Sunday, 5 December 2010

Two months

have gone by almost unnoticed. There is now snow on the ground and my photography has come almost to a complete stop. I have taken some quick snapshots, mainly stuff to go in the family album, but that's about all. This one will go in the family album also, I think:

Thursday, 7 October 2010


Since I can't go out shooting what I'd want, I'll have to make do with taking quick snapshots around home. A small glimpse of the colors of autumn:

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Quick birdies

I haven't been shooting much lately, at least not naturepictures. A few days ago I did manage to take these quick snapshots in our garden:

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Not my usual preparations

I'm going to take some pictures after work tomorrow. However, this time around it will not be naturepics, but people. The pictures will be published in a calender. I'll be packing my backpack with the shorter end of my optics, some lighting and bits and pieces to go with it. I wonder how badly this will turn out?

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Sunset cranes

We packed our gear in two backpacks and headed out to the edge of the swamp, with the intention of seeing and photographing the cranes that would be arriving at the swamp in the evening. For myself, this was nothing new, I've photographed migrating cranes quite a few times before. My companion however, was going after craneshots for the first time. She was also using gear borrowed from me, and which she was not familiar with. I didn't have very high hopes for the outcome of our trip. Even the weather was against us, steady gray skies with occasional light drizzle to make photography a real challenge and dampen our feelings.

At the end of the dirt road we hoisted the packs on our backs and headed for the swamp. At the edge of the wetlands, we found a small group of trees that we used to attach our camonetting onto. The netting hid us when viewed from the direction where the cranes usually land.

After getting the netting in place, we set our cameras up and had a bite to eat and some tea while we waited for the birds to show up. My companion managed to keep her voice nice and quiet and stay rather still, eventhough waiting for something to happen was obviously not much fun.

Eventually we could hear cranes as they approached from behind the treeline. We both lay low behind the netting, but unfortunately the cranes flew right above us, spotting us and continuing their flight just above the treetops and landing at the far side of the swamp.

My companion managed to take a few pictures on our little outing.

While waiting for the cranes to arrive, she took a picture of the ospreys' nest that was nearby:
There was also a autumn colored cloudberry leaf right next to us:
As the cranes fly by, a quick snapshot was taken:
On the way back to the car, we stopped to look at a treestump and a mushroom. They just had to be photographed:
I decided not to take any nature pictures myself this time around, concentrating instead on documenting my companions doings and feelings during the evening:
All in all, it was a good evening, eventhough we did not manage to take a picture that could be called a "sunset crane". I think this is pretty much what "spending quality time with your kid" means.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Walk about

I headed out to the swamp in the morning. My gear considerations last night turned out well. I took along my 50mm lens, the extension set, tripod, a couple of memorycards and a water bottle in my backpack. I attached the 400mm lens to the camera and carried it in my hands or hanging from "speedclips" on the straps of my backpack. I used all the gear I had with me and did not once feel that I would have needed something from the stuff I left at home.

My long break from photography backfired on me as soon as I had gotten thru the woods and onto the swamp. A sparrowhawk took off from a nearby tree and I spun my camera around for the picture. As I tried to get the bird into my sights thru the viewfinder, I wondered why the camera refused to focus. Then I realized that I had not turned the power switch with my thumb as I swung the camera in the right direction. I managed to flick the switch and followed the hawks flight, only to realize that my camerasettings were way off. I managed to keep the focus on the bird as I rolled my shutterspeed. Just as the shutterspeed was coming close to being right, the hawk disappeared amongst the trees. So much for taking that picture. I usually put the right settings in my camera as soon as I head out and keep adjusting them as I move along and the conditions change, in preparation for situations exactly like this one. Before, when I spent more time with my camera in the boonies, I did this without really giving it much thought. I also had no problems flicking the powerswitch with my thumb while lifting my camera to take a shot. Today I managed to mess up on both counts. I really must be out of practice.

I walked about at the swamp, taking pictures of plants and insects. The days pictures:

Did you know that the plant in the third picture is carnivorous?

