By Mark Playle
This is the first in an ongoing series where I will be explaining how I achieved some of my personal favourite images. I will talk through the equipment, setup, software and processes I go through in obtaining my original vision.
First a little background. Wildlife photography has been for many years my favourite genre. This is the type of photography I shoot for myself. I find it relaxing and therapeutic. The thought of spending the day outside watching the world and wildlife go by is heaven to me.
I first had the idea for this shot when we stumbled across an ornamental cage many years ago in The Lavender Tea Room shop in Hexton, a village not very far from Hitchin in the UK. Fast forward around four years to the Summer of 2017 and our Amboise Garden. We hung the cage from our apple tree for several weeks before placing some seeds and fat balls inside. This was to allow the birds to get used to seeing the cage. Around a month passed before I had the free time to spend a day in the garden. During this time, I had set up several Trail Cameras watching the cage and surrounding area. This enabled me to determine the best time of day to get the image I was after.
For those who are not familiar with Trail Cameras, they are tough, weatherproof, automatically triggered cameras that can be left on location for extended periods. When it detects a moving subject it can be set to take a single image, several images or a short video. The date and time of the shot can be recorded on the image or, as I prefer, you can look at the images EXIF data to determine when the image was taken. The image quality of most trail cameras is not up to that of your average Mirrorless or DSLR Camera however, under the right conditions they take a very reasonable image.
Over the next few weeks we would check what the cameras had captured. We were overjoyed to find, apart from a couple of local tomcats, a hedgehog, a family of shews, some lizards, a Squirrel and Robin.
After studying the captured images, it became apparent that the best time to try and capture my image would be between five and six pm. I was very pleased as the Sun position at that time of day was perfect, giving soft lightly shaded light on the cage. If there had been harsh light on the cage I would set up some form of shade, maybe in the form of a sheet draped across one of the tree branches.
Now I could have set up my trusty Canon 1Dx with a 400mm lens and sat in wait for the birds to appear, but long lenses can, in my opinion, give a compressed and remote feeling to images. So I set up my trusty Canon M3, a mirrorless camera, on a gorilla tripod about 2 meters from the cage.
The canon M3 is by no means a DSLR slayer, however it is a very capable Wi-Fi remote camera. With the appropriate Canon software installed on my MkII Nexus 7 Android tablet I can select focus points, change settings and operate the shutter easily from twenty to thirty meters away, all on a 7” LCD screen. It is also possible to transfer images between the M3 and tablet.
There is a caveat to running this set up over Wi-Fi and that is battery life. I have found that a single fully charged battery can give me around 30 minutes. I will get around to making a large external battery pack to run the M3 one day. This time I felt that half an hour would be adequate. If not I could always creep up to the camera, replace the battery, and quickly retreat.
Part two will follow my process from the point of capturing the images through to the finished print.
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