|Black-bellied Dipper, Thetford
I was itching to road test my new Canon 7D, and what better way to put a camera through its paces than taking photos of a small dark bird in a small dark place? Taking photos of a small dark bird with a white breast in a small dark place full of shimmering water, that's how - a scenario guaranteed to test the exposure skills of even the best camera and photographer. The forecast was cloudy with sunny spells, which also boded well for trying out the new gear in a variety of light conditions.
|For those who give a toot about such things, this shot taken in slightly better light at 1/200th sec, f5.6, ISO 400, tripod and shutter release cable. Same settings for the shot above except 1/125th sec.
|1/160th sec, f5.6, ISO 400
Another dozen or so photographers then appeared from downstream - good to see a friendly face in the form of James Lowen among them - I thought they might be following the second Black-bellied Dipper which turned up at the same site recently, but it soon became clear they were in pursuit of the local Otters.
|Otter. Shame about the twig. Life's too short for Photoshop. 1/640th sec, f5.6, ISO 1600
I joined them as a very compliant Otter swam around at close range and climbed out of the water amongst slightly less compliant vegetation. The light was still pretty poor so James and I returned to the Dipper to comfort it with the now familiar sound of whirring motordrives. It gave a few bursts of song in return, so clearly a male. After a couple more hours I had managed a variety of shots in degrees of light and shade, and used up all my memory cards, so decided to call it a day.
|Otter. Aperture Priority (f5.6) 1/400th, ISO 3200)
|The Dipper used this large stump mid-stream as a songpost.
|Catching a rare bit of sunshine, allowing a dizzyingly fast shutter speed of 1/250th sec.
|Just time to tick and run Stone Curlew in the Brecks on the way home, an early spring migrant overlapping with the not yet departed wintering Fieldfare (out of focus top right).