Tuesday, 20 January 2015


Before I gave it back to its rightful owner, I wanted to test the 2x mkIII teleconverter on my 70-200/2.8L IS mkII.  For travelling this is an attractive combination - on paper - but I needed to see what the compromises were.  For this test I was able to use my ever-faithful "dumb blonde" as a model, and she even cooperated on this occasion.  This allowed me to use different focal lengths and apertures to see how the lens+teleconverter performed.  Here are some of the results.

As with the 300/2.8L, the combination is soft at f/5.6 but sharpens up considerably at f/8 - in the centre at least.  At f/11 it's sharp across most of the frame, but this means it's necessary to work at a reasonably high ISO in order to stop the shutter speed dropping.  All of these shots were hand-held, as it's bad enough combining a dog and a camera on a walk without adding a tripod too!  As with my previous tests, the 1.4x mkIII produces superior results, but there are times when the extra reach could well be valuable.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Short Houred Eels

On Saturday afternoon, Harriet and I set off to the interestingly named "Cock-Up Bridge" which is part of the National Trust reserve at Burwell Fen.  This was partly to get out into the sunshine, partly to see which birds were around, and - in my case - partly to try out the 300/2.8L lens with a borrowed 2x mkIII teleconverter.

On arrival we bumped into a chap walking his dog, and he told us - very excitedly - that if we wanted to see the "Short Houred Eels" (sic) then we needed to walk along the track towards the barn, as that was where they were hunting.  Well, who could resist the call of the eels?  They were shy initially, so I had to make do with a couple of horse riders and a solitary kestrel.

Then one of the "eels" came out to hunt.  They really are magnificent creatures, with striking yellow eyes visible on the few occasions they came close enough.  I managed to capture the following sequence which shows a dive into the grass to collect a vole.

The final picture shows how far the wings are swept back before the bird hits the grass.

As soon as one owl had obtained a vole, others appeared out of nowhere to try and steal it.  The following sequence shows one (unsuccessful) attempt at such thievery.  I wasn't until I processed the pictures that I noticed the missing primary feathers from the would-be robber's right wing.

The final image shows the thief confronting the successful hunter (with a vole in its talons) pretty well head on.

The adjacent field also had highland cattle, which were as attractive as ever.

The National Trust have also introduced some wild Konik horses, taken from the herd at Wicken Fen, and they were just getting settled in.  They looked very beautiful back-lit in the early evening light.

The final spectacle, before we headed home, was a small murmuration of starlings based in one of the local trees.  For no readily apparent reason they all left the roost, flew around for a bit, and then headed back again.  Not they we were complaining, however, as it was wonderful to watch.

And the verdict on the 2x converter?  A bit of a Curate's Egg, although I can see it being a really useful addition to the kit bag.  Focusing was a lot slower than with the 1.4x, and it was essential to work at f/8 to obtain acceptable sharpness.  Having said that, the "eels" were a very long way away, and the converter allowed me to capture shots which I would otherwise have missed.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

An Oxford Miscellany

A few random snaps which didn't quite fit into other categories.

The unfortunate side-effect of a broken lamp...

The final three were taken as the sun went down, and everyone was heading home after a hard day's shopping (or photography).

Friday, 2 January 2015

Other Oxford folks

A few more pictures of non-photographic folks (and pooches) from my day in Oxford.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Homo photographicus (Oxoniensis)

Oxford was crawling with tourists from every corner of the world, all of whom seemed to be snapping away.  I confess that I don't understand the current obsession with the ubiquitous selfie, but there were lots of people wandering around carrying dedicated "selfie sticks" with either iPhones or GoPros glued to the end.  Call me old fashioned, but I still prefer to lug around three tons of SLR plus assorted lenses...