Drone first flight

I am enjoying shooting video so much that I made my first showreel lasting 10 minutes. I even enjoyed the editing, which surprised me as I expected it to be frustrating and tedious.

The next step will be a 10 minute film in slow motion, but beyond that I would like to do a short film on the land where I do much of my photography. I have started to edit it and could see it needed some aerial shots from a drone. After a bit of research I opted for a cheaper model at £225. It would take my Gopro camera so I knew I would be happy with the picture quality.

This is my inaugural flight. I have much to learn and next month I will need a licence to fly it.

 

Rook

I spend a lot of time shooting video these days. When I look at my collection of stills images I often wish I was shooting video when I took them. Especially the action of behaviour shots. This rook burying sweet chestnuts is a classic example of behaviour that would not show in a stills picture. I did not know rooks eat them and next year must collect a bag full to feed them during the winter. Birds caching food is common enough and members of the crow family are supposed to be smart enough to find them again.

Taken with the Olympus Em1 Mk2 and the 40-150mm lens. I should have shot in slow motion mode, but forgot and had to slow it down in software afterwards. That loses a little in quality, but I am pleased with the way it has come out. If played back at normal speed it is hard to see what is happening.

 

 

Hamerkop

Hamerkops build huge nests and this bird was very busy collecting sticks from around our camp site. I started off hand holding the 300mm lens, which is very possible with 7.5 stops of image stabilizer, but there is no doubt average sharpness improved when I got the tripod out of the car and certainly composition did.

Kenya was an exciting trip. We rented an old Toyoto Landcruiser, which was hard work to drive and went to Samburu, Lake Nakuru and the Masai Mara. Unlike Uganda last year we had no punctures, but had to top up the radiator twice a day and the black smoke from the exhaust was embarrassing at times. Navigation was more difficult than anywhere else I have been and without GPS we would have found the Masai Mara impossible to get around. It all looks the same.

The Landcruiser was brilliant off road and I began to feel there was no river or ditch it would not cross, but on tarmac roads 50 mph was its best and that would take 3 minutes to reach. The air-conditioning did not work and the suspension was hard and bone crunching.

 

 

Hammerkop or Hamerkop, Scopus umbretta, Single bird on grass with nest material, Kenya, September 2019. Olympus E-M1x, 300mm f4 lens. 1/400th at f4. 1600 iso.

Red kite

Red kite, Milvus milvus, single bird in flight, Wales, September 2019. Olympus M1x, 300mm f4 lens. 1/4000th at f4. 1600 iso

Taken at Gigrin Farm, Wales. The ability of the M1x to focus on birds in flight continues to impress, even when close to the ground it locks onto the bird and not the grass behind. All I have to do is get the bird in the frame.

 

Kingfishers

I used to say Kingfishers are easy birds to photograph, but for the last few years I have struggled to get one coming in front of my hide regulary. This bird requires a lot of waiting time, but at least appears daily. I really want diving shots into the water, but it is not worth setting up until the bird comes more frequently. Hopefully using the Pro-capture feathure of the Olympus it will now be easy to do. The two flight pictures below were taken using pro-capture.

Two of the shots were taken with the Panosonic 100-400mm lens. The first time I have used it. Optically it is fine, but why would they make a lens mount that only turns 90 degrees. It makes it very difficult to get level horizons. I have to adjust the tripod legs instead of being able to swivel the lens.

 

I Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, single bird on branch
Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, single bird on branch in the rain.
Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, single bird on branch. Pro capture. 1600 iso. 1/6400th at f4.
Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, single bird on branch. My first pictures with the Panosonic 100-400mm lens.
Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, single bird on branch. My first pictures with the Panosonic 100-400mm lens. 
Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, single bird on branch. Pro capture. 1600 iso. 1/8000th at f4

Wood pigeon in flight

I was in no rush to buy an Olympus E-m1x body as the spec did not seem to offer anything I needed, but as I now spend more time shooting video than stills pictures I suddenly became interested in the 120 fps video option for slow motion. I am now very glad I bought one and wish I had sooner.

The 120 FPS video is interesting, but it is the auto focus that has impressed me most. I have only had two opportunities to try it on birds in flight so far and it has performed amazingly well. It autofocuses even when I think it stands now chance. So long as I can hold the bird in the frame for a fraction of a second it locks on most times. The wood pigeon is in a messy situation with grave stones behind it, but it coped. My old Canon gear would have stood no chance.

It is a shame we have gone back to a heavier and larger camera body, but I am loving using it. The 4 custom settings are a real joy to use and to be able to toggle the custom settings on and off at the press of a button means I go from action flight mode to static settings in an instant. Why do not all cameras employ such a simple idea and how did I ever cope without it.

 

Wood pigeon, Columba palumbus, single bird in flight in cemetery, Warwickshire, July 2019. Olympus M1X, 300mm f4 lens. 1600 iso. 1/5000th at f4.

Dice snake

In April I went to Bulgaria to photograph reptiles and amphibians with Miroslav Slavchev. We managed 25 speices in a week, many of which I had never seen before and would not be capable of finding without Miro showing us how.  A well organised week that was a bit different to what I normally do.

Dice snake, Natrix tessellata, Bulgaria, April 2019. Olympus Em1 Mk2. 60mm f2.8 macro. 1/100th at f5.6. 1600 iso.