About Me

Wells, BC, Canada
Richard is a working photographer and writer in B.C. His camera focuses on natural history. archeology, travel, and documentary photography. His photography blog may be found at: http://richardtwright.blogspot.com/

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Photographing the rainbow cyclist in Mong Kok

Hong Kong in motion

Mong Kok street corner. D7000, 27mm, f22, 1/2 sec.
Street photography in Hong Kong is a visual feast with a multitude of opportunities passing before you, from beggars to high fashion, from the ubiquitous trolly carts to buses and Ferraris. Several times I just stood on a street corner protected from the rushing crowds by a stanchion or guard rail to shoot the passing crowds.

Mong Kok street crosswalk. D7000, 27mm, f22, 1/2 sec.
In downtown Hong Kong the dominate colour is often black, certainly for clothing, but in the other island districts like Kowloon or Mong Kok this not so much the case. Yet everywhere there is a frenetic pace to the streets.

In Mong Kok I spent a half hour one day, trying to make myself and my camera invisible, perhaps needlessly as there are more cameras per capita than anywhere I have been, yet I felt conspicuous by size and race.

The rainbow cyclist, Mong Kok, Hong Kong. D7000, 21mm, f25, 1sec.
I kept trying different exposures and shutter speeds, and lens, to get just the sense of movement that I wanted. It was a hit and miss situation. Usually a 1/2 sec seemed about right. Then a couple of cyclists came by and I dialed in 1 sec. and panned. I got a few good shots, including this one that I call the Rainbow Cyclist. The rainbow is, of course, the colorful traffic spectrum, passing buses with flashing lights, cars and even a few pedestrians.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Caroling with the Christmas Revelers at Burnaby Heritage Museum

Amy Newman and the Christmas Revelers at Burnaby Heritage Village, Dec. 23, 2012. D800, 16-35mm lens at 16mm, f4, 0.6 sec, no flash, Manfrotto tripod and ball head. Richard Wright photo.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

For a view of winter where I live, where it is clear skies and -18c on this Christmas Eve morning, have a look at this video I posted last January.
Hot Buttered Rum:


The story of the slideshow was posted last January.

All the best!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Photographing Hawks in Hong Kong

The Cotton Tree Black Kites of Hong Kong

A Black Kite takes flight into the Clearwater Bay jungle on a foggy day. D7000, 
Nikkor 18-105mm f3.5-5.5G ED, ISO 400, 100th sec, f5.

On my second journey to Hong Kong I had posed myself a question: How to best photograph the famous hawks - the Black Kites.
The Black Kites of Hong Kong were one of my favorite subjects and favorite birds during my months on the island and mainland. As I have written before I had the advantage of a 3-story blind which overlooked the jungle and a large Cotton Tree which 2 or 3 kites used as roosting spot.  Usually if a sat and waited the birds did not arrive, but the alarm cry in the house was "Dad - your bird is there." Sometimes I had time to grab a lens and camera and shoot.  Sometimes I set up and waited.

The first decent shot I got was in 2011. I had waited and waited, and then one day before I flew back to Canada I had time for 7 shots.

On a January afternoon at 4:30 p.m. a kite swept into the tree and roosted for several minutes. This is a crop. Nikon D7000, AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor, 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 G IF-ED, at 300mm (effective 450), f5.6, 1/250th sec. I was pleased with this shot and particularly the sharpness of the medium prices lens and the bokeh, but the branch position was less than perfect.

When Amy and I returned to Hong Kong in February/March, 2012 the kite was one of my first photographic goals. It did not take long for the first chance. Two days later we were exploring my favorite village of Lei Yue Mun, and down swooped a kite. I only had a chance for 4 shots but one was reasonable.

Lei Yun Mun harbour kite. As above but 1/500th, f5.6.

Over the next weeks I managed to get a few more in-flight shots. I had been thinking of getting an FX telephoto lens while I was here as I had pre-ordered the D800, but after much checking on the web and around Hong Kong I could find nothing. Then one day Amy and I visited Kowloon and walked into one of the largest retail camera shops - Wing Shing Photo Supplies. Vancouver camera stores pale in comparison.
"Do you have a Nikkor telephoto," I asked. Yes, they had the 600mm cannon and the Version 1 of the 200-400mm, at $1000 Cdn less than a VII. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

An hour later we were out the door, laden down with the lens (I let them keep the carton) packed in the bag it comes with, a Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod, the Manfrotto 393 Gimbal, and a 1.7 Nikkon Teleconverter.  
Not surprisingly, my images changed.

