This will be the first of two winter posts. This first one will cover my latest Hen Harrier adventures whereas the second post will show some other more common birds in a winter setting. For the first time in many years I haven’t had the feeling of spending the winter in hibernation. I actually went out into the blistering cold and got great results! I focussed all my efforts on capturing birds in the snow that I didn’t have any time to go out and shoot some landscape shots. Yes, the winter of 2012/2013 was great but I’m glad that it’s over and I’m ready for Spring now. I already have a few small colorful projects in mind but more on that in a few weeks. I will also be buying a new camera as I’ve set April 1st as a deadline to buy one. I’m afraid Nikon won’t release a D400 any time soon so I’ll be buying a D800 and 24-70mm lens (full frame instead of APS-C (crop)). I will still be using my D300 for when I need the additional reach and speed but the D800 will be great for more controllable projects such as macro, light rays, and king fishers. I’m a bit worried though about storage space on my computer so I’m going to have to increase that as well. Luckily my 2008 Mac Pro seems to handle large D800 RAW files very well. Anyways.. enough blabla and time for the pictures:
I do wonder what adventures 2013 will bring. Where do the kingfishers decide to nest? Will we see any new rare birds? How about the beaver? And will I see Roe Deer fawns again? I can’t wait!
It’s 6am when the radio alarm clock tries to wake me up but fails. In anticipation of this failure, the evening before I set another alarm clock to go off right next to my head at 6.05am. Unfortunately I forgot to turn down the volume a bit causing me to wake quite abruptly… mission successful though, I’m awake. Next step is putting on 2 thermal underwear sets, a shirt, 2 fleece sweaters, 2 pair of thick socks, and 1 pair of glasses. I go down for breakfast, trying not to fall off the stairs with 20+ kg of camera gear (and a lot of other stuff necessary for my project of the day). I have breakfast, load everything into the car, program the satellite navigation, and set off for a 30 minute drive into the cold morning. There’s no traffic on the road this early causing me to regularly break the speed limit. I make it to my destination in just under 25 minutes, a record :p. I unload everything from my car, put on snow boots, and start to hike up the side of a hill. There’s a stiff and cold wind blowing with very little light present, causing me to almost tip over a few times due to bad weight distribution of my gear (heavy tripod swinging off the side of my backpack). The slippery slope isn’t helping much either. After a 15 minute hike I finally reach the top and make it over to the spot where I’m going to spend over 5 hours waiting for a few birds to occasionally fly by. 10 minutes later, I’m fully camouflaged, sweating like a mad man from the hike, and ready to go. After witnessing the sunrise I’m starting to cool off a bit and after 1-2 hours my toes seemed to have lost the connection to the rest of my warm body. Meanwhile, I’m just scouting the horizon for the typical shape of a hunting Hen Harrier (in Dutch: Blauwe Kiekendief). There’s no time for checking email or reading stuff since the moment can be over in 5 seconds… so just as my camera I need to stay sharp and focussed :p. Anyways, copy the above into 4 cold mornings and this is what you’ll get:
Amazing, graceful hunters. The Harrier jet actually got its name from these nimble and acrobatic hunters.
The next photo was taken in my garden where large amounts of birds come to dine when there’s little to be found because of the snow covered ground. The same is true for bird of prey that have difficulties with finding food. What an intense moment that was… incredible.
The last one was taken while waiting for the Hen Harriers. They must be quite skilled air traffic controllers these pigeons 😉
I recently started to notice that 90% of the photographs I’ve taken in the last few months were of birds. I think its partly due to the lack of nice warm weather and bright colors but also because of a growing interest in birds. Especially since I found some Hen Harriers near my hometown. These are truly awesome birds of prey. They have a very typical style of hunting in that they fly very low over a field looking for mice and other little animals. They have great agility and reflexes and can take turns like no other birds of that size. Have a look at these shots from this weekend. The male is gray and the female is brown.
There are also lots of Grey Herons at the same site as where the Hen Harriers are hunting. I usually try to photograph the Hen Harriers from inside my car, using the door for support. I am thus bound by the road but driving up and down this particular stretch always gives me a good chance of getting these birds closer to me (I really need a 500mm :p). This is also what happened with this Grey Heron below. He/she wasn’t afraid of my car at all and I was allowed to take some nice pictures:
Nikon news: things are stirring in the rumor sections. There is talk of a D700 upgrade in the coming months. Might be interesting to see what happens in this segment of the market. Will the D800, or whatever it’ll be called, destroy the competition like it did in the early days of the D700? We’ll know in a few months…
I also recently bought the 27″ Apple Cinema Display and upgraded my graphics card to an ATI HD5770 for some more power. Next to that, I upgraded my OS to Snow Leopard and I now use Lightroom 3.3 and Creative Suite 5 (Photoshop). Everything seems to run a little bit faster now and Lightroom 3 is a much welcomed improvement over Lightroom 2, especially with regards noise reduction and overall image quality. Importing files from the hard drive is unfortunately a lot more annoying…