I have a new camera, dear reader. After much agonising, deliberating, saving of pennies, research and seeking of optimal deals, I finally settled on a Canon EOS 800d. It arrived on Thursday morning, just in time for the Nightjar walk at the RSPB Warburg reserve, Camberley that evening.
Although still classified as an entry level model (though the 200d is cheaper), when comparing the photographic results of the 800d when against my ancient 350 I shall, dear reader, have to resort to the American expression of...
As detestable and over used as it is, the cliche does describe adequately the differences in image quality.
I was underwhelmed when I got the Canon EOS 350 (or Rebel XTi as it is also known) a couple of years ago as a second hand jobbie. Although better than my bridge camera, the photos we not significantly better. Hardly surprising as the technological enhancements in hardware and software over the years meant that modern bridge cameras were almost as good as the first generation EOS cameras. Also I felt that the 350 never really got on comfortably with the Tamron 16-300mm lens.
That technological enhancement is most evident in the images produced by the Canon 800d. I can best describe it as having an eye test after a ten year interval, then getting a new pair of glasses to match the update prescription. Everything is clearer and brighter. The comments I've read on camera reviews, comparing DSLR and bridge camera photo quality, finally make sense.
The photos produced by my 800d now match the clarity I see in photos posted on t'internet. They also solve one conundrum that has puzzled me for some months. I often read on t'internet that it is better to get a high quality lens with lesser zoom, and simply crop the image to achieve better results than those gained with a cheaper higher zoom lens or bridge camera. This just didn't seem to work with images produced by the Canon 350.
It was just eye popping when I first expanded an image on the computer that was produced by the Canon 800d. I seemed to be able to just keep expanding the image, diving deeper and deeper down, with no loss of clarity. Simply amazing. And this with a modern entry level DSLR. I can't see the need for anything more sophisticated, seeing as I generally use the DSLR as a point and shoot camera.
Still, there is a lot to learn. I have only scratched the surface of what the 800d is capable of. Though I have already found one limitation. The 800d and my Tamron 16-300mm zoom lens aren't quite 100% compatible. At 16 - 22mm the lens does not seem to focus properly on the chip, and I see a lot of severe chromatic aberration. Lots of green and magenta bands edging shapes. You'll see this in some of the images I post today. They look slightly out of focus, with washed out colours.
After a bit of research on t'internet: this is hardware and software related. The lens is a compromise with its large zoom range. It hits limitations where it cannot focus properly on the chip. Some of the resulting Chromatic Aberration can be corrected with in camera software. Allegedly, post processing software like Adobe Lightroom can remove even more CA.
I might drop Canon and/or Tamron a line to see if they have any software updates (more the former) that can address this. Otherwise, I will simply avoid using the camera at 16-22mm and/or try and fiddle with the settings to find something that works. No real hardship as most of my shots tend to be at full zoom. Of course, I might have to start saving all my pennies for a new lens. After all, my Tamron lens is an old second hand jobbie.
Anyway, on to the restoration of Manor farm.
The pump had stopped chugging when the memsahib and I walked around this morning. It was chugging, rather noisily, on Thursday when I visited the site at lunchtime. It's hard to tell if it was turned off deliberately or had simply run out of diesel. Regardless of which, water levels in the lakes and ponds were very low; possibly enhanced by the continuing drought. Many of the plants along the Blackwater's banks are beginning to suffer, with the water in the Blackwater being very low.
As I suspected last week, Inert are forming another small pond - Finch pond jnr II. I think the process for restoration is to form the basic structure with any old stuff - earth with building rubble, bits of concrete, metal, wires, cables, plastic, etc, etc, etc. Then to cap the whole lot with inert soil. The bulldozer driver was hard at work on Thursday, pushing inert soil around edging the banks of Finch pond jnr and some of the shore between it and Finch pond jnr II. The latter pond was being formed with industrial rubble - see photos.
There were signs that the bulldozer had been at work on the south shore of Finch pond proper, possibly extending it further north. Also the diggers were at work around the boulder sorter outer.
I've annotated one of the photos with the location of Finch ponds jnr and jnr II when viewed from the south footpath. I'll leave it as an exercise for you to figure which photos were taken at 16mm. Hint, they are the purplely fuzzy ones.
Now, dear reader, on to wildlife.