Lei Yue Mun harbour, a couple of weeks later. Nikkor, zoom, AF-S VR, 200-400mm f4. D7000 at 400mm, effective 600mm, f6.7, 1/125, mounted on a Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod with the Manfrotto 393 Gimbal.

Lei Yue Mun harbour. Nikkor, AF-S VR, 200-400mm f4. D7000 at 400mm, effective 600mm, f4, 1/250, Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod with the Manfrotto 393 Gimbal.

Mai Po wetlands reserve. Nikkor Zoom, AF-S VR, 200-400mm f4. D7000 at 400mm, effective 600mm, f4, 1/1250, mounted on a Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod with the Manfrotto 393 Gimbal. Minor crop.

In terms of in-flight shots one of the most interesting was back at my Portofino blind, my son's home,  when I saw what I took to be two kites in a mating flight over a far ridge. If I had to guess I would say they were perhaps a kilometre away. I managed a dozen shots, but they were too distant to be of much interest, until I downloaded. First I realized how much I could crop with the 200-400mm and then, that this was not two kites, but rather a Kite and a Crested Serpent Eagle disputing territory. We were sure by this time that the Kites were nesting in a large tree about a 1/2 km up the gully below the house.

Black Kite and Crested Serpent Eagle. D7000, 200-400mm, ISO 320, f4, 1/1600th sec., cloudy day,
 effective aperture 600mm.

So back at the Cotton tree things were beginning to blossom. The blossoms attracted other birds, like the Large-billed crow, Red-whiskered and Chinese bulbuls and others too small to clearly identify.

These two shots were a just as the tree began to blossom.
The distance from window to tree is 98 feet. Minor cropping, at 600mm.

I spent many hours at the window blind. One day a tropical storm swept in while one roosted, with its back toward me - which was unusual.  He stayed and I waited, clicking away, knowing the shot would be literally washed out by the falling rain, but waiting for that drop of rain to run off his forehead, down his beak to momentarily linger on the tip of his bill.  Yes, there is was. Click.

Same lens and camera but with the 1.7 converter,
 so an effective focal length of 975mm, at 1/30th sec, ISO 1100.
Then in mid-March the Cotton Tree seemed to burst to life, changing the images and the reflected color of the Kite and the background yet again.

Same camera and lens as previous shots and similar settings.
I took hundreds of shots of these Kites, always waiting for the perfect shot.  At the harbour a Kite dropped in and plucked a fish, but it was diving away from me and too far away. And for some reason I did not manage to capture any with the D800. 
They gave me several pleasant hours of watching. One shot in particular seems to catch the essence of the Black Kite for me, and as I am unlikely to get back to Hong Kong it will remain my favorite.

Black Kite at Clearwater Bay, D7000, 200-400mm Nikkor, f4.5, 1/320th sec., cropped.
All photos copyright Richard Thomas Wright 2012.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Barkerville book, Hong Kong birds and rugby in London.

Writing about Barkerville, bird photography in Hong Kong 
and rugby pitches in London

This week I have been working through a variety of images from the past few months. With my new book on Barkerville Historic Town at the publisher there is a little less stress. I had forgotten just how much time it was taking to finish that project. The cover is complete and the catalogue copy set.

For more information of ordering contact Heritage House Publishing Co. http://www.heritagehouse.ca/

I still have hundreds of Hong Kong photos from our 6 week visit last winter but I am gradually wading through them, attaching keywords and captions, and posting to my website.
Yesterday I was working on this one, actually one of my favorites as crows and ravens seem to be difficult subjects.  They are often hard to light properly, some becoming black blobs, and they are skittish and wise.  My Dad used to tell us that when he was shooting crows on a farm in Alberta, Canada, they would jump up and let his .22 bullet pass beneath them.
Large-billed or Jungle Crow feeding on a Cotton tree blossom.
Nikon D7000, 200-400mm f4 (effective 600mm), cloudy light, f4, 1/320th sec.
This one was taken from my favorite blind - my son's dining room overlooking the jungle of Clearwater Bay near Hong Kong.  I could stand or sit at a window looking directly at the Cotton tree, with a coffee by my side and warm breezes wafting in the window. In fact the crow was serendipity - I was waiting for our resident Black Kite to roost. I shot the kite for 6 weeks, but as we were about to leave the Cotton tree burst into bloom offering much more interesting shots and more visitors.  One day this crow swooped in to feed on the blossoms and stayed for a few minutes. I took about 20 shots and in only one did it lift its head enough to get a bit of a catch light in the eye.

