Notes on Use of This Blog

1. I have a policy that I always reply to comments on my blog, even if it's just to say thank you.

2. Please don't submit comments that include your own web address. For obvious reasons, they will not be published.

3. I'm now on Twitter - @RichardPegler1

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Getting To Grips with a New Camera - 9th to 23rd March, 2023

Header image, while this post is current:-

Black-headed Gulls on the island at Hicks Lodge on 23rd March, 2023

In recent blog posts, I have mentioned that I had decided that it was time to find an alternative to the camera set-up that I use for the majority of my photography. This was due to two main factors, the first being that it (like me!) was getting old and unreliable, and the second being that, at my age, I was finding it rather heavy to carry around for any great length of time. I might have solved the 'unreliable' aspect with expensive servicing of both camera and lens, but that would not solve the weight issue.

My old set-up was a 24.2Mp Nikon D7200 with a Sigma 50-500 lens. This was great for distance work and was also useful for semi-macro work when photographing dragonflies. The combined weight was over 2.4kg. To replace this with a Nikon mirrorless system was going to cost me over £4,000 and save me absolutely no weight at all. I looked for alternatives and chatted to other photographers, and found that, after 30+ years of being a Nikon user, if I switched to Canon, I could get a set-up at half the price and half the weight. I have ended up with a Canon EOS R7 with a Canon RF 100-400 lens. The shorter reach of the Canon lens is compensated for by the R7 having a 32.5MP sensor.

The change of manufacturer with the added complexity of facilities on the camera body has put me on a steep learning curve. I would guess that the options for settings on the Canon probably number in excess of twenty times those on the the Nikon D7200! However, the sophistication of, for example, the focussing options is amazing.

As I usually shoot in Raw mode, assimilating the Canon software for manipulation and conversion of images, having used the Nikon equivalent for so many years, is almost as difficult as learning the facilities of the camera itself.

This post will feature images from my first two weeks of usage. I was hampered for much of this period by poor weather and too much going on at home, so didn't have time for intensive experimentation. This post does, however, include a garden first for the year, and a garden 'lifer'.

Thursday, 9th March                    Garden

There was snow on the ground this day, giving some challenging lighting conditions. I thought I'd set up the camera to a good basic mode for first attempts, but found out the next day when I came to process the images that I'd set it up to shoot in .jpg mode. The results, however, were not too bad.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (female) - garden on 9th March. 2023
Friday, 10th March                    Garden

I thought I'd sorted out the .jpg/RAW situation, but no, I'd managed to set it up so that I was taking both .jpg and RAW - .jpg to one card and RAW to the other. This caused some confusion, but at least I had some raw images with which to try the Canon conversion software.

The weather and light were somewhat better and the camera set up was starting to show promise.

Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) - garden on 10th March, 2023
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - Garden on 10 March, 2023
Saturday, 11th March                    Garden

I'd still not discovered my error with the .jpg/RAW situation but, nevertheless, managed to get some shots of garden visitors. I was quite pleased to see that the camera had managed to do justice to the irridescence on the neck of the Stock Dove and even managed to find irridescence on the neck of a Woodpigeon.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 11th March, 2023
Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) - garden on 11th March, 2023
Tuesday, 14th March                   Sence Valley Forest Park ; Garden

This day, I had my first attempt at using the camera 'out in the field'. I chose to go to Sence Valley as I thought that it would give me opportunities to test the camera in a variety of situations.

This next set of three images of Coots on Goss Water demonstrates how the camera coped with a dark subject against a variety of background light conditions. I'm quite pleased!

Coot (Fulica Atra) - Sence Valley FP
It also coped well with a swan that accosted me at close quarters on the ramp of Horseshoe Lake, although there's a bit of burn-out in the white on its back.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Sence Valley FP

I then moved on to the concrete hide overlooking Stonebridge Lake, and got some more shots of birds on the water that I was quite pleased with.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Sence Valley FP
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Sence Valley FP

I was keen to see how the auto-focus on the new camera set-up would cope with subjects in a partially obscured and confused situation, and was pleasantly surprised.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - Sence Valley FP
The majority of the preceding images have been quite heavily cropped, but the following, taken on my return to Goss Water, will, I hope, give you some impression as to how much detail the set-up is capable of capturing. The first image, below, is about a 90% width crop on a shot taken with the lens at 359mm. The second and third images are crops taken at the same length and settings.

Later that day, I managed to record a Bullfinch that visited our garden. I'm pleased to be able to report that we are now getting occasional visits from male and female Bullfinch once more.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 14th March, 2023
Thursday, 16th March                    Garden

We rarely get visits to our garden from Brambling but, when we do, it is usually at around this time of year. Although the weather and light was not good, this was our lucky day!

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (male) - garden on16th March, 2023
Friday, 17th March                    Garden

The treat of the day was a garden visit by a Blackcap.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - garden on 17th March, 2023
Saturday, 18th March                    Garden

This day gave us what was possibly the most exciting garden sighting of the year, with a garden 'lifer' in the form of a Linnet. Although described as 'a common resident breeder and passage migrant' in the vice-county, I do not often see one on my local travels, so having one in the garden was rather special. Sadly, I only managed shots of it on a feeder.

Linnet (Linaria cannabina) - garden on 18th March, 20023
Sunday, 19th March                    Garden

I was now tending to photograph anything that moved, with the objective of getting a little more used to the camera, and this seems to be paying off, although I have not yet mastered finding distant subjects in the electronic viewfinder. 

Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) - garden on 19th March, 2023
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 19th March, 2023
Wednesday 22nd March                    Kelham Bridge Nature Reserve

In the hope of finding interesting subject matter for the camera, I made a return visit to Kelham Bridge. Although virtually nothing was seen, the camera worked well, and I had an enjoyable time there - particularly as I got some good advice from a fellow Canon mirrorless user.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) - Kelham Bridge NR
Gadwall (Anas strepera) (male) - Kelham Bridge NR
Thursday, 23rd March                    Hicks Lodge

I went here, primarily as I had yet to attempt much in the way of flight shots with the new camera, although it was said to have an excellent facility for focus-tracking moving objects. In this respect, I failed miserably as I was in the hide, with just gulls in flight, zooming around at some distance on an unpredictable trajectory or flashing past the window at great speed. I was still having difficulty in finding them in the viewfinder and losing them again before I could achieve focus.

I did manage to get some shots of birds that were moving more sedately, however! 

Coot (Fulica atra) - Hicks Lodge
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (male) - Hicks Lodge
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Hicks Lodge
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) - Hicks Lodge
Greylag Goose (Anser anser)  - Hicks Lodge

I will bring this post to a close now. I feel that I am starting to get there with the new camera, but I still have a lot to learn. The Canon instruction manual for the camera is a mere 963 pages long! The on-line manual for the Canon DPP processing software is a little less daunting at 192 pages. They say that you can't teach an old dog new tricks - I have to prove them wrong!

I suspect that my next post will be in a about a week's time. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard

Thursday 16 March 2023

Spring! What Spring? - 1st to 7th March, 2023

Technically we are in metreological spring now, but with the cold weather and snow we have been getting, it doesn't seem like it at all. We have experienced the coldest March weather that the UK has had since 2010. Sadly, I have not been out as much as would have liked as I have been rather caught-up with household projects, plus sorting out the purchase of a new camera and lens with the associated accessories - hence the rather long gap between my last blog post and this one.

I now have the new camera, which has seen me switch from Nikon to Canon - something that I was disappointed to have to do. My old camera set-up was getting a bit long in the tooth, and I was finding it rather heavy to carry around. I wanted to get something more up-to-date and go mirrorless, while still retaining the same sort of reach as I have with the old set-up. To do that with Nikon was going to cost me over four thousand pounds and leave me with something that was not significantly lighter than my old set-up. To do this with Canon, I have spent around two thousand pounds and ended up with something that is less than half the weight of the old set-up and greatly superior (it would seem). However, the switch of manufacturer means that I am now embarking on a complex learning curve - something that may not come easily at my age!

For those tha might be interested, I have purchased a Canon EOS R7 and a Canon RF 100-400mm lens.

The new camera has only recently been wielded in anger, so all the images in this blog post were taken with my Nikon D7200 with a Sigma 50-500mm lens.

Thursday, 2nd March                    Garden

Although Carrion Crow is a reasonably frequent visitor to the garden they usually only drop to the ground momentarily to pick up a morsel of food. On this day one spent about quarter of an hour wandering around on the ground.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - garden on 2nd March, 2023
Happily for us, we are now seeing Wren in the garden far more frequently, busily probing for insects.

Not quite so welcome, was the Sparrowhawk, which now appears to be a young female.
Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (female) - garden on 2nd March, 2023
Totally unwelcome, however, was the Brown Rat which decided to return this day.

Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) - garden on 2nd March, 2023

Friday, 3rd March                    Garden

We were, and still are, getting occasional visits by Redpoll. This is one of the two that visited this day.

Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) - garden on 3rd March, 2023

That night, the garden trail cams caught our first Hedgehog of the year. I was surprised, and even disappointed, that it poked its head into both our Hedgehog feeding stations but did not stop to eat.

I was even more disappointed that, having seen it put its nose into one of our Hedgehog houses, when I checked that house the following day I found a very flat and dead Hedgehog that had clearly been there for some months.

Sunday, 5th March                    Kelham Bridge ; Sence Valley Forest Park

I spent some time at Kelham Bridge Nature Reserve this day, but very little was happening and I came away again after an unproductive hour and a half. Here are a few shots of some of the things I did see.

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) - Kelham Bridge NR
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - Kelham Bridge NR

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) - Kelham Bridge NR
Hoping for better luck, I decided to visit Sence Valley Forest Park, entering at the south-west corner. The place was quite busy with people, but there was more to be seen.

Five minutes beside Goss Water was more productive than an hour and a half at Kelham Bridge.

Teal (Anas crecca) (male) - Sence Valley FP
Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Sence Valley FP

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Sence Valley FP
I then moved on to Horseshoe Lake where, at one point, there is a ramp that leads down into the water. Here, it would seem, the birds are used to being fed by the public, as I was accosted by Mute Swans and Canada Geese as I approached.
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) - Sence Valley FP
I spent a little while here, attempting to photograph gulls. I was quite surprised to find a Common Gull - a species that is far from common in these parts. In fact, I believe that I have only knowingly seen this species in Scotland!
Common Gull (Larus canus) - Sence Valley FP
More common than Common Gull is Lesser Black-backed Gull.
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) - Sence Valley FP
By far the most common gull in these parts is Black-headed Gull. I caught this one just coming in to land on the water.
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Sence Valley FP
I decided that it was time to give up and go home when a stupid woman stood in front of me and encouraged her two dogs to enter the water and confront the two Mute Swans that were close by. One dog decided to have a go. The female swan gently backed-off, but the male stood his ground and looked game for a fight. I was hoping that it would attack the dog or, better still, the dog owner, but the dog soon retreated.
Tuesday, 7th March                    Garden
For the first time in many weeks we had a garden visit from Long-tailed Tit.  There were two of these delightful little birds, but I only got a shot of one of them.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - garden on 7th March, 2023

As the above represents the last images taken with my old camera set-up, this seems like an appropriate point to end this blog post, with the next one featuring my first efforts with the new kit. Given the long-range weather forecasts and my commitments, it will probably be at least another week before my next output.

In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature - thank you for dropping by - - - - Richard