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.

A third-person description follows:
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.

See his broad range of training and creative services, available NOW. Take advantage of them and ensure an unfair advantage over your competitors…

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Saturday, 24 August 2019

Marston Lake – Flying Insect Life

Once again I was out with the EOS R, and the newly-purchased 2x Converter. I had recently made up my mind after much use in different activities that this would definitely be an asset with a good range of uses under differing categories of work. I had wondered whether the addition for instance to my 60-600mm Sigma Sports lens might hamper autofocus, but the experience has been heartening. I think I forgot to consider that the smaller apertures might actually  give me greater leeway rather than be hampered by the lesser amount of light.
The pixel density is greater with this full frame chip, so the impact of higher ISOs is lessened, allowing me to use a higher ISO with the long length of this lens, which benefits stability, which has meant that for those occasions where I need the extra throw, there is no negative impact from adding the converter, and the 60mm end becomes 90mm which is close to half the length I experienced with the earlier 150-600mm lens.
Recently I have also been using the Tamron 150-600mm and a monopod when the need to travel light is essential, so the transition to this body has been a positive, especially after a firmware update which was a great improvement for autofocus.
On this afternoon, I arrived to a well-attended lake by anglers as many prepared for a long stay extending over the Bank Holiday weekend, and my first destination was to check out whether the woodpecker was in the trees to the right of the junction of the two trackways that circle most of the lake, and since that seemed unlikely as there were no sounds of a woodpecker at work, I headed to the right unencumbered with a heavy tripod.
It proved to be the correct decision as there were no sightings by any of the anglers, and no tell-tale sounds, so I returned to my car and set up the camera on the tripod and took a walk just a few swims down where I spent some time with one angler, before heading in the opposite direction to investigate the far side of the lake. Dragonflies turned out to be my main subjects, and on the far side I even managed two shots of one in flight, which is always rewarding, as they change direction so rapidly.
The short distance to this lake was fairly rewarding despite the lack of Grebe and the woodpecker.
My next sortie – without the long lens will be to a Concert in Aylesbury.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Brogborough Lake Drop In

Thank you for a Rivetting Note to me, Barry, in Comments, for pointing out my unforgivable error in naming the file incorrectly, rendering it unavailable for those eager to see how Hydrofoiling is progressing on Brogborough Lake; I hope it was worth the Wait!
         On the spur of a moment,  I decided to see whether anyone was taking advantage of the wind at Brogborough Lake, and found that Sam was once again trying to master a gybe whilst keeping the board aloft, clear of the water throughout the manoeuvre. I spotted that he was successful on several occasions. I later learned he was generally successful in one direction, but was finding it difficult in the other. 
         There were others on the water, but I’ll apologise straightway, that  I was more interested in capturing a complete sequence of a successful gybe whilst clear of the water throughout whilst using a hydrofoil board.
I was a late arrival, so missed some of the earlier action, and so there is not a lot to show but I also slipped up by thinking that since the action was reasonably close to the shore I could dispense with the 2x Converter, but I found that I was mistaken, so also lost some time in having to return to the car to bring out the Converter. Once that was in place, the shots filled the screen far more fully.
I hope that the shots I took were useful for Sam; I learned that keeping the 2x Converter on permanently for shots here was definitely worthwhile, as it made all the difference, with no downside, and confirmed I made the right decision in upgrading from the 150-600mm Sports lens to the 60-600mm Sports lens. Certainly using this lens on the Canon EOS R body I see no downside on keeping the 2x Converter on at all times, unless the light levels are seriously low. The same would not be so when using the 5D III or 7D II as the EOS R’s file size is greater, offering higher ISO cleanly. Having a sturdy tripod is another benefit, especially when shooting the windsurfers, as it invariably means that whilst the participants are using the wind, I am fighting it! Ironically, also I find myself hankering after a dark cloth to improve my screen viewing.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Brogborough Last Minute Visit

It was extremely fortuitous that I finished the last gallery and found myself free to venture out on a day with both wind and sun, so Brogborough Lake beckoned, and upon my arrival I learned that there was at least one sailor who would be taking advantage of those characteristics and be jumping!
In a trice once I learned of this snippet, I was at the boot of the car and extracting my tripod and placing the EOS R camera body camera and Sigma Sports 60-600mm lens together with the newly acquired 2x Converter. Not too long after, I was making my way with the assembled kit to the jetty. I soon  had it locked into the gaps between the aluminium planks, and was searching for the young lad with the red sail who was apparently the kid to watch out for who was a known jumper  –  I did not have long to wait. I missed the first jump he made in my presence, but I now had my marker, and more jumps followed.
There was a snag in my choice of platform as the waves breaking beneath me tended to make my position less than totally stable, so after a few shots, I removed myself to the solid ground alongside the jetty where my tripod was on firmer ground. I did still have another issue, it was difficult to move around the tripod legs when covering  close on 180 degrees of water ahead of me.
Thus I did miss some of the action when having to step over the legs whilst still keeping hold of the camera, I did alter the legs slightly to surmount this issue, and thus I was able to capture much of the action. By the time I had finished shooting, I had still amassed a large number of images that I would have to find myself in front of a computer screen preparing them for display on the blog. However, overall, I was fairly satisfied with the images I had captured, so it was time well-spent.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Life in my Marston Moretaine Garden

