Year Two (50) – Reptiles, Raptors and Owls

I had the opportunity to attend another Photo Experience Day at Liberty’s and had a fantastic time getting up close to a variety of creatures. An experience day is an opportunity to get closer or to be shown a different view of things to photograph – it is not really a day where you are told how to use your camera or how to get the best from it – they is usually a photographer on hand to answer your questions but it is more about providing the opportunity.

Liberty
The Liberty Eagle – Handled as part of the Adult Falconary Experience Day at Liberty’s in the New Forest

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Year Two (46) – Garden Birds

Last year when I started my 365 challenge – back on day 30 I spent some time taking photos of garden birds and want to share with you how my photography and bird population has improved. Continue reading

Day 243 – Through the wire.

A while a go I took some photos of some baby grey parrots, I got to visit them again and had an opportunity to take these pictures along with some other caged parrots. The greys were indoors, the others outside – but it was overcast and rainy. This therefore a great change to use what I now know about ISO – as to get the best photos I would need to have a short shutter speed in low light, and a shallow depth of field to try and make the cages disappear.

The cage, F6.3, 1/15sec 40mm
The cage, F6.3, 1/15sec 40mm

These are the tree parrots in their cage – with the camera wide I was able to include all three birds but the shallow depth of field was focused on the wire and not the cage… changing the focal point to the birds, just meant the cage was distracting.

ISO3200, F6.3, 1/15sec - 300mm
ISO3200, F6.3, 1/15sec – 300mm
In the cage - Indoors. ISO3200, F6.3, 1/20sec - 210mm
In the cage – Indoors. ISO3200, F6.3, 1/20sec – 210mm

Zooming in with the telephoto lens, and with a shallow depth of field I was able to focus on the detail of the individual parrots, capture a “catch light” in their eyes and make the cage disappear.

ISO3200, F6.3, 1/100 sec - 90mm outside in the rain
ISO3200, F6.3, 1/100 sec – 90mm outside in the rain

Moving outside – different parts … important to capture the detail on their light feathers, but this time they were pressed hard up against the cage and the cage wire was much tighter together. With their beak and claws poking through the cage, the wire really is part of the image.

70mm, ISO2500, F6.3, 1/125sec
70mm, ISO2500, F6.3, 1/125sec

I choose instead to move closer, square up the cage to my image and wait for the moment when the eye of the parrots looks directly at me through the cage wire. You are almost left wondering who is in the cage – the parrot or the photographer?

Through the wire - ISO3200, 105mm, F6.3, 1/60sec
Through the wire – ISO3200, 105mm, F6.3, 1/60sec

Another parrot – this time I partly zoomed in… the parrot was at the back on the cage and I was quite close to the wire. It is not really sharp enough, the foreground wire is still there although totally our of focus … maybe moving back and zooming more would have improved the image – I am not sure!

ISO3200, F6.3, 1/25 sec - through the cage, 100mm zoom
ISO3200, F6.3, 1/25 sec – through the cage, 100mm zoom
ISO3200, F6.3, 1/40 sec, 100mm zoom
ISO3200, F6.3, 1/40 sec, 100mm zoom

Two more images – this time of a vibrant yellow parrot. I was still close to the wire… but the bird was further away,  both images had a blurry spot – after I had taken these I spotted the raindrop on my lens – but I did not have the time to retake.

So what did I learn:

  • Check for stray raindrops – I had a lens hood on, but I somehow got wet!
  • Up the ISO for the shutter speed to get the shot
  • A shallow depth of field and a zoom lens have held remove the cages of captive animals and birds.
  • The further the animal is from the cage the better and the closer I can get.

Day 177 – Baby Parrot studio shoot

A challenge today, Captain, Jack and Sparrow are three grey parrots that were born approximately a month ago… they are being hand reared and we are lucky enough to be babysitting them a few times over the next couple of months. Today I choose to just focus on one of them – and to see if I could capture the detail and character on a white background. At a month old, the African Grey parrots can not yet stand, but they are able to lift their heads and wobble about.

