17 August 2011

Too close to a Roe Deer?

It's been a while since I've been out to photograph my roe deer, having other wildlife and landscape subjects to concentrate on. With a good forecast I decided to set out early in the hope of a successful stalk that would lead to good pictures. This particular morning I got lucky, spotting a lone buck resting in the long grass. I stalked nearer using the hedgerow, then carefully crawled between the barb wire of a fence. Finally I was at the edge of the meadow and could see that the buck was sleeping. I was already pretty close but needed to get a little nearer. A minute or so later, after dragging myself through the wet grass, I was ready. Now was the time to rise above the grasses. I rose up and made a noise. No reaction. I did it again. Nothing. Finally after getting louder and louder the deer opened its eyes and looked in my direction. By this point I was half stood, ready with camera. I fired the shutter as he looked my way, and then quickly he was up on all fours. I was in fact too close!! I fired just two frames before he fled, then watched him leap towards the wood, barking gruffly in annoyance. From the two clear shots I took, one had the antlers out of frame: the other was perfect. I had got lucky..

07 August 2011

Photographing Insects - Hand-held Photography

In terms of wildlife, insects are probably my least photographed subject, so this year I really wanted to try and get some decent images - namely butterlies, dragonflies and bees.A recent trip to a nature reserve proved to be a little quiet for butterflies and dragonflies, but there was a good number of buzzing bees and hoverflies to practice on.
There are different techniques when it comes to insect photography: some photographers prefer to search for their insects early in the morning and get up close whilst they are still resting. This approach is great - if you can find the insects roosting! The other method is once its warmed up - by waiting by a productive spot, then capturing the insect as it visits a flower head or returns to a favoured perch. Whichever method you choose, insect photography is a real challenge. Shoot at first light and you can find yourself with very low shutter speeds - and moving in a tripod can easily disturb the subject. Photograph later in the day and you almost certainly have increased breeze, along with much more active subjects making them difficult to track. Lighting is an issue too: once the sun is high in the sky, the light becomes too harsh for my liking. After a couple of days photograping the same patch - I think I've decided my prefered technique. The best conditions, I believe, are warm days with high cloud. This gives good quality of lighting whilst still giving you reasonably fast shutter speeds. In addition - the insects seem to slow down, as opposed to a day of bright sunshine. On one particular afternoon the light was rather overcast, but it was still very warm. The many bees, hoverflies and gatekeepers were still active, but they definitely seemed to show slower movements, making it much easier to get close.
 Hand-holding the camera is simply the best option in this kind of situation. Even if you are waiting by a favoured patch of flowers, you never quite know where the insect will land - and you may want to adjust your position for a better composition. Rating the ISO at about 400 can give you an aperture of around f8 with a shutter speed of around 1/250 if the light is right.
 These images were taken in more overcast conditions with shutter speeds down to 1/100 second in some cases. Even then - with little breeze, a lot of care and continuous firing, I was able to gain some pin sharp images which proves that it is possible to capture insects without extremely fast shutter speeds - and hand-held.