Rich Andrews photography
Rich Andrews photography
 

Flickr

My most recent photos...

Most of my pictures are all now on Flickr. Click the logo to visit my photostream...


...and everything else

Click here to see all my Flickr sets.


Galleries

Please click on the icons below to visit my galleries...

click for my Bristol gallery
click for my British bird gallery
click for my Chew Valley Lake gallery
click for my macro gallery
click for my overseas gallery

Me and my stuff

I've always been interested in nature photography, and for years used a number of Canon and Minolta film cameras. I sold the lot in 2003 and bought a Nikon Coolpix 4500, but soon decided that a digital SLR was the way to go.

Since 2004 I've been through various Canon cameras and lenses including two EOS 20Ds, an EOS 30D, an EOS 40D, an EF 400mm f/5.6L, and an EF 300mm f/2.8L IS before finding myself with the following which I use at the moment:

EOS 7D

EF 500mm f/4L IS
EF 1.4x II extender
Kenko 1.4x DG extender
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 APO DG
Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8
Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4

Speedlite 550EX
Macrolite MR-14EX

...plus sundry other gubbins.

I tart everything up using Canon DPP, Adobe CS2 and Helicon Focus (for the stacks).



A-Z index

Click here for a list of links to all my photos by species/subject.



Old photos and trip reports

There's still a load of old digiscoping stuff and foreign photos at cvlbirding which I haven't uploaded to Flickr:

Kenya
The Gambia
Chile
India
Finland
Argentina
South Africa


Previously blogged...

November - December 2009
Cheddar Res
The friendly Goldeneye
Water Pipit
Cuba
Tomorrow morning
Pom week
Crappy light again
Crappy light


September - October 2009
Jack Snipe
Brown Shrike
More garden moths
Garden moths
Bowling about around the Parkland
Chew tick!
Not a Glossy Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Spoonbill
Chard Res



Local photographers

Gareth's Birding Page
Gary Thoburn's Photos
Mendip Wildlife Photography
Smart Images
Somerset Birder
Wildimaging



Some other photo links

Birds as Art
Camera Price Buster
Canon Rumors
Digital Photography Review
Helicon Focus (focus stacking software)
Imaging Resource Comparometer
No Cropping Zone
Photomatix (HDR)
Photozone (lens tests)
UK Airshow Review
UK Nature Photographers


Copyright and contact

All photographs and content are copyright Rich Andrews. Please don't copy, steal or hotlink any of the photos on this website. It's the height of rudeness.

If you have any enquiries about usage, please . Thanks!



Thanks for visiting my photography website. All my picture galleries and links in one handy place. And a blog, updated... occasionally.

SATURDAY 27th FEBRUARY 2010

Another egret in a muddy field

The Little Egret was still feeding in that cow field along Stratford Lane today. Luckily it was near the gate when I drove past so I was able to reel off a few frames out the window.

SATURDAY 20th FEBRUARY 2010

Moonery

Failed once again to see the Backwell Lake Bittern, although I did have splendid views of the moon, which was showing well. The first shot is of the moon, the second is a picture of the surface of the B3130 between Chew Magna and Winford.

7D, EF 500mm f/4L, EF 1.4xII and Kenko 1.4x DG. Live view, remote release, IS off... for those who might care about these things:

SUNDAY 7th FEBRUARY 2010

Sense and Sensitivity
Some notes on the EOS 7D

Having used an EOS 40D since 2007, and a 30D and 20D before that, it's been a fair old wait for Canon to stop warming over their xxD line once every 18 months and bring out something decent. And then they did - the 7D. So I got one.

On paper, it sounds like the perfect birding camera - 1.6x sensor, eight frames per second, 18 Megapixels, HD video, shit-hot autofocus etc etc, but apart from the usual studio tests you find dotted around the interweb, I couldn't really find many useful bird-related 7D samples, so hopefully some unscientific field tests and pictures will be of more practical use to other bird and wildlife photographers thinking of getting one, with particular emphasis on those upgrading from one of the xxD bodies.


Compared to the EOS 40D

The composite below shows how much more Gadwall you get with the 18.0MP EOS 7D in comparison with the 10.1MP EOS 40D. That's a significant amount of extra duck. Having said that, I don't know why they had to give it quite so many pixels, and after using the camera for over a month I'm still not convinced it wouldn't have been more sensible to have given it less. But never mind.



Another thing that struck me when doing some controlled tests between the two cameras is that the 7D tends to meter 1/3 stop more than the 40D. But pulling the exposure back by 1/3 in RAW then puts the 7D files a touch underexposed in comparison - I suppose the sensitivity of the metering and sensor are calibrated slightly differently between the two bodies. White balance under artificial light seems quite different (less yellowy) on the 7D as well. However, regular Canon users will be pleased to learn that on a grey cloudy day the 7D underexposes just like all the others!


Resolution and noise

Here are some proper pictures to look at. Click on the thumbnails below for DPP RAW screengrabs of 16 images at 100%, at various ISOs from 200 to 3200. All are shown with Auto Lighting Optimiser, luminance noise reduction and sharpening at zero (some of those settings may differ from how the info panel says they were shot in-camera). I've pulled up the info panel and tool palette to show what's what.

