Archive for March, 2008

The Waterfowl – in the snow!

Posted in duck, photography with tags , , , , , , , on March 24, 2008 by overread

Well this morning I awakened to a world of white – snow had come for the first and only time this year – and it was a little late ;). However knowing that the snow would most likley be gone before too long I hurried out with my camera to get some shots of the ducks – this time around I also used a new idea to get lower shots of the ducks – a cushion in a bin bag (to keep it dry). This I used to get some very nice low down shots of the ducks when they were on land; the pond being too boggy to lie down on the bank of.
To add a little extra something to the shots I also went out when it was still lightly snowing, and as my camera has no weather sealing my sister was given the brolly and given orders to keep the camera dry – it was time well spent I and managed to get some very good results!

Cannon EOS 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens
Tripod (water shots)
Cushion in a bin bag (land shots)
For settings save pic to pc and review properties

The view outside from the sitting room – still in the warm here!

First the land shots with the bin bag – I moved around the garden quite a bit with this, getting different angles and background, though I admit I was not very selective with backgrounds, still very much focusing just on the bird.

Emperor Goose
Emperor Goose
Well, whilst the snow was not too much trouble with the camera, the whites on this bird were – a little more experimentation to get those whites not to overexpose needed.

Cinnamon Teal Drake
Cinnamon Teal Drake a Cinnamon Teal Drake b
Two shots showing that timing can be everything – these were taken frames apart, and each has its strong and weak points. The first has the best focus on the bird, even with unsharpen mask there is a difference in the sharpness of these two shots – however it also has an out of focus twig covering the breast of the bird (though it appears that I am often the only one to notice this. The second whilst having a wonderful pose and no vegetation in the way and being of good sharpness is just not as naturally sharp as the first.

Baikal Teal Drake
Baikal Teal
A great shot (if I do say so myself) and yet not all good as this poor fella is not in the best of health at this time – you can tell this by the wet feathers on him showing that either he is not preening or that his oil gland is not working. This can be a big problem if he takes to water and gets waterlogged – he will drown in the pond. Thankfully this has not happened and he is now recovered.

White-faced Tree Duck
A hiding in the woods is — a tree duck! Despite the vegetation in the way this is still a shot I like – the pose is interesting.

Puna Teal
Sometimes I was shooting up hill and this did mean that I got far more snow in my shots than I would have liked – however partly I put this down to lack of practise with a cushion in the field.

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These two were very calm with me around and let me get close enough to get these two shots of them – this time not using the cushion.

Red Breasted Goose
Red Breasted Goose
A nice shot of the bird, the only thing really detracting is the bird in the background – but it does show off the snow that was starting to fall at this time – just as I was about to head to the pond

On the Water

Australian shell duck – female
Well the background in this is nothing special, infact its rather poor in most respects, but the bird has come out a real treat – the lighting was right to get her eye without the surrounding black swallowing up the detial

Laysan Teal
Laysan Teal

Two nice shots, but still showing my tendency to focus in on the bird and not let there be any surrounding space for the shot – something that I still have to learn to pay attention to.

A good frontal shot and here I don’t mind the lack of space – its not really needed as the bird is going towards the camera.

Pochard Drake
Pochard Drake
Here is a shot showing a better background view – the bird is not cramped into the shot and has a place to be heading to.

Chilian Teal
Chilian Teal
Best for third last of the duck shots – this is one shot that I am very proud of taking and am also very glad that it came out so well.

Drive by Shooting

Well so show that the snow really would not be hanging around for long at all here is a driving shot taken of the sky on the same day – note the ground the total lack of any snow at all! Not the greatest sunset shot ever taken, but its an area that I have not really done much in at all so its nice to have one or two passable shots.