And on a personal note:
For most of us photographers we get two highs - one when we get that money shot or the one we have been planning and anticipating for days or years; and two, when the photo is used and a cheque arrives in the mail.
I had a personal high this week.  While in Hong Kong or London our Saturdays were mostly devoted to trekking to the nearby Rugby pitch to watch my grandson excel at his favorite game - rugby.  He is a fierce player, and more importantly, a team player.

A tradition - Richard ties Olly's shoes and carefully tucks the laces.
Olly says it makes him play better.

For my son and I it is chance to chat, more or less without interruption, and to try out various lenses and cameras and see what we can shoot. It is a great opportunity to practice follow focus and isolation. I now have literally hundreds of rugby shots of the Wasps in London and more from Hong Kong.
On this last visit we followed our pattern. But on my last Saturday the pitch was frozen, it was a practice session with few players showing up and my grandson Olly had a chance to just play with the ball for a bit. I did not have to worry about isolating him. The shots weren't great, but they were fun and I posted a couple to the family, titling them "Kicka da ball".
Then the highlight. This week I got an email from my grandson. He's 12.

Hey Gramps,
Could you sent me the HD picture of 'Kick da Ball' 
I am setting the picture as my desktop back-ground.

Now that is cool! I sent Olly these photos to choose from.
What other reason do we need to take photos?

All photos: D800, 70-200mm f2.8, f9, 1/320th sec.,
using a Manfrotto Monopod with a ball and socket head.
For the next series I went to D800 Manual settings rather than P, setting the lens at f2.8
and gaining a higher shutter speed. Richard Wright photos.
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Photographing Pied Avocets at Mai Po WWF refuge, Hong Kong

Hong Kong, Mai Po and Pied Avocets
The birds of Hong Kong
Since arriving back from London it has been a few days of pasting my butt to the chair, glueing my eyes to screens and beginning work catch up on filing images, posting to my website, filing, captioning and all that fun stuff that we thought would be easier with digital images - which of course, it is not.
However, the filing brought me back to some Hong Kong images I worked with a few weeks ago. Mai Po was a fantastic day of birding with John Holmes of Walk Hong Kong. If you want a birding guide you could find none better. He led us to 74 new species! Mai Po WWF reserve will be the subject of a longer blog.

While going through some of the 800 images I took at Mai Po reserve, now edited down to about 550, I noticed a motor-drive sequence I had taken of a Pied Avocet, one of the waders frequently seen on the extensive tidal flats, and photographed from one of the Mai Po blinds.
About a year ago I purchased a copy of DoubleTake, a panorama stitching program for Mac OS X, echoone.com/doubletake/ , for $24.95.
I wondered what would happen if I stitched together several inflight shots like the one below.

So, I took four images and dragged them into the DoubleTake screen. The blending of each image was fairly intuitive. The exposure of each image was slightly variable but DoubleTake allows you to select each blended image on its own and adjust basic curves.

So, I balanced the curves, cropped and came up with this composite image.

Now, it is no secret to anyone who has been to Hong Kong and most of China that the pollution there is remarkable.  Trying to shoot skylines in Hong Kong is frustrating unless there is a typhoon force wind blowing China's lung-searing smoke out to sea, or back to China. It affects every frame you take and many from Mai Po looked muddy. So, I made a shift in color temperature and saturation to bring the image to what we would have liked it to be, resulting in this image.

One bird, in sequence. All photos taken with a Nikon D7000, 200-400mm f4 Nikkor,
(effective focal length being 600mm), f5.6, 1/500th sec, auto white balance.

Unfortunately this blog format is not the best way to display the image. Eventually it will be on my website where the larger format will show it off a little better.  The point is it was only a couple of hours work to come up with this interesting image - and shows some other possibilities for further in flight shots.

DoubleTake does offer a trail version as well.

All photos copyright Richard T. Wright 2012

Welcome to Martin as a follower.  Martin is a Game camera trapper and environmental consultant from Wales that I met online while in London.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Game cam - capturing a backyard fox - London, UK

 The fox went out for a chase one night
prayed to the moon to give him light
for he had many a mile to go that night
before he reached the town-o, town-o, town-o
he had many a mile to go that night
before he reached the town-o.

For all the years my son and his family have have lived in London, England, I have heard about the fox(s) that visit his back yard on a nightly basis. When I was there a couple of years ago I saw the tracks on the fence, and early one morning caught a glimpse, but no photos. When I visited this November I decided to pack along one of my game cams, a Ltl Acorn 5210A, on the chance he/she was still visiting.  Sure enough, there were the tracks on the white wall next to the garden gate.

