Highlights of January's shots, a bit of handball, some birds and some snowy portraits.
I need to move my a** and try to publish more content or at least I'd like to take more decent photos and publish roughly two articles a month on that blog. If I manage to keep one a month that would be already something and will mean that I'm not only shooting birds. Don't get me wrong I'm still enjoying wildlife photography but I'm still looking for new challenges and practices. And also looking for a job abroad at the moment :). Canada is currently in my mind.
Anyway,... series of the month. I'm not gonna show any of my handball pictures as to be honest I don't find them crazy. I had the chance to take the little M50 on the court and once agin I was well pleased with the result. I still need to find a way to keep the screen in the viewfinder ON as when I have to take sudden picture sometimes I miss it because I just put my eye against it and the image stays dark and I can't aim the subject precisely.
I have been twice out this month, looking for birds. Once on a Sunday, sunrise was due for 8.04 A.M. and I made it to the Marais de la Marcq observatory, weather was not great so I opted for a sheltered place. Surprisingly, on the way I found out I was not the only person that decided to have a go on that day. Luckily, the other chap in the observatory was extremely discret and took one side of the observatory while I took the other one. We both kept looking around but did not see much except a couple of herons. Then, while I was actually looking toward my "colleague" side, I just turned back and looked over my shoulder and... miracle !!! A female kingfisher had just landed on branch 3 meters away from the observatory. I did not want to make a sudden move to not scare it and gently "chuched" my neighbour that the bird was behind me. While he performed a very stealth movement toward me with his camera, I managed to turn back slowly and pick up my camera to get a couple of picture of it. "Martine" as I called her did not seem to be scared at all (we were pretty quiet) and she even came closer allowing us to observe her feeding. She made a couple of rounds for at least a good 30 mins. that was fantastic !!! Then she disappeared and never showed up again, probably because we were then joined by 3 other very noisy and chatty "bird wachers" (the same as usual). Me and my colleague looked each others in the eyes and both thought "it's over..."
Those above, were taken with my 7Dii but I also took the M50 on a bird trip and it did pretty well. On that specific day a couple of Eurasian teal were around. Even if for a large majority of people (mainly hunters :p) these are "ducks" I particularly love the male color patterns and that deep flashy green patch on their wings.
Last bit about birds... As my partner in crime was not accompanying me on the "Martine" day, (probably the only time she did not come with) she got pretty upset not seeing her. So we went for a day 2 and guess what... She did not show up. We waited there for a good 2 hours but nothing, the swamp was completely frozen at the same time hence probably why no birds turned up. On the way back I managed to get a cool shot with a heron. My fingers were frozen and I could not stand for a long time, even doing the settings on the camera were difficult.
Let it snow...
As we leave in the North of France, the weather is a bit colder than in my native South. Last week we had quite a bit of snow (about 20 cms) and we decided to do a quick shooting in the snow using the natural light. See below...
For the Christmas we headed back to the South of France to gather with the family and meet up with friends. I took with me a bit of my gear, hoping to find time to do some "birding" but also to do a "studio" shoot with the remaining gear I left in the South. Wildlife was not crazy due to winter time and cold weather on the other hand I'm quite happy with the "studio" shooting.
I was very much hoping to have more time to look for wildlife and bird watching spots, as winter time is good period to follow resident animals and birds. It it the right time of the year to investigate on local species habits, foraging grounds and "refugees". In presence of snow, tracks are way easier to follow, unfortunately it rarely snows in the South. However, as usual plans never turn out as planned and I could not dedicate much time on wildlife exploration.
I went to a spot I knew for its regular kingfisher observations. Indeed, I did not visually spot any but I managed to listen to at least two individuals very close from me. The timing was not quite right as I went there around 3 P.M. and the light from the sun was already fading away.
Obviously, the variety of birds was not great but it was what you would expect in this season. Blue and Great tits were among the most numerous species present on that day. A cormorant was also around. The fourth and fifth pictures were actually taken on a different day. The dead cormorant was found a bit more upstream of the river (Fresquel) along the same path where the three other pictures were taken. I suspect it was possibly the same cormorant as on the first picture. Due to the recent floods in the region, the watercourse borders are full of various plastic items that have been dragged by the current, I might suspect some plastic "poisoning" or strangulation of the bird. I could not observe any wounds from what I saw. From that distance it was indeed hard to tell.
Project - "Cocoon":
While in South of France, we stopped by my dad's house. My dad used to be an auctioneer, he retired about 5 years ago but still possesses an incredible collection of items of every kinds. Among this, there is a very specific seat that I have always particularly loved. I would describe it as an egg shaped seat, a bit like the one from the Men In Black movie poster.
Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to try to make a couple of shots with it and to practice my studio light skills. The original idea was to do some nude style shooting. As my dad was around the house my shooting partner/model was not feeling really confident in doing this naked. However, we did have other ideas with different clothing. We also took advantage of other items (e.g., a pair of sun glasses, a melon-hat and walking stick) that were available in the living room transformed into a photo studio for the occasion.