Today’s set up was

  • Off camera flash on maual
  • Camera on manual mode, shutter speed 250, ISO 100
  • 100mm canon lens
A variety of parrot images with my iphone in one of them to give a sense of scale
A variety of parrot images with my iphone in one of them to give a sense of scale

The challenge was to try and make the foam background white, to capture the detail of the baby parrot, to use the shallow depth of field to draw attention to the details of the month old bird and to deal with the relevant shadows … my flash light is very harsh – so a light box would have softened the light more or moving the light source further away could have been an option. I think I would like to try again, with a light box and maybe a second light source as well.

PhotoChallenge-Parrots-8780-1
The African Grey parrot was always moving around, so I used Al Servo to focus.

Getting in close with my macro lens you can see he has just been fed with the remains of dinner on his beak, and wings and dried poo on his foot.  This photo above is an example where I have missed the focus point and should have gone for the eye or increased the aperture of the camera so I would have had a bigger depth of field.

Moving around
Moving around

The parrot was moving and so was I … my phone in the background is very distracting, but I just love the detail on his chest as you can see how sparse the feathers are and how full he looks. His pose looks uncomfortable but he is only a tiny baby.

Getting closer
Getting closer

Moving in closer and you can see all the food particles on the parrots cheeks, I am just annoyed that I cropped off the bottom of his beak.

Closest
Closest

Moving closer again with my fixed lens, and I think the photo draws you in more… there is more of a story to this shot, the African grey fills the frame, you can see it is just a chick and you are left to decide for yourself the rest of the story – like who fed it, where he is etc… and I am really pleased with the catch light in his eye.

 

Day 117 – Baby Ducks

Who can resist baby ducks. These are a great opportunity to practice fast shutter speeds too – #Remarkable2015 – as they are quickly darting back and forth across the water, not stopping for a moment and with no real sense of direction therefore anticipation…

I was hand holding my 150-500mm lens, and was struggling to capture the ducklings, focus on them accurately and allow room for them to move into it, so plenty of negative space- #DPNEGATIVESPACE – you can read an article about is here – to balance the picture and create a good composition… I got the negative space right, but I was not always focussed sharp enough! More practice needed!

Full steam ahead - ISO 400, F7.1, 1/1600 sec
Full steam ahead – ISO 400, F7.1, 1/1600 sec

Which one works better? The next two shots are the same – but one had been flipped horizontally in lightroom – the first is as I took in in camera with the duckings paddling quickly out of shot, the photo almost stops before it starts  … and the 2nd you see more of the water’s reflections somehow I think.

I need to have a look at my focusing options though … John who I follow on tumblr mentioned back button focusing the other day… so I  am going to see if it will help with situations like this. I also know a quality memory card is essential as that enables the camera to write too it more quickly – I picked up that tip last weekend on my Owl Experience Days.

Not enough space - ISO400, F6.3, 1/200 sec, focal length 500mm
Not enough space – ISO400, F6.3, 1/200 sec, focal length 500mm
Not enough space - ISO400, F6.3, 1/200 sec, focal length 500mm
Not enough space – ISO400, F6.3, 1/200 sec, focal length 500mm

The only way to increase the shutter speed at my furthest focal length and widest aperture (F6.3) is to increase the ISO … but I think focusing better is what is needed most in this shots … but the ducklings were tiny and fast!

A square crop - ISO400, F6.3, 1/1600 sec, F6.3, 500 mm zoom
A square crop – ISO400, F6.3, 1/1600 sec, F6.3, 500 mm zoom

My last duckling shot – a great composition normally involved order numbers and photographing is 3’s so they from a triangle… however sometimes it is great to just break the rules – I choose to grab a shot of 2 ducklings cause to me they are twins … as a mum to twins … two cute babies brings back memories of time that has gone too fast!

