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burwell fen

Eyes on You

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Eyes on You

I best come clean straight away. The Barn Owl is fast becoming my favourite bird. Sorry Mr Kingfisher, your time at the top of my tree is perhaps coming to an end. There's just something very majestic about watching them hunting silently over the fields and thankfully, given their well documented troubles, a sight I see more and more in these parts. 

When I spot one, quite often at first at a distance, rather than attempting to get up close on my own steam, I let the Barn Owl come to me, bag hide over and hunkering down. I can feel my heart beat rise in anticipation. This doesn't always work of course (it's not as if I've dressed myself as a large tasty vole and laid out prone ready to be eaten) however, with a little patience, it can reward you with some close encounters. The ease and gracefulness at which it moves low over the fields twisting and turning at will. Then all of a sudden dropping down into the grass to hopefully pickup a meal.  

Of course no matter how well you think you are hidden the Barn Owl pretty much always knows you are there, but then again this allows for those piercing eyes to meet yours. A moment which, despite happening on increasing regularity, still has the hairs standing on the back of my neck. 

Click on the image below to scroll through a couple more from the morning. The light was pretty shocking but that, in my opinion, should NEVER stop you from photographing these iconic birds. Actually poor light should never stop you photographing wildlife full stop. I'd far rather have images of wildlife in poor light than no image at all. 

All images shot on the Canon 7D MKI II with the Canon 400mm f/2.8 lens. All images around 1/000 second, f/3.2 and ISO between 640 and 1000. With the crop sensor on the 7D MK II the 400mm lens becomes a 640mm equivalent - one of the main reasons I decided to add the 7D MK II to my kit. While I try and not use the extender too often it also means the 2x can get me at around 1200mm, albeit with the lose of 2 stops (f/5.6). 

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When 35mm is Wide Enough

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When 35mm is Wide Enough

Quite often, when I'm out on a dedicated wildlife shoot I will also carry my FujiFilm XE2 along for the ride, normally with the Fuji 35mm f/1.4 lens attached. 

Cambridgeshire, and especially the Fenlands, is famous for its flatness which, for a landscape photographer, can present challenges when it comes to framing. While I love nothing more than a challenge I sometimes find the vast openness of a landscape, such as this, becoming lost in the frame of a sub 20mm shot. 

Step up the 35mm which actually, given the crop factor, works out at 56mm; not normally a focal length associated with strong landscape photography perhaps? This is where I feel the flatness of the Fenlands can work to my advantage, as even with an equivalent 56mm focal length you can end up with a seemingly wider frame in front of you. Take the example below, a grab shot for me as I made my way across to my intended spot to photograph Great Crested Grebes. I couldn't resist the colours being painted over the landscape with the purple hues reflected of the calm waters. 

35mm (or around 56mm equiv.) can seem much wider along the flat openness of the Cambridgeshire Fens. 

Another example of my exploration of landscape photography with this camera and lens combination can be found here

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A Misty Morning at Burwell Fen

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A Misty Morning at Burwell Fen

A shoot from a few weeks back while down at Burwell Fen. I absolutely love the Fens when the conditions are such. It really does add some mystery and moodiness to the place. Add to that the braying of the Konik Ponies across the wide open spaces, the Ghost of the Fens (the Barn Owl) silently drifting low over the reed beds and the feeling of solitude as you look out and realise that you may be the only person for miles around. Perfection. All images shot on the Fuji XE2 with the Samyang 12mm. Processing in Silver FX Pro 2 with a custom built filter, aptly named A Misty Burwell Morning.

A Frame within a Frame

On Reflection

The Path Forward

A Morning Stroll

The Lone Figure

One Man and his Dog

Hope you enjoyed my little stroll around Burwell Fen. Don't let seemingly unfavourable weather stop you from venturing outside. I feel it's at times like these the Fens really do show their wonderful character.

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Why The Long Face?

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Why The Long Face?

Spent a good few hours down at Burwell fen [dawn and sunset] yesterday. Such different conditions, with a heavy fog engulfing the place in the morning, and a beautiful tranquil sunset bathing everything in rich golden light by evening. One of the things I love about Burwell Fen are the Konik Ponies, especially on atmospheric misty mornings. Their calls sweeping across the vast openness, adding a sense of wildness to the place. Konik Ponies of Burwell Fen

They are pretty friendly and despite getting sneezed on a few times it was wonderful to spend 30 minutes with them as they had wandered over to the fence to check me out.

Why the Long Face

They are the perfect subject for some Fisheye fun [Shot on the Samyang Fisheye 8mm] although the one above came a little too close which helped with the distortion of the face. It was shortly after this image was taken I got a little wet (and green). I think one was perhaps getting a little too excited about the conditions. 

Checking Me Out

All images shot on the Fuji XE2 - the top one with the Toy-Camera (in camera) setting. The other two are pretty much direct out of camera jpg shots.

