Sunday, 27 November 2011

More Axe Birdwatching

We went back to the Seaton bird hide the next day, there were plenty of birds but the weather was poor. Cold and very dark and not at all suited to photography.

Here's the best I managed (all taken with Nikon D700, 70-200 f/2.8G VR II and TC-2E III converter (400mm focal length equivalent):

Male Pheasant Enjoying Leftovers from Bird Feeder

Little Grebe (I got quite close to this, but it's a very small bird!)

Cormorants Flying along the Axe

Axmouth Harbour

Went for a walk across Seaton Beach down to the harbour at Axmouth.
Took some shots with my iPhone and the Hipstamatic "Toy Camera" app. I quite like this for stylised monochrome shots using Claunch 72 monochrome "film" and the John S "lens".

Beer Head and Seaton Hole

I toned down the contrast using a curve in NX2  in the following shots to open up the highlights and shadows a bit:

Axmouth Harbour

Axmouth Harbour

Axmouth Harbour

At the end of the harbour is an amazing very narrow shingle spit which blocks the harbour entrance to all but small boats. I shot a 6-image panorama with the Autostich app, but prefer the one I created on the computer with PTGui, converted to monochrome to match the other images. Best viewed large!

Axmouth Spit

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Black Hole Marsh

We also visited Black Hole Marsh nature reserve, which is a large saltwater lagoon having two large bird hides, one in the middle of the lagoon  (Island Hide) and the other overlooking both the lagoon and the Axe Estuary (Tower Hide).

There were many birds to be seen, but just as at the Seaton hide, a 400mm lens was not really enough to get frame-filling shots of the birds.

All the following taken with Nikon D700, 70-200 f/2.8G VR II and TC-2E III converter (400mm focal length equivalent):

Heron Fishing on the Lagoon with the Island Hide in the background

Axe Estuary from the Tower Hide
Pair of Bar-tailed Godwits

Little Egret

Mallards on the Lagoon


Fallow Deer  and Egret on the banks of the Axe

Pied Wagtail on the thick green algae of Black Hole Marsh.
Rat enjoying leftovers from the bird feeder

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Bird Watching on the Axe Estuary

Whilst down in Devon, we also visited the nature reserves and bird hides on the Axe Estuary.

Whilst not as picturesque as the Otter Estuary at Budleigh Salterton, there is a much greater variety of birdlife on the Axe.

However I now realise that when Birders say that you can get close up views of the birds, they mean with a powerful spotting scope and not with a photographic lens! The 400mm setup I was using was not really enough.

In the hide

All the following taken with Nikon D700, 70-200 f/2.8G VR II and TC-2E III converter (400mm focal length equivalent):


Group of Redshanks

Little Egret

Female Pheasant (in the garden)

Cormorant (at Seaton Hole)

More HDR

I processed one of my HDR sequences in Nik Software's HDR Efex Pro, which is a very easy to use piece of software, particularly if you have experience of other Nik products like Capture NX.

Unfortunately it is a plug-in which requires Photoshop, which I don't have. However the Lightroom version is effectively a stand-alone program and has a file menu where you can select the input files.

Sunrise at Seaton Hole
For my taste this is a little artificial looking, but I got a lot of positive comments over at Flickr so I guess it's a matter of taste...

Saturday, 5 November 2011

First go at HDR

Had a go at HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography for the first time in Devon.

I shot the sunrise at Seaton Hole as a hand-held 5 exposure sequence (-2 -1 0 +1 +2 EV : "5F 1.0" in Nikon speak). Unfortunately I didn't notice at the time, but the -2 shot still had the sun overexposed which means the sun is going to be overexposed in the resulting HDR image. I guess I should have used a 7 exposure sequence or maybe have a 2 EV gap between exposures. In any case, that will hopefully teach me to check the histogram next time...

As I don't have any dedicated HDR software, I merged the sequence together in PtGui Pro. This is normally intended for (HDR) panorama stitching. Fortunately it is happy stitching single view panoramas, which also allowed me to cater for the camera moving between exposures. I used the "Exposure Fusion" method (ie exposure blending) rather than Tone Mapping so that the sea would become more of a blur (as it moved a lot between exposures):

Exposure Fusion in PtGui
For comparison, here's the base exposure (+0 EV) image, after processing in Capture NX2 to lighten the shadows and darken the sky with controls points:

Base exposure processed in CNX2

Here is the unmodified base exposure, straight from the camera:

Straight from the Camera
After all that effort I think I prefer the CNX2-edited version, but maybe I just need some more practice with HDR!?

More than anything else, I think this result is a testament to the DR and "Pixel Integrity" of the D700, which allows a lot of headroom in post processing. Although taking 1 shot and using an ND graduated filter would probably have been the best solution for this particular scene.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

East Devon Continued

Some iPhone pictures:

Seaton Bay from Beer Hill at Sunset
Gulls on Beer Beach
We also had a pair of Pheasants in the garden, which was a bit of a surprise. There are always plenty of rabbits and wild birds, but this is the first time I've seen game birds.

Here is the male, sitting on the garden wall, wondering what I'm up to:

Male Pheasant
I also spotted these attractive white Cyclamen in the garden: