Ophrys Photography

Wildlife photography by John Devries, Kent UK. Inspirational images from nature.
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News 2014

Archives :

Latest image updates
- Last updated 19th July 2014



British owls

Harvest mouse
Coastal brown bear 1
Coastal brown bear 2
Kodiak bear


 

Wildlife photography blog 2014
- Last updated 3rd December 2014

New book - Wild Orchids of Somerset
 


Chris Gladman contacted me last year with a request for a few images to include in his new book "The Wild Orchids of Somerset".

The book is now complete and has obviously been a labour of love as it is jam packed full of photographs and useful information on the County's very rich diversity of orchids. Half the UK's species are to be found in Somerset apparently. The book also includes quite a lot of site information as to where they may be found.Also included are hybrids and abnormal forms - information hard to find elsewhere. This book is a must for anyone interested in orchids, and not just those living in Somerset. For orchidophiles it is a no brainer.

To get a copy contact Chris Gladman on Tel: 07745 856652 or send an Email to:

The price is £12 plus £1.25 postage.


Photographing water voles

Its ages since I photographed water voles so I thought a visit to a small stream in Sussex that I know was in order. Unfortunately the site had suffered some flooding and many of the vole's nesting holes appeared to be under water. To make matters worse, people regularly feed the ducks along the footpath beside the stream and they have become a real nuisance. As soon as a vole appears they often try to see it off or cause disturbance due to their boisterous antics.

By lunchtime I had only glimpsed one vole and the light had failed, settling into the UK speciality - grey gloom. After lunch I tried again despite the lack of light and spotted a water vole munching away on some water weed. It was in a nice open position so at last I was able to get some shots.

Watervole

Voles are deceptively difficult to photograph. If you try photographing them in bright light then wet fur looks awful and the light reflecting off of it burns out easily. So a duller day is actually no bad thing.

However, although they will sometimes sit on the bank eating and pose for you, they are actually making very fast micro-movements continually as their noses and whiskers twitch and their little paws move like lightning. So despite apparently just sitting there, you actually need a pretty high shutter speed. As if that isn't enough, if you are getting reasonably frame-filling shots, the voles are very rotund and you find that you have to stop the lens down to a smaller aperture than you would first think if you are to get more than just the focal point in focus. Finally, as the vole was on the opposite side of the stream, I found I could not get as close as I would have liked so I had to use a 1.4x extender which robs another stop of light !

So there you have it:- Low light levels, a converter, a need for high shutterspeed and some stopping down of the lens required to archive sufficient depth of field. This is where the modern digital SLR's earn their keep as they allow you to work at high Iso without incurring a lot of horrible noise. My 1Dx is pretty special at iso's that would have been unthinkable with even a 1DmkIV. So the above shot was taken at settings which were a compromise between juggling all the factors mentioned above.

For those interested, I used a Canon 1Dx, 500mm f4 plus 1.4x extender on a tripod with an aperture of f6.3, ISO 6400, + 1/3 exposure compensation (from the histogram) which yielded a respectable 1/640th sec shutterspeed. The image quality and lack of noise on the 1Dx is still unbelievable at this high ISO. Take a look at this crop of the above image :

watervole - closeup


19th July

Hawkmoths


I have been running a moth trap most nights since June this year in my new garden. It has been fascinating to see what species are coming to the mercury vapour light. I have moved around 10 minutes drive from my previous house so a lot of the species I am capturing are similar but with some new ones. I am not recording every little brown job that turns up but I do like the showy varieties and topping the list are the hawkmoths which are just as impressive as any butterfly in my opinion.

So far I have recorded at least one large elephant hawk on most nights, poplar hawk turns up pretty regularly too. I have also had three privet hawks, which are really big and the same number of eyed hawks.

large elephant hawkmoth
Large elephant hawkmoth on its foodplant, willowherb

Privet hawkmoth
Privet hawkmoth - this was the species that got me interested in moths as a kid.

The only small elephant hawk that I have previously photographed was years ago when I was shooting film, so I have been very pleased to catch a couple of these too to update my images. The only other regular UK species that I would have expected to see is lime hawk, but these are strangely absent. I am still longing to capture one of the rare migrants such as Death's Head hawk or Oleander - but these are not very likely (but never say never!)

Once I have caught the moths they are usually pretty tolerant to being moved to a nice natural background for photographic purposes. Once they have served their modelling career, the moths are placed in a safe location away from birds or other predators (e.g my cats) until nightfall when they fly away again. No moths are harmed during the production of my images !

