16 August, 2015
I had been watching all the spaceweather prediction sites for some time, knowing that Aurora season often starts in August and, sure enough, activity was forecast – but it arrived a day early and, unfortunately, during daytime in this part of the world. Nevertheless, I remained hopeful that it would still be active after darkness fell – and that the skies would clear of the heavy rain and thick cloud, as forecast. Well, the clouds cleared nicely but the aurora returned to low levels. So I waited and watched and in the hour before midnight things picked up a little.
Eventually I could see the aurora in town with my own eyes so I decided to go out of town for a better view. It wasn’t a very strong display but the colours were very nice and I managed to get some nice photos with the pre-dawn glow and the developing blue in the sky too. Here’s a panorama I created just before dawn, as I was packing up at Wadbister.
I had plenty of company during my time here – I could hear several seals breathing as they swam past and even saw and heard an otter clearly eating something only about 30 metres away in the sea; it looked like it was on its back, but it was too dim to be sure. The Milky Way was amazingly clear as well and there were a few meteors about too, all in all, an amazing night to be out watching the sky!
9 September, 2014
I can hardly believe that it’s 4½ years since the last time I went on a birding day out with Paul Harvey from the Shetland Biological Records Centre – I thought it was just a year or two ago! With Paul was Rory Tallack (one of the Rangers) and a group of about a dozen folk keen to see and learn more about autumn birds in Shetland.
Well this past Sunday was an awful day of rain and wind, quite a contrast to the day before, which had been glorious and warm sunshine all day. So our hopes were not that high and we set out generally looking for larger birds and those less likely to “hide” in such poor weather. We weren’t disappointed though and saw a good number of bird species – about the same as is usually seen on these courses that are generally held a couple of times a year. That we saw so many species is down to Paul’s ability to see and identify birds when most of the rest of us can hardly even see through the rain on the minibus windows.
So, unlike the post from 4½ years ago, the photos in this post are very poor and I’m just posting a few record shots of some of the more unusual species we saw. In fact, most of these are firsts for me, including the Kestrel which isn’t common in Shetland and, whilst I’ve seen it many times on the UK mainland, I don’t recall ever seeing one in Shetland before. So, given these are mostly new to me it was such a shame the rain prevented any decent photos, but I think it’s still worth posting them, not least to show the good work of the Shetland Biological Records Centre in running these courses.
You’ll see a couple of photos are not birds – we were very lucky to see a pod of 20+ porpoises at Scousburgh and they were very active, allowing good views.
Little Stint at Boddam
Slavonian Grebe at Boddam
Wood Warbler at Sumburgh Hotel garden
Bar-tailed Godwit at Pool of Virkie
Porpoise, Bay of Scousburgh
Porpoise, Bay of Scousburgh
Kestrel, near Rerwick
21 May, 2013
Just a quick round up of what I got up to at the weekend! First, I got an exclusive preview of the Artisan Academy Exhibition of selected work of 3rd year Shetland College students of contemporary textiles at the Böd of Gremista. And by “exclusive”, I mean just me – before the other press or the private view. That was a good thing though because the Böd is so small that with the crowds expected at the opening, photographing the exhibits would have been difficult. I shall post more photos of the exhibition later.
I went back on the Saturday for the official opening to invited guests and snapped a few more photographs, mostly of the artists and guests, as you can see below.
Later on that evening I went along to an absorbing talk at the Shetland Museum entitled “From Kennemerland to Mary Rose” by Christopher Dobbs. Fantastic stuff for anyone interested in maritime archaeology and underwater finds, divers, historians and anyone just interested in the maritime history of Shetland and elsewhere. Dobbs also gave a fascinating account of the raising and restoration of the Mary Rose in the Solent, including giving the audience an insight into the new Mary Rose museum, due to open to the public on 31 May. The Shetland Museum was packed with more folk than had ever attended one of these lectures and some extra chairs and the stairs had to be used to accommodate everyone!
Sunday morning and I had a quick whizz round the boat show – not that I’m a boaty sort of person, but all those bright colours and beautiful shapes are highly attractive to a photographer! I was particularly taken with some of the older boats, including the 19th century Ann, but also a number of “Shetland model” boats outside dating to the early 20th century and with their history and owners listed.
