Experimental Exbury

With a weekend of amazing weather, it was time to make a return visit to Exbury Gardens, tucked away by Beaulieu River, and not far from the somewhat more famous Bucklers Hard (home of Napoleonic-era British Man-o-War). A few warmer nights have encouraged quite a few of the shrubs and ground flowers to bloom, and, more importantly, a day out with the Olympus OM-D EM-1 was long overdue. Bearing in mind that I’m still in very (very) early days with this wonderful piece of kit (maybe 40-50 exposures, most of them tinkering), the comparison below, of the two daffodil blooms, might be instructive. The pale subject was taken with my Canon EOS 7D partnered with the Canon 24-70mm f2.8L lens, and taken last year, at which time I would consider that I was pretty familiar with the gear. The somewhat more golden daff was taken in late afternoon sunlight by the OM-D EM-1, in an almost-careless “have-at-it” snap. I did notice that the Oly seemed to get a bit annoyed with the gentle breeze today – the flower stem was yielding in a slight breeze and as a result the lens spent a little time hunting, but having said that I reckon the image blows the Canon equivalent away.

Now, I’d like to emphasise that I’m just a below-average snapper, not a professional or even a trained photographer. Any abilities I’ve acquired are “self-taught” through accidents rather than actual learning. Even so, to my eye, this Olympus is already producing images that run rings round my Canon. Neither are cheap options, but on balance the Olympus wins on 2 fronts: it’s 2/3 the size and 2/3 the weight of my 7D and 24-70mm lens; and of course it produces better images. Which, after all, is what it’s all about, right?

Weyhill (VIII)

Working through yesterday’s 300-odd images turned out to be a real delight, mainly because (through fluke or acquired skill: you decide) I had managed to be a little more successful in terms of capturing some half-decent shots. You can imagine my surprise when I went through the collection and dug out a few more nice images…

Weyhill (VII)

So having made a trip on Easter Sunday, what better to do than make a return visit the very next day? As it happened, the weather on Easter Monday was several degrees cooler than the day before, so in that respect it was an exercise in fortitude. On the other hand, I think the pictures were definitely worth it!

Weyhill (VI)

A year ago we had Easter temperatures nudging mid-twenties centigrade and higher, and [quite a few] people in the sea. Today apparently the best we could hope for was 5 or 6 degrees centigrade, which would be about freezing in the open air. Which of course meant that it was time to dust off the 7D and go point it at some raptors at Weyhill.

A few changes to this year’s flying display, with some welcome additions, though unfortunately I found my experimentation with the camera probably wasted more shots than I would have liked. The best of the bunch seemed to come out at 800 ISO, which is why this selection looks a little grainy, but the fault was the user, not the kit [as always].

I had a couple of objectives for this visit… First, I wanted to experiment with centre-spot focus control with the aim of persuading the camera not to resolve distant foliage with precise detail, but to stay with the subject. That was more successful than I would have hoped for. Second, I wante to see if I could balance the “trinity” – the “ISO” sensitivity of the sensor, the shutter speed and the aperture, to get clear effect. In these examples I reckon that I over-played the ISO sensitivity – shutter releases were all in the range of 1/2000th to 1/2500th of a second, aperture was dialled in at around f8.0 or so, and the ISO, at 800, was probably too far. I reckon that I could have dropped the ISO to say 640, trimmed the shutter speed down towards 1/1250th or so and still got good results.

Still, I don’t go expecting perfect, I go expecting to learn – and I think today was an OK day in that regard.

Weyhill (V)

This year marks my 25th season of making visits to the Weyhill Hawk Conservancy Centre, and it just keeps getting better and better. Except maybe for Gary’s jokes… Some nice variety in the flying displays today, but I was particularly pleased with the finale to the “Valley of the Eagles”. Not only was Danebury making a return from retirement to keep Cheyenne company, but we were rewarded with some stunning flying and suitably impressive landings…