ARCHIVE 83 – KINGFISHER

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Kingfisher perched over our neighbours’ fish pond; 13 Jan 2013.

I was a birder for decades and, although no longer going twitching, I do retain a profound love of birds – of even the most common species –  I regard them as a valuable addition to any land or seascape.  The UK government sees them as something that enhances quality of life and I completely agree – for me, they’re right up there with butterflies.

The only bird list that I now keep contains those species seen in or from our garden, and that list has been stuck on 59 for a decade or more.  I had thought about some more determined watching of the garden after I retire, which might raise the total to that lovely rounded six zero, but knew that I was going to have to have quite a lot of luck too.

But I hadn’t reckoned on 13 January.  My wife thought she saw a woodpecker, I asked if it was green, since Green Woodpecker is the one commonly around – it loves feeding in our ant-rich turf.  But no, it wasn’t green – ok, so it must be the mainly black and white Great Spotted Woodpecker, a much more uncommon visitor – so I thought to take a look – and sitting over our neighbours’ pond was this gem.

Another neighbour said that having it around had made his weekend, and it made our’s too!  And, so far, it has been with us for just that one day.  Weather conditions weren’t particularly harsh, there was no snow or ice around, and maybe this individual was just passing over when it saw the pond and dropped in for a closer look.  I saw it take at least three food items, which may have been aquatic insects; the fish in the pond are far too large for it to tackle.

This picture was taken, handheld, through an open window at long range – to show you just how distant it was, see the full frame image below – and NB that the 400mm focal length gives a magnification of x8 relative to a 50mm lens.  But I was using the Nikkor’s Vibration Reduction facility – which really does work –  while being only one stop above the D700’s optimum ISO; and I’ve read that the bulky 80-400 zoom has a reputation for sharpness.  And, once more, as always >>> thank heavens for autofocus!

D700 with 80-400 Nikkor at 400mm; 400 ISO.

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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

17 Responses to ARCHIVE 83 – KINGFISHER

  1. Sallyann says:

    Pretty little bird, I’ve never really thought about it much, but imagined him to be taller – in a kingly sort of way. 🙂

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      He’s short and stubby, in a gem-like sort of way … and I’ve got a note in my diary to try drinking from the far side of a glass … but haven’t tried it yet … 😀 ….

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  2. It truly us a GEM.
    😉

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  3. Beautiful!! The kingfisher is one of the birds I dream of photographing. Occasionally I catch a glimpse of one on the river that runs by Wisley Gardens but I’ve never seen one perched where I could watch it.

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Hi, Sarah >>> always follow your dreams!!! But these are very fast and wary little birds, rarely approachable – I was sitting by a river on the Somerset Levels and saw one some way off, flying down the river towards me – but as soon as it caught sight of me it flew way off across the fields, and then back to the river again when it had got past me.

      If someone had bet me that I would get my only photos of this bird looking down from one of our back bedrooms I’d have laughed in his face!

      But if you really want to photograph these birds, then either find a spot where one habitually perches when looking for fish in the water – and conceal yourself with a sizeable telephoto. Or for a better bet get someone birdy to take you to a breeding site – they breed in holes in the river banks – and ditto >>> but keep still and hidden!

      Good to hear from you. Thank you! Adrian

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      • Yes, I was hoping to maybe go on an arranged RSPB outing to see them! You’re right, the best way is to find a breeding site or preferred perch and set up a hide. I have a Sigma 50 to 500 now which I think should be enough 😉 Thanks for the advice!

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        • Adrian Lewis says:

          The 50-500 will be fine, provided you have a tripod or image stabilisation or can get a high enough shutter speed – 1/500th for unaided hand holding at 500mm is the standard “rule”.

          The RSPB outing may be a bit crowded and noisy >>> but, once you know of a breeding site, you can always return there alone for more “quality” time. Assuming there’s reasonable light on the breeding site and/or perch, early in the morning would be good.

