Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Fingals cave Long exposure Scotland
A pseudo LE of Fingals cave on Staffa

If you have been following my blog, you will know that I recently  visited the magical Isle of mull, off the West coat of Scotland in search of Otters and encountered a wide range of wildlife and landscapes during my trip. During the visit, I took a boat to the Isle of Staffa to see Fingal’s Cave, known to many through Mendelssohn in his Hebrides Overture.

I arranged for the boat to leave me on the island for a couple of hours and planned to use my ND10 filter to create a distinctive long exposure with the trails of the wave motion creating a misty blur among the static sharp rocks. This is a technique which polarises opinion – some love it and some hate it. Personally, I love the misty effect on moving water

The ND10 is a super dark filter which screws into the end of the lens. It allows only 1/1000 of the light through to the camera sensor and enables you to take very long exposures (upwards of 30seconds) in broad daylight. I set the tripod up, but………………..no filter :0(

As per the title, Necessity is the Mother of Invention, I decided to try taking a series of photos with the view to merging in Photoshop to give an approximation of a single long exposure effect. The result, merging 22 shots, seen at the top, is rather good for a “Compromise” :0)

Continue reading Necessity is the Mother of Invention

The Sad Sentinel becomes a Happy Heron and says cheerio!

British Birds
Mull wildlife. Heron in flight over a Loch

Happy Wild Bird Wednesday :0)

Click the link below to see photographs from many talented folk around the world and feast your eyes on our fine feathered friends!!

Wild Bird Wednesday

My Blogmate, M-R, felt I was being hard on the cold and wet Heron in my recent post, so I revisit him today in a better light!
Suitably chastised and humbled, I am revisiting and show you the old man turn into a prince, and what a transformation it was :0)
Here is a link to the original where I showed you the grey Heron hunched up against the cold and rain, feeling much like I did. The sun came out and we parted company, with him flapping lazily across the Loch with the most delicate of breezes creating subtle lines of ripples on the water and the worst of the mist burning off to leave just a hint of grey to the scene. I love these birds!!

My 45 minutes of fame in November

I reckon I had 3 allocations of my Warhol 15 minutes of fame last month and I enjoyed every one of them ;-)

Firstly I made my first “real” photo sale (I don’t count sales of cards and small unframed prints).
I have some of my photography on Fine Art America with the aim of feeding my lens lust and still being able to feed my children!

I sold a 34 X 40 inch framed canvas of a Great Egret taken in Shark Valley in the Florida Everglades, and best of all it was sold to a Florida Resident! Click to see the original:

Great Egret Everglades
Great Egret in Shark Valley, The Everglades National Park, Florida, America

Secondly I put 3 photos into a National Geographic macro photography competition. I got an email saying that one of my entries had got an “Editors’ favourite” award. Please note that this was not “THE” Editors favourite and that this did not mean that I was to be published in the esteemed magazine itself, but what a buzz that was – There were more than 18,000 entries and I am sure that there were a few “favourites”. Still delighted with this news. It was interesting how the Chinese whispers of Facebook worked as Mrs B wrote about it and each repost by friends and family became ever more impressive, until the latest from Mrs B’s sister stated that my work had been sought out by the publishers and was the photo of the month in the latest edition of the magazine…………… I wish ;-)

Here is the photo (an extreme macro of an Elephant Hawk moth Eye and face) in question and click for a link to the National Geographic site:

Extreme macro elephnt Hawk moth eye
Extreme macro of an Elephant Hawk Moth eye National Geographic

My final 15 minutes was my first photographic exhibition:

While I dream of making a living through wildlife photography, as a day job I am the Financial Controller of the London arm of the French Investment Bank, Natixis. They wanted to put on a display of artists in the bank and I was one of 5 to exhibit. I must say that it was a most enjoyable experience and a wonderful chance to chat to people about what I love doing. So here is one of the only photographs to be found on the web of yours truly:

Natixis exhibition

So November was a month of firsts, each one very satisfying :0)

The Mother of all Geese

Wild Bird Wednesday Greylag Geese
Greylag Geese on the Isle of Mull Scotland

Happy Wild Bird Wednesday :0)

Click the link below to see photographs from many talented folk around the world and feast your eyes on our fine feathered friends!!

Wild Bird Wednesday

The Greylag Goose (Anser anser) is believed to be the ancestor of most modern day domestic Geese. It is the largest of the native UK and European native Geese and, to my eye, it is very similar in size to a Canada Goose (Branta canadensis).
This beautiful bird is officially classed as amber status in the UK, meaning moderate cause for concern for the population numbers.
In the South of England release of birds has been on going for a number of years to help re-establish their population with some success, but the population found in Scotland are from the original native stock and retain more of the natural behaviors of true wild birds.
This was taken on the Isle of Mull, the second largest of the “Inner Hebrides” off the West Coast of Scotland.
Another first for me on a really rather wonderful trip to magical Mull :0)

Shot with the my trusty Canon 100-400mm f/4.8-5.6 L lens wide open on the Canon 7D to get the shallow depth of field to give the soft focus bokeh of the 2 Geese in the background