Not gonna describe the whole setup as it was very simple, a black background and two 60x60 softboxes with continuous light and that's it. The only thing, is that I had little problem with my 7Dii combined with the 18-35mm on that day. Impossible to focus on the subject eyes, most of my pictures were blurry on the face. Luckily, we have recently bought a Canon M50 mirrorless camera with its ring adaptors for EF and EF-S lenses. The little one is equipped with an Eye-tracking function supposed to be very handy in portraits mode. We were planning to test it during the shooting but just on a couple of shots... Nevertheless, I was so impressed with the camera that we made most of the session with it.
Again this is "amateur" photography, made from scratches but both of us were quite pleased with the outcome from either the final pictures and also from the new camera. Still, I need to invest in a proper Full frame camera as I find the cropping/magnifying effect of the APS-C captor a bit too annoying... Best example are picture 2,4 and especially were you end up with very tight focus on the subject, by this I mean not much space around the subject. It gets a bit challenging to find the appropriate angle to get the full subject in the picture without cut a part of it. Anyway,... we'll see in the near futur what's Canon will be coming up with in terms of new gear. Really looking for a professional Full-Frame mirrorless.
BTW... Happy New Year !!!!
Article summary... A bit of everything, ballet photo, photo contest projects, wildlife,... the usual.
I'm also realizing that I have not even taken time to look at the wildlife pictures I have taken end of November. I have only uploaded them on my computer but not post treated. So I'll be doing this at the same time as I write this post, trying also to remember the little story behind them.
Wildlife photo: 18th and 21st of November - Marais de Peronne & Cinq Tailles:
The 3 pictures above where taken at the Marais de Peronne, on a bright Sunday morning. Unfortunately, 3 other "bird watcher/chatters" had the same brilliant idea as us on that day and as usual they were from the chatty-loud kind. After they all froze down (sadly not to death) and decided to retreat birds decided to approach a bit more from the observartory. Patience is always the key word. From left to right: Common Snipe, Great Cormorant (that idiot dropped its catch 1 sec later) and a pair of Northern shoveler.
Solo trip that day with this series of 6 pictures taken at the Cinq Tailles natural reserve. From left to right on the first row, a Great spotted woodpecker (already observed during our last visit roughly at the same location/tree), Lapwing (they were numerous on that day, I observed a flock of nearly 50 individuals), and a Mute swan streching up its wings. Second row is left picture shows a large group of Eurasian teal also very common on that day. Middle picture was taken from a different observatory. I popped in with my full camouflage suit and my balaclava/hood on and met with what I think was a mid-40s couple having "a moment" on a bench, facing each others, lady having her legs around the hips of the chap... I don't know who was the most shocked by the other. Anyway back to the picture, cause I took a 1 min to take a couple of shots, is showing a Great cormorant surrounded by a large number of gulls. Last picture was my little treat of the day... a little Eurasian bullfinch (they are getting rarer like a lot of bird species). It did not stayed long enough for me to take a closer picture of him. On the way back to the car I also had a go with my "smartphone" as light conditions were interesting with rays of light coming through the forest trees. I did not have my 18-35 with so the OP5 was the alternative.
Dancing school open days...
It was not an easy exercise... and this mainly for two reasons. First thing, the light was terrible which means, high ISO (noise), low shutter speed (not ideal for movements photography) and reduced depth of field as the diaph needs to be wide opened to get a maximum of light in (not ideal for group pictures). Second thing, I could not really leave my seat and move around the room to take pictures. Again these were challenging conditions and it was a good exercise indeed. To reduce the noise I have decided to use a Black and White treatment on all my pictures (Lightroom).
I snoot myself...
In addition of a snoot I also needed a second cobra flash to use in pair with my Canon 600EX II and a transmitter that will work for both of them. I could not find anything satisfying at the Salon de la Photo, I was aiming for Godox but finally I went for Yongnuo's copies of the Canon 600EX ii and ST-E3 RT transmitter and basically they work well all together.
When I finally received all the gear, I decided to give them a quick go and try them on me, revisiting the basic type of portrait lighting: Split, Loop, Rembrandt, Paramount or Butterfly.
The Red contest...
Obviously, I don't have the technique, the talent, the equipment, etc... I'm nothing like Karl Taylor but pushed by my motivation I decided to produce two different shots and to send them into the competition. To bring the red colour into the picture I decided to use... a red apple. First shot will be a portrait and the second one a motion picture (I don't think this is the appropriate term for this kind of photo but well... who cares).
Here under are a series of pictures we took during the first session of the portrait trials.
We roughly took about 100 pictures on that session but there was one specific picture that we liked more than the rest. See below.
Unfortunately, as I'm a terrible photographer and that I'm always too confident with the result on the LCD screen of my camera, I did not realise that the Focus was made on the shoulder of my model and therefore the rest of the image a bit blurry. Shame...
So we decided to try to reproduce a similar picture on the next day... Tricky... Here under is the closest we've got to the previous one.
Just for fun... here is the actual setup... In our kitchen... Told you I'm nothing like Karl Taylor :) and yes this is a safety blanket as background.
