My photograph of the highly secretive and stunningly beautiful Dartford Warbler has made the front cover of the July issue of Bird Watching magazine, which I’m overjoyed with. With another Dartford Warbler covering a double page spread inside this favorite magazine of mine.
This tiny, secretive bird, often only ever glimpsed darting between bushes on lowland heaths. They emit a harsh rattling call before vanishing into cover, only to reappear somewhere else having worked their way through the thick cover they love to live in.
I have been really lucky to have seen this bird so close after travelling to many wonderful places in the UK on the lookout for this attractive bird with a hope of seeing and photographing its beauty. These images were taken in Wales and north of their southern stronghold in the UK.
Their feathers, calls and behavior were a total pleasure to watch and photograph and there is a wonderful article on them in this issue. You can see the larger version of the front cover here and also the double paged image by clicking here, hope you enjoy the article and images many thanks.
I’ve now had the Nikon D4 for just over a week and in that short time I’ve used the camera photographing my own work and also on one to ones, and I have to say the camera has performed very well. Having had the Nikon D3s now for two years, it was always going to be a hard act to follow. The improved ISO and added megapixels are nice, but what’s even better is the improved ergonomics, controls, speed, autofocus, metering, illuminated buttons, processing -EXPEED 3, and video capabilities with the full HD-SLR which are all improved from the D3S.
The overall shape of the camera has not changed much from the D3s, however, the controls and ergonomics are a bit different. The Nikon D4 now provides better control when the camera is used in the portrait orientation which is great if you shoot in this orientation a lot like me. The joystick and auto focus control is closer and easier to manage now when held vertically, with the D3s you had to really reach over with your thumb to get to the joystick. The Nikon D4 is about 5% lighter than the previous D3s and placed alongside each other this difference is clear to see.
Nikon has improved the auto focus system drastically. It can now operate in much lower light; this is a huge advantage, especially for wildlife and where I am depending on my auto focus system in low-light situations to capture what I’m witnessing. The D4’s auto focus has faster accuracy over the D3s from my first findings, performing brilliantly in poor or testing light. The image below of two Canada Geese taking off in the first rays off dawn light demonstrates this perfectly in very testing light conditions.
Clean, smooth and quick is how I’d best describe the auto focusing on the D4. The buffer is very big too compared to the D3S and starts to fill up while shooting in 14 bit Tiffs around 90-100 images when auto focus is engaged. But when using the new Sony XQD memory cards they fill back up very quickly and your able to carry on shooting. I have never been one to blast and hope for the best. I prefer to let a couple of shots go, recompose and see, always watching what the camera noise does to the subject, as I hate making the wildlife jump and scaring it into next week. The quiet mode as in the D3S has been retained on the D4 and seems more improved.
The D4 has two slots, one for the XQD card and one for the Compact Flash which is something I don’t like. For me they should have chosen two XQD cards as I believe this card from what you read is the future. Having two card readers is a pain, once your home you have to use two card readers to download your images which could have been averted by just picking one card for the camera only. Downloading is quick and I use Nikon software all the way- Nikon transfer, View NX then I do my processing in Nikon Capture NX2. All of which have a new version to accommodate the D4.
From my first images at higher ISO’s there does seem a more improved image from the D4, more so at the higher ranges. I don’t really push the ISO past 4000 alot of the time as I want to try and retain as much quality in the image as possible. But even at 4000 the performance of the D4 is better than the D3S at the same time there’s not a massive difference and I wouldn’t be selling my D3S as that camera has not missed a heart beat in over two years and has earned its brilliant reputation. The two images below from my Great Crested Grebes project were taken with my D3S clearly showing the quality of this camera.
The following images of Red Grouse were taken at high ISO’s, the sun’s light had started to warm the moors here, making conditions for auto focus tricky normally but here again the D4’s AF system locked on in tough and challenging light.
The D4 all round is a vast improvement on the D3S camera, it wont make you a better photographer though but what it will do is give you more options in various testing conditions that you may find yourself among while shooting wildlife. I am still learning about this brilliant camera as in just over a week does not do the camera justice. From what I have seen on the back of the camera and later on my large screen the improvements are good, very good. The auto focusing is one of its biggest pluses from the D3S and I cannot praise Nikon enough for the improvement they’ve done here. The video is good quality and I will be doing a separate blog post on that soon.
I am still learning about the D4 each time I take it out, but from these early stages all I can say is its “just brilliant”. The Internet will be a wash with reviews about this camera by more qualified people than myself all calming many different things. All I can say is make your own mind up like I have, the camera is a marked improvement on the D3S I know I have shot with the aforementioned camera for two years and still do. This post is not meant to be a whats right or wrong, its just about how this camera has worked for me on the ground, in the theatre of wildlife a place I live and breath.