Bistering Barnacles! Close encounter with a Humpback Whale

Hervey Bay Humpback Whale
Humpback whale close up of barnacles

A somewhat abstract photograph of the head of a Humpback Whale in close up.
Barnacles cling to the skin and the white scars are a result of previous Barnacles catching a foothold.
The whale surfaced and the drag of the water has temporarily stretched the rubbery bodies of some of the Barnacles out, 3 of which are on display in this shot.
This was taken in Hervey Bay in Queensland, Australia, off the coast of Kangaroo Island, where these magnificent sea Mammals meet to feed during their migration from the Antarctic to the tropics to calve. A truly wonderful experience to see these gentle giants up close

Tiny Ant on a Clematis leaf with the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro lens

Extreme Macro Ant
Tiny Ant on a Clematis leaf

Well, it is a Saturday, and I am sure there are some Macro Monday groups I could find, but I got the sudden urge to balance my postings a bit with a macro photograph!

I also remember my intention to talk about equipment and technique from time to time on my blog, so here come the technical bits and do feel free to read no further and just enjoy the picture if such things do not excite you – I shall completely understand :0)

You can see it is a macro shot, of course, but please believe me, this is not a giant tropical Ant, and this is not an ordinary Macro lens!!

Allow me to introduce you to the remarkable Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Lens.

This incredible piece of glass really is unlike anything else available from the main camera makers.

Although the term is used loosely for close up work, true macro is 1:1 magnification and above. This means that the image falling on the sensor is the same size as the object.
Such specialist lenses are readily available, but this lens starts where they stop!

It starts at 1X magnification (it can only focus close, so you cannot get smaller magnification or use it for normal photography unlike the standard macro lenses). It then goes to 5X magnification at which point a grain of rice will not fit into the frame.

Before you rush out to buy one, a word of warning. This is a notoriously difficult lens to use:

Autofocus? Absolutely not!
Depth of field? About 0.05mm at f/2.8 and 0.3mm at f/16, both at full magnification
working distance? Less than 2 inches at 5X
Viewfinder visibility? Very dark!!

All of the above mean that lighting is very, very hard indeed!
The short working distance makes getting direct light onto the subject difficult, with shadows being a big problem
You will want plenty of light and a small aperture to get a half decent Depth of Field and the normal solution would be a slow shutter speed.
At this level of magnification any movement is magnified so much that an imperceptible breeze takes this option away.
Unless you have a controlled environment inside, with no breeze, the only realistic option is flash.

Again, normal camera-mounted flash will not work, as the lens will block the beam.
Specialist ring flashes mounted to the front of the lens can work very well and are certainly the most practical option, but cost a fair bit of money.
Many people have made some weird and wonderful rigs as a cheaper alternative, and for this shot I have put a metal foil-lined Pringles Crisps tube over the end of my Canon Speedlite (hotshoe-mounted) and put a diffuser on the other end, angled down over the Ant.
A bit Heath-Robinson, but it has worked surprisingly well!
Another method which has worked for me is to hand hold the Speedlite flash to one side of the lens, with a reflector the other, to balance the light and avoid shadows, and remotely trigger the flash.

I do aim to get hold of a specialist Flash in due course, as this really is the ideal solution in my mind

The nature of the lens means that the view in the viewfinder is very dark (remember, this lens does not autofocus), making manual focus very difficult, and I have found using Live View at full brightness a far easier option.

I absolutely adore this truly fabulous piece of glass, but if you are tempted, please do not get put off by the huge and steep learning curve and be prepared for a low strike rate and frustration in the early days.
Rest assured that when a shot works there are few more satisfying lenses out there :0)

The Sad Sentinel on the Isle of Mull, Scotland

Grey Heron by a Scottish Loch
Heron on a loch on Mull, Scotland

Happy Wild Bird Wednesday :0)

Click the link below to see photographs from many talented folk around the world and feast your eyes on our fine feathered friends!!

Wild Bird Wednesday

More from my trip to Magical Mull, one of the small Inner Hebrides Islands off the West Coast of Scotland.
At the start of this amazing holiday, I reached dry(ish!) land at Tobermory and found a B&B for the next few nights. Nice and early, so set off in search of the Otters I had travelled so far to see.
The weather was awful, so I decided to drive around the island making notes of where to visit if and when the rain stopped. A small Island, so after one circuit, I did stake myself out in the rain for a few hours to find these elusive creatures, but no luck.
I was joined by this Grey Heron. I am a huge fan of these guys and they always remind me of rather comical, grumpy old men all hunched up.
There is no denying that the surroundings were beautiful, with the Kelp covered Granite and the calm, Loch water, even in the misty rain, and I enjoyed his company very much
I have broken the rules by placing him centrally, but I have never been a great one for rules and for this shot I think it works and I am happy to break them :0)
I do adore the hugely therapeutic time, just me and wildlife, and on this occasion I felt particularly at one with the heron – cold, wet and bloody miserable!!!

Wildlife Photography and Bird Photography Blog, technique and pictures

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