For the second picture (motion picture), we decide to re-use our apple, zero waste,... and to go for a splashy situation... I had never done this kind of picture and it is actually quite tricky to set up. I don't own a laser or sound triggering device so it even more challenging to anticipate the moment the apple is impacting the water. We went for a basic countdown before dropping it into the water but still... We probably went for almost 100 shots on that one. I'm not proud of the result but it looked okay to me.
Unfrotunately, I missed the date of the contest, I truly believed the deadline was on the 14th of December but it was in fact the 10th,... Nevermind, it was very good practice. And to be honest seeing the winners, I was way out of my league. Congratulations to all of them for their amazing work.
Another long period without posting anything here... It has been a pretty busy last couple of weeks with the French holiday period and still a lot to do before submitting the thesis, technically in a couple of days from now, TOUCH WOOD !! Most of the content of this article is in the title and it is pretty rich, so let's begin...
First week of the holidays, we had two trips planned. First one was to go to a one man show held Saint Amand-les-eaux and featuring the great Bun Hay Mean aka Chinois Marrant.
That was a great night, we left the theater with a massive jaw ache from laughing. The guy was great and the lad doing his first part (Donell Jacksman) was also terrific. We had a great time.
Second trip, we headed to Belgium, more precisely to Ghent, to have a go at the World nof Tim Burton exhibition.
Basically, the exhibition intended to sum up the entire carrier of Tim Burton, presenting some of his napkins drawings, private paintings, movies costumes, first films, etc. Sadly no pictures were allowed in the two main section of the exhibition :(. I still managed to take a couple of shots with my "smartphone", in the main hall (it was allowed there...).
Overall feeling on the exhibition,... it was quick and not as impressive as I thought. I would have expected more costumes, more teasers from the movies, something a bit bigger. It was good but slightly disappointing.
Day 1 at the Salon de la Photo...
Next destination of the holidays, Paris, for an extended weekend at the Salon de la Photo 2018.
After an early and quite long trip (Uber, Bus, Tube/Overground) we arrived to the Salon de la Photo at the "Porte de Versailles" which is a huge complex holding several events/exhibitions at the time. After a short queue and a bag check we finally got inside. The ground floor was mainly dedicated to present photography studios, photography schools, magazines who were very numerous. The first floor on the other hand was welcoming all the big brands (Canon, Nikon, Sony Sigma,...), photo accessories and a couple of stores (Camara, la Fnac,...). W headed straight to this one as I was suppose to meet with Bastien Juif at the Sigma stand. I introduced myself to Renaud Coilliot from Sigma (great guy ! very friendly and easygoing) which told me that I still had another 30 mins before my meeting so we decided to explore the surroundings and check the Canon stand. I also had a go at the world famous "Sigmazooka", the 200-500mm 2.8 with its x2 converter making it a 500-1000m 5.6 lens, fifteen kilos of happiness, impossible to take for a birding session but worth the try.
Canon went big for the occasion with a very large exhibition area where you could actually test almost everything from printers to their largest telephoto lenses. They had a large stage for guests/canon ambassadors programmed to give several talks during the weekend. On the left side of the stage Canon had a large podium with a dancing lady in its center and all around the main body cameras of the brand to test on the dancer. Among them the new Canon R (hybrid), the 5D mark IV, the 6D mark II (see below). I've played around with all of them with different lenses and I was very impressed by the 6Dii as I pushed it up to 12800 and frankly the result was very impressive, much better than I was expecting. 5DIV obviously is a great piece of kit but to be honest for my usage I could probably do with the 6Dii. Obviously I have not tested it in the field but still. For the Canon R, i'm quite sceptical for the moment. I mean very good tracking and captor but still missing a bit for velocity on the shooting, 3 images per secs is still not enough for my personal usage. Obviously I can't make a comparison between the 3 cameras as they were available with different lenses and other visitors of the exhibition were urging for trying the cameras, so not great conditions.
Back to the Sigma "kiosk" I finally met with Bastien. I hugely invite you to visit his website and to have a look at his pictures... they are stunning ! It was a great exchange, Bastien gave me a lot of advices on my pictures and also invited me to reach him to discuss further pictures or even to come along for a birding session (as we are both living in the same region).
Bastien has recently released a great book (Passion Oiseaux) about birds illustrated with his own pictures. I suggest you to have a look at it.
Following that exchange we wondered around for a while. I went back to Canon store to try further more gear and especially the big telephoto lenses, as they recently updated their 500 and 600mm and gosh... what an update !! I had the chance to compare and mount both 600mm II and III on a 7Dii and the weight difference between those two lense is humongous !! I can easily imagine taking bird and wildlife pictures without a stand or a tripod for a long period of time. To compare with my Sigma 150-600 Sport, the 600mm iii was way lighter !! Amazing piece of kit again !! The picture below was taken with a 6DmkII with the 600mm iii. Note the 1/100s shutter speed and the image is quite sharp, probably due to a great work of the lens stabilisation and also its light weight reducing the shaking.