It would seem my Buddliea took longer to arrive this year than in earlier seasons, and perhaps, it knew this was a strong likelihood, so delayed producing its bloom, because within days of flowering and attracting pollinators; bees and butterflies, the British Weather gave us an extended period of high winds, and to a lesser degree, rain.
I took advantage of the arrival of mainly a handful of butterflies, and to a lesser degree bees, to take my camera out with the Canon 70-200mm lens and the Sigma 2x Extender, and did my best to capture their efforts to feed on the rich nectar they sought. There were periods during which I had to patiently await a lull in the gusty wind that was battering my plum tree and Buddliea ferociously – I had already lost two dozen plums before they had ripened, and this number rose still higher, despite my earlier efforts to try to lessen the amount of movement the branches were accorded, by tying them to a large clay pottery flower pot.
The three Butterfly species I see most are the Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral and Cabbage White.The butterfly’s response to the wind was to lay their wings as flat as possible against the leaves to weather the gusts, then in the few lulls get back to  delving into the florets. From my point of view, I was trying to get the most possible use of the loaned 2x Converter to help me decide whether to make the purchase. I was certainly finding that overall the issue that gave me greatest concern was how efficient autofocus would be when using the Converter.
The heartening result overall, was with the EOS R, although I would still often have to obtain initial focus manually, once I was close, the camera took over and locked on with ease. By the end of the afternoon I was convinced, and contacted Sigma to send me the invoice, as there was no need for me to return it!
Although at first sight, there may seem numerous duplicates within the gallery, there are subtle differences, and I was trying to see just how well the focus was maintained, and considering the amount of movement I was involved in trying to keep track, the camera was definitely less troubled, and I was able to recompose the images easily in post processing, especially when I was particularly pleased with some of the shapes formed by the leaves that allowed me to create good compositions, What that meant was that invariably the overall crop whilst taking was not tight, despite the greater enlargement, the quality of the mirrorless body’s files was still excellent, which has been a real benefit.
Readers of this blog will have noted how I have had to adapt my way of shooting, especially when panning, to accommodate to some of the different characteristics involved between my dSLR bodies such as the 7D MkII and 5D MkIII. Canon remain tight-lipped over my suggestions, with this issue, but admit I am not alone in suggesting a modification to the way in which bursts are handled by this camera to lessen the impact of the lag between the image in the viewfinder when a panning sequence is shot. The expensive but obvious alteration would be to have two parallel processors; one for Viewing, one for Capture, my suggestion however was to mitigate the effect by discontinuous sampling of the signal reaching the Viewfinder, as in my humble opinion this could be achieved by a separate setting for panning operations. Time will tell. The technique involved would not be too dissimilar from image stabilisation, and could be linked to the difference in inertia involved in the camera’s motion.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

A Visit to RushBeds Woods

My daughter Lizzy suggested a new wood to visit which she had found nearby to her place of work, but though she knew its location was to the left, off her route, but not precisely where the entrance and Car Park were, so whilst she parked close by to a narrow lane leading across a railway line, I got out and walked to investigate. We had found a minuscule parking area, fortunately with a couple of available slots. I recrossed the bridge to signal her to come over. We had arrived, since there was a handy sign describing what might be expected within its bounds. 
Having parked up, I took the opportunity to take out the camera and lens I had chosen, which was the EOS R and the 70-200mm, which when mounted on the monopod gave me both a manageable weight and a reasonably stable base from which to operate, and the first two shots were of the map and information board, so that as we entered I had the means to navigate the area within easy reach.
From here, the exit from the parking area was a long straight path tunnelling its way inwards. After a shortish walk the two youngsters, my grandchildren, soon found a path on the right leading down to a small twisty pond, or possibly a brook, which to their delight had a makeshift bundle of branches that crossed the narrow stretch of water, but it looked none too stable, and anyway, the thought of jumping across was far more appealing and exciting! Josh was convinced this was well within his capabilities, and since it was Lizzy’s Car in which we were travelling, my chivalrous nature accepted that a slightly muddy-trousered child would no doubt be dry by the end of the afternoon, so did not offer any resistance, I was a tad more concerned for his younger sister, Tilly, but reckoned she was only going to feel encouraged should I offer any warning against her following suit!
Another attraction for this spot was the proximity to a pair of trees strong one enough to support a small hammock, which was another reason Lizzy was happy to spend some time here, as she just happened to have brought along a small surprise present in case the opportunity arose! It was as if the entire idea for the trip was to find a pair of trees in the woods which just happened to be this precise distance apart and room either side perpendicular to the line between them; seemingly it only suffered from one small but manageable flaw, a dead root stump that might prove painful if one fell on it! Out came the surprise, and a cursory glance at the instructions for its assembly.
Lizzy ascertained that either of us adults came within the advisory weight limit, so that meant not only could the children play but she could also just take the weight off her feet and observe two happy children from a distance, and in comfort.
Although this was our first visit, it was soon apparent, since it was on Lizzy’s doorstep, that this was a venue that would likely be visited frequently in the future. The only snag I saw might well be that the size of this Car Park might mean it could fill fairly swiftly, however, I did note there were others.
We spent a thoroughly relaxing time here, meeting on other family group who were like us on their first visit, I also chatted with another photographer who was way more knowledgable of the natural species hereabouts than myself, and he showed Tilly a well-camouflaged Shield bug, and after having had it pointed out we walked several yards away, and when she said she would go back and point it to Josh, the man said “She’ll never find it having walked so far away from it!” He had not counted upon Tilly; she went straight back and exclaimed to Josh this was it! The man was impressed!

