Time for a catch-up

Posted on 23 July 2017, 13:24

Rather than a post per trip, I thought I’d just do a round-up of recent efforts.

Starting with a week in Rothbury, in the Coquet Valley in Northumberland, in June.

Loads of birds around – warblers a-plenty, usual suspects by the score – but rather limited photographic opportunities, with the following being among my favourites:

Bunnies! Rothbury, Northumberland

Tired Jackdaw, Rothbury. (It was actually wiping its beak, making for an unusual pose)

Jackdaw, Rothbury

Common sandpiper, Rothbury

Common sandpiper, Rothbury

Common sandpiper, Rothbury

I also had a trip to the Farnes – it was Puffin time!

Except that I got to Seahouses to a cancelled sailing because of strong winds…

Ingram Valley became the fall-back option – hoping for some Spotted flycatchers, but I got a bit more than that:

Blackbird, Ingram Valley

Spotted flycatcher, Ingram Valley

Spotted flycatcher, Ingram Valley

Not a Puffin, Ingram Valley

Red squirrel, Ingram Valley

Red squirrel, Ingram Valley

Very happy with these squirrel portraits – completely unexpected, and more than making up for missing out on the Puffins.

Now then. The pics above are all with my 100-400mm Mk II lens (on the 7D Mk II) with a 1.4x TC. 560mm of focal length is a useful amount of reach, and (if I may say so) they’re very nice images (Affinity Photo jpeg conversion bug notwithstanding – that pixel-wide white line on the bottom of some of these is irritating).

But I admit that I was getting a bit of lens envy at Ingram as my buddy Mark stuck a 1.4x TC between his 7D Mk II and his 600mm f/4, swapping it out later on for a 2x.

Well, it just so happens that I recently came into a bit of money (hint: get your PPI claims in!) and although I’d had no intention of spending it on a lens when I first got the money, its timing corresponded with a used (but as-new) Canon 500mm f/4 Mk II coming to my attention, at a very tempting (ie, almost exactly the same as my PPI payment) price.

They’re rarer than rocking-horse droppings second-hand, so before I knew it, the PPI pay-out became a lens…

Although it’s bigger and heavier than the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 OS lens that I’ve used – handheld – to great effect for several years, out to 600mm with a 2x on, the weight difference is only a few ounces, so it’s entirely usable without a tripod or monopod.

And at 700mm (this being with a Sigma 1.4x, which is completely the equal of my Mk II Canon 1.4x), it’s very impressive:

Starling, Blyth

Blackbird, Blyth

Blackbird, Blyth

Blackbird, Blyth

Stonechat, Blyth

The Stonechat is near enough full-frame – much closer, and it would have been within the minimum focusing distance.

I have found myself looking for the zoom ring a time or two – I’ve never owned a long lens that wasn’t a zoom – but ooh, I like this thing!

It’s no slouch at 1000mm, either:

Mallard, Blyth

Mute swan, Blyth

Mute swan, Blyth

It’s perhaps no surprise that the new toy has rekindled my enthusiasm – so I’m off up to Aviemore in a month or so, to see if I can track down some Crested tits and Ptarmigan.

(Mind you, I’m kicking myself about the timing of my trip. I’ve just found out that Rothiemurchus Fisheries – the best place in the world for Osprey imagery by all accounts – is about 20 mins walk from my guest house front door. But it’ll be too late for Ospreys by the time I’m there..!)

Anyway… Although it’s a big lens, it fits nicely – with gripped body and Siggy 1.4x attached, and various odds-and-sods – into the surprisingly compact Think Tank Glass Limo case.

And rather than deal with the ridiculously awkward (and ridiculously expensive) Canon carbon fibre lens hood, I’m using a LensCoat Travelhood – it takes up a fraction of the space of the carbon fibre bucket; and I don’t have to worry about breaking it.

Finally, I’ve locked away the hood-specific lens cap along with the hood, and I’m using an Op/Tech Hood Hat instead.

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