          If you’ve no hide, sit or lie down and drape something dull or neutral coloured over yourself, to take away your human outline; shooting from a car window, resting the lens on a bean bag, is also good; and keep still.

          Good luck!!!!! Adrian

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          • I have both a mono and tripod! The lens has image stabilisation as does my camera (Sony) so I can use either one. What sort of aperture setting do you normally go for? I love a shallow DOF but am always worried about overdoing it and losing some of the details of my subject. I really appreciate the advice 😀

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            • Adrian Lewis says:

              A tripod would best be used if you can find a frequently used perch, and you would then turn off both the image stabilisation in your camera and that in your lens. Its best to fire the camera remotely via a remote (electronic, these days) release – do you have one? You set the camera up focused on the perch and fire when the bird is there.

              The monopod is better if you need to move about a bit more, and for this use the image stabilisation in your lens; this is contrary to usual advice, but a photographic journalist friend assures me that monopods, unlike tripods, do need stabilisation. Never use both the lens’s and the camera’s stabilisers simultaneously.

              Keep your shutter speeds up, even if it means raising the ISO – I’d guess 1/200th and upwards.

              Use f8 or f11 if you can, both for sharpness and for a bit of depth of field. At 500mm, your depth of field will always be shallow. If you have to use larger apertures eg f5.6 or 4.5 well just do it >>> better to have a photo that is not perfect in some way than no photo at all!

              If you get the chance, always focus on the eye – otherwise just focus on the bird and blast away! 🙂 Aim to make every shot – and you should take many – a good one. You’ll probably have lots of failures and a few good ones.

              If the scene does not have great contrast, ie no great differences between highlights and shadows, use Evaluative metering – use the Levels histogram to watch for blown highlights (ie the histogram going off the right hand end of the chart) – but these won’t matter if the bird is exposed ok – ie if the bird is exposed ok, a blown out, featureless, white sky doesn’t matter.

              If contrast is a problem, take spot meter readings from the bird. The spot metering ought to be linked to the camera’s autofocus point that you’re using. Using the camera’s central autofocus point is probably best.

              I have no idea what sort of situation you’ll find yourself in, but you’ll probably be lucky to have the birds as close as the one in my lower photo here. But start taking photos as soon as you can, and if you do get the chance to move closer later you can always delete the earlier photos.

              Hope this useful, Sarah! Adrian

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              • Very useful Adrian! I’d always reserved using f11 for landscapes but it does make sense with the longer focal length. I recently bought a wireless remote partly for timelapse/astrophotography and also for self portraiture but yes, that would make sense to use with wildlife photography on the tripod. I’m definitely going to try keeping the image stabilisation on when using the monopod as I had gone with the advice to switch it off! It might be a little while before I get back to my wildlife as I’m photographing a wedding on Thursday 🙂 Beautiful venue with peacocks which I’m hoping to tempt into a few of the photos as the bride really loves them. Bird food will be in my kit for the day 😉

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  4. LensScaper says:

    I’ve never seen a Kingfisher in the wild. What a great sight, Adrian.

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Well they’re not the easiest of birds to see, Andy. They perch motionless above water, looking for fish – and even on fishermens’ rods sometimes! – but despite their bright colours they’re unobtrusive. As I just mentioned to Meanderer, I mostly see them in flight, fast and low (usually below 5 or so feet up) over ground or (especially) water, a little speeding bullet with a bright turquoise rump that really shines out as they rocket away.

      They’re wary of people, but we’ve even seen them around the fish-filled moat of the Bishop’s Palace, in Wells, in fact they’ve bred there.

      I wish you luck! They are stunning and, to me, really life enhancing. Adrian

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  5. Meanderer says:

    Wonderful. One’s life is enhanced when seeing one of these beautiful – and usually very fast-moving – birds

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    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Yes, absolutely, its a Life Quality thing. Always fast moving, and rarely at any great height. I see them on the Levels, but usually only as a fleeting blue flash. Thanks for your thoughts, M! A

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