Who am I?

My photo
An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!


Thursday 26 March 2015

Extended views

In the very simplest of ways I was an angler by the age of eight and bird-watcher even before then. These two facets of outdoor enjoyment dovetailed together easily during my childhood. During my teens and into the start of my working (married) life angling became the major player but, always, there in the background, was an appreciation of the other wildlife, birds in particular, that I encountered. It has been like this ever since as the pendulum of interests has swung between angling - birding - twitching (and there is a massive difference!) - birding - angling; a period lasting over of over half a century! I've enjoyed every minute of it.
As my angling developed into a full blown obsession (1981 onwards), so the requirement of a notebook and camera, as essential items, became established. These items have been with me, in many guises, ever since, whatever my primary interest. I think that I can safely state that it has only been since the introduction of digital imagery that natural history photography has become a realistic pursuit of the guy on the street. To have achieved anything like this using conventional photographic methods and equipment wasn't an option without massive investment and a great deal of technical knowledge.

White-legged Damselflies - an encounter which can enhance even the dullest day
The meteoric advances in digital camera technology show no signs of diminishing and some of the images produced today are mind-blowing. Unthinkable clarity, colour and detail - so much so that digital wildlife image capture has become a genuine hobby in its' own right. Great stuff, the more folk out there looking means the more powerful the lobby protecting our natural heritage.

It is only because I derive such pleasure from birds that I make the effort to carry my 170 - 500 mm lens
I'm sure that it will come as no great surprise that I haven't kept up with these advances in technology - I own a Canon EOS 400d with a 18 - 55 mm Canon lens and a Sigma 170 - 500 mm lens plus a very (very) cheap set of extension tubes, that's my lot. My outlay will be in the region of £1k and this will remain my gear until it stops working - who knows when? This simple collection of kit covers all aspects of imagery that I require. The long lens is for my birding, the standard lens covers all landscape and trophy shots and, by use of the extension tubes, is also capable of recording macro images which are particularly suited to my requirements for moth, and other invertebrate, photos. It is this last aspect of photography which I am finding most enjoyable, almost certainly because it is a relatively new concept for me. It is also something which I find fits in with many of my angling sessions, thus removing the need to lug the heavy 170 - 500 mm around with me although it has been to my cost on occasion. (Red -breasted Merganser on the RMC springs to mind)

My extension tubes - cheap as chips
Looking at insects, and other associated groups, isn't something I deliberately set out to do, it simply evolved from my moth trapping as another aspect of being outside and having the ability to look. I now do it out of habit as it has become an established way of enhancing my wildlife experiences. As much as it pains me to admit, it is the pan-listing phenomenon which has probably been a major influence - I'm not about to re-open old wounds. The diversity of life forms, which are to be found everywhere, is something to be celebrated. I've used this to my benefit by seeing every session at a fishery as a potential for new discoveries. I don't mean rare, I mean species which I have never made the effort to look at previously. The variation is infinite, the beauty invisible to the naked eye. Use macro photographic techniques and there's a whole new world out there - you'd better believe it!

Honeysuckle Saw-fly - in our garden
With all this stuff going on in my little world, how is it possible to get bored? Even more so, how is it possible to blank? I've spent over fifty years looking and still haven't scratched the surface of what's available. The greatest show on earth is awaiting discovery by anyone with a mind to seek it. Modern digital technology means it is getting ever simpler to make discoveries for yourself - i-phones have better camera technology than I use and some of the new "bridge" cameras are capable of results way beyond my equipment.

This "thing" turned up in our garden.
About 7 cm long (half of which is the ovipositor) - awesome when seen up close.
I don't seek to get bogged down in technological issues. My point being that there is a whole world of wonderment out there and our technological advances are making it easier to record them. If this new hobby is able to open up an avenue for new interest groups then I'm all for that. Pan-listing or just getting a photo?
I don't have any opinion besides the obvious - enjoy the pleasures of looking and discovery.


  1. Good post Dylan. I would never have considered photographing wildlife as a possibility for me until about 2005! Even now, looking back from then, my first digital compact camera, to now my beginners dslr ( canon 700d) the improvement is staggering. Even I can take a nice bird photo these days! I might look at some extension tubes too, I have the same small lens as you and would like to get some close ups...

    Cheers Stewart

    1. Hi Stewart, cheers for the comment - please don't think that I am in any way, shape or form, a photographer, I most certainly am not. I use a camera because, unlike your good self, my ability to accurately portray what I'm looking at via the media of pencil/paints and paper is non existent! My camera work is adequate - Jono Lethbridge, Steve Ashton, Chiddy and Marc Heath (to name a few) are accomplished digital camera users and their results speak for themselves.
      My discovery of a new area of application came about as a consequence of seeing some of the dragonfly stuff that Marc Heath had posted then bumping into him at Stodmarsh NNR and seeing what he was using. Those extension tubes cost me less than £8 off the Internet and have provided endless enjoyment. Everything requires manual focusing and the depth of field is minuscule, so good images require excellent lighting and high shutter speeds. Apart from that it is a walk in the park!
      I suppose the best bit about all of this technology is that it costs nothing to try - my delete button is probably pressed half as often as my shutter release when I'm messing about with insects. It's all about learning from the mistakes and trying to remember what you'd done when an image lives up to your expectations - that little lens is a quality piece of glass.
      Hoping all is well in your part of the world? All the best Dyl