Tag Archives: M.Zuiko 300mm f4 PRO Lens

Bempton Cliffs with Tesni Ward (May)

Earlier this month I visited the RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs. This was the location for one of Tesni Ward’s Coastal Birds workshops.
Tesni runs a number of these workshops and I chose the one on May 13th as this was a Saturday and allowed me use of the family car.

The RSPB reserve is one of the better ones around the coast in that they have a nice building that serves coffee and snacks, sells gifts and provides the necessary facilities all for a small charge; fortunately for me the fee I paid for the workshop included access to the reserve.
I arrived at the reserve just before the agreed time and met up with Tesni who remembered me from previous meet ups (Marwell Zoo back in February and The Photography show in March); I have a lot of respect for those who remember people they meet and Tesni must meet a lot of different people all the time.

Joining Tesni and I on the day were two other Olympus Photographers both called John; I contemplated changing my name to John for the day but two were confusing enough. Both Johns were nice guys too, I always enjoy meeting up with other photographers and I am making new friends all the time – social media really helps keep in contact.

Although Tesni primarily shoots with Olympus gear, she had to lug around her Canon 5D and 500mm lens on this day as one of the John’s had borrowed her Olympus 300mm f4 PRO IS lens. The Johns agreed to swap the lens between them so they could both experience what it is like to use this awesome lens. I of course have my own 300mm lens that I picked up for a great price at the Photography show earlier this year, although it wasn’t cheap I don’t begrudge the cost of this lens as it sees a lot of use on my OM-D E-M1 Mark-II. I was initially worried that the 300mm would be too much focal length for the day as this lens has a Field of View equivalent to 600mm on a “full-frame” 35mm sensor. So I brought with (and carried or rather lugged around) my 40-140mm, TC1.4x and other lenses just in case I needed them – I didn’t and by the end of the day my aching shoulders pointed out that a shoulder bag is not the best item to carry around for a day if it hold a lot of stuff and carrying more gear ”just in case” toy need it is not a good idea – seems obvious I know but I will learn one day.

Just prior to heading into the reserve we went through the types of bird we will see at the reserve as well as the typical shots we should be able to get. I also picked up one of the Reserve’s “What you might see at Bempton Cliffs” fact-sheet/map to help. The list of birds on the sheet was quite extensive:

  • Puffins
  • Kittiwakes
  • Herring Gulls
  • Gannets
  • Guillemots
  • Razorbills
  • Fulmars
  • Shags

Tesni took us around the reserve and what follows are what I consider my best shots of the day, these are not necessarily in chronological order but instead are separated by species.

The Gannets:
Most of my photo’s from the day are of the Gannets, they were out performing for us throughout the day.

Gannets in flight

Puffin:
We saw a total of 2 puffins on the day, most of them nest more north of Bempton:

Kittiwakes:
Along with the Gannets, Razor Bills and Guillemots there were large number of Kittiwakes too.

This is a photobombed version of the previous shot:

Razorbill:

Guillemot:

Bridled Guillemot: There were not many of these around but some of the Guillemots had a white spectacle like mark around and behind their eyes as below:

Other Animals:
Although we visited Bempton Cliffs to take pictures of various coastal birds, we also saw some other animals too, these included, Pheasants, Sparrows and many Jackdaws.

We also saw a few porpoises in the water below, these are heavily cropped but you can still see that the shape of the fin and the white under belly:

This was my first experience of one of Tesni’s own workshops, she is professional, knows her stuff and has a great sense of humour. I was there to learn, take great pictures and have a great day out which I (and the other workshop attendees) had even though it was a long day. How Tesni does this day in day out just amazes me – I don’t think I could. Tesni has comprehensive knowledge of how to get the best out of the Olympus OM-D system for nature and wildlife photography, what works and doesn’t work, as well as demystifying the myriad of focusing modes and options at our disposal. Her subject matter knowledge was extensive, and interesting and useful facts about the birds we were photographing were provided to help get the better shots. As we were taking photographs Tesni also reminded us to think about the more camera agnostic aspects of photography such as exposure and composition. Finally, it was obvious that Tesni knew the area well and we were directed to the best locations at Bempton Cliffs to get the photos that we wanted. Thank you Tesni for a great day out and I look forward to my next workshop with you.

