More Kingfisher at Adel Dam

On the 24th September I paid another visit to Adel Dam Nature Reserve. At the first hide the feeders had just been topped up and they were quite busy with birds.

Blue Tit

Peanuts are too big for the smaller birds to eat in one go so what happens is that they fly in, pick up a peanut and then fly off into the trees to then eat the nut peck by peck. This Blue Tit did just that and flew into the bushes by the side of the hide.

PM7_6391

At the 2nd hide Nuthatch were doing a similar thing but this one is still on the feeder.

Robin

Robins were also using the feeders.

Bank Vole

But one of the stars of the visit was this Bank Vole, and my, were they quick? Usually they were gone before I could press the shutter but some times they would pause before scurrying off again.

Kingfisher

THE star of the visit was this Kingfisher. It perched on this branch for a while.

Kingfisher

It spread its colourfull wings a couple of times

Kingfisher

It also did some diving, but often came up with little bits of weed instead of fish.

Kingfisher

The nature reserve is well worth a visit. On this occasion there were Blue tit, Coal tit, Great tit, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Robin, Black headed gull, Buzzard, Red Kite, Teal, Mallard, Moorhen and Grey Wagtail.

As usual you can click on any of the images to see them on Flickr. There are also a few more Kingfisher shots within the flickr album.

Harley Rally August 2017

I usually try to get up into the Baildon centre for the Harley Rally and this year I took photos of the fuel tanks. I have now put them all together into a montage. I might add a couple more photos later; ones of the more general view. There are a couple of imposters in the collage but the ethos is still the same. No! they are not Japanese or Italian imposters, or German.

Harley Tanks 2017

As usual click on the image to see it on flickr.

I’m starting to think I will start having the images in my blog instead of on flickr. If you are not familiar with flickr it is not obvious how to navigate to larger version like this – large image or this one at the original size.

Concentrating on “Wow!” gives me a blurry Kingfisher?

In a previous post (Roe Deer with Aperture Priority) I talked about setting ISO and aperture to stop the camera insisting on using a high shutter speed with my long lens (a Sigma 150-500mm). Given half a chance my camera (a Canon 7d) will insist on using 1/500s or higher. The resultant large aperture and high ISO then give fuzzy and noisy images. However, when shooting wildlife with a long lens you can only go so slow before you start running into problems.

On Sunday I went to Adel Dam Nature Reserve and had been taking photos of Kingfisher on the branches in the lake. The light was not good but the exposure wasn’t too bad. I had to crop the images and considering the distance I was reasonably happy with the results.

Kingfisher

The photo above shows the Kingfisher about to shake the fish and bang it on the branch before swallowing it. This is cropped so I am reasonably pleased with it. 1/180s, f8, 800ISO, 403mm.

Kingfisher

But then one of the Kingfisher came close. It perched on a branch to the side of the hide. Unfortunately it was slightly in the shade. I had to be quick to move to the side window of the hide then frame and focus on the Kingfisher and didn’t really look at what the light was doing. Before image stabilisation came along the rule was that you would use a shutter speed that was the inverse of the focal length. So at 500mm on an APS-C camera the rule tells me to use 1/(500 x 1.6) or 1/800s.

Looking at the EXIF data of the image shows that I used f8 and 800 ISO as in the previous image. These settings should give me a good quality of image as long as the subject was still/fixed in the frame. But 1/45s was just too long, and it shows. The branch would have been moving and that kind of shutter speed with a focal length of 500mm means that I was really lucky to get anything recognisable. I think it is good but it should have been better. You should be able to see the individual barbs on some of the feathers on the wings but it is actually quite blurred. I think it is obvious that the cause is camera shake and subject movement.

So what could I have done? What will I try to do next time? The first thing was to look at what settings were being used. Were they the best to use? No? What would be better? How could I get the camera to use a faster shutter speed and do it quickly? With my finger on the shutter release the easiest thing to do would be to dial in some underexposure with the back dial. Shooting in RAW should let me under expose by a stop without losing much colour and detail. In fact, now that I think about it, why didn’t I do that for all the shots I took? Almost as easy would be to use my index finger to dial in a larger aperture before going back to the shutter release. The next thing I could have done was to use my index finger on the ISO button and then on the wheel to dial in a higher ISO.

