Friday, 28 February 2014

Friday at the Flicks - GT Investigations

After a few days when the early morning temperature has been around 7˚C it was a bit of a shock to wake up to -3˚C. Fortunately once the Sun rose things began to improve. The clear overnight skies which caused the drop in temperature also gave many people, not this one unfortunately, a chance to see an Aurora over much of the country.

While I was monitoring the nature cameras today I happened to spot that both Great Tits came to investigate the camera nest box. The change over as one left and the other arrived is very fast. Don't blink or you will miss it:

Things are looking promising for a third year of nesting in the camera box.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Wednesday was a good day overall.
Blue sky and Sunshine most of the day though tempered with a chilly wind.

(The Sunspot on the left (AR1990) produced a very strong flare on Tuesday.)
NASA video can be watched HERE.

The weather was nice enough for us to take a longer route for our mid-day walkies.  We followed a narrow public footpath which was still somewhat muddy and slippery from recent rain. Half way down I was puzzled to see someone had dumped a bicycle gear in the undergrowth. An example of an IQ0 expecting everyone else to clear up their junk:


Once we left the footpath and started along the main road I spotted one of my favourite house signs:


The wheelwright closed years ago and I don't know whether they actually keep bees there. In the ditch which runs alongside the road there were a few bullrushes looking just about ready to spread thousands of seeds around the area:


On reaching the village school some of the daffodils growing in a Sunny spot under the hedge were coming in to flower:


Further on, in front of the village hall, the wallflowers, snowdrops and primulas were in full bloom:



Oh, yes, I did get Round Tuit and trimmed the grass.

On the afternoon walk we just went to the end of our lane to see what was happening on the farm land. Half way down the field there was some activity where one of the land drains was being cleared and deepened:


Spoiling the country scene were a couple of recently discarded pizza packages:


Someone had obviously parked on the cricket car park to have their lunch and was too idle to take their rubbish home. An example of an all to frequent discourtesy we see in the village.

Back to teeming down with rain this morning and I see that there is a forecast of snow for Friday. It is not expected as yet to reach this coast but it could well mean that temperatures will drop to a more seasonal average of about 6C.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Almost Under Control

Well, the grass didn't get cut yesterday. It was soaking wet first thing after  overnight rain. By midday it was drying out fairly well when it poured with rain again. So it ended up as another day experimenting with stacked macro photography.

In one of his comments Adrian  (Adrian's Images) pointed out that the Canon was accompanied with software to control it from a computer. I hadn't bothered to install it as I have usually been disappointed with programs given with cameras and from previous experience Canon try to take control of everything. Anyway I decided to install it all on the MacBook. Adrain also pointed me to a set of instructions which go with Zerene Stacker detailing how to use the program which gives full control of the camera. It certainly does. Full control over shutter speed, focussing, ISO, etc.. Using the program gives very precise control over small changes in focus which is just what is needed for stacking. Also what the camera sees is show nice and large on the laptop screen. Much better than squinting through a viewfinder or at a small preview screen.

Three results of a couple of hours playing in the kitchen.

The first is of some moss, a bit over exposed which resulted in some haloing. That gave me a chance to use the Retouching facility in ZS which did a reasonable job of manually copying (painting) bits from single shots which were in focus to the final stacked result:

2014-02-25-10.30.03 ZS retouched
13 stacked photos

The second of a small succulent about 20mm across, was the opposite, under exposed, but that was easily fixed in post processing:

2014-02-25-09.56.29 ZS retouched crop
29 stacked photos

Finally a close view of a pine cone:

2014-02-25-12.18.48 ZS retouched
44 stacked photos

One thing I did find. Three red pixels. They always showed as a tiny red dot. With the change in focus comes a change in the position of the subject so the red dot came in a slightly different place as each photo is processed on the stack. This resulted in short red dotted lines. Fortunately they were easy to eliminate with the Retouching facility in ZS. At first I though they might be dead pixels in the camera but when I checked previous stacked photos they were nowhere to be seen. New dust on the sensor or fault in the computer software?

