Treeless by Conor Cunningham

A Nuthatch on the stumpy trunk of Mr. Pigeon's tree.

The sods next door decided to cut down a tree which stood happily enough outside my kitchen window. There was a pigeon who lived in that tree who is now homeless, poor wee thing. He stuck around for a few days standing no a fence, but he's moved on; hopefully to greener pastures (literally).

There were also plenty of Chaffinches, Green Finches,Nuthatches, Great Tits, Blue Tits and Common House Sparrows who utilise the tree a great deal, but luckily enough they've stayed around, most likely only due to the food which I provide them.

A Blue Tit perched on another short haired tree.

The stump on which the birds are pictured here is Mr. Pigeon's old home. I hope he's happy wherever he's gone.

Spring Chickens by Conor Cunningham

A mother swan and her cygnets

The unusually warm weather continues and the birds' youngsters are all around the place. A trip recently to Østensjøvannet ( a small lake in Oslo ) revealed plenty of wee birds still yet to fledge and generally taking it easy.

A Great Crested Grebe and youngster

I used my 200mm lense for all of the shots which meant some pretty serious cropping on a lot of them. I hope to get myself a tele-extender soon which will boost me up to 400mm but at a cost of two f-stops which will bring me to f/5.6. Not ideal, but $1000 versus $10,000 is a no brainer at stage in my photographic career.

A Coot and her odd looking wee ones.

Oslo has its ups and downs, as do most cities, but its number of parks, forests, waterways and sea is fantastic for those that like the outdoors and the loonies amongst us who enjoying chasing after our flying friends.

Ducklings swim by with their mother to camera right, out of frame.

If you've not been to Østensjøvannet before, I can recommend a trip, even if it is just for a stroll or space forbid, a jog! If you do however wish to see some of spring's natural goodies, you won't be disappointed.

Great Crested Grebes giving the little one a swimming lesson.

New Owls by Conor Cunningham

Having been defeated the previous day by nature and its evolved camoflauge, I returned to the area where I had been told the owls lived. A family were staring into some tall trees in the area and I politely inquired as to whether they had found any owls. The answer was a resounding, yes.

The three new owls. 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6 and 1/800

Perched high in one tree were three young Tawny owls. Their mother was in a tree close by, albeit sleeping. Dad was nowhere to be seen.

Mother owl. 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6 and 1/500

Shooting the owls was difficult. Bright daylight, dark shadows in amongst the many branches and not to mention the wonderfully camoflauged owls made for a challenging shoot. I struggled getting a nice sharp focus due to all the brances and manual focus was tricky as I was at least 10 metres away and the owls are the chicks are probably only 20cm tall.

Two of the three chicks. 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6 and 1/500

I dropped my aperture to f/5.6 to get a greater depth of field should I miss focus. I used a single focus point and did the best I could. The chicks were moving quite a bit, so I bumped up the ISO to 800 so I could get a fast(ish) shutter speed.

See, owls really can turn their heads 180 degrees. 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6 and 1/400

These images came out better than I had hoped. A little bit of development, and a lot of cropping and I'm happy enough. I certainly don't think however that they would stand up to the rigours of printing given the crop factor.

This wee one appeared to be the smallest of the three chicks. 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6 and 1/800

Not a clue what they were saying. 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6 and 1/400

Ideally I like to shoot in manual mode to control the exposure when the frame is so heavily back/side lit, but given the shadows and the movement of the chicks I opted for AV as I still wanted to control my aperture.

LIke me, they were getting a little tired.

Hopefully you're not doing what the owl on the right is whilst reading this. I think it nodded off not longer after I took this image. Hope you enjoyed the owls.

Sam the Squirrel by Conor Cunningham

An afternoon spent aimlessly looking for owls was not all in vain. Frognerpark's the English Garden has come to life with the arrival of spring. Numerous nesting birds had set up shop along with the smaller birds of the forest.

Not long before I gave up searching for the owls, I spotted a squirrel racing up a tree.

Eurasion Red Squirrel. 200mm, IS0 200, f/2.8 1/1000 sec

Photographing this wee one wasn't the easiest. The sun was off to camera right and low in the sky. The squirrel ( from now on known as Sam ) was dashing between the trees at great speed so a fast shutter speed was required. Throw in branches and shadows to boot and getting the right settings along with tracking Sam was tricky. Given the lighting situation and the speed of the subject, manual mode was out. I set the camera to AV and put the camera at f/2.8 for maximum light (not to mention bokeh) and a higher shutter speed (helped in addition by ISO 200).

