Rob Cain Photography: Blog http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Rob Cain Photography (Rob Cain Photography) Sat, 04 Nov 2017 01:10:00 GMT Sat, 04 Nov 2017 01:10:00 GMT Woburn Deer Park- Week Six http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/11/woburn-deer-park--week-six Sorry that the final instalment of my rut at Woburn has taken so long to appear but a family holiday over half term and other things has meant I haven't had the time to edit the images taken in the last week until recently. Sadly a blog without the images probably wouldn't be very interesting.

The last week of my Woburn Deer Rut started with a Saturday evening visit. Hoping for some good light I arrived to overcast conditions. Taking a walk into the park I first found a Sika deer, although I managed to get a low perspective I didn't get the chance to get a 'keeper' as it was walking away from me. Walking further into the park there weren't many deer in range of the footpaths, well not for close up portraits. The light wasn't great at this point and the distance meant the images were more environment shots (which isn't a problem).  Around 5pm the sun started to make an appearance for about 30 minutes. The low sun caught the trees and brought out the autumn colours that are now starting to appear. I had found this stag so I moved to get the trees behind it. 

The low sunlight partially backlit the stag and gave more interesting background colour. It's amazing the difference light can make to an image as shown by the two quite similar compositions above (small in frame with tree background). Dull light does makes things less interesting.

Another stag was now running back and forth protecting it's harem. With the other stag close by and chasing off any potential challengers this stag decided walked off towards the trees so I followed as the other stag was too far away. I took the footpath hoping to meet it amongst the trees for a close up portrait. The stag stopped short of the trees, and I was soon joined by the tour trailer though they were on the opposite side to me. The stag stood happily bellowing for about five minutes, and kept looking back towards the other stag and its harem. After the tour left the stag noticed the other stag had moved quite a distance from the harem and was preoccupied chasing off another stag. Sensing it's chance it headed back to the harem. Unfortunately another larger stag had also noticed, being much larger the stag made a quick turnabout and headed back to the trees again. Unfortunately by this point I had just left the trees to follow the stag and again set off back to the trees hoping to get in front of it. As I have to keep to the footpaths and the stag can take a straight line I had limited time to get in front of it. I arrived in the trees too late to get in front of it, the stag crossed the footpath in front of me. It carried on walking and there was a stag further up so I set off to get to the opposite footpath, hoping to be in front as images from behind just don't work. As I walked along the footpath I kept watching the stag, I soon noticed the other stag wasn't happy the stag was there. They started to bellow at each other and then walk parallel to each, unfortunately still away from me. The problem with the footpaths is that I have to keep to them whilst the stags can take a straight line walk. The footpath I was taking was an S shape crossing in the middle, I had to walk about 1km whereas the straight line the stag was taking from about 400-500m. Amazingly I was right that a fight would ensue, I arrived about 8 seconds into the fight, and amaziingly it was not only in range of the footpath but on it!! 

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Previous fights I have witnessed have mostly lasted only a few seconds. To my amazement the fight lasted around 90 seconds and covered quite an area giving me plenty of time to capture it.

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It was great to witness such an good even fight. Both stags were going for it and it was clear one of the stags already had a few scars from previous fights.  The light wasn't great but I can't have everything when the fight is as close as this was. The light by this point was getting low and it was very close to getting  beyond my camera's ISO and shutter speed capabilities. I carried on watching the stags, the activity seemed to be increasing but as it was getting darker and darker, I decided to call it a night and come back tomorrow which would be my last visit of this year's rut.

Being the last day I would likely get down to Woburn for the rut this year I was hoping to visit at both sunrise and sunset. I made the trip out to Woburn early and got into the park before the sun had risen. With few deer close to the footpaths I headed to an area whether the light at sunrise can be fantastic,  but I've yet to get a stag in the right place to taken advantage of the light. Unfortunately there were deer about and a few fights but they were well out of the range of my camera. Whilst the light was good in this one spot I stayed until it disappeared, hoping a stag may just walk into the right area, sadly that wasn't to happen. Once it had disappeared I decided to take a walk back along the footpath hoping to find some deer in the right place. I came across this one stag and followed him for about five minutes. The light wasn't great but I did manage to get the two images below.

As the light wasn't great and the deer activity looking to be decreasing I headed to head home and would hopefully return for sunset if I had the time. 

I returned late afternoon to sunshine and hoped for some good activity to end my rut with. Thankfully there was still quite a bit going on and a few stags easily within reach of the footpaths. The first I came across was the stag below bellowing nicely within reach of the footpath.

In some places the sunlight was quite harsh but there was areas of shade with nice dappled light. One such area I spotted was close to another stag who was just starting to scent a nearby tree. For fifthteen minutes the stag rubbed itself against the tree. Scent marking is behaviour I've watched many times before but haven't managed to capture the behaviour well. 

What was amazing was watching the damaged it caused, small pieces of bark were flying off as it dug its antlers into the bark and dragged its antlers upwards. It was easy to see why the tree guards are in place on some trees, even if they the guards are sometimes my nemesis. 

After the stag had finished scenting and moved away I quickly located another nearby stag.  The stag was sitting in front of a nice autumn coloured background. After a while it got up and moved towards another stag, bellowing as it went. 

 

Soon the sun was starting to set and majority of the deer were out of reach, so I made my way down the footpath towards the exit. With the sun now behind the tree line and deer park in shade I was heading out of the park when I came across this Sika stag. With the tripod away I decided to try hand holding for this shot, VR was a great help getting it sharp as I'm not that steady hand holding this lens. The setting sun could be seen between the trees in the background. 

D75_1627D75_1627 The last photo of this years rut was taken before I nearly out of the park. It's quite apt that it would be a Red Deer stag in front of the Abbey. It's probably the most iconic Woburn Stag image you can taken at Woburn, a Red Deer stag in front of the Abbey. The tree branches made the perfect gap to view the Abbey, and the placement of the stag on the left worked well with the composition. It's by no means a great image but is a nice image that can only be taken at Woburn, and was a good way to finish this year's rut.

This last evening visit was worthwhile and much better than the morning's visit, sometimes thats the way Woburn goes. That was the end of my deer rut for this year as I wouldn't have any more time to visit before it would end. On the Sunday evening the Red Deer rut was still happening but it looked like it would soon be drawing to a close. It would have been nice to have captured the rut through to the end but it had still been a good six weeks, frustrating at times but a few memorable encounters made the eighteen visits and forty hours worthwhile. In all I had managed to complete what I had set out to accomplish and I had put the time in to get some nice images this year. Hopefully the weekly blogs have been enjoyable and given an insight to photographing the Red Deer rut at Woburn, and the time and effort that can go into getting one or two good images at Woburn.

 

After Week Six: Visits: 18 Time: 40.5 hours

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(Rob Cain Photography) 2017 abbey cain deer park red rob rut woburn http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/11/woburn-deer-park--week-six Sat, 04 Nov 2017 01:09:00 GMT
Woburn Deer Park- Week Five http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/10/woburn-deer-park--week-five Week five started with an aborted planned sunrise visit on Saturday 7th October, I decided to change to a sunset visit that day at the last minute as something else cropped up. The forecast was cloudy all evening but when I had visited the night before the rut looked like it had started and I wanted to get back. I arrived at Woburn at 4pm, a little later than planned. On arrival the park was quite quiet, there were a few deer about but not in the same numbers as the previous evening. My luck with inaccurate weather forecasts continued, at 4:30 it started to rain. Whilst rain isn't something I'm normally worried about, I actually quite like the rain as it provides an other interesting element to the image. The problem this evening was that I had no rain protection on me except the coat I was wearing. I had left my cameras rain cover at home as I had forgotten to repack it after drying at home from the previous Sunday.  So I had to improvise, looking through my camera back I found the bags own rain cover. Laying this over the top of the lens/camera provided some protection and let me carry on shooting.

Initially the rain was on and off, and not really enough for photos. I find light rain doesn't show up well in photos. I wandered up and down the park trying to find a good encounter without too much luck. From a far I noticed a stag further up the path, as I approached the off road deer tour came into sight and passed just in front of the stag. This stag wandered off but there was another up the path that I approached followed by the tour tractor. This stag was quite happy eating away with myself on the footpath and tour to the right (this stag can be seen in the background of the image of the rain cover above). The tour then left and I tried to make an image but couldn't get one that really worked as the light wasn't that good. The light had been quite poor all evening and hadn't helped trying to get an image worth taking.

Thankfully the rain started to get heavier around 5:40 and the other stag from earlier reappeared on the opposite side. Due to the rain the light had dropped and I was at 1/200 to keep ISO at 3200. In the rain this wasn't too much of a problem as you need to drop shutter speed to around 1/100 to get the rain to appear as streaks. A dark background is also needed to help the rain streaks show in the image. I decided the other stag would give a better chance of getting the "stag in the rain" image I was thinking of, I repositioned with dark trees behind the stag. Over the next 5 minutes the stag started to make it's way towards me before disappearing out of reach from where it came from. Those 5 minutes was even time to get the images below, all of which are quite high ISO around ISO2500-ISO4000 that thankfully my camera handles quite well. D75_0424D75_0424

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After this encounter I stayed around but the rain was getting heavier. I was quite soaked by this point so I decided to call it a day and made my way out of the park. Although from the evening visit I only managed to produce a few images in the rain it was worth the visit and getting wet for. I  managed to capture some different images to what I had managed to capture so far this rut. It's always nice to get something different rather than repeating the same deer rut images again and again.

 

My visit on Sunday 8th October was planned for sunrise even though the forecast was cloud all day. I like sunrise visits as getting out early lets you have the rest of the day to spend doing something else or spending time with family. Once again the forecast was wrong, thats pretty much the reoccurring story of my deer rut this year. On the drive over I had noticed the sky was starting to clear. By the time I was in the deer park the sky was nearly clear apart from some cloud catching the sunrise light.

Sunrise came and went at 7:14 without any deer within range of the footpaths. It was 7:45 by the time I found the stag below. Once again the light wasn't that good and it didn't stay around to look as two walkers past myself and the deer.

D75_0671D75_0671 After this stag disappeared out of sight I continued along the path spotting two photographers photographing a stag near to them further up the footpath. I stayed back not approaching them. If other photographers have a stag in a good position and are busy photographing it I stay back to give them time to get photos and myself not being the reason the deer is scared off. As I was standing there I watched another stag walk towards and past them. The two photographers decided to leave their position and walk towards me. I decided to follow the deer they had left behind hoping to capture an image of it in the nearby trees. As I got closer I noticed there was another stag in the wallow, the two were walking away from me but they were walking parallel to one another. Knowing this behaviour was them sizing each other up and potentially a fight could ensue I quickly decided to tried ro cover enough ground to get in a position to setup hoping to fight image. Last year I had captured my first fight image only for the fight to happen directly behind a tree! Thankfully I set up the tripod just in time for the fight. The fight was over in about 8 seconds but I managed to capture a few images as I continously fired the shutter (something I don't don that often). I'm glad to say the tree was in a better position this time!

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After the fight the stags stood their ground at either end with no clear winner. One stag walked off back towards me followed by the other. It looked like there could be round two. The two stags had passed me within a safe distance and I followed them, but they quickly turned around and headed back towards me. At this point I felt quite vulnerable being out in the open and them heading back towards me. I started backing away from them and positioned myself at the base of a tree. By this point they had turned around and I captured this images as the stag on the right decided to move away.

D75_0757D75_0757 As this stag moved out into the sunlight I notice steam was pouring from the stag. The stag stood nicely back/side lit by the sun, bellowing at the other stag before moving further away.

D75_0802D75_0802 Once I turned around the other stag had settled back down, laying down now looking quite sedate. Getting a low perspective let me capture the image below.

D75_0851D75_0851 The stag seemed to be happy with my presence so I started to move position hoping to capture an image head on rather from the side. Whilst I captured a head on image the background was quite harshly lit so it didn't work. I carried on moving along the path to the opposite side of the stag, capturing the image below as it bellowed.

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Knowing at some point the stag would likely stand up and move away I stayed in position framing that potential image. Whilst I was right it would eventuality stand up I wasn't expecting it to be 45 minutes after it had sat down! Anticipating an image then sitting and waiting for that to potentially  happen is something you have to get used to with wildlife photography (that's if photographing deer in a deer park can actually be called wildlife photography). The stag was quite content to lay there, occasionally bellowing when he heard another stag bellow in the distance. If it wasn't for another stag appearing over a ridge on the other side of the pond I don't think it would have got up. As soon as the stag got up the other stag quickly turned around and disappeared! The image I had been waiting for then happened. The stag bellowed twice before walking off into the now harsh light, but I had got the image i had anticipated.

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The stag was now in harsh light and there wasn't much dappled shade around. I watched the stag a little longer then decide it was time for breakfast and left for home. It was worth the visit to finally capture an image of fighting stags without a tree in the way!

 

I made my third visit of the week to Woburn on Friday 13th October. With the sunset getting earlier it doesn't leave much time for evening visits. The weather forecast was actually quite accurate for once being a mixture of cloud and sunny intervals. As I walked through the park I noticed there were more stags standing or sitting about, the number of active stags seemed to have decreased since my last visit. The good news was the rut was definitely still going on. One of the first stags I came across was the stag below. 

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As he walked away I noticed how thin he was. The rut can really take it out of the stags, they lose quite a bit of weight during the rut due to the intensity of the rut and they reframe from eating. Towards the end of the rut it starts to be very noticeable.