And the final shot – a barn owl in flight; even though its certainly got room for improvement I think this came off well when shooting at a fast moving target from a car window whilst moving.

ps – I was not driving πŸ˜‰


A day at Whipsnade Zoo

Posted in photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2008 by overread

Well after the slightly disappointing trip to London Zoo I set my sights on another zoo – this time Whipsnade. This was far further to get to (3 odd hours on public transport) and also involved timing to get one of the very few busses that went from the train station to the zoo. I decided to set off on Wednesday 19th March (yah this is a late update) so as to avoid the storm that would arrive on Monday and also to avoid the tourists and general crush of the weekend – and of Friday (when the new cheetah pen was opened).
So I was up and off at 6am and the sky was brilliant blue – not a cloud to be seen and the wind was light, but still holding a little chill of winter (I was glad to have taken my mac in the end). However despite good train times, I managed to miss the bus by mere moments and so I had to fork out for a taxi, the distance being far to great to walk in any sensible time and especially difficult without map or any local street knowledge. After that little hiccup there was another – by 10am (or rather 9:40am) the Zoo opened; it was a cold day now I was not moving much and the sun was starting to hide behind the vanguard of the approaching storms clouds. That did not stop me having a great day out or from capturing over 1000 shots on the day (well really 3-400 odd as I use multi-shot a lot!)

All taken with:

Cannon EOS 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens
For settings save pic to pc and review properties


Basking in the sun and glaring at passers by; they were a wonderful poses and very still, but just too close to the bars to get shots without the bars being present. Further they were completely out of sight from the glass viewing area – defiantly a cat that you could spend all day watching to get them in the right place and a dedicated sit and wait day with such an animal is something that I have considered doing in the future.

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All is fine in the world – I have my stick!

These next two have in focus bars – the overall effect is not as bad on the big screen as it is on the small – but it’s still bad enough.
Nice angle with the cat, but the light is in the wrong place – casting shadows over and hiding much of the eyes – the focus is also a little out
Solves some of the problems of the first, but without keeping the advantage of the direction of focus of the cat

The King!
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Seems to have had a few clawed encounters in his time

Well from one big cat to another – and whilst one tiger was patrolling the boarders the other was content to laze around on the top of a wooden tower and doze!
Though the light was wicked to me and the noise was likewise mean, this is another shot I love for the look that I captured – though I can’t tell if its a tiger or a beaver!

Nicer light, mean bars still! But overall a nice shot

The next two were taken from up high on a hill behind the dozing cat – though for some reason my sky has gone green on me (something to play around with in editing later)
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Well next time I will spend more time photographing IDs of animals – they look so easy to remember on the day…
No idea what this is – but here it is, so kind of him to stand so still for so long – I got right down close.
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Note that the last is not a crop, but a closer shot altogether – and one that I feel I will crop a little closer at a later date.

Flamingo – Phoenicopterus ruber
I was going to walk right by the birds – but I spied a chance for some good shots of these birds – and was well rewarded
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A display showing pinioned wings which are done to the birds when young to prevent one wing from developing fully – preventing flight and also meaning that stressful clipping of the primary flight feathers is not needed.

White Rhinoceros – Ceratotherium simum
Well I followed the rhinos round their very large pen, but they kept moving away every time I got down to shoot – methinks they were tired of all the camera attention, though in the end I did get some shots.
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Nothing much really to say here – just 2 quick shots; but I found that the zebra is an interesting thing to edit in Photoshop – it really benefits from a stronger darkening of highlights than other animals.

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Nile Lechwe
(the bachelor group)

All was quiet in the herd – and then two started a fight and another joined in – the fourth decided to ignore the others. When I took these I could have shot just above the fence, but I wanted to get lower down angles – a shame that the bars were not as out of focus as I would have liked.

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Recently I also used the burn tool to remove some of the highlights caused by the bars – I think it has improved the shots, the bars are still there, but they are less noticable now

Greater One-horned Rhinoceros – Rhinoceros unicornis

Well a new arrival means that mum and dad are separated whilst mum raises the child. I could only get above shots of the mum and child – but I could get rather closer to them than I could the dad who was out in the open grazing – not wondrous shots, but something of the good zoos do with keeping bloodlines viable and alive.