So we set up the Ltl Acorn on one of Rich's Manfrotto tripods and turned it on.  
The "yard house" is the site of the nightly visits. The gate the fox uses is seen
to the right. Note the foot tracks on the white wall to the left of the gate,
and the marks on the gate. In this photo (not in chronological order) the security light
has turned on and is casting a shadow of the camera and tripod on the visiting fox,
who normally seems to enter left and exit right.
Sootie could sense, smell or hear the fox in the middle
 of the night. He would catapult himself down three flights
 of stairs and head out to protect his turf, often pausing
 to pee and mark his territory right where the fox had marked.
One of the features of the Acorn is the ability to record moon phase, temperature, date and time. With this information we were able to figure out that one or more foxes was visiting two to three times a night, and, what time Sootie, our Minature Schnauzer guard dog, went out to investigate or chase the fox.

Another great feature of the Ltl Acorn is the side scanning PIR sensors. Many or most game cams rely on one sensor to turn on the camera and take a photo. In effect what the Acorn does is pick up movement with the side scanners and tell the camera to get ready to take a photo.
Secondly, like the Bushnell Trophy cam, which I also have, it has an infrared or "black" flash which is invisible to animal or human eyes.  The advantage is that it does not spoke the target. The disadvantage is that it renders a black and white photo at night, not a color image.
The infrared image made it hard to figure how many foxes we were dealing with as their coloration was lost in the infrared spectrum. We figured we had at least two, though our neighbour had seen three at one time.
I should mention that the Acorn sensors are sensitive enough that I have some great video of a rain storm that set off the camera.  And, some great sky shots when my son's automatic lawn mower decided it was time to cut the lawn, on the night I had put the tripod on the lawn.  It mowed down the tripod and stalled out.  No damage to either.

We can see that this fox appears to have dark trimmings on
 its tail and dark ears and paws, The guess is that it is red with black highlights.
 Certainly it does not appear to be a black phase. This image is cropped from a vertical.
Over the three weeks that I was there we tried several setups.  My goal was to figure out where the fox entered the yard, where it exited, what it was interested in, how many we had and to get an image of a fox in mid-jump.  We figured it came from the left, as that was the direction in most of the images. I did not get a mid-jump photo as the shutter and camera reaction time is just not fast enough, as the next image shows.
Up or down? We figure this fox was jumping down from the neighbours fence, at 5:30 a.m.

However, the Ltl Acorn also has the capability to capture video in AVI mode.  And, the camera can be set to take stills, video, or video and stills.  So I set the camera to take 3 photos and then turn on the video. Now, this is not exactly National Geographic quality but it did show us the exit strategy of the fox(s). A set up, a jump, a grab and push with the back legs and up to the top of the 6-foot gate. (Unfortunately at this point I have not been able to get the AVI video to upload to this blog. I have converted the AVI files to QuickTime and am waiting for YouTube to "process the video". Eventually it will be posted to YouTube as "London Fox1" and "London Fox 2". I will post the links here.)

Update: I finally am able to post the video clips. For those that are interested it was two issues.
First I had to convert from AVI which the Acorn uses to QuickTime.  Then while in the QuickTime version post to YouTube. However, then the files would not post to YouTube, but sat for hours with a moving blue strip saying it was processing. A search on the web found a post that indicated I had chosen by account by my Google email (which it had asked for) rather than the channel name. Once I did that all was well. Here they are.


Clearly the still images, while purported to be 12 megs, are not of a quality that could be used for publication, at least not the night, infrared photos.  However, what I enjoy most is that the camera is capturing behavior that I would not otherwise observe, behavior that is taking place and being recorded while I sleep. It was always interesting to get up in the morning, grab a coffee and download images to Aperture 3 and see what we had captured that night.

Clearly this fox was a female.
Sootie would come out and mark this same spot.

With a slightly altered setup I managed to get a shot of the fox
 on the neighbour's fence.
This one is checking something out before it crouches to exit via the gate.
What I learned was that the camera does not work well in a vertical setup. I tried that and got one decent image but obviously the side sensors are now facing up and down, rather than sideways, and do not turn the camera on in time to capture the movement. And, as my son observed, even when you know the subject is there, and its habits, a good image is hard to capture.
I am now considering adapting one of my Nikons to use in a camera trap so that I can get higher resolution photos with more control. I will use an infrared beam to catch movement but in this setup I will not use a infrared flash. In the daytime this will allow the motor drive to kick in and capture more images at a higher shutter speed.
Now that I am back home in the snowy mountains of British Columbia the cameras will be set up to try and continue capturing mountain caribou and my backyard critters.

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All photos, video and text copyright to Richard Thomas Wright 2012.

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