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Sunday, 31 October 2010

A few more from WWT Arundel

I've finished off processing the images I took at WWT Arundel, so here are a few more. Although it rained a lot earlier in the day, in the afternoon the light was pretty good.

The first two here were again taken using the D3100. I'm really pleased with the files I'm getting out of this camera - very clean, and apparently lots of dynamic range. It was pretty easy to pull back some blown highlights on the neck of the goose in the second shot.

And finally, a shot with the trusty D300, which was relegated to the kit bag for most of the day!

WWT Arundel

Took advantage of the sun today to drive down to the the Wetlands Trust center at Arundel. Although I'm not a big fan of the WWT (that's another post), it's easy to get pretty close to the birds there, so I though it would be a good place to take the new D3100 for a spin, before using it "in the wild".

On the whole I was very pleased. The AF is taking some getting used to - not as fast or as accurate as I'm used to, but with practice I found I got used to it. I'm finding the matrix metering to be very good indeed - no real problems with exposure, even in the contrasty conditions we had today. The images are looking pretty clean at 1600 ISO too, which should come in handy.

These first three were all taken with the D3100 and a 300mm f4 AF-S:

...and this fourth one with the D3100 + 70-200mm AF-S VR II:

The extra couple of megapixels helps a little with the cropping too, and neither lens appeared to have any problem resolving them. This bodes well for a 16+ MP D400, when it comes.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Isle of Wight - Day 3

A much better day today, with plenty of photos to show for it. Great weather, fewer dogs, and plenty of Squirrels. I found a stretch of treeline with about half a dozen squirrels feeding on pine cones etc. - they were there for about an hour and a half, so I stuck with them for most of the morning.

This next one was taken at point blank range - only just outside the close focus limit on the 500mm (about 4 meters). He was moving pretty fast!

Very pleased with these, after two pretty frustrating days on Friday and yesterday, I feel I've got the photos that made the trip worth while. I've entered a few of these in a competition for photos taken on the island - we'll see how that goes.

I wont be doing any wildlife photography over the next month, so there wont be many more posts between now and some time in early December I expect. In November we are traveling to St Lucia to get married and I've promised to leave the 500mm at home (might still take the macro - I bet they have some good insects...).

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Isle of Wight - Day 2

A long day today - about 10 straight hours carrying around a tripod and the 500mm. It's days like this that remind me where I got my, er... great physique.

A long day, but also a rather frustrating one. There are indeed red squirrels here, but unfortunately Parkhurst forest, apparently the main site (but also Borthwood, which is another large site I visited today) is completely infested with dog walkers at the Weekend. I have never seen so many dogs in one place. The squirrels like them even less than I do, which means to see squirrels, you first need to get away from the dogs - which easier said than done. Today I saw about 10 squirrels and 100+ dogs.

I give up trying to photograph the reds in England - it's just not enjoyable. One reason I do this stuff is to get out into the sticks and get some peace and quiet. No chance of that here. I think I will try in Scotland next year though. 

Anyway, enough whining. On to some photos.

As you can see, it's been difficult getting a clear shot. This guy did come out briefly though:

And finally, here's another animal I saw at Borthwood, which doesn't like dog walkers:

One last chance tomorrow morning, before catching the ferry back to the mainland.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Change of plan - Isle of Wight

This weekend I'm on the Isle of Wight, instead of visiting the Farne islands. It turns out to be quite hard to visit the Farne islands at this time of year (no boats really), so I've shelved that project until next summer!

The Isle of Wight, which lies off the south coast of England, is home to a sizable Red Squirrel population. Here and nearby Brownsea Island are the where only remaining populations of Reds remain in southern England.

Happily, there appear to be plenty.

As usual for this time of year (by which I mean "not summer"), I struggled today with the light. Thick grey cloud hung overhead all day long, so one again I was shooting wide open at ISO 2000+ all day long. I think I need to move to Florida.

Nevertheless, there were plenty of sightings, and I managed a few shots too.

Hoping for some sun tomorrow...

Saturday, 9 October 2010

New Camera

Took delivery of a new camera body this morning - a Nikon D3100. I've bought this as a light weight alternative to my D300, which is about twice the size and weight. I've found that carrying the D300+500mm plus the D700 as a second camera with a shorter lens does not really work for two reasons -
  1. The D700 is very heavy and bulky when hanging around your neck with a 300mm f4 attached to it - especially if you are already carrying a long lens on a tripod.
  2. The lack of crop factor on the D700 means that it inevitably has far less reach than the D300+500mm. I eventually decided that what I need is two DX bodies, so the they match up better in terms of reach. The D300+500mm on a tripod, plus the D3100+300mm f4 around my neck is what I'm thinking.

I've been testing it out this afternoon, and I'm very pleased with it. Here are my impressions so far:
  • The camera handles reasonably well, I think it will be too small for some peoples hands. I don't really mind this myself, as it was the small form factor that attracted me to the D3100. 
  • I do prefer the larger number of external controls you get on the D300, but this isn't really a complaint, given the relative costs of these two cameras.
  • The menu system is fine - bog standard Nikon really.
  • The size and weight make this a great travel camera.
  • The slight increase to 14MP  (compared to the 12 MP of say the D90, D5000 and D300/s) does not produce any noticeable increase in image detail.
  • The high ISO performance of this new 14MP sensor is slightly better than that of my D300 (about half a stop, I would say). Images are noise free at 400 ISO, with a tiny bit of noise at 800 ISO, and a perfectly tolerable amount at 1600. I found there to be a lot of noise at ISO 3200, so I won't be using it above ISO 1600. Not unlike the D300 really - just a little bit better.
  • I'm pleased to find the buffer is bigger than that on Catherine's D40 (about 8 frames when shooting RAW, compared to only 4 on the D40). I wasn't expecting this.
  • Like Cath's D40, the shutter sound is very quiet, and much quieter than either my D300 or my D700. This may come in useful!
  • No interest in video personally, but it's there if you want it.
Overall, given the quality of the sensor, which is better than that in any current Nikon DX model (at least until the D7000 becomes available), I think this is camera is great value.

I hope to be using it on the Farne islands a week from now - hopefully the weather will hold!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


While the rain continues here in the UK, I thought I'd post some shots taken this year of Swans.

I have to admit I find it difficult to take an original photo of these birds - most of the time I end up deleting my shots as I think they look like something I've already seen a hundred times. I'm not claiming the ones below are unique, but they are at least some of the shots I didn't delete!

Solid rain for a week now. Not looking good for the Farne Islands...

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Foxes and spiders

No trips planned at the moment, and the weather has not been great in the UK recently. Nevertheless, one day before work last week, I visited the local allotments, where I photographed foxes last Autumn. I arrived at sunrise, but had to wait while before this fellow came by:

I didn't manage to to get any more shots - he didn't hang about. I'm really pleased to see foxes again in this location though, and on my first visit too. There should be plenty more opportunities to photograph them some more between now and Christmas. Weather permitting, I'll visit again next week.

This afternoon I got around to photographing some of the several huge (by British standards - so not that large really) Spiders that have taken up residence in our front garden in the last few weeks. I got plenty of strange looks from the neighbors.

This one is tucking into what appears to be a Crane Fly. Lovely.

So what I said about having no trips planned wasn't exactly true. We're going to the Farne Islands in a couple of weeks - seems like a long way off through.