After this encounter I walked up and down the footpath, there were plenty of deer about but just a little bit too far for photos. With not many deer in range and the light to soon disappear I made the decision to leave earlier than planned to take the long walk across the park to try again for a silhouette hoping a deer would be there. Like all best plans I never got there, as I was walking across I notice there was a harem outside the front of the house. As I left earlier I thought I would have a quick look, at best there may be an image but at least I would enjoy the extra exercise. It was interesting to watch this huge harem that was actually made up of 4 individual harems. Whilst the stags seemed to tolerate each other they weren't as happy with other stags challenging them, quickly chasing them away. 

One of the stags and its harem broke away from the main group and headed up a ridge. This stag was quite active running back and forth trying to round up its harem. The harem was perfectly placed onto of the ridge, getting low allowed me to isolate the top of the ridge from the trees in the distance. I have a thing with ridge image that background trees just clutter the composition, all I want is ridge and sky, thats it, the problem being there are very few places in Woburn were this is possible. Thankfully tonight it looked like it was all coming together nicely. The sun starts to disappear below the tree line about 30 minutes before sunset. Being high up on the ridge meant the ridge was still nicely side lit even though the main valley was by now in shade. Whilst the stag was running back and forth amongst the harem the biggest issue was trying to isolate just the stag. I soon realised the only option would be using portrait orientation as there wasn't enough clear space for an isolated landscape orientation image. Following the stag back and forth it stopped in a clear area on top of the ridge, it bellowed once then looked towards me. This lasted all of 45 seconds before it disappeared behind the ridge. It was just enough time to get the two images below.

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The stag appeared again 10 minutes later but further along the ridge in a position where I couldn't isolate the trees behind. The light by this point had all but disappeared so there probably wasn't an image there. As the sun had now set the only hope was to set up for the ridge hopefully one of the stags would appear when the sky and clouds behind had turned a nice shade of pink. I waited and watch the sky turn,  stags could be heard bellowing out of sight nearby but sadly no deer appeared on the ridge. Once the colour was lost from the sky I packed up and made the long walk out of the park.

 

After Week Five: Visits: 15 Time: 31.5 hours

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(Rob Cain Photography) 2017 cain deer park photography red rob rut stag woburn http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/10/woburn-deer-park--week-five Fri, 13 Oct 2017 22:31:44 GMT
Woburn Deer Park- Week Four http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/10/woburn-deer-park--week-four My fourth week at Woburn started with more sunrise visits. One thing that makes me feel autumn is on its way is sunrise getting later. Some of the trees at Woburn have started  to turn, some nice background colours started to appear. The weekend's weather forecast was looking really good midweek. By the weekend that had changed to overcast cloud and some light rain, not exact the weather photographers are looking for.

Before I left home in the morning of Saturday 30th September I checked the forecast for Woburn. The forecast had changed from the previous night, it wasn't looking great with cloud then some light rain around 0800/0900. Undeterred I made may way over and met up with my friend George in Woburn and we made the long walk in. Sunrise came and went. If it wasn't for knowing the time of sunrise I wouldn't have noticed it had happened. The light wasn't great as it was quite overcast. Walking into the park it was quite silent, definitely wasn't what I was hoping for. There wasn't any deer close to the footpath so it was a case of walking around hoping to find some deer close enough for a good encounter. A comment on my previous week's blog post mentioned the pot luck nature of Woburn without local knowledge. It's an interesting point that local knowledge should help, but at Woburn I find you can't guarantee where the deer will be. One morning they may be in one place and the next morning be nowhere near that place. The footpaths are the biggest problem as they can be quite restrictive and it can be time consuming to change areas once you have taken one path. My plan is usually to head to where I know the light will likely give me the images I'm hoping to get. Usually where the light is good isn't where the deer actually are! Another plan during the rut is to listen and head towards the noise, following the noise usually will lead you to deer. It does help to know what your chosen deer species sounds like as they are quite different. The Red Deer have a deep throaty sounding bellow, whilst the Sika's have an eerie high pitched scream. One thing you need for Woburn is a willingness to walk, you can walk miles trying to find the deer as the footpaths can take you a long way out of your way to change areas. Last year in one day I covered 12 miles walking back and forth within the park, sadly with little results as it just didn't work out. You do need an element of luck during the rut, I'm hoping that luck increases proportionaly with the amount of time spent walking about, though I'm not sure if that actually the case! Knowing deer behaviour also helps you anticipate what the deer are going to do so you can be a step ahead ready to capture the action. They doesn't't always work out. 

Saturday morning was just one of those days, the deer didn't seem to that active or anywhere close to the footpaths. As the hours past the light unexpectedly started to improve, the forecast rain didn't appear and the sun actually made an appearance towards the end of the visit. With the improving light the deer started to get more active, and the bellowing started to increase. Around two hours after sunrise we came across some stags that were within range of the footpath. We decided to follow them as no other deer were about. One stag was bellowing a little way out but still within range for a more environmental image. 

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When I look at this image it reminds me of one thing, the sheer number of metal tree guards that are prevalent across the park. In one area I could count over 40 visible guards. I can see the need for them as the deer do cause damage to the trees during the rut, but they don't help photographers trying not to get them in the background. The image below shows how there can be so many in one small area.

D75_0163-PanoD75_0163-Pano Over the next fifteen minutes this stag started to get closer and closer to us, standing and bellowing towards us.

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The stag then decided to lay down and roll about rubbing itself against the grass. I've never seen a deer do this before in this way, not outside of a wallow. It reminded me how my dog rolls about like this, seeing a huge stag do this so close up in this way was unreal. 

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The sunlight was getting stronger as the stag took interest in a nearby tree, rubbing its antlers against the tree to scent mark it's territory. The scars at the base of this tree can show how much damage the stags can do to a mature tree. It's easy to see the reason why the tree guards are placed around the younger trees, even if they made photos harder they are doing a valuable job.

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Finding these stags made some good encounters over a 30 minute period that made the morning worth the 4 hours spend to Woburn. There are signs, such as scent marking and rolling around to cover themselves in mud, that appear to show the rut is not far away. Hopefully it should really get started over the next few weekends.

 

Sunday 1st October started very overcast and the light was extremely poor. The forecast wasn't good but it was supposed to get brighter as the morning progressed. Considering the previous day's forecast and how wrong it was I was hoping it would improve more than it was expected to. The two screenshots of the BBC Weather App below shows how I really shouldn't rely on weather forecasts when considering whether to visit or not. The screenshot on the left shows the forecast  as checked at 6am and checked again at 9am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's interesting how much the forecast changed for 10am and 11am even though the forecasts are within a short three hour period. Unfortunately the weather forecast was correct on the left screenshot between 7am to 9am and correct on the right screenshot at 10am and 11am. As the light was so poor, and the deer were not anywhere near the footpaths it took me quite a while to take the camera out of the bag. The deer park was very quiet, much quieter than I was expecting at this point of the rut. There was hardly any bellowing early on and only a few later in the morning. I spotted this stag sitting under a tree quite a distance away. By this point it had started to lightly rain but the rain wasn't hard enough to be any good for photography.

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Having no chance to visit any other evening until Friday I made a quick evening trip on Friday. The weather during the day had been great but by the evening the clouds had rolled in. Unfortunately that meant the light wasn't great but it was still worth seeing what was going on. Making my way into the park it was quite silent which didn't seem like a good omen. I soon met this Sika under some trees, it was quite interested in me and didn't seem at all scared of me. It stood still for quite a while, so long that after I took some photos I moved on and left it where it was.

D75_0195D75_0195 The further I walked into the park the noise started. It was soon apparent the rut had started, there were a few stags with harems that were all quite active. I was watching this stag from a distance walking back and forth bellowing and posturing around it's harem. I was able to frame an image from a safe distance as it bellowed under a tree.

D75_0219D75_0219 All of a sudden it rushed to chase off another stag that had got too close to its harem. The other stag soon turned around and quickly left in the opposite direction. This stag still wasn't too happy so it continued to chase the other stag having charged about 60-80m from its original position. I was expecting the stag to stop then bellow and posture but that didn't happen, it turned straight around and started to run towards me. Thankfully it stopped running at around 30m away but continued to slowly walk towards me. I started to back off as it felt too close for a stag full of testosterone. It was the first time in quite a while that I've felt threaten. I was actually thinking of ways out and if would be able to climb the tree guards as a last resort. It was a good reminder how quickly situations can change, even if you initially feel you are a safe distance away. 

 

I thought I would end the blog with a link to Elliott Neep's 'Everything you need to know about photographing in deer parks'. I've recently found this guide and feel it's an excellent guide to photography in deer parks. It's a great read for anyone thinking of trying to photograph the rut this year.

After Week Four: Visits: 12 Time: 24 hours

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(Rob Cain Photography) 2017 cain deer park photography red rob rut stag woburn http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/10/woburn-deer-park--week-four Fri, 06 Oct 2017 21:36:38 GMT
Woburn Deer Park Rut- Week Three http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/10/woburn-deer-park-rut-week-three The third week of Woburn started with a morning visit on Sunday 24th September (this time the camera was fully charged and I packed an extra battery just in case!). I decided against any Saturday visits as the forecast didn't look great for photography, and the forecast for Sunday sunrise looked more promising. I arrived early and found the deer difficult to locate anywhere near the footpaths. It seemed like there was only myself, a few dog walkers and runners about. It looked like I could drawing a blank as there didn't seem to be many deer about, at least not in range of the camera lens. As I was speaking to a dog walker we saw a deer walking towards us and the tree in front of us. The stag stopped under the tree and started rubbing its antlers against the tree that was perfectly lit by the low sun breaking through the clouds. The side lighting really lit up the stags coat, and cast a shadow of its antlers over its face as it bellowed. 

D75_9708D75_9708 For several minutes the stag roared and rubbed its antlers against the tree, seemingly happy with me only metres away. After a while it turned away from the tree and looked towards me, lit nicely by side lighting.

D75_9730D75_9730 The stag then decided it was time to walk away and walked across in front of me, stopping to pose nicely backlit before disappearing into ferns. 

D75_9742D75_9742 It's short encounters with stags like this one that makes Woburn worth the gamble. A visit can turn on just one encounter like this, but it could easily have never happened and I could have walked away with nothing. That's the chance I take with Woburn over venturing further afield to places like Bushy, Richmond Park or Bradgate Parks. You do need to react quickly to these fleeting chances when they happen, and when making the choice whether its worth preserving with a deer or moving on. You can see from a deer's behaviour towards you worth they will walk away or be tolerate of you. 

As usual when planning weekday evening visits I looked at the weather forecast, Tuesday 26th September looked good so I took my camera gear with me and went to Woburn after work. I arrived later than I had planned but I quickly came across a stag sitting down near to the path. The stag was quite happy sitting there with me a few metres away on the path, then all of sudden it got up and headed straight towards me as another stag had appeared nearby. I quickly fired off a few images but soon noticed it was heading straight towards me, and it didn't look like it was in the mood to skirt around me so I decided it was best to make a quick exit.

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I watched the stag disappear out of range of the footpaths and decided to walk further into the park. Soon after I came a across a Sika deer that was happy to pose nicely.

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After those two encounters I spent another hour walking around the park until sunset. I had no further luck finding any deer within range of the paths. There were stags around but too far away for images to be any good.

I hadn't planned to visit in the evening of Thursday 28th September as the forecast on the BBC Weather app hadn't look that promising the night before. At work I noticed how nice it was out of the office window, nothing like I had been expecting it to be like. Checking the BBC weather app the forecast had changed! After work I headed home to pick up the camera bag and get to Woburn for an evening visit. I arrived to find the stags spread out, with a quick scan of the area I saw three stags that looked quite close to the footpath so started out towards them. When I reached them I quickly worked out they were going to be quite tolerant to my presence. With three stags in close proximity I had a few options to try capturing some different images. There was one larger male and two younger males. The larger male was under the tree graving and occasionally bellowing. With them being so tolerant I was able to get close to the larger stag and capture a closer image of it bellowing. Thankfully there were some large tree trunks between me and the stag, but it still feels safe as the stags are not yet in full on rut mode and still seem quite docile, well as docile as a huge stag can be. 

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One of the younger stags took an interest in me, facing me and posing nicely but light was poor under the tree, and this meant ISO was high reducing the sharpness.

D75_9907D75_9907 I would have liked the stag to come a little further forwards as it was in a small dip where the out of focus foreground obscured its legs. The problem is I like a low perspective where the foreground is nicely out of focus and the whole focus is on the stag as the subject of the image. I could have raised the tripod higher to get more of the stags legs but I would have lost the foreground blur and the low perspective that makes the image. One thing I must remember to put in my camera bag i my right angle viewfinder, it would make getting these low perspectives so much easier , well without trying to contort my body towards a ridiculously low viewfinder!

As the sun started to get low the three stags started to move away from me and towards the Abbey. Each year I try to get an image of a stag in front of the Abbey and I'm yet to really nail that image even though I try every year. As the larger stag walked towards the Abbey I repositioned myself to get the Abbey in the background. Having a zoom lens can help as I was able to try different focal lengths to see the different perspectives they made. I quite liked the perspective of the only part of the Abbey filling the background but being nicely diffused at 400mm to not draw too much attention away from the stag. The stag bellowed as the sun got lower in the sky with the setting sun reflected in the windows of the Abbey. 

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It's definitely getting closer to the image I have in my mind but I would have liked the stag facing towards me rather than away. Perhaps this image works better than I'm giving it as the bellowing stag leads the eye into the image and the Abbey in the background, rather than away and out of the image.