Booming Bitterns, Cuckoos Calling, Barn Owls hunting silently though the mist. What a fantastic tonic for the soul.

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Breaking Dawn [Burwell Fen]

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Breaking Dawn [Burwell Fen]

Beautiful conditions earlier in the year down at Burwell Fen - a location I hope to spend a heck of a lot more time at over the coming months. Breaking Dawn

It can be quite difficult to frame a half decent landscape photo in the this part of the world, with lots of flat open space. Then again that also appeals to me from the challenge point of view as the landscape, in these parts, is quite unique and can uncover something different than the normal landscape photographs we see.  Certain conditions, especially with the shapes of the clouds, can make for some nice big sky photography.

Shot with the Fuji XE2 and Samyang 12mm combo - my goto combo for landscape photography. I also just picked up a RRS 55 Ball Head and L-Shape bracket and am really looking forward to using these two in my Fuji landscape adventure going forward.

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Mammal Photographer of the Year 2015

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Mammal Photographer of the Year 2015

I don't enter many photographic competitions - in fact my most recent entry to the Mammal Photographer of the Year was only my second attempt, ever. My first attempt was to the British Wildlife Photography Awards, in which I had a few images put through to the first shortlist, but no further. I came across the Mammal competition a few weeks previously and thought I'd give it go as I really liked the look of some of the shortlisted entries from previous years. Of course, as usual, it was a last minute rush job to send out my chosen entries which was further complicated by being up in the Highlands of Scotland on deadline day. I tell you, I think my internet connection was being hooked into a piece of string that evening.

Anyway, while I didn't win, one of my images was shortlisted (final 20) and has since gone on to get some reasonably nice exposure in the British press. Quite nice to get a wildlife shot in the papers rather than one of a footballer. It's the Roe Deer leaping though the Frozen Cambridgeshire Fenland as pictured below from The Times.

In the Press - The Times

Getting shortlisted was very nice, but what has been most pleasing is that from all of the images that I submitted 4 (out of 5) were taken on what I like to call My Local Patch - an area of wildlife within 15 miles of my home. This particular one was taken on Burwell/Wicken Fen - an area that I am fast growing to absolutely love. The other thing that encouraged me was that two folks I know also were shortlisted, one in fact gaining the runner-up spot. Well done to Ben and Iain.

Head on over to their FaceBook page to see the 20 shortlisted entries. I think my favourite, for obvious reasons, is the Hedgehog. More encouragement on my Wildlife Photographic journey and certainly I may consider further entires in photographic competitions going forward.

Here is a link to the above image on my Portfolio site.  Want to read more about The Great Fen project? Well go here.

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Pink Dawn

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Pink Dawn

For the past few mornings dawn, or rather pre-dawn, as been a-wash with pink hues. I just love pre-dawn light, especially on cold winter's mornings. Of course it would be nice to get an even colder spell but you need to work with what you are given. Pink Dawn

Handheld single shot. Exposed for the highlights and then recovered the shadows. Very impresed with ability of the Fuji XE2 to do this. More frosty mornings like this hopefuilly before Winter leaves us this year. I was shooting hand-held as I was actually welding the 400mm lens for some wildlife stuff. I'm currently looking for a way to attach the Fuji onto my Gitzo tripod so that I can, when needed, do some proper landscape work, even when out with the wildlife kit. Advice most welcome :)

Technical Details

  • Fuji XE2 + Samyang 12mm (18mm equiv)
  • ISO 400
  • 1/60th second

This is taken on Burwell Fen, in Cambridgeshire. See a higher resolution of the image here.

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Return of the Short Eared Owl

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Return of the Short Eared Owl

For the past week I've been spending quite a bit of time at Burwell Fen. Despite, what I would consider not to be a particularly cold Winter thus far, the conditions have brought a number of Short Eared Owls into the area. These for me are iconic of cold Winter days, with their piercing yellow eyes. I first saw one up on the Island of Mull and am so pleased to see them return in reasonable numbers to my local patch. Short Eared Owl

Certainly going to take quite a bit of field craft to get close over the coming weeks - but hey that's one of the things I absolutely love about Wildlife Photography and I fear something that a lot of people, who want instant results, try and short cut.

Also I've been out with a new Camera - a Canon 7D MK II. I actually swapped this for my used 1D MK IV which was only getting used behind the goal at matches. (Main bodies are 1DXs). The crop sensor on the 7D MK II (1.6) gives me a 640mm focal length when paired with my 400mm, without loosing at f stops ....  Certainly a cheaper way to get 600mm reached without dropping over £8k on a lens.  And then when I really want to push things pairing this combination with my 2xTC will give me over 1200mm reach, albeit at f/5.6.

Over the coming months I hope to put the 7D MK II through it's paces in various environments and will post my feelings here later.

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