Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Eric/ John's Advanced photography course

A year on from Eric's Beginner photography course was today's 'Advanced' photography fieldtrip, again at Sycamore Hill, Wicklow.
I left Drimnagh just before 7.30am and was at Sycamore for 8.15am, a coffee and away to Wexford.
Well that was the plan, but I decided I'd stay behind with Katie and Celia who were there for a beginner lesson with 'Wings' magazine front page hogger, John Fox.

The plan was to join Eric and the others down in Wexford once we'd finished a quick overview of camera settings, fstops, shutter speed, all that fun stuff, but as it turned out, once we'd finished our class, we decided to stay local and practice some photography round the house with a drive down to Killoughter to possibly see the juv Osprey which has been seen around Broad lough.

Celia and Katie putting John's teaching to practice on the birds in the garden.
Katie tries to show John how to use the camera, but he's transfixed.
Special rare bird, Suzie the dog
Celia off in search of a wild Peacock which sometimes wanders around the house.

That's him there.

After another coffee (thanks Hazel), and having asked John all the questions we could think of, John drove us down to Killoughter so we could practice some more 'in the field photography'.

Killoughter Railway station, Co Wicklow.

Depth of Field Lesson.

This photo was taken at f5 (iso 320, 1/640 speed). I focused on the larger stone in the centre of the photo. As you can see the depth of field at f5 is very shallow, only the immediate area I'm focused on is actually in focus and there's a soft blur everywhere else. This is the setting most birders use. At f5 you get a lot of light hitting your camera sensor, so you get a quicker shutter speed which allows sharper photos. Ideally you'd use f4, but my 150-500 lens only goes to f5.

I took the same shot for every f stop on my camera, the final fstop being f22, this is the f22 shot. Still focused on the larger stone, you can see that the smaller f stop of 22 gives a much larger depth of field and now nearly everything is in focus. This f stop is pretty useless for bird photography as the shutter speed slows right down, so any movement at all fro the bird will turn out blurred. (this was 1/30 compared to the 1/640 at f5)

Once you cross the railway line at Killoughter, you turn right towards Bray, walk down some fields, past this derelict building, on a bit further and the lough is behind some hedges on the right past an old gravel quarry. I'd never been before, so it was nice to go somewhere different. Thanks to Hazel for showing us how to get there.

Derelict building on way to Broad lough 'End Garda intimidation disband special branch'.

Unfortunately I didn't actually get any decent photos to show off what I learnt today from John.
Sorry John, but I did learn alot, more than I thought I would and all that I had wanted to.

But in this instance, the light was dull and the birds remained pretty far away.
There were some Long tailed tits and a Chiffchaff which were close, but the light was so low my photos ended up blurry, and I deleted them all, but at least I had learnt why they were blurry.

These Cormorants were far away in low light,so the photo quality is poor and it's hugely cropped, but I like the content.

We also did manage a far away sighting of the juvenile Osprey flying over the north end of the lough, it started to look as though it was going to fly right over us, but instead turned away and flew back behind the far trees.
Juvenile Osprey at Broad lough, Wicklow. It's assumed from Southern Europe on migration to Africa.

Hooded Crows mobbing the Osprey.

When the Osprey disappeared behind the trees we waited another 45 minutes, taking photos of some far away Bartailed godwits, Ringed plover and Dunlin, when there was still no sign of it returning we decided we'd leave and see what was down at ECNR.
2 minutes after we left Broad lough, the Osprey (apparently) re appeared, swooped over the lough and grabbed two fish, one in each tallon.
That's right, an Osprey swooped over the lough and caught a fish in each tallon.
We could have seen it if we'd waited another 2 minutes.
But that's how it goes!


Messing around with exposures, this Ringed plover was taken at + 0.7 (iso 320, f6.3, 1/400) bit too bright.

this Ringed plover was -0.3 (iso 320, f6.3, 1/1000), nice, but a little too dark

and this juvenile Stonechat was -0.7 (iso 320, f6.3, 1/320), which actually doesn't look too bad in this photo.

Male Stonechat, great to see them about again. Iso 320, f6.3, 1/160 - very slow shutter speed.

I think todays was the second of several other courses being run at Sycamore hill from now until December.

There's more info on all Sycamore Hill courses on Eric's 'Bird's Ireland' website here: http://www.birdsireland.com/workshops
I'd obviously recommend all of them having already taken most of the courses at this stage.
Huge thanks to John, Eric and Hazel for creating such a lovely learning environment.