Ophrys Photography

Wildlife photography by John Devries, Kent UK. Inspirational images from nature.
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Image of the month 2009 header - Tiger

Image(s) of the month 2009

Archives :

December 2009-
Cheetah yawning and hunting hyena
cheetah yawning
This is a cheetah yawning - it makes me yawn too every time I look at it.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII, 500mm f4 IS lens , 1/250th sec at f5.6 ISO400
+ 11/3 exposure compensation
This is a hyena hunting in the first rays of sunlight at the beginning of another day in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. He looks particularly menacing as I am at eye level to him.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII, 500mm f4 IS lens, 1/400th sec at f4 ISO800, -0.33 exposure compensation to underexpose and saturate the colours a little.

November 2009-
Leopard with its ears back, pelicans in flight and a little bee-eater
Leopards are very secretive but this one very kindly posed right out in the open for a few moments. Her ears are back as she is listening to something unseen behind her.The light was fading badly and this was a high ISO shot but the digital noise levels are still very good as I exposed to the right (see my tutorials).

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII, 500mm f4 IS lens 1/80th sec at f5.6 ISO1600
+ 2/3 exposure compensation.

white pelicans
White pelicans are very beautiful in flight - particularly when flying in formation against the African sky like this.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII, 500mm f4 IS lens 1/5000th sec at f5.6 ISO400. No exposure compensation needed as the sky is a midtone.

little bee eater
This stunning little bee-eater posed in perfect light but I was forced to handhold the 1DmkIII and big lens at 1000mm. The shot is still tack-sharp thanks to the lens's image stabiliser. The 2x converter works superbly on the 500 f4 lens when it is given good light and stopped down a little.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII, 500mm f4 IS lens with 2x converter, handheld, 1/400th sec at f9 ISO400 +2/3 exposure compensation.

October 2009- Common zebras
zebra sunrise

When the sun is rising as a a big red ball it creates a wonderful warm light that is perfect for backlit images like these common zebras in the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII, 500mm f4 IS lens 1/160th sec at f4 ISO400
zebra suckling

September in Kenya is a great time for seeing young animals - like this suckling zebra foal.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII, 500mm f4 IS lens 1/200th sec at f4.5 ISO400

September 2009- Cheetah and sunbeams
cheetah in sunbeam
I spent a couple of weeks in September on safari in Kenya. We came across this cheetah just before a late afternoon thunderstorm. The sun broke through the clouds for a few minutes before the heavens opened.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII, 70-200mm f2.8 IS lens at 70mm 1/500th sec at f5

August 2009- Butterflies - Small tortoiseshell, Peacock, and White admirals
small tortoiseshell

The small tortoiseshell used to be such a common butterfly in the UK, but it has become strangely scarce in the last few years. Whether this has been because of a recent wet summers I'm not sure. Butterfly Conservation are investigatin the causes and apparently a tiny parasitoid fly Sturmia bella is the current suspect. Anyway, I was very pleased to find this one feeding on the verbenas in my garden. By using a fairly wide aperture (f8 is wide in close-up work) I was able to make the background flowers nice and diffuse. I would have liked to have used f4 to make the background a total pastel blur, but I doubt if the depth of field would have rendered all the wings and antennae in focus if I had.

- Image taken with Canon 1Ds mkII, 100mm f2.8mm macro lens , ISO 400 1/320th sec at f8, handheld.

peacock butterfly
I normally prefer my wildlife on natural backgrounds, but this one came out so nicely I thought I'd include it. Due to the windy conditions that have prevailed for most of this summer, I have been experimenting with flash - both as fill-in with aperture priority and also full flash (with the camera set to manual mode.) To remove harsh shadows I am now using a Lumiquest Ultrasoft diffuser on the flash head which is very effective..

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII, 100mm f2.8mm macro lens , ISO 400 1/250th sec at f10 plus 580ex II flash plus Lumiquest Ultrasoft diffuser, handheld.

white admiral
This is one of the white admirals feeding on bramble flowers. The adults are very active later in the heat of the day, so an early start was necessary to get this one down feeding on nectar. The foodplant of the larvae is honeysuckle.

