I will not describe it as a mistake, rather a miscalculation when I started my shot of the week project at the beginning of the year. After four months, it remains on track, despite appearances to the contrary. Where I erred was in underestimating the time required to produce a blog article to accompany every photograph. It is quite a commitment. For a while, all was well. Then I started to be a week or so late which morphed into two weeks. I nearly caught up, before life got extremely busy. There was time to take photographs, but not enough to process and write about them. So today, already a week into May, I present my image for the week ending 31 March.
The shot, Goldfinch, is my favourite from a day spent at Millers Wood which is run by a bird photography enthusiast, John Stanton. A few years ago, he purchased a tract of woodland and is gradually restoring it to create a haven for wildlife. As part of the work he has undertaken, John has set up a number of hides and photogenic settings, which he hires out. While I mainly saw a variety of birds, there was a field vole which occasionally scampered about. I am certain that there are plenty of other animals there as well.
It requires a long telephoto lens, but there are photographic opportunities aplenty. Most of my shots were taken on a Fuji 100-400 lens zoomed out to its maximum length and mounted on a X-H1. That is equivalent to 600 mm on a full frame camera. Even then, some cropping is often necessary. Fortunately, with 24 MP to play with, there is sufficient scope to be able to produce an image for a good size print. For the goldfinch image, I wanted to include some context and zoomed out to around 300 mm.
To bait or not to bait?
The largest birds I saw at Millers Wood were woodpeckers but most are much smaller. They are also completely wild and tend not to stay in one place for long. A hide is a necessity, but that alone is insufficient. In order to attract the birds, John places food in concealed positions which entices them to settle a few feet away.
While the practice of baiting might be anathema to some, it does ensure that there is plenty to see. The objective was to obtain pictures, after all. In my view, the method of achieving that goal is secondary. Sure, I ended up with shots of birds eating food that did not look natural; a minor consideration when there was so much going on. Besides, I doubt that many shots of smaller birds have ever been achieved without some form of baiting.
To my mind, the difference comes down to the distinction between taking a photograph and making it. Unwittingly, maybe, but the birds were acting as models and receiving their reward in a currency they could appreciate. Namely, nourishment.
Some other images from Millers Wood
Inevitably, birds will take flight before the shutter can be pressed. They can be astonishingly quick, there one moment and gone the next. It all happens in a fraction of a second. I certainly had a goodly number of frames where the bird was absent. Occasionally, especially when shooting a burst, it is possible to catch the bird at the moment of departure. The first image is the best of what I describe as a “leaving” shot. I find the robin’s assymetrical action intriguing, captured at a brief instant with only one wing extended and one foot in the air.
Sometimes the birds appear to be looking directly at the camera. On my previous visit to Millers Wood, I had been hoping to get a shot of a woodpecker. John seemed very confident that would happen, offering a refund if none appeared. Needless to say, his money was safe. The birds are ubiquitous although I have yet to see a green one, which seem to be less common.
Having mentioned the field vole sighting earlier, I could hardly conclude without showing a shot of it. Overall, it was a very productive day and I am especially pleased with my goldfinch image.