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Mum > Dad > Baby

American Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus Leucocephalus

Nice pose – but bars galore!


I really regret not spending longer in this area, no bars at all, but it was getting a little cooler by now and I still had some animals that I wanted to catch on camera before the weather broke at last.

From where I was and using the 300mm end I got a few shots of this chap flapping, but in many I lost out on the ends of the wing.

The light was not helping and this shot took quite a bit of work to get to a suitable level, even for a webpost. Still I like the end result enough to post it, but I aim to get better next time.


I had to lay down on the concrete to get this, not pleasant and the end result is a little dark – a case where I wish I had had a good flash.


Nice and sharp shots, but the bars were unavoidable.
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Well this is something of a pet-pain to shoot – I really want to get a good, clear, sharp shot of otters – yet they are tricky to shoot; Always moving makes them hard to focus on and they are often surrounded by people watching. Though the latter problem was not present on the day, the moving was and the light was getting very cloudy by now. Though I did find out that you only need one energetic otter to get good action!

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Red-tailed Kite

Well whilst I was about to photograph the wolves for a second time that day I noticed this bird flying high overhead. It was way, way to far out for my lens to get a clear shot of and at first I thought it was an escapee of the zoo – but the lack of the holders on the legs means that this is unlikely (as display birds always have these) so it looks to be a local come for a visit!

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Well these I tried as handheld and they came out much like the first, blurry – I however did get one really good keeper from the set where I balanced the camera on the fence in front of me to get it.

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Both the first and the last animal that I photographed were the wolves; though in both cases they were keeping to the back of the pen – a shame as they were just out of my lenses capacity to capture clear crisp shots – so all were a little more blurry than I would have liked. And though there was a section where the pathway was above the fence for viewing, it was almost impossible to get a shot without the background fence appearing and in many cases the top of the closer lower fence would creep into view.

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I have recently used the burn tool in photoshop over the lower section of these shots to lower the visablity of the bars – not perfect but a definate improvment.

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And the final shot of the day!
IMG_1066darken highlights all the way

Me trying out blurring water – I found that it was really too bright a time for such a shot and that very early morning or late evening where there is less light about would be better for taking such long shots. In this one I had to darken the highlights considerably to get a shot that was not too bright with glare – but I like the overall effect captured.

In the end I had a good day and only left early before closing because I had run out of shots and the clouds were now rolling in, as was the erratic rain. So with tired legs I packed up and headed for the way home – this time not missing that bus!

Lessons learnt

1) Never miss your bus – its always cheaper than a taxi

2) A zoo is a big place and you defiantly need to work out which animals you want to see before you go if you intend to photograph them. Even then you can’t ensure that they will be doing anything interesting at the time

3) Bars can either be a blessing or a curse – a blessing when you remember your composition and a curse when you want a “natural” looking shot

London Zoo – results and guides 1

Posted in photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 12, 2008 by overread

Well here starts a change in the pace – this will be the first in several entries which will detail from start to finish how I altered photos in post production. The photos are all new ones from my recent trip to London Zoo.
However first, my impression of the zoo overall: This felt like a zoo that has past its time, a broken and forgotten place still stuck in the renovations of cheap concrete enclosures and small spaces of the city. Though it has some spectacular works for its age – such as the large outdoor aviary, the mould on the sides is showing the age. Personally, as I walked round and looked at the different exhibitions I thought that they should to away with the larger enclosures – creatures such as tigers, hunting dogs, giraffes and zebras to name but a few, really need larger enclosures. I am aware that many animals have already been moved to their other site – Whipsnade – which has considerably more room. A recent transfer is the cheetahs. I also overheard plans to expand some of the enclosures into “waste space” or as I read it, space where once humans thronged in their hundreds where now they gather only in their 10s. Though I think the establishment should stay open, it should focus on smaller animals on a whole = becoming more like a large city farm – with a few more exotic creatures such as the reptiles, otters and meerkats.
Well that is enough of my views of the zoo – onto the photos:
This day was hard day to shoot for it was overcast with grey clouds – that would spit forth the odd drop or two of rain. The wind was on the colder side of cool, leading fingers to get far colder than you would notice at first.
All photos in the Zoo collection were taken with:
Cannon EOS 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens
For settings save pic to pc and review properties
ORIGINAL (reduced for web)