During the "Salon" we also had the chance to meet up with the great Nath-Sakura. She absolutely amazed us by her kindness but also by her live demonstrations. She performed live sessions in such a confined space with very little gear for terrific results. One of her session only involved a safety blanket as background, two light projectors with some color gel and the model. I'll show you the result of such setup in my next post as we tried to do something similar at home.
Again, I encourage you to visit her website and to have a look on her recent photography and light manual. I have already bought it for two friends.
Day 2 at the Salon de la Photo...
Back at the "Salon" and today I get to meet with the great pair of wedding photographer, Damien Dohmen & Sylvain Gardères. One more time I invite you to check their website as their photo are stunning !!!
On that second day we also had the chance to meet up with one of my bestfriend that I had not seen in ages. After sharing the same classes at the University for at least three years, I moved to Sweden while she moved to a more artistic carrier. Now she does a lot of acting, web series and obviously photography. If you want to check a work feel free to check her webpage. Forgot to tell her name: Leslie Carles. <3
Day 3 and final encounter...
We decided to stay an extra day especially because we wanted to have a bit more time to go through all the big brands. The main reason was that I was looking to may be swap my Canon 7Dii for a Full Frame body. So we want round Sony, Panasonic, Fuji,... I really enjoyed the Fuji XT-3, especially the way all the settings (ISO, shutter speed,...) are readily available on the camera body. Also the AF was mad !!! Really enjoyed it... Unfortunately they don't do big telephoto lenses for that one and it would not be adapted for wildlife photo but for any other type of shooting it would be my first choice. I also tried the Sony A3R, and I add a lot of expectation from that body (it was my main choice as a replacement for my 7D) but I ended up quite disappointed... Mainly the controls are not easy when coming from Canon, also the price of the lenses is crazy expensive. I reckon the quality is there, speaking of the image, but the robustness,... well it felt a bit fragile and I would not feel confident taking it around on outdoor trips like I do with my 7D. At the end of the day I decided to save my money and to wait to see what's coming next with Canon as rumors indicate that they will probably release a new FF Hybrid body next year... If I could get a could Canon R+ with 10 images/sec and a high iso range that would be perfect. Let's wait and see... I'm also craving for a new telephoto lens,... not sure which one between the 600mm F4 iii, the 400mm F2.8 iii or the excellent 200-400 F4.
On a different note, we also stay that extra day because we wanted to listen to the talk from Jérémie Villet. He is a very young successful wildlife photographer mainly focusing on snowy sceneries and animals. He is very friendly guy, with a "flower power" touch and his work is stunning. Have a look to his work on his instagram page.
Lot of work again as the thesis submission is finally approaching,... "Intention to submit" form has been filled in and planned for end of November,... Does not feel real, except for the stress that is building up gradually. Good thing, I'm compensating the rising stress level by doing sport and photography and even better sport-photography. Also I've done two little projects using flash lights to improve my lighting skills (still a lot to do...)
Not much to present today. As mentioned just above, the last two weeks have been pretty thesis orientated. It was also holiday period in France, so no much handball... Nevertheless, I still had the chance to shoot two handball games from the Melantois Handball Club main team. It also gave me time to do more "photoshopping" as I took the occasion to produce several adverts and posters for the club from the picture I took from the game.
On that first series of post-treated pictures, I decided to keep the orange coloring. To be a 100% honest, I did not put too much efforts in trying to cancel it. During that kind of game I usually end up with roughly 300 - 400 pictures. Even if you can automatise the post-treatment process on LightRoom and synchronised the settings for all the pictures (that's why it is useful to shoot in Manuel Mode and to keep roughly the same settings for the entire event), I still like to review every single picture one by one. That allows me to discard the blurry ones but also to resize and crop on the best part of some of them. At the end I generally end up with 200/250 pictures.
The second game was of better quality, more interesting as the Melantois players were facing the USDK (Dunkerque) a big club in France. It was also very exciting as a very special guest was playing for Dunkerque on that day: Guillaume Joli, famous french international player, three times World champion, two times European champion and once Olympic champion with France. Anyway, brilliant game and obviously an honor to get a chance to exchange few words with Guillaume Joli and take a couple of pictures of him.
As mentioned above, I also dealt with advertising the future games for the club and I spent a bit of time working on Photoshop. Below is one of the banners I made for the Dunkerque game. Other events and banners can be found on the Instagram and Facebook of the Melantois Handball Club.
Nath-Sakura has also launched an Instagram contest (deadline is 8th of December if you want to give it go) with three different categories - "Souvenirs d'enfance" (Childhood memories), "Noir & Blanc" (Black & White) and "Photos de vacances" (Holiday memories). I have also decided to participate to this one and this is what led us to the second project I undertook over the holidays (even if I'm not technically on holiday). I picked the "Souvenirs d'enfance" category and I wanted something involving a grown up girl and plush toy. Also from a recent picture that I found on one of the group which I am a member of, I wanted to include some astrophotography bit, ideally the Milky Way. After few minutes of brainstorming with my partner in crime, I decided that a great location for this would be the "Mare à goriaux", a spot we visited before for some wildlife photography two winters ago.
