it. Did a lot of local stuff, landscape wise trying to take cool shots of my locality that came out pretty good, again no upload until next year. Went and did a load of deer shots which went very well. All alone for three days, bliss! Went to Donna Nook to scope out a place to stay, meet the warden and have a natter for next year and found out this....
The place is owned by the MOD. During the week its a bombing range so no going out to the sandbanks. And now the bad stuff. If you have seen shots of white seal pups on the beach clean with no grass around then feel bad.....for the seal. Such wide angle shots can only be taken on the sandbanks and getting so close increases seal pup mortality. A fact explained to me by the warden. If you must take such pictures please DONT go out on the sandbanks in pupping time. Yes you cant be stopped but is the life of the pup less important than your shot? You will risk the mother abandoning the pup. The mortality rate has dropped since the trust put in a lot of time to discourage photographers doing such shots in pupping time. If you want pup shots they come to the boundary fence in November/December. The seals don't get disturbed when taking their pic so please don't go out to the sandbank in pupping time. No shot is worth harming the animal. Seal pics can be taken on the sandbank any time outside the pupping season (mid October to early Jan) so please go at these times.
Finally got time to update the most recent outings. Went to Scotland in January to shoot Sparrowhawks. As usual it was dark, rained all day but I was able to push the 1DX to ISO 6400 and see what the images are like. Can I say that in 250 shots only one was out of focus. The camera nailed everything. The autofocus and tracking are outstanding. The image files have some grain but its small, even and doesn't degrade the image at all. The images are pretty coll and ill definatly be going back. Then......
I went to Finland and stayed in Helsinki for four days for my birthday. Cold but gave me down time from the day job and it was my fiftieth so why not. Then I met up with a few fellow photographers and flew to Kuusamo in northern Finland. Got picked up and drove to Oulanka National Park. Stayed in a research station. Got ip each morning from 04.00 and drove into the mountains. It was minus 18 at times and snowed heavily. Dragged by skidoo up the hills into the forest for two days photography in a pretty coll warm hide. Got Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit, vatious others and above all Golden Eagle on road kill. It was a sight and experience ill never forget. Then on to a local river for dippers. Did some Hooper Swans and went to a Black Grouse Lek. Sat in a sub zero small wodden hide isn't fun and the birds turned up once in three days. Ho hum!. More dippers then drove to Oulu for Nutcracker and more Black Grouse. Again lying down at 4.30 am in a small wooden box in sub zero isn't fun especially in two days the birds turned up but fly of when a Goshawk tried to nail one and then turned ip for ten minutes when they again fly off. By then I was so sleep deprived I was having nightmares and was worn out but the shots were worth it. Ill upload when I get time.
Just got back from Eastern Europe doing some Griffon Vultures. Damm hard work sitting in a stone hide for ten hours but I managed to get some good shots. The 1DX was amazing, it can shoot excellent quality at high iso and didn't miss a shot, the autofocus is great. Back to landscapes for a while then its squirrels and a special trip oop north, way oop north for eagles and black grouse. Fingers crossed but the portfolio Im after is progressing well. After next year I should be ready to show it of! That's if the day job doesn't go belly up.
Went a bit mad and bought a Canon 1DX. Did some shots of birds in flight with the mk4 and the old 1DS3 and the quality of the full frame blew me away. Stayed in, drove a rubbish car, worn cheap clothes all to buy a bloody camera. Started tweaking it to get the autofocus as I want it and it's amazing, the quality is outstanding. Off on hols and then a bit of landscapes with the old camera.
Its been a while but I finally got round to posting a blog. Work and pressure from home restricted the stuff ive done but I finally managed to get out and about. Few landscapes but the best of the best are some shots of....cant tell you until ive entered them in a local competition. My work colleagues seen them and are blown away by them. No standing on street corners for a few minutes waiting for someone to stroll past.
