The Hawkers are generally with the exception of the Brown Hawker fairly approachable insects which helps when photographing them.
Southern Hawkers. Flight period late June to mid October. I find these can be very approachable and will often fly pretty close to you checking you out.
Migrant Hawkers. Flight period mid July to late October. I find these are often very approachable allowing you to get within inches of them for very close up shots.
Brown Hawkers. Flight period early July to mid October. Very wary Dragonflies and I find that they will take flight as soon as they detect your presence unless you are lucky enough to catch them eating some type of prey and then if you are very careful you can sometimes sneak up on them and get a photograph. I find that a decent tele-photo zoom lens is often better than a macro lens to get photographs of this insect as this means you don't have to be as close to them as with a macro lens.
Norfolk Hawkers. Flight period end of May to end of July. I have very little experience of this Dragonfly. I have only had the chance to photograph these at the one location (Strumpshaw Fen in Norfolk) for a few hours. However they are in my opinion the most striking coloured Hawker with their golden brown bodies, black and brown legs and striking emerald green eyes. They really have to be seen in the flesh to appreciate the true beauty of them.
Emperor Dragonfly. Flight period early June to early September. Britains largest dragonfly in terms of wingspan. Very difficult to approach and one for the tele-photo zoom lens rather than the macro lens. A stunning dragonfly with the males having blue bodies with a black central stripe and the females green bodies with a black central stripe.
Ruddy Darter. Flight period end of June to mid October. The Ruddy Darter is a striking insect particularly the mature males with their blood red abdomens. Differs from the Common Darter in colour and the constricted waist giving it a very club tailed appearance. Quite approachable and if disturbed will often come back to the same perch allowing a second photo opportunity.
Common Darter. Flight period end of June to end of October. Can be confused with Ruddy Darter but I find the most reliable way of seperating the two is that the Common Darter has black legs with a pale yellowish stripe along the whole length of the leg. The Ruddy Darter has completely black legs. Very approachable and like the Ruddy Darter will ofen come back to a favourite perch.
Black Darter. Flight period early July to early October. The smallest of the British darters but a very striking insect. Mature males are mainly black and not realy confused with any other Darter. Fairly approachable with care.
Banded Demoiselle. Flight period late May to late August. Along with the Beautiful Demoiselle, the Banded Demoiselle is Britain's largest Damselfly. Likes slow moving water with muddy bottom. fairly approachable to photograph
Large Red Damselfly. Flight period late April to mid August. The first Damselfly of the year and usually very approachable.
Small Red Damselfly. Flight period late May to early September. A beautiful looking insect and very approachable.
Large Red-eyed Damselfly. Flight period late May to mid August. Mature males have dark ruby red eyes. Quite approachable.
Small Red-eyed Damselfly. Flight period July to mid September. Only discovered in Britain in 1999. Likes to sit on floating vegetation on the water. Quite approachable
Common Blue Damselfly. Flight period May to early September. One of the most abundant British Damselflies. The bluest of the blue and black Damselflies and very approachable.
Blue-tailed Damselfly. flight period mid May to early September. Very approachable.
Variable Damselfly. Flight period mid May to early August. Another very approachable one.
Azure Damselfly. Flight period mid May to late August. very approachable.
White-legged Damselfly. Flight period late May to mid August. Very approachable.
Emerald Damselfly. My favourite of the Damselflies. Flight period early July to mid August. A stunning insect when seen in the right light. Mature males have a brilliant emerald green head, powder blue eyes and a long slender metallic green body. Very approachable.
Four-spotted Chaser. One of my favourite Dragonflies. Flight period mid May to mid August. Fairly approachable with care and a very photogenic species with the golden brown body and the black wing spots.
Broad-bodied Chaser. Flight period mid May to early August. Another striking insect particularly the mature males with their powder blue body with yellow spots down the side. Very approachable and if a small stick or something similar is placed as a perch they will often use it giving great photo opportunities.
Scarce Chaser. Flight period end of May to end of July. Another striking looking chaser that can be mistaken for Broad-bodied Chaser. The differences being the eyes are blue/grey in the Scarce Chaser and Brown in the Broad-bodied Chaser. Also there is a faint dark smudge at the tip of the wing in the Scarce Chaser absent in Broad-bodied Chaser.