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Heading Towards Spring

Although there have been several days with bitter winds and a few frosty mornings, February hereabouts has been quite mild. Average temperature would be around 6˚C but several days have seen  double figures by mid afternoon.

Recently some of the Crocuses have started flowering:



More of the tiny (2mm) flowers are showing on the Corkscrew Hazel bush and some of the catkins are starting to elongate as they open up:

2014-02-23-12.11.15 ZS PMax crop2014-02-23-12.07.30 ZS PMax crop

Other bulbs are beginning to show through in the garden and just up the lane the daffodils in a sheltered spot are about to open their flowers.

In the fruit cage one of the raspberry canes has got well ahead of itself producing leaves and flowers. The rest are only showing new buds so far as are the blackcurrant bushes.


A couple of Muscari flowers are just opening and the daisies in the lawn are beginning to appear:


I will probably have to give the grass a trim today as it has continued growing for much of the Winter.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Bumbling Heather

Following a look at the great stacked shots on Adrian's Images and the way things stand out against a black background I had another stacking session with this set up using the black foam lining in a postal package:


 I decided to try some macro shots of the heather from my garden.

  2014-02-23-10.33.41 ZS PMax crop
26 focus stacked shots

2014-02-23-10.27.21 ZS PMax
31 focus stacked shots

The black background looks better to me and I only used the LED table lamp for lighting. Later I spent some time experimented with the camera settings to get a better balance on the exposure.

While I was cutting the pieces of heather I had a surprise when I found a bumble bee on the under side of my secateurs. I put them down on the top of a wheelie bin, grabbed the 50D which always has the macro lens set up and managed a few hand held shots before it flew away. Afterwards I wondered how well Zerene Stacker would cope with those:

  2014-02-23-10.45.15 ZS retouched crop

Much better than I expected, especially as the bee was not completely still. Six stacked hand held shots.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Stacking a Few More

Tried a few different subjects to get more practice with taking multiple focus stacked macro shots.  Added an extra LED lamp to help with exposure and reduce the flatness of the finished result. I knew that retort stand and clamp would be useful one day:


First and last of 16 focus stacked shots of a rose which, incidentally, has continued to produce a few flowers right through the Winter:

IMG_7366  IMG_7351

The finished focus stacked photo:

2014-02-22-09.22.19 ZS PMax

A small white flower from the rockery (11 stacked shots):

2014-02-22-09.26.09 ZS PMax2

Wire covered in calcium deposits (11 stacked shots):

2014-02-22-10.05.17 ZS PMax2

Rose Hip (10 stacked shots):

2014-02-22-12.46.43 ZS PMax

Dried Mealworm (15 stacked shots):

2014-02-22-12.19.14 ZS PMax

Iris Seeds (14 stacked shots):

2014-02-22-12.21.15 ZS PMax

All stacked using the trial version of Zerene Stacker. Only the wire photo had a touch of post processing as it was too light.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Focus Stacked

Having looked around for a focus stacking app for the MacBook I ended up installing the trial version of Zerene Stacker which gives 30 days full use before deciding whether to buy it.

My first attempt, eight focus stacked images of a flower on my Venus Flytrap:

2014-02-21-10.18.56 ZS PMax
Canon 50D, 70-200mm lens plus Raynox DCR-250 Super Macro Conversion Lens, LED ring light.

Not a startling image but I'm pleased with it as a first attempt working with jpg images.

I must admit I prefer the look of the program compared to CompineZP on Windows. You can see the final image being built up which gives a chance to see if any of the initial images might be causing problems. It was much easier to use and really flew through the align and stack process.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Busy Bees

On the few occasions recently when the Sun has shone my heather plants have been swarming with bees. I would guess they are coming from a local smallholding where there are lots of bee hives. They were making the most of a sunny period with the temperature reaching 14˚C.




I only saw one bumble bee. Usually it has been the opposite, lots of bumble bees and few honey bees.

