ARCHIVE 419 – WARBLER AMONGST ACACIA THORNS

 

 


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Small warbler – perhaps a Cisticola – amongst fearsome Acacia thorns, any one of which could so easily transfix it; probably in Nairobi National Park, in the late 1970s.

The Cisticolas are a group of small warblers that that all look very similar to each other; they are the archetypal “small brown birds”.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: OM-1 with a Vivitar 400mm telephoto; Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO; Lightroom.  This would have been taken from the window of my car, from one of the tracks in the National Park.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 390 – EARLY MORNING 4

 

 


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Looking into the distance as a day begins.

Other images in this Early Morning series are here: 1 2 3 .

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Landscape v2 profile; looking out towards Hay Moor from Swanshard Lane, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 2 Aug 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 385 – EARLY MORNING

 

 


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Looking into the distance as a day begins.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 1600 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Portrait v2 profile; looking out towards Hay Moor from Swanshard Lane, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 2 Aug 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 373 – MEADOW PIPIT SINGING

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Feeling tired after an early morning start, I’d just slumped down into the car’s driving seat, thinking about the drive back to Bristol, when this little pipit landed on a gate post right in front of me and burst into song.  Pictures through the car’s dirty windscreen clearly weren’t going to cut the mustard and so, leaning carefully sideways – using the car as a hide – I managed to poke the business end of the telezoom through the gap between the car’s open door and its bodywork.  It was the lens I’m married to (the new version of it) the 70-300 Nikkor zoom and, putting the camera into APS-C mode gave me 450mm = x9 magnification.  I started carefully squeezing the shutter button, taking care not to make any sudden movements.

The bird is a Meadow Pipit, Anthus pratensis if you want to know, a small warbler that lives and breeds on open grasslands, like the rough pasture here on Tealham Moor.  It gives its full song when in flight over its territory, but also uses perches like this to deliver partial versions.  Sitting or lying back in a soft, warm, summer field, listening to Meadow Pipits singing overhead – where there may be Skylarks singing too – is certainly not the least of Life’s simple and totally freely given pleasures.

Click onto each image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it.

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Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 800 ISO; Lightroom; beside the Jack’s Drove bridge over the North Drain, Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 5 July 2019.

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ARCHIVE 410 – BARN OWL, ASLEEP (MONO)

 

 


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Barn Owl, asleep, at the International Centre for Birds of Prey, Newent, Gloucestershire; 2 July 2014.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 3200 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Antique Portrait preset.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 356 – IT FELT GOOD TO BE ALIVE

 

 

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I’d driven down to the end of the little, single track road – Allermoor Drove – that runs out westwards onto Aller Moor, on the Somerset Levels.  It wasn’t actually the end of the drove as that continues onwards as a rough track, but my days of driving saloon cars off-road are long past and, indeed, far away, on another continent.  But, anyway, I’d turned the car around ready for departure, and was downing hot, sweet coffee while demolishing a thick, brown, bitter marmalade sandwich.

And beside me was a water-filled ditch – a rhyne – dense with summer’s lush growth.  And from that ditch was coming the loud, reeling song of a Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus if you want to know.  That small bird had flown – probably mainly by night – all the way from sub-Saharan Africa to breed in this little, wet ditch in Somerset.  Probably, it had bred in this ditch last year too and, if it survives, it will be here next year to do so again.  The Germans have a word for this, it is ortstreuer, this almost fanatical attachment to one small breeding site on a vast continent.

And as I stood there listening to that loud, reeling song, the bird shot up into the air several times in his fierce, hormone-driven, territorial frenzy, before dropping back once more into the safety of the ditch’s lush green depths.  And of course I know Sedge Warblers from before – those I encountered seeing out the northern winters in Africa’s warm, dense, insect ridden lushnesses – and those long before that, 50 years and more ago now, when I first started looking at birds, here in Somerset.

And as I stood there listening to that loud and lusty song, it felt good to be there with that bird, it felt good in fact to be alive, and I found myself talking to him – “Yes, come on, do it, go for it, go for it!!!”.  And that felt good too.  But then I often do such things when anything like in contact with the natural world.

Beside the ditch there was a field gate, with a long strand of orange bailer twine hanging from it, being blown about by the breeze, and a carpet of white wildflowers stretching out beyond.   And as I photographed that gate, the first, uncertain splashes of rain were cool on the back of my neck, and suddenly they were a downpour.

