Does Equipment Matter?

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Yes, of course it does……

That’s that then. Well, no, not really. Let’s first talk about Motorsport, if you watch F1 and get excited about the thrill of the drivers balancing the physics of a finely tuned piece of engineering, does that mean that you can’t enjoy a Sunday drive through the countryside in a Ford Fiesta? Of course you can. For me it’s the same with photography.

I’m not going to pretend that shooting with Nikon’s fantastic D850 DSLR paired with a Nikon 500mm f/4 doesn’t make life much easier for me as a photographer, of course it does, but that doesn’t mean that you need this level of equipment to capture stunning photos. Anyone who has attended one of my Digital Photography Fundamentals Workshop will remember that I talk a lot about that although professional equipment offers superior quality, it doesn’t mean that you cannot shoot stunning photographs with level-entry equipment, far from it. I quite often get told “It’s easy for you with your camera”, yes, it’s easier, but doesn’t mean that photography is impossible without expensive equipment.

This morning, it got me thinking about this so I grabbed a Nikon D3100 that I use as a loan camera on my workshops and attached my Nikon 80-400mm lens to it. Yes, ok, some of you are going to spot that this is a professional grade lens, I don’t own a “long” telephoto lens that isn’t. However, it’ll still be possible to get great photos with a much cheaper lens attached.

The Nikon D3100 is a level-entry camera with just 14.2 megapixels and was released back in 2010. Ten years in the world of photography is a long-time!

It didn’t take long until a pair of juvenile Eurasian Nuthatches we have in the garden showed up on an old dead Oak Tree. So here you go, I think you’ll agree that these are quite nice shots of them.

If you work with good light, shoot at the correct angles and of course dial in the correct camera settings then great photography is available.

Currently, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, my “Open” Digital Photography Fundamentals Workshops are suspended, however, private sessions are available. These workshops are a great way to learn to take control of your camera.

If you feel like really getting your teeth into photography, a great way to go from beginner to great photographer is to book some Personal 3 Hour Photography Workshop Sessions. These sessions can take you right from the start through to post-processing in Adobe Lightroom at a pace that suits you and as many or little sessions as you wish, these can be done in the comfort of your own home!


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European Rollers Of The Lower Alentejo

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I remember being in South Africa in 2010 and spotting my first ever Lilac Breasted Roller, a stunning bird, so you can imagine my excitement when I found out that the European Roller breeds in the Lower Alentejo, just 30 minutes from the Quinta.

Although I’ve now lived in Portugal for almost 4 years I have never planned to go and photograph them. They are not great around humans and they are certainly one species of bird that I don’t want to interfere with. Although worldwide they are successful, they are an endangered species here in Portugal. The Liga para a Protecção da Natureza (LPN) centre near Castro Verde has certainly helped with their survival and has a dedicated nesting building for them. The lower Alentejo region has many abandoned and ruined farm buildings which makes it perfect for these birds to nest. Many buildings have been equipped to help too. Where you find the European Roller, you often also spot Lesser Kestrels as they use the same buildings to nest.

They always remind me of a colourful Jackdaw as their size, stock and beak shape is very similar.

I have been monitoring them at a site on two occasions over the last few weeks and yesterday I decided to head to the location before sunrise. I arrived at 5:30am and everything apart from the distant noise of early morning Crows was silent. I headed to a spot I had planned which was in thick overgrown flowers and crop, crouched down under the a camo net and waited. They were soon flying around making their really loud Crow-like call. Soon enough I had the chance to photograph a few. As you can see in the first photo, I have named this one (difficult to determine the sex as they are both identical) Scruffy due to the lose feather. I assume this will fall out so won’t be able to ID it next time. It spent most of the time I was there chasing off the Lesser Kestrels. Even after just one session, I can already see some different characters.

(Click photos to view in a Lightbox)


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Morning Dog Walk: Spotted My First Golden Oriole Of The Year

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There has been a Starling mimicking a Golden Oriole all winter but last week I heard not only a song but a call and knew there was at least one Golden Oriole back.

This morning I heard a song near the river and it was far too good to be a Starling, soon after I heard the call. Even though the males are bright yellow, they blend in with green leaves very well. However, his continued song and call gave his location away and I managed to grab a quick record shot of him. There was two and I suspect the other was a female which is much more greener and even more difficult to spot.


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Bee-eater Alarm Clock

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As I knew it was going to be another terrible morning for light, I had a lazy morning. Around 8:30am I woke to the sound of a pair of European Bee-eaters outside the bedroom window. As the light was so bad (only nighttime could possibly be worse) I took this shot when one of them sat on a cable that didn’t have the dull grey sky in the background, it’s still fairly high ISO for a static shot at 2800.

The pair were both males, I’m unsure if this is the same pair I keep seeing as still there seems to be very few here.


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European Bee-Eaters Update…..Are They Back…….?

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…..sort of…..!

None of the local colonies have established yet, but there is the odd occasional Bee-Eater flying around. I suspected this cold and wet spring would delay them slightly. I remember from 2018 when we had a lot of rain in February and April, they were 2 weeks late, they are currently 9 days late.

As for photographing the ones that are here, well the light is also terrible, but here is a quick shot that I grabbed this morning of one flying quite high.

UPDATE : Since this morning the noise of these amazing birds has been increasing so it seems they are returning in numbers now. More tomorrow…..


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The “Well” Swallows Are Back!

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This morning as I walked the dogs I recognised a familiar bird call followed by a silhouette against the white canvas of the morning hill mist. A pair of Barn Swallows, these are always the first pair to arrive in this area (even though in the Algarve, Barn Swallows can be seen in December) and they are the “Well” Swallows, named because they have their nest down inside a water well.

I was able to hide inside the Well’s pump house to get some great close up shots. I say this everytime, but please don’t approach live bird nests when the young are there, I’m lucky that I can hide away in the pump house completely hidden.

These are the shots I got last year, but I was struggling with light deep down in the well with overhanging trees.


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