Friday, 31 March 2017

This and That

Quite a few of the local birds are visiting the feeders in pairs. Robins, Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Chaffinches all tend to arrive as a couple. Among the Robins is one which spends a lot of time watching me as I potter round the garden or in the greenhouse:


From time to time bursting into song:


I've also noticed lots of birds gathering nesting material, Robin, House Sparrow, Blackbird and Starling being among them.

I think my first Cymbidium orchid is now in full bloom:

Cymbidium Orchid

Now waiting for the larger one. Always a long waiting game as they seem to be very slow to grow and mature but make up for it by staying in flower for many weeks. A new miniature one arrived today so I potted it on and gave it a good soak and feed. This one is near flowering size so I am hoping to see it bloom next year.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Season's Moving On

Once the rain had stopped I spent some time dead heading over a hundred tete a tete miniature daffodils as most have now finished flowering. A messy job. The wet remains of the flowers kept sticking to my hand. Still a pleasant job though, being outdoors and serenaded by a Blackbird and a Dunnock.

As I worked round one of the flower beds I spied the next set of flowers to appear:


A Fritillaria Meleagris (a snake's head fritillary) with its white cousin in the background.

Monday, 27 March 2017

The Grand Opening

No. Not a shop or a pub or visitor centre but the first of my Cymbidium orchids to flower for a couple of years. What a difference a day makes.



This morning:


It may gain a little more colour as it matures but this smaller variety is nearly all green.

The flower spike on the larger Cymbidium continues to progress:


Also I was pleased to spot a bud appearing on the tender Australian Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos) plant. Great to have managed to get this one through its second Winter in the unheated conservatory as they are often treated as (expensive) annuals in this country:


It will be put outside again once we are past any chance of early morning frosts.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

What a Lot I've Got

Once I had finished trimming the lawn yesterday I had a quick look to see how the frog spawn in the garden pond was progressing. No frog spawn, now hundreds of tadpoles:




If they all grow up I will have to get a bigger pond, or bigger garden!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Don't Forget the Ground Feeders

With mornings like today - foggy, air frost, just about 2C - our feathered friends appreciate some high energy food to start the day. What better than a fat ball or two? Most times we tend to hang these in nets or specially designed containers. That is fine for the smaller birds who can hang on but often near impossible for ground feeders such as Blackbirds. I have seen them keep flying up, trying to peck off the odd piece before they fall down again.

Recently I have been placing a fat ball or two on the bird table so they can all eat their share:

This female Blackbird was certainly appreciating it.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Seeing Red

One of my favourite views at this time of year can be seen from my back door. A glance across next door's garden to the one beyond and the beginnings of what will become a blaze of red is just starting to show:


If I remember correctly this is a Peony bush,  tall enough for me to admire over the six foot fencing.
My thanks to Rob for identifying the flower as a Camellia.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Mixing Channels - The Making of a B/W Picture

A brilliant Sunlight day with lots of bright blue sky and plenty of clouds, just right for a bit of infra red photography. Pity the wind was so bally cold.  A good job I'm not related to any brass monkeys. I was trying out a new IR filter on the 'full spectrum' 1200D. This one is infinitely adjustable from 530nm  to 720nm.

This photo was taken with it set to 530nm and the camera white balance set to the green grass.

Result as seen and taken by the camera:


The RAW file was adjusted for contrast and black level in Affinity Photo. Then the channel mixer was used to adjust each Red, Green & Blue level independantly on each R G & B channel:


Finally that was changed to B/W (greyscale) with a tad more tweaking:


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Closer by Tube

No, not underground photography but using extension tubes to take macro shots.

A short while ago I spotted a set of extension tubes for sale on eBay. Lightweight alloy by the feel of them. Full electrical contacts are fitted so auto focus works as normal. This set is designed for Canon DSLR cameras and consists of three tubes of different lengths so you can choose which to use depending how close you want to get.


These hand held photos (uncropped) were taken with the 'full spectrum' 1200D set for B/W, 21mm tube with 24-105mm zoom lens. Live view was used on the camera:

A small cactus: (1/100  f8  67mm) middle branch is bout 6mm across

A miniature daffodil: (1/160  f8  92mm)

I was pleased the outdoor daffodil worked as there was a breeze wafting the flowers about.

The advantage of using tubes is no extra optics so no added distortion. The disadvantage is the longer the tube used the more light is lost = slower shutter speeds and / or wider apertures for the same exposure. The 21mm is about 2 f stops slower compared with no tube.

This set seems to be a snip at just under £15 with free p&p.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Video Title Experiment

It's nice to have something new to exercise the remaining grey cell. This time it's animation. A couple of days ago I spotted the Mac app called Crazy Talk Animator 2 Standard Edition had gone free for a while so I just had to download it and have a play. This is about the most basic version they make and you have to work with the backgrounds, figures, animation they supply. I've always wanted to make a short animated intro for my videos so thought I would have a play.