River Witham in May

As I have said in some of my other Blog posts we are quite lucky in Lincoln to have many parks, pools, rivers and lakes and these are inhabited by a whole host of different wildlife species although birds are the most common and visible. As part of my “keep-fit” regime (limited though it is) I occasionally walk into town form home. This is between 4km and 5km depending on the route I take often culminating in the Starbucks on the High Street; as I walk quickly I’m quite warm at the end and I enjoy a Mocha Frappuccino Light which isn’t too high in syns (see the Slimming World website for details on what a “syn” is).

Although I walk rapidly I do look around on my journeys and so note anything of interest, I have even modified my route on occasion if there is something to see. My route into town takes me down Brant Road onto Newark Road (aka A1434) which then joins the A15. The two roads turn into a short dual carriageway called St. Catherine’s which after a round-about splits off into the High-Street and South Park Avenue. I follow the High-Street route into town.

At the bottom of the high street (just after the afore mentioned roundabout) is a pedestrian route to the right called Altham Terrace which runs adjacent to an off-shoot of the River Witham called Sincil Dike. On the opposite bank that is inaccessible to people is a large swan nest that had a female Mute Swan as the occupant (as well as no doubt one or more eggs).
I had wanted to take pictures of the swan and hopefully see how many eggs she had for some time and just over a week ago I made time to takes some photo’s. As I had walked from home to this Altham Terrace, I first had a quick drink of some coke I brought with me. The wasn’t much action so after the drink I took out my camera (OM-D E-M1 Mark-II + 300mm f4 IS PRO lens) and took a few shots. I waited for a bit and apart from some preening by her and the male “cob” there wasn’t much to see.

After taking a few shots of the two swans I carried on down Altham Terrace and saw my first set of ducklings this year, in total I saw five families of ducks and ducklings. In my enthusiasm, I had my shutter speed set too low (1/250 sec) so my first shots of the ducklings are all blurred as they were moving too fast.
As you progress down Altham Terrace / Sincil Dike after a small weir there is a river crossroads of Sincil Dike and the River Witham. Altham Terrace joins a road of the same name after crossing a pedestrian foot bridge. If you follow the River Witham to the right (North) it ultimately goes into town and eventually flows into the Brayford Pool in the centre of town. If you go left (South) the river flows towards the junction of Brant Road and Newark Road. You can either walk down the bank of the river or alternatively back from the bank is a tarmacked path (perfect for bikes). This has led to a completely new route which from the end of Brant Road and town.

Now onto the photographs…
My first three photographs are around the Mallard ducks; a small family, a female and 3 ducklings swam onto one of the banks that had some other Mallards there and there was an altercation between the mother and one of the males:

Whilst this was happening the ducklings took cover:

However, it all turned out well and the family carried on down the river foraging for food along the way:

Near where I was standing watching this (the junction of the two rivers) was a railing where a House Sparrow was collecting food and I caught a shot whilst it was perched on these railings:

When it jumped to the ground I took a couple more shots but that low shutter-speed caught me out and the bird was moving too quickly. However, a female Blackbird landed not far from the Sparrow and it wasn’t moving too fast so I managed a few nice shots like this one:

During all the commotion and the large number of birds in the water a Mute Swan that was swimming down (probably a Male) puffed himself up as follows, needless to say the other birds got out of its way:

Once I started to walk down the river towards home I saw other Mallard duck familes, Common Coots and Moorhens such as this one:
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What I didn’t expect to see though were any Grey Herons such as this one:

In fact, there were two Herons present, this one was on the other bank:

As this was on my side I walked slowly towards it and I managed to take a few head-shots as it looked over the tall grass. Not long after this the first Heron (on the opposite) bank took off and a few seconds later this one also flew away, this was my best effort and it would have been great if the other wing had been in frame too:

I think this a combination of my (lack of) skill and too much focal length and/or being too close.

