The Castle And The Robin

I’ll be honest, i’m definitely one of those people who complains about there being no inspiration or good places to take pictures locally… I wish there was more wildlife, better weather, waterfalls, mountain ranges and abandoned buildings. I’ve quickly accepted that this is nothing more than a good excuse for taking bad pictures. I’ve told myself recently that i need to get out more and explore the local area, don’t stay inside because the weather is bad, get out there and think of creative ways to combat it.

Last Sunday was another one of those days, it’s amazing what you’ll find in the local area if only you try to look and agree to make the most out of whatever you find. Continuing with my recent obsession with HDR photos i wanted somewhere that had some character and good level of detail, i remembered that there was a small castle ruin near where i went to school so I jumped in the car and drove to where i thought it was. A dead end, three point turn and quick check on google maps later i finally arrived at where it actually was, well not exactly, i still needed to walk along a canal path.

When walking along the canal path to Odiham Castle i noticed plenty of ducks and other birds going about their usual business, i also happened to notice a couple Robins in the trees, which round here could be considered exotic. I was determined to change lenses after visiting the Castle and get a decent shot of one.

The Castle is pretty nice, although i guess it’s considered ruins now, it was built by King John in the 12th century and has a pretty interesting story behind it, including how it cost about £12m in todays money to build. If you want to know more about it, you’re better off consulting Wikipedia, my history has never been that great – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odiham_Castle

I took my time walking around the ruins, assessing the light and patterns on the bricks, i also wanted to make sure any picture i took didn’t include the visitor information boards or other recent, modern additions to the ruins. As always when shooting with a tripod and in HDR i kept the ISO pretty low, 200 here to be precise, the aperture i used was f/5.6 as it was actually pretty dark and quite overcast, which worked in my favour as the clouds turned out great. I really love the final shot and used my 10-24mm lens at 10mm which gives a really cool perspective. The only thing i’m not massively happy with is the composition, i think the excitement of the moment took over and i forget to go through my usual pre-shot routine. As you can see from the final picture there is a tree on the left hand side of the frame which is cut in half.  For me that tree should either be fully in the frame or not at all, i could crop it out but then i lose the castle being slightly off centre and a bulk of the sky, plus i want to share my mistakes with you so we can learn at the same time.

It’s a 5 frame HDR at +/- 0.7 which i think was perfect. I pulled the clarity up and took some of the saturation out of the grass in Lightroom but thats about the measure of it.

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Once i got the shot i changed my lens over, i’ve not forgotten about that Robin. I have a Sigma 70-300mm zoom lens which for the price, produces great shots. I’m toying with upgrading it to a Nikon fixed 300mm or maybe the Nikon 80-400mm lens but that’s another story. I made my way back towards the car treading very carefully and scanning the trees and hedgerows either side of the canal. I could hear plenty of birds but couldn’t see much, until i spotted a small Robin sat on a tree about 50 feet ahead of me, i instantly stopped and took a couple shots, i’ve learnt it’s better to get ANY shot than push your luck and get nothing at all, so with a couple guaranteed ‘half decent’ pictures on the memory card i decided to push my luck, which to anybody that knows me, won’t be a surprise at all.

I was walking towards him (or her?) as slowly as possible trying to keep the noise down. He spotted me, i’m pretty sure i startled him and he took off pretty quickly which i was disappointed with until i noticed he’d turned and was flying back in my direction. His final landing spot was a small branch about twice as close as he previously was, i guess this is a friendly Robin. He sat there chirping away and didn’t seem to mind me snapping away and even getting a bit closer to him. I’m really pleased with the final shot i got of him, it’s not to my usual ‘taste’ but i really like it.

Using a telephoto lens ‘handheld’ you’re always going to suffer from a little motion blur, even the slightest hand movement can make you lose some vital sharpness, the generally accepted rule is that you should keep the shutter speed at least equal to or 1.5x the focal length, unless you’re using a fancy lens with vibration reduction, which i’m not. To achieve this rule i had to push up the ISO to around 1000 which at a focal length of 220mm let me shoot at a shutter speed of 1/320th of a second. I also used an aperture of f/5.6 to get a shallow depth of field and make the Robin stand out from the background.

Looks like the golden rule worked in this situation, but i’ll let you be the final judge….

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