My First Real D800 Wildlife Shoot – Hartsholme Park

Black Headed Gulls-2

Sunday morning found myself loaded up with my Nikon D800, 300mm f/2.8 and my Gitzo tripod heading to Hartsholme park.

Black Headed Gulls-1

Here I was to meet up with Chris, as we both had equipment to test.

Black Headed Gulls-4

We met up at the car park and setup our cameras on our tripods.  It was obvious to see that Chris’s MicroFourThirds setup was half the size and weight then what I had to use.


Later in the morning Chris spotted two squirrels and he quickly took his Olympus of the tripod and moved into a better position to shoot he squirrels.  With my big heavy 300mm f/2.8 I had to slowly move the whole camera. lens and tripod to a better position.  squirrelThe squirrels seemed to be collecting leaves and carrying them up into the trees, possibly making a comfy nest for the winter.

Black Headed Gulls-6

We arrived at the lake to find parts of it still frozen over.  The last couple of days had been very cold.  The previous night when I went out to check on our chickens the ground was covered in hard hard white frost.
Black Headed Gulls-5This morning was warmer, and the frost had all gone, but there was still large sheets of ice covering the lake.  As you can see the Black Headed Gulls seems to like resting on the ice, but it was melting fast.

Black Headed Gulls-7


I had my Nikon generally set to auto ISO with a cap of 3200, and it set to give me a minimum shutter speed of 1/800 of a second.  I was shooting with the lens stopped down one stop, to just give me a edge on quality and a little more depth of field.Black Headed Gulls-8


I was of course expecting lots of Black Headed Gulls, there an urban bird now, seen more in cities, around municipal rubbish tips, and in the farmers fields following the tractors.

I was also expecting lots of Mallard ducks, but I also expected to see lots of geese, but apart from a quick fly by of two Egyptian geese, which I missed, it was mainly just gulls and ducks.

One thing I did find very useful with the camera set up was the ‘My Menu’ Option, at the top of the list was Auto ISO, and you can configure a free button on the camera to quick access the top function you have in your ‘My Menu’.  So with just a couple of button presses I could toggle between Auto ISO and fixed ISO.  With fixed I generally had between 400-800 ISO set, to give me better quality but a slow shutter speed.  The shot of the male mallard duck above was taken that way.
mallard in flightWith a quick couple of button presses it was back to Auto ISO and a fast shutter speed to get me shots like that above, though technology cannot get your framing right!

Mallards Mating

The ducks were mating and you can see why sometimes female ducks get drowned as the male holds them down.


Often on the far side of the lake I have seen cormorants fishing but while we had a couple of pairs fly over high overhead, none decided to stop for a fishing session.birds-4

We did spot a young Grebe fishing in the lake and once or twice he came over close enough to get a few could shots.birds-2The last two species, were a pair of Coots, and a pair of Moorhens.  Interestingly the Moorhens were in the woods close to where the squirrels were collecting their leaves.

After a couple of hours, Chris had filled his main memory card and we decided that was a good time to head home and get warm.

We both got to test our cameras well.  I spent most of the session in Dynamic 21 point autofocus mode, switching between short and normal autofocus lock timeout, to see how it handled.

I’ll be doing lots more tests like this, trying different settings and seeing what works best in various situations.

Black Headed Gulls-9

The question you might have on your minds is which camera was best?  Well I will discuss that in a later post.





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