Rutland Bird Fair 2011

Focus4nature will be exhibiting at the British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water. Dates are Friday 19th, Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st August 2011. This is the biggest birdwatching and ecotourism event in the world and it is now visited by over 22,000 visitors each year. It is not restricted to birds, but covers wildlife photography, butterflies, insects, mammals and virtually almost every aspect of nature. There is equipment and books for sale, lectures and nature conservation charities will also be present.

We will be at Marquee 4, stand 77. If you plan to attend the Birdfair and you are interested in wildlife photography you are very welcome to visit us and we will be happy to talk to you.

We are official sponsors of the Birdfair this year and has supported the lectures at the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre. The following lectures will be presented by our tour leaders and all of them are devoted to our wildlife photography tours.

Friday 19th August. 14.00  to 14:20 hours.  Japan’s Winter Wonderland – Mike Lane – Lecture in Marquee 1.

Friday 19th August. 15:00  to 15:20 hours. Tasmania’s Unique Wildlife Photography – Dave Watts – Lecture in the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre.

Saturday 20th August. 13:00 to 13:20 hours.  Kingfishers, Bee-eaters & Rollers, Jewels of the Gambia – Ashley Grove – Lecture in the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre.

Saturday 20th August. 15:00 to 15:20 hours. Wildlife Photography in Bulgaria – Mike Lane – Lecture in the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre.

Sunday 21st August. 13:00 to 13:20 hours. Great Bustards photography in Spain – Mike Lane – Lecture in the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre.

Sunday 21st August. 14:00 to 14:20 hours.  Japan’s Winter Wonderland – Mike Lane-Lecture in the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre.

Sunday 21st August. 11:30 to 11.50 hours. Kingfishers, Bee-eaters & Rollers, Jewels of the Gambia – Ashley Grove – Lecture Marquee 2.

Surprisingly there are still people with many years experience of watching birds and wildlife that have never visited this great event! If you are one of those and have the time, please make the effort and we are sure you will find it very worthwhile.

Looking forward to see you at the Birdfair.

Great Bustard Photography

I have predicted to focus4nature wildlife photography tours what will be their three most popular tours. One of them we have just loaded on the web site. Great bustards in Spain. Although many U.K. based photographers have been to Spain to photograph these magnificent birds, it never seems to get much publicity. To get close to them is never easy and we have put it in our category of Tough tours as it involves some of the longest stays in hides most will ever do.

I envy Ashley Grove, the tour leader the opportunity to have another go at these birds. Wish it was me. Unlike when I went, Little bustard are likely on the same trip as well as Lesser kestrel, Hoopoe,etc.

Permajet Course

I am doing a wildlife photography workshop for Permajet on August 13th 2011 in Stratford-Upon_Avon. 10:0 to 16:00 hours. Cost £75.

The details:

Digital has revolutionised wildlife photography. Photographers are now able to take pictures that were once impossible in the days of film.
This course by wildlife photographer Mike Lane, FRPS looks at the equipment available today and the settings that are appropriate for the budding wildlife photographer. We will discuss cameras, lenses, convertors, tripods, flash, bag choice and accessories.
The main premise of the course is to “keep it simple”. Once set, very few settings ever need to be changed again. The less you change modes the better.
It is expected that those attending the course already have a basic understanding of shutter speeds and apertures etc. but would like to know which settings are the most appropriate for wildlife subjects.
The most challenging part of wildlife photography is finding and getting close to the subject. We will demonstrate hides and their use, techniques for getting within range of our birds and mammals and other specialist equipment you may need.
We will also look at digital workflow, covering downloading, editing and storage of large numbers of wildlife pictures that you will tend to take.
If you want to know how to go about selling your pictures we will briefly discuss the business of wildlife photography and how to make a living from it – but don’t give up the day job just yet!
An absolutely essential course if you want to photograph birds and mammals at home or on safari in Africa.

Seagull Right Angled Finder.

For someone who spends as much time as I do lying on the floor photographing it is surprising I do not own a right angled finder. I have done in the past, but not for a digital camera so far. I do have the Zig View device which is good, but not quite the same thing.

I have now put this right, but gone for the cheaper Seagull finder rather than the Canon one.

It comes in a handy little pouch and numerous adaptors for many different cameras. There are two for Canon cameras, 18mm and 22mm. The larger of which fits my 1d mk1v. Importantly there is a prism so the image is the right way around, which was not the case with some of the early ones I owned in my Olympus days and trying to follow a moving subject when the image was back to front was near impossible.

The image is also very clear. It can magnify the image to 2.5x,  but I can’t imagine  I will ever want to do that. There is a built in dioptric correction ring. I bought it off Ebay for £27 including postage from China, which is a bargain. A Canon one would be closer to £200. I have not used it yet, but it looks well built and I expect it will get used a lot.