Thank you to my clients over the last week or so who have seen me test out my new camera, really nice to meet you all. Steven from Ipswich sent me some lovely words below that can be seen on my testimonials page –
“Hi Craig I would just like to thank you for my two days one to one with you, it was fantastic on both days and I did really enjoy all of it. I love the way you had so much respect for the wildlife and how you put all this into your photography skills in which you was so kind to pass on to me. It has give me a better insight into the way I need to work , approach and take the final shot simply just by watching and listening to what was around me, like when you told me about the geese were going to take off before they even beat their wings, brilliant. Once again a big thanks and I would highly recommend anyone for your one to one it was agreat pleasure. Regards Steven”
Before I go I would like to thank Adam from my press agent for getting my Owl images out into the papers over the last week. Many months of hard work were put into these images, capturing moments I’ll never forget. Barn Owls flying towards me, Short-eared Owls flying feet away from where I was hidden, diving for food right in front of me, all just amazing moments. You can see the story and how much work and the lengths I went to here in the Daily Mail and also here in the Sun. I also made the Telegraph newspaper all the same week so again many thanks Adam as it’s always very nice when you see your work in print.
Also in April’s issue of Nikon’s N Photo magazine my Dartford Warbler image made their “In pictures :Inspirational Nikon photography from around the world” section. Click here to see the article and see one of my favourite photos of a male Dartford Warbler singing in the morning light, stunning birds.
Its an amazing time of year now with Spring well and truly awoken and the start of British Summer time at the weekend. Make sure you enjoy her beauty and capture it with your cameras, good luck.
The highly secretive and stunningly beautiful Dartford Warbler photographed here among its health land habitat further North from its more Southernmost stronghold in the UK. A tiny, secretive bird, often only ever glimpsed darting between bushes on lowland heaths. They emit a harsh rattling call before vanishing into cover, only to reappear somewhere else having worked their way through the thick cover they love to live in. I have been really lucky to have seen this bird so close after travelling to many wonderful places in the UK on the lookout for this attractive bird with a hope of seeing and photographing its beauty. The Dartford Warbler is rare in the UK and lives almost exclusively in the South. It was first found in England in 1787.
To watch him was amazing, his lively and very nimble movements, hoping from one perch to another, twitching his wings and tail every so often. He spent long periods concealed in the vegetation offering only the briefest of glimpses, his bright red, angry looking eye peering at me from the thick, thorny thickets. Every so often he’d appear and gain the highest vantage point in which to sing from, his song was very distinctive and harsh and high in pitch once heard you never forget this call and then he’d vanish for a while. The first indicator he was around was his call, as it stood out among the other bird calls on the moors.
The challenge was to second guess where he’d appear allowing me a clean, full length photograph of him, using fieldcraft and blending in, as I was not using a hide making it hard to pin down a certain place he’d appear and come out from cover using the many natural perches open to him. The colour of these birds set them apart from many UK birds for me, a dark grey head and back with a dark wine-red chest and underside with white fine spots on and the most beautiful eyes you’ve seen in a bird, bright red, almost angry looking in appearance, just a stunning bird standing as proud as punch singing away among the heathlands, an amazing time with this amazing bird.
What truely amazed me was how well the different colours of this bird blended into his environment, where the colours of mother nature worked together so well in letting this shy bird completely blend in and become totally unseen. The rich colours of the heathland lending their colours almost identically to those of the Dartford Warbler , a clear view to just how wonderful nature his.
In the past the bird has been vulnerable to changes in climate and two harsh winters left just 11 pairs of the bird in 1963, but Britain’s most colourful warbler is spreading its territorial wings having returned to Wales, the Midlands and East Anglia, there are now more than 3,000 pairs – the highest tally for more than 40 years. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says the recent rise in numbers – to an estimated 3,208 pairs from 1,890 in 1994 – is due both to milder winters and improvements in the conservation of heathland habitats.
But the latest reports indicate after the two harsh winters the birds numbers may have dropped significantly, Cold weather in 2009, 2010 caused a 90% reduction in warbler numbers across the South of the UK . However, freezing weather and snow in the early parts of 2009 and 2010 and earlier this year have caused great concern that these small birds could die out, with a crash in numbers in their southern stronghold of the UK.
A truely stunning bird with a call you’ll never forget once you hear it, just amazing to see these birds within their natural habitat and I will be going back soon where hopefully he will have stayed and may have a mate around as during all the time there I never saw a female and his behaviour would indicate with his ever present singing he was looking for the female, marking his patch, defending his territory from other birds, more so Stonechats that share the same habitat. I hope to photograph this amazing bird again during the year.