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Stephen Elliott – Close encounters

Blog Posted on 19 Sep 2011

A strange thing happened to me earlier this week, after I’d dropped my son off at school I decided to have a walk up onto Higger Tor with my camera, it was a nice sunny morning, a blue sky with patches of fog in the valley below, not a bad day for shooting some landscapes.

Walking over the top moor towards the shelter stone a grouse flew out of the heather onto the path in front of me, now normally grouse are very timid birds and scoot off rapidly in the opposite direction but this particular bird had a serious attitude problem and started strutting towards me making his distinctive “goback – goback – goback” call.

I could see a possible photo opportunity coming my way and a chance to shoot a bit of wildlife something I’m not usually that lucky with.(I normally shoot rocks and they don’t tend to move that much!)

I had on a wide angle lens which would generally be the wrong choice for shooting birds or animals where a long lens is usually favoured; you can zoom in and fill the frame with your subject while still maintaining a good distance from your prey.

This particular grouse however was getting louder and nearer so it was looking like the wide angle lens could actually be useful after all in this situation, it also made me appreciate how versatile today’s modern DSLR cameras are, my camera has an LCD screen that can be flipped and rotated into different positions and used with a ‘live view’ function enables me to place the camera and compose the image without looking into the viewfinder.

I held the camera a few inches from the ground and was able to take a few shots of the bird as it came ever closer, the next thing he went mad flying at the camera then into my face knocking my glasses off, I moved a few yards away but he just kept following me clucking loudly while diving at my legs, I’d flick him away with my foot and he just came back for more decidedly irate. 

Olympus E5 12-60mm f2.8, 1/400 f6.3 @ 14mm 200 ISO Lee 0.6 ND grad

I had got quite a few shots by this time but realised that I may be able to get this grouse into an alternative location for an even better shot, a lump of gritstone lay at the side of the path a few yards away so with a few choice shoves I was able to coax the grouse round and get him to stand on it while I took his picture.

I was able to utilise the ‘live view’, built in level gauge and live histogram functions on the LCD screen while holding the camera only a couple of inches from the ground to get the composition I wanted, something that would be a complete hit and miss affair with a film or even an older DSLR camera unless you were laid flat on the ground with your head on one side! 

Olympus E5 12-60mm f2.8, 1/200 f6.3 @ 12mm 200 ISO Lee 0.6 ND grad

While we are still on the subject of wildlife photography I thought I would share another shot that I took a number of years ago with my first DSLR (although it probably doesn’t qualify as wildlife!).

I was up on Burbage Moor heading towards the trig point to check out Ox Stones a really interesting outcrop of weathered gritstone which sit to the west of Lady Cannings Plantation.

As I approached I saw a sheep stood on one the stones and could see that it would make a great shot if it would only stay in place long enough for me to get into a better position on the opposite side. Time to get into stealth mode! Luckily with a combination of slow steps, walking backwards and not making eye contact I was able to make it all the way round, the sheep then turned and stood still just long enough for me to take the shot before trotting off on its way. 

Lookout - Olympus E300 14-45mm f3.5, 1/50 f5.6 @ 18mm 100 ISO

I’m really pleased with this one and like how the sheep’s head mirrors the shape of the adjacent rock and think that this works particularly well as a monochrome image.

I’ve often been asked if this is a real sheep, it’s a stuffed one you have carried up there, or you have ‘photoshopped’ it into the picture, yes it is real and I have the RAW file to prove it!
This blog was brought to you by Stephen Elliott


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