With 40D RAWs, I used to move both NR sliders in DPP to zero before converting them to a TIFF, and then use a Neat Image plug-in where necessary in Photoshop, but one thing that surprised me when I first did this on the 7D was the amount of chrominance noise in dark shadows at ISO 800 and above. This manifests itself with a nasty spattering of magenta speckles. In fact you can see it beginning to appear on some ISO 400 shots. At one point I even downloaded some 7D RAWs from the Internet to check that mine Sense and Sensitivity - notes on the EOS 7D faulty (they were all the same). Luckily it can be removed fairly painlessly without losing any detail using the chroma slider, but you might need to turn it up a bit.

The appearance of noise at mid to high ISOs tends to be more or less noticeable depending on how it's exposed, so I've tried to give a few examples of different lighting for each sensitivity to give a general indication. Each file is approx 1MB. Don't forget to view them at 100%!

ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 400 ISO 400
ISO 400 ISO 400
ISO 640 ISO 640
ISO 800 ISO 800
ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 1600 ISO 3200


Given that there really is a silly amount of pixels on the sensor, I think that what I've seen so far is more or less in line with my expectations. It's easy to get a bit anal about sensor noise; when I compare some of these samples to slides taken a few years ago on the fabled Kodachrome 64, I know which I'd rather have. That said, I'd happily trade a few of those Megapixels for less noise at 800 ISO. But you can't have it all, I suppose.

Macro

Most of my photography is of birds using a telephoto lens, rarely at more than f/8, but during the summer when there are butterflies and moths about I do have cause to use a smaller aperture every now and then. On the one hand, having 18MP should be a benefit when photographing micro-moths at 1:1 or less, but on the other hand you don't want all those Megapixels to be showing up your lens at high f/numbers.

Much has been made by hysterical people on the internet that diffraction will cause the 7D to take crap photos at small apertures. I already know that my macro lens is best at around f/6.3 or f/7.1 with my 40D, so I did a test to see how it looked on the 7D. The feather below was photographed at ISO 100 using a Sigma 150mm f/2.8 at 1:1, at various apertures from f/2.8 to f/16. The lens was set at the same focus point for all shots, and the samples (converted from RAWs) are shown at 100% with sharpness and NR off.



The two thumbnails below show the 7D on the left and the 40D on the right (click to enlarge). You should be able to tell from the file names which aperture is which. It looks as though f/5.6 is sharpest on both bodies in these shots, just a shade sharper than f/8, and it does appear that the lower resolution of the 40D is a little more forgiving as you move further away from the optimum sharpness of the lens. For the sake of completeness I did a comparison of the 1/3 stops between f/5.6 and f/8, which I reckon shows that both are best at around f/6.3 to f/7.1 (as expected). I also did an upsize/downsize comparison (f/6.3).


7D 40D

It seems from these that at optimum apertures the 40D shots are a little bit sharper at pixel level than those of the 7D, and although the latter does resolve more detail, I suspect that for many people the 7D's mighty 18 Megapixels is a good example of the law of diminishing returns in action.

Bear in mind that the set of sequences above is as much a test of the optics as of the camera, and that the image produced by a macro lens at 1:1 probably isn't the best subject for drawing firm conclusions across the board; the results aren't necessarily going to translate to what you would get using a wide angle when photographing a pretty view, for example. Nevertheless, if you're a fan of f/16 then perhaps the 7D might not be for you.


Autofocus

Probably the biggest reason I decided to get a 7D. Over the years, having put up with the quirks, shortcomings and foibles of the 20D, 30D and 40D, and binned a load of otherwise good shots due to stroppy autofocus, it was about time Canon put a decent AF system into one of its 1.6x sensor cameras.

Not only does the 7D have 19 AF sensors compared to the 40D's nine, they're bigger as well. Or at least that's what their viewfinders would have me believe, as shown on the overlay below.



One shot  I’ve owned four Canon xxD cameras before the 7D, all of which were a bit wobbly out of the box when it came to AF accuracy. I was expecting the AF on this one to be right on the money from the word go, but it was by far the worst of the lot. Using it with a 500mm lens at f/4, it was hopeless. Good job the 7D has AF microadjustment. According to the manual, ‘Normally, this adjustment should not be required’. Luckily in my case I was able to use it to correct a camera that would otherwise have gone back to the shop.


Servo  The problem I always had with the 40D wasn't that servo AF was rubbish; far from it, just that I found it very difficult to use when photographing birds in flight. As the overlay above shows, you're pretty much restricted to using that tiny central sensor if you want the birds body in focus. And therein lies my problem. With an erratically-moving bird, inevitably at fairly close range, just keeping the sensor on the target for any length of time with a heavy 500mm lens I found very difficult with the 40D.

Having only ever used the xxD series cameras, I didn't really know what to expect when photographing flying birds using the 7D, with its reportedly 1D-like performance. Compared to the 40D it does appear faster, and with 19 sensors and a plethora of selection options is clearly superior when tracking a flying bird against both clear and cluttered backgrounds. As far as servo performance goes, it's this improved usability of the 7D's AF that I found to be the most significant difference over that of the 40D.