Lastly, a more personal bit of information. There are not many things in nature that I don't like. Some of the animals or phenomenon that I have come across have been such that I have felt the need to be respectful or cautious, which ever way one wants to see it. There is however one animal that I really cannot stand,THE DEER FLY! I can't think of any other critter as annoying as that. I picked well over ten of them from my neck again today.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


After a really long break I'm planning a trip to the swamp in the morning. The problem is that I don't really know what to pack with me, since I don't have a clear idea what I'll be shooting. The migrating birds of autumn haven't arrived yet and most of the summer action is long gone. This means that most likely I will not be needing long lenses, which also happen to be rather heavy. On the other hand, if I happen to come by an interesting bird and don't have the right gear, I'll be kicking my own rear end for at least a week. Being out there one never knows what one bumps into. Most likely I will be shooting plants and insects, which means that I will definately pack my 50mm + extension rings. All the rest is now undergoing a "weight vs. propability of needing it" consideration. Tomorrow we'll see how well things worked out.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

A couple of pictures after a long break

I haven't been taking any photographs for some time. Somehow I just haven't had the time or even the motivation for it. A few days ago I dusted off my camera and went out to the garden.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Close-ups continued

I decided to practice close-ups, since I will surely be including some macros in my project. Todays selection was an ant that seemed to like flowers:

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Spring Pasque flowers again

While working in the garden, I took a couple quick snapshots. The first one shows that there were quite a few blossoms this year and the second one... well, it does show something, right?

Saturday, 8 May 2010

A nice little song

I was searching YouTube for Muppet Show clips for the girls when I found this one:

Nothing special, but fun and sort of catchy.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Spring Pasque flower

A few quick shots of the protected patch of our garden:

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Pictures from a walk-about

Yesterday morning I went for a walk-about at the swamp, just to see how spring was coming along. I was pretty exhausted after I was done, the swamp was still rather wet and soft and I could feel the mornings walk as lead in my legs when I back at work for nightshift in the evening. I did manage to get a few pictures, so I think it was worth it.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Thoughts on hide positioning and light

I exchanged ideas with photographer and friend of mine, J.Lopperi, in his blog on how I choose the location of my hide and what factors I take into consideration when choosing the location. Mainly the question was on light and how much emphasis I give to the direction of light or if it is even possible to do so. That short bouncing of ideas and questions got me thinking about things a bit more and so I decided to share my ideas on hide positioning and what I take into consideration when choosing a location.

The first thing I think of is what I am trying to photograph. The subjects are at a certain location and I have to get the hide close enough for photography. This can be extremely hard at times, since things change constantly. A place where the subjects were yesterday may be devoid of activity tomorrow. Locating, observing and following subjects and their patterns of movement and behavior requires time and patience. No matter how well the observation has been done, there are no guarantees of success. On principle, I do not use food or other means to attract wildlife, I try to keep my photography as natural as possible.

Secondly I have to take into consideration the terrain in relation to the hide and having to spend several hours in it. Swamps can be rather challenging in this respect, there are places where I would not want to set up. Some spots are just too wet and soft to able to set up, even with my rather good "flooring" for the hide. I also have to keep in mind that the hide needs to be anchored somehow. Finding something strong enough to hold the hide in place during windy days is not very easy with only soft peat all around.

Lastly I consider the lighting. The rising and setting of the sun makes for great effects in pictures, with the light coming at a low angle and the colors are something very different from the "hard light" of noon. If at all possible, I try to position the hide so that the light would come from the side or at an angle to the subjects, at least during the time of "best light". This is obviously rather challenging at times, since the positioning of the subjects affects this as well. Unlike some other forms of photography, a naturephotographer can't really direct his or her subjects, but good planning can help improve the odds of getting the desired picture.

All in all, choosing the position for a hide is a combination of all factors listed above. All have an effect on the end result and none can be overlooked completely.