Frame, focus, take a shot, review settings. Dial in 2/3 stop under exposure. Take a shot. Dial in f6.3, take a shot. Up the ISO to 1600, take a shot. But instead I was looking through the viewfinder at a gloriously coloured Kingfisher and thinking “Wow!” I didn’t want to take my eye off it to review camera settings. If it had stayed on the branch a few more seconds I might have started looking at the camera but it was great to get such a view. It would have been good to get photos at several shutter, aperture and ISO combinations for me to review later. This would all help me to get a better understanding of the settings to use for a given situation. Practice, practice, practice. At the moment I am guessing that I could have tweaked the settings to get a better image.

What it means is that I have to keep reviewing my results after the event and practising so that these things become automatic without them distracting me from enjoying the sight.

Longer term there are a few other things that I could do.

Upgrade my lens to one that gives better image quality at larger apertures. The Canon 400mm f4 prime seems to give good results and is not a daft price.

Or I could upgrade my camera body to the Canon 7d Mk II which gives better quality images at higher ISO.
There are rumours of a Mk III being announced in the first half of 2018.

Kingfishers at Adel Dam Nature Reserve

I paid my first visit to Adel Dam Nature Reserve yesterday afternoon. It was quite a grey day but the sightings of the Kingfishers were good. I will be calling again.

From the first hide you could see Nuthatch, Blue Tits, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Coal Tits, Great Tit and a young Grey Heron strutting along the path in front of the hide. But for me the far hide was the best.

Kingfisher

I often see Kingfisher along the river Aire in Baildon or Saltaire but at Adel Dam there were three flying around the lake. On several occasions they flew along the front of the hide, only a few feet away. They also caught several fish and perched on branches giving the fish a good whack against the branch before swallowing it.

Kingfisher

And for a few seconds one of them perched on a branch quite close to the hide.

If I had known that the Kingfishers were showing themselves like that I would have got there earlier instead of playing Ingress between Adel Cricket Club and Headingley Golf Club.

As usual you can click on the image and see it larger on Flickr. There are several more on Flickr. Use the left and right chevrons to move through the Adel Dam photo album.

Roe Deer with Aperture Priority

Unfortunately the big lens I have (Sigma 150-500mm) is not pin-sharp at maximum aperture (But then are any lenses? Well, ones I can actually contemplate owning I mean.) and so when I am cropping an image to get the subject the right size in the frame I am not happy with ones that were shot at maximum aperture.

I have yet to develop the skills where I can adjust ISO, adjust the shutter speed and aperture combination and dial in exposure compensation – all at the same time – while trying to frame the subject and get it in focus. It might sound a bit stupid but there are occasions when I would like to be able to do that. When I have my big lens on my camera (Canon 7d) it will try to keep the shutter speed up between 1/500-1/750 to avoid camera shake and as a result push aperture large and ISO fast. This can (?will) result in images that are noisy and not sharp.

I almost always have a carbon fibre monopod mounted on the lens so I can think about the shutter speed more in relationship to the subject than camera shake. The monopod is one of the legs of my tripod with the centre column on the top.

Roe Deer

This photo was taken with the lens at 500mm and ƒ/8.0, shutter speed was 1/90 and ISO 200.

If the shutter speed had been pushed up to around 1/750 by the camera for this shot then the aperture and ISO would have to compensate 3 stops. Taking it in simple steps my brain can understand to explain where I got the 3 stops – halving 1/90 to 1/180 is 1 stop, halving again to 1/360 is 2 stops then halving again to 1/720 is 3 stops. At 500mm the maximum aperture of my lens is f/6.3 so that would give only 1/2 stop. The other 2 1/2 would have to come from pushing the ISO up to over 1000. (200 > 400 > 800 > 1200 for my simple brain. 1 stop > 2 stops > 2 1/2 stops) Together these would probably result in a borderline image. Given the chance again I would probably have gone for an aperture of f/11.0 and an ISO of 400 to give the same exposure but as is so often the case, you look up and there is the subject. Deer don’t stand around waiting for you to work out the best settings. They see you and then they are off.

Roe Deer

Having spent quite a bit of time with my camera I now know that if the ISO is much higher than 800 I start to get noticeable noise in the images and thar 400 ISO is better. (Should I be going for a Canon 7d Mk II upgrade? But I hear that the low light performance is only 2/3 stop better.) I also know that f/11.0 on my long lens gives sharp results, f/8.0 is still quite good. As a result, on a bright day I will set the maximum ISO to 400 and the aperture to f/11.0. As the light changes during the day I may adjust these settings so that I stand a chance of getting the shot using the monopod.

Of course that is not the end of the story but I will save some of the other considerations for another day.