Reed bunting

Common reed bunting, Emberiza schoeniclus, single male singing, on reed, Warwickshire, June 2017

One of the easist birds to do in song. In this wet meadow there are no high bushes. They can only sing from low vegetation and if you see a Reed bunting on a perch singing three times then put up a hide and within minutes it will be back and ignore the hide. I choose a two tone backgrownd as I prefer two colours to one. Canon 1dx. 800mm lens. 800 iso/ 1/800th at f9. Hide and tripod.

Brown hare

European brown hare, Lepus europaeus, single hare running, Warwickshire, June 2017


I have tried the hares backlit before on the same field and always enjoy doing so. Canon 1dx. 800mm. 1/2500th at f14. 800 iso.

With the Canon gear they do react to the sound of the shutter and turn away from me. I am sitting on a stool in the open, but with my back against long grass. When I use the Olympus Em1 Mk2 they come much closer as it is totally silent. So far with the Olympus I have always been flat on the floor and am amazed how close they will come.

European brown hare, Lepus europaeus, single hare on field, Warwickshire, May 2017. Olympus Em1 MK2. 1600 iso/ 1/250th at f6.3. 300mm f4 lens.

I have been lying down from 18:00 hours to 20:00 hours in my favourite hare field. The field has little vegetation growing as it was recently harrowed and has a nice ridge in the middle of it that the hares often run along. When you lie flat on the ground they take no notice of you and come very close. It is just very uncomfortable and two hours is my limit unless I am in a hide and can turn onto my back from time to time.




Avocet, Recurvirostra avosetta, Single bird in water, Bulgaria, April 2017

Canon EOS 1DX, 800mm lens 1/3200th at f13. 800 iso

No need for a hide in the Burgas wetlands of Bulgaria. The Avocets are tame enough to just lie down at the waters edge and they come close enough along with other waders.


Green woodpecker

Green Woodpecker, Picus viridis, single male bird on grass, Worcestershire, April 2017. Canon 1dx. 800mm. 1/1000th at f8. 1600 iso. From a hide.

I have never had much success with Green woodpeckers on the ground. I have done them on the nest, but rarely feeding on the grass. Last spring I got lucky and did them well for the first time and again this spring. I was actually waiting for a buzzard to come in when this bird landed.

Little grebe

Little grebe or dabchick, Tachybaptus ruficollis, single bird on water wing stretch, Worcestershire, April 2017

Olympus Em1 Mk2. 300mm f4 lens. 1600 iso. 1/2500 at F5.6

This is taken using the Pro Capture mode and is the second time I have switched it on. I was experimenting and trying to test the setting when this grebe reared well out of the water. At first I just keep my finger half depressing the release button thinking I was capturing it. Just as it started to lower itself I had doubts and fully depressed the button. Fortunately it caught it on the 14 frames prior to me pressing the button.

What I am confused by is that the EVF does not have blackouts when using Pro Capture. Their is a slight tremor of the image, but not the constant flicker or blackouts that you get in other modes. It makes it much easier to follow a bird in flight without the blackouts and if it can be done in this mode why not the others. There must be a disadvantage to using Pro Capture, but I have not found it yet and why do they not call it Pre Capture.

Then I read that the newly launched Sony A9 does 20 fps without any blackouts or tremor. The constant viewing of the image will make it much easier to follow action. I expect all mirrorless cameras will have this in the next generation.

Mistle thrush

Mistle thrush, Turdus viscivorus, single bird on grass with worms, Warwickshire, April 2017

Taken with the Olympus Em1 MK2 and the 300mm f4 lens. 400 iso, 1/1000th at f6.3.

I am getting used to the many settings on this very complicated camera. Like most things complicated it is working out which settings you can ignore and most of them you can. It is so wonderfully light to carry around that I am much more likely to do so than I am with my Canon gear.

Long-tailed tit

Long-tailed tit, Aegithalos caudatus, single bird collecting feathers, Warwickshire, March 2017

Canon EOS 7d mk2. 800mm lens. 800 iso. 1/320th at f5.6 From a hide.



Micro Four Thirds comes of age

OLYMPUS Om1 Mk11. 1600 iso 1/250th at f4. 300mm f4 Olympus lens.

I am now on my forth Micro Four Thirds camera. I have owned the Panasonic GH2, GH3 and Gh4. Each was slightly better than the previous, but I have now tried the Olympus EM1 Mk11 and finally feel this is a camera to seriously challenge the DSLR. In fact after I have reviewed today’s pictures I wonder if I will ever want to use my Canon gear again.

Small, lightweight, 100% silent and up to 60 fps with the ability to take a picture before you press the button and a feature to limit the focus to whatever range you want. Only focus between 5 to 6 metres for instance. What is not to like.

The quality at higher iso settings was amazing, but I need to experiment more yet. I can well imagine 3200 iso as my standard setting it seems that good. The viewfinder image has almost no time lag, unlike any other EVF system (electronic viewfinder) I have used and is flicker free compared to a DSLR. Following birds in flight should now be possible and in fact easier than with a DSLR. I need to try more before I am certain.

There is still a downside. The manual (PDF file) will take more reading and digesting than the Bible. There are many settings I do not understand and the manual does not explain. My friend Google is also unable to help. There appears to be a micro adjustment for the focus for instance, but how do you use it?

I started using it with the Panasonic 100-400mm lens, but turns out to be one of the worst lenses I have ever owned. Do I have a faulty one? They can’t all be as bad as mine. The Olympus 300mm f4 however is wonderful and the equivalent of a 600mm f4. I do not normally get excited about camera gear, but today Micro Four Thirds came of age for me. It is the future and I need to invest in more gear for it.

Marsh tit

Marsh tit, Poecile palustris, Single bird in flight, Warwickshire, January 2017

Marsh tit, Poecile palustris, Single bird in flight, Warwickshire, January 2017

In recent years I have been doing small birds in flight using natural light with either a DSLR or the 4K photo mode on the Panasonic GH4. This winter I have taken a step backwards and returned to using flash. I have bought 4 x Canon 580 Mk2 flash guns and a large alloy frame to which I can attached an artificial background. In this picture the background is a large sheet of hessian. The birds are flying towards a feeder and the button pressed as they arrive. I get two or sometimes three flashes per attempt. I really need more than two flashes, but the guns do not recycle fast enough.

This is 800iso at f13 on a Canon 1dx, 100-400mm mk2 lens. The flash is in ETL mode using a wireless transmitter. The flash is probably firing on about 1/4 power so about 1/4000th of a second. The shutter speed is set to the fastest flash sync speed of 1/250th. I can only work on a dull day as the ambient light needs to be at least 3 stops underexposed to avoid any ghosting caused by a double exposure by the flash and daylight.

For this shot two flashguns were on the bird and two on the background.