It feels like the images I'm taking are starting to improve as the weeks pass. This is likely to be because I've taken the time to start following the rut early, getting my eye in on the behaviour of the deer and what makes a deer photo again. I find I never get the best from only visiting a location once or twice at the peak time, I feel slowly improve as I get to know the subject and location. Putting the time in is hopefully starting to pay off. 

Hopefully the rut will really start over the next 1-2 weeks. So far there are signs its soon to start. The bellowing has increased and the male stags have started to spread out. Up to now I've not seen another photographers except for my friend and fellow, George (who's practically part of the furniture at Woburn at this time of the year! ). I fully expect the number of photographers to rapidly increase over the next few weeks as the rut starts and peaks,  especially when the 'off road deer tours' start over the weekends 6th-8th October and 13th-15th October.

After Week Three: Visits 9 Time: 15.5 hours

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(Rob Cain Photography) 2017 cain deer nature park photography red rob rut stag woburn http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/10/woburn-deer-park-rut-week-three Sun, 01 Oct 2017 15:49:54 GMT
Woburn Deer Park Rut- Week Two http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/9/woburn-deer-park-rut--week-two It was back to Woburn Deer Park this week to carry on capturing the start of the Red Deer rut. Another early start on Saturday 16th September was planned as the forecast was good. The image below pretty much sums up the morning.

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There was hardly any deer about and the ones I saw were out of reach of the footpaths. The light was quite good but this is the problem with Woburn, trying to get good light and find accessible deer at the same time is tricky but is worth it once it all comes together. I do like this view from the park with the layers and trees into the distant.

Although Saturday wasn't a success I perservered with another visit on Sunday 17th September. The weather forecast wasn't good for sunrise but looked good for sunset so I changed tack and visited in the evening. One of the benefits of visiting in the evening is having more time to find the deer before the good light appears. I find mornings can be quite rushed trying to quickly locate the deer when the light is fantastic. In the mornings the light quickly gets worse, on a clear day about 60-90 minutes after sunrise it can be too harsh for photography. The evenings allow more time for scouting and finding an approachable deer. It can then be possible to wait and approach when the light arrives. On entering the park I quickly came across a group of Fallow deer resting. They were quite happy for me to take a few images before I moved on and left them to it. 

D75_9365D75_9365 This evening was a polar opposite to the previous morning, the deer were within easy reach and there were several quite active males bellowing. The bellowing stags could be heard in front as I walked along the path towards them. The large males had started to spread out which is another sign of the start of the rut is getting closer. I managed to get a few images of the bellowing stags but the light was mainly overcast. There wan't any interesting sunset light but it was still good to see and capture images of some bellowing stags.  

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Buoyed on by Sunday's increased activity I decided to make an evening trip on Tuesday 19th September due to the favourable forecast. I spend quite a bit of time looking at the weather forecast on the BBC Weather app during the rut. I try to work out what days will be hopefully give the best chance of good light, rather than just set aside certain days to visit. It can be annoying if the forecast is only favourable on the days you can't make.  I arrived on Tuesday evening to find deer dotted around the park, most were out of reach of the footpaths but i did find this stag sitting down with Woburn Abbey obscured by trees in the background. A stag in front of the Abbey is classic Woburn image I'm yet to properly capture, have a taken a couple of the years but I don't think its one I've yet got right.

D75_9511D75_9511 As the deer were out of reach and the sun was setting, casting depth shadows across the park i thought I would head back towards the car and on the way see if there was any deer in the right place for silhouettes. Capturing silhouette images of deer at Woburn is quite difficult as there are very few places where they are possible.  The other problem is the deer have to be in those places at the right time of day making the opportunity even more unlikely. Back in 2015 after several years of trying I managed to get a few silhouette images of a bellowing stag, and it was something I was keen to repeat this year. Silhouettes are something I'm always looking at trying to capture but getting the light and the deer to align at the same time reduces the chance, often I when I try I walk away with nothing. As I walked along I saw a set of antlers poking over the brow of the ridge. From their size and shape I could see they belonged to a big male Red Deer stag. Looking behind I could see the sky was turning a nice pink/purple colour as it was now setting and I knew the colour wouldn't last long. The only problem was whilst the light was perfect and deer was in the exact position required I wasn't. I needed to walk pass the stag to be able to silhouette it against the sunset light behind. I slowly walked passed with my camera and lens raised to head height blocking out my face. I find deer can spooked by making eye contact with them so I tried to hide my face from the stag. To my amazement it wasn't spooked and was still there. Quickly I set up and rattled off a couple to check the exposure. Due to the height of the trees behind the ridge I needed to get lower to hide the tress behind the ridge and get a clean ridge line. I quickly altered the tripod legs fully expecting the stag to walk off and my chance to disappear. By this point my heart was nearly bursting out of my chest as I hadn't yet nailed the image I've always wanted to capture, yet here I was with the perfect chance. Having now composed the stag on the left with a clean ridge line I quickly rattled off a couple more frames, capturing the the stags outline against the sunset light. The near perfect image, if only it would start bellowing. To my amazement it did! Unfortunately the silhouette outline was a mess, it was an unusual and unrecognisable shape of a deer. The key to a good silhouette is that its easily recognisable. Thankfully the stag moved its head slightly to the side and bellowed again. This time the shape was easily recognisable as a bellowing stag and I had got it, the elusive sunset silhouette of a bellowing stag!    

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Having a zoom lens can come in handy as I was able to zoom out  to capture this slightly wider view without moving position and spooking the stag. 

D75_9605D75_9605 As this stag finished it decided to walk down and across the path in front of me. Behind it, unknown to me was another three stags, they followed the first stag across the path and onto the ridge opposite. One stag of the new group stopped on top of the ridge, looked back at me and posed nicely for a few seconds. It was very brief but just enough time for me to compose the image and capture the image.  

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This evening reminded me that whilst Woburn can at times be frustrating, and requires time and effort to visit on several occasions it's very rewarding when you capture that image you have always wanted to. Those three images were taken in the space of ten minutes having spent around nine hours during 5 visits up to this point this year. Time that feels worth it when you walk away with images you have had in mind for so long. 

With the previous visits showing time can be rewarded and an ok evening forecast I was spurned on to make a fourth trip of the week in the evening of Friday 22nd September. Having come straight from work and not getting away as early as I had planned I only arrived 80 minutes before sunset. I made my way into the deer park and I walked around to see if any deer were about only to find the deer were again out of reach. Due to the layout of the footpaths its limiting as the different can be quite a time consuming walk away. With this in mind I headed back to the same area as I visited on Tuesday evening for sunset, which was unlikely to appear due to the cloud cover. I stood there looking around watching the deer far out of reach for about 20 minutes. A small group of three young stags appeared to my left and made there way up onto the ridge. I started to take a few images as they reached the brow of the ridge, instead of being spooked by the noise of the shutter and running off they actually ventured closer to investigate the noise. Quickly I composed a few images of the young lead stag as he came closer to me.

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I was composing some further images and then disaster stuck as the camera went blank. I quickly worked out I had run out of battery, a real rookie error considering i have two batteries in the camera and grip! The batteries in the camera easily last a day or two I couldn't remember when I last changed the batteries. Usually the battery inside the camera last as a backup battery but I think I probably mostly drained it in the peaks back in August and hadn't replaced it. Too make matters worse the spare charged batteries were sitting back in the car boot! Thats definitely a lesson learnt, and thankfully it didn't run out on Tuesday evening when I had the fantastic sunset silhouette encounter. 

This week I've tried to put more time in and make more visits, both at the weekend and in evening during the week. That time was definitely rewarded with the experience of capturing the sunset silhouette images on Tuesday. It was a reminder that it's possible to get interesting images if the time and effort is put in. It can be difficult when you walk away nothing of note and the feeling its not worth it, but the days where it all comes together definitely makes it worth it.  So the week ends with four visits made in seven days and a further seven hours spent in the deer park. With the rut yet to get into full swing there are still interesting times ahead.

After Week two: Visits 6    Time 10.5 hours

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(Rob Cain Photography) 2017 abbey cain deer nature park red rob rut stag woburn http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/9/woburn-deer-park-rut--week-two Sat, 23 Sep 2017 00:02:31 GMT
Woburn Red Deer Rut- Week One http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/9/woburn-red-deer-rut It's at this time of year that I move towards photographing the Red Deer rut at Woburn Abbey. I've been visiting the rut at Woburn for  for several years and I feel not yet made the best out of any of them. This year I will hopefully have 5-6 consecutive weeks to focus only on the Red Deer rut. One of the reasons I love the Red Deer rut is because I can focus my time to this one project rather than worry that there is some else I should be photographing. It's great to be able to visit numerous times and see how the rut progresses. That is one of reasons that makes me come back to Woburn year after year. Whilst access cam be incredibly frustrating as you have to keep to the public footpaths (you can't just walk anywhere, though each year I see many people, both photographers and visitors, way off the paths in areas they shouldn't be so please keep to the paths if you do come as it's helps the Park Rangers) but it can be very rewarding watching the rut progress over severals weeks and getting that one good image. Each year I have the same conflict on whether I should visit somewhere like Richmond or Bushy Park, but if I visited those places they would be a one or two day trips and I couldn't experience the whole rut and watch the changes occur. Sometimes watching the wildlife experience over several weeks is much more important to me than getting a few better photos.

This year I thought I would blog weekly updates on how I get on each week, and give an idea of the number trips I make and the amount of time spent trying to get that elusive Red Deer rut image. The rut at Woburn isn't somewhere you can turn up to for only one day and walk away with a huge number of 'keepers'. I try to make numerous trips over several weeks. These trips usually last only for a few hours because I try to time the visits with the  best light. Often I walk away only having taken a handful of images, sometimes even none.

Week 1

I've started early again this year, making my first visit on Saturday 9th September. I like to get down to Woburn for my first trip in the first week or second week of September. The first trip is more of a scouting trip, trying to work out what has changed since I was last there and which point the rut is currently at. One aim of the first trip was to find out what the ferns look like. Trying to capture an image of a Red Deer Stag in the ferns with 'headgear' is always my aim within the first few weeks of the rut. Over the years I have had some memorable encounters of Red Deer Stags in the ferns, my most memorable was in 2015 when I was able to capture this sequence of a Red Deer Stag eating the low hanging tree branches. 

Sadly the ferns aren't as good as previous years, this year they are very low (only a foot or two in height) and in poor condition. I'm not sure why the ferns are like they are this year, in previous years they are usually 3-5 feet high and are a huge block of green colour. Over the last couple of years the ferns have been cut back considerably, in places losing 20-30 metres in depth, and huge paths have been cut into them to allow the tractor towing the visitors trailer to access the areas beyond. Whether this has resulted in the stronger ferns at the edges being removed and the previously protected weaker ferns at centre now taking the full force of the weather causing their poor condition I'm not sure. Whatever the reason it's unlikely I will capture any images of stags in the ferns this year, an image I've always aimed to capture in the first few weeks before the rut really gets going. 

The one problem visiting Woburn in early September is the time of sunrise. On my first visit, 9th September, sunrise was 06:27 which means setting an early alarm as Woburn is roughly 30 minute drive away. The good thing is as the rut progresses sunrise is 10 minutes later each week making the last few weeks feel like a lay in. Being the first visit I wasn't expecting to get any encounters, let alone one that will probably be one of the best encounters of the rut. This Red Deer stag was quite content grazing only meters away. It was so close that even zooming out to 200mm still cut off the rear legs. I find a portrait like this only works if the whole of the stag is in frame, sadly I mucked this one up. 

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After this deer walked away I couldn't find any other deer within rang of the public footpand and were located in areas inaccessible to me. The light was now becoming harsh so it was time to go back home for breakfast. 

With that first encounter showing want can happen and a favourable sunrise forecast I decide to make second sunrise visit the next morning. Usually I would leave it another week before returning as the first few weeks of September is very early in deer rut terms and usually quite quiet. The morning dawned with some nice colour in the clouds and a thankfully few deer milling around. About ten minutes after sunrise I saw this stag heading towards a tree on top of a ridge, providing the perfect opportunity for a silhouette. Trees and Red Deer stags make very recognisable silhouette shapes, and I love the opportunity to try combining the two especially with a faint tint of sunrise colours behind.

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The light was quite good up to thirty minutes after sunrise. The light was softly diffused and there was some deer about. This Red Deer stag took interest in me and posed nicely.

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The light was nice but whilst the eye contact of the deer makes the image more interesting I just wish I was able to get more of its legs in the image. To me they just seem to be cut off too much by the brow of the hill in the foreground. Its one of those images where its nice but it just could be that little bit better.  

Towards the end of the visit before the light became too harsh I encountered this stag under the trees. This stag sums up some of the signs of the rut will soon be starting. At the start of the rut the stags cover themselves in mud to make them more attractive to the females. What really stood out to me was the size of those antlers, they are huge, there are nearly 30 points on that set! That's definitely not a stag I would want to get too close to.

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So week one ends with two visits and 3.5 hours spent at Woburn. It was a good start to the rut but its still very early. There are signs it's slowly starting but the stags are still content to be in male groups and are all still eating. I only heard a couple of bellows too. Once the rut starts the stags will be too busy and won't eat until its over.

After one week:  Visits 2    Time 3.5 hours

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(Rob Cain Photography) 2017 bedfordshire deer park red rut stag uk woburn http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/9/woburn-red-deer-rut Mon, 18 Sep 2017 22:38:40 GMT
The Uniqball- 3 years on http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/5/the-uniqball--3-years-on It's nearly 3 years since I first purchased a Uniqball tripod head. Three years ago I wrote a blog about my search for a single head solution. In the blog I listed all of my requirements, and what I wanted from a single head for both wildlife and landscapes.  At the time the UniqBall looked like it was the head I was looking for. I thought it's about time I wrote a follow up blog about how I've found it and my thoughts 3 years on. 

