All images ©ericweight 2015

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I don’t have any access to lakes or rivers close to home. Woods and fields and hedges on farmland I do , so Laurence and I share our sites a lot. This weekend he was kind enough to take me down to a large lake behind his village. It is home to a large pheasant and duck shoot, and has a decent sized river along one boundary, so there is a lot of wildlife not only resident on site but drawn in by artificial feeding for the game, and a great stopping off point for birds that transiting across the country using the river for navigation. There were no rarities around today, but I did get a lot of chances at ducks and other water birds.

It didn’t all go to plan,. I spent a long time setting up a short lens on the ground to be operated remotely. I have taken  some of my most interesting pictures this way, but it is quite tricky to set up. With short lenses (I use a 24-105mm zoom, usually at 24mm) the subject has to be very close to the camera. By close I mean 18” to 2 feet. The picture has to be framed perfectly in advance and the subject lured into exactly the right position. This involves a lot of messing around, bait and a well camouflaged camera.

I spent half an hour getting it just so and retreated back to my hide position to await all comers. From there I could use the 300-600 from my bag hide while operating my short set-up via the camranger app on my iPad. Incidentally the camranger  works wirelessly up to around twenty metres away, but the more obstructions there are between the unit at the camera and the iPad, and the greater that distance the weaker the signal, and the less reliable and more temperamental it becomes. The best solution I have found is to use a ten metre usb cable extension between the camera and the camranger transmitter. This obviously brings the unit closer to me which makes the signal stronger and the controls more responsive. I don’t know if you lose any performance if the cable is longer than that but I am planning to get a second ten metre extension to find out.

I then spent some time setting the long lens up on the tripod and draping the bag hide over both me and it. I stretched a camo screen in front of the whole lot so that I was pretty happy that I was well hidden and switched the camera on. It was stone dead. I had used it all yesterday morning in the wood with no problem at all, but nothing I could do would fire it up. Obviously I was very fed up by now. Using the iPad I googled the problem and favourite at the moment seems to be a dead clock battery. With no replacement and no tools, I was left in a quandry. Sit it out and hope that something would wander within 18” of my short set-up, or pack it away and nick the body for the long lens. In the end that is what I did.

The light was beautiful as well. There had been five degrees of frost during the night and the air was crisp and clean, the sun came and went, lighting up the whole lake in a variety of tones and shades, from flaming orange to steel grey. Although nothing came desperately close, I managed some nice pictures  and had the added bonus of seeing a great-crested grebe catch what appears to be the largest bullhead I have ever seen.

I know that most of the birds that came my way today were pretty  common, but I was reminded yet again how important it is to take the shots between the poses. I got a lot of pictures of birds looking left or right, but the ones where they are fighting and catching fish are the most pleasing. If they really won’t do anything but sail serenely backwards and forwards, then the background and the colour palette have to provide the interest and thankfully today, this is exactly what happened.

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