Hahnel Inspire Wireless LiveView Remote Control

I have never been that keen on remote control photography. It is often portrayed as the simple solution to a lot of wildlife photography problems, but the issues it creates and the high failure rate put me off. I prefer to suffer long hours in a hide and be hands on with the camera when my subject finally arrives.

However my latest gadget, The Hahnel Inspire Wireless LiveView Remote Control, might just change my mind. I was inspired to buy it when my 30 year old radio remote control gave up the ghost. It was always a bit quirky and unreliable, but when it worked would do so from half a mile away. It was also rather large and heavy by todays standards.

The Hahnel on the other hand is small and lightweight and so far mine is completely reliable. Its great advantage is that if your Canon or Nikon camera has the LiveView facility then the image you are taking can be viewed on the built-in, 3.5” colour LCD of the hand-held transmitter. And it does this wirelessly.

Now that is a great advantage. What really impressed me was how easily it worked first time. I like gadgets and modern technology. I spent half a day setting up my Blackberry mobile phone when I got one and enjoyed the challenge of getting all those wonderful features working. With the Hahnel there was no challenge. I just plugged the receiver into my Canon EOS 1d Mk1v, switched it on and there was the image I was taking on the transmitter device as clear as day with no wires connecting the two.

Hahnel claim it works up to 60 metres away, but I have not managed that. About  40 metres seems to be the limit that the Wireless signal between the transmitter and receiver can manage. That is an issue. I would prefer to be able to work from 100 metres at times, but it is so useful to be able to view the actual image at any reasonable distance that I am still excited about it.

The image on the LCD is very clear and sharp and in colour. It is possible to play back images you have taken remotely from the transmitter, but I have had no desire to do so. Also the transmitter will control up to 4 receivers on 4 different camera if you buy additional ones. That might be useful one day.

Both the transmitter and receiver run off AA batteries and in my first few test runs it has got through the rechargeables I am using rather fast. This could be because the batteries are past their best. Even so it runs for a couple of hours on one charge at least.

The same device also comes with a cable that will operate my Canon G11 compact camera and this is my camera of choice for this sort of photography. There is no SLR mirror to create any noise and the shutter is all but silent. For wide angled photography of birds with the camera just inches from the subject it is perfect. The small size of a compact makes it much easier hide too.

The G11 does not have LiveView, but the Hahnel receiver has a built in CMOS camera lens so place this next to the G11 or put on the hotshoe pointing at the subject and you still get to see the image you are taking on the transmitters LCD screen. Wonderful.

Self drive safaris

At focus4nature we are offering the possibility of a free tour to anyone completing a questionnaire on our web site at

All those who complete the questionnaire will go into a draw and two people will win a trip worth £1110. The advantage to us is we get to learn from the answers to the questions what our potential customers are looking for in wildlife photography tours. One of the questions I wanted included was “Would people be interested in self drive safaris?”. And the answer is a resounding yes. Almost everyone has been positive about the idea.

It does not surprise me as I always find it very frustrating having someone else driving the vehicle when photographing. The prefect spot to pull up has to be inch perfect. Go too far and the background can be spoilt or not far enough and the foreground ugly. It is precision work and I want to be at the wheel or have another photographer doing it who I trust and work well with.

So we are looking into organising one. For me Namibia is the perfect choice. I have always said it is my favourite African country for photography. The tourist infrastructure is good, the wildlife amongst the most approachable on the continent and the settings wonderful. Our plan is we will travel in convey between locations, with probably four vehicles and two photographers in each . Once we reach the location where we will be photographing we can split up and each car go its own way coming together at a prearranged spot for lunch and evenings. It is an easy country to find your way around and we will all have maps and mobile phones. It is one I hope to lead myself. If you are interested please email me and I will let you know when we have more details. We are aiming at August 2012.

In the meantime it is well worth filling in our questionnaire. The draw takes place at the end of April and the numbers so far submitted are not in the thousands so the chance of winning is high.

Airport Luggage

I have just returned from a flight abroad. I am not flying as much as I used too and do not miss the experience. Getting all that luggage onto a plane and all the waiting around has always been very unpleasant. It is exhausting. On the way out my hold luggage weighed 24 kg and my ticket said the limit was 30 Kg so no problem except my camera bag, which I was taking as hand luggage was another 20 Kg and I had a laptop bag probably weighing 5 Kg.

On the way back I had a lot more stuff to bring and my hold luggage was 35 Kg. The man at the checkin desk raised it as a problem, but said he was going to be nice to me and let it pass through. That would not have happened at a U.K. airport. Not only would they have charged me extra for excess luggage, but I suspect they would not have allowed a bag over 32 Kg at all. I would have to have bought another bag. My camera bag and laptop bag were also heavier on the way back and I was wearing my photo jacket with the pockets full of books and lenses. All told I was probably carrying 70 kg. Not something I have done before and I don’t want to again.