Great Tit by Conor Cunningham

Lots of happy birds can be found at Østensjøvannet in the morning. I took several pictures and am trying to work out which type of bird they are, but in the meantime, have a look at this happy wee Great Tit.

A Great Tit

Midsommer in Helsinki by Conor Cunningham

Midsommer

I'm back in Helsinki after a cracker of a trip to Dragsfjard in Finland. Catching up with old friends and meeting news ones, the Finns certainly know how to put on a celebration. Rowed a boat, went lure fishing, and of course, being in Finaldn, had a sauna/swim; all of which were a first for me.

I was expecting that a fire be lit for midsommer, but I did not expect it to be so grand and well engineered. The above image shows the local lads in their boat on their way to light it up.

Once it got going, I took about 100 images. The aim was to get the highest possible dynamic range to show the fire and the sun kissed sky. The result is the image below.

Midsommer in Finland, Finnish style.

The area in which we were in had quite a few birds, and if you've read this far then you'll not be shocked to know that I'm quite fond of our winged friends. The bird which interested me the most was the Arctic Tern which was just cracking to watch. I'm working on some other images, but I did enjoy this one.

An Arctic Tern looking for lunch

I would have liked to get better pictures, but this was after all, a holiday, a party and a time to catch up with friends, so the camera took a back seat in order to simply enjoy the peace and quiet.

Nice light

Shooting Nature in RAW by Conor Cunningham

RAW Birds

A Greenfinch waiting for its turn at the feeder

My Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L II IS took a tumble in Ireland some weeks ago and is currently in the repair shop. The waiting list is long as there is only one Canon repair shop in Norway which is a bit of shame, but c'est la vie.

So, out came the Canon 70 - 300mm IS USM. It's not a bad lense, but not a patch on the 70-200. Sitting down in the kitchen just before dinner, I noticed a greenfinch, then two, then three, then four, and great space, then a fifth!

They were having a grand old time around with the sunflower seeds, taking it in turn to feed on them. Whilst the non-feeding birds awaited their turn, they sat in the tree directly outside my kitchen window. The pictures in this post are all from the aforementioned meal for the birds and are all taken with the 70 - 300mm at f/5.6, 1/500 second and ISO 800 with a Canon 5d mkiii.

Shooting RAW

All of these shots were taken in RAW. I always shoot RAW, always. It is shady in the trees outside my kitchen and the birds blend in with the background. I had my camera in manual mode and quickly got it setup so that I was approximately +1ev on my in-camera light metre.

Birds are quick and rarely do what you want them to do. Furthermore, they move, and move quickly.

Had I been in AV mode, my shutter speed would have changed, and in TV mode, I would still have had to adjust my ISO and I wouldn't be able to change my aperture easily had I wanted to.

The original out of camera picture

Above is the image as it came out of camera. Some will argue to get it right in camera, and to that I couldn't agree more. Getting it spot on in camera when dealing with fast moving nature is however, difficult and not always possible. The above image was also about +1EV when it came out.

By shooting RAW I was able to push it a further +1.5EV and properly expose the bird. The background is blown out, but it's only the background. I'm interested in the subject.

The same image as above, but exposed for the bird.

All of my images here are uncropped. I try to frame them as well as I can in camera and today I was lucky; the birds behaved reasonably well.

Sometimes of course, you have to crop. Lenses only get so big and I can only afford to spend a certain amount on lenses. The 70-300mm isn't too bad, and considering these pictures are at 800 ISO with no noise reduction, I can't complain.

A cropped Greenfinch. Full image below.

The cropped image works well enough. I wouldn't want to print to too big, but on a blog it looks quite nice.

I should also mention that all my images are exported at a maximum of 1500px across the longest edge.

So, in short, save yourself from time to time and shoot RAW. One day it'll pay off.

The full size image of the picture above.

Family Quack Quack by Conor Cunningham

Mother Duck (Mallard) sitting on the nest.

Dronningsparken (The Queen's Park) and Slottsparken (The Castle's Park) sport some lovely grounds and three ponds, all of which are shared by several families and many unpaired Mallards (ducks).

Captain Solo ( Mallard Duckling)

Currently in the park one can find many ducklings new to the world and the parents of these ducklings appear to be doing a grand job of rearing their young.

Mother Mallard and her ducklings; all eight of them.