How the Uniqball works

One aspect that I often have to explain to others is how it works as it doesn't work like other heads on the market. The uniqball is kind of like a ball head, gimbal head and a levelling base all rolled into one. Its actually two ball heads in one, an outer and inner ball. Each ball provides a separate function as described below.

Outer Ball- Levelling

The levelling function of the outer ball is very important to enable the uniqball pan and tilt function to provide level images. It's easy to undo the outer ball lever, level by centring the spirit bubble level and lock up the lever again. Once the outer ball is level the inner ball will give perfectly level panning and tilting, no more unloved images!

At first it felt like a disadvantage to have to level the outer ball each time I moved the tripod, but I soon found it easier and quicker to level with practice. The real advantage of the levelling outer ball is knowing you are perfectly level and not needing to adjust the individual tripod legs or using the tripod collar to give a third plane of movement (rotation of the lens). 

Inner Ball- Pan and Tilt

The inner ball is tightened and released using the red twist knob. The red twist knob is easy to lock up all movement or loosen to allow pan/tilt movement, it's also possible to set some friction if needed. The red knob is well placed and easy to reach with you left hand whilst holding the camera with your right hand. The UniqBall provides excellent support of the camera/lens weight.

The only downside I've found is a slight upwards movement of the framing when locking up. It is only slight but does change the framing slightly. In time I have managed to adjust my framing to take into account the slight upwards movement when locking up. Whilst it shouldn't be there especially at this price bracket its something I've easily overcome and the only downside I've really encountered. 

Connecting a camera and lens

The uniqball uses the arca swiss plates which are suitable for both camera and lens tripod foot mounting. The longer arca swiss plates are great for balancing longer heavier telephoto lenses. The first thing thats noticeably is the need for the clamp direction to be different for camera or lens foot mounting. This isn't any different to other heads as its dictated by the direction of the arca swiss plates attach to the camera and lens foot, but the different the plate direction makes to the function of the uniqball compared to a normal ball head is huge.

The key point to remember is the red knob has to face the same direction as the lens. This means the clamp direction has to be different by 90 degrees for lens foot and camera base plate mounting. The reason for needing to change the clamp direction is because of the way the uniqball inner ball allows a level pan and tilt.

Connecting a lens that uses a tripod collar

The arca swiss plate has to be in the same the direction the red knob is facing to allow the uniqball to pan and tilt properly. 

Connecting a camera base plate mount.

The arca swiss plate has to be 90 degrees to the direction the red knob is facing to allow the uniqball to pan and tilt properly. 

 

The problem the different clamp direction poses is changing the clamp direction. There are 4 ways to do this, use the:

  • X-Adapter Clamp 
  • Bidirectional Clamp 
  • X-Cross Clamp
  • PanoClamp

Each of these clamps does the same function but in a slightly different way.

The X-adapter is an additional clamp that is put between the uniqball and camera to enable the camera to be mounted with the lens inline with the red knob. Whilst this is an easy solution its easy to forget or lose this clamp, and it's another clamp that needs to be tightly secured otherwise the camera make fall off the head. 

The Bidirectional clamp is turned by unscrewing the centre screw using an allen key and repositioning the bidirectional clamp. This does mean no additional clamp is needed but does need an allen key to do this and isn't a quick method of changing the clamp direction.

The X-Cross clamp is a clamp that can accept the arca swiss plates at 90 degrees and is tightened by the twist knob on the corner. This is a neat solution and is a quick way to change between camera and lens foot mounting.

The PanoClamp can be turned a full 360 degrees and allows quick changing between camera and lens foot mounting. The PanoClamp is an optional extra, and is expensive for what it is. The pano function allows the camera to be pan horizontally without changing the framing height that would likely occur if panning was done using the inner ball.

I feel the best solution is the PanoClamp or the X-Cross clamp as they need no additional tools and are the quickest trouble free methods to alter the clamp direction. Its worth noting the X-cross clamp is only available on the larger 45, whereas the PanoClamp fits both the smaller 35 and larger 45. There is a new version of the smaller 35 that has a smaller PanoClamp.

Portrait Orientation- The need for a L Bracket

Unlike other ball heads/pan and tilt heads where the camera can be turned sideways to enable a portrait orientation the uniqball can't do this (note: the uniqball can turn into portrait like a ball head but you lose the levelling function which is one of the main benefits of the uniqball). This means a L Bracket has to be used for portrait orientation photos.

This is an added expense but does make it easier to go between landscape and portrait orientations. Whilst this could be argued its an added expense, many users who are considering the uniqball are likely to already to use L brackets for landscape photography. If you are looking for a L bracket I can recommend Sunwayfoto L brackets. They do a range of dedicated L Brackets for various cameras, the dedicated L brackets ensure access to all ports and the battery without the need to remove it. The build quality of the L Brackets are excellent and a little cheaper than other makes available. 

Using the L bracket with a cable release attached to the side port on the Nikon D750 is possible in portrait orientation, the only difference the camera has to sit slightly to one side due to the side accessed port. If you have a camera like a D800 or similar the front port cable release won't have this problem.

 

Which size- UBH-35 or UBH-45?

The biggest decision is which size to get, the smaller 35 or the larger 45. The least likely consideration will be weight. The weight difference between the smaller 35 and larger 45 is only 200g, the tripod would add much more weight. Lens size is a big consideration although it can make the decision too. If you have or plan to have lenses around the size of the 300mm f2.8 or larger you really need to go with the larger 45. If you have lenses smaller than a 300mm f2.8 the smaller 35 would be fine. Another big considerations will be price. The smaller UBH-35 is currently £269 whilst the UBH-45 is currently £395. This price difference is a big consideration if you don't have currently have long lenses that really need the larger 45. If you plan to get long lenses the larger 45 would be worth considering to future proof yourself. 

 

How have I got on?

Three years is probably enough time to really get out and use the Uniqball in a variety of photography situations, find out if it fits my needs and if it's something I'm going to keep using. My previous blog showed my initial thoughts and that it potentially met the requirements I had listed as a single head solution for wildlife and landscapes.

Three years on my views of the UniqBall pro's and con's are:

UniqBall Pro's

  • Lightweight (half the weight of a gimbal head)
  • Small
  • Easy to level
  • Straight images once levelled properly
  • Stable base especially with a good stable tripod
  • Tripod legs can be at any angle/don't have to worry if they give a level base
  • Uses Acra Swiss plates
  • Only one mutli purpose tripod head to carry for both wildlife and landscapes
  • Can be used with all of my lenses from 24mm to 400mm 
  • No need to leave the tripod foot loose to allow to lens to rotate to straighten the image

UniqBall Con's

  • Does not stay put like a gimbal head at all angles but does not move when it is straight and level
  • Framing creep when locking up the inner ball.
  • Need a L Bracket for the camera for portrait orientation images of landscapes.
  • Additional cost to add the PanoClamp for panorama function

Looking at the list of con's I can say none of these bother too much. The framing creep when locking up is maybe is the biggest disappointment as it shouldn't really happen in this price bracket, but it's not enough to put me off as I feel the pro's outweigh this one main con. The additional cost of a L Bracket is a pain but its probably something I would have added in the future for landscape use. 

My two main uses are wildlife and landscapes, sometimes on trips away I often do both wildlife and landscapes, and having only one tripod and head really helps reduce the amount of equipment I have to take with me. Previously I used to carry two head, a gimbal head weighing 1.5kg and a ball head weighing 0.6kg. The uniqball reduces this to only 0.7kg, a weight saving of 1.4kg! 

So how have I found the uniqball for my wildlife and landscape use? 

Landscape use

The biggest advantage of the uniqball is the levelling function, for landscapes the levelling function comes into it's own. Once the uniqball has been levelled changing framing is easy, allowing you to worry about framing rather than worry if the horizon is straight. Whilst its true you can crop and straighten an image in post processing I prefer to get the framing right in camera if its possible. Having a small, light head helps to reduce the weight I'm carrying, some landscape trips I can be walking several miles each day so weight can be an issue. Any weight saving is beneficial in this respect. Since having the uniqball it's also lead me to upgrade my tripod to reduce the amount of weight whilst trying to increase the stability of the camera support. The tripod and head now weigh a combined 2.6kg, which is probably as lightweight I can get whilst still maintaining stability, closed length and maximum working height. 

Wildlife use

What I often hear from others is the Uniqball can't replace a Gimbal Head. Whilst its true the Uniqball can't balance at any angle like a gimbal head does it can balance the camera/lens when left horizontal if the camera/lens combination centre of gravity is correctly balanced. The ease of panning and tilting to follow action is similar to using a gimbal head but without the weight to carry. Whilst I previously used a gimbal head and found them to be very good, since moving to the Uniqball I've not found I have not used a gimbal head as the Uniqball easily covered my long lens needs. The uniqball has met all of my wildlife needs over the last three years, I don't have any reservations putting my long heavy lens on it as its always gives a nice stable support whilst panning and following wildlife. 

Looking to the future

Over the last three years the uniqball has met all of my landscape and wildlife needs and it means I always have the right head with me for all of lenses from 24mm to 400mm. Having only one head and tripod has worked well for me, so well that I've sold the gimbal head I previously used for wildlife (the ball head was sold as soon as I got the Uniqball three years ago as I knew it would be needed again). I can now truly say I have only one head for both wildlife and landscape. The UniqBall is a great single solution where you would normally have to carry two different heads, if you only have a need for a landscape head or wildlife long lens head. There are other head possibilities to consider. If I didn't want a single head for two different types of photography I would probably be looking at other heads, like a geared head for landscapes and a gimbal head for wildlife.  The problem there is a gimbal head isn't very useful for landscapes and a geared head isn't very useful for wildlife. The UniqBall bridges the gap between the two and allows a smaller, lighter possible solution. Like everything there is sometimes a compromise, the size of the compromise depends on the individual and their needs. Maybe my needs for a single solution head for both wildlife and landscape is bit of a niche that perhaps others may not need, for me its worked well over the last three years. So far I haven't regretted buying the UniqBall, or selling the gimbal head for that matter, my only regret being I hadn't first purchased the larger UBH-45 as I later changed to a larger heavier telephoto lens. I can see the uniqball meeting my one head needs for many years to come. 

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(Rob Cain Photography) Cain Nature Photography Rob UniqBall after head landscapes my on photography review thoughts three tripod use wildlife years http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/5/the-uniqball--3-years-on Wed, 31 May 2017 21:34:29 GMT
Trying something different at Forest How- a new Photo Story http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/5/trying-something-different-at-forest-how--a-new-photo-story I've recently come back from a trip to Forest How in Eskdale Green in the Lake District. You most likely know Forest How is my favourite place to photograph Red Squirrels. I've been visiting Forest How since 2014 and the stone wall is my favourite location at Forest How. It's such a natural setting but after photographing the Red Squirrels on the stone wall for several years I'm getting similar 'Red Squirrel on stone wall' images. This got me thinking how I could try to get something a little different to the usually stone wall images I've taken previously.

I have explained how I went about how I've tried to get something different in this location in a new photo story, if you are interested you can read the photo story here.

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(Rob Cain Photography) Britain British Cain Cumbria District Eskdale Forest Green How Lake Nature Photography Red Rob Squirrel UK Wild Wildlife photo story http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/5/trying-something-different-at-forest-how--a-new-photo-story Mon, 22 May 2017 21:39:39 GMT
A Return To Skomer Island http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/1/a-return-to-skomer-island Last year for the second year running I returned to Skomer Island for another two night stay. This time I visited with my wife so it wasn't a full on photography only trip, that said there was a little bit of time for photography. This time I stayed from Tuesday to Thursday so there was day visitors on both days we were staying. Even though there are only 250 day visitors it does feel very busy during the day especially when you are used to only  seeing other overnight stayers, volunteers, researchers  and wardens wandering around. That said during the day trip hours I usually staying around the accommodation, lounging in the sofas or making dinner. The point of staying over is getting out during the best hours when the day trippers aren't around. 

Skomer Landscapes

This year I wanted to spend some time on landscapes. Last year I didn't take any of my ND filters and I really regretted it. It seems weird dedicating time to landscape photography when on the wildlife paradise that is Skomer Island, but the coastline can be quite dramatic in places.  The volcanic rock coastline of Skomer especially around Garland Stone, High Cliff, Mew Stone and Pigstone Bay can make for some interesting compositions as the waves crash against the rocks. On our first day it was quite windy and it whipped up the waves. Although it made for a rough and wet morning crossing (one tip- don't sit on the wet side of the boat!) it did make interesting long exposure landscapes. Using a Hitech Firecrest 10 stop filter I was able to get exposure times of around 5-10 seconds, just perfect to capture enough movement in the waves. The only problem with the windy conditions was my tripod was moving slightly reducing the sharpness of the images. I had to try timing the exposures with lulls in the wind, this resulted in much trial and error (and battery use- live view and long exposures really eats battery power). I returned on the second day to try capturing a sharper image of my favourite composition from the previous day. The wind had dropped, although it was easier to get a sharper image the calmer sea made for a less interesting image (as the images below show). The rough sea the previous day made a moody image that suited the dramatic rocks.  

Rocky CoastlineRocky CoastlineLong exposure of breaking waves on the coast of Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire.

Nikon D750 & 70-200 f2.8 VRII @ 145mm.

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Nikon D750 & 70-200 f2.8 VRII @ 145mm.

