81/365 Bawa

Click on the picture to see it large – it really is worth it!

A great day out at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation care of Chris Weston Wildlife Photography. And of course of my lovely wife who bought the day for me as a birthday present!

The WHF isn’t open to the general public; they do, however, open up to small groups of photographers. This makes funds for their conservation work; there’s no merit in us aggravating the animals because they’d just hide away from the camera; so it’s win all round.

As a result, you can get far closer than you would ever get to big cats in a zoo – they let you inside the barrier so you’re right up against the fence – being careful to watch out for a paw reaching through to snag you or your camera…  We saw (and shot) lions, tigers, Amur leopards, snow leopards, cheetahs, pallas cats, pumas and a lynx!  The day started with a few of the cats, then lunch, more cats, and tea. Then, in the wonderful early evening light, we had time to wander round on our own to catch whatever we wanted rather than being in a group of fifteen photographers – great light, not tripping over each other, but with the background to know what you’re doing let us get some great shooting opportunities.

Our instructor (in this case Chris’s colleague Pete Watmough) was there to give advice when needed, but didn’t poke his nose in when it wasn’t; in my case, a few helpful suggestions about catching a cat in motion and some great observations about the cat’s characters, which is vital to spot their behaviour and hence catch them well.

More to come just as soon as I can get the rest of the pictures processed to a suitable standard…

In preparing for my big photographic day out on Sunday 22nd, I’d rented a big monster lens from the lovely people at Calumet PhotographicHere it is – the snappily titled 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR NIKKOR.

These Nikon lens names take a little unpicking.  In order:

  • 70-200mm. That’s the easy bit. It’s a zoom lens with a 70-200mm focal length; on all but the top end Nikon cameras there is an effective adjustment of 1.5x, making this equivalent to a 105-300mm lens on a 35mm camera.
  • f/2.8G.  The maxiumum aperture of the lens is f/2.8 throughout.  Which means very shallow depth of field when fully open – ideal for wildlife tomorrow when I’ll want to blur out both the fence in front of the lens and the one in the background.  The G is more difficult.  It means that the lens has no aperture ring; so it’ll only work with a camera that has auto-exposure or some way of setting the aperture from the camera body.
  • ED. Extra-low Dispersion.  Lenses bend light of different colours by slightly different amounts.   What this means is that you may see some slight colour fringes – extra-low dispersion reduces this effect.
  • IF. Internal Focusing.  In the old days lenses used to change length as they focused. IF lenses move internal elements, meaning that they stay the same physical length (in this case some 215mm long) wherever they are focused.
  • VR. Vibration Reduction.  This one passes the Ronseal test – it does exactly what it says on the tin.  In practice it means that you can take pictures using a shutter speed up to three stops slower than you would normally be able to without noticing camera shake.

I also rented one of these:

A TC-20E II Teleconverter – basically doubles the focal length of whatever lens you attach it to – so turning the 70-200mm into 140-400mm; or in effective terms meaning a stonking 210mm-600mm.

So I had to go practice – another trip to the Watercress Wildlife Association in St Albans.  Sadly it was getting a little dark by the time I got there, but to show you how close you can zoom:

80/365 Dinner on the wing
Long-tailed tit Little Grebe

Despite the late hour, I did manage to catch a few birds – a collared dove, a long-tailed tit and a little grebe.

Would I recommend Calumet Photographic?  Yes! They were helpful on the phone to a first-timer renter like me; their weekend deal was particularly good – pick up Friday afternoon, back Monday before 10am and you only pay one day’s rent; pick-up took 3 minutes, return 2 minutes; and renting a lens like this is clearly a good plan if you don’t fancy stumping up to buy one – it’s not what you’d use every day and you need a lot of £35+VAT rents to justify a purchase somewhere north of £1500!

Would I recommend this lens? It handled well. I’m not sure I’d want to walk around for it too long without a tripod or at least something to rest it on. But it was perfectly practical to use – assuming of course you can get far enough away to merit 70mm. I found it easy enough to use – although I’d had a little practice I didn’t really need it. The key to using it well was aperture priority – that way you could force f/2.8 to knock the background out of the depth of field and let the camera handle the shutter speed; with VR turned on I could still shoot at ISO 200 in reasonably low light and get tack-sharp shots.  And with the teleconverter I could get as closer still – worth it when you saw the teeth on what I was taking on Sunday.   The only drawback is that you’d not really want to walk round a strange city sightseeing with this lens – it’s not what you’d call inconspicuous; and probably not needed as f/2.8 isn’t needed really for general landscape shots except at dusk or dawn.