At one stage we came to the end of a long avenue, and a wide open field; in the distant was what looked like a dead tree, which turned out to not be totally dead, and had three sizes of swing, which proved a magnet for both children, especially the two-seater. This was another spot we spent quite some time enjoying, before setting off in the direction of a gate on the other side, and which led to a different bridge across the railway, then a long trek along a moderately busy road to then cross over the railway bridge to our car park and the trip back to Quainton.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Brogborough Lake — Slightly Less High Wind

I missed out on the Gale Force winds at the Lake, but on the Sunday, it was less fierce so naturally attracted a range of different levels of windsurfer skills. It was interesting to not that André had come along with a commercial hydrofoil, and was finding it far easier to remain aloft, and with less effort than when using his own self-designed and manufactured model. I managed to discuss this with him, and since has more experience, he will revert to his own one to check out its handling relative to his new found knowledge, to assess how much his earlier difficulties related specifically to his design, or to his inexperience. I look forward to learning his thoughts on that.
When I arrived for this visit I did not immediately set up the camera, as I was keen to see whether there were to be some jumpers amongst those attending, and learned from Sam there was at least one possible contender. That slim possibility encouraged me to set up the Benbo tripod and attach the EOS R complete with the 2x Converter, which was one of the primary motives for my getting further experience of using this combination in a sporting situation. The issue is tracking a fast moving subject whilst retaining autofocus, and panning accurately when I know there is a lag involved in my viewfinder relative to the accurate tracking of the subject, especially when trying to keep that subject close to full-screen. What I have been doing is breaking the sequence into short, but linked exposures whilst panning, so any delay does not affect the overall capture too adversely.
There are two separate issues in relation to panning a moving subject, one is maintaining the subject in frame due to this lag, the second is tracking the autofocus point due to the lag; it is this overall aspect I am trying to understand due to the difference between mirrorless and DSLRs — the panning with the latter is comparatively easy to master, since every frame your eye sees is live and accurate, despite the interruption. With a mirrorless camera, every frame compounds the discrepancy so your eye is misled as this delay increases with the length of the action being covered. The obvious, but expensive option is a co-processor channel for the viewfinder, separated from that which is being recorded; in that way the delay remains constant rather than being compounded over the length of the sequence.
Since I am not in a position of having limitless funds available, such an option is likely to be out of my range, so I need to find a happy medium technique that lessens this effect. Another possibility does spring to my mind, and that is have a setting that feeds say, every third frame to the viewfinder to avoid the user having to keep removing pressure on the shutter release; this would have the effect of limiting the delay extending over an extended period. A point I think I need to discuss with Canon. This option would seem possible within the firmware and a means of selecting this option made available within the menu.
Having thought this through since making the jump to Canon’s full frame body, I have put this to Canon UK, but other than acknowledge that I am not the first to make this suggestion, no further feedback or discussion is possible, so perhaps other readers of this blog might also put this suggestion through to Canon, such that it is given due attention going forward. An implementation within the camera’s operating system, if viable, would certainly help the transition from dSLR to mirrorless which would seem in Canon’s best interest in the future.
End of thoughts on that side of the technology, enjoy the fruits of my labours of capturing those who were enjoying the wind and adding to their sailing skills on the water’s surface, or above it in the case of those venturing into hydrofoiling.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Another afternoon with the 2x Converter

