Monday, 19 January 2009

Camera bore

In common with many people, I’m sure, I’ve always found bird photography frustrating. My first efforts, many years ago, involved a manual Fujica film camera with a cheap and nasty 500mm lens, which looked impressive in a cock extension kind of way, but was complete crap. Unless the light was absolutely perfect you couldn’t even see what you were trying to photograph through the viewfinder, and I never managed to take anything even bordering on acceptable with it.

After that I had a Pentax ME Super, which was a good camera, but again I was hampered by the lack of a decent lens. And the fact that it used film, which is frankly a ridiculous way to take photos, on a par with using candles to light your home. In 2001 I jumped on the digiscoping bandwagon, firstly with a Panasonic camcorder and then with the ubiquitous Nikon Coolpix 995. If anything, digiscoping was even more frustrating – my scope really wasn’t up to it, adding a hideous blue fringe to everything, and I always found the shutter lag on the Coolpix made taking photos of birds a very hit and miss affair. This was made even worse by the utterly useless (and stupidly expensive) Nikon remote release cable. This rarely worked properly, and eventually stopped working altogether, a far from uncommon occurrence apparently!

A couple of years ago I bought a Panasonic Lumix FZ-30, with a 1.7 x convertor. This was a great improvement on digiscoping, but suffered from a rather slow autofocus which didn’t work at all on anything in flight, and went horribly grainy at anything other than the lowest ISO setting. Nevertheless, I did manage to take some half decent photos with it when conditions were right – i.e. a close bird in good light.

Recently, after many years of pissing around, I finally got myself a proper digital SLR, and a big fuck-off lens to go on it. I’ve just sold my old Panasonic camera on ebay, so I can’t show you a photo of it, but it’s a Canon 450D with a Sigma 150-500mm lens. The lens is pretty heavy, but it’s stabilized, so can be handheld at shutter speeds down to about 1/125th of a second.

Now, before any ‘professionals’ out there start looking down their ten grand 1D Mk IIIs + f4 prime lenses at me, don’t worry, I shan’t be getting any delusions of grandeur, or entering your ‘who can afford the most expensive camera gear?’ competitions. I know it’s only an entry-level DSLR, and a third-party zoom lens, but this is way better than anything I’ve ever owned before, and for the first time in my life I can take bird photos that I’m completely happy with.

And now some examples to bore you with:




10 comments:

beast said...

Nice pix there Andy...long may you be happy with yer new kit! Only do a bit of digiscoping now and then myself. My first instincts are always to go for my bins rather than camera! Been taking some good pix of idiot dog walkers at EBR recently...arseoles! Had a right go at stupid woman yesterday who went down to mud [north end] with dog and husband. She was feeding the ducks! I said to her 'wot ducks you feeding?....you've flushed everything'...dimwitted cunt. I kept my cool though...as they continued to walk round i diplomatically yelled out..'yer fuckin idiots'...[apologies for sweary...slightly off topic rant..feel better now].

Warren Baker said...

well worth the investment too mate.

VectisBirder said...

Welcome to the addictive world of bird photography. It'll suck you in!

Mark said...

Nice picks Andy. As a fellow entry level 3rd party lens, birder with a camera I am never surprised by the amount of wank photos that appear on the net taken with "professional" gear. For what's possible with our standard of gear have a look at john Robinson's pics on Surfbirds.

Andy Mackay said...

Yes, a lot of the images that people put on Surfbirds, I would just delete, and certainly wouldn't show anyone! Unless they were of something rare that no-one else had got of course.

I'd heard that John Robinson 'only' has relatively inexpensive gear, but his photos are superb - at least the equal of many pros.

Just as owning the latest bins and scope doesn't make you a better birder, so being able to afford to spend ten grand on camera gear doesn't necessarily make you a better photographer!

Steve said...

noooooo! There's me thinking that there were still the odd corner of the inter.crap.thing.com.net that I could womble off to in times of dire need of mirth and hilarity, and you do this! Shame on you Andy! Please no more or I'll just have to start looking at smurfbirds all over again. Oh the thought of it. Endless photos of the same . . . . sorry, I drfited off there.

Andy Mackay said...

Don't worry Steve, I probably shan't be posting any more of my photos on here - at least until October. However, I seem to have run out of mirth and hilarity at the moment, so resorted to posting this in the absence of anything else.

beast said...

Cheer up Andy....give birth to mirth n fuck em all!
Steve...do wot i do when i'm in need of a larf....watch 'Bill Hicks hates hecklers' on youtube!.....or you cud always tune into Turdforum n view the 'masters of tedium n testosterone' butt heads over a feckin iceland gull!

[personally i wud recommend you watch Mr.Hicks......]!

Steve said...

When I really need cheering up I still turn to the classic Birds of Britain video, on youtube and on my blog - I nearly pisssed myself when I first saw it!

Mike Watson said...

Hi Andy, we're all photographers now;) Sorry to veer off the topic but Pete Morris has asked if there is any chance you could post something about this? http://www.komitee.de/en/index.php?youtube_france
Get your expletives ready everyone(but feel sorry for the French birders who live in an even worse country for maiming than we do)! BR, Mike