02/07/2013. Out and about on The Farne Islands. Its funny how you love something but because its local never seem to get round to going. Went for two days on Billy Sheils boat out to the Farnes. A very reasonable £20 for three hours photography on the islands. Staple Island was closed both days but I managed to get on Inner Farne. £6.40 to The National Trust who manage the islands so all in all £26.40 around £9 a hour isnt at all bad. First up are the Artic Turns. Bloody vicious! Attcking from all angles. If I had one bit of advice, get of early, walk up the path and lie down. As people approach, the Turns attack them and you get missed and get "angry bird" shots. Next Shags. The look black but arnt, they are green. Wander around taking nesting shags but take a big lens and crop sensor camera. Dead easy to shoot. Razor bills and Guillimots are also all over. Finally the Puffins. I felt sorry for them as they are so small and the damm gulls wait till they fly back and steal their food. I tried out x3 types of shot, head, body and body in flight/undergrowth so all areas covered. Same with the other birds. If I had any advice its take a big lens and a long zoom with an extender. Being an idiot I took the 500, 300 primes 70/200 both extenders and a whole load of other rubbish. Still, you live and learn. Expose for the white of the birds. Try both evaluative and spot. Spot does a good job of exposing the white and darening the background. Looks cool and you dont need a damm computer (which you cant use in wildlife) and looks great. Anyway, next up is a bit of street shots then its the big one, Ospreys. Donated a few pics to the bosses cancer charity which im sure will raise a few £ as the main one is the "secret" pic from earlier this year no one has seen which ill show later in the year. Lets just say "Scotland Forever" and see if you can hunt down what it looks like.
Been a while but Ive been out and about. Did some shots at a local regatta and my big fav Knockhill British Superbikes. An amazing event, lots of angles and I finally got the shots I waited two years for, a direct shot of knee down at eye level. The 500 was as usual perfect, the 300 even more perfect and the 1D4 as usual excellent. Next its wildlife.
Finally got to shoot full frame with the 300 and it blew me away. Never had such top quality shots. Had a chance to take some pics at a local rowing event. Thanks Alan for organising it. Off up north for more motorcycle action with the intent of doing motorcycle shots the like of which ive nevr done. Asked to donate a few pics to a cancer charity. No problem, gave them more than a few. Pic quality just gets better with practice.
26/05/2013 Hav'nt been on for a while, been busy with the day job. Managed to take less pics but better quality stuff. The old 1DS3 still amazes me. The quality of its files blow away the 7D so I sold it and even the 1D4 isnt close. As for the lens's, the big primes still amaze me with their quality. Did some street photos. Only the press and me im afraid. Street photography isnt all nice people being nice and walking by. Sometimes if you want that top shot you have to get in a few risky situations. Anyway, sport next and fingers crossed ill get some pics that will blow away what ive done before.
31/03/2013 ell got back from the Camargue and what can I say. It was amazing. From 26/05/2013a wildlife perspective, the Heron, Egret and Flamingo shots were nearly all bang on in focus. Looks like the practice over the winter has paid of. The 1D4 worked as usual perfectly. It had the reach and speed i wanted but on a few occassions when the light went I had to push the ISO and it was to be honest ok. All the internet chatter about noise, what noise. Its barly noticable. Autofocus is lazer fast and the new primes all worked perfectly. The workhorse 70-200 was as usual perfect. The new mk3 1x4 converter was pretty damm good. The horses? hen i update them to the site i can honestly say they are beyond anything ive ever done. Pin sharp, lots of action and perfect weather.
Well, got the pictures of Grouse I wanted. Foxes to, found out where the Red Squirrel hide and I'm of to take shots of Osprey, Kestrel and Vultures later this year and of to the Camrgue in two weeks for he white horses. More photographic art removed from the web site. Looking good for next year.
With the death of my mother I had a few £ to spare so bought a 300 f2.8 mk2. To early to say yet how good it is. Bad news is looks like ive now got arthritis in the hands which is a bit of a bugger.
Using the new 500 is amazing. So light it can be hand held all day. New Vanguard tripod for wildlife has arrived also. First one broke after one day. Getting some really good shots but the weathers awfull. Must do a few landscpaes, got some ideas but need the tide to be just so. Red Kites went well three decent pics. Sorted out the computer room, waiting for mothers estate to clear so the new 300 prime can arrive then finally after 4 years my camera gear will be as i want it. Won our clubs print section. Hoping ill do ok in the big end of season one i won last year. Digital noght tonight. Three very different pics put in, well they want variation.Lets see how it goes. Some very good photographers out there but i keep trying. Reduced a few more photoshop pics from the site.
New 500f4 MK2 is now in my hands and what a major step up. Punchy, contrasty colours, 4 stop IS but biggest improvement is hand holding a 500 prime. Off to practice with Red Kites over the next few days.
Finally the autumn is here and i can get out with the camera. Off for three days in a wood looking for Red Deer. Booked up an Osprey shoot for next year. Gonna book bears and grifen vultures too. This is time to ramp up the pics and im already %50 better than last year. Dont need a 1DX its to short the new MK4 is amazing! Still reducing the photoshopped pics. Down to about %10 and the aim is as close to zero as can be.