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I ran for the car, hunched over the camera, trying to shield it from the streaming water.  And so into the car, slamming the door, but the ******* electric window was down and I couldn’t find the car keys to switch the ignition on to raise it again – a plague on electric windows!!!  The rain poured into the car.  I cursed savagely and pulled my backpack over the two cameras on the seat beside me, trying to keep them dry.  The keys appeared, the window closed, I cursed some more, and the downpour drummed on the car.  And as I looked out through the streaming windscreen, the view before me – the trees, the sky, the little road – came alive and dissolved into a living, moving mass, and picking up the X-T2, I photographed that too.
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And, amongst all of that Nature, raw and real, it continued to feel good to be alive.
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Click onto each image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further.

Technique: X-T2 with 10-24 Fujinon lens; 100 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Aller Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 14 June 2019.

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BRISTOL 138 – SHAFT OF SUNLIGHT, IN A GRAVEYARD (MONO)

 

 


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This picture is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

A day out together photographing in Bristol: Paula and I walked up the narrow St John’s Steep, heading into the Old City.  Street art and interesting facades and alleyways were all around, and on our left was a fenced and partly overgrown area with several obviously old graves – it was part of an old, disused graveyard.

A shaft of brilliant sunlight lit the scene, illuminating hosts of flowers that had run wild, and also some of the greenery around them. 

Then, a pigeon walked into the scene and was – for an instant – silhouetted against the glare.

Technique: Z 6 with 24-120 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 180mm; 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Neutral V2 picture control; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the High Contrast Yellow Filter and adding a moderate Coffee tone; St John’s Steep, in Bristol city centre; 3 June 2019.
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TALKING IMAGES 50 – USING THE NIKON Z 6 TO PHOTOGRAPH SMALL BIRDS IN FLIGHT

 

 

All images: Skylarks in song flight, Queen’s Sedge Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 24 May 2019.

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Something that I’m interested to test on Nikon’s new Z 6 mirrorless camera is the accuracy and speed of the autofocus, and flying birds are – for an ex-birder like me – an obvious target.   To this end, I’ve already posted a picture of swans in flight here .

But down on the Somerset Levels recently, I aimed the camera at something far smaller and more elusive.  Skylarks kept leaping up from grassy fields all around me and ascending into their wonderful, towering song flights and so, using back button focusing (also described here ), I took a few potshots at them in silhouette.  These birds are about 7 inches (16-18cm) from bill tip to tail tip when laid out flat and, moving rapidly and erratically around, they presented quite a challenge.  The final image here shows the whole frame of the shot above it, to give an idea both of the birds’  size in the (electronic) viewfinder, and of how enlarged the first three of these images are.  All pictures were taken at 300mm telephoto, at 800 ISO.

There are two points to make here.  First, I used Dynamic Area Autofocus, where the camera takes information about the target not only from the focus point being used, but also from surrounding points if – like these small birds – the target is moving rapidly and erratically.  I used a single autofocus point, the central one, throughout.

And second, I used the lens I’m married to, the 70-300 AF-S Nikkor which – like me! – may be showing its age (from 2007) a little now.  To which end, I’ve acquired the 2017 upgrade, the 70-300 AF-P Nikkor – and time will tell on how this one performs!

The resulting images here are certainly not perfect, but to me they are in the right ballpark, and I’m looking forward to further testing.  Click onto each image to open a larger version in a separate window.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 345 – MALLARD ON THE NORTH DRAIN (MONO)

 

 


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A pair of Mallard, a very common duck, on the calm waters of the North Drain, on Tealham Moor.  The more ornate male is on the left, and the far more camouflaged female on the right.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 500 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Flat V2 picture control; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Underexpose EV -1 preset and adding a strong coffee tone; the North Drain on Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels, seen from the Jack’s Drove bridge; 12 Apr 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 343 – SWANS ABOVE TEALHAM MOOR (MONO)

 

 


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This image contains a lot of detail and is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Looking eastwards across Tealham Moor at 7am, with the sun risen and mist rising into the cool air.  There are no sounds, save for those of the light breeze and, as is so often the case here, gently running water.

And then the singing of Mute Swans’ wings, and three of them, flying quite low, heading north across the moor.

(And another bird to see: a Rook, one of the crows, perched on the dark fencing at lower right; its looking towards the camera, and can only be seen as a dark bird with a pale face – the latter in fact being the pale grey bill and the bare, pale grey skin on the face – the bird uses its longish (for a crow) bill for probing into turf and earth, looking for worms, insects, etc, and its bare facial skin is presumably less soiled (every pun intended!) by the dirt than facial feathers would be.)

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 640 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Vivid V2 picture control; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the High Contrast Green Filter preset and adding a medium coffee tone; looking east across Tealham Moor from just south of Westham, on the Somerset Levels; 3 May 2019.
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