As I'm pretty much restricted to a few hours each weekend to get out taking pictures, I've not really given the AF a properly thorough test. It took a while to get the microadjustment sorted, and even after I think I've got it bang on, every now and then it will do whatever it fancies and I'll get a sequence which is inexplicably way off. Those instances are in the minority though, and overall it's much better than the 40D, especially with flying birds.


Video

Not exactly a deal-maker for me, although having seen some of the stuff shot with the 7D on the interweb I can quite see it being something I'll be using in the future. Having never previously shot a second of film in my life, my three attempts at video using the 7D so far have been mediocre at best, which I wholly attribute to my woeful technique.

Sorry if you were hoping for something a little more in-depth here.


Viewfinder

With 100% frame coverage, the viewfinder and eyecup are a bit bigger than on the 40D (like on the 1D series), which does make it nicer to look through. Another change is the transmissive LCD which is rather fancy, and lets you hide the inactive focus points, giving you an uncluttered field of view. On the downside, the bigger viewfinder means that the anglefinder I use with my 40D doesn’t fit. Furthermore, the eyecup size (Eg) is only shared with the 1D Mark III, so none of the third-party anglefinders yet have adapters to fit. Bah.


File size

With a RAW file size of up to 25MB, you’ll probably want to buy a few more CF cards. Also bear in mind that if you have a PC that’s a few years old, you might find that you can make a cup of tea in the time it takes DPP to open a RAW file.


Battery

It’s a different battery to the one in the 40D - an LP-E6, the same as in the 5D Mark II. Seems to last pretty well though - longer than the battery in my 40D, that's for sure.


RAW

If you don’t already, you ought to use RAW to get the most out of all those 18MPs. On Canon’s latest versions of DPP, the ‘standard’ JPEG picture style not only gives you a big wedge of sharpening, but also a hefty dollop of luminance noise reduction on top of it, to give a nice mushy finish to all your shots that would otherwise have loads of fine feather detail. Then there’s also that chrominance noise I mentioned earlier to keep an eye on. Shoot RAW and use the Neat Image plug-in in Photoshop, I would.

I think that just about covers it.

SATURDAY 6th FEBRUARY 2010

Stratford hide

...or 'Staffordide' is now surrounded by water, and every now and then a few birds swim near enough for some close photos. Normally the afternoons are best because the light is quite good then, but not in the case of this afternoon, when there was barely any light at all.

A female Goldeneye and an immature Cormorant (a sinensis one, by the looks of it):

SATURDAY 30th JANUARY 2010

Ducks of various provenance

As the weather was nice, I decided to take some pics of a couple of local ducks which have turned up; as usual it seems as though I'm the last person to have got round to photographing these, but at least one of them isn't going anywhere for a long time!

The top four are a first-winter male Red-crested Pochard at Apex Lakes. Fully winged and clearly very wild (or at least it looks like that in the photos that don't have bits of bread floating about, so that's good enough for me). The next is a male Pochard that sailed past whilst I was taking pics of the RCP, and the last is a rather smart Wood Duck.

The latter is one of an unringed pair which was dumped at Backwell Lake last October; despite the fact that they walk around the car park looking for bread, there was a load of banter on the local Yahoo group as to why they couldn't be wild birds. Did anyone notice that the pair of them only have two wings between them?

SATURDAY 23rd JANUARY 2010

Gigrin

Having seen thousands of Black Kites of almost every race abroad (or 'Shite Hawks' as Portly Leader and my esteemed Welsh colleauges will have them known as), it's not surprising that up until now I could barely lift my arse to go and see one in the UK.

I decided that it would be a good opportunity to visit Gigrin Farm, ostensibly to marvel at the celebrated melee of Red Kites, where I could casually bump into this Shite Hawk without trying. And so I did, and for ten minutes I even had some nice light on the Reds before it got all cloudy. Wouldn't it have been great to have gone there on a sunny day with a load of snow on the ground and had some lovely light reflecting up and illuminating the underwings. No wonder the owner of the farm has a 'snow alert' mailing list!

WEDNESDAY 13th JANUARY 2010

Another dusting

Last night another load of snow fell, so I took the chance to take a few snowy snaps around the lake...

SATURDAY 9th JANUARY 2010

A rash of thrushes

Normally you wouldn't be able to get within a mile of a Redwing or Fieldfare, but with the slightest dusting of snow they become so approachable you can stroll right up to them. Such was the case with these, photographed from the car at Chew today, feeding on fallen berries by the roadside. What top birds they are.

FRIDAY 1st JANUARY 2010

Happy New Year

I might have guessed there would be no sign of the four Otters seen at Stratford yesterday, but at least I was able to get some decent shots of that Cattle Egret which is still in the field near Heron's Green Pool. You have to keep an eye on the crafty dribbling cows which sneak up behind you when you're looking in the other direction. Plenty of Redwings there, too.



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All content and photographs are copyright . Please do not copy, publish or hotlink any of the photographs on this website. All rights reserved.


Rich Andrews Photography   CVL birding