Posted on 15 May 2010, 20:07

Cresswell is a small village on the Northumberland coast at the southern end of the looooong stretch of beach that is Druridge Bay.

It’s a great place for wildlife – birds in particular (oh – and ice cream!) so with that in mind, and with the promise of a cloudless day to come, I turned up bright and early.

Brighter than the bloody weather, at least. And – true to form – although the beach and shoreline rocks fairly scream waders, there wasn’t a single one to be seen.

Plenty of dogs, of course. Oh aye, any bloody amount of dogs…

Not to worry though. I was really hoping to find and photograph some of the passerines that inhabit the dunes – Meadow pipits, Reed buntings and Stonechats were the main targets – along with the likes of Sedge warblers that I knew would be present in the damp reedy areas in the rough grazing between the dunes and the road. I also had Tree sparrows on my mind, this species still being relatively abundant in the planting and farm buildings around Cresswell pond, a reserve a little way up the road.

Well, although there were plenty of “Mipits” around, they were uncooperative, as were the Reed buntings; and the Tree sparrows were obviously too busy with nesting to hang around to be photographed.

But – in the bushes around a little car park near a boat yard – I spent quite a long time in the company of a pair of extremely obliging Stonechats.

I thought initially that their boldness was due to them protecting a nest, but after a little while I realised that it didn’t matter where I went to get out of their space: they were following me around! With my conscience duly salved – I certainly wouldn’t stress them out if they were protecting their nest by continuing to photograph them – I clicked away…

The light was, as I suggest above, pretty crappy – a consistently recurring theme for me this year – and I was on 800 ISO pretty much the whole time to keep the shutter speed up (pretty much a necessity when you’re shooting handheld at 400mm with the 7D – all those pixels readily show up any hint of camera shake, even if you’ve worked on your handholding technique. IS is great, but it’s not a miracle cure).

But I love photographing Stonechats, and I ended up with over 200 “keepers”.

Following is a small selection from what turned out to be a good day. Some of these – like the first – are more or less full frame.










I’ve had a couple of emails about this, so to answer the question, these images were converted in Capture One 5.

My Bibble 5 honeymoon is well and truly over, because 7D conversions from that converter are of very poor quality. Its demosaicing algorithm is completely at a loss to deal with the 7D’s characteristics, and the built-in Noise Ninja – even if you spend extra on registering Noise Ninja for the extra functionality and control this option is supposed to provide – is effectively useless, not least because of wildly inaccurate (or indeed non-existent) noise profiles for some cameras, including the 7D.

Your choice is therefore between potentially hugely noisy images (and in Bibble, even 400 ISO on the 7D is likely to be too noisy) thanks to the dysfunctional demosaicing algorithm; or low noise and no detail thanks to Noise Ninja’s flawed or missing noise profiles – a problem which user profiling doesn’t address, incidentally, because there’s something else not right about Noise Ninja in Bibble, but the coders at Bibble Labs aren’t letting on…

I sincerely recommend staying well away from Bibble 5 if you’re a 7D user, at least until they get their act together – which judging from what has gone before, will be a long time.

I continue to be impressed with Lightroom 3 Beta, but – and this might just be because I haven’t found the Lr 3 “sweet spot” yet – I see something in the quality of the colours and the rendering of conversions from Cap One that I prefer to Lr 3.

There’s a slight “harshness” (that’s probably overstating it, but I can’t think of a better word) in the Lr 3 conversions that I don’t see from Cap One. It might simply be a matter of making better contrast and black point decisions, though – I’m still very enthusiastic about Lr 3 and will keep at it.

What do you think?

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