Of course, this kind of shooting needs a bit of preparation as obviously you need some good weather conditions but also the adapted photographic equipment and accessories but also to think of what you want your picture to look like, sometimes like learnt from Karl Taylor, a good drawing can be really helpful.
The idea is to take an initial shot of the sky and then a second picture of the main subject and to superimpose them on Photoshop. The actual final picture required two nights of shooting.
The first night was great, no wind, no cloud cover, only stars (and the light pollution from the neighbouring cities but it was okay). The only problem, as you can see on the map just above, the place is surrounded by forest which obviously we had to go through before reaching the water bit and the pontoon where I wanted to take the picture. Bringing a fearful lady through a dark forest at night is not such a great idea if you are planning to take your time shooting stars, which obviously requires to turn off any single light and lamps during the multiple shots.
Basically we had to speed up the session. With all that haste to get back to the car and home safe, I made a bloody mistake when taking the second shot. For an astrophotography shot, basically you switch your Autofocus to Manual focus and focus on the "infinite" value, increase your ISO above 2000, open up your aperture to the maximum and choose a slow shutter speed. I did all those things and obtained a satisfying shot of the sky but unfortunately urged by "scared" assistant I totally forgot switching back the autofocus while taking picture of her for the second photo. Dumb as f***...
From Left to Right, the three different pictures that were necessary to create the final fourth one (three not two because the ballon moved with the wind in the second picture so I took the ballon from the third one and superimposed it).
As you can see, the main subject is a bit blurry because I left the focus on Manual for this shot. I tried to reduce the blur on LR but it did not come up great. Therefore we decided to head for a second trial two days later.
This session was shorter than the previous one. Someone who I won't tell the name unfortunately did not hold tight enough to the ballon which obviously took it chance and flew away from us... Luckily I managed to take enough shots of the main subject to be able to create a less blurry picture. As I could set the camera, tripod and everything exactly the same away as the first time I also had to play around on the size of the picture to be able to have it perfectly matching the background from the first session.
Again from Left to Right the three different pictures that allowed the production of picture four and five (plus a little post-treatment on LightRoom). I'm quite satisfied with the result even if I call this DYI photography, I think I'm in the "Souvenirs d'enfance" (Childhood memories) theme.
Woaw, almost 3 weeks without posting anything. Unfortunately, I had to put the camera on the side for a bit and do some proper work on my PhD... I had the opportunity to use my camera to do a bit of birding and some handball shooting last Saturday to drop the pressure,...
As usual my supervisors suddenly gave me a hell lot of work at the last minute... I should have better anticipated it, they usually all agree on certain points and suddenly (generally 6 months later) they just realise that they are not happy anymore with the work and I have to start over from scratches. This time it was on lovely statistics,... For those who know R coding, well I spent a good week reworking all the stats of one dedicated chapter using that lovely coding language... Had be tempted to show you the script and graphs but I'll keep that "privilege" to myself...
By the way I'm not in the South of France anymore. I have now moved back to the "North" of France, in a small town called Ronchin. Still busy with the PhD and finishing my second publication and hopefully submitting that damn "sh**" by the end of the year... Anyway that's enough PhD talk...
The good thing with changing location is that you also change of photographic subjects, and I said subjects, not themes,... Getting involved in a new handball club means new places and people to discover and photograph. But as what actually drove me into photography is bird watching, I could not start without going into a good bird watching/photography session.
Therefore, as usual on an early morning, (wildlife photographers always have an early start in the day), we decided to head up to the "Marais de la Marque" and check on the remaining species, the one that did not migrate over the last weeks (summer end migration).
Big surprise was to realise how much water had gone over the summer ! When I left back in June there were about 6/7 bassins full of water and today only one, the main one was half-full. The only could point I could see with that was that the other bassins being empty, most of the birds gathered into that main one. On the down side, that means less food and shelters available for the birdies...
The main bassin is a great location because it offers a large observation cabin for birders and other curious people. Unlikely, that day they were loads of bird watchers/photographers in the hide. Don't get me wrong I'm not one of these "this is my spot" guy and I always enjoy a good chat with other passionates but what I hate is noisy people that don't respect the others. One of the photographers present that day belonged to that category. I'm gonna be very sarcastic about him but I think the guy was actually trying to impress the other photographer, who was a quiet lady trying to keep her voice down while the other was playing the alpha with is "big lense" (a 500mm first generation from Sigma). Anyway, on that special day bird did not approached the hide as much as we had experienced before on "quiet" days with respectful birders. For the record, once we even had a bird landing on the actual cabin observation bench, quiet day... Anyway I still managed to get some decent shots of the birds. From a species point of view, nothing really crazy, I'd say the usual birds present on the swamp with the exception of the grebes that were missing. A huge concentration of herons (counted about 12 at the same time) while generally you get up to may be 3 at a time.