The weather of late has been fantastic and the evenings have provided wonderful light by which to take photos. My 70-200mm f/2.8 has been getting quite the workout and I just love the bokeh it gives (see the top photo for example)

The photo below was taken at f/8 at a relatively close distance to the subjects (circa 3 metres) and even then, the bokeh is top notch , but then again, not a patch on the f/2.8 at top.

Dad Mallard keeping an extra eye out.

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.

The Cliffs of Moher by Conor Cunningham

The Cliffs of Moher, The Stack and O'Brien's Tower

One of Ireland's more spectactular sights are the Cliffs of Moher. They're found 60 or so kilometres south of Galway and lie in between Ballvaughan and Lehinch. On a good day the views are stunning, and for the brave you can walk all along them, right on the very precipice of a 214 metre drop. They stretch for just over 8km and are truly a sight to behold.

The Stack from the sea.

Something well worth your time is a boat trip around the cliffs. You sail very close to The Stack, pictured above and the cliffs themselves. It felt rather prehistoric, and other than the boat there was nothing man made to be seen from some perspectives. Saying that, if you look very closely at the image above (click to enlarge it) you can make out some people standing at the top of cliffs.

I'd love to have more images to show of the cliffs from the sea, but the truth is the seas were rather rough, and I was hand holding a 70 - 200mm lense in one hand, and hanging for dear like onto the boat itself.

Saying all that, there wasn't a moment of the boat trip around the cliffs that wasn't worth it. If you're going to photograph it, you'll have to chose a smaller lens to get wider shots and be able to use the camera with one hand. If it is birds you're after you'll need something longer and preferably smaller seas.

A Puffin!

Speaking of birds, tens of thousands of birds make these cliffs their home for breeding purposes during the summer months. I desperately wanted to see a puffin, and I wasn't disappointed. Other birds spotted were Arctic Terns, Sandwhich Terns, Razorbills, Shags, Guillemots and Gannets; a sea birdwatchers paradise!

A shot of the top of cliffs with a view down to Lehinch

One of my favourite shots of the trip is the above image. I'm not entirely sure why, but I like the form of the land and curves cliffs and the paths. I used a neutral polarizing filter to get a nice blue sky and clarity amongst the clounds. If it had been a little clearer, Lehinch might have been a little more visible. C'est la vie.

The image looks as if it is not level, but in fact it is. The water and beaches you see in the distance curve around to form a bay, and eventually join up with the cliffs.

So, in summary, should you ever find yourself in County Clare or the surrounds, pop down and see a truly fantastic sight!

Another view of the cliffs, The Stack and O'Briens Tower.

Inis Oirr by Conor Cunningham

The local pub

When down in County Clare, and the weather is good, you'd be mad not to take a trip across the water and set foot on one of the Aran Islands. Eva and I went to Inis Oirr ( sounds like In-ish ear ) for a day and were delighted to be greeted by the sun and blueish skies.

The local pub (above) is one of three pubs on an island of 290 people. Be sure to have a pint whilst overlooking the sea.

One gorgeous beach

The beach facing the mainland is sheltered and calm. It's a wonderful spot and dare I say it, quite idyllic.

Eva happy with her find. A razor clam shell

Eva found some razor clam shells which she was quite happy with, but like a good tourist, left them behind where they belong.

Many clam shells!

Dolphin!

On the way into port, a dolphin popped out of the water and swam with us all the way until we docked. After that, it pottered about and was eventually joined by a local resident who often takes a swim with it.

A Sandwhich Tern hunting for fish. A split second later it would be under the water with a fish in its beak.

Eva and I were the only people on the beach and we were treated to a hunting and diving display by two sandwich terns which would hover above the surface of the water then dive towards the water in a free fall before emerging, sometimes with a fish in its beak. It was quite a sight to see, especially at only a few metres distance.

Looking back to the Port of Inis Oirr

A wide shot of the beach, part of the village and the port.

A local horse

Inis Oirr was effectively all farm land and the animals were either of an equine or bovine nature. The above horse has delightful view.

A local stone hut which appeared still to be in use.

The island itself is roughly on 3 km x 3 km and one can walk around most of it in a moderate pace in about two hours.

If you get a chance to visit, do! It is well worth it.

The local beach, the swimmer and the dolpin on the way back to the mainland.

Country Clare by Conor Cunningham

Gregan's Castle

I'm finally getting around to publishing a few pictures from my recent holiday in Ireland. The above picture is part of the gardens at Gregan's Castle; a fantastic spot to put your feet up for a while. The gardens are fantastic and the surrounding area is stunning. The food and the service at Gregan's are also terrific. Should you get a chance, definitely stay for a night or two at Gregans.

