Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Looping the Loop and Defying the Ground

Photographing fast-moving targets is about the most difficult thing you can do with a manual-focus scope; by the time you've dialled in the right ISO and exposure compensation - and got the thing in focus - the object of interest is often already receding into the distance. So when I heard there was going to be an air display at the Broadstairs Water Gala last week, I saw it as an excellent opportunity to get some practice in.

The first plane to grace the skies over Viking Bay was an RAF T1 Tucano emblazoned in a special red, white and blue colour scheme for the Queen's Royal Flight. This photo was taken right at the end of the display as Flight Lieutenant Jon Bond performed a low pass right across the bay:

RAF Tucano Display

And how do I know who was flying the plane? Well, his name was printed underneath the cockpit:

Next up was the Aerostars display team. This being the Age of Austerity, the council could only afford to hire three out of the six planes, but they still put on a terrific display, and the reduced number actually worked in my favour as there was less opportunity for me to flail around as I tried to figure out which plane I was going to point my camera at.

Aerostars Display

If you're wondering why one of the planes is blurred in the next photo, it's because they were passing at a relative speed of 400 mph. That I got any kind of shot at all is something of a minor miracle.


The third part of the display, featuring a biplane, was cancelled due to strong crosswinds at Manston, but what we did get to see was great entertainment, and I ended up taking a lot more photos than I had intended to, the best of which you can see on my Flickr page. Of course, now I've got no excuse for not getting a picture of the next rare bird of prey that comes zooming out of nowhere...

See also:

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Marbled Whites

The weather may have suggested otherwise, but we're coming to the end of high summer; that time of year when the birds lie low to recover from the breeding season and - in some cases - ready their wings for the great autumn migration. It's also the time of year when some photographers moan about having nothing to photograph ... as they brush the butterflies away from their lenses.

One highlight of the summer months is the elegantly beautiful Marbled White (Melanargia galathea). Intermediate in size between the small blues and the attention-grabbing Peacocks and Red Admirals, it's easily distinguished by the unmistakable black-and-white checkerboard pattern on its wings. It looks particularly striking when perched on one of its favourite nectar sources, purple knapweed:

Marbled White

The Marbled White isn't rare as British butterflies go, but due to its preference for unimproved grassland you'll almost never see one in a typical garden. Fortunately the person (or persons) responsible for naming it had a finer appreciation for its aesthetic qualities, otherwise it might well have ended up being called the Pied Butterfly.

A closer examination reveals a hint of colour amongst all the black and white - pale blue dots on the underwing:

Marbled White (underwing)

Of course, a telescope is no substitute for a good quality macro lens when it comes to photographing the small stuff; even with extension tubes in place, the closest I can get to a butterfly and still keep it in focus is about nine feet, but that's no reason not to have a go (and at least I know I'm not disturbing it). And, with the draw-tube racked all the way out, the depth of field is so shallow it's easier to adjust focus simply by rocking backwards and forwards slightly.

The cliff-top wildflower meadow where these photos were taken also plays host to grasshoppers, crickets, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers, the distinctive Six-spot Burnet and little orange skippers (though I couldn't tell you if they're of the Small or Essex variety).

See more of my Marbled White photos on Flickr