They were not alone - seemingly basking in the Sun was this lone hairy caterpillar:


DSCN2328 - 2014-02-20 at 13-44-14

It appears to be the caterpillar of the Ruby Tiger Moth which feeds on heather, amongst other things. The adult can be seen here on the ukmoths site.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014


On and off I have been keeping an eye on the new nestbox, the funny shaped one! I haven't seen any activity near it for ages. As any movement in the nearby greenery triggers the auto record I had it switched off during windy weather. Today I thought I might add a bit of temptation in the form of three dollops of bird friendly peanut butter (no added salt):


 I have always thought that there is at least one bird watching to see what I am up to.
Within ten minutes there was someone taking a quick look:


Pity that in the shade there was virtually no colour but I'm pretty sure it was a Robin. It didn't investigate the peanut butter but that may attract some others in the coming days.

Saturday, 15 February 2014


A couple of days ago I attempted to shoot some video of the Sun. With the 70D 3x digital zoom and the 100-400mm lens it was possible to have the Sun fill the frame. I guess the equivalent focal length used would have been 900-1000mm. That bit worked out well. Unfortunately, in spite of the sturdy tripod, the gusty wind gave enough vibration to make the video unwatchable. On the other hand when I grabbed a still from the video it was clear enough to use:

Still video grab Sun 001
This still shot showing a line of Sunspots is as grabbed from the video with no processing or cropping.

For anyone who hasn't seen the previous post on photographing the Sun please note that the only safe way to keep your eyesight and an unfried camera is to use a solar filter designed for that job.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Friday at the Flicks - Great Tit Still Roosting

I haven't mentioned it much but I have been keeping an eye on the camera nest box.  Every night I have looked it has been occupied:

She isn't very good at keeping the nest box clean. Previous roosters have normally cleared out any mess each day.

Thursday, 13 February 2014


As forecast, yesterday was a very windy day with gusts of over 100mph being recorded in some areas of the UK. Fortunately, though very squally, we didn't suffer anything like that. These are snapshots taken at one minute intervals so some stronger gusts could have been missed:

Feb 12 2012

The highest gusts my weather station recorded were around 43mph which was quite enough for me. At one stage I was looking out of the kitchen window when one particularly strong gust actually lifted the back of my summerhouse off the ground. For one heart stopping moment I thought it was going to end up falling on its front but fortunately it settled down again.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

A Land Oyster?

On one of our regular routes stands the stump of a tree which was cut down a few years ago. From time to time there is a fungus growing on it.

The way it droops over the edge of the stump always reminds me of  Salvador Dali's Melting Clock:




I always find it difficult to identify fungi but I think this one is the Oyster Mushroom - Pleurotus ostreatus.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Sunny February Afternoon Walkies

Yesterday stayed Sunny all day with a high of 13C in the shade. Not bad for a February day here. Forecast is for the weather to return to being overcast, wet and windy so it was a case of making the most of a good day.  Taking the path behind the church I wanted to see if any horses were out in the paddock. Two of Stan's horses were outside soaking up the warmth:


Down the track opposite the church Penny took her time to investigate every scent and seemed to be contemplating the risks of getting any closer to the water filled ditch:


Lovely picturesque views across the local flat farmland to the Lincolnshire Wolds:


The above photo was taken with the Nikon at wide angle. On the horizon, about a third the way from the left, about 5Km away, is the spire of Louth's St. James Church towering above the town which is in a valley. Here it is as seen using the full zoom on the Nikon:


All the above were processed using various filters in SimplyHDR.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Winter Trees

An unpromising start to the day with the temperature around -1C and a ground frost. What a change by lunch time. 12C with lots of Sunshine and blue sky. That made for a pleasant walkies. With the lack of any wind we could actually feel some heat from the Sun. More February days like this please.

Not a lot to see nature wise except some deciduous trees standing out against the blue sky.

Not sure what these are. They are about a quarter of a mile from where we were standing and they have obviously been hard pruned some years ago:

DSCN2257 copy





Could be Wintry showers tomorrow - oh well, can't have it my way all the time.
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