You can see more pictures of the species mentioned above in the hawkmoth album on my facebook page


27th June - Trick-bits diffusers for Canon MT-24EX twinflash - Review

Canon's Twinflash setup for macro is very good but the light it produces is a little harsh, particularly when photographing shiny subjects such as beetles etc. Shadows can also be a problem as these can be pretty ugly if too black. What is required is a decent set of diffusers that softens the light without robbing too much of it in the process as this would effectively reduce the output of the flashguns. I have tried various makes over the years that worked well for a while such as Stofen (kept falling off and I ended up losing them), Gary Fong - good but no means of attachment as this is a non-standard application. I glued these on with a hot glue gun and it may be coincidence but the flashguns packed up shortly after !

While photographing Large Blue butterflies in Gloucestershire I spotted someone using a rather nifty looking set of diffusers and had to find out what they were. I was told that they are obtainable on Ebay for £30 if you just search under the MT-24EX. So I duly tracked them down and purchased a set. They arrived promptly and I set to work assembling them.


The diffusers mounted onto the MT-24 EX on a 180mm f3.5 macro lens. Camera is a 5DIII .

Unfortunately there were no instructions but it was not hard to figure out how to put them together. I began by peeling off the metalised plastic self-adhesive foil that is tailored to fit the inside of the diffuser cups. These are helpfully numbered in order of assembly but are rather fiddly to stick on without getting stuck to your finger or the cup before you are ready. Fortunately the adhesive allows you to peel it off and try again (as I did a few times!).

Next I used nail scissors to trim off the excess. Fitting the diffusers to the guns is also a bit of a fiddle as they are a tight fit. However, once in place this is a virtue as they won't come off accidentally. Finally, after peeling off the protective film from the white diffusers themselves, I placed them over the ends of the cups where they are held on with two white plastic mushroom-shaped pins.


Picture above shows how the foil has been stuck on and the inside of the cups fitted to the flashguns. You can see that the guns are effectively now a considerably larger light source than before - which is good. The foil must help cut down on the inevitable light-loss through the diffusers which are fitted next.


My bit of effort and fiddling was now rewarded with some very professional and pleasing looking flashguns. They are made of polycarbonate and should therefore be very tough. I couldn't wait to give then a try.

First of all I thought I would just handhold the camera/flash setup and pop off some shots of a strawberry (before I ate it !) . I tried the flashguns at different ratios from 1:1 through 1:2, 1:4 and 1:8. The guns were angled as per the picture above. I did the test with (Diff) and without the diffusers fitted (Bare) and these were the results..


You can see that the diffused shadows are much softer throughout when the diffusers are used and the lighting on the fruit is a bit softer too. I haven't done a comparison of the flashgun ratios before and I usually use a ratio of 1:2. However on the basis of these tests I am going to try 1:4 and 1:8 a bit more from now on as they give really nice modeling with subtle shadows.

I noticed that the diffusers do change the white balance of the standard flashguns, making them a bit warmer in colour. This is not an issue if you shoot RAW (as I would recommend) but if you shoot Jpeg then I would switch from auto white balance (AWB) to the SUN (*) setting which gives more accurate colour.

If you would like to get your own diffusers they are obtainable off of Ebay or direct over the telephone from Ian McConnachie on 01629 734626. Ian runs a small vacuum forming business and he has a great interest in photography, but Macro is a passion of his. He is able to take credit card payments from his normal everyday business which is www.trick-bits.com
Ian is planning on providing fitting instructions in the near future and has put a Youtube video up which explains the fitting clearly and in detail here.

I will finish with a couple of images that I took with the diffusers fitted.


Small emerald moth (100mm macro lens on Canon 1Dx) f16 and 1/250th sec manual mode.
Diffused MT-24 EX at ratio of 1:4. Note the nice gentle shadows. Would you think that this image had been taken with flash as the sole light source ?


Foot and part of the leg of a buff tip moth. MPE65 macro on Canon 1Dx. 4x magnification. F8, 1/250th sec manual mode. Diffused MT-24 EX at ratio of 1:2. Note the really nice modeling that the diffusers provides.


I am really impressed with these diffusers and would recommend them to anyone using the MT-24 EX. They are now a permanent part of my macro setup.


23rd June 2014 - Rare Butterflies

May and June are such active months for me as it is peak time for butterflies and orchids.
I was determined to photograph Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary this year as I always seem to miss them due to bad timing. Last year I found Pearl Bordered in a Sussex woodland but Small Pearl still was eluding my lens.

I knew that it had become extinct in my own county of Kent, so considered Surrey but alas it is also extinct there too now it seems. So how about Sussex - there are lots of sites for them in my notes, but depressingly they now seem to be reduced to one Sussex Trust site. Despite numerous visits I drew a blank again. I met the warden on my last visit and he told me that the butterfly had a bad year last year followed by our wet spring. Could this lovely butterfly also have disappeared from Sussex ? This is too depressing to contemplate and I will have to try again next year.

In the meantime I had to expand my search radius and contacted an old college mate Bob Kemp who lives in Shropshire. (I can hear him saying "not so much of the old " ) He took me to a couple of sites which fortunately came up trumps. The trouble was that the weather was very hot and the SPB's were hyperactive and would not settle. On the next day, we did a dawn raid on the Wyre Forest (Shropshire and Worcester borders) and managed to get a few warming up before the sun got going. After about 11am they were hyperactive again and never settled. Definitely a case of the early bird gets the worm.


Small pearl bordered fritillary - Shropshire

Bob also told me of a site for large blue in Gloucestershire. A week after my visit to Shropshire I headed off to a wonderful location near the Wiltshire border not far from Swindon.
Large blue is extinct in the UK but was re-introduced into several sites. I have been to a place in Somerset in the past but it is a requirement to book a visit months in advance (and it gets booked up quickly I am informed). So this new site was too good to resist.

I visited with fellow photographer, Andy Vidler on the 22nd June. We arrived at the site at around 10:30am and could see large blue fans already all over the bank. Within a short time we were seeing large blues and trailing around after them waiting for them to settle on thyme flowers.
I often had to pinch myself as I couldn't believe what I was seeing - large blues in the UK - happy days !


Large blue underside

Newly emerged Large blue upperside - a bit strange looking, will have to investigate this as it might be a variation (var)

Finally I visited a well known site near Canterbury in Kent for the very rare heath fritillary. This is usually a very accomodating species but due to hot weather it was also pretty lively. However, unlike the large blue it is quite happy to show its beautiful upper side.


Heath Fritillary


May 2014 - Google and getting back on track

Thank you for those dedicated followers of this website who have commented on my rather protracted absence in web content for the past few months. You and the many people who still take the time to write to tell me how much they appreciate my work and also to thank me for my efforts in producing the Tips and Tutorials section are the reason I am starting things up again. Many people obviously find the articles and tutorials both interesting and valuable. They represent the benefit of many years of knowledge and experience , trial and error and experimentation and are provided free of charge - unlike some websites that I could mention.

There have been a couple of reasons for the lack of input. Firstly, I moved house in March 2013 and I have had a lot of DIY projects to keep me occupied both inside the house and in my new 3 acre garden. This has included building a carport, digging out ditches, putting up my bird hide and so on. Not to mention planting a new area of 450 native trees that will one day provide nesting sites for birds. This has both taken up time that I would normally have spent working on the website but also has limited my photo excursion opportunities.

However, if I'm honest, my main reason is that my motivation for keeping the website up to date waned drastically when Google changed its Search Engine Optimisation algorithm. Apologies if that sounds like gobbledygook to you, but what it means in effect is Google has changed the way it ranks websites and overnight Ophrys Photography slipped from being on page 1 of Google to page 4 when you search for "Wildlife Photography."
This has had a devastating effect on my business and web traffic. Nobody looks beyond about page 2 usually do they ? So if you are an SEO whiz and have any ideas as to how to get my site back to page 1 where it resided for about seven years, I would love to hear from you !

Image of the month.

If you take a look at the Image of the month for 2013 and 2014 you will now see that there are no gaps - lots of new images - so I am up to date with that section (hoorah!).


Foxes

I am fortunate that I have quite a bit of wildlife in the new garden, which is in a rural part of Kent. I was really chuffed to watch a barn owl hunting tonight over my buttercup meadow, and have pheasants and a squirrel regularly visiting the feeders right outside my hall window. Foxes were hunted around my last house but my new neighbours appear far more tolerant I'm pleased to say. My next door neighbour informed me that she had seen five fox cubs at the end of my land and she thinks there is a den there.



They are so cute....

I have been able to get some shots of them but they are very shy compared to town foxes, so not so easy.


You are not getting my bunny !









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