Sam ready to jump. Completely missed the next few action shots. 200mm, IS0 200, f/2.8 1/1000 sec

I tried to get some action shots, but they were largely in vain. My reaction time was poor and tracking the object between so many branches was tricky. I was also a country mile below Sam with a maximum focal length of 200mm. I have a longer 300mm f/5.6 lense but it is too slow to focus in such situations I find. The Canon 70 - 200 f/2.8 IS II USM is cracking for fast focus. I'd love a prime 400mm, 500mm or 600mm, so if you're buying me a Christmas present early this year, you know what to do.

A slightly out of focus Sam. Photographer was a bit wobbly. 200mm, IS0 200, f/2.8 1/1000 sec

Finally Sam sat down with his prized acorn and gobbled it up in front of me. He seemed to enjoy it and quite at ease with me taking his picture.

Sam the squirrel enjoying its evening meal. 200mm, IS0 200, f/2.8 1/1000 sec

Bird on a Fence by Conor Cunningham

I've spotted a bird I've not seen before, a common chaffinch (bokfink) in fact, in the backyard. Apparently it is as common as they come, but I've read that they migrate to Southern Europe for the winter. Not entirely sure if this one was just lazy, or the mild winter has invited it back.

Not much to write regarding the photography. Camera was in manual, bumped up the ISO to 800, lense at 200mm with IS on, f/2.8 and 1/80th of a second (it is dark outside, haven't seen the sun for many, many weeks).

I've decided I like this bird. Hope to see more of them!


Local Birds by Conor Cunningham

Even though I live in the centre of Norway's largest city, I'm still lucky enough to count a few birds as neighbours. My backyard, if one can call it that, has a few trees and with the help of a little birdseed sees Nuthatches (spettmeis), Great Tits (kjøttmeis) and European Blue Tits (blåmeis) regularly visit our bird feeders. They're a welcome site and hopefully they will thrive during the winter months.

European Blue Tit in a neighbours garden. f/2.8, 200mm, 1/250 and 320 ISO

I do notice however, that once the snow washes away, I see less and less Tits. Once a downpour of snow arrives they come right back. I've no idea where they go, but I'd love to find out. If you know, please let me know.

And on a photographic note; how's the bokeh? That lense rocks!

When to use manual mode by Conor Cunningham

Does anyone know what bird this is? Canon 5d MKIII f/5.6 ISO 2000 1/1000 Canon 70 - 300 f/4 - 5.6 IS USM  @300mm

Does anyone know what bird this is? Canon 5d MKIII f/5.6 ISO 2000 1/1000 Canon 70 - 300 f/4 - 5.6 IS USM  @300mm

Snapped quite a few snaps of some birds whilist visiting a costal town south of Oslo on the weekend. If you look at the picture, you'll notice that there is a lot cloud. In fact, there wasn't a bit of blue sky anywhere. What there was however, was plenty of snow, and plenty of water.

Canon 5d MKIII f/5.6 ISO 2000 1/1000 Canon 70 - 300 f/4 - 5.6 IS USM  @300mm

Canon 5d MKIII f/5.6 ISO 2000 1/1000 Canon 70 - 300 f/4 - 5.6 IS USM  @300mm

In front of me was the above image, and behind me plenty of more snow. There was an opening expanse of water image right and a river image left. In short, a bit of a nightmare for automatic camera operations. If you were to metre light for the clouds and then move over the snow, you're settings would change somewhat. Add the fact that snow often throws of the metering regardless due to the excess white, automatic modes such as TV and AV were out of the question.

If you look at the above image, the sky, snow and water are correctly exposed. Doing that with AV or TV would be difficult without exposure compensation. This can make it tricky to keep up with your settings when shooting fast moving things such as wildlife.

Light not changing?

Use manual. If the light isn't chaning, switch to manual and dial in your exposure. Once you've got it, that's it. Shoot and forget. Ok, so if the light starts to change or you've been at it a while, best to double check, but you won't have to change it that often.