07/09/2012 Went to Bradford, bought a almost new 1DMK4 to replace the dead one. Booked up a photoshoot in Scotland which if it comes off will be amazing!. Red deer in the rut coming up, new lens on its way, and loads of other stuff. Thank god the winters over.
Had a discussion with other photographers about the merits or not of photoshop. Pretty controversial. I started down the high use stuff then went "what are you doing" and decided what went on in a darkroom was ok, otherwise its graphic art. Counted the pics on the web site, removed a lot. %15 graphic art, %85 darkroom. My aim is to drastically reduce the photoshop stuff in the next year to all darkroom but i think thats a dream more than a reality. Still %15 is pretty good these days. By years end that will be under %10.
02/08/2012 So pro bodies are waterproof? Nope, 1D4 is officially dead after going out in one rainstorm. Im not happy and the advertising blurb. Funny but the 1DS3 worked perfect in the same weather. So, buying another, 500 F4MK2 still not here although i hear rumors. Did some very alternative street stuff at Manchester Pride, no one ealse dared ask, thanks guys for posing. New season approaches, big big plans ahead,.
21/08/2012 Finally, back from Edinburgh fringe. Bought a 1DMK4, wow, amazing autofocus, rapid shots and the quality is top draw. Did an alternative fringe shoot by taking pics of those living on the streets of Edinburgh and not part of the fringe or locals somewhat not part of it. Some really great stuff although the fringe pics are ok and when i upload them, each has a sort of diferant look. Of to Manchester for some interesting street shots and finished a few pics from a street skater thing in Newcastle. Sold loads of gear i did'nt use, the 180 macro is next (sob) but needs must and my new baby is on order 500f4 MK2. No 1DX, dont shoot at night and it just does'nt have the reach my upcoming stuff (red deer in the rut) requires. Eastern Europe for bears early next year. Getting busy. Hope the judges appreciate the lack of photoshop although i doubt it.
19/07/2012 Finally booked the White Horse shoot in Southern France for next March. Booked a trip to Eastern Europe for bears and other wildlife, made a contact for wild Ospreys and booked a trip to take sots of wild deer in the rut. Exciting times now the three month hibernation is over. The money i got from selling the big primes has been well spent. The new extender 3 x2 and 1x4 are on the way, a bargain used 70-200 f2.8 MK2 is winging its way north and aalmost new 70-300 f4/5.6 IS Lsits beside my computer. A top walk around lens. Oh and before i forget, i had a few drinks and put a deposit down for the new 500 f4. Ouch!!!
28/06/2012. Visited Kentwell Hall for the tudor reenactment and a break and recovery from the damm blood clot in the lung. On rat poison for 6 months. People shots arnt my thing so ive booked my next two photographic expeditions, White Horses in the Carmargue and Golden Eagles in Northern Finland in the winter. Now do i buy the Sigma 300-800 or wait for Canon?
Well they have gone! Sold the 500 f4 and 300 f2.8. Sad day when illness robs you of your favouite camera equiptment. With luck Canon will reveal the 200-400 f4 and all my worries will be gone. Sold the MR-14 and 1x4 extender too. Looks like the illness wasnt damaged ribs but a heart virus. Bugger.
Getting lots of rib pain. Think ill sell the 500f4 and 3002,8 and invest the cash in the new 200-400 when it rears its head.
Finished all but two of my entire photo collection. Web site is now completed. The two pics left are very special and i may keep them for a local show. Entered a couple for an exhibition in Durham Cathederal along with lots of top shots from others in my club. Completed a nerve racking talk on photography to a small group near were i work. Hope it went well and they have the camera bug. Next stop, June will be Kentwell, then Knockhill for the superbikes. Luca Scassa put a couple of my pics on his web site. Very happy about that.
Well, the trip to the USA went well. Got some amazing shots from my circular tour of Utah. Planned it all myself, went on my own until i met up with a small group of top wildlife photographers to do some wildlife stuff. Learnt so much and got the best landscape and wildlife shots i've ever done. Cant wait to upload them but theres over 70GB!
Utah has everthing you could ever want, mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, desert, actually all its missing is the sea. Managed to rain, then snow (heavily) then sun at 85 degrees. Ill be back some day. Next it's Oulton Park for the British Superbikes, this time armed with the 1DMK4. 10 frames a second, cant wait.