For this one I went through the usual smart fix, levels, contrast and colour auto settings. I then increased the saturation and further added a little bit more reddening through temperature. I then selected the far right hand side of the hound – in line with the tree trunk and increased this areas saturation and reddening further – to balance out the effect of the glass. The reddening was to counter the dull light cast by the overcast day. I then sharpened the image using the unsharpen mask. Following that I reduced the noise and then sharpened (to a lesser degree) again. I finally lowered the tint a fraction into the green – to counter the harsh reddening.
For the web version I overhsharpened a little and then reduced the image size – adjusting the sharpening a little again.

Another version:
With this one instead of altering the colours on the far right I cropped the section off entirely

ORIGINAL (reduced for web)


Again though smart fix, auto levels, contrast and colour. Following that I again increased saturation and reddening (temperature) with a very tiny tint towards the green. Following that a near full unsharpen, followed by a second lesser sharpen. I then cropped out the bar from the bottom of the photo – as it added nothing but a distraction to the image. I then altered the image back and forth between large and small (websize) and decided to crop out a little of the top and right hand sides.
I then reduced the photo for the web and applied another near full unsharpen followed by reducing the noise.

ORIGINAL (reduced for web)


First off, again smartfix, levels, contrast and colour all done on auto settings; From there I boosted saturation by a bit and then increased temp and decreased tint by small degrees. From there it was a full sharpen followed by removing noise and then a smaller degree of sharpening again.
After that it was time to reduce sizes again and then a final larger sharpen (unsharpen mask).
My initial worry about this photo is the back of the dog not being in focus – as the dog is looking in that direction as well, the viewers eyes are dragged a little that way and the blurred back spoils the effect. I tried changing sharpening of only that section of the pic, but to no luck.

ORIGINAL (resized for web)


First off, again smartfix, levels, contrast and colour all done on auto settings; From there I boosted saturation by a bit and then increased temp and decreased tint by small degrees. From there is was a full sharpen however this time I decided to try out the demo edition of neat image and see what I got. I found the software easy to pick up in basic mode and managed to remove a greater amount of noise than was possible with my photoshop skills.
From there I then reduced the image for the net and sharpened yet again.

link to neat image demo:

Home Birds – the pheasants 2

Posted in photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on March 12, 2008 by overread

Right back to the caged birdies again, and again time was against me, preventing me from sitting out in the cages for the more flighty birds. Getting the lighting right was also tricky, as some pens would not let be get the light behind.

All taken with:
Cannon EOS 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens
For settings save pic to pc and review properties

Within the pens

I increased the darkness of shadows in this one to counter the glare off his white feathers

Great one of the female, but such a shame her tail is missing – they were just a little too close to my camera to get all of the bird into the shot at the time.

Well this one was taken in a pen, but the angle of the pen meant that I could not move round and get the bird with the light fully behind me and thus shining on him.
OUSIDE the pens

A crop of a larger shot, this focusing on his head. This has to be my most favoured picture to date – wonderful colouring on the bird and great sharpness to him. Taken through the bars – but such that the bars have no effect on the shot — wonderful!

The full bird – wonderful colours all over this one.

The full bird, but infortunatly to get him all in the bars had to appear as well!

This is a shot that I have played around with quite a bit and I will put up a separate blog for this one – as it deserves a little bit more space (and writing time!)

