Friday 27 September 2019

Thoughts on Equipment

For some time carrying my trusty canon camera equipment, especially my 500mm lens that I use for bird photography, has presented my with problems.  A chronic bad back has been a problem for some years and more recently heart problems and open heart surgery have increased the difficulty, but, of course, reaching the grand old age of 70 has nothing to do with it.  Over the last few years I have bought a couple of lightweight mirror-less Fuji bodies along with a couple of lenses which I love and now use for the majority of my photography.  I only use the canons for specific macro and bird photography, which I have to say is all of my wild life work.  A year ago, however, Fuji brought out a 100 - 400 lens with a dedicated 1.4 teleconverter which gives a maximum reach of 560 mm compared to the canon 500 plus 1.4 converter's 700 mm.  I would have to sacrifice some reach but it would be much lighter and more convenient to take away on holiday.  I rarely take the 500 away with me.  My macro lens would also have to be replaced but Fuji do an 80 mm macro which would do the job for flower photography.  The 100-400 also has very close focus which would make it an idea tool for insects.

I have had the opportunity to test the 100 - 400 as a friend has very kindly lent me her's for a couple of days.  I have tried it in the garden on static subjects and hand holding.  I deliberately used the lens with the converter and at 800 and 1600 ISO and at maximum zoom.  It performed exceptionally well. Yesterday I took it out to Cleethorpes boating Lake and down to the Fitties to try it out with some co-operative bird subjects.  I did use the tripod for this as I would have had to have done with the 500.  Again it performed exceptionally well.  There was some noise but I attribute that to the XT2 body and my canon 7D Mk 1 is noisy anyway.  The excellent noise reduction in Lightroom easily sorts that.  I have been told that focus tracking on birds in flight may not be as good as the canon but my hit rate with the canon 100-400 is not wonderful on flight subjects anyway; the 500 is good but impossible to hold for long.  With the more static subjects on the boating lake I found it quick and responsive.

I am smitten with this lens and am seriously considering trading in all of my canon gear and going over to Fuji.  I might aspire to the XT3 body as well.

Thanks to Di Seddon for the loan.

Below are my test shots.


Green Woodpecker in Scartho Cemetery

Scartho Cemetery is one of my regular locations for walking and more recently running; well jogging to be fair and very slowly at that.  I have quite often recently heard the yaffle of a green 'pecker on my visits but never managed to spot one until this week when I have seen two - or one twice.  Once while running and today while walking.  This is exciting as we never used to see greens in our area.  I have also heard one once or twice at Scallows where I have my winter feeding station and hear them regularly on our walks through Irby Woods.  In Lincolnshire I have only seen them further south and west on the heathy lands of the Lincolnshire Coversands; in fact growing up in Woodhall Spa it was the only woodpecker I had seen until I went to college in Sheffield and began birdwatching there.
The attached photos are of a bedraggled juvenile bird that I took at few years ago at Old Moor RSPB reserve.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

A Walk around childhood woods.

When my brother and I were boys growing up in Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, playing down Kirkby Lane was always at the top of our agenda.  One of our favourite places was the 'old reservoir', now Kirkby Moor Nature Reserve managed by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.  Adjacent to this was Ostler's plantation run by the Forestry Commission and planted on the edge of the old RAF Woodhall WWII bomber base, a satellite of RAF Coningsby and at one time the base for the famous 617 'dam-busters' squadron commanded by Guy Gibson.  One of the biggest attractions of roaming in here was the old anti aircraft gun which we used to play on and act out the roles of heroes.  We also used to find discarded, but live, 303 ammunition which we used to put in our father's vice (unbeknownst to him!) pull out the bullet, empty out the cordite and then put back it together and polish it up.  How I have managed to reach the age of 70 I don't know.  As we entered our teens and took up distance running it was a favourite place to train for cross country; in fact the last time I was there was about 10 years ago when I ran in a Lincolnshire League cross country race.  The area is popular for walking, off road cycling and horse riding.  I had long been wanting to revisit this childhood playground and a visit to friends in Woodhall gave me the ideal opportunity.  Heather and I enjoyed a very pleasant walk through the woods enjoying the first signs of autumn.  It was also a splendid location for one of my favourite styles of photography: intimate landscape.  All too soon it was time to return home, but it will repay further exploration along with a visit to Kirkby Moor.  Unfortunately we were not able to locate the anti aircraft gun!

