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Saturday, 15 January 2011

WPOTY 2011 - my entries

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition for 2011 opened for entries the other day. I enter each year, with no expectation of really getting anywhere. I dream of getting an image commended - and in the past I've seen some pretty average shots getting these commendations (admittedly, these are mostly safari type shots, of which I have none), so you never know!

Here's a round up of the 13 shots I've chosen to enter this year.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

RSPB Elmley Marshes

My first outing of 2011 - finally some new photos to post.

Elmley Marshes is a big reserve - far larger than I had anticipated. In fact, I arrived too late in the day (about 1pm) to see much more than about a third of it before the sun set. I'll be sure to go back though.

The weather was excellent - the first cloudless day of the year, and the sun set seemed to last all afternoon.

Here are a couple taken from the Wellmarsh hide. This hide is excellent at sundown, as the sun sets over your shoulder.

This Barn Owl was out hunting all afternoon. I saw it about a dozen times, although it never really flew very close.

And here it is again, just before the sun disappeared.

Monday, 3 January 2011

One Final Resolution

My resolution #5 is inspired by one of the highly commended images in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition in 2010. It's a picture of some rabbits silhouetted against a street scene:

Paris Life, by Laurent Geslin

Isn't it marvellous?

If there's one thing we have plenty of here in the south east of England, it's urban environments (let's face it, the whole place is built up). I've photographed urban foxes a few times in the past - here's an example:

But I think I can do more. Although this is an urban fox, other than the bath in the background, it's not really in an urban setting as such (this was taken in the local allotments). London is a 40 minute train ride from here though, and Brighton also - there are plenty of opportunities near here for photographing in a city environment. I expect the difficult bit will be finding the wildlife. I might start off slowly - I'm thinking Regents Park.

So, resolution number 5 is:

1.     Never intentionally shoot in crap light.
2.     Take Less, Keep More.
3.     Do more macro work (inverts).
4.     Do more landscapes.
5.     Try to take more pictures of animals in urban settings.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Some numbers, and three more New Years Resolutions

In this post, I'll take a quick look at the EXIF data of the shots taken in 2010.

It's easy to do this kind of thing if you use Adobe Lightroom, which allows you to filter through all of your shots by criteria such as camera used, lens used, subject matter (using flags), settings used (aperture, ISO etc.), and capture date:

Firstly, I thought I'd check the shutter counts on my camera bodies to see how much I've used them:

D300 - 13924 shots in 2010 (total shutter count now about 40k)
D700 - 10193 shots in 2010 (total shutter count now about 30k)
D3100 - 3303 shots in 2010 (purchased in October 2010)

So that's a total of 27420 in 2011 - plenty :-)

I expect to use the D700 less in 2011, as a lot of my usage of that camera has been for photographing captive animals (e.g. at the British Wildlife Center), which I intend to do less of this year. The D300 will be sold at some time during the coming year, but I'm not sure when yet (probably at the the time the D400 is released though).

When processing my photos, I tend to do a lot of deleting of shots that I'm not happy with. I know that memory space is cheap, but I don't want fodder clogging up the hard drive on my computer. And as we're about to see, although I retain a lot, I delete way way more. Of the shots shown above, I've kept (i.e. not deleted) the following:

D300 - 536 (3.8%)
D700 - 414 (4.1%)
D3100 - 105 (3.2%)
Total - 1055 (3.8%)

So, I only keep about 1 shot in 25. Blimey. I do tend to take multiple shots of the same thing, using focus bracketing and exposure bracketing, and then pick the best one. But that's still quite a high ratio of shots being sent to the bin! It would be good if I could look back a year from now having taken say 15000 shots and kept about 10% of them. Following New Year Resolution #1 (see my previous blog post) should be a good start.

In terms of the shots I keep, they fall into the following subjects:

Birds - 58%
Mammals - 24%
Inverts - 13%
Reptiles/amphibians/fish - 5%
Total - 100%

I'm generally OK with this mix - I'd like to photograph more reptiles, but there are not many in the UK to be found. I did less invertebrate macros in 2010 than I had planned to. That's something that can easily be reversed in the coming year.

As for lens usage, the breakdown is as follows:

500mm f4 AF-S VR - 52.1%
300mm f4 AF-S  - 15.8%
200mm f4 AF D micro - 15.7%
70-200mm f2.8 AF-S G VRII - 16.1%
16-35mm f4 AF-S G VR - 0.3%

No real surprises here, but I'm glad to see roughly equal use between the 300mm, 70-200mm and 200mm, which are all lenses I bought during the year. This stuff is expensive - unless it's getting used, I really can't justify keeping it. The 16-35mm is a more recent addition, and I do think I could try to do more landscape work - the figure of 0.3% shows I'm doing virtually none at the moment.

So, to summarise, based on a review of the shots I took in 2010, my next few New Years Resolutions are:

1.     Never intentionally shoot in crap light.

2.     Take Less, Keep More.

3.     Do more macro work (inverts).

4.     Do more landscapes.

A New Years Resolution

I had intended to go to Elmley Marshes today, but the forcast was wrong and, guess what, it's gray and 'orrible.

This leads me to my first photographic resolution for 2011:
  1. Never intentionally shoot in crap light.
For anything other than record shots (and not being a birder or a naturalist, I don't really have any reason to take record shots anyway) it's just a waste of time.

To illustrate this point, here's a shot of a Red Kite.

It was taken at Gigrin Farm in Wales last summer. We happended to be in the area for a wedding, and despite the overcast weather, we decided to drop in. Red Kites are a magnificent subject to photograph, but this shot (along with pretty much every shot I took that day) is rubbish - it's flat, it's dull, it's boring. Why? - crap light.

In contrast, here is a shot of a Bananaquit, which are commonplace birds in Antigua.

I much prefer this shot (hopefully you agree!). The difference originates in the fact that, although the subject is the Antiguan equivalent of our LBJ, it was shot in good light. This brings out the colors and contrast, especially in the background.

It's no secret that crap light makes for crap photos, but in the past I have tended just to go out anyway, even if the weather is lousy. In 2011, I'm going to pick my battles more wisely. This might lead to a bit of a reduction in the number of excursions I make and the number of shots I take - but hopefully in a good way. It also leads me on to the subject of my next post, in which I'll take a look at some numbers from my EXIF data in 2010.