Once again it was a time when I used the 2x Converter on the already long 60-600mm Sigma Sports lens, and found its performances to be excellent. For most of the time the lens was at its extreme length, but since for the greater part of the time the sun was out, so the ISO speed was not excessive, so Noise was not a major issue.
Initially the plan was to go to the nearest lake in the hope, I might get better shots of the resident Woodpecker, but it was not in residence, and nor were many other birds, in fact, I have never seen it so bereft of birds. The total tally from my observation, was a single Swan, and a lone Coot, and the trees were not alive with the sound of music of any species of bird. Even the Cormorants of which earlier there had been at least half a dozen had forsaken the Lake. Also, considering the surprising abundance of Buddliea bushes in full bloom, I counted only three butterflies having walked the complete perimeter of the lake, a couple of Dragonflies two bees, a wasp and just two small hoverflies. The absence of so much indigenous life seemed very surprising, especially since there were only two anglers, and no activity from powerful cars, normally the background sound emanating from the Millbrook Motor Testing Circuit.
I found that dispiriting, but the walk around the perimeter, with short forays towards the shoreline at the myriad Swims was good exercise and taken at a good pace. It was so quiet on arrival, that I had not even bothered to take a camera with me, and the only two possible candidates worthy of recording were a pair of dragonflies, who unpaired shortly after they arrived close by, and sadly had I attempted to take any shots, they would have been unexciting, since they were either on the planking of one of the jetties, or on the rather scrappy ground leading towards the water’s edge.
I had not even taken the camera out of the car, so I returned an headed northwards towards Harold-Odell Park, what I had not anticipated was just how hard that journey would become. I headed off in what should have been the most direct route, when unexpectedly I found myself being redirected, but after three aborted attempts, I simply decided to continue heading North until fortunately I reached a point at which I was allowed to cross the main road that was being resurfaced, and the workmen handily told me I would be able to return later via the same crossing point. As it turned out there was a way to avoid the blockage when I later made my return journey home.
Having parked in the lay-by outside the Park, I assembled the EOS R with the 60-600mm Sports lens and the additional 2x Converter, because I knew that unless I was lucky with birds that were close inshore, most of those I was interested in would either be on one of a couple of peninsular arms coming into the lake or be keeping their distance from the shore by remaining in the middle of the lake. My main interest was in seeking out the Grebe who called this home.
Quite early on, I spotted a pair of juveniles still with the remnants of the stripes they were born with, and they were enjoying each other’s company, as they zig-zagged their way up and down the middle of the lake. A while later I spied a much younger complete family with four young Grebelings where the father would head off in search of small fish to feed his youngsters while the mother kept her eye on her young foursome, at one stage the father would help a couple of his brood onto the mother’s back whilst he sought out their fish supper. The Grebe is one of my favourite aquatic birds because of their wonderful courtship routines, and their enchanting nurturing of their young. Their skill in fishing is also to be admired as they dive beneath the surface for freshwater crawfish on the bottom, or the small fish they catch and sometimes regurgitate fo their very young and  then the larger fish for their partner or themselves. They also keep themselves well-groomed.
Even though I kept the Converter attached the whole time during this visit, no shots of the birds came close to filling the frame, so I am really pleased with the quality I was able to achieve — I was stunned at how good the shots of the hovering Black-headed gull turned out considering how small they were in the frame, and considering how high the ISO was too. The EOS R body really makes the most of this Converter, and is surprisingly good at retaining focus with this Sigma Lens. I cannot praise enough this coupling of this EOS R body, lens and Converter. When you mount this on a firm tripod, such as this Benbo I use, the combination is a real joy to use, and when you see the results on screen later, it is just so rewarding.
Yes, I was disappointed not to be shooting the Woodpecker, but seeing the Grebe family behaviour was really a privilege to witness, and to capture it at such a distance means that the shackles on my wallet are loosening with outing I make, so shackles look to become shekels in the hands of Sigma.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Further Test Using Sigma 60-600 with 2x Converter

I wanted to check out the main uses I might put the 2x Converter to in the situations I might encounter when using the EOS R and I find I need the extra throw. Could I benefit when using my 70-200 f/2.8 for example. Well, I answered that positively by handholding that lens and photographing butterflies on my Buddliea in the garden. It was challenging certainly, and I had to make a decision beforehand as to the distance from my subject if I was to use the autofocus and, butterflies tend to be pretty nippy and do not hang about for tardy photographers! The result was favourable, so next was using the 60-600mm and on a tripod; the subject this time was to be windsurfers on the nearby Brogborough Lake. I tried to capture a successful gybe whilst staying aloft, which was just about there on occasion.
On the first occasion I had been lucky to find one windsurfer on a hydrofoil board, and though my visit was brief that proved a success, so I paid a second visit with more than just a lone sailor, so that just left the planned trip to a different lake to attempt to get more shots of the resident woodpecker. Today was this second windsurfing lake, and I had three sailors on this occasion, and managed some images with two aloft in the same frame, which had been my aim.
One problem currently, certainly in my experience with the full-frame EOS R, is when panning, as the longer the sequence of images the harder it is to keep the subject where you want it in the frame, due to the lag, which increases over time. To maintain the subject in frame, I opted for taking my finger off the shutter after a short burst and the returning it and giving another burst. My reasoning being that I also use my dSLR 7D MkII and I find my panning with that camera is now second nature, and if I tried to second-guess how to pan using the Mirrorless and succeeded to master that, it would make returning to the 7D difficult to adjust, whereas a temporary lift and return to keep an updated image on screen would simply be a  new separate skill to acquire. I could be completely wrong here, but it seems to work well in practice. When Canon employ a separate processor for Saving and for Viewing, perhaps this issue will disappear!
This reminds me of another snippet, the view within the eyepiece is a movie, it is possible to design the image capture such that upon pressing the shutter the start point of the recording is not taken at time zero, but time minus a set period of time; put another way to record capture from the stream from the sensor from a point in time before you pressed the shutter! Apparently I am informed that there is a higher tax on movie cameras than still cameras, and were this feature adopted, it would prove to make still cameras prohibitively expensive. Taxmen!! This reminds me of when my father told me that the Taxman just sat on his backside and earned a fortune, to which I apparently replied perhaps I should become a Taxman — he looked very worried, and said: “Oh no! What have I done? Son, just forget I said that!”
My Maths skills would have precluded my ever achieving that ambition, which fortunately I never did give it serious consideration.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Sigma 2x Converter Test using the EOS R Body

