With Christmas just around the corner it was time to celebrate early with a trip to see the female Desert Wheatear on Titterslee Clee Hill. Although finding it was a problem as it had decided to do a vanishing act about a minute before I arrived, I finally located it around 90 minutes later. Such an obliging little bird which allowed a very close approach. With the winter sun being so low in the sky, the lighting on the bird was perfect, giving nice saturation to the background vegetation aswell. I used an angle finder to help me compose the images and also to try and get the camera and lens either at eye level with the bird or slightly lower, making for a better portrait.
Desert Wheatears usually frequent North Africa and the Middle East so to see one in Shropshire is very lucky indeed.
Top: Canon 1d MkIV, Canon 500mm F4 L IS lens with 1.4x, 1/1000sec at f/7.1, ISO 800, tripod and angle finder.
Bottom: Canon 1d MkIV, Canon 500mm F4 L IS lens, 1/400sec at f/8.0, ISO 400, tripod and angle finder.
Also, if you want a laugh (I did when I saw it!) have a look at the image below. This was the first Desert Wheatear I saw whilst in Tunisia in 2004. It was taken when I first started photography using the digiscoping technique! It was taken with a Nikon Coolpix 4500 and Swarovski AT80HD telescope. Hopefully you will see a huge difference to the work I am producing now!!
Checking the exif data for the Bee Orchids I photographed last year said I’d taken them between 10th and 27th June. Well I searched and searched and couldn’t find any. It was only when I checked the other night that I found a single really small orchid. I’m not sure whether its been a bad year for this species or not, but I can definately say they are very late flowering around this area compared to last year. Anyway, the next task was to photograph it. I tend to use my Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens for most of the macro subjects I find, but after purchasing the Canon 1D mk4 I am finding the depth of field with this lens to be tricky. Due to the sensor being a lot bigger than my old 40D, the subject appears smaller in the viewfinder, which means you have to move closer to the subject which in turn, makes the depth of field smaller. Is everyone still following…? Good! (cus I’m confused and I’m writing it!! lol!) Anyhow, hmm.. because the depth of field is smaller due to being closer, to get more of the subject in focus, you have to increase the aperture. This will have two effects on the image/settings. 1. It will cause the shutter speed to go down (unless you increase the ISO) and 2. It will bring the background more into focus and you will lose the nice clear background that you want in an image. Not good… so… in my bag I also carry a Canon 17-40mm f/4.0 L and a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS. I also have an 25mm extension tube and a 1.4x converter. It doesnt happen very often but I had a brain wave. I mounted the 70-200mm on the tripod and attached the extension tube aswell. An extension tube reduces the minimum focussing distance of a lens, (25% in this case with a 25mm) so you can get closer to a subject (and therefore have it bigger in the frame). This would also get round the fact that I would be further away than with the 100mm macro (because of the magnification of the lens) which should therefore give a more diffuse background. It worked a treat and the photo below is what I achieved of a plant that was no taller than 15cm. Settings for the top shot were Canon 1D mk4 with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS lens at 170mm with a Canon 25mm extension tube. ISO200, 100th sec @ f/8.0. The lower image is with the 100mm macro lens at ISO 400, 1/80sec @ f/8.0. Compare the two backgrounds and settings. I know which one I prefer.
Knowing that there are plenty of butterflies to photograph in this area, I had a slow walk back to the car and found two Marbled Whites butterflies mating on top of one of the orchid spikes. The female is the browner looking one on top. I couldn’t resist getting a few pics and heres one that I particularly liked.
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