Just lately I seem to have been working with lenses from both ends of the focal length
spectrum. Inside the wood, I have invested a lot of time in improving my remote camera,
wide angle technique. My subjects, which I confess have been little more than grey
squirrels, have shown reluctance to get as close to the camera as I would like or
need. Much shyer quarry from the crow family, although present, would not come down
at all, no matter how well I disguised the camera, so I decided that a more or less
permanent camera hide was required and so made one from a black plastic storage box.
I bought a good quality one made from recycled plastic which was nevertheless cheap
enough to lose should it get stolen and would also allow me to put others out in
a variety of suitable locations if it should prove effective. Four 10 mm holes in
the base allow me to peg it down so that it isn’t blown away. A 125 mm hole in the
front is enough for my 24-105 and 100-400 lenses to ‘see’ out of and another hole
in the back allows me to run a USB booster cable 20 metres back to my hide where
my camranger sits three feet away from my iPad. This gives me an excellent wireless
connection and allows me to control all aspects of the camera such as iso, aperture,
focus and trigger from a hide that is fully zipped up and apparently not in use.
It works very well. Jays in particular are happy with its permanent presence, but
my camera trap, which replaces my dslr when I leave, has caught crows, magpies, polecats,
badger, fox and rabbit active within inches of it. There is clearly a lot of potential
there now. The jays sit on it regularly. Another bonus is that having got used to
its presence the wildlife is not spooked if I reposition it in the general area to
get new shots. All I need to do now is work out some new sites for more boxes, particularly
ones where wildlife visits naturally to roost or bathe for example. There is a limit
to how much wildlife I want to photograph eating peanuts.
Apart from eating the nuts directly, the jays are clever enough to watch the squirrels
bury any they can’t eat ,moving in to dig them up once they have left to fetch more.
This weekend, Laurence and I went to have a look around RSPB Midleton Hall reserve
and as ever it was very different to the way we both usually operate. At these reserves,
it is rare to be able to get near anything interesting. The general public are steered
and fenced away from the wildlife which can only be observed in any detail through
powerful lenses. There were plenty of subjects doing interesting things in the distance
which is fine if you are ticking lists, but very difficult for the photographer.
I resorted to 300 x2 mm and abstract, scenic and behavioural record shots in the
main but there are things you can do. Single subjects can be small beyond cropping,
but they are double the size in flight or when flapping their wings. Two or three
subjects together fill a bigger frame as well as are subjects that are splashing
about or fighting, because the disturbed water becomes part of the image.
Those are the disadvantages of public reserves. One big advantage however in weather
like we had are the dry , wind-free hides. Too high of course, but a much needed
refuge in torrential rain such as we had today. Given the height of most hides, it
is probably as well that the subjects are further away as this lowers the viewing
angle. Shots taken looking straight down rarely work very well and invariably look
like snapshots. It is hard to avoid cropping images taken at these kind of sites,
so it pays to be aware of how much you can get away with back at home on the computer
either for reasons of quality or intended use. Wildlife photography is often little
more than an exercise in compromise, but there is always something of interest to