Sigma kindly lent me their 2x Converter, fundamentally for me to see how it performed with their excellent 60-600mm Sports lens. By way of background, I had purchased the 1.5x Converter straight off as I knew of it’s capabilities from my using it on earlier Sigma lenses, but till now the loss of exposure has put me off because  of the frequency of operating in less than ideal lighting conditions.
My experience of using the EOS R in similar conditions has shown me that the full-frame EOS R has a higher pixel count than my 5D MkIII so Noise is far less, and I knew that that earlier body, when I was favoured with enough light, the combination performed well with the addition of the 1.4x Converter. So, if my surmise was correct it would be worth buying the more powerful converter, but the risk was too great, hence why I asked Sigma for the opportunity to check it out. Generously, they were happy to oblige.
From my initial testing with one averagely light day at nearby Brogborough and the 60-600mm Sports lens capturing shots of a Windsurfer on a hydrofoil, it looked promising, but so far conditions have not given me the chance of further evaluation, so I dug out my 70-200m f/2.8 lens and using the 2x Converter, I took some shots in the garden of butterflies, and from that learned I needed f/8 rather than f/5.6, but that would have pushed the ISO too high, but at least it showed promise that given better lighting it would be fine (proof if I needed it can be seen by looking at the bee shots in the gallery, where my chosen shutter speed was inadequate when they were in flight, and improving the ISO would simply have not offered any benefit, since though they might be sharper, the extra noise would wipe that out!

Overall thus far, my impression is that the EOS R has improved sufficiently that it looks as if my Bank Balance is due to take a hit, but hopefully with just a bit more sunshine, I will be swayed and will add this to my armoury of accessories that will allow me to wait before plunging for a wide aperture long prime lens. With any luck, if wind and sun combine in the next week, Sigma and I may well be in happy conjunction as Seller and Buyer respectively!

Saturday, 3 August 2019

DigiCluster Summer Gathering— Clock House

  I drove to Product Designer Peter Carr’s home in Harpenden to collect him and drive on down to around Hunton Bridge the home of Clock where the DigiCluster Summer Party was being held in the gardens of an erstwhile Schoolhouse.
  Above were somewhat thunderous looking clouds, and on the journey down there had been a few drops of the wet stuff, enough for me to give the wipers the occasional flick. However, we do not appear to have troubled the gods, for the entire evening, despite the few drops on arrival, the sombre clouds passed us by, leaving us a warm and welcoming evening. We were not the earliest arrivals, but we had arrived in good time, and whilst I sorted out my camera, Peter was already in conversation with other guests.
  Although I can never be sure of the full content of many of the conversations, certainly many definitely displayed interesting interactions and much good humour, and I did manage to capture some of these, even if I was not party to the content, but I hope some of the participants may well relive the repartee where I have strung together the elements of the flow and expressions I witnessed. One really animated interchange of conversation I even considered separating from the whole, but decided to simply edit it further but leave it within the gallery. Also, to avoid unnecessary delay in getting it up to the blog, I made no alterations to the flow, and so the chronology is true time-wise, and hence runs out of content on the final page. Once again I was using the Canon EOS R, and relied entirely on the available light, which served me well.

  Thank you to all who prepared and supplied the delicious food and drink; when Peter and I left there was enough left unconsumed to hold a further banquet, I do hope that not too much was wasted. I hope that the images in the gallery help to remind everyone present and reprise some of the joy and interest in the event.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Not My Initial Venue - a Lone Hydrofoiler

My camera gear was in the boot of my car, and due to the direct route to my intended destination lake blocked, My route took me past a familiar venue, Brogborough Lake, home to the Windsurfing fraternity, so I slowed to see whether it was full of sailors — it wasn’t but I spotted that there was at least some activity on the water, so I pulled in.
I recognised one familiar face out on the lake, and he was foiling, so fickle as I am, I opted for staying to see what I might capture, since the wind was reasonable. I duly set up my camera together with my Sigma Sports 60-600mm lens on the Canon EOS R body. I forgot to mention that the original reason for this venture was that I had been lent a 2x Converter by Sigma, and it had arrived this particular afternoon. So my camera was already assembled with this attached, and since the first subject, a Woodpecker at a different lake was to have been my initial quarry, that was where I was initially headed, however, the pull of a windsurfer new to foiling was out there, so like an addict, I found myself unable to resist the temptation to change the venue for my test.
I will apologise to others on the lake that on this occasion, that Geoff, a neophyte to hydrofoil windsurfing was the ideal test subject this time around, as with this Converter my lens becomes 1200mm, and on the mirrorless body becomes a real challenge for panning fast moving subjects, and Geoff is no slouch when it comes to speed, so was destined to give me a real challenge, and I definitely need the experience as it is very different from a dSLR, but as I have already found with the EOS R, when I get it right the quality is superb, but it has yet to become second nature for me, so it is I who am the newbie! But I do seem to be getting there!=

Monday, 29 July 2019

Floral Interlude – Marston Moretaine

With some time to kill, and the need to remain close by, I take my camera and wander along the pavement capturing some of the flowers bathed in warm sunshine, that are displayed in many of the front gardens bordering Station Road.
And occasionally I take a closer look in some of the many tubs that add colour to some of the roads that join the main road. I find that among these shots there are often useful backgrounds for creating greetings cards for relatives and friends to carry messages of good wishes for birthdays and other anniversaries.
On this occasion, sadly I found that one of my lenses is in need of a service as the focussing did not work every time , so after only the first couple of shots, I had to return to swap it for another, so sadly that is another bill to pay! I returned to the task in hand and continued up Station Road, looking for suitable shots that could be taken from the pavement.
I also take such opportunities to capture bees, hoverflies and butterflies, but on this occasion I saw no bees or butterflies, and considering the buddies are now in blossom, I am surprised that I only saw a Cabbage White, and only flies and overflies, so this gallery is almost entirely of flowers.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

A Tringford Lake Visit

It seems quite some time since visiting Tringford Reservoir, and having had a brief chat with its Water Bailliff, I decided that despite some occasional light rain, it was worthwhile travelling down as apparently they had been visited by a fair number of Egrets, a bird I have had less opportunity to record.
To get close enough to the activity on the lake I needed to be at the far end of the lake, and for that I needed to enter the woods over a bridge across the stream and make my way through to the shore with my heavy Benbo tripod and set up in the soft mud of the entry stream to the lake, and even then I would still need the 1.4x Converter and some further cropping later! Fortunately the EOS R with its extra pixel density handles this surprisingly well. And certainly in many instances that crop was quite extensive! Up till now I have shied away from using more than the 1.4x crop, but with this body and the Sigma Sports 60-600mm I have it attached most of the time. I will certainly be considering the 2x Converter because it would seem very good sense to use for wildlife and possibly for some Sports work.
As an indication of just how well this lens combo functions, the third picture in this gallery is a full-frame uncropped, and two frames further is a seriously tight crop, capable of an A4 colour print with great detail! Sigma have built a superb lens with fantastic capability which is a real joy to use, and the EOS R is making the most of its capabilities. The Benbo tripod supplies the necessary stability for use at the long end of the range, that I was pushing the envelope on this occasion. For most of the time I was operating at the maximum available aperture as well.
As a further indication of the sheer versatility of this lens, the shot of the mating dragonflies in frame 37 is also a tight crop at less than the full focal length at f/6.3, and that will definitely achieve a Super A3 print, and yes, I would have liked to have been closer, but knew that was simply not practical!
This camera and lens gives me so much joy in use, but it also makes me realise how much I need a more powerful Mac to lessen the post-processing time that invariably follows any outing I make when using the kit to its full potential.
My prediction is that for ultimate quality still images the next step will be a dual processor to accommodate both viewing and shooting as separate, parallel operations to allow for meaningful panning in Sports and Wildlife situations where currently these currently work against each other; my short term way of coping is to use multiple short bursts, but it is a compromise. What is life without a challenge?!

Thursday, 25 July 2019

A Vast Nearby Lake

This area of Bedfordshire could well vie with the North of England for being a District of Lakes, due to the number of worked out Claypits, and I have made several trips to reconnoitred many to find ones that support varied wildlife habitats. On the Wednesday, I tried to trace one lake close by Stewartby, and found it appears to be totally enclosed and has become the site of an Incinerator very much against local opinion.
However, by the outskirts of the village is another lake, known as Quest Lake, and there do appear to be points of entry, with no signs displaying a lack of access, and so I decided to ascertain whether it might be a sanctuary for wildlife, or that it might be yet another potential characterless housing estate. I sincerely hope that it might be the former, and so entered and as I left the bordering woodland, my spirits rose as this was a place of natural beauty, although there were signs of the less thoughtful human activity of dumped bedding and discarded cans and beer bottles along a wide track encircling a beautifully undulating, steep-sloping bank to a blue expanse of lake. It certainly looked promising as the start point of a future gem. But I just hope that the abundance of hawthorn bushes is curtailed and a better choice of trees and bushes add to some of the ground cover.
One really pleasing observation I made was a scattering of Buddleia bushes. Whether this was by design or happenstance I have no way of discerning, but it was a welcome sight. Some of this expanse does need protection from the ravages of wind and sunshine and soon, before any dormant seeds are simply blown away.
Also, what was sad to see was that the earlier incumbents had strewn much of the landscape with failed brick residue, making it hard for it to support much in the way of plant life. It is certainly my opinion that Hanson should have been forced to replace this with better quality soil, so that the scars from their labours could heal, and live again. Some trees and bushes chosen carefully in relation to the nature of the soil, and the attraction of animals, birds and insects to repopulate this landscape.
The current canvas is a wonderful starting point, and the worst aspects of human behaviour of treating open spaces as litter dumps should be actively proscribed, by heavy fines and spells of litter removal at uncomfortably early hours to ensure that when responsible visitors arrive each day the area is once again pristine. All fines should be invested in providing sustenance for volunteers for any improvement initiatives undertaken.
I met a young lady undertaking an inventory of some of the current species that call this place home, apparently on behalf of Bedfordshire County Council, which was welcome news, as this area should be cherished, enjoyed, and above all preserved and protected. So I hope the Quest name defines a promising future for this jewel of a place to shine.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

A Broglake Break with Foilers

There seemed enough wind to consider that there would be those who would take the opportunity to do some windsurfing, so I got together the camera, long lens and tripod and headed for the Lake at Brogborough — on arrival I was not sure my surmise was correct as the number of cars here were fewer than I had hoped.
I parked up and walked towards the shoreline, and I spotted a single sailor out on the water, but as I reached the trees, I realised there were a few more, and Sam was among the number, so I headed back to the car and opened the boot to get the camera onto the tripod. I had also noted that one of the sailors on the front was sporting an upturned board with a hydrofoil, and I recognised him as an experienced windsurfer that I had not seen before with one. After chatting with him as he began preparing his sail on the mast, I set the tripod up on the jetty ready for when  anyone took to the water.
Here was a chance to see more people taking to foiling on the lake and, with different types of hydrofoil; even Sam was on a different design from what I had seen before. It was not long before I was shooting, and watching Sam do his best to keep airborne whilst gybing despite a fickle wind. Since much of the activity took place a good distance out, it was fortunate that I had opted for using the additional 1.4x Converter on the Sigma 60-600mm Sports lens, and increasingly I was using the Acrotech Long Lens head in preference to a gimbal, which was smoother, but did require me to lock it firmly when not shooting.
Although I was not there for long, I was tending to attempt to get sequences, so the amount of shots taken soon mounted, and this coupled with the heat adversely affecting my computer has meant it has taken way longer to get these images up, which is a shame.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