I'm not a big fan of herons, I mean as photographic subject. Again, I'm gonna sound "big headed" but they don't give me anymore the thrill of my first wildlife pictures probably because I have seen so many and I think that pictures of them always look the same. BUT... on that special day, I had some kind of pleasant light and I thought I would take a shot anyway because they are still very intriguing birds (physically) to me.
Despite the numerous herons, we did also observed a bit further away from us two groups of waders (around 15) gathering along the shore and picking in the water. My very first look at some Common snipes not that common in the South of France, at least not on my usual observation spots.
As just said it was my first sighting of Common snipe so I was quite (and quietly) excited but at the same time frustrated not being able to get a better look and shot of them. But among the few things that wildlife photography taught me is 1) that you have to be patient and 2) that Nature only decides... That day mother Nature was in a good mood as two of the snipes decided to come a bit closer to the hide and allowed me "a decent shot".
Luckily the rising sun provided a bit more light and allowed me to increase my shutter speed up to 640s, preventing a bit more the blur on the picture.
Among other birds we also had the chance to follow a couple of long-tailed tits, robin, wren, chifchaff, dunnock and moorhens with their grown up chicks/juveniles.
That's pretty much it for the bird observation side of that day... We did stay for another hour but nothing amazing popped out, appart from that bloody kingfisher that we always see but never get the chance to photograph. The damn "bast***" is to fast and never settle down on a great spot.
In the afternoon, I went to a handball game to meet with Erwann , one of the managers of the new club I'm suppose to play with , and also take my first shots for the club. It was kid game (under 11 years old) so I'm not gonna put many pictures of them, as I know some parents might be a bit annoyed/annoying having child picture ending up on a random guy website and that's fair.
Overall it was quite a good game, with the Melantois Handball Club (my new club) crushing their opponent with a 26 goals Vs 2...
This weekend I'll get a chance to shoot 4 games over the afternoon but won't have time to do some birding as I'm having another large piece of work to finish... it sucks... I'm hoping to get a chance to try new spots, maybe a little trip in a forest... so many ideas and not enough time as usual.
Wow, first real "professional" event for me. I have been involved in sport events in the past but that never implied so much personal pressure on the outcome. Here it was all about immortalizing one of the most imortant day of two perfect strangers. Luckily I was helped by the amazing Franck Oinne who has been doing this for years and is an experienced professionnal wedding photographer. (is website HERE). Today I'm telling everything about that first incredible experience.
Franck and I are not long time friends, in fact we've met this summer during a wedding. He was working there and with his natural kindness and very social personality we happened to exchange about photography. As a joke I asked him if he was not looking for an intern or an assistant on some events and to my big surprise he actually said Yes (very appropriate answer for a wedding). He told me that he could actually see a wedding where he could actually add me into and that he will let me know after discussing it with the futur bride and groom. One week later I've got a phone call from him telling me that it was no problem for the futur husband and wife and that I was very welcome to join him on the 23rd of September for that very special day.
We had two little meeting before the D-Day just to discuss the organisation of the wedding and plan ahead equipment and what to do. It felt good to work with someone that really knows his business.
Okay let's move on to the Big Day.
As usual an early morning, it seems like whatever you do in photography it is always involves an early start - 6.15 A.M. Quick shower, check up of the gear, already prepared the evening before, loading up the gear in the car after a cup of tea and I'm gone to pick up Franck and his gear for 7.30 A.M.
Then direction La Digne d'Aval, a small vilage close to Limoux where we are meeting up with the Bride and her maids to do the "preparation of the bride" shooting.
Just for the record I found it a very destabilising situation when you are a male photographer arriving in a middle of a group of very excited youg ladies that you have never met before. Luckily, all of them were absolutely lovely and it was very easy to break the ice with them. They offered us breakfast and everything, it was great. I don't usually have breakfast so the choice was easy for me. After waiting for the ladies to finish their breakfast and the arrival of the hairdresser, work finally started.
A couple of hours and hundreds of pictures later, Franck and myself grabbed the car to meet up with the BOYS and take some shots of the groom getting ready. That part on the other hand was fairly quick ! It jsut consisted in taking pictures of the groom getting dressed up and being helped by his best-man. Obviously this was a fake "dressing up" session as the wedding was not happening until several hours later.
Then back with the girls ! Most of them were nearly done with their make-up and hairdressing. To thanks Melanie & Arnaud for "granting" me access to their celebration I decided to bring them a little gift, a bottle of champagne. I thought they might drink it during their wedding night but the girls decided differently and suggested to head outside of the house and to take some pictures in the backyard while enjoying a glass of bubbles. It turned out to be a very fun shooting session as the girls wanted to take the pose over a series of large hay balls.
After this pleasant exercise and our glass of "champ", time finally came to dess up for the girls and especially the bride !
Then, it was time to ahead toward the City Hall, but before that, we stopped by a little vinyard and its castle to take immortalize the "meeting" of our lovers. First time they were seeing each others in their wedding clothes. Very beautiful moment.
I forgot to mention that these two love birds had rented a great oldschool VW beetle for the occasion !! It was in mint condition, a pure beauty.
It is indeed time for the first big step of the day,... Getting married at the City Hall ! and meet up with the first guests.
I can't put all the pictures on one single blog article and I have to keep some for our newly married lovers. Closing this little parenthesis... this leads us to the next big moment of the day... The religious celebration at the Church.
Time to celebrate !!! After a group picture outside of the church everyone jumped in his car to head to the celebration place, a lovely domain called "La Bichonnière" (Have a look at there website, it is a stunning place !)
We took some pictures on the way here, with a long lane of cars escorting our married couple and then did some more group pictures before doing a photographic exercise we had planned ahead with Franck, a "levitation" shot.
Here above I'm just showing the final result but in fact it is a rather simple technique, consisting in taking two shots, one with the main subject on a chair or ladder doing some kind of funky moves, then a second shot from the same place and the same settings without the subject and the ladder/chair. Then you just combine both picture on Photoshop and use the eraser on the chair to create the flying effect.
Then, we dived into the celebration time, aimated by great bandas group, several little buffets with lush food. By that time I think I was already down to more than 1000 pics.
Again, lots of lovely people, lots of pictures and I can't put them all up. And I need to save some for Mélanie & Arnaud <3.
So I'm gonna finish on these last ones and say a great thanks you to Mélanie & Arnaud but also to Franck Oinne for letting me be part of that very special day. I have learnt a lot and I really enjoyed taking pictures of all these wonderful people that you call familly and friends. The rest of the pictures are on their way.
Very quite week in terms of wildlife observations despite several trips to different locations to try to find something decent to shoot. Therefore I came back to basics with some handball photography over the weekend. It felt good to see the boys play with their new team.
On Friday (14th) I finally decided to move myself up and to do something I had in mind for quite a long time... head to the forest and look for their inhabitants (fox, deer, badger...). Again, an early morning, got up at 4.45 A.M. and left around 5.20 A.M. after an express breakfast and loading the gear up into the car. I was very undecided whether I should take my camera or not as I considered this a first "recognition" trip to look for any clues confirming the presence of the animals... in other words look for animals poop.
Just a quick snapshot from my smartphone app to illustrates the little trek I undertook on that day. By the way, you can get very easily lost in the forest, especially if you venture their at night and without any location gear. These days everyone has a smartphone with a GPS however I keep this as a backup plan and I prefer to rely on a dedicated gear, a Garmin Fenix5X watch with maps and GPS. Be sure to have all your gear fully power loaded before your trip (or bring a powerbank with you, always good as a backup).
Anyway, I chose to bring my camera with me along with a pair of binoculars. I never got the chance to use it on that day. I did not see any big animals. A couple of little birds, I believe they were treecreepers and wrens but without a decent light, very difficult to shoot. No poops either :). It was a nice walk thought and allowed me to get a first impression of the area and ti where to explore further and potentially deploy some photographic traps. I did take a few pictures with my cellphone. Writing this blog made me realise how "correct" the image quality was on my phone and that, with a bit of post-treatment, you can actually get some "okay" pictures. Again, I'll let you judge.
I did see some "wildlife" other than birds. Will you be able to spot it ? Don't cheat just look at the pictures one by one...
Just to finish on that day, I also met a "lovely" slug.
End of the trip. It was a bit frustrating not encountering any mammals but at least it was a good walk and it allowed me to get more familiar with the area and surroundings.
On the 15th (Saturday), I decided to head to a more familiar place to set up a photographic trap. Photographic traps are commonly used by hunters to investigate what animals are about in a selected area. Instead of spending hours in a hide waiting for some animals to pop up, the trap has a motion sensor combined to a camera that can either film or take picture when the last one is activated by a movement. You can set the time period of the day you want the trap to be active (to save battery).
Before deploying the trap I decided to have a look at the surroundings as I realised that the place had changed a lot and that an old path was again available. As I was wondering around, I stopped on a damselfly that was gently taking the pose and I decided to have a go at it as I don't usually do "macro" (I don't have any dedicated macro lens). Just for the record, one anatomical way to differenciate dragonfly from damselfly, is that the last one can't fold their wings along their body.
Continuing my walk, I came across some interesting snails "event". Never encountered such thing before. Snails from the same species (I believe) all aggregated on the stems of specific plants.
I also encountered a lot of singing birds which I assumed were mainly gold finches (later confirmed by a picture). I also spotted a couple of other birds among the finches. I believe they were sparrows but I'm not 100% convinced (I'm waiting for some advices from an ornithological forum).
Then went the time to set up the trap. I decided to place it along some bushy area where we previously briefly observed a badger. Another factor that encouraged me to deploy the trap at that specific location was the presence of wild fruits (littles berries) that could be a potential food source for some animals.. Let's hope that the little guy will still be around.
On the way back home I spotted a circling buzzard in the sky not to far from me so I decided to shoot it.
That was the end of the wildlife trip. I just headed back home to get changed and drop off some of my gear, jumped back into the car to reach the "Halle aux Sports Nicole Abar" for some sport photography of the local handball team HBCC.