I do not photograph only from a hide, however. My "Year(s) at the swamp -sunken dreams" -project contains a lot of pictures taken without using the hide. For fast situations that arise while walking about the swamp, there is no time to consider the direction of the lighting, I simply take the shot and look afterwards what the picture looks like regarding lights and shadows. Not a very good way to do things, but sometimes there simply is no other way. There is no time to think things thru with a bird flying suddenly by, you either take the picture or then you don't. With stationary or slow moving subjects I do try to look for a good angle with the light in mind also. Plants and insects (and sometimes even birds) give the chance to think things thru a bit more and re-position to get the lighting at a good angle.

In the end, I am pretty much at the mercy of nature with regards to lighting. The subjects choose where and when they want to show up. I also have no say on the weather, which affects the available light considerably. If the weather is gray, cloudy, foggy or even rainy, there simply is not a way to get the light effect of the setting suns rays hitting the wing feathers of a landing crane. I take all these problems as something I just have to live with. If the conditions are not right, I'll just come back some other day and keep doing so until I have the picture I have visualized in my mind and was looking to get.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Live view function

When I bought a new camera some time ago, I wondered what use is having the live view function in a camera. I couldn't come up with any way of using it to my advantage. I am so used to using the regular viewfinder, that I could not think of using the big screen at the back when taking a picture. My thinking was that the screen is there only so that I can check the histogram and other relevant information AFTER I have taken the picture.

However, sitting in my hide last week, I found a use for live view. Canon has one major flaw in its system. When photographing with lenses with smaller apertures (my kind of lenses, the cheaper ones) the autofocus does not function when using a extender. Looking thru the viewfinder I have serious problems with focusing right when going manual. With 400mm lens and 2x entension at full aperture there is no leeway in depth of field and even the smalles mistake in focusing ruins the picture. With smaller aperture, the shuttertimes become too long for my kind of photography, since my subjects seldom stay in one spot for longer than a moment. With longer shuttertimes the result is a blurred picture due to the motion of the subject. Photographing the grouses in the morning, I decided to try manual focusing using live view. I was surprised at how much easier focusing using the big screen was. It does have its problems also, but it's easier. I think I'll use it in again sometimes.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Grouse morning II

The rest of the pictures of a good morning for black grouse.

There is plenty of action in these first pictures of the morning, but unfortunately there was not quite enough light:
The knoll on the right of the first picture seemed to be the place the biggest ones were after. In the end this bird managed to secure it for himself:
Some of the birds from the nearby spots came close at times, but backed off fast when this one flexed a bit. Settling the hierarchy called for some tough looks being exchanged:
As the light increased, I got more of the colors and feeling of the morning into the pictures:
As the morning progressed the hens showed up also:
After the hens had dropped by, the party began to quiet down. Some of the leaving birds flew right over my hide. For a moment I thought this one was going to crash straight in:
Quite a load of pictures for one morning. I'm still looking to go back for one more morning of grouse action before the mating season is done. I'll just have to figure out a way to get there without sinking in too deep.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Grouse morning

Moving the hide paid off. I arrived at the hide about four thirty. The trip over went well, except for the fact that what had a few days earlier been frozen ground was now extremely soft at some places. Noticing the deep and soft places in darkness before sinking in them was quite a task. For a moment I also doubted my navigation skills, since I did not see the hide when expected. Finding a safe path thru the swamp had caused me to judge the distance I had walked a bit wrong and also slightly off course. I managed to get my bearings right quickly enough and got to the hide without taking an unwanted swim. The length of my boots was just barely enough at some points along the way.

The sun began to rise and with the increasing light more and more grouses arrived. The first ones started to arrive well before there was enough light for me to see what was happening, but I could hear them coming. Especially the ones that glided in right over the top of my hide. As the light increased the birds became more and more active and the noise grew louder as about thirty birds started calling out. From time to time the ruffling of feathers and a slight move towards a better knoll would result in a clash. There was so much to action going on that I didn't feel any urgency in taking pictures and could take moments off to eat my sandwiches and just follow what was going on.
A few examples from the morning:
In addition to eating and taking pictures of the grouses, I managed to capture this piece of spring action:
On the way back to my car I just had to take a picture of the first butterfly for this spring.
I got a lot of pictures of the grouses, I'll probably post some more tomorrow.