A Photographer and Two Lakes

Many photographers tend to avoid others of a similar persuasion, I have noted this from my own career, that is not to say it is a characteristic of all, but certainly a goodly number. The irony is that several photographers with whom I can call friends, and with whom I can relate predominately avoid the company of those with whom you would consider they had the most in common, and therefore the greater chance of sharing interests. On Friday, one such came out to meet up with me, and in general he would admit that he tends not to seek out the company of other ‘Smudgers’ — a term historically used to describe early photographers, however I am tolerated. Perhaps I am too thick to perceive that he humours me and does not wish to hurt my feelings.
I will not embarrass him by giving his name, but he accepted my invitation to venture into the environs of Marston Moretaine, and I just wanted to take him to some of the venues I attend in pursuit of photography now that Social Media has largely decimated our careers as practising photographers. It meant that when discussing places I frequent in my insatiable desire to preserve in images that capture places, atmosphere, beauty, creatures, sports, curiosities, buildings, people, whatever… there would be at least some idea of where or what these might be.
Having travelled from London, we first had a sociable cup of tea, then drove to Marston Lake, where I wanted to see whether the bird life had returned after the apparent visit from some Mink, but there was a single swan, so the Grebe pair I had earlier captured on a nest in the reeds, had left, as had fortuitously, the Cormorants which must have pleased the Anglers.
This was as much a check on whether the birds had returned, as enlightening my colleague. We then drove on to my more frequently visited lake which was home to the Windsurfers — Brogborough Lake, and I was pleasantly surprised that despite only a mild breeze, did have a few sailors visiting. What was even more encouraging was that Jeff, a seasoned windsurfer had finally been tempted to give hydrofoiling a go, and Sam who runs the place had updated his hydrofoil, and both were due out on the Lake. This meant our trip was about to go up a gear, and I tentatively got my friends acceptance to take a few pictures. Yes, I had brought along my gear, but only on the off chance, so readied my tripod, EOS R and 60-600mm Sigma with its 1.4 x Converter for action. After some shooting, mainly of Jeff and Sam, I felt my time was up, and started to pack it all away, when suddenly it looked as if both hydrofoilers were actually going to be reasonably close together for me to get both in one shot, but that decision to stop had made I missed a fabulous shot of both aloft, and with one sweeping in arc behind the other, but I did get some with both in close formation, so with that I did dismantle everything and we left.

We headed back to my place and then walked to the local church with its separated tower, and its legend of the Devil separating each! We had some more tea and biscuits before my successful photographer friend headed back for London, and I set in motion the task of creating a gallery of images to put up on the blog, which went live in the early hours of Sunday morning after I had completed this narrative of our time together. One thing we did discuss was to rekindle our effort to produce photographic images that graphically display puns or ‘double entendres’. In the past we had created ‘A Glass Half-full’ and ‘Burning the Candle at Both Ends’. Back then I had made a list of ‘Bon Mots’, but since at the time we both had plenty of work these all fell by the wayside. However, I would very much like to rekindle the idea, as photomontage is something I enjoy.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Marston Lake Afternoon Visit— Mainly Dragonflies

This trip was made for yet more checking into how to get more out of using the mirrorless bodied EOS R with a long lens and fast-moving insects, in this instance Dragonflies and Damselfies. I have yet to use Sigma’s USB Dock to set up targeted focus zones to facilitate minimising focus travel into some presets — to do that I need to know precisely the distances that would prove beneficial, so I need to decide that from more usage. Another aspect is how to set up the focus point within the frame; it is all too easy to knock it off to an edge. Typically, if I set it using the playback screen and placing it with a finger, my nose can accidentally disturb that setting!
Also, since my time was limited, I opted for using a monopod, rather than a tripod, to give me the facility to move quickly as the sun moved around, and that at least did work acceptably, though it was tiring with such a weighty lens as the 60-600mm as well as the 1.4x Converter. Incidentally, using this is really a boon due to the extra range of this lens, especially when the subjects are small — it would be very limiting had I tried leaving the extender permanently on the 150-600mm I used to have. That 60mm end makes using the extender far more valuable.
I put the Acrotech Long Lens Tripod Head atop my Manfrotto Monopod to give me as stable a platform as I could to use the monopod, and that was a really good move as it made it fairly easy to adjust the balance of such a long lens on such a light support. Also using the higher ISOs with this mirrorless full-frame body meant that the freedom I chose was not disadvantaged by excessive Noise. To hammer that point home — the tightly cropped (2451 x 1634px) image _N3A3042 was shot at 10,000° ISO with an exposure of 1/1000sec at f/10 with +1.3 EV compensation — that just blew me away! So far, I do consider myself a total novice in relation to mirrorless camera bodies, but this is proof that I should persevere.
Two of my esteemed colleagues moved to mirrorless way before me, and I have some catching up to do, and I admit is hard to lose shots in the interim that I knew I would have got using either of my DSLRs, I will persevere because shots of this quality simply were not possible using those bodies. So ‘onwards and upwards’!
10,000° ISO, yet with manageable noise levels seems unreal! (Oh, by the way, that shot is of a pair of Water Boatmen).
I did learn another useful and not totally unrelated snippet following these fast  and adept masters of powered flight, ‘Don’t try to follow them at the longest focal length, give myself a chance by coming down, so I have more to learn in the new world of mirrorless! I also tried chancing my arm at manually presetting a distance, but since I practised that at the end of my short stint, and the sunlight had gone behind clouds, so that had little chance of success, but I will not be defeated! And the time was therapeutic — I had had frustration with the computer, and needed to get away!