Both Senior I and II team were playing on that day and offered a nice show.
07.09.18 - 09.09.18 - I moved away for a weekend a bit further north for the 30th B-Day celebration of Clementine. A great occasion to catch up with some old friends. Also a good opportunity to have a look at the regional species. Overall a very good weekeed mixing, nature, sport, drinking, friends and obviously photography.
I was picked up by Marion and Fred nearby the motorway around 5 P.M. on the Friday and here we were stuck in the car for a good four and half hours driving to the "domaine de Jonchy" in "Saint Julien".
We arrived around 10 P.M. meet up with our hosts (Jérôme and Clémentine) and with a couple of guests that were already arrived. After a brief dinner joined by some punch and beers, Fred and myself were invited to play a couple of games of "petanque" with the cousins and brother in law of Clementine. Three wins later, around 2 o'clock in the morning everyone decided that it was enough petanque (especially the losers...) and to go to bed... Nevertheless, I was not totally ready to crash as since we've got there I could believe how stunning the night was with a sky dotted with stars... I thought "let's have a go at something I'm really bad at"... astrophotography...
We went to bed but not for a very long night as I decided to get up a bit earlier than the rest of the guests to visit a little "lake" that I have spotted on Google maps, hoping for some wildlife encounters.
As my 150-600S lens has followed my "dear one" to the North of France, I had to use my backup lens, 70-200 2.8 coupled with x2 iii extender. I'm not unhappy with the result, the only negative point I find with this combination is a slower AF compared to when I use the 150-600. One positive point is that this setup is way lighter than with the "sigmazooka".
Anyway, let's get back to our encounters of the day... To be fair I have not seen much. I was hoping more birds but the "lake" turned to be actually a small pond suffering from eutrophication, with large amounts of alga on its surface probably responsible for the lack of biodiversity.
First encounter of the day was .... a red squirrel. It may not be so exciting but actually for the record, red squirrel populations have experienced a drop down since the american species also known as grey squirrel and categorised as an invasive species. Grey squirrel because of their higher tolerance to certain diseases and parasites tend to take over on red squirrels natural habitats.
Second encounter of the day was a green woodpecker. It took me ages to realise what it was as the bloody idiot was standing in a tree just behind me but I had no way of seeing it (and neither did it) I could just hear him. After a good hour it finally decided moving to the tree just in front of me (about 6 meters from me) but impossible to see him as he stopped behind a large clump of leaves. It then moved further away from me and I finally managed to get a long range shot and to ID it.
The first picture is just to get an idea of the distance, I reckon it was at a good 200 meters away from me. The two others are cropped pictures to identify it (obviously poor quality).
Third encounter involved a little passerine that I'm still looking to identify (I'll update it when I'll know). Fourth encounter was a jay, surprisingly very shy bird I had to shoot it from a long range distance. For some people that might not be very exciting but we don't see them very often around the Carcassonne area. You have to head a bit further north or to the "foresty" area to find them.
Last encounter of the day was a common buzzard. I have generally lost the motivation for taking pictures of bird of preys as they are hard to focus especially with a bright blue sky, and without a pendular gimbal and a tripod it becomes rapidly a tricky and heavy exercise. As this one was circling quite low I've adopted a new approach to take the shot without the tripod. I just laid down on the floor, on my back and just shot in that position when the bird was passing just above me. Not the best pictures I ever made but quite okay. I let you judge.
I finally headed back to the domain to have a shower, meet up with the rest of the guests that had arrived and enjoy the celebration.
On the following day, I decided to get up early and check if the red squirrel had some kind of daily routine and as expected, it did...
Nothing very exciting for the rest of that morning. I took a couple of pictures of a chap doing some paragliding.
Later during that day I also went back to that tree in the middle of the domain backyard,... I don't know why I just found it stunning and had another couple of shots at it (1 with my dslr, 2 with my smartphone). These were the last pictures of that long weekend.
31.08.2018 & 01.09.2018 - The boys and myself all gathered to the "Pantouquet", a beautiful domain lost in the "Montagne Noire", for an ultimate night before Christophe's (aka Titou) wedding. Under the supervision of Christian (aka the Godfather), and around a nice BBQ, a pool and a jacuzzi we've managed to keep our futur groom relaxed before the Big Day.
Typical "boys night", while Christian (Don Christiano) was taking care of the fire for the BBQ, the rest of the team enjoyed a couple of glasses of Pastis accompanied by some "saucisson" and peanuts. Very "chillaxed" atmosphere !!
While enjoying "life" we were joined by one of the domain guardians', Yago the Patou probably attracted by the smell of the grilling sausages. After a few strokes and realizing that he will not get any food from us he gently left. Our meaty dinner finished we all moved inside for a couple of pool games.
After a quick dip into the jacuzzi and a gentle reminder by Don Christiano that we had a Big day coming up we all went to bed.
On the next day after setting up all the tables for the wedding and another BBQ we all went to get ready for the ceremony. All the boys gathered in Titou's room and helped him getting ready for the wedding.
Then, we all left for the ceremony...