I finally got over to the Lakes (Ullswater) with Mowbray on Tuesday.
The climb up to the viewpoint we'd decided on very nearly killed him (I honestly thought I'd be driving him home, and we were seriously making a point of checking for phone signal in case we had to call in the air ambulance!), but we managed.
Glad I don't have asthma...
For a few hours it was very quiet (apart from a bliddy Typhoon that went through while we were still catching our breath...), and we started wondering if we'd picked the wrong lake for planes, but there were some birds around to make up for the lack of aircraft:
Fun fact: "wheatear" is a corruption of the old English name of the bird, which is "White Arse"...
But they didn't seem to like it when these buggers (four USAF F-35s) suddenly appeared:
Best photography day I've had in bloody years. Although I'm by no stretch of the imagination a serious fast jet shooter (it's a very particular skillset that I've never really had the chance to develop - I'm a bird guy, really, and even a quick bird isn't doing 400+ knots!) some of these hold up against anything that the experts do.
And - as I'd hoped - the Canon R5 I was using (along with my 100-400mm Mk II and a Mk II 1.4x extender) was fantastic.
It doesn't come with a dedicated "Aircraft" AF mode (pretty please, Canon?), so I was relying on its normal AF: I was in Case 2 - "Continue to track subjects, ignoring possible obstacles" - and Large Zone Horizontal.
And it was stupidly good.
Have a look at the fourth jet image: in previous cameras, it's almost guaranteed that a wide "Zone" AF mode would have grabbed something in the busy background, rather than the desired subject - the Rule Of Thumb was never to use a multi AF-point mode against cluttered backgrounds.
Well not any more. Every single time I put the camera on a plane, the AF points would find it unerringly, and then - hugely important, this - stick to it.
The picture above is the fifth in a sequence of twenty five, including the three images that follow it: and every one was in sharp focus.
Against all that clutter, the camera just ignored everything but what I wanted it to focus on.
I'm frankly gobsmacked by just how efficiently the camera did its job. 350 images from the day, and two were out of focus for reasons I can't blame on me.
So yes, I've pre-ordered the new canon R7. I can't get enough of this, and with the R7 I won't even need a TC (not that it hurt at all on this trip) which will make for an even lighter package to schlep up the mountain.
In fact it occurs to me that I could use the R7 with my 70-200mm f/4 and a 2x, and have a practically pocketable "long" lens set up - f/8 at 400mm is no problem, and I'd have 32 megapickles to crop from.
Mind you, using his venerable 7D Mk II and 70-200mm f/2.8 with a 2x, Mark had a cracking day too - fewer keepers, but more than enough to make him a very, very happy bunny. Even if the effort did nearly kill him! But I think I've found an easier route to this viewpoint for next time, so...
Oh - and he won't feel the need to drag his 600mm f/4 along too, just in case!
Interestingly, because Mark had (accidentally!) used a much lower 1/400 shutter speed (I was on 1/1000) he's got a lot more panning blur in his backgrounds. Given that he had no problem getting sharp shots at that shutter speed, and his backgrounds are less "busy" than mine because of the panning blur, I think I'll drop my shutter speed next time to counter the effect of the deeper DoF I'll get from f/8 if I use the 70/200 f/4 and 2x - or the 100-400 and 1.4x, as per these images.
Now then, I have to admit that the colours on some of these aren't quite right.
My converter of choice - Photo Ninja - still doesn't natively support the R5 (it's from a tiny one-man operation, so this is something I've come to terms with) and as a result there's no dedicated R5 profile in the converter - I've had to use DNG conversions, which throws the colours out sometimes.
(It's not helped by the fact that I'm like a bad watercolour painter - sometimes I don't know when to stop fiddling! )
I'll probably rework some of them, but this is kinda beside the point - I'm just documenting an absolutely fantastic day, one that I can't wait to repeat.