The 70-200 allowed me to pick out sections of the coastline rather than a wider view. I love the 70-200 for landscapes, when I started landscapes I first purchased a 16-35 falling into the trap of thinking landscapes was all about the ultra wide view. Over the last year I've noticed I'm drawn to longer focal lengths, especially the 150-200mm focal range. The 16-35 has now gone due to lack of use and has been replaced in favour of a 24-120mm lens, even with this lens I often find I'm using the 50-120mm focal range more than the wider 24mm end.

Skomer RocksSkomer RocksLong exposure of breaking waves on the coast of Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire.

Nikon D750 & 70-200 f2.8 VRII @ 150mm.

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Nikon D750 & 70-200 f2.8 VRII @ 145mm.

The Puffins

The chance to photograph the Puffins in the best light of the day is the obvious draw of staying on Skomer. Although many day trippers come to photograph the Puffins, the harsh sunlight at midday and the sheer number of visitors trying to all use the narrow path at the Wick doesn't make it easy. I avoid the Wick until the day trippers have left for the day. The weather forecast for the two days I was staying was far ideal. On the first evening it started very overcast, so overcast the photography workshop group also staying decided to pack up early about 2 hours before sunset, leaving me with the Wick to myself. Knowing the forecast was worst the next evening I decided to stay until sunset prioritising closeup portraits that I hadn't captured many of the previous year. Having the whole of the Wick to myself sounds ideal but I found it more difficult than the previous year. It seemed the Puffins are more at ease with several people around rather than just the one person lying on the path trying to get to their eye level. Quite often they would move just out of range and I didn't want to be chasing them around so I sat tight and waiting for them to come to me.

Even though it was overcast there was plenty of soft diffused light that was ideal of portraits without having to worry about blown highlights in the white feathers. With 2-3 hours to go before sunset the light was nicely diffused yet still allowed good exposure settings. As I was able to get an exposure of 1/800 at f8 and ISO800 I decided to use a 1.4x teleconverter to get a little closer and try some compositions I missed the previous year. The 1.4x teleconverter works very well on the 70-200 f2.8 VRII with very little, if no degradation of IQ or focus speed. In many ways a 70-200 lens is the perfect Skomer Puffin lens, there really is no need for long lenses like 500mm or 600mm unless you want to capture some flight or 'boating' images.

With the overcast sky I used the cliffs as backgrounds to add colour as the sky was completely washed out. The cliffs diffuse nicely into soft interesting backgrounds even at smaller apertures like f8 due to the long distance to from the Puffin to the cliff background. With wildlife I use f4-f5.6 most of the time but at these apertures due to being so close to the puffins on Skomer means depth of field is very narrow. It's easy to get the eye in focus but the beak or feathers out of focus. Even at f8 depth of field at 3m is only about 3-4cm.

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Nikon D750 & 70-200 f2.8 VRII with 1.4x teleconverter at 280mm.

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Nikon D750 & 70-200 f2.8 VRII with 1.4x teleconverter at 280mm.

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Nikon D750 & 70-200 f2.8 VRII with 1.4x teleconverter at 280mm.

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Nikon D750 & 70-200 f2.8 VRII with 1.4x teleconverter at 220mm.

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Nikon D750 & 70-200 f2.8 VRII with 1.4x teleconverter at 280mm.

D75_4016D75_4016 Nikon D750 & 70-200 f2.8 VRII with 1.4x teleconverter at 250mm.

I'm already looking forward to this years trip, it will be my third successive year visiting the island. The problem this time will be trying to get some more original images. I will be trying not to repeat any image if thats possible, behaviour shots will again be high on the agenda along with trying for some 'boating' images too. 

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(Rob Cain Photography) Atlantic Island Puffin Skomer Wales bird sea wild wildlife http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2017/1/a-return-to-skomer-island Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:05:02 GMT
A Venture into Infrared Imagery- Part 2 http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2016/8/a-venture-into-infrared-imagery-part-2 For the second part of the continuation of the previous blog 'A Venture into Infrared Imagery' I'm going to share more Infrared images I took during my trip to the Lake District. I visited several locations during the trip and I found the Lake District is ideal for infrared photography.

Wast Water

One of my favourite locations in the Lake District is Wast Water. One of the reasons is because it feels remote and what the Lake District should feel like. It is also close to the B&B where I stay so it's a location I can easily revisit. Recently it was named 'Britain's Favourite View', the wider view down the lake towards Great Gable and Lingmell is one of the most well known in the Lake District. On recent visits I've been trying to capture something a little different to the classic view. I love the 70-200 to 'zoom in' to pick out sections of the landscapes. At Wast Water it works well, even to the point where there are many compositions that don't even include the lake. The Hoya R72 infrared filter works very well with the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VRII, I've not seen any signs of any hotspots.

Yewbarrow and Great GableYewbarrow and Great GableYewbarrow and Great Gable at Wast Water.

Yewbarrow and Great Gable. Nikon D750 & 70-200 f2.8 VRII @ 165mm.

Changing light on Lingmell at Wast WaterChanging light on Lingmell at Wast WaterChanging light on Lingmell at Wast Water.

Lingmell. Nikon D750 & 70-200 f2.8 VRII @ 145mm.

D75_2812-Edit-2D75_2812-Edit-2 Wast Water-the view towards Great Gable. Nikon D750 & 70-200 f2.8 VRII @ 116mm.

Yew Tree Tarn

Yew Tree Tarn is a small lake beside the A593 between Coniston and Ambleside. I've driven past this small tarn on a number of occasions and always thought about visiting. The tarn is lined with trees on the far side and is ideal of high contrast infrared images. Although the Hoya R72 filter means long exposures are needed the time can be spent watching the trout jumping out of the water catching the flies. 

Yew Tree TarnYew Tree TarnInfrared image of Yew Tree Tarn, the Lake District.

Yew Tree Tarn. Nikon D750 & 24-120mm f4 @ 50mm.

Millers Bridge

Millers Bridge is a small picturesque stone bridge located at the far end of the park in Ambleside. It is quite similar to Clappersgate bridge but in a busier setting. Pedestrians walking across the bridge are not a problem as the long exposures mean they are not visible in the resulting images.

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Millers Brigde, Ambleside. Nikon D750 & 24-120 f4 @ 28mm.

Hardknott & Wrynose Pass

Hardknott Pass is a narrow winding road between Eskdale and Duddon valley, its not one for the faint heart or anyone of a nervous disposition. The road is steep, narrow and windy reaching a height of 393m. Wrynose Pass has excellent views of Hardknott Pass. There is one problem with a scene like this, it has very little contrast throughout the frame so is quite bland as an infrared image. 

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View towards Hardknott Pass from the top of Wrynose Pass. Nikon D750 & 24-120 f4 @ 98mm.

 

I find I'm drawn towards Infrared photography, it does open up more opportunities during landscape trips too. It's definitely something I'm going to continue to trial during the summer months. The high contrast black and white images are something I like about infrared. This trip was a good learning point, not all scenes suit infrared so its a case of trying it in the right locations.

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(Rob Cain Photography) Cain Cumbria District IR Infrared Lake Landscape Photographer Photography Rob http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2016/8/a-venture-into-infrared-imagery-part-2 Mon, 01 Aug 2016 20:02:14 GMT
A Venture into Infrared Imagery http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2016/6/a-venture-into-infrared-imagery  

At the start of the year I decided I wanted to try to do more landscape photography. Landscape photography is something I enjoy doing but haven't devoted the same amount time to as my wildlife photography. One problem I've found with landscape photography is the need to be out at sunrise and sunset, the quality of light makes a big difference to the images produced. The problem I find is the limited sunrise and sunset periods make it harder to justify getting out further afield when the light could be good only for an hour or two. I'm hoping the answer to this is to try Infrared Photography. Infrared seems to be the perfect answer as its best suited to harsh midday sunlight, basically the time of day that is usually avoided with landscape photography. One of the issues with infrared photography is the limited information on the internet about it. A friend of mine, Elliot Hook, has produced two excellent blog posts (Infrared Photography with the Hoya R72 Filter & Infrared Photography Part II: Processingabout infrared photography. Elliot's blog posts have helped me find my way starting out in infrared photography, they have definitely made getting the processing right easier. I would recommend everyone to read them if they are interesting in infrared photography.

 

How to try Infrared Photography?

There are two ways to try out Infrared Photography, use a camera converted to take infrared images or use a Infrared lens filter. I went with the latter as its the cheapest way to try out infrared photography. It also means you can still use the camera for 'normal' photography. There are a few filters on the market, one of the most well known is the Hoya R72 infrared filter. I had thought about purchasing one for a while, a sudden price drop on amazon gave the kick I need to purchase one. If you are thinking of get one its worth getting the largest size suitable for your lenses and use step-down rings for smaller lenses. I'm lucky that all my landscape lenses are the same 77mm thread size so I only need one size. The 77mm thread size seems to be one of the most common thread sizes used by nikon for full frame lenses so it is worth checking sizes and future proofing yourself. A 77mm filter will fit smaller thread sizes but a 52mm or 67mm filter won't work a 77mm thread even with a step up ring. 

One thing that is not apparent when first reading about the Hoya R72 filter is the effect it has on shutter speeds, its definitely in the realms of long exposure photography. The R72 filter only passes light at 720nm and above, this means exposure times are extended to get a well exposed image. I found shutter speeds with the Hoya R72 filter in place needed to be extended by around 10 stops (give or take a stop or two). The Nikon D750 metering seemed to accurately adjust the intended exposure with the Hoya R72 filter in place. If you already know the technicalities of taking long exposures you are well on the way to taking infrared images.

 

What camera to use?

The problem with using a screw on infrared filter is that modern camera sensors have been designed with filters to remove problems associated with the infrared light spectrum. There are not many resources on the internet which say if a camera is ok to use with an infrared filter or not. Nikon are not very helpful either, their advice is limited to 'not designed for infrared photography'. Although Nikon and other manufacturers may not advise their cameras for use with infrared photography its still possible with the Hoya R72 infrared filter but there are some limitations to be aware of. You can go down the route of having a camera converted to infrared but this is a more expensive option. As a first venture into infrared photography converting a camera is probably more expensive than many would like, an infrared filter is a cost effective option to dabble in Infrared.

 

Which Lens to use with Infrared?

One issue with infrared photography that soon became apparent to me was hotspots. Hotspots are nasty bright overexposed spots in the centre of the image. Hotspots are usually difficult to see on the rear LCD screen of a camera and usually only apparent when you get the images on a larger computer screen at home. It's definitely worth trying out any lenses you plan to use for infrared at home before you go further afield, a whole day's worth of images can be ruined by hotspots. There are limited resources on the internet advising when lenses are good and bad for hotspots. One I found out about was the Nikon 24-70 f2.8 is known to be bad for hotspots. I soon found out the Nikon 20mm f1.8 AF-S G lens didn't fair so well with hotspots either. My first trial images using this lens did show hotspots, they weren't too bad so with some extra testing they may not be as apparent at wider apertures. One surprise was the Nikon 24-120mm f4 lens performed very well, I found no signs of hotspots between f4 and f11 apertures. The Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR2 lens also performs very well too with no signs of hotspots that I can see. These two lenses nearly cover 100% of my infrared landscape photography needs.

 

Trying out Infrared Photography in the Lake District

A few week after the Hoya R72 filter I was off to the lakes, I thought it would be an excellent chance to try out infrared landscapes. It worked out well as the Red Squirrel activity I had mainly aimed the trip photography towards was thin on the ground. The bright, sunny weather also made it ideal to try infrared photography. During my time in the Lake District I used the 24-120mm f4 lens majority of the time. It has really impressed me with its image quality and the flexibility of the 24mm to 120mm zoom so much that I've not yet regretted trading a Nikon 16-35mm f4 for it. I find 24mm is usually wide enough for me on full frame, recently I've started to like longer focal length landscapes. The 70-200mm f2.8 VR 2 was only used when I wanted a longer focal length to isolate features in the landscape.

If you are thinking of a landscape photography trip to the Lake District I can highly recommend the 'Photographing the Lake District' guidebook, its full of excellent ideas for locations and helpful information about each location. I used this book to find the locations I visited and I've found it to be a great help.

The real test of infrared photography is the resulting images that are produced. During the trip to the Lake District I had a great chance to trial it. I'm going to talk through the images i produced below.

 

Clappergate Bridge

The first location I visited was Clappersgate Bridge, it's one I've wanted to visit for a while. With infrared the green trees and bank ideally contrast against the darker stone bridge and water. Clappersgate Bridge is an easily accessible location by the side of the road only a few miles from Ambleside.

 

D75_2683-EditClappersgate Bridge, Lake District. Nikon D750 & 24-120mm f4 lens @ 35mm.D75_2683-Edit

Clappersgate Bridge. Nikon D750 & 24-120mm f4 lens @ 35mm.

Rydal Water 

North of Ambleside on the road to Grasmere is the idyllic lake of Rydal Water. Its a beautiful lake surrounded by green trees and fells. One of the best views of Rydal Water is from a group of hillocks called White Moss. It has great views across Rydal Water to the south and Grasmere to the north. To reach White Moss there is bit of a walk up a loose gravel/stone path but compared to some walks in the Lake District its relatively easy. Once on White Moss there are several hillocks that each give their own different view of Rydal Water. Because of the featureless hazy sky I decide to omit the sky and concentrate the composition on lakes and the surround trees and fells.

 

D75_2702-Edit-EditRydal Water from White Moss. Nikon D750 & 24-120mm lens @58mm.D75_2702-Edit

Rydal Water from White Moss. Nikon D750 & 24-120mm lens @ 58mm.