Lessons learnt
1) White birds really are a pain to shoot (don’t read that in the wrong context!!!)
2) Sometimes the best shots appear when you least expect them to

Seagulls and lunch

Posted in photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 12, 2008 by overread

Well family decided to go out and have fish and chips down in Aldebrough and so I decided that as well as my fish and chips I would try to get some seagulls on the wing. Now the first problem with this trip was that it was a grey day – which meant boring grey skies and a boring grey sea. Those problems aside I decided that the practice would do me good; and I had the perfect bait — the remains of my fish and chips!
So birds baited with the remains of fish I used not my tripod, but a railing for support – it worked well:

All Taken with
Cannon EOS 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens
metal railing!!
For settings save pic to pc and review properties


Probably the best shot I got that day of a bird in flight.

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I like the angle of flight in this one, different from the usually seen angles – so I made a crop, getting rid of the empty skies


I have seen other shots like this and as with those the limited depth of field leave the bird looking unatural and strange –

Defending his right to my former lunch (that orangey thing in the corner).


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I added more saturation to the last of these three and I really like the added light and colour that it adds to the pic – really makes it stand out a little more in the grim light – but with the sky showing overcast it’s a little fake looking if one looks closely!

Lessons learnt:
1) dim lighting makes getting fast shots tricky – better lighting would make it easier to shoot with a quicker shutter speed
2) however then I have to deal with the glare off the wings – I think were I to try these again in better light I would either have to go during the magic hours or use a polarizer on the lens to eliminate the glare
3) increasing saturation works well at countering a lack of light – but if the sky is showing overcast in the pic then the effect is lost a little!

Home Birds – the waterfowel 2

Posted in duck, photography, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 12, 2008 by overread

Well my second trip to the pond – this time I learnt from my last trip – I checked the settings on the camera and I also got the light behind me as I shot away:

Page now edited with new re-edited versions of all the shots and a new shot from the same trip – I have come a long way with editing since these were origanly taken

All Taken with:
Cannon EOS 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens
For settings save pic to pc and review properties

(note I am just the photographer, not the keeper -so breed names will have to be edited in once I know them!)


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These chaps were hiding away on land last time – I was very glad from them to be on the water – even though they were only on for a short time. Though there is only one in this shot there were 3 males on the water at once!


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When its bath time for one, its bath time for all! Several ducks started bathing, and here are two of the best of them doing just that – water everywhere

Bath time over, time for a preen – I really like the calm look in this one’s closed eye

AUSTRALIAN SHELL DUCK (male and female)
I forget which is which, but I think the one in the foreground is the male. I really really like this one for the sense of life it has – though I would have liked to have had a little greater depth of field to get both ducks in focus.

Lessons learnt:
1) again more practice at looking at the whole picture – not just the duck
2) try to get the ducks in more lively motions rather than just sitting there
3) get down just a little lower – the water level if possible

Home Birds – the pheasants

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2008 by overread

Well like the waterfowl, I was on a timer here, only a really short amount of time, so I could not get into the cages as I wished – to capture them in film without bars. So it was a few quick shots through the bars with my camera – again using a tripod.
All taken with:
Cannon EOS 400D
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG Macro lens
For settings save pic to pc and review properties

well less than perfect, but nice lighting and if I can get some closer – none barred shots — this is a wonderful bird.



Well this chap is so tame and trusting that he came right up to the bars, jumped on his little house and stared back = probably hoping for food. This let me get these close shots looking up at him and this one:

Even with the bars in the view I really like this close up detailed shot of his head – just managed to get him all in, beak and all πŸ™‚

Call them “common” if you will, but there is no calling them ugly! Just missed his eye – which is a shame – but got the colours nicely – the sun being in a better position for these shots.

Lessons learnt:
1) Some pheasants might just get too close to the camera when in the pens – take a lens hood!!
2) Bars are nasty to try and shoot round