Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Photo Walk - Animals

Sony A7 | Nikon DC 135mm - 1/400th, f/2, iso 100 | Richmond Park

Here are a few images of wild animals from around London. These were taken in city parks with the full spectrum Sony A7 and an eclectic mix of manual focus, non-Sony prime lenses. Although the 85mm to 135mm focal lengths were not particularly exotic, the apertures were as fast as I could get my hands on and every photograph here was shot wide open.

There are only really two types of filter used throughout this set. If the image is black & white it was taken using the B+W 093 (850nm IR) filter. If there is any kind of colour then it was either the Hoya R25A, or Heliopan Red. Both are around 590nm and look to be the same shade of red.

This first shot was the result of a walk across Richmond park specifically to look for deer. After a couple of hours of wandering I found this group right next to a car park. I edged closer and closer to this deer, snapping away, while my wife was buying snacks from a mobile cafe. This was as close as I felt comfortable getting, but since the deer was almost filling the frame I saw little point pushing my luck further. I used the tilting rear LCD here to get a low angle and help separare his antlers from the background.

Sony A7 | Nikon AF-D 85mm - 1/3200th, f/1.4, iso 100 | Kew Gardens

These Greylag geese were so comfortable with people that they often got too close for me to focus on. As I walked beside them to get this shot they kept drifting closer to me and at one point one actually stood on my feet. They wouldn't stop moving as they nibbled the grass, so I had to keep moving along with them and constantly refocusing. I think that being limited to manual focus was actually helping. From my experience of using a pro Nikon camera prior to this I was wishing for autofocus (AF) at this point, however I now know that would've been frustrating here on the Sony. After a year of only using manual lenses I've come to appreciate that it can be better than an AF system.

The colours that you see here are a result of the green and blue channels being boosted. The white balance was set to 2000, -64. The red & blue channels were swapped and then the hue of the grass was shifted ftom yellow towards red.

Sony A7 | Nikon AF-D 85mm - 1/160th, f/1.4, iso 320 | West Heath

I have a real soft spot for these opportunistic rodents, or "tailed rats" (as I like to call them). They're always ready to pose for photos, as long as bribes are presented in a timely manor. If not they disappear quicker than you can say "Fluffy McNutkins". If you give them a nut you could be rewarded with a static subject for a few seconds (while they devour it in front of you). This is great if you want an image of a squirrel eating, but if that feels like cheating I advise coming up with something a little more inventive.

No matter what trick you use to keep them relatively still, a fast shutter speed will still be hugely beneficial. Since squirrels opperate on a different time scale to us mere humans, I found that anything below 1/160th was largely unsuccessful. When you're using a pure infra-red filter (like the B+W 093) and dealing with deminished light you'll want the fastest lens (largest aperture) you can find. This optic (85mm f/1.4) might be famous for portrait use, but it can be really useful for shooting animals too. It's not only significantly sharper than a fast 50mm (when shooting wide open), but it also helps keep a more comfortable distance from mildly timid subjects like this.

Sony A7 | Canon FD 135mm - 1/320th, f/2, iso 100 | Richmond Park 

On my second trip to Richmond park I came accross a lake. I often find it oddly calming to observe the 'pecking order' during feeding time at a pond (don't feed any animals bread by the way). Today, however, I was feeling sorry for this very timid Mandarin couple. They seemed to get a lot of abuse from the other birds (especially the Mallards) for little reason and they never appeared to retaliate.

I wanted to make an image of them from their point of view. So I decided to get the camera as close to the water as possible. The tilting rear LCD was invaluable here too. Although the camera did get a little wet and focusing was tricky I was glad not to be using an SLR and it seemed to work ok.

Sony A7 | Pentax SMC 135mm - 1/200th, f/2.5, iso 100 | West Heath 

I talked a little about the squirrel already, so let me babble about equipment for a second. This Pentax lens has been in my family for almost 30 years. My father bought it with a Pentax MX (and a couple of other primes). Even when I used to borrow the camera I dont think I ever used this lens, not with with film. I think I was a bit too scared because it seemed so serious and I had very little clue what I would do with it. Using it on a full frame, full spectrum, digital Sony camera would have sounded pretty insane back then. I guess it probably still does to most, but it seems to work really well with this setup.

I looked up how much this lens goes for on ebay recently and was shocked at just how cheap you can get it for - about £60 (less than $100 US). I was also shocked that such a fast tele lens has a common 52mm filter thread. Since I had loads of these filters already I jumped into some colour IR. Even if you had to buy something it could be done on a really small budget though. OK, so this camera may not seem cheap, but it's versatility with legacy lenses makes it almost as cheep to experiment with as it is fun.

Sony A7 | Nikon DC 135mm - 1/400th, f/2, iso 100 | Richmond Park

This image is of the same deer from the first photo. It was taken shortly after and is a panorama, made up from 14 frames. Since the deer were eating and walking continuously the stitch wasn't successful at first due to mismatching elements. I addressed this by copying single frames back over the stitch and hand painting sections back over the ghosted areas.

The depth of field is less noticeable here due to the size of the image, but it does look impressive when viewed large. I am considering making a large print of this to see what impact it has, but I've yet to choose a printing company.

Sony A7 | Nikon AF-D 85mm - 1/400th, f/1.4, iso 100 | West Heath

This friendly fellow was found in one of Hampstead's parks chasing butterflies. My wife affectionately named him 'Otis' and we look for him every time we visit the park now. I have seen him here several times since and tried to capture photos of him again, but none of them have been as successful as this first attempt.

Sony A7 | Canon FD 135mm - 1/400th, f/2, iso 100 | Hampstead

This Mandarin duck, most likely not the same one as before, was found next to a pond in Hampstead. Not in the park itself, but just outside, next to a busy road. I put the camera close to the ground (as I often do), focus checked with zooming and kept taking shots as I edged closer to the subject. I was amazed how close that I got before he moved away. I think this may have been the last shot that I managed to get before he jumped in to the water. 

1 comment:

  1. Those pictures are fucking great! Congratulations!!!