I am Rod Wynne-Powell, and this is my way to pass on snippets either of a technical nature, or related to what I am currently doing or hope to be doing in the near future.

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Professional photographer, Lightroom and Photoshop Workflow trainer, Consultant, digital image retoucher, author, and tech-editor for Martin Evening's many 'Photoshop for Photographers' books.

For over twenty years, Rod has had a client list of large and small companies, which reads like the ‘who’s who’ of the imaging, advertising and software industries. He has a background in Commercial/Industrial Photography, was Sales Manager for a leading London-based colour laboratory and has trained many digital photographers on a one-to-one basis, in the UK and Europe.
Still a pre-release tester for Adobe in the US, for Photoshop, he is also very much involved in the taking of a wide range of photographs, as can be seen in the galleries.

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Monday, 21 May 2012

Birds of Prey Centre Visit

The Saturday outing was a practice for Sunday’s visit, courtesy of my daughters Catherine and Lizzy and Tim, to the Bird of Prey Centre at Old Warden and Shuttleworth College. I arrived in slight drizzle, grey clouds, and early. I had no real idea as to what I should expect, and thought I would be learning how to take good photographs of the birds in static situations and on the wing, but it soon became apparent it was a day of opportunities to see a wide range of different birds, and in the morning we would have the chance to have the birds placed in fairly natural situations within the woods, on branches or tree stumps.

Our mentor for the group was John who joined us carrying what resembled an Indian’s charpoy, or low bedstead frame without the springs which had four owls of differing species and sizes tethered two per side; this rack he carried much like Victorian ladies had hoops beneath their voluminous skirts. Every so often one owl in particular would lose his footing and end up upside down with wings a-flapping, which meant John had to stop and reset him upon his perch, none the worse for wear.

We would walk along the path to spy a likely setting, and the group would be asked to choose which of the four was to model for us – Decisions, decisions, everyone at first was too coy to choose, giving John the opportunity to chide us. During one particular session, a red kite flew overhead and was calling which set the model owl and one other very much on edge as they felt threatened, and became very distinctly alert; the original kite was also soon joined by another and both soared low around the top of the tree canopy, presumably as one or both of the kites had a nest nearby.

A very generous buffet lunch was provided for us, and this break gave at least some of us a chance to gather more suitable footwear, or other lenses for the afternoon session which involved short flying trips with a variety of birds from the Centre’s collection arranged so that we all had the opportunity to capture these magnificent birds in flight. At first I thought it might be best to shoot from the side and pan, but I quickly learned that was far from the easiest way, and soon realised the success rate was vastly improved by having the bird fly more or less towards me. As I gained in confidence and success, I then experimented with zooming from the 200mm end of travel to 70mm as the bird approached, leaving Canon’s engineering expertise to handle keeping focus as it grew larger, but I made the transition from tele to wide in order to avoid clipping the full wingspan. I had earlier used a prime  lens of 300mm, believing in panning, but soon realised that the zoom had a much higher success rate, especially as by shooting from the moment the bird left the perch, this set the focus for the servo to retain the same object (the bird in this case) sharp as it tracked towards me.

I was very pleasantly surprised by how effective this proved, but I still needed more practice – one skill I did hone was the ability to delete failures – shots with clipped wings, or the bird of the moment disappearing out of frame on any of the four sides, or more prosaically, being either out-of-focus, or blurred due to too low a shutter speed! Since I was operating with Aperture priority, it came as quite a shock that due to the low light levels, I could find my self shooting at 1/40th of a second until I took up the ISO to somewhere around 1000! You do however get great sense of speed with the extreme blurring of the background, but an even higher chance that even the subject is blurred!

I have to say a great thank you to Catherine for the present, and to the Centre for what they had organised and provided – I had a really great time. If I had a criticism, it would be that we could have been given badges that gave our first names, because I believe that would have made the group gel more. Apart from John our mentor and guide, the only name I learned was Keith, and this was as we left! Oh, and a few of the birds’ names, but here it was perplexing a female bird named ‘Bruno’?

1 comment:

  1. So glad you enjoyed your day! I have an idea for the next one...

    See if you can find a clip of Steve Backshall flying with vultures, it was truly amazing. I think you'd enjoy the thrill of it - I certainly would!

    Which was your favourite bird?