For more info on the Ann see here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.517678974945272.1073741828.381349481911556&type=1
Sunday turned out to be a bit misty in town but we were headed west and, once over into Tresta it turned out to be the best day of the year so far – we took in the sun (me behind factor 30!) and admired the local scenes, wildlife and kayakers. Coming back, the last photo clearly shows that the misty low cloud was still at the same point that we had left it 5 hours earlier.
30 April, 2013
This legislation means that photographers and illustrators alike will see their artworks legally taken and used for another’s own gain. Perhaps by the likes of big companies who can well afford to pay. Perhaps in ways or by companies that you would not be happy with.
Professional photographer? This will hit your income.
Amateur photographer? Want to see your photos advertising some new product?
Why does all this matter? Well, you own the copyright to every photo you create but as soon as you post it online or send it to anyone by email, there’s a good chance it will become separated from any information that identifies you as the copyright owner. At this point it becomes know as an orphan work and The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 says it can be used by anyone, for free, so long as they can show they looked for the owner. How likely are they to find you among all the billions of images posted every day?
There’s a great blog post with more details here:
You can sign the petition here:
You should write to your MP:
DO IT NOW! The Act has received Royal Assent but Regulations still need to be made.
Not in the UK? It applies to you too!
16 April, 2013
I’m not sure I agree with Nikon’s understanding of the pro DSLR market by only having FX cameras in its current range and feel that it is irritating a lot of people by dumbing down its DX range. I also wonder why it only has 2 current pro bodies, the D800 and D4. If you doubt that there remains strong demand for a pro DX body check out the price graph for the D300s over the past 2 years, since Jan 2011 here. In the UK this has remained at around £1000 until the time of writing (April 2013). I bought mine in Jan 2011 second hand for £800 in mint condition with just 2000 actuations and the current second hand value for one in a similar condition remains at least £700. ALL other Nikon bodies, both pro and consumer have seen substantial price falls over the same period and most other available Nikon bodies now are much newer than the D300s which should be heading towards obsolescence if one considers the average lifespan of a DSLR – the D300 arrived in 2007 and the D300s in 2009!
The D7100 isn’t the answer for me, key aspects are size and weight (for balance with pro lenses), CF card compatibility (they’re faster and easier to work with, both in the field with gloves and more reliable in card readers), incomplete weather sealing in a less robust body, smaller buffer, fundamentally different menu system and control layout based on the needs of a different type of user (e.g. one who doesn’t need to do everything instinctively in the dark or whilst not taking your eye off your subject). The D4 is not cost effective and far too big for me. The D800 has now become my default camera – but 36MP is far too much for most of the photography that I do (though it’s incredibly useful in some specific cases) and I use the DX mode a lot. The D800 overall gives me great flexibility but it’s simply not as good for action and wildlife as the D300s, mostly due to the much slower frame rate and relatively slow buffer clearing, even in DX mode. I’ve missed fleeting moments waiting for the buffer to clear even though I use a Lexar 800x CF card, as opposed to a 400x card in the D300s. And don’t even think about chimping if you’ve just filled the buffer, you could wait for what seems like a minute or more for the green light to go out and while it’s on, reviewing is a painful experience.
It’s not even that I have many DX lenses – I have a total of 2 – and most of the lenses I use on the D300s are FX because they meet my needs better. But the D300s doesn’t measure up to modern Nikon DSLR standards in terms of noise, movie quality and would benefit from onboard GPS and WiFi. It also would benefit from better (faster, more responsive and more accurate) follow focus ability, a modern sensor with more MP and wider sensitivity range and a much better live-view mode – the facility on the D300s is very clunky. Oh, and a faster image processor and/ or bigger buffer would be nice.
Finally, the competition from Canon – the 7D is newer than the D300s but it still hasn’t been replaced, despite the rumours of a MkII. Perhaps neither of them will be and the lines will be dead? For me I don’t see either the D7100 or D600 as a viable replacement for the D300s and will continue using it as long as I can. The discussion on whether a pro-build DX DSLR is viable or will ever come will go on for another year or two at least – one reason to remain hopeful is to consider that 4 years elapsed between the launch of the D100 and the D200!