Twin ducklings - ISO400, F6.3, 1/1600 sec, 500 mm focal length.
Twin ducklings – ISO400, F6.3, 1/1600 sec, 500 mm focal length.

Day 110 – Owl Photo Experience Day – Part 2

I have finished editing the 900 photos I took on Saturday for now… I edited down to 349 to keep as raw files, and then edited my favorite ones of those so that I only only sharing my favorite 24… you saw some yesterday, and today I am sharing the owls that you may see native to the UK. I have processed the photos in Lightroom with the help of some actions from the Nik Collection.

European Eagle Owl

European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F5.6, 1/800 sec, focal length 150mm
European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F5.6, 1/800 sec, focal length 150mm

This owl was similar in colouring to the Northern Great Horn Owl I posted yesterday, but this time the eyes were a bright orange colour.

European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F8, 1/800 sec, focal length 370mm
European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F8, 1/800 sec, focal length 370mm

When I listened to the lifestyle talk the other day, I was reminded to look at some of the details… so as well as his amazing eyes, we can see the details on his claws and feathers.

European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F6.3, 1/2000 sec, focal length 150mm
European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F6.3, 1/2000 sec, focal length 150mm
European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F6.3 1/800 sec, focal length 500mm
European Eagle Owl, ISO400, F6.3 1/800 sec, focal length 500mm

Barn Owl

My first shot of the barn owl I capture with a smaller aperture – I was using half the range of the camera and although I like the context of the surroundings in which you can see the Barn Owl, I think the background is really busy and distracting, so I am going to stick to a shallower depth of field and work with shutter speeds that allow that.

Barn Owl, ISO 160, F10, 1/500 sec - 340mm focal length
Barn Owl, ISO 160, F10, 1/500 sec – 340mm focal length

Below is a classic “bird on a stick pose” which my camera club seem to frown on… this like birds doing something and sadly this experience was very much “bird on a stick” variety… as they did not have permission to fly the birds in the forest.

It was though a tricky shot to capture with the light sky, the Barn Owl lit by sunlight from behind, which almost gives him rim lighting yet exposing the shot to capture the details in the feathers without blowing all the highlights.

Barn Owl, ISO 200, F6.3, 1/400 sec - 229mm focal length
Barn Owl, ISO 200, F6.3, 1/400 sec – 229mm focal length

The next two photos of the Barn Owl are exactly the same shot,  edited differently using Lightroom to create two different images – for me this is one of the amazing things that you can do in your digital darkroom –  and it is what inspired my interested in photography in the first place … I know now that if we all started with the same raw image we would develop them our own way and all create different end images… Lightroom, Photoshop and creative thinking are not new – it has just become more accessible…

Barn Owl, ISO 200, F8, 1/1000 sec - 500mm focal length
Barn Owl, ISO 200, F8, 1/1000 sec – 500mm focal length
Barn Owl, ISO 200, F8, 1/1000 sec - 500mm focal length
Barn Owl, ISO 200, F8, 1/1000 sec – 500mm focal length

Tawny Owl

The Tawny Owl had lovely colouring and was the last owl we had the chance to photograph, amazingly everyone was still with us, we had all been aware of each others lenses and moved our feet to change angles and to try and create different unique images on the various cameras present.

Tawny Owl - ISO400, F9, 1/200 sec - 213mm focal length
Tawny Owl – ISO400, F9, 1/200 sec – 213mm focal length

It was amazing how moving feet and moving the owl made a difference … I do wish that we could have incorporated more greenery into the shots, but Spring growth is only just arriving, but equally more foliage could have created more shadows and distractions, it was hard enough trying not to include the tether that the owl was tied on with in the shots … these ones I have purposefully left it in!

Tawny Owl - ISO400, F8, 1/400 sec - 150mm focal length
Tawny Owl – ISO400, F8, 1/400 sec – 150mm focal length

Looking out into the wood – the Tawny Owl captured in a more natural setting.

