Herring Gull, an adult in winter plumage, beside the harbour in St Ives, Cornwall; 20 Oct 2016.
I’ve been using my new Fujifilm X-T1 camera a lot of late, but there’s no doubt that where speed and accuracy of autofocus are concerned, it simply cannot compete with the systems on Nikon’s full-frame cameras. Fujifilm’s new X-T2 may address these shortcomings – but whether I want to lay out £1800+ to get an X-T2 plus the power grip that will of course make this diminutive camera bulkier, is another matter.
And so, having been down to St Ives a few weeks back and been frustrated by the X-T1’s slow autofocus, I took both the X-T1 and Nikon’s D800 when we did a second trip to the southwest tip of Cornwall last week – because, if we were going to St Ives again, I wanted 100% autofocus efficiency in order to tackle the fast-moving gulls and Turnstones that are always a feature of the place.
A visit to St Ives duly materialised, we were in the harbour near the West Pier, and there was an adult Herring Gull sitting on the roof of a car. The bird looked quiet and composed, not fazed at all by the many people hurrying close by. It looked good for a close-in picture, but the first thing to do was examine what was visible behind it because, although close-in use of a long telephoto throws the background out of focus, any contrasty elements in that background may still have the potential to significantly spoil the shot. I edged myself into a position where the background seemed unobtrusive.
I put the D800 into DX (APS-C) format, which magnifies the 300mm end of my telezoom to 450mm (= x9 magnification), brought the camera up to my eye, and advanced very, very cautiously and intermittently towards the bird. I shuffled forwards, very quietly sliding my feet across the smooth pavement. I didn’t go on until the bird flew, but was surprised at how close I got – and it continued sitting on top the car, looking relaxed throughout, even when the D800’s rather loud shutter started up.
AND THEN FOLLOWED SOMETHING COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED: We bought hot snacks from a kiosk and walked on up the harbourside eating them, my wife leading the way. A gull that had perched on the keel of an upturned boat started screaming madly at me, like some frenzied demon from the netherworld. Well, I grew up beside the sea where gulls were always around and they don’t faze me at all, so I promptly screamed manically back at it >>> whereupon it fell off its perch, took flight and immediately attacked my wife, knocking her sausage roll from her hand onto the ground before going down on the roll in a savage feeding frenzy. Whereupon a second gull launched a similarly frenzied attack on the first gull and the roll, and the people around us scattered left and right to avoid the mayhem! As I tried, somewhat lamely, to explain to my wife later, it could have happened to anyone …
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D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX format to give a 450mm telephoto; 400 ISO.