Tarn Hows

Tarn Hows is lovely lake close to Coniston and Hawkshead. Its easily accessible with a National Trust car park close by (be prepared to feed the car park meter) and level paths around the lake suitable for wheel chair access. Getting to the waters edge in places can be a little harder but there are paths in places that reach the waters edge. I visited on a calm evening a few hours before sunset, the water was perfectly still except when the waterfowl swam across the lake leaving ripples. There are a few tree lined islands and banks with trees at the water's edge. The calm water made for fantastic reflections. With a featureless hazy sky I tried to minimise its feature in the images, concentrating on the contrasty pine trees.

 

D75_2736Tarn Hows Pine Tree Island. Nikon D750 & 24-120mm f4 lens @ 55mm.Tarn Hows Pine Tree Island. Nikon D750 & 24-120mm f4 lens @ 55mm. D75_2736

Tarn Hows Pine Tree Island. Nikon D750 & 24-120mm f4 lens @ 55mm.

 

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Tarn Hows Tree Reflection. Nikon D750 & 24-120mm f4 lens @ 55mm.

My first try at infrared went well, its definitely something I'm going to experiment further with. I like the high contrast black and white conversions that are possible in Lightroom and SilverFX2. I'm not yet taken by the false colour images that are possible with infrared, maybe in the future I may like them more. The Lake District is perfect for infrared photography, there are plenty of locations that work well with infrared.  The greens of the trees and fells are ideally contrasted by the dark water of the lakes. If you are up in the Lake District and are limited to the harsh daylight sun infrared photography is definitely worth trying. I'm hoping that infrared photography is going to get me more involved in landscape photography, being able to extend shooting hours will help as it makes landscape further afield now worth the effort.

Thats enough for this blog post, I will share more of the infrared images I took in the Lake District in another blog post soon.

 

 

 

 

 

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(Rob Cain Photography) Cain D750 District Green Hoya IR Infrared Lake Lakes Landscape Nikon Photography R72 Rob Trees http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2016/6/a-venture-into-infrared-imagery Fri, 03 Jun 2016 22:18:41 GMT
My Guide to Red Squirrel Photography Locations at Forest How, Eskdale, Cumbria. http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2016/3/my-guide-to-photography-locations-at-forest-how My favourite place to photograph Red Squirrels is not a well photography hide or public location, its a guest house in Eskdale, Cumbria. I have visited Forest How Guest House several times in the last few years, its a place will keep going back to. With the help of Peter Trimming who has introduced me to the various locations he has set up throughout the grounds of Forest How I have managed to get some great Red Squirrel images. I thought I would write a photographers guide to the various locations to help others get great images of the local Red Squirrels. You can read this guide in the Tutorials section here.

A few images I have taken at Forest How are shown below:

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(Rob Cain Photography) Cain Forest Guest How Nature Photographer Photography Red Rob Squirrels Wildlife guide locations photographing wild http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2016/3/my-guide-to-photography-locations-at-forest-how Wed, 09 Mar 2016 19:46:49 GMT
New Tutorial- A Guide to Teleconverters http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2016/1/a_guide_to_teleconverters  

Teleconverters are something I hear many people ask about and something that seems not to be properly understood by many. I think everyone hears about this magical accessory that extends your lens by about 40-100%, but their disadvantages are not as well known. Used correctly and within their limitations teleconverters are an excellent to any photographers kit bag. Teleconverters are an accessory that I have used for several years on a number of different lenses. I reply to many forum questions people ask about teleconverters, this has lead me to write 'A Guide to Teleconverters', you can read in the tutorial section here. You can read all of my tutorials here.

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(Rob Cain Photography) 1.4 1.7 2x Cain Canon Nature Nikon Photography Rob TC Teleconverter Wildlife buying guide teleconverters to using which http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2016/1/a_guide_to_teleconverters Sat, 09 Jan 2016 21:20:29 GMT
My 2015 Review http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2015/12/my-2015-review It's another year on and time for my review of 2015. It's the time to look back on how its gone, what has went well and my aims for this coming year. In this review I'm going to look at my image highlights of this year, if I met my 2015 aims and create new aims for 2016.

My Image Review of 2015 Highlights.

I thought I would start off by reviewing some of the images I've taken in 2015. Its a little different to my usual year review but photography is all about images so I thought it would be a nice change. 

Belinda On The Wall

This year I carried on visiting Forest How to photograph the local Red Squirrels. In the summer of 2014 they were hit by a Squirrel Pox outbreak that sadly took a number of squirrels. Thankfully they have recovered well this year and are doing well considering what had happened the previous year. One of the star squirrels is 'Belinda', she is a regular visitor and is very friendly. She will take a nut from your hand if you offer her one nicely. 

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The above image is my favourite image my trips this year. This was taken in September whilst she was recovering from an infection. At first it was thought she had caught Squirrel Pox but thankfully it doesn't look like she has. The stone wall is one of my favourite locations at Forest How, capturing a nice pose on the wall was my aim of the trip. This was taken at from about 2 metres away so it wasn't difficult to get the blurred background but getting her face all in focus at this distance was difficult. I had closed the aperture down to f5.6 to increase the depth of field, the eyes, ears and front legs are in focus but the nose if slightly out of focus. Usually I use the 'rule of thirds' but I like the central composition. I think it works well due to the eye contact of 'Belinda' looking straight at me and making her the central focal point of the image.

Skomer Island Puffins   

My two night stay on Skomer was one of my highlights this year. Its the best way to photograph Puffins as you have the chance of both sunrise and sunset, something you don't get with a day trip. I've even booked another stay for 2016. I've picked two of favourite images from the trip, both were taken on the first night when I had a good sunset. The Wick at sunset is the perfect place to capture a Puffin portrait.

D75_0489D75_0489 I love backlit lighting, with Puffins it brings out the orange beak detail. The calling adds a behaviour element of the Puffin, they gather on the cliffs at sunset and call out. The one thing I would change if I could would be the in-focus daises to the left of the Puffins, they lead your eye away from the Puffin but they do catch the golden sunlight well too.

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Skomer Island is great for getting close to the Puffins, the image above was taken from 2.2m meaning its easy to blur the foreground and background. I shot this with the large area of blurred foreground as the daisies make a more interesting foreground than the sea/sky at this point. Both images use the 'rule of thirds', a central composition wouldn't work that well in either image.

Woburn Red Deer Rut

This year I had more time to visit Woburn during the annual rut. I like getting out at this time of year to watch the season change.

I don't usually present images as a series, but these four images work better together than on their own. I have watched Red Deer stags eat the branches of trees on a few occasions before but I've never been able to capture it properly. This Red Deer stag wasn't bothered by my presence, it happily ate the tree posing nicely. The ferns in front of me produced a nice blurred foreground that produces the clean style I like. 

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For years I've been trying to capture a Red Deer silhouette. There is one ridge at Woburn I head to at sunset. If a deer appears on it can give a great silhouette image. I've stood there on several occasions yet walked away with nothing. This one evening I saw some walkers heading towards me, between us there were a few Red Deer Stags. I quickly headed back to the bottom of the ridge hoping they may make the deer walk behind the ridge and appear right in front of me, I was surprised when it worked out. I had time to try a few compositions, the image above is the last composition I tried. I like the wider view with the Red Deer smaller in the frame yet recognisable as the subject and focal point of the image. The silhouette of the bellowing stag captures the autumn Red Deer rut well, it also shows you don't always need to fill the frame too.

Autumn Hedgehogs

For a while I've been hoping to get some Hedgehog images. This year it became apparent the only way would be to go on a workshop. I saw Kevin Sawford was running a Hedgehog workshop in autumn, the perfect chance to try some images of Hedgehogs in autumn colours.

 

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Unfortunately I couldn't order the weather. It was dark, overcast and at times wet. The weather meant low light needing high ISO and slow shutter speeds. Even though I was shooting wide open at f2.8, 1/200 second and at ISO 2500 I was still able to capture some sharp images. The wide aperture meant the foreground and background were both nicely blurred, but it meant the depth of field was very small at a subject distance of 1.5m. 1/200 second was fast enough to freeze the movement of the hedgehog. The carpet of autumn leaves gave the autumn feel I was hoping for.

Looking back at 2015  goals.

Last year I set a number of goals I hoped would guide my photography. Lets look at how these went.

  • Complete A Few Iconic British Wildlife Projects Rather Than Try To See And Photograph Everything

This year my aim was to complete a few Ironic British Wildlife mini-projects are than try to see everything. In 2015 I decided to concentrate on revisiting the Water Voles and Red Squirrels more than once. Unfortunately the Water Voles didn't work out as well as last year. I made more trips this year and put in more time but it just didn't work out. This was partially down to the visits were started early in February and March rather than April but it was a good reminder that wildlife photography isn't a given and it changes month on month, year on year. I once again visited Forest How to see the Red Squirrels. After last years Squirrel Pox outbreak numbers were lower but they were still holding on. One of my highlights of this idea lead to staying on Skomer Island for the first time. It was an excellent opportunity to concentrate on Puffins and great experience.

  • Be Creative/Original and Stay Away From 'Pay and Display' Photography

This as such isn't a goal but an aim to try to get something different rather than 'collect' the same images of others. This year I did only one workshop, it was an autumn hedgehog workshop. It was an excellent opportunity to learn more about Hedgehogs and get some nice images too. Hedgehogs are not an easy photographic subject due to their nocturnal nature so daytime autumn images and only be produced on workshops.  

  • Find Out What My Photography Style Is

This year I can say I have pinned down my photography style. Its not a ground breaking style as many photographers have the same style. I've found I sway towards an eye level, shallow depth of field blurred foreground/background portrait photography style. From my trips to Skomer, Forest How and Woburn it's become clear to me that this produces my better images and something I can work on. 

  • Try more Wide Angle and Shorter Focal Length Photography

This is definitely something I need to work on. I did try wide angles a few times but not as much as I would have liked to. The problem is having a subject that you can get close to without causing harm to them. This year I have found I've got on well with shorter focal lengths. I have enjoyed using my 70-200mm lens.  

  • Stay Local

I have been out trying to stay local. One project that I spend time on was a Great Crested Grebe mini project. It took me a while to find some a pair of Great Crested Grebes with good low PoV access. I finally found a pair and I spent quite a few mornings and evenings with them but I didn't get anything of the quality I would share. I also spent more time at Woburn Deer Park this year during the rut. As Woburn is quite local its my first choice deer park during the rut. I had thoughts of trying further afield but as Woburn is so close its just seems best to stay local. 

  • Enter More Competitions

This I haven't entered as many competitions as I had hoped to but I did enter BWPA for the first time. Even though I didn't get any where it did make me look through my images with a more critical eye and it was a good exercise. I have also learnt a lot from looking through the winning and commended images of the competitions. This I feel is a good way to benchmark my images and look at ways to improve.

  • Be More Social

During the early part of 2015 I quickly joined numerous social media outlets. I chose Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, 500PX and of course carried on Flickr. I've found I've kept updating my Facebook page thought the year, it's something I've enjoyed doing and plan to carry on. I joined Instragram and 500PX but I've not updated these much so they may be something I don't carry on in 2016. Although I've not used twitter much I have followed others so it has been worthwhile. I think part of my problem with social media was I went from zero to hundred in a matter of seconds, quickly joining several different platforms. Perhaps carrying on only a few will be more manageable this year as quality over quantity is probably a better aim.

  • Make Time for Landscapes

I have made more time for landscapes this year with a few trips out locally and to the Peak District and the Lake District. Unfortunately I had to pull out of an autumn landscape trip to the lake district. I've got much to learn with landscapes and I didn't get that many images from my trips. Its still something I would like to do more of but if its a choice between wildlife and landscapes, wildlife is always going to be my priority.

Looking Forward into 2016:

My aims for this year are:

  • Carry on with A Few Iconic British Wildlife Projects 

This year I'm planning to carry on where I left off last year. I will again for visiting the Red Squirrels at Forest How. I'm hoping to try Water Voles again this spring, hopefully with a bit more success this year. I have an idea for a project for the start of the year too if the weather works out.

  • Complete Some Local Projects

I will try to stay local again this year. I'm hoping a few mini projects will work out so I can stay local. I like going out early yet being back for breakfast. I will try local Great Crested Grebes again, trying a find a go local pair is the problem. 

  • Carry On Being Social

Although last year I jumped into social media in a big way this year I'm going to carry it on but in a much smaller scale. I will be carrying on Facebook as well as Flickr. I'm going to try Twitter a little more as it looks to be a great platform to connect with other photographer.

  • Join Nature Groups

This year I joined the local wildlife trust. I'm hoping I will be able to join in with local nature groups this year. Whilst out photographing Water Voles I've seen how photographers can help promote wildlife, joining in with local nature groups will help me get out at times without the camera.

Hope you all have a great new year and enjoy another year of photography.
 

 

 

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(Rob Cain Photography) 2015 Cain Photographer Photography Review Rob wildlife http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2015/12/my-2015-review Thu, 31 Dec 2015 09:00:00 GMT
Autumn Hedgehog Workshop http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2015/11/autumn-hedgehogs For many people their first view of hedgehogs may be have been of Beatrix Potter's Mrs Tiggywinkle or from the road safety TV adverts teaching us to safely cross the road. Hedgehogs have an endearing reputation amongst the British public even though they are a nocturnal predator covered in spikes, they were after all named "Britain's Favourite Species" back in 2013.

