Sunday, 7 February 2016

Automatic for the pheasants

Work was doing my head in, and my back needed a good stretch, so I headed out to the reserve for a break to play around without any preconceptions. As always seems to be the case these days the sun had shone all morning while I was toiling away and decided to hide as soon as I set foot out of the door. At least the dim light made it easier to play around at turning day into night.

Having taken my super-zoom I thought I'd be struggling for light in the hides. Indeed I was having trouble getting the exposure I wanted using aperture or shutter priority mode. No amount of fiddling with exposure compensation or metering modes would produce the results I was after. In desperation I spun the dial to the one mode the forum experts decry. Auto... Well not quite full Auto. Auto with disabled flash. It worked! The only drawback was not being able to select a focus point. However, as I use back button focus I was able to jiggle things to get the focus on what I wanted then release the button to lock focus and re-frame the shot.

By some magic trickery it made a better job of balancing the exposure between the brighter outdoors and the dim hide interior than I was managing by doing things 'right'. I still had to make use of the camera's wonder sensor to recover detail, but it was one less thing to think about.

Once more the occupants of the hide were more entertaining than the wildlife outside. I was sorely tempted to make some pro-Nikon  comments while I earwigged a dreary conversation about the specs and performance of Canon's top of the range cameras. Another topic that was mentioned was how dreary the light is around here and how much easier life is behind a lens down south. I suppose low light levels are a problem for Canon shooters...

The main thing with wildlife photography is access to your quarry. And if it happens to live in a dull environment then reflect that in your photos. Although I don't take serious wildlife pictures I never turn down an opportunity when it falls in my lap.

Walking along one of the paths I saw a cock pheasant pecking away at something. I fully expected it to scuttle off as I approached, which it did. but it didn't scuttle very far. Just out of sight behind an earth bank from whence it quickly popped its head up. Then, being bold, it began to retrace its steps just a few feet away from me. Even the pheasants that feed in my back garden are less approachable than this one was. the earth mound was just the right height to put the bird more or less at my eye level without me having to bend my creaky knees, and therefore make the pictures I took look less like the snaps they were.

The ISO was quite high (8000), but there's a surprising amount of detail retained even after a minor noise reduction exercise, and that superzoom is pleasingly sharp.

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