As I said earlier this will most likely be my preferred way into town now as it is picturesque, offer photographic opportunities and is less polluted tank to the lack of cars.

Boultham Park – Last weekend of March

As well as going to Hartsholme Park last weekend on Saturday 25th March, I also went to Boultham Park on the following day (Sunday). From where I live you pass Boultham Park on the way to Hartsholme Park.

Thanks to my Apple Watch ad trying to close all of the circles on the watch I have to walk a few km each day to achieve these closures. If you have one of these watches you’ll know what I mean. Because of this I usually walk to and from Boultham Park every Sunday or Saturday; if the weather is nice I will take my E-M1 and a lens or two, in this case the 300mm f4 PRO, 1.4x tele-converter and 40-150mm f2.8 PRO if anything closer was required. All of this fits nicely into my LowePro Urban Photo Sling 250.

Unusually, when I arrived there were a large number of Common Coots at a slight distance away from the central lake of the park and they were almost too close (from a focal length point of view), so the first few shots I got were close-ups such as this one:

Fortunately a few of them moved around a bit (they were all munching on the grass) so I managed a few more:

Also in the area were a male and female Tufted Duck, fortunately with the 300mm lens and a bit of cropping I captured some nice shots:

As I was crouched taking these photo’s the other water fowl in the vicinity started to move about:

Here is the star of Boultham Park having a morning nap, there’s quite a debate of the species of this duck though:

I ventured around the lake and at the other end I saw this pair of Mallard ducks feeding:

There were also a lot of birds in the water such as this coot:

I think that this is a male Wigeon and it was swimming with another duck that could be a female but I didn’t manage to get any photos of that bird to check:

What I like about Spring is that the birds are all pairing up and building nests, soon we’ll have the young chicks too:

There was a part of the lake that had a large number of Moorhens too:

My final picture of the day was one from a pair of Canada Geese:

I have to say that the combo of the E-M1 Mark II and the 300mm f4 PRO lens is a killer wildlife combo and the more I use the more fun I have and I occasionally capture a truly magnificent (for me anyway) image.

Hartsholme Park – Last weekend of March

I haven’t been to Hartsholme Park here in Lincoln for some time so I thought that I would pay it a visit; it would also allow me to test my new lens out. Unfortunately, by the time I got around to this on Saturday it was late afternoon so the Sun was in completely the wrong place. For this reason, some of the harsh lighting made getting some of the shots I wanted difficult. That said it was a good first try of the lens which is very sharp if the subject wasn’t moving too fast (my shutter speed was too low lots of the time) and I nailed the focus. There is certainly room for improvement from a technique point of view but the amazing reach of the lens especially when combined with the 1.4x teleconverter allowed me to get shots that were previously too far away.

The first two shots of the Canada Goose and the Crow were taken from the bottom of the lake (at the 6 o’clock position) where there is a large “viewing area” of most of the lake and the central island where the Heron’s nest ever year.

As I ventured clockwise around the lake there were many black-headed gulls intermixed with the usual ducks and geese that normally in habit the lake. What was surprising were the fact that some of the gulls had their winter plumage whilst others had their spring/summer plumage??

A little bit further around was a single black headed gull with its Summer plumage (i.e. the entirely head is covered in black feathers):

This Mallard duck was looking directly at me:

Even with the reach of the lens and teleconverter combo the Grey Herons that were flying around required some serious cropping, this isn’t a great shot:

If you get to the 9 o’clock position of the lake (past the bridge) you can see the west of the island and here are about 5 or 6 Heron couples making and maintaining nests:

This Grey Heron was bringing back a large twig for its nest:

If you look carefully at the bottom-left of this picture you can see a very young Grey Heron chick that has already been born:

The final three pictures required little to no cropping and show how sharp the lens can be: