Husband, father, geek.

by Chris Pearson

River Wey Swans

Last weekend I managed to find some time to head back out to the reserve to see if the roe deer had come out of their summer hiding to prepare for the upcoming rut.  Sadly there was not a deer in sight but there where a few spots that looked like they make be starting to make a few stands but time will tell on that one.

Just as I was thinking of leaving I saw a family of mute swans coming down the River Wey on the current.  There was a pair of adults and a cygnet just starting to mature from the dull grey to the brilliant white of an adult swan.

A pair of mute swans with their cygnet

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First Moonlight

I have recently been starting to investigate the world of astronomy and astrophotography. After a lot of reading up on the subject on a clear I went out to photograph the moon seriously for the 1st time, “first light” being the astronomy slang for the 1st time you use something.

A waxing gibbous moon (91%) imaged from Surrey, UK.

Taking the images with a modern DSLR and photographic lens isn’t overly complex.  Focus using autofocus, set a good exposure (I used ETTR here to ensure nice noise free images) then fire.  The key difference to terrestrial images is volume of data.

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Photographing The International Space Station

One of my many interests that I had as a kid was the stars. I remember going on late night hikes as a scout and watching them migrate across the sky. On one occasion we did a dusk to dawn night hike during the Perseids, which has just happened for this year, and seeing dozens of meteors leaving trails across the sky.  As with most child interests other things soon come along and my interest in the sciences was stolen away in the 90s when computers began to really take over the world, but it never truly went away.

Recently, through my interest in photography, I began to be drawn back to the stars thanks to some of the amazing astrophotography being done over the last couple of years. The Astrophotographer of the Year run by the Royal Observatory at Greenwich has had some great images and the book is worth a look.

Due to light pollution where I live what I can photograph without some specialist kit is limited, they need to be comparatively bright.  2 such objects are the moon and the International Space Station, or ISS.

ISS pass 2103-08-12 21:24

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ZSL Whipsnade Zoo Morning Visit

I had booked yesterday off a while ago as the eldest was heading to ZSL Whipsnade zoo on a school trip and figured, if she gets to go, so do I.  We invested in a family membership so have been visiting a lot recently.

This time was different though as it was the first time I took the 300mm 2.8 VR II with a view of getting some proper images.  I still had the youngest with me, and the wife so it wasn’t 100% focused but more so than normal.

Juvenile Coot

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Patch Update - June 2013

Whilst I haven’t blogged about it in a while I have been making regular visits to the local nature reserve over the last month.  June seems to mark the start of a quiet period that I noted last year, the last few visits have revealed very little to point a lens at.

Sadly on a recent visit I found a roe buck corpse tangled in the fencing that’s in place to stop the cattle falling in the river.  The body seemed reasonably fresh as there was no sign of any scavenging or decay.  I called the ranger to let them know and he also shared my disappointment at such a find.

On my last visit the grass was really starting to grow, which for me is a problem.  I suffer from hay fever and whilst I take medication to help I still suffer a lot at certain times of year.  Last night resulted in my worst reaction for years, this combined with the slow down in sightings means I will be staying away for a month or so.  Hopefully once the pollen season is over I will be able to head over again.

In the mean time I intend to investigate another local site which is reported to be home to badgers, and possibly Kingfisher.  With any luck I’ll be able to find something there and there won’t large amounts of long grass to cause me problems!

Starlings For 600

When I got home last night I noticed that there was a starling nest in under the roof tiles of next doors house.  This it seemed would be a good opportunity to test out the 300mm and the TC-20III teleconverter.

A startling perches on the aerial of next doors house

I quickly went in grabbed the gear and put on the 2x.  I also set up my 3 Legged Thing Dave at almost full height.  This proved to be a VERY precarious setup so I can’t wait to get the Gitzo and Wimberley now.

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A Fox And A Fire

Well I finally got a new lens.  A 300 2.8 VR II and a set of teleconverters. It’s heavy, but it’s a cracking lens.

The first time I took it out about a week ago I went to see the roe deer and took a monopod to help with the mass.  In honesty it seemed to make it worse as the load is so top heavy, meaning I couldn’t keep the lens still enough for even the VR to take up the slack.  The end result was I didn’t really get anything worth sharing.

The positive side of this outing was I met the ranger who was kind enough to point out the site boundary which I have never been sure of and also confirmed my suspicions on the location of the Barn owl nest in previous years.

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Spring Has Sprung

Well it seems spring genuinely is here and it wasn’t s false alarm.  On Saturday evening I had  couple of hours available in the evening so went to see if I could find the roe deer.

Upon arrival I was quickly deflated as the cows where still in the field the deer frequent meaning I was probably out of luck.  However I have often seen them along the river so decided to try the tow path along the other side to see if that worked.

On the walk round I spotted this Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, a sign that spring really has sprung.

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly

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A Promising Start To Spring

I spent another evening over at the reserve this evening.  It would seem I am starting to get the hang of this wildlife thing as I not only found a single female deer almost straight away I also managed to get with in a sensible range, about 30m, without drawing attention or alerting her.

A female roe deer

The lone female was feeding on the grass near the river. She moved closer at times but eventually drifted to the far side of the field.

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