Tawny Owl - ISO400, F6.3, 1/1000 sec - 340mm focal length
Tawny Owl – ISO400, F6.3, 1/1000 sec – 340mm focal length

I finally managed to get some green foliage into this shot in front and behind the Tawny Owl which really adds depth to the image – it is just a shame that it is not in focus due to my shallow depth of field, but with the wind ruffling the owls feather shutter speed was more important.

Tawny Owl - ISO400, F7.1, 1/1000 sec - 229mm focal length
Tawny Owl – ISO400, F7.1, 1/1000 sec – 229mm focal length

My final share – I really wanted a shallow depth of field for this one, the Tawny Owl ducked down inside the tree to escape the wind and I just loved how you could capture the eyes and the beak peaking out – this to me felt like one of the most natural shots I achieved today as I could imagine the Tawny Owl in her nest just like this, watching, waiting …. it has more of a story feel.

Tawny Owl - ISO400, F6.3, 1/1000 sec - 370mm focal length
Tawny Owl – ISO400, F6.3, 1/1000 sec – 370mm focal length

I was not the only person who attend the Owl experience – yesterday I included my son in the photos, he edited his and I choose my three favorite to share with you, he normally spends his time working with computers or drawing… so it was lovey to share a day with him.

My fav. photos Jake's captured during his experience
My favorite photos Jake’s captured during his experience

I hope you have enjoyed sharing the Owls with us… it was a great day out and I would recommend it and for £45 I think it was a great price too.. and if you are looking for some pointers for your own photos … I found this post helpful – photographing raptors!

Day 109 – Owl Photo Experience Day – Part 1

Wow, what a day – I spent yesterday on an Owl photography experience day, I had the opportunity to photograph 6 owls that were taken from their home in captivity to a location in the New Forest National Park so that I could take photos of them in natural surroundings, with natural sunlight, it was a bright day, shadows and wind.

I took over 900 photos – so culling them down was the first job … I took so many as I used a high speed shutter as I wanted to ensure that I captured the owls with their eyes open, I took my tripod for stability and my big lens – my sigma 150-500mm, the draw back of which was that other photographers could get a lot closer to the animals than I could.

The day was run by Captive Light photography – there was a photographer on hand to offer advice if you have specific questions, he often emphasised the importance of checking the histogram to ensure you were exposed to the right for the highlights – you really wanted to capture the details on the owl feathers, and had a falconer  from Liberty’s Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre who was looking after the owls and was able to share with you interesting facts when you asked him questions.

I took all the photos in Raw, so processed only my favorite few which I am going to share with you today and tomorrow…

Siberian Eagle Owl

Siberian Eagle Owl - ISO 200, F8, 1/1250 sec - 174mm focal length
Siberian Eagle Owl – ISO 200, F8, 1/1250 sec – 174mm focal length

The photographers – there was about 17 of us, were able to get within a couple of meters of the owls… I was joined today by my son Jake, he has always been interested in owls, so he came to take photos too and to study the owls for a painting…  I was able to catch him with a couple of the owls too.

Siberian Eagle Owl - ISO 200, F6.3, 1/500 sec - 150mm focal length
Siberian Eagle Owl – ISO 200, F6.3, 1/500 sec – 150mm focal length
Siberian Eagle Owl - ISO 200, F8, 1/800 sec - 247 mm focal length
Siberian Eagle Owl – ISO 200, F8, 1/800 sec – 247 mm focal length

I wanted to take a good selection of photos – landscape dimensions and portrait – capturing the whole owl and getting close to some of the details and with an aperture that would give a great Bokeh for a background.