Black-tailed Skimmer. Flight period mid May to early August. I find this one difficult to approach and often use a tele-photo zoom lens rather than a macro lens. Males can be mistaken for Broad-bodied or Scarce Chaser. The Black-tailed Skimmer has a longer body and lacks any dark patches at the wing base where the wings join the body.
Keeled Skimmer. Flight period end of May to end of August. I have only had the pleasure of photographing these insects once and found them to be quite wary but approachable with great care. Males are stunning insects with the powder blue abdomen. The eyes of the males are more blue than the Black-tailed Skimmer and the Keeled Skimmer has yellowish shoulder stripes absent in the Black-tailed Skimmer.
There are more than 600 named species of spider in the UK although around half of them are very small being no more than 3mm long. Spiders belong to the order Araneae.
Usually quite difficult to photograph as many of them will take fright and hide as soon as they detect your presence.
I like to be able to show at least a couple of the spiders eyes in my photographs if possible. Most spiders have more than two eyes and can have up to eight eyes.
All the photos in this gallery are taken in my front garden (apart from the wagtails which were taken in the back garden) Although the garden is quite small I manage to attract a good number of species by feeding a large variety of food.
Some of the photographs have been taken from an open bedroom window with the camera mounted on a hide clamp attached to the bedroom windowsill. I have a tall high backed chair that I can sit on that brings me up to just the right height. Others have been taken from just inside my front door, again using the tall high backed chair.
There are some advantages in a small garden in that the birds are well within range of my 400mm lens and there is unlimited tea or coffee on tap. The disadvantage of this is that in the mornings I'm shooting into the sun (when it happens to shine anyway) so It's usually an afternoon or dull morning job and then I often have to use flash to get the detail I like.
The feeding station itself is a metal pole construction with four arms for hanging feeders on. As I'm sure you will be aware black metal and feeders aren't the best looking setting for bird photography so I have overcome this by fastening natural looking branches to the metal pole. This is achieved by using plastic tie wraps that can be bought from garden centres. The branches project well above the actual feeders so the birds use the branches to perch before dropping down to the feeders and this provides great photo opportunities. The branches can easily be changed when they are past there best.
Cheating some may say but this is why I have given you this information, as long as it's stated that this is how it's done it's a matter of personal opinion if it's cheating or not. Anyway I see no difference in this method than baiting certain spots in the wild to attract certain species, same end result.
As you will probably notice from the amount of photographs in this gallery in flight photography is a great favourite of mine.
I find it very challenging but at the same time very satisfying, especially when I manage to get it right. There are many aspects that need to be considered in taking good flight photographs, so I have given a few tips below.
I'm not guaranteeing that after reading these tips that you will be able to take good bird in flight shots but this is the way I do it and I think you will agree that this method works for me.
As you read these tips you will find that in general I use Canon's terminology for most of the camera and lens settings etc. However other makes of cameras usually have the same or very similar settings that can be applied although they may be named slightly differently.
I would recommend a DSLR camera body that can shoot at least five frames per second in continuous shooting mode. The more frames per second the better as this will give you a greater chance of catching the wings of the bird in the position you most desire. This isn't to say you can't shoot birds in flight at less than five frames per second it just means your hit rate of keepeable shots may be lower.
Ideally a fast focussing telephoto lens. I use the Canon 400mm F5.6L USM lens. It's probably not the fastest 400mm lens but it is light for a 400mm, it's exceptionally sharp even wide open and it's generally acknowledged as one of the best lenses available for in flight photography. I wouldn't attempt birds in flight with anything less than a 300mm lens and idealy 400mm. 500mm lenses and zoom lenses can be used but generally the higher the magnification the larger and heavier the lens. This makes hand holding the lens much harder and can be very tiring on the arms. It is possible to use a tripod for photographing birds in flight but personally having tried this I found a tripod to be far to restricting and I missed many shots that would have been possible if I had been hand holding.