- Image taken with Canon 1Ds mkII, 180mm f3.5mm macro lens plus 1.4x extender (252mm) 1/400 sec f11, ISO 400 and a monopod.
white admiral closeup
Close up of white admiral feeding on bramble. You can see the proboscis probing the flowers and the individual facets of the compound eyes are clearly visible.

- Image taken with Canon 1Ds mkII, 180mm f3.5mm macro lens plus 1.4x extender (252mm) 1/500 sec f9, -1 exposure compensation, ISO 400 fill flash set to -1.5 and a monopod.

July 2009- Ophrys apifera var belgarum, a rare hybrid and a goshawk
bee orchid var belgarum
An Ophrys from Ophrys Photography this month. This is a variant of Ophrys apifera - the bee orchid called var Belgarum (named after Winchester where it was first found.) I have now seen the plant growing in Kent and now in the Chilterns - where this image was captured.

- Image taken with Canon 1Ds mkII, 100mm f2.8 macro lens - 1/80 sec f10, ISO 200.
common spoted x frog orchid hybrid
I am pleased to be able to include another rare orchid this month ( I don't want to turn solely into a bird and mammal photographer). This is a real odd ball - it is a hybrid between a frog orchid and the well-known common spotted orchid. Until recent DNA analysis, these two plants belonged in different families and would have seemed unlikey to hybridise. However, despite its appearance, the frog orchid (a short green plant which is the orchid equivalent of Shrek) is now classifed as a Dactylorhiza (along with the showy marsh and spotted orchids) it is perhaps not so surprising afer all.

- Image taken with Canon 1Ds mkII, 100mm f2.8 macro lens - 1/30 sec f11, ISO 200 + mirror lockup + perspex windshield.

The final image is of a wild goshawk taken in Hungary. I was really excited to see this fabulous raptor at very close range at a forest drinking pool. The image was taken through one-way glass to prevent alerting this very wary bird.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII, 500mm f4 IS lens - 1/800 sec f5, ISO 400.

June 2009- Red grouse and early marsh orchid

red grouse

This is a male red grouse in the Scottish Highlands in April. The picture was taken from the car using a bean bag for support. The light levels were poor - as it had been raining and it was still very overcast but this was a blessing in disguise as sunshine would have made the image too contrasty - bringing out the blue sheen on the feathers of this lovely bird. The heather was not actually in flower, but still had enough magenta in the stems and leaves to make a lovely background. How anyone can shoot these gorgeous birds - I just don't know.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII, 500mm f4 IS lens plus 1.4x extender (700mm) f5.6 - 1/100 sec f8, ISO 800 + 0.33 exposure compensation.

early marsh orchid ssp incarnata
This is the flesh coloured (incarnata) colour form of early marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata ssp incarnata.) Although this is not a rare orchid, it was photographed at the only Kentish site that I know for it. This year it appeared to be enjoying a good year with over 40 flowering spikes in the field where I found it.

- Image taken with Canon 1Ds mkII, 100mm macro f2.8 lens f8 - 1/160 sec f8, ISO 200.

May 2009- Iceland gull in flight
iceland gull
This is a first-winter Iceland gull (the first I have seen) on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. An exotic species took an exotic food to lure it in - Whisky flavoured mince pies actually. Bread would have done, but the pies were all I had left in my bag ! Light was terrible, but still managed to get enough shutterspeed to freeze the motion at 1000 iso..

- Image taken with Canon 1Ds mkII, 400mm f5.6 lens - 1/1250 sec f8, ISO 1000 + 0.33 exposure compensation.

April 2009- Langurs
Langur and baby
The langur monkeys created a great distraction while searching for tigers in India. By March the babies (that look like little gremlins I think ) are still being suckled and have to hang on tight as their mothers leap about through the trees. The langurs, spotted deer and sambar deer work together as lookouts for tigers and their alarm calls are a good indicator that there is a tiger in the area.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII plus 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS lens f 5.6 at 320 mm 1/60 sec f5.6 ISO 800
langur backlit
This portrait of an adult langur was captured against the light - as I liked the way that the fur created a halo effect (rim lighting). Getting the exposure right was critical in order to retain detail in the face which was in shadow - fortunately the camera's metering got this spot on when left to it's own devices.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII plus 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 IS lens f 5.6 at 400 mm 1/400 sec f5.6 ISO 400

March 2009- Tiger, gaur and sambar fawn
I travelled to India again in February to three reserves to hopefully photograph tigers. Sadly poaching and loss of habitat continues to put this magnificent animal under threat and I was surprised at how much harder I had to work to get any opportunities to photograph this species than I did in my last visit in 2002. We found this gorgeous male at around 6am, walking in dense bamboo forest before the light was able to penetrate the undergrowth. Our guide had anticipated where the tiger would emerge and we sat and waited for it to appear. When it did, our jeep was blocking its path, so is it sat down and stared at us until it decided to get up and find another route. This was a close encounter with my favourite animal at point blank range in an open jeep at eye level - a truly moving and emotional experience for me and a reminder of why I love this job !

- Image taken with Canon 1Ds mkII plus 100-400mm lens at 310mm, 1/10 sec f5.6 ISO 800


This is a bull Indian Bison or Gaur drinking from a waterhole. The image was taken in warm evening light, which combined with the reflections, really makes the shot.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII plus 500mm f4 lens 1/400 sec f4 ISO 400 +0.67 exposure compensation
Image of the month - Sambar deer fawn
This sambar deer fawn was really cute and posed for me amongst some lovely grasses in soft early morning light.

- Image taken with Canon 1D mkIII plus 500mm f4 lens 1/250 sec f4 ISO 800 +1.67 exposure compensation

February 2009- Redwing and fieldfare
Image of the month - Redwing
Snow is the answer to a photographers' prayer. It instantly adds interest to an image and simplifies the background. It also adds light under the subject like a big reflector.This month's two birds featured as image of the month are both members of the thrush family and migrate to Britain each year for the winter. Both are pretty common birds, but this is the first year that I have been able to entice a redwing down into the garden where this picture was taken from my hide. It is also only my second garden record for fieldfare.I had saved a few apples in the shed from last autumn, and these in conjunction with the cold weather proved too much of a temptation for the birds to resist.

- Image taken with Canon 1Ds mkII plus 500mm f4 lens 1/400 sec f4 ISO 400 +1.67 exposure compensation.
Image of the month -  Fieldfare
Fieldfares are big handsome thrushes and are often heard chuckling as they fly overhead in winter flocks.Photographing birds in the snow requires the photographer to overexpose the image compared to the camera meter reading to avoid the snow appearing grey. It is not difficult to achieve the correct exposure with a digital camera that has a histogram display. I generally start with an exposure of about one-and-a-third or one-and-two-thirds over the meter reading in evaluative metering (matrix) mode. This value will require a little tweaking depending on whether the subject is predominantly a midtone or black or white. Also how much of the frame it occupies compared to the background snow.

- Image taken with Canon 1Ds mkII plus 500mm f4 lens 1/400 sec f8 ISO 400 +1.67 exposure compensation

January 2009- Goldcrest and two takes on a goldfinch
Image of the month -  Goldcrest
The goldcrest is Britain's smallest bird. It loves scuttling around fir trees looking for insects and hardly stops for a second. Occasionally one will show itself - like this one did for me. The birds can be quite tame, I didn't need a hide for this shot.

- Image taken with Canon 1Ds mkII plus 500mm f4 lens 1/500 sec f4 ISO 800.

Image of the month -  Goldfinch with grey background

My second image is of a goldfinch on a teasel. I have a niger feeder that these birds find irresistible and when I take it down and put a teasel in it's place with a few niger seeds hidden inside, the birds are quite happy to feed from it. The shot was taken in late afternoon sunshine against frosty bushes which were in the shade.This gives the image great contrast between subject and background.

- Image taken with Canon 1Ds mkII plus 500mm f4 lens plus 1.4x converter, 1/400 sec f8 ISO 800.
Image of the month -  Goldfinch
I couldn't resist adding this second image of a goldfinch taken on the same teasel as the previous image but a couple of days later than the first after a beautiful hawfrost. It demonstrates how it is worth really working a subject repeatedly and not being content with one decent shot.

- Image taken with Canon 1Ds mkII plus 500mm f4 lens 1/640 sec f8 ISO 400.


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