Siberian Eagle Owl - ISO 200, F7.1, 1/3200 sec - 439mm focal length
Siberian Eagle Owl – ISO 200, F7.1, 1/3200 sec – 439mm focal length

Asian Brown Wood Owl

A different location, and my son again – as each new owl came out it was a challenge to adjust the exposure so that the highlights were not blown out as the bright sunlight, dapple shade, changing locations to work with the light and the direction which the owl wanted to face … interestingly they generally liked to face into wind!

Asian Brown Wood Owl - ISO 200, F16, 1/25 sec - 150mm focal length
Asian Brown Wood Owl – ISO 200, F16, 1/25 sec – 150mm focal length

The Asian Wood Owl had really dark eyes, and it was hard to capture any detail in them, this was because he was a nocturnal owl, which usually roosts during the day – quite often he had his eyes shut or partly shut.

Asian Brown Wood Owl - ISO 200, F8, 1/250 sec - 150mm focal length
Asian Brown Wood Owl – ISO 200, F8, 1/250 sec – 150mm focal length
Asian Brown Wood Owl - ISO 400, F8, 1/640 sec - 150mm focal length
Asian Brown Wood Owl – ISO 400, F8, 1/640 sec – 150mm focal length

Northern Great Horn Owl

The Northern Great Horn Owl had such amazing eyes, the yellow was so bright and striking they just had to be captured close up. This owl just seemed to ooze character, and had a stronger presence about him.

Northern Great Horn Owl - ISO400, F8, 1/160 sec - 500mm focal length
Northern Great Horn Owl – ISO400, F8, 1/160 sec – 500mm focal length

This triptcych shows the member of staff fro Liberty’s trying to get the Northern Great Horn Owl to sit in an ideal spot for photos.

Northern Great Horn Owl and the member of staff from Liberty's
Northern Great Horn Owl and the member of staff from Liberty’s

It was amazing how he seemed to disappear into the tree – you can see why owls are so hard to spot, and he had quite a lot to say for himself.

Northern Great Horn Owl - ISO400, F8, 1/200 sec - 174mm focal length
Northern Great Horn Owl – ISO400, F8, 1/200 sec – 174mm focal length

The final shot I am going to share today is this one… it the eyes that I like most about this owl, and I think the background here is lovely.

Northern Great Horn Owl - ISO400, F8, 1/800 sec - 370mm focal length
Northern Great Horn Owl – ISO400, F8, 1/800 sec – 370mm focal length

Pop back tomorrow and you can see the other three owls that I photographed.

Day 77 – Owl Studio, Paper and Free Software

Monday night was camera club – and after a busy couple of days I have got round to looking at the photos that I have taken and jotted down a few notes about the wonderful experience that the club offered.

There was an opportunity on Monday to look and feel different paper types – beginners who print an home often start out on Permajet Oyster paper, I have been printing on that for a while, but it was suggested tonight that if I want to improve the quality of my prints further I should start playing it safe and have a look at some of the fibre based papers in their range, the photo art pearl looked particularly nice with landscapes printed on it – so maybe it is time to experiment … I have got myself a test pack – but the papers are not cheap (£30 for 25 sheets of A4, £60 for A3).

There was also an opportunity to find out how to cut mount and learn more about photoshop – I didn’t visit those areas, but they seemed really popular.

There was one member there talking about free and open source alternatives to lightroom and photoshop and giving a demonstration of several different programs on his Lynx operating system, and to be honest if you don’t want to buy into photoshop/lightroom now it is on subscription, I thought the alternatives were great and even had some advantages once you had discovered your way round.  He told us about:

  • Hugin – a cross platform open source panorama photo stitching and HDR merging program.
  • Darktable – photography workflow application and raw developer – we you could use instead of Lightroom to develop the raw files.
  • GIMP – GNU image manipulation program, which could be used instead of photoshop -for image retouching, resizing, montages etc.
  • Digikam – a bit like Bridge, so you can arrange and manage your photos.

I was impressed … and it is definitely something I would suggest people look into if they do not have any editing software.