I am now also using the Canon 500mm F4 USM IS lens for a lot of my in flight shots finding that the longer reach gives me a few more opportunities than the Canon 400mm F5.6L lens. It is heavy without a doubt but I seem to have found a technique with it that works for me.
Camera and lens settings.
Set the manual/auto focus switch on the lens to auto. If the lens has a focus limiter switch set this to it's furthest setting, limiting the focus distance of the lens will enable it to lock on to the subject more easily. Set the camera to high speed continuous shooting mode. Set the camera auto focus to A1 Servo AF mode. I use the centre focus point and with the Canon 7D I use the expanded auto focus mode. Set the camera metering mode to centre weighted average. Set the camera to aperture value mode. In aperture value mode the camera looks after the shutter speed. I find an aperture of F5.6 to F8 is usually the best, depending on how close the birds are going to be. On a bright day these aperture settings combined with an ISO speed of 400 will generally give you a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action. I like to achieve a shutter speed of at least 1/1600sec and preferably higher. If you can't get a shutter speed of at least 1/1600sec then increase the ISO speed until you can or try again on a day with better lighting conditions.
If the birds are against a lightish background such a a pale blue sky then you will need to apply positive + exposure compensation by + 2/3rds of a stop or even more. If the birds flight path takes it down to the point where you have a landscape background such as water, grass or reeds then you will need to apply normal or even minus - exposure compensation. Most DSLR cameras will allow you to change the exposure compensation whilst firing a burst of shots off although you have to be pretty quick and nimble with you hands to do this.
There is no hard and fast rule to exposure settings it all depends on the lighting conditions at the time and the colouration of the bird you are photographing. Experience is the key to this one.
Firstly you have to learn how to find and track the flying bird in the viewfinder of the camera. Not as easy as you might think but with practice it does become much easier. I'm not going to tell you how to hold the camera and lens that is something that many people do very differently. What I will say is hold the camera and lens in a manner that you are comfortable with and in a way that you can pan and follow the birds movement. Smooth panning is one of the secrets of holding the auto focus point on the bird and getting good sharp images. When you are certain the camera has achieved correct focus on the bird by holding the shutter button halfway down then depress and hold the shutter button fully down and fire the sequence of shots, remembering the smooth panning technique. Always carry on panning for a while after you have taken the last shot in a sequence. Don't abruptly stop the panning movement as the last shot is taken or the last shot will be blurred. If you lose focus by letting the auto focus point move off the bird and the camera focusses on something in the background just release the shutter button altogether and refocus. It's the quickest and easiest way to get that focus locked on the bird again.
Early morning or late afternoon is best with the light coming from behind you. You can get the shutter speeds required at other times of the day but the light is often a bit harsh around the midday period. Obviously sunlight is best to achieve the shutter speeds needed and to bring out the detail in the birds plumage.
Practice, practice and practice more. It's not an easy subject to master but is very rewarding when you get it right. I'm no expert and what works for me may not work for you but you will certainly have fun trying.
Please note: All the photographs in this gallery can also be viewed in there respective galleries as well.
Donna Nook in Lincolnshire is one of the most accessible sites in the UK for seeing the Atlantic Grey Seals at breeding time.
The best time to see the seals is during November and December as this is the time the pups are born. The pups put on weight very quickly, trebling their birth weight in around three weeks on the mothers fat rich milk
The coast at Donna Nook is managed for wildlife by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and seal wardens are on hand during the time the seals are there keeping an eye on the seals welfare and providing information for the large number of visitors that flock to see the seals every year.
Please respect the seals and do not disturb them. The seals come very close to the fenced area where excellent views can be had. Please do not attempt to touch the seals. The scent of a human on a pup can be enough to cause the mother to abandon the pup and even small cute looking pups can give a nasty bite.
Grasshoppers are insects in the order Orthoptera. Grasshoppers can leap about twenty times the length of their own body. They can also fly and can reach speeds of up to 8 mph
Difficult to photograph as there always seems to be a piece of stray grass in the way. Getting a nice clean background with these insects is often a problem as well.
Crickets belong to the Orthoptera family the same as Grasshoppers. The main difference between a Cricket and Grasshopper when seen in the field is that Crickets have much longer antennae than a Grasshopper