Monday, 15 July 2019

Aylesbury Concert Band Plays at Fairford Leys

A seriously warm day as Fairford Leys celebrates its Summer Fair with the Band to play from the Bandstand in the Centre of the complex. This was an occasion where I was able to use the EOS R with just the one lens, in this case the 24-70mm Canon lens. A mark of just how good the EOS R is can be seen by the shots towards the end where my son-in-law and young grandchildren were tiny fractions of the full frame on the Ferris Wheel whilst using this same lens — well-cropped! The other point worth a mention was the high ISO speed used, yet displaying little evidence due to that tight crop.
One of the beauties of this venue is that since there is always an abundance of activities for the visitors and a central location, not only can I listen to and enjoy the music, I can move all around the Bandstand to capture the musicians and Conductor performing, without disturbing the experience for the audience.
The Concert is in two parts, so I also get to spend some time with my young grandchildren. There is also no need for long lenses as is often the case with all the normal venues that I cover with my daughter who plays Saxophone in the Band.
I still consider myself a complete novice in the handling of this mirrorless body, there are several occasions when I simply do not perform as smoothly and instinctively as I do with my dSLRs; the 5D MkIII and 7D MkII, but with each time out, many of the techniques I use with this camera become smoother and with increasing confidence, but whereas with the dSLRs failed shots are infrequent, the Success Numbers with the Mirrorless are interspersed with either failure due to the focus point  moving to the edge of screen, or my failure when panning to be able to follow due to delays in the screen image displayed related to actuality.
Having completed the preparation of the gallery, I can say that the quality of the Concert images is good technically, only you, the viewer can decide whether emotionally the images carry the same message as the music the Band were playing, which I was enjoying. I certainly was as always, I hope that I convey the spirit of what is being played, and provide the Band with images that promote the concerts into the future. After I had made a concerted (pardon the pun!) effort to include the banners strategically, I learned that the Band is changing its Identity, so that was bad timing on my part.

I am now having problems reaching my blog to get these images online, so hopefully, this will be resolved shortly.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Another Lake Visit — Weston Turville

The lake is a reasonable distance away, but I took a chance on driving over since it is fairly wide, meaning some birds tend to be a distance from the shore. I therefore immediately put on the 1.4 Converter to give me a better chance. It never came off because, as anticipated the subjects of my greater interest all kept their distance! This was a day for the EOS R, and the 60-600mm Sigma Sports. One immediate proof of this came when I moved location, and from the raised walkway I spotted a young Coot alone, out of the water, wandering close to one of the small fishing piers. Here, despite the 1.4 Converter I was able to use the close focussing distance offered by this superb Sigma optic — The earlier 150-600mm version I once owned, had it had on, the Converter I simply would not have been able to capture the shot! So, Sigma, thank you, thank you.
The long lay-by where I was parked had scarce few cars, so the visitors were limited, and many were young mothers and their children, and a couple of healthy joggers, but on two separate occasions I met up with fellow photographers, two Nikon devotees who I had spotted across the water, who had equally clocked me, and with whom we shared ‘chimped’ images (I did not ascertain that snippet from afar, but later when they arrived at the same jetty!) l later met a husband and wife photo team and chatted about our shared interest in image-taking. So it was both a productive shooting experience as well as being social.
Although I was using the Sirui gimbal head, I think on this occasion I should have used the lighter Acrotech Long Lens head. I tried some short bursts late in the day of some peculiarly aggressive behaviour between two Grebe.
Two Swans had a family of seven Cygnets, and they literally came towards me with total equanimity, however their behaviour towards a larger group of Coots was far more threatening; making deliberately aggressive lunges towards them to keep them away, which I found unusual since the gap in the reeds by the small jetty had been occupied by the Coots!
The gulls spent much of their time swooping in and skimming the surface for fish, but not once did I see a successful outcome. A Heron which had been stationed for some time on a distant buoy, took off and lazily flew low along the distant reeds, before diving left into an inlet and disappearing from view. Later, the lone Grebe came up at the end of a series of dives with a substantial fish for its efforts, making short shrift of downing it within mere seconds. After a chat with the married couple, I was about to pack everything away when I spotted an oddly aggressive chase between the Grebe and a second one but cannot be sure which one had been the successful one  I had just been shooting.
I closed the tripod legs and followed my companions out to the car; packed everything away, grabbed a welcome cold drought from my flask, and headed homeward.