Monday 31 January 2011

Taking Off

Whilst I am in contact with numerous recruitment consultants, for the time being I am continuing to live the dream. Today the dream was of a Goosander still being on Perch Pond, and a sadly dream it remained. Nevermind. I had a very nice walk around Wanstead Park in some weak winter sunshine, and whilst I saw nothing new for the yearlist, it was good to be on the patch.

One of the benefits of being into photography is that if the birding is quiet, you can instead concentrate on looking through the lens, and today I did just that. I spent most of my time knelt on the bank of the Ornamental Water trying to get decent images (sorry Gav et al) of whatever came close enough. The principal attraction was Swan Wars - a single adult Mute Swan had made the mistake of landing in the territory of the resident pair who were having none of it. They would chase the interloper who would then fly off to the far end of the water, whereupon the pair would swim over to it, through ice if necessary, and cause it to fly back to where they had all started. Repeat almost ad infinitum - it took over an hour for the new bird to get the message and depart high to the south in search of pastures new. Good luck, as all the ponds here are spoken for and he'll get the same treatment on any of them.

The struggle today was exposure. Pure white on a dark background is a situation I hate. All the reading suggests exposing such that you don't blow the whites, but to do that the image looks really dull. And of course, as the bird gets larger in the frame, so the amount of white influencing the meter increases. It took me a while to work out that manual mode was the only way to go, but with the sun coming in and going out, ir was somehow unsatisfying and also didn't work when a non-white bird came into view. I tinkered with what seemed like countless variations, but when it came to processing I have made adjustments to almost all the images. Supposedly in all but sky situations, the maximum amount of compensation needed when working in evaluative is 2/3rds in either direction. Sorry if this is boring you, I could witter on about photography for just about forever. Bottom line, I think I need to read the exposure chapter in the Art of Bird Photography again. And then again.

The assumption is that anyone with a fancy camera and large lens just points it at a distant bird and an amazing high-definition photograph results. Wrong. If you point it at a distant bird and just press the button you will get an ill-exposed and probably fuzzy speck of what might be a bird. See, I'm wittering again. I'll stop. Suffice it to say that it is not straightforward at all and despite having owned an SLR since 1997 I am still learning every day, and sometimes feel like I am going backwards.


  1. I always found coots a bit a problem with exposure. Actually I used to have a lot of problems with coots in general. All the same, either the pate would be bang on, or the plumage would be bang on but the pate a big white flare. Trying to get the plumage right, the pate right and a good colour on the eye is not at all easy IMHO...

  2. "Whilst I am in contact with numerous recruitment consultants"

    Jono, this blog just gets funnier and funnier.