We also got to photograph “Hedwig”, he is a real live barn owl –  the speed he could eat a dead chick was impressive – that one of the camera club members brought along, he had set up some flashes and continuous lighting so that we could see if we could capture him ourselves.  He was against a dark cloth, back lit by 2 flashes, then had a continuous white light in front to help light his white feathers and a front flash all turned down to quite low power. It was totally set up – but you were able to slide the flash trigger onto your camera and take your own composition. I was using my sigma 17-70mm lens, and I was initially worried I would not get close enough, as lots of people had huge lens but I was proved wrong.

ISO400, 54mm zoom, F6.3, 1/13sec - front lit - no flash
ISO400, 54mm zoom, F6.3, 1/13sec – front lit – no flash

This image does not have any flash, it is just front lit by a white light (similar to this), you can see the cloth backdrop which was black velvet and of course the amazing and very patient Hedwig.

ISO 400, 63mm zoom, F5, 1/13 sec - no flash
ISO 400, 63mm zoom, F5, 1/13 sec – no flash

The owl was occasionally fed treats – dead chicks, and he ate them really quickly – my settings were totally wrong for this, my shutter speed was not fast enough for the sudden movement of the owl, and my camera angle was wrong – as you see  the walls of the hall, one of the lighting stands etc – but there was not time to move amongst the other photographers, but I am including it as then it gives you an idea of what the surroundings were.

The next two images were taken with the flash trigger on my camera – where the flashes are behind the owl, you can see the background really is black, and the owl has a really pleasing rim light – I wish I could master this in my home studio… there was slightly more space – so I am going keep trying! You can also see how the front flash has added a reflection into the owls eye adding extra life, where as the continuous light lightens the feathers and stops the owl from suffering from too much flash glare! I aimed for 2 different shots – a full length owl and a close up of his face.

I felt really privileged to take these and now am even more looking forward to the owl workshop I am doing mid April, when I get to photograph them in that natural environment – it will be interesting to see if I can get catch lights then, and it has made me think about not capturing the surroundings more – if I want to edit and recompose the final image in photoshop.

ISO 200, 38mm, F8, 1/200 sec - Flash trigger,
ISO 200, 38mm, F8, 1/200 sec – Flash trigger,
ISO 200, 38mm, F8, 1/200 sec - Flash trigger,
ISO 200, 38mm, F8, 1/200 sec – Flash trigger,

Finally – camera club was Monday… and I only getting round to posting the images today… I have had a little tweak in photoshop and edited the image to include the moon that I photographed on day 64, added some random speckles as stars to give the impression that the owl is being lit by the moon on a frosty evening …  I just wish I included more of the log in the original shot – but I kinda like it! What do you think?

Photoshop composition image
Photoshop composition image

Day 30 – Garden Birds

I am not one for patience, but the Green finches were busy on my feeder today – and although my camera club frowns at the idea of a “bird on a stick”, I thought I would just have a practice and see if I could catch any action….

  • Lens – Sigma 150-500mm
  • Widest Aperture – F6.3
  • To capture the movement of the birds I then experimented with ISO, and increased in to ISO 800

    What I discovered from today:

  • Don’t zoom in to close as you miss me some of the action….
  • It is really hard to focus in on exactly what you want
  • By bird feeder, bird stand and fence are not straight and the orange kayaks behind are totally distracting … the background needs to be thought about if I am going to try this again!
  • Aperture priority was not the best choice, 1/800 sec shutter speed was the best shot for the movement of the birds, maybe even 1/1000 sec would have been better so to have control over this I should have used shutter priority and auto ISO.
  • Static photos are boring… capturing the action and interaction is much more interesting….

 

ISO 800 - 1/800 sec - F6.3
ISO 800 – 1/800 sec – F6.3

I think this is my favorite shot – the green finch in flight, the light shinning through his wings, the 2nd bird with a seed in his mouth encouraging the other bird to fly on…. I just wish it was more in focus and sharper… something to revisit this year!