Firstly we'll kick off with two photos of an obliging Yellow Ringed Dragonfly. It hung from a small Hawthorn near the Moor Green Lake car park, and allowed us to get really close and take oodles of photos. I've included two. One shows the dragonfly hanging around. The second is a crop of the first image to show how detailed the photos are when taken with the Canon EOS 800d at a zoom of 300mm. Looks sharp throughout to me.
Note, other similar camera from other manufacturers (e.g. Sony, Nikon, Pentax, etc) are capable of such results.
I simply had an existing Canon camera, and therefore had bought into the lens system. No point in shelling out loads of dosh for a new lens if I switch to a different brand.
Now we move to bats, and a warning. I found a dead bat on the 'lawn' (well, grassy area) of my back garden, on Wednesday morning. Luckily I wore gloves when I picked it up. Not so luckily, I handled it a touch when I photographed it.
You see, I researched 'what to do with a dead bat if you find one'. The Bat Conservation Trust website was very informative, especially the dire warnings that bats can carry two type of rabies, and one bat handler in the UK has died of rabies after contracting the disease from a bat. Do not handle bats without wearing gloves, the site advised. Yikes!
Anyway, I rang up the BCT (as it tells you to do on the website) and gave my details to a very nice lady, She immediately despatched a parcel to me, which dutifully arrived the next day. It has a small plastic phial and form and SAE jiffy bag in it. I retrieved the bat from our fridge (I had placed said bat in a small glass jam jar, with tight fitting cap), popped it into the plastic phial and did up the lid tightly, filled out the form, then popped the two into the SAE jiffy bag for first class delivery to some disease testing centre - where they will test the bat for rabies. I will be contacted if the tests are positive.
Here are a couple of photos of the wee beastie. A Pipistrelle I think.
Moving swiftly on from dire consequences of rabies. The memsahib and I attended a Nightjar walk with the RSPB 'Wishmoor Bottom' reserve, north of Camberley. I believe this reserve is part of what was the Windsor great forest aka royal hunting ground. The RSPB manage the huge site on behalf of the MOD, which still uses it for training.
We used to hear them training, at night, when we lived on the Old Dean estate, many moons ago. There would be an almighty bang at roughly 10:30 at night, followed by parachute flares, much small arms fire, and the odd bang of a field gun. This would all go on for an hour or two.
The RSPB wardens describe how when the walk through the reserve these lines or clusters of 'bushes' would suddenly up and walk away.
Anyway, there were nineteen people on the walk last Thursday. We took a long, meandering circular walk to arrive at the location of the Nightjars by roughly 21:40. Then it was a question of wait. At roughly 21:55 the churring started, followed shortly after by the Nightjars. There were two at the location where we stopped, which might have been joined by a third in a territorial display. We could hear churring all round us, particularly as we headed back to where we were parked. Luckily, we also saw one glow worm!
I managed a few photos with my newly arrived 800d. They are not brilliant. The light was very bad when the Nightjars took to flying around us. I would point my camera at a dark, gloomy patch of shrubbery, where I could just make out some slender tree posts and not much else, press the shutter release and hope for the best.
Shooting the Nightjars as they flew into the sky was interesting fun. They fly slow, they fly fast, they do not appear in the sky for long. Anyway, here are two of the best I managed. Not really good, I'm afraid.
Still, it was tremendous fun, with tremendous friendly people.
Now to my back garden. There was quite a ruckus going on at about 18:00 last Thursday. Normally this heralds the return of one of my cats as they are berated by the local family of Magpies. Only the warning cries were not Magpies. They were Green Woodpeckers. Two of them. One even landed on our Oak tree.
I grabbed the 800d and rushed out into the garden. After a bit of stalking, I managed to espy one woodpecker. It had landed on a tall, spindly tree, two gardens down from ours. Although in the shade, I still hauled off some shots - nothing gained, etc - and was somewhat amazed by the results. Some of which I include for your delectation. All photos taken at the maximum 300mm zoom of the Tamron. Funny how online reviews complain about loss of image definition at 300mm with this lens. Looks brilliant to me.
I find it is always worthwhile to haul off some shots regardless of the light conditions. You never know what you might get. The woodpecker didn't hang around long - they are pretty wary birds - which is one reason why I am so lazy and use my DSLR as a sophisticated point and shoot camera. Admittedly, I have set it up to work well in this manner. Note, I do not use the automatic setting. It can cause all sorts of problems, particularly in low light conditions where I do not want the flash to go off.
A polite notice first: All photographs on this blog are owned by me and subject to copyright.