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Climate Change and the Lincolnshire Coast.

I have recently read the excellent book 'Wilding' by Isabella Tree and also a book that she references: 'The Hidden Life of Trees' by Peter Wohlleben, both of which made me think of another book I read a while ago: 'Feral' by George Monbiot.  Although not the main thrust of these books, they all make reference to Climate Change.  Isabella Tree's book describes the rewilding of their family farm, Knepp, in Sussex.  Although a large estate, Knepp, is on Wealden Clay and at the turn of the millenium it was becoming increasingly difficult and uneconomic and impossible to make it pay.  What Tree and her husband did was radical: they gave up farming the land, sold all the farm machinery and allowed the land to rewild itself.  If that is all they did, however, a climax vegetation of close canopy forest would have been the result.  They decided to introduce large grazers.  Gone, however are the wild cattle or aurochs, tarpan or prehistoric wild horses and wild boar so they used instead the nearest equivalents they could: longhorn cattle and Tamworth pigs along with exmoor ponies, and fallow, roe and red deer.  The resulting climax vegetation is not close canopy forest, but open wood pasture.  The benefits to nature have been staggering.  A whole array of wildlife has colonised the estate and Knepp is the only place in the UK where nightingales and turtle doves, both species on the verge of extinction in this country, are increasing in number.  It has also become the UK's best site for the extremely rare purple emperor butterfly.  This excellent book links perfectly with Monbiot's 'Feral' in which he explores the theory and benefits of rewilding on a national scale; Knepp puts Monbiot's theories into practice and proves that they do work.

The link to climate change is through the importance of trees and their associated mychorrhizal fungi, now known as the 'wood wide web'.  Trees and the wood wide web are, perhaps, the most important carbon sinks that the planet has at its disposal which makes the wild fires we have had this year, even in the arctic, worrying and the burning of the Amazon is nothing short of criminal.  The North Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that nine of the 10 warmest Julys on record have occurred during the 21st Century, with only one year from the 20th century, that being 1998Scientists are confident that these extremes are the result of a rapidly warming planet if not caused by, at least exacerbated by human activity. One possible solution to climate change could be trees.  Not only do the trees themselves absorb carbon dioxide, a principal green house gas, the ‘wood wide web’ of fungi associated with trees is also a massive carbon sink. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommends 30,000 hectares of woodland should be planted annually, more than double the new trees planted last year.  And it said this may have to rise to 50,000 hectares if other carbon reduction targets are not achieved.  The government has said it plans to "rapidly grow forest cover".  Another recent report  has said that switching to a plant-based diet can help fight climate change.  The report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) states that more people could be fed using less land if individuals cut down on eating meat and the land could be used more effectively to store more carbon by growing more trees.  Rearing livestock actually releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  The panel also argues that we are wasting too much food and that greenhouse emissions associated with food waste is as high as 8-10% of all global emissions.

A BBC news item from 3rd September reports that Greenland's massive ice sheet may have melted by a record amount this year; it has lost enough ice to raise the average global sea level by more than a millimetre.  Scientists say they are 'astounded' by the acceleration in melting and fear for the future of cities and coasts around the world.  One glacier in southern Greenland has thinned by as much as 100m since it was last filmed in 2004.  In a recent report the UK Environment agency feels that it would not be beneficial to protect 114 miles of coastline because of flooding and more than 1000 miles of coast are at risk of erosion.  They make the point that in 50 years up to 1.5 million properties in England could be in areas of flood risk.  Already the village of Fairbourne in North Wales is being abandoned to the sea.  One of the at risk areas over the next 50 - 100 years will be the Lincolnshire coast and coastal marsh, including Grimsby.  With this in mind I have begun a project to photograph the coast and coastal marsh with a view to publishing the work in book form to record the area as it is now; it will certainly be different in 50 years time.  As much as possible I have been cycling and walking to carry out this project in order to keep my personal carbon footprint as low as possible.  I was interested to find that, when I visited Donna Nook, the sluice at Pye's Hall has been removed to allow flood waters from spring tides and storm surges to flood an area now constrained by a new seawall inland of the old one.  In order to created this flood prevention measure farmland has had to be taken out of commission, but this is preferable to properties being flooded and homes lost.  One recent report states that trillions of dollars are needed to avoid the effects of climate change, but this is still cheaper than  the cost of inaction.