Some rather poorly lit, grainy video of Blue Tits taken earlier in the year:

Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies filmed earlier in the week:

The animated sequence was saved as a .MOV video file then imported in iMovie and added to the
video clips with associated music where needed.

Of course the idea of giving away the basic version is to entice people to buy the Pro version for £75.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Home From Home

A few years ago I installed an insect house but all I ever saw in it were spiders webs.
It has now rotted away and been replaced with a new one:


I fixed the new one in different place a couple of weeks ago. I was wondering whether it was in too much direct Sunlight but as I went to move it I saw it has its first resident already:


A bit closer crop:


Yes, a 7 spot Ladybird.
Needless to say I left the house where it was.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Early Flutters Feeding

Yesterday started cool but the Sun soon came out so I decided to trim some of the evergreens in the front garden. Pleased I had my trusty pocket Nikon with me as I saw some 7 spot Ladybirds:


Some bees enjoying a feed on the Heather:


But what caught my eye was about five Small Tortoiseshell butterflies on the Heather:



One looked very much well worn and tatty but the rest appeared pristine.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Now There are Two

This is the progress on the first Cymbidium orchid to show a flower spike. Looks as though it will lose one bloom but the remaining five seem to be progressing nicely:


Joy on joy - I spied a flower spike on one of my larger Cymbidium plants:


Looks as though last Spring's dividing and re-potting is showing results.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

A Frog He Has a Wooing Been

To be honest I haven't seen or heard a frog yet this year but when I had a look at the pond a few minutes ago there was plenty of frog spawn to be seen:


Having a quick search through recent years this looks to be the earliest by about a week.
Most years it appears around the 20th of March.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Hoping for Big Things

I spotted some seeds of giant strawberries for sale so I thought I would give them a try. The seeds spent about 3 weeks in the freezer, as per the instructions, and are now sown in pots on the kitchen windowsill. Now it is a waiting game to see whether they start growing as, apparently, they are not an easy plant to get started. The seeds are tiny as can bee seen with the two I found still in their plastic bag, now planted with the others:


The 5p coin is about 19mm across.

I wonder whether this is a similar variety to the Spanish strawberries available in shops at the moment.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Not so Grey After All

Although I set the 1200D (converted for full spectrum photography) to take B/W photos it appears that it stores all the colour information in the RAW files. This can be seen depending which program is used to process them. None of these have been adjusted for exposure or contrast, etc..

The photo as it will be seen on the camera's screen:


When pasted in Dramatic Black and White:


When pasted in Affinity Photo before processing as B/W:


And when pasted in Simply HDR:


Lots of possibilities from the same photo.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

A Walk on the Grey Side

Today has been a beautiful Sunny day though with a really biting cold wind. Anyway, I decided it was good enough to take the 1200D (full spectrum converted) with us when we went for our mid-morning walkabout. It was also a chance to test out a new (to me) lens which I had bought, used, on eBay. True to the listing it is in pristine condition. A Canon EF 24-105mm 1:4 L IS USM lens. All shots were taken using live shooting which, though much slower in focussing, is the only way to be assured of properly focussed results with a camera converted to accept near IR as well as visible light as they focus at slightly different points.

The start of the walk takes us through the small estate just behind my property.
First glimpse of the village church without its scaffolding:

A bit closer view:

On to the main street and a view of one of the old trees:

Cross over the street for a quick look down Old Mill Lane:

A howling icy blast down there so back to the main street:

Cross the street again and down Mill Lane:

Until we reach a footpath which will take us to the back of the churchyard:


Then in to the old part of the graveyard to get a better view of the church:

Back on the main street looking back. The building on the left used to be our village post office and general store until it was decided to reduce the number of small post offices in the country:

A quick look at the old rectory which is now home to Penny's doctor:

Finally back to our own lane:

A walk on the grey side? Well, I had decided that this outing I would concentrate on B/W (greyscale) photography. All were taken as RAW and then processed using Affinity Photo. Lots of fluffy white clouds an hour before we went ou and a couple of hours after our return but virtually clear sky just when I wanted some cloud!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Full Spectrum

I recently purchased a used Canon 1200D body which has been modified to a 'full spectrum' camera. The original internal filter over the sensor has been replaced with borosilicate glass. This has a high transparency in visible, near Infra Red and Ultra Violet light. The latter two being filtered out in a standard digital camera.

A couple of photos taken to test out the camera, unfortunately on a dull day.
They were processed using Serif Affinity Photo.



and one converted to grey scale (B/W):

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