The above photo was taken in the late evening as the sun was setting. I think I probably over exposed the highlights just a bit which was a shame but overall it's not too bad. You can see Galway bay in the distance which is visible from the gardens in good weather.

Eva getting lost in the gardens

The gardens have a myriad of plants which I know nothing about. Eva is into gardens and she had quite the time.

Donkies!

There is also a pony and two donkies on the grounds. They were quite fond of Eva.

Bumble Bees

Spring was in full swing in the gardens and the bumble bees were abundant and busy pollinating the flowers. Difficult little things to photograph.

The pond at Gregans

Not the best picture going around these days, but there is a pond at Gregan's which appeared to have a great deal of diverse flora. Occassionally they'd be a couple of ducks have a wee swim, too.

The view from the top of Black Head. Photo by Shane Connolly.

Around the corner from the village of Ballyvaughan is Black Head. Stunning views of the Aran Islands. Local man Shane Connolly provides guided walks around the Burren, the local unique landscape which was once under water and consists largely of limestone. Shane knows more than I can remember about the area, but his guidance was fantastic and Eva had a ball learning about the unique local flowers which are found in the area. Shane's information can be found at http://homepage.eircom.net/~burrenhillwalks/

Above and below are two of local flowers. I'll have to wait until Eva gets home to find out what they are.

A place for the perfume lovers, the Burren Perfumery distills and makes their own perfumes. Again, Eva was quite at home here. I preferred the gardens where I chased after birds and bees and once my energy levels ran low, sat down with another fellow who said he really thinks they should provide pints of Guinness for the those of us not so excited about perfumes. I couldn't agree more.

Bird! At the Burren Perfumery.

In the Burren itself are many ancient sites from the Bronze age. Those interested in the period would have a hoot here.

An ancient burial chamber from around 3000 BC.

The burial chamber above is in a lovely spot, but can be filled with tourists. I had to use the 70-200mm lense to compress the background and avoid the tourists that were all around.

Fanore Beach

Fanore beach is just around the corner from Ballyvaughan and is, as I'm told a good spot for surfers. Surfer or not, Fanore and its beach is a stunning spot. Worth a visit if you're in the area.

Fanore Beach

Frognerpark Birds by Conor Cunningham

I've been going over my photos for the last few months; deleting bad pictures and duplicates, and occassionally finding a few I meant to publish but forgot all about.

Black Headed Gull

Frognerpark is quite a spot in the spring. The leaves begin to sprout on the branches of the trees and hedges, the grass begins to thrive and the birds make a return and mark their positions with their songs.

Female Sparrow

These images were taken on the 20th April, 2014. Apart from the birds, you can see the buds of spring appearing and some even beginning to sprout. Before I moved to Norway from Australia, I had little appreciation of the seasons, but now they're evident in almost everyday life. I doubt there are many who dislike the arrival of spring (apart from those unlucky enough to suffer from pollen allergies) in this part of the world.

Fieldfare basking in the evening sun.

Now that spring is in full bloom, I'll be out to try and photograph the new arrivals of spring.

A Robin

The plan is to find the ducks, swans and geese of the Frogner area; particurlarly the Queen's park, Frognerpark and the waters of the fjord in the area.

Here's to a fine spring!

Puffins! by Conor Cunningham

I've been in Ireland for about a week now on a general holiday and family catch-up. Eva and I have made our way into County Clare and into an area which is simply stunning. Today we took a small boat to the Aran Islands, specifically, Innis Oirr.

Puffin!

To say that the trip is spectacular (in good weather) doesn't do it justice. I'll cover more of the photos I took in a later post, but during the tour of the Cliffs of Moher from the boat, I managed to spot and photograph some puffins.

It was fiendishly difficult to spot, nevermind photograph these wee things. The swells were probably up to about 4 metres and the boat was all over the place, leaving very few oppurtunities to let go of the rail and raise the 200mm lense. Add the other birds and the swells catching focus, I find myself lucky enough to have gotten two nice photos.

Mr. and Mrs. Puffin

Should you ever find yourself in County Clare, Ireland, get yourself down to Doolin and onto a boat to see the cliffs. It is, and I can't overstate this enough, utterly spectactular! (and you might see a puffin! Oh, and dolphins, kittiwakes, shags, seals, artic terns, just to name a few).