3 May, 2012
For some reason there has been a shortage of birds in my garden these past few weeks, in spite of there being the usual supply of food for them. I had been wondering if hiding cats had been putting them off because there were plenty of birds in the neighbourhood and folk were telling of all sorts of interesting finds (see the Nature in Shetland site for details of recent birds).
Well I was delighted to find a pair of siskins and a pair of bramblings in my garden this evening, among the sparrows. Except the original pair of bramblings later turned out to be at least 6! Here are a few photos.
2 March, 2012
What an amazing night! After a few days of muggy, misty, cloudy and damp conditions, the forecast was for a clear night, the temperature perhaps getting down to freezing. I began looking forward to taking some photographs of some planets, perhaps some star trails and other possibilities. After much thought I decided to head out to Burra because I wanted some interest in the landscape and I knew just the place to get some domestic lights and streetlights as well as some nice areas of sea that I hoped the quarter moon would illuminate. But before I left home I was pleased to see Mercury above the hill at the back of us. Later, I also had a good view of Mars in the opposite direction, its distinctive red colour making it an easy sight.
Wow, I was not to be disappointed at my chosen spot in Burra! Not only did the moon help to illuminate the sea and the landscape but I could also see Foula on one set of photographs. That was the set that I hope will make a nice timelapse of Venus and Jupiter. But, more than all that, no sooner than I was there but I could sense the aurora and, as my eyes adapted I could see it too. So I set up my other camera facing over Lang Sound and was delighted to get some nice aurora shots and a cool green reflection in the Sound. As you can see it was mostly the auroral oval but there were also some beams and rays and a very brief period where the oval folded into a curtain. I also now see on some of the photos that there were some overhead forms too, though I didn’t notice at the time. As you can see, the lights were not very strong tonight and, of course, the camera sees much than the human eye but they still inspire me and I’m really glad I was in a great position to see them – I never tire of seeing the mirrie dancers.
12 February, 2012
Photo (animated gif): a husky called Nik. Just animated it a few times so it doesn’t annoy you too much! I tried to upload it elsewhere but it doesn’t animate when uploaded to some other sites. Not sure why but I’ll just post it here instead. To see the animation, open the post (click on the heading, “A husky called Nik”) and then click on the picture.
15 January, 2012
Iceland gull, Glaucous gull, Kumlien’s gull – white-winged gulls that are normally only occasional winter visitors to Shetland and, without guidance, may be difficult to distinguish from our commoner gulls. So I thought I would get some advice to help me be sure that I had indeed seen Iceland gulls and, perhaps, the other two as well. Now is the best time in recent history to do so – yesterday’s coordinated count in Shetland revealed that there are at least 152 such gulls here; the biggest arrival ever to be recorded. The previous record was at least 120 in 1983. See the Nature in Shetland blog for full details.
On the day before the count I tagged along with a few friends doing a count in Lerwick harbour at lunchtime; we saw Iceland gull, Glaucous gull and a probable Kumlien’s gull. There were first, second, third winter and adult Iceland gulls but I found out how difficult it is to distinguish all these variants that day. Today, even though the light was poor I went back to take some more photos on my own because I thought the gulls might depart anytime and I might not get another chance. I managed to get some nice photos and even got one or two decent flight shots – something that had eluded me on Friday. I also got some nice Kittiwake and Eider images and was amused by the sight of a grey seal basking on its back for quite a while.
I was thinking of leaving when a couple of Iceland gulls decided to have a fight just in front of me so I was lucky to get a set of images that add something new to my collection. I think this sequence shows 1st and 3rd winter Iceland gulls, but I’m happy to be corrected by those with more ID skill! My ID is based on the eye colour and the fact that what I think is the older bird has some pronounced grey on its upper wings, unlike the other bird.
14 January, 2012
It was a superb night for the Scalloway Fire Festival – calm, mild and dry. Let’s hope similar conditions prevail for all the Up Helly-Aa nights this year! Here are a few photos of the procession, galley and Guizer Jarl Simon Mullay, magnificent as Jarl Sigurd the Stout (Sigurd Hlodversson) for the day.