Cameras and stuff (Fieldcraft)

For those interested this page discusses Otter fieldcraft and Photographic gear


Covering the 3 days of "Whalefest 2014" strangely now doing the stuff which I gave up doing years ago. 1DX on the 500mm and a 5d3 on the 70-200 2.8 mk2. plus 580ex2 flash. (Image courtesy of Richard Boll photography)



Some hardcore landscape photography at -30 deg C in Northern Finland


Image above. Covered in bruises (Photographing dolphins)and hanging on to a bow cable on a moving boat 8 miles south of Funchal (Madeira).


Picture below " You have to remain an optimist, just keep telling yourself that it will turn up eventually"



GEAR

Cameras

My images are all taken with Canon equipment. All of the lenses that I use are Canon L lenses and the bodies that I use are the 1DX, 5Dmk3 and a 7D as a back up. The lenses are listed below.


The Canon 1DX. The standard by which all other cameras are now measured.


The Canon 5D mk3.


Lenses

I have lots of these, some are black and some are white. They are all listed below.

The "mothership" in my equipment is the CANON 500 IS L f4 lens.If the house ever burns down or the earth is about to end this lens will leave with me tucked under my arm.


Canon 500mm f4 L lens

Canon 500mmf4 lens in full battledress



Canon 500mm f4 lens Manfrotto 393 and tripod in full camo. I have to say that if I was a bird I would be more suspicious if I saw a moving tree than a guy taking a camera for walk!

The 500mm lens on manoeuvres, waiting for short eared owls to turn up.




Canon 16-35 f2.8L Lens


Canon 17-40mm f4L lens


Canon 70-200mm f2.8 L mkii



New Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6L IS ii USM


Canon 100mm f2.8L IS Macro lens


Sigma 150mm Macro f2.8


Canon 100mm f2.8


Canon 70-300mm L lens



I use the "Lee filters" filter system for Landscape photography. The filters I use are the soft graduated filter, 0.4 ND filter and the "Big Stopper" filter. The "Big stopper" slows everything down by 10 stops and on occasions enables a 5 minute exposure in the middle of the day.



Lee filter system

As far as flash units are concerned I use a pair of Canon 580 EX ii. In conjunction with these flash units I use the "Lumiquest softbox 3".



Canon 580exii



Lumiquest softbox 3

I do use a Manfrotto 393 Gimbal head on top of an Enduro Tripod when static in a hide but when I am on the move I like to use either a Manfrotto monopod or a Beanbag.

The issue with wildlife is twofold, you have to remain low enough to take the shot at the same level as the animal and you have to maintain a low profile when stalking or taking the shot. Beanbags are usually the answer to this and I have a fairly large collection of different sizes and shapes. My favourite is an extra large double bag which contains polysterene balls. The filling is usually quite a talking point with photographers and to be honest if you never picked up the bag rice is the best filling for beanbags but if you are on the move the bag needs to be light.



Mull again !!

Fieldcraft

This will be an ongoing subject on this website but in the meantime cast your eye to the attached photograph which shows a picture of myself using the "correct" camo for a wedding whilst still using lens "camo" to stop spooking the wedding guests. Lens camo courtesy of "Stealth Wildlife". Photo courtesy of Robert Burress from "SHOOTING HIP" and suit courtesy of M & S



With a passion for photographing wildlife (Otters and Eagles) on the west coast of Scotland my favourite subjects reside on the Isle of Mull and whilst probably the most rewarding of subjects they are also some of the most frustrating and difficult subjects to consistently photograph.

Whilst trying to maintain the fundamental principle of zero impact on the subject that you are photographing the first thing that you learn about shoreline photography on the Isle of Mull is that when you are crawling across a rock strewn beach and trying to slide over rocks studded with barnacles is that it plays hell with your gear. The second thing that you learn is that perfect blue sky that started the stalking process has been replaced by an approaching storm.

To say that hebridean weather is changeable is an understatement and the ridiculous amount that you have paid for that ludicrously obvious white lens becomes a lot more important than the fast approaching once in a lifetime opportunity.

Canon photographic gear has a certain amount of weatherproofing built into the body and lens but crawling about in seaweed in the pouring rain tests any gear and I use neoprene lens covers and waterproof camera gear for two reasons, one to protect my gear and two to merge into the background.
A neoprene lens cover in ”English oak” pattern strangely enough does a pretty good imitation of seaweed and protects the lens from scrapes and minor knocks whilst crawling along a shoreline.



Locating Otters requires a certain amount of homework but once located the chances of finding an animal in the same location again are quite good. Otters spend a great deal of their time swimming, eating and sleeping and coastal Otters tend to be a lot more photo friendly than their inland cousins who are mainly nocturnal.
On a reasonably calm day Otters can be spotted in the sea either playing or fishing and by standing back with a pair of Binoculars you can not only enjoy spending time observing these animals but you can also try and predict their direction of travel. When Otters surface with a large enough fish or crab they will invariably head to the shore to eat it and without being disturbed they will spend some time preening and sleeping in the same way as a Cat.
The time to approach or stalk an Otter without disturbing it is when the Otter dives on its approach to the shore and this is when you can usually make about 10 yards on the shoreline. When it surfaces you must drop to the ground and stay still whilst making sure that you are down wind of your subject. (Otters have poor eyesight but a very good sense of smell). By doing this you can usually get to within 30-40 yards of the Otter and remain still in an exhausted sweating state waiting for the otter to land and stay within camera distance in front of you.



Having reached your observation point you are best staying put. Single Otters are easily spooked but pairs or families of Otters are usually more concerned with each other and might be more tolerant of observers. Either way the first rule of Wildlife photography is not to impact on your subject and whilst you cannot stop an Otter moving close to you (or landing at your feet) there will always be another opportunity to improve your field craft rather than upset an animal.



Taking pictures of Otters requires the ability to second guess an animal which seems destined to either land just out of reach or when within reach to time the best opportunity with approaching darkness and a downfall.