Still catching up… but there’s a treat for you in the next post. No more same old same old.  In the meantime…

75/365 Fellow traveller 76/365 Shore thing
75/365 Fellow traveller 76/365 Shore thing
77/365 Tap 78/365 Stern warning
77/365 Tap 78/365 Stern warning
79/365 Last day 80/365 Dinner on the wing
79/365 Last day 80/365 Dinner on the wing

A little background may be in order:

78 – this somewhat stern warning is on the Clock Tower in St Albans.

79 – The Thameslink train route stopped serving Barbican and Moorgate on 20 March – eventually the tracks will be lifted so that the platform at Farringdon can be extended to allow for 12 carriage trains (up from the current maximum 8).  I was there in the morning; there were a few photographers there snapping away.    Apparently the evening was very busy with people hoping to catch the last train.

80 – another shot at the wonderful Watercress Wildlife Association.

Down to Chichester for a sunny weekend with Sarah.   Mum & Dad’s cute cat visitor came to visit again and seemed to welcome some fresh faces to cuddle him – not to mention fresh laps to sit on.

"Thomas" "Thomas"
"Thomas" "Thomas"
"Thomas" "Thomas"

After that, a trip round the Cathedral:

Chichester cathedral Budgies in Priory Park
73/365 Doorway Candles
On the walls Choir

Dinner that evening at The Earl of March in Lavant.  I recall this place from my youth as being a scruffy sort of pub, with little reputation, then as an empty boarded up place.  I’d not really paid it much attention since 2007 though when it was acquired by Giles Thompson, the former Executive Head Chef of the Ritz. And now the food is delicious and tasty, the place is well presented, and service attentive and polite.  I had fillet of West Sussex beef with rosti potato, spring greens, wild mushrooms & peppercorn sauce followed by sticky toffee pudding with toffee Sauce and vanilla Ice Cream. Recommended.   That just left us with time on Sunday morning for a walk from Emsworth to Langstone, finishing with a pint (well, Sarah had an apple juice – she was driving) sat on the wall by the Royal Oak soaking up the sun and watching Muffin the Westie running around. Recommended if you’re anywhere in the Chichester area looking for a good meal.

Seaside pub 74/365 "Muffin"

To the London Transport Museum depot on 7 March for the museum’s third Flickr scavenger hunt. For the uninitiated this involves scurrying round with a set of cryptic clues looking for what the answer might be, then snapping a shot of it.  And in case that wasn’t hard enough, three group photos were required of each team doing something, plus we had to find five pictures and recreate them.  We didn’t do badly, all in all – Scot, Melinda, Ian and I.  This was the first time I think that their hunt was set in the depot – which made things harder as it’s a real hodge-podge of different stuff, not arranged in a visitor friendly order – and the crowds were massive for some reason!

mosaic3942670 1. Clue 1 – Show a doubling of ticket price., 2. Clue 1 – Show a doubling of ticket price., 3. Clue 3 – A literal 2CV model that doesn’t run on petrol, 4. Clue 4 – Who showed, in his own small way, that escalators were safe, even with only one leg?, 5. Clue 5 – A Little bit of the future – going to the stars but underground., 6. Sadly not Clue 6 – You can’t put a float on rails, but you can still deliver with one of these., 7. Clue 7 – Pour aller à Brocahnt, s’il vous plait?, 8. Sadly not Clue 8 – The end of the line for this beastly neighbour is a stately home., 9. Clue 9 – The car with the most facial hair, 10. Clue 10 – Somewhere to hide when the bombs start falling,
11. Clue 11 – This is a useful place if you’ve left your umbrella on the train, 12. Clue 12 – London Transport is a much more global organisation than you’d think, 13. Clue 13 – Find this underground interloper from British Rail, 14. Clue 14 – Love me Tender, love me true. When the bus breaks down, this’ll come for you, 15. Clue 15 – A tree of convenience (and 66/365), 16. Clue 16 – This caged wonder checks coins rather than defrosts ice, 17. Clue 17 – A little big apple rolls down the avenue, 18. Clue 18 – A beatle-sized replica, 19. Clue 19 – Follow the trams along this tiny monarch’s path, 20. Clue 20 – A little orange man in a little station under a big dome, 21. Group clue 1 – Show your group sitting on a bench at a closed station, 22. Group clue 2 – Show your team enjoying the minature railway, 23. Group clue 3 – Re-enact what it may have been like during rush hour, 24. photoclue1, 25. photoclue2, 26. photoclue3, 27. Photo clue 4, 28. photoclue5

Many thanks to Jane Findlay at the museum for organising it – and our intrepid questionmeisters for giving us such a challenging afternoon!

