Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wildwood Trust

Fawn (Hand raised for easier herd management)

Last weekend I headed down to Herne Bay, Kent, to vist the Wildwood Trust. The journey there was quite long via the trains - and hour and a half to get to the Herne Bay Railway station, then another half an hour on the bus. The buses are a little tricky, bus 4 goes to Wildwood, and 6 is the one for the return journey.

One of the first critters (didn't process the photo due to crappy composition - my fault) to be seen were the Ravens. They are actually quite BIG in real life, far bigger than I expected. I do NOT want to meet them in the dark. Next up were the deer, and there were little fawns being hand raised, in order to keep them less flighty, and easier to manage e.g. for administering medicine. To be honest, they are probably the first critter I've encountered to be seriously affected by my camera. Every shutter release made them shudder. Hmm. Anyways, they were moving way to rapidly for my skill, thankfully I managed to get that shot above that I though well, not too bad but could do with the defocused fawn out of the way :P

Artic Fox

When I arrived in the early morning, I was rather lucky to be presented with the artic fox just enjoying a sunbath just besides the viewing portal (which is made of course, of evil glass). The 300mm wide open was just enough to capture the little furball. At a first glance I thought I was looking at a cub, and it was only later on I realized that it was adult fox sized, and the rounded ears would probably be evolved to keep body heat, rather like the polar opposite of the Fennecs and their oversized ears for cooling down. Later during the day when I returned, it was quite difficult to get a good shot as its enclosure seemed to be actually quite big.

Wild Boars

Just opposite the artic fox was another huge area where 2 wild boars were languishing whilst a 3rd, younger boar was foraging for food. The 70-200VR was very useful here to crop the shot the way I wanted it. The fencing here was quite widely spaced, enough for a lens to get an unobstructed view, but not allowing anything larger to pass through.

Moving on along, was another enclosure closed up for a year to allow the land to renew itself, followed by a red deer enclosure. Didn't bother to take a shot as I need a minimum of a 600mm lens to get to them, plus they were in the shade.

There seemed to be two packs of wolves, but in either case they were nigh difficult to shoot. The fencing in this area was very thick, and the camera constantly kept focusing on the fence (!!!) instead of the wolves. Grrr. In addition the entire park lives up to its name of Wildwood - trees abound everywhere, not just the wolf enclosure. This makes it somewhat difficult to get a shot, especially with the wolves in the shade. The fencing also causes a large decrease in the sharpness of the lens, a tad annoying but hey it's a conservation trust not a photography studio.

Red Fox

I seemed to be having lots of luck that day with the foxes. I was part of a sequence of shots where the fox was lazily yawning for the camera, when suddenly this huge gust of wind came by. I have no idea why, but at 630mm eq fov @ 1/80 of a second, I managed to get the shot =) It is sufficiently sharp, considering me being buffeted by the wind and the long focal length. Another one for a large print :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Ms Emma Tooth - Fine Artist

Ms Olivia

Several weeks ago I visited the Kensal Green Cemetery on its open day. It was a great day out, and I happened to meet these two fair ladies that were willing to pose for the camera :) I'd used the 55mm 2.8 AIS Micro nikkor - basically my only choice as my 70-200 was in the shop. And that, it did not disappoint. Now usually when I'm out shooting wildlife, I'm always fighting shutter speed - I need speed to stop motion. That kinda carried on here, and as I was very nervous, I just adjusted my aperture to a somewhat low setting of F4 - hoping that that would sharpen the lens a tiny bit - and max out my shutter speed for whatever exposure that was. In retrospect, it would have been better to just stop down to F8, as I probably have the shutter speed to get more of the subject in focus - critical focus was of course on the eyes. At F4 though, most of the image was defocused. It's unlikely that you will see this in a web sized image, only the full res image will highlight this fact. I'll just have to do a test print to see if this works :)

The lighting that day was pretty diffuse, but as always my SB600 is always engaged. I'd set it off-shoe to camera left on both photos, and it provided the critical highlights to the eyes, as well as to give the colours some pop. Flash rules!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Toy!

The last week or so has been spent setting up my new toy: a replacement laptop for my macbook pro, a Dell M6400. The system came with only a 80GB hdd, so first thing I did was to swap it out and put in two 320gb hard drives. The boot drive I used a 320gb WD Scorpio Black, their top of the line 7.2k drive. The data drive was just a 5.4k rpm I picked up at a tech bazaar. My OS of choice is obviously Ubuntu, however being this is a pretty well specc'ed laptop, I thought that I'd install Vista 64 to get some gaming in (Trackmania Nations Forever ROCKS!).

Partitioning the boot drive was pretty straight forward:
- First partition would be /
- Second partition would be /home
- Third partition is the swap drive
- Fourth and final partition is for Vista

I'd given Vista a fair bit of space, in retrospect I should have provided it even less since I only boot into it to play *1* game. Everything went very smoothly, and surprisingly, even all the extra feature buttons of the M6400 worked out of the box in 9.04 - the only thing that I had to fudge with was the Nvidia drivers. Oddly enough the quadro drivers did not show up on the restricted drivers manager, so anyways, a quick install of Envy NG sorted that out.

Next of course was color management. Now Vista 64 out of the box had me very worried - photos and dvds were overexposed by one stop or more (!!!!) and it turns out that the nvidia vista control panel was set for very aggressive brightness, contrast and gamma. In any case, calibrating with an Eye one Display 2 quickly gave me back expected colors and saturation. I would like to mention that I actually got the 1440x900 screen. My MBP has a higher resolution of 1680x1050, however at many times I had to move very close to the screen to read smaller text. A lower resolution screen helps by providing larger text for an easier read, so I hope this isn't an error in my part down the road. It is also a "normal" CCFL display, not the newfangled RGB led stuff that's all over the market now. My take on this is that while I would love the extra color gamut, I only do photo processing for several hours a week, if at all. I'm not going to suffer through an over saturated desktop the rest of the time.

On Ubuntu, things went well using Argyll CMS, props to Mr Gill for releasing this for us on linux. Now Argyll at the high quality settings takes much longer than Eye One Match, however I think it performs better as on the lagom lcd test site,, on the contrast page I was able to make out all the individual colors. It performs well on the black point page (I can see all the black squares), and the white saturation page only 253 and 254 were not distinguisable.

The gamut of this crappy ccfl is probably very small, I'll see down the road if I want to plug in a rgb-led. (The M6400 is highly upgradable... cpu, four ddr3 ram slots, lcd etc. All you need to do is find the spare parts off ebay)

That said, I still think the old screen on my mbp has the edge, at least in viewing angles. Both are matte, but the MBP offers much better side to side viewing tolerance. Oh well. There has to be a reason macs are just so expensive eh?

So far, the last week I have been enjoying the improved productivity in linux, the main thing I miss from OSX would be the background wallpaper (!!) - I think that in OSX it's color managed. In 9.04 it doesn't seem to be. The wallpaper-tray widget provides the same wallpaper switching ala OSX, so I'm sorted there.

One awesome thing about this baby is that Houdini runs together with Compiz, so I can get snazzy desktop effects and run H at the same time. Woo!