For a while now I've been wanting to capture some photos of Hedgehogs, the problem with photographing Hedgehogs is they are only active at night. Nighttime wildlife photography is a difficult task unless flash is used and finding hedgehogs is also quite difficult. Earlier this year I noticed Kevin Sawford was running a Hedgehog Photography and Conservation Workshop with Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue. Having been on one of Kevin's workshops previously I quickly signed up. The workshop was being run in November, perfectly timed to take advantage of the wonderful autumn leave coverage across the woodland floor. There is something about Hedgehogs and autumn leaves that I always think of when thinking about Hedgehogs.  

The workshop was being held at a Suffolk Wildlife site. Not knowing what to expect on arrival I was pleasantly surprised to find the workshop was based at a small wooden visitors centre amongst the woods. It was the perfect base for a day of learning and photographing Hedgehogs. The day started with two presentations, one from Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue and one from Kevin. The presentation from Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue gave us all an insight into Hedgehogs and their current plight.

 

Some insights of the presentation

  • Hedgehogs are disappearing at the same rate as Bengal Tigers.
  • Numbers have decreased from over 36 Million in the 1950's to less than  an estimated 1 million today.
  • Hedgehogs are being slowly poisoned by our use of pesticides and slug pellets on their main food sources.
  • Our enclosed gardens are restricting their natural ranges.
  • Our tidy gardens are restricting them from finding shelter and food.
  • A Hedgehog can survive a fall of 6ft its spikes act as shock absorbers if its able to tuck itself into a ball.
  • Hedgehogs have two muscles that are very important to their survival, one allows them to curl up in a ball and the other acts as a drawstring to tightly close the ball.
  • During hibernation Hedgehogs don't actually sleep but enter a state of torpor where their body temperature drops, their heartbeat rate decreases and breathing slows.

 

What can we do to help Hedgehogs

  • Put a 13cm hole in your fences to allow Hedgehogs to roam easily
  • Put up a log pile to allow them shelter and a source of food
  • Don't use slug pellets or any pesticides in our gardens
  • Put out tinned dog food mixed with crushed dog biscuits and some water as supplementary feeding, never put out bread and milk. Stop putting food out if you attract rats as rats are a predator of Hedgehogs.

 

The Hedgehog Photography

The woodland setting with fallen autumn leaves on the ground was the perfect setting for Hedgehog photography. There was a large number of Hedgehogs brought along by Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue to ensure no one hedgehog was used too long, affected by its apperance or harmed in any way during the workshop. The hedgehogs were monitored at all times by Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue and only handled by fully trained people. You could say 'no hedgehogs were harmed during the making of my images'. The hedgehogs we placed into natural settings with everyone a suitable distance away from them as not to disturb them. That didn't stop the hedgehogs from coming to investigate us laying on the ground. At one point a hedgehog was only a few centimetres from the front of my lens, happily sniffing the air whilst I watched on. One thing I learnt long ago is the need to get eye level with wildlife. Hedgehogs are no different, and it means you are always laying on the wet woodland ground. Waterproof trousers/jacket and a right angle viewfinder are two very useful items to bring along to a workshop like this. Unfortunately I found out my 'waterproof' trousers are no longer waterproof so I did go home quite wet, every item of my clothing was soaked except my socks!

Unfortunately the weather wasn't great, it was a heavily overcast day with periods of rain. Being in a wood didn't help, it meant there was low light. I had to push the cameras ability shooting nearly wide open, with a slowish shutter speed and high ISO. Thankfully this didn't stop me from getting some images I was happy with. You can see a selection of the images I took in the slideshow below.

If you would like to join Kevin Sawford on one of his workshops you can find out more information here. You can find out more about Hedgehogs and what to do if you find a hedgehog that needs help with advice from Suffolk Prickles Hedgehog Rescue here.

 

 

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(Rob Cain Photography) Autumn Britain British Cain Hedgehog Kevin Nature Photography Prickles Rescue Rob Sawford Suffolk UK Wildlife Woodland Woods Workshop http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2015/11/autumn-hedgehogs Sun, 15 Nov 2015 21:25:04 GMT
Puffins at Sunset on Skomer Island http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2015/10/skomer-island Puffins are one of my favourite birds, its their appearance and the way they behave. They are great fun to watch and make great wildlife subjects. The only problem with Puffins is they are only found in a few locations in the British Isles. One place is Skomer Island, just off the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales.  

In 2013 I visited Skomer for the first time.  On this first visit I went on one of the day trip boats that are run. If you want to go on a day trip you need to get to the ticket office before it opens as there is usually a queue and boat tickets soon sell out.  

A day trip is a great way to see the Puffins but for photography it's quite difficult. The problem is you are on the island during the day when summer sunlight can be quite harsh making exposure difficult, especially when you are dealing with a black and white seabird. During the day trip I cam away with a few images I was pleased with, one being this Puffin image below.  

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The day trip left me thinking Skomer provides great opportunities for Puffin photography but day trips don't provide the right type of light I want. It's impossible to get sunrise/sunset light when the boats only run from 10am and return at 4pm.

Staying on Skomer

Having seen the accommodation building during my day trip, on my return home I researched if staying was a possibility.  I found there are two options, volunteer for a week and help run the island or pay to stay in one of the 16 beds in the farmhouse, I chose the latter. Another option is to pay for photography workshop stay lead by a pro, but Skomer is easy as a DIY option.

There are 5 accommodation rooms in the farm house, ranging from 2 single bed rooms to a 5 bed dorm room.  The accommodation is surprisingly good considering it is 'off grid' living.  Electricity is provided by solar panel that powers lighting and two power sockets to charge phones and batteries.  There is running water, heated showers and a large kitchen with gas hobs/ovens and a fridge for storing food.  You have to bring all the food you need for the time you are staying and then take all rubbish off the island when you leave. You don't need to bring drinking water as water is taken from a well on the island and treated to make it safe to drink. The accommodation is located in the farm house in the centre of the island meaning you are roughly 15 minutes from all points of the island.

The Wick- Puffin Heaven

If you want to see Puffins, and that's what most come for, there is one place everyone heads for, and that is The Wick. It's home to thousands of nesting Puffins. Below is a panorama of The Wick, a rare sight of The Wick with no one present and the Puffins left alone. During the day the Wick is usually a very busy place with day trippers always there. On a Monday Skomer is closed to day trippers and no boats run.  It was strange to be at The Wick on my own when on other days it would be packed with day visitors.

If you want to see Puffins, and that's what most come for, there is one place everyone heads for, The Wick. It's home to thousands of nesting Puffins. Above is a panorama of The Wick, a rare sight of The Wick with no one present and the Puffins all left alone. During the day the Wick is usually a very busy place with day trippers always there. On a Monday Skomer is closed to day trippers and no boats run.  It was strange to be at The Wick on my own on a Monday when on other days it would be packed with day visitors.

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The panorama gives a good insight into Puffin photography on Skomer, most Puffin images are taken in this small area.  The path is roped off at the sides as Puffin burrows are located alongside the path so you have to be careful not to damage or collapse any of the burrows by accidently stepping off the path.  This means you have a very narrow area to work within, and you have to make sure you don't block the Puffins access across this path too.  There are burrows on both sides of the path, many Puffins land with their catch not knowing exactly where their burrow is and have to run off to find it before the Gulls try to take their catch or even them!

To get a low perspective to help isolate the foreground and background you have to get low. Getting low means either kneeling or laying on the path. The path is full of stones and pebbles and that makes its very uncomfortable after a few hours. It also means you come away with several bruises on your knees, legs and arms. We soon found our bean bags gave great support to our elbows, a different way of using them as usually they are for camera support. I would now recommend taking some kind of kneeling pad to save you from the bruises.

Sadly due to the high number of visitors that come to the Wick over the years the path has been eroded, in places its now around 4-6 inches lower than the burrows. This does help to get the low perspective, as fellow photographer Elliot Hook shows in the photo on the left. As you can see laying sideways along the path with gaps left between you is ideal as the Puffins can still walk across. They will quite happily past within a few feet of you, and even stand on you or your camera bag to gain a better view!

The Wick is great during the last few hours of the day. In late June the sun sets over the cliff to the right as the Wick faces south. This is a great time to capture some side lit or backlit Puffin Portraits. Puffins are great models as they are curious of you and your camera. The Puffins gather in great numbers on the cliff top during the last few hours of the day, giving many opportunities to get some nice portraits in great light.

Some of the images I took during my two night stay are shown below.

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ROB CAIN PHOTOGRAPHY

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I would highly recommend anyone to visit or stay on Skomer Island to see the Puffins. I enjoyed the overnight stay so much I've booked again for July next year so I may see you there if you do book. There is plenty to see and do on the island, Puffins are not the only draw but they are hard not to like them. More information can be found about staying on Skomer Island on The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales website here.

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(Rob Cain Photography) Cain Cliff Island Nature Overnight Photography Portraits Puffins Rob Sea Skomer Stay Sunset Wild Wildlife http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2015/10/skomer-island Sat, 17 Oct 2015 23:00:00 GMT
Reprocessing Images- Low Key Wildlife http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2015/4/reprocessing-images--low-key-wildlife Trips out with the camera haven't been that productive since the start of the year.  So far I have spent time on a few ideas/projects but none have produced anything I would be happy sharing.  This has lead me to spend time on this website, giving it a slightly new look with updates to the blog and galleries.  I have also been processing some images from last year that were overlooked.  I've found more Water Vole images from last years trips that have shown the trips were some of my most productive trips, these are planned to be added to my Water Vole gallery soon and hopefully a further small project if things go well.  This years trips to Water Voles haven't been so good, having so far spent 5 days with very few sightings and even less photographic opportunities.  Thats wildlife photography for you, nothing is guaranteed and things do change from year to year.

Whilst updating my website I've been looking at statistics to see what visitors look at and like the most.  I've found my low key images are some of the most popular images which was a surprise as I only have a few of these images on the website.  This got me thinking about trying to 'process' more of these images.  I say 'process' as these images are created in post-processing rather than at the shutter click stage.  I take a standard wildlife image and then 'process' it by converting to Black & White, adding a strong contract and then apply adjustment brush exposure alterations to give the low key look.  To add the adjustment brush touches I find a graphics tablet is fantastic to allow proper control of the brush stoke direction and strength.  I use a Wacom Intuos small graphics tablet, its about the right size not to take up too much space on the desk but enough to give good control.  Although I would love to create these images in camera, controlling the lighting is impossible with wildlife so Lightroom is the only way to do it. My friend George Wheelhouse introduced me to this technique, you can see his low key black & white images here.  You can see my gallery of Low Key images here.

My new low key images are shown below, I hope you enjoy them.  I'm hoping to add some more soon.

Bald EagleBald EagleBald Eagle (CAPTIVE)

Cabarceno Wildlife Park, Spain.

_D7K3277Bald EagleThe two sides of the Bald Eagle (CAPTIVE).

The Raptor Foundation, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, UK.

Grey HeronGrey HeronWild Grey Heron at ZSL London Zoo (CAPTIVE).

Not available for Commercial Use or Print.

 

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(Rob Cain Photography) B&W Black Cain Key Low Nature Photography Rob White Wildlife and http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2015/4/reprocessing-images--low-key-wildlife Wed, 08 Apr 2015 22:52:52 GMT
Long Exposure Filters- Hitech Firecrest ND Filters http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2015/3/long-exposure-filters-hitech-Firescrest-ND-filters Landscapes was my first interest in photography although wildlife soon took over.  Over the last few years I have tried to get back to landscapes especially with long exposures that I really like.  To get a long exposure in daylight a ND filter is needed.  I use the Lee 100mm filter holder rather than screw in filters as it easy  and cheaper to buy the adaptor rings to suit a larger lens than it is to buy larger screw in filters.  The Lee 100mm filter system is a great bit of kit but it is expensive to buy.

One thing I have struggled with is the colour cast 10 stop ND filters give, many cause a strong blue tint to the image.  It is possible to remove the colour cast in pro-processing but I have found it difficult and have several ruined images due to the strong colour cast.  I found out about the new Hitech Firecrest ND filters that were supposed to have very little if no colour cast.  At Chrsitmas they had a 20% off offer so I purchased a 6 stop and a 10 stop Firecrest ND filter and I thought I would compare them to my older Hitech Pro Stop 10 ND filter.

 

First Impressions of the New Hitech Firecrest ND Filters

The Hitech Firecrest ND Filters come in a small plastic case enclosed in a thin card box.  The filters are sandwiched between two layers of foam and the filter itself is wrapped in tissue paper.  Although the plastic case is not as nice as the filter pouch supplied with Lee filters this not really an issue as my filters are all stored together in a Lee mutli-filter pouch.  The nice Lee filter pouches all sit in my cupboard having never been used since purchase.

One difference I noticed was the new Hitech Firecrest ND Filters are not supplied with a gasket fitted as standard.  Hitech have told me this is due to some customers asking for the gasket not to be fitted.  I was unlucky to have both of the filters delivered without any gaskets.  An email to Hitech customer services and gaskets were soon posted out to me. 

Fitting the gaskets to the filters can be difficult as a lot of care has to be taken to ensure they are straight.  No instructions were included to advise how best to do this.  One gasket went on ok but I tore the second gasket in half during fitting, cue a second email to Hitech customer services for another gasket!  

 

The 10 Stop Filter Comparison

To compare the older Hitech Pro Stop 10 ND filter and the newer Hitech Firecrest 10 Stop ND filter I thought it would be best to compare them against each other and a control image in this a case a unfiltered image.

The exposure settings used were:

Unfiltered Image = ISO 100, f8, 1/500 sec (taken later as a comparison)

Hitech Pro Stop 10 ND Filter = ISO 100, f16, 20 sec

Hitech Firecrest 10 Stop ND Filter = ISO 100, f16, 10 sec

The unfiltered exposure at ISO100, f16 gave a shutter speed of 1/100 second, this was continually checked between exposures to ensure the light level had not changed.  A small shutter speed change on the unfiltered image can mean you could be many seconds out as shutter speed doubles at each stop.

Using a long exposure Calculator App on my phone (the easiest way to calculate the long exposure!) a 10 stop worked out to be 10 seconds.  From previous experience I knew the Hitech Pro Stop 10 ND filter really works out to be a 11 stop ND filter so an adjustment to 20 seconds was used on that filter.

 

Unedited Images

The unedited images can be seen below:

The older Hitech Pro Stop 10 ND filter clearly has a strong blue colour cast.  The new Hitech Firescrest ND filter has a very slight blue colour cast but its not too far off the unfiltered image on the left. There is a clear difference in the colour casts produced by the two ND filters, the Firecrest ND filter clearly gives an easier starting point for editing the unprocessed RAW.   I have previously struggled to remove the strong blue colour cast of the Hitech Pro Stop 10 ND filter and had to reluctantly delete the images.

 

Edited Images (Lightroom 4)

The edited images can be seen below:

The strong blue colour cast of the Hitech Pro Stop 10 ND filter was mostly removed during processing in Lightroom 4. To remove the colour cast a custom white balance of 11000, a tint of +40 and increase in exposure by +0.5 was applied.  The Hitech Firecrest ND filter was easier to process as there was no strong colour cast to remove before you started processing the image.

 

Stacking Hitech Firecrest 6 Stop and 10 Stop Filters

The problem with a 10 stop ND filter in midday sunlight is 10-20 seconds is not really long enough to get good cloud streaks across the sky.  To get good cloud streaks the shutter speed had to be open for longer, this could be done by reducing the ISO or closing the aperture down further.  Neither of these was possible so I thought I would try stacking the Hitech Firecrest 6 stop and 10 stop ND filters to make a 16 stop ND filter.

At ISO100, f16 a 16 stop ND filter would need a shutter speed of 10 minutes and 55 seconds which was far too long for me to stand still and wait.    By opening the aperture to f11 it allowed more light through and reduced the shutter speed to a more manageable 4 minutes and 22 seconds.  

The unedited image can be seen below on the left and the edited image on the right.

 

The Hitech Firecrest 6 stop and 10 stop ND filters stacked on top of each other works very well.  Considering the stacked Firecrest 6 stop and 10 stop ND filters are not a true 16 stop ND filter they work very well with no clear colour cast caused by the stacked ND filters.  The resulting image is both sharp and allows good rendition of colours.  

In the images above there is clearly a white arc at the top of the image.  At first I thought this was due to movement in the sky but as the same white arc is in another 6+10 stop image I can only think it was something caused by stacking the 6 stop and 10 stop Firecrest ND filters.  Further testing of stacking the Hitech Firecrest 6 stop and 10 stop ND filters is needed to ascertain what has caused this problem is needed before I can recommend stacking the two filters.  Although there is this slight white arc issue it is still impressive how well the Hitech Firecrest 6 and 10 stop ND filters stacked.  By cropping to a 16:9 ratio it gave the image below without the white arc.

ROB CAIN PHOTOGRAPHY

Conclusion- Hitech Pro Stop 10 or Hiteh Firecrest 10 stop?

The new Hitech Firecrest ND Filters clearly have very little colour cast compared the older Hitech Pro Stop 10 ND filter.  The benefit of this is you need not worry about removing the strong colour cast later in processing.  The performance of the Hitech Pro Stop 10 ND filter does benefit from applying an extra stop of light making it an 11 stop ND filter rather than a true 10 stop ND filter.  The new Hitech Firecrest 10 stop ND filter does seem to be a true 10 stop ND filter.

Although not factory fitting the gaskets would seem to be a minor niggle, for some I can see this being a major factor when deciding whether to purchase the Hitech Firecrest ND filters.  I cannot see a reason why Hitech would take this step considering they have effectively handicapped what is an excellent product by not completing the task of factory fitting the gasket.  I can understand some may not want them fitting but surely they could sell the Firecrest ND filters with and without gaskets fitted, this would allow them to please all customers rather than one or the other.

Whilst I can recommend the new Hitech Firecrest 6 stop and 10 stop ND filters, I currently can't recommend stacking the two filters to give a 16 stop ND filter until I complete further testing.  If stacking is possible it will clearly make both filters more versatile.

 

PLEASE NOTE: I am not connected to Formatt-Hitech Filters in any way and the above is my own personal review of the filters.

 

 

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(Rob Cain Photography) 10 16 6 Big Buckinghamshire Cain Exposures Filter Firecrest Hitech Landscape Landscapes Lee Long ND Photography Pitstone Pro Rob Stacking Stop Stopper Windmill http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2015/3/long-exposure-filters-hitech-Firescrest-ND-filters Sat, 07 Mar 2015 18:36:16 GMT
My 2014 Review http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2014/12/my-2014-review  

It's at this time of year I look back at my photography year and see what I have done, where I went, what worked and what I have learnt.  At the start of each year I set myself aims/goals I would like to achieve, I feel it helps my photography grow and move forward.  My aims last year were to improve my photography, learn more about the technical side of exposure and focus, learn more about lighting and the creativity it brings and concentrate on a few projects rather than try to capture everything possible.  It is hard to define if I have met these aims.  I have started to feel more in control of the camera and actually know why I'm trying different setting rather than hoping for the best!  The problem with these aims is it is difficult to quantify these aims so in this review I'm going to look at my highlights of 2014 and set aims I'm hoping to be able to compare better next year.

 

My 2014 Highlights

Last year I set out to see more of our iconic British Wildlife but concentrate on only a few so I could visit more than once.  I have found this helps me try to improve the images I capture on each visit.  My highlights in 2014 were:

Barn Owls

One bird of prey I have wanted to see in the wild for a while was Barn Owls.  I have previously looked for them closer to home but Norfolk is known to be the birding capital of Britain and for good reason.  

I made two trips in the space of two weeks as the weather was ideal on both occasions.  Watching a wild Barn Owl hunt at sunrise was a fantastic experience, capturing some nice back lit sunrise images of the Barn Owl was just a bonus.  The last image of the day was a great experience, with the light fading fast we moved to a new location and within minutes were treated to a Barn Owl perch hunt along the fence posts towards us.  We sat in the car and dare not move with the Barn Owl only metres away.  It was a great end to the second trip.  I'm hoping for a return visit to see the Barn Owls again this year if the weather forecast is right. 

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Water Voles

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March was the start of much anticipated project, Water Voles in the Peak District.  The previous year I made two trips to the Peak District to see them and it started what can only be described as an obsession that ended with a full day photographing them at Terry Whittaker's site in Kent.  This year I planned as many trips as possible to visit them as much as possible, in the end I made four trips.  One thing I have learnt from Water Voles is patience is key and nothing is guaranteed with wildlife.  On the first trip of the year we had very few sighting and limited photographic opportunities.  The next two trips gave us opportunities that I never thought would be possible with wild Water Voles.  We found if we were quiet and crawled very slowly we were able to get within 1-2 metres of them.  At times I had to back away as they happy made their way along the bank munching as they went, my lens wouldn't focus as they were within the minimum focus distance (2 metres) of the lens!  One of my favourite aspects of photographing Water Voles in the Peak District are passersby are interested in them and always ask what we are photographing.  Its great to see how happy people are when I'm able to point out a Water Vole, especially if they haven't seen one for years.  You could say I've become a PR rep for Water Voles.  My Water Vole image portfolio is starting to become something I'm proud of, it is definitely my most extensive study of a wild British animal.

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Red Squirrels

One iconic British animal I had never seen in the wild D71_6731D71_6731 was Red Squirrels.  I had seen them several times at The British Wildlife Centre and it was always great to watch them but seeing them in the wild was an ambition of mine.  Sadly I live in the south of England and we have no wild Red Squirrels.  Through a friend I found out about Forest How, guest house in the small Cumbrian Lake District village of Eskdale.  The guest house is visit daily by Red Squirrels that live in the woods surrounding the guest house.  By chance I had booked 4 nights when one of my flickr contacts and Red Squirrel enthusiast Peter Trimmings was staying.  Peter was very helpful and I spent four early morning photographing the Red squirrels with him.  I wouldn't have got as many good images if it wasn't for Peter's help.

Staying at Forest How is a perfect holiday for my wife and I, it allows me to get my photography fix by getting up for sunrise and then have a normal holiday during the day.  It does mean getting up early, it was a 5am start each morning so I was knacker by the forth morning.  

Being able to spend time watching and photographing wild Red Squirrels is a great experience and one of the British Wildlife experiences everyone should have once in their life.  A couple of weeks after I left Peter informed me there was a squirrel pox outbreak at Forest How.  Many of the local Red Squirrel population did not survive the out break and it was a sad reminder of the risks Red Squirrels face.  Thankfully after the squirrel pox outbreak declined  a small population survived and are starting to do well again. D71_6830D71_6830

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Looking Forward into 2015:

So my aims for this year are:

  • Complete A Few Iconic British Wildlife Projects Rather Than Try To See And Photograph Everything

Again this year I want to continue where I left off last year.  There are so much iconic British Wildlife that I would like to see and photograph but for me its not about trying to see everything but give enough time to what I do see to do them justice.  I want to continue with some of the projects I have started this year, my highlights this year have been Red Squirrels and Water Voles.  I'm planning to continue visiting Water Voles in the Peak District.  I may look at visiting a few new locations so I can increase the variety of my Water Vole images.  I have a few ideas that if they come off they will hopefully mean I can get some original images of wild Water Voles.  Red Squirrels are something I would like to continue again this year, its likely to be only one or two trips due to the logistics of getting to them.

 

  • Be Creative/Original and Stay Away From 'Pay and Display' Photography

Looking back on images I have taken this year the images I like the most have been the ones where I have put in effort to find the locations and taken the time to properly understand the location to get the best images I could.  I have spent some time this year on what I call 'Pay and Display' photography but I haven't really enjoyed it.  Don't get me wrong I understand why people like it but its just not for me.  I like to get some images that I feel I have worked to get rather than be told to sit in this hide/position, point here and click.  This year I'm going to try to stay away from these hides/days as I want to get something more original rather than go trying to tick off the possible images for that location.

 

  • Find Out What My Photography Style Is

Last year my aim was to improve and pin down what my photography style is.  So far I feel it is low, small depth of field portrait photography.  Its not a ground breaking or creative style as many photographers have the same style.  Knowing what style produces my best images means I can direct my limited resources towards that style. 

 

  • Try more Wide Angle and Shorter Focal Length Photography

Currently I'm very much a long telephoto wildlife photographer, there is nothing wrong with this as for many species is very difficult to get close.  One of the main things I have learnt this year is getting close is very important to improve the detail and sharpness of an image.  Through improving my fieldcraft (which I still have much to learn about) I've found it is possible to get close so this has made me think of trying wide angle and shorter telephoto photography.  I have a few ideas for wide angle images but its going to be limited to only a few locations I think it may work at.

 

  • Stay Local

One thing I haven't done well at in 2014 was trying to stay local.  Where I live in the UK means I don't have many iconic British wildlife species and its meant I've looked further a field.  This year I hope to stay local more, one location I need to give more time is Woburn Deer Park as its a great location that I currently don't use to its full potential. 

 

  • Enter More Competitions

January ended with some great news for me, one of shortlisted of my three shortlisted images in The British Wildlife Centres Photography Competition 2013 came as the runner up in the Animal Portrait category.  It was great to be placed as a runner up in the first photography competition I had entered.  I learnt a lot from entering and from speaking to Danny Green (one of the judges) at a photography show two month later about why he chose the images he did.  I'm planning to enter more low level competitions, I don't think I yet have anything good enough for the likes of the British Wildlife Photography Awards or the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards.

 

  • Be More Social

One aim this year is get out on social media more and connect with more photographers.  Flickr is my main social interaction, I have been a member for several years but I plan to branch out into other social media and update this website more often than I did in 2014.  

 

  • Make Time For Landscapes

When I first started photography it was landscapes that interested me, as time went this fell to the wayside as my wildlife photography grew.  This year I plan to set more time aside for landscape photography, something I didn't do much of last year and an area I would like to learnt more about.

 

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(Rob Cain Photography) 2014 Cain Photographer Rob photo review wildlife http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2014/12/my-2014-review Wed, 31 Dec 2014 17:00:20 GMT
New Photo Story: Grey Seal Horsey Sunrise http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2014/12/new-photo-story-grey-seal-horsey-sunrise I hope you have had a great Christmas, I've spent the Christmas period with family in between working which has left little time for photography but sometimes you need a break to recharge.  It's been nearly a year since my last photo story, this particular photo story has been over a year in the making, nearly two years in fact.  Grey Seals are a favourite of species of mine and when I'm in Norfolk I try to make a trip to Horsey to see them.  Grey Seals can be seen along the beach throughout the year at Horsey the best time to see them is when they congregate in huge numbers during the pupping season during November and December.  During the pupping season Horsey gets hundreds of visitors daily to see the cute white furry seal pups, knowing this I planned a trip before the pupping season start in early October.  You can read more about this trip and how I got this photo in my new Photo Story Grey Seal:Horsey Sunrise or see all of my photo stories here.

 

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(Rob Cain Photography) Horsey Norfolk beach cain coast grey photo rob seal story sunrise http://www.robcainphotography.com/blog/2014/12/new-photo-story-grey-seal-horsey-sunrise Tue, 30 Dec 2014 20:22:31 GMT