I’ve got woefully behind on blogging my Project 365.  Although I have been posting them to Flickr, so you can see I’m still doing it!  I’m afraid work just got way on top of me… way, way on top of me – it’s the busy season for us accountants.

Some catching up, anyway… and if you’d like to see the ones I’m truly pleased with, click on 55 and 60 – the lighting came good!

More later this week…

54/365 Pen pot 55/365 Tulip 56/365 Sign of the times
54/365 Pen pot 55/365 Tulip 56/365 Sign of the times
57/365 Viaduct 58/365 Cufflinks 59/365 Book
57/365 Viaduct 58/365 Cufflinks 59/365 Book
60/365 Night flowers 61/365 Avenue 62/365 Only me
60/365 Night flowers 61/365 Avenue 62/365 Only me
63/365 Dome 64/365 Tulip 65/365 Nom nom nom
63/365 Dome 64/365 Tulip 65/365 Nom nom nom

53/365 T'Mill

No trouble at t’mill.  Just a grey day – we abandoned our plan to go further afield, and just popped up the road to Redbounbury Mill.  Some nice bread, a bag of flour and a wholemeal apple pie slice later…

Mystic River 1 Mill Reading
Time warp Bushel Mystic River 2

Had a minor operation on Monday, so was confined to barracks for a few days. Kept taking photos, but was a bit out of time in updating. Sorry! Mostly recovered… scar healing nicely!

47/365 Relaxing 48/365 Love
47/365 Relaxing 48/365 Love
Minor op this morning so not up to much – and will be indoors pics only for the next couple of days. Loving cats.  Loving cards. The cards are obvious – the cats were an engagement present from Nic’n’Vic almost two years ago!
49/365 Spout 50/365 Fifty
49/365 Spout 50/365 Fifty
Still confined to barracks. Our wedding teapot! I spotted this on about day six and had it marked down for day 50!  Thankfully I am allowed out again now!
51/365 Look up 52/365 Sundown
51/365 Look up 52/365 Sundown
Reflection in the roof of the conservatory. Rooftops over our street.

42/365 Phoebe meets herself!  Only a quick snap as I’d been at work for 12 hours and still had more to do that evening.

42/365 MetaPhoebe

43/365 A new day dawns. Rooftop sunrise over St Paul’s Cathedral.

43/365 A new day dawns

44/365 Gantry. In Wandsworth to pick up Sarah’s Valentine’s day cupcakes.

44/365 Gantry

45/365 Cupcakes. A success!  The cupcakes which I got Sarah for Valentine’s day came from the wonderful Crumbs and Doilies.

And if you want to see self-same cupcakes…

Cupcakes Cupcakes
Cupcakes Cupcakes
Cupcakes Cupcakes

46/365 For me? Finally, there were some Valentine’s roses as well.  But someone thinks they were actually for her!

46/365 For me?

Bad Richard.  Bad Richard.  Not been blogging my Project365, er, project as I go along.

So some catching up is in order.

34/365 Input

34/365 Input.  Too snowy to go out and about today.  So a different take on a familiar object.

35/365 Workhorse

35/365 Workhorse. My trusty laptop.  For some reason, only the N key is rubbing off.  No idea why – I must type more Ns than anything else!

36/365 Jump to it

36/365 Jump to it. Again, snow meant my bag was taken up by things like office trousers and shoes, so no room to take the camera to work. Close-up of my trusty trainers.

37/365 Rothko-esque

37/365 Rothko-esque. Well, only a pale imitation.  But it’s his sort of colours.  Idea suggested by my colleague Amanda remarking on the many different colours of jumper I’d warn to the office during snow week.

38/365 Pasta #2

38/365 Pasta #2. Not that good a shot because I didn’t want it to get cold!  Sarah gave me a pasta machine for my birthday.  This is our second attempt – spicy mushroom spinach agnolotti with pancetta sauce.

39/365 Vivid

39/365 Vivid. Gerbera held by a Wimberley Plamp photographed against coloured card blu-tacked to the conservatory window.

40/365 Wintry journey

40/365 Wintry journey. View from the train, betwixt and between St Albans and Radlett.

41/365 Full moon

41/365 Full moon. I used to be a werewolf.  But I’m alright nowooooooooo.   Need to try this one again with a tripod and lower ISO, methinks.