Friday, August 31, 2018

Goldilocks photography

So why would anyone take 3 (or more) photographs of their alarm clock 15 minutes before midnight?
One too dark, one too bright and one 'just right'.

At one level the answer is Paul Hobson and his excellent book Wildlife Photography Field Skills and Techniques. At another the answer is this …….

Have you got it?  The phone picture is a glow worm larva, which I saw crossing one of the local roads back in May.  Scroll forward to July and on our usual late evening (post sunset) dog walk on a different track we saw a glow worm, and then a couple of nights later 4 glow worms, frustratingly all tucked well into clumps of grass, and not snappable without more environmental tinkering than I could justify for the sake of a picture.
Then I remembered the glow worm larva and nipped down to that site, to find another 4 shining away, 2 of which were in more open but less photogenic spots.  It was late and I had work the next day, but I headed home to grab the camera.  But how to snap them?  That's where Paul's book came in as I remembered a section on glow worms in that.  Bit of a practise on the alarm clock and down to the worms, where I again ended up doing the Goldilocks too dark, too bright and just right exposures.  

Not the best backgrounds but a chance to practise in the field - quickly.Still the best ones hidden down in the grass.

Over the next week I tried a few more times - still not great backgrounds and once the glow just wasn't working so well.  It was only later I realised that was because the females both had males attached!  These are long exposures (4-8 seconds) so a bit of blur on the male.  Over exposed to show the males.

Finally back on the original track I got a chance to try snaps with some more exposed worms on 'better' backgrounds.  The first shows how they hold their tails to shine the light skywards

and this last has had more post processing done, but gives an idea of just what the beetles look like.

All too soon the season was over, but next year I will have retired so no concern about work.  Mind you I wouldn't want to spend too long on any one individual - after all they are trying to mate.

And what's the recommended technique …………………. I suggest you buy Paul's book!  Available on Amazon or direct from Paul here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Yellowstone 4 - the cool ones

It's a bit cooler today, but I feel in need of a bit of visual chilling, so time for another Yellowstone post.  In terms of the photo opportunities there's no doubt the stars of the trip were the coyotes, which were seen everywhere, usually in pairs, although it was the Lamar Valley area that provided the best experiences with some very confiding animals.  The 100-400 lens gave some extra freedom to go in tight or come out.  Even so it was hard to believe at times just how tolerant they could be as you slowly inched nearer.

I never imagined being able to take a full frame shot like this,

although for some reason this view really appeals.  Maybe it's because it is just completely ignoring the row of photographers pointing glass at it.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Yellowstone 3 - Head Sticks

I was going to have a title about horns, but a quick bit of education has enables me to understand the animals featured this time mostly don't. Have horns that is.

Still let's start with one that does.  In my pre-reading for the trip I saw pics of bighorn sheep, and they didn't really grab me.  I mean at the end of the day they are sheep, and just because I live in Wales I'm not welsh so there is no cultural attachment.

However when we found some bighorn rams I was quite impressed, and ended up taking more shots than I would ever have expected.  I think the excitement of having to scale a cliff face and balance precariously to get the shots added to the fun.

Well OK I exaggerated a little.

We only saw a couple of distant females - little big horns maybe?

On the last evening we went searching for pronghorn, the worlds second fastest land animal, but didn't find any.  We did see a few more bighorn sheep though in the blue light

and also a small group of mule deer.  My wariness of bumping up the ISO on my 7DII meant I messed up most of those shots though.

Now mule deer and elk (wapiti) have antlers, not horns.  I was beginning to think I wasn't going to get an elk shot of any note - a few uninspiring snaps of cows and a bull down in a river,

but again on the last evening we got the chance to snap a bull against the hills.  These are red deer on steroids, with bulls weighing up to 330kg.  They were long thought a sub-species of red deer, but in fact they are a separate species.

In Europe when we talk about elk we don't mean wapiti, we mean moose, and we had a few views of these impressive beasts as well.