Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category







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Nothing is more frustrating than trying to photograph wildlife in the early morning or late afternoon and finding there’s just not enough light to get a sharp shot. Unless whatever you’re photographing is happy to sit and pose the result is usually blurred to some extent.

Much as I love my 150-500mm lens its maximum f6.3 aperture makes it pretty slow (meaning it doesn’t let a lot of light in and a slower shutter speed has to be used).

Pumping up the ISO is always an option but noise then starts to become an issue.

The other option is using a flash. The trouble you run into here is that flashes tend to scatter light over a wide area (even in telephoto mode) and have a fairly limited range. This is where the flash extender comes into play.

better-beamerA flash extender is exactly what it claims to be, a device that extends the range of your flash. There are numerous different types available and probably the best known of these is the ‘Better Beamer’. If you live in the US they’re reasonably cheap at around US$40 but I couldn’t find anywhere here to get one and to have one sent over was going to cost US$120 or more so I decided to do some research and make my own.

fresnel_lens_groovesTurns out to make a flash extender all you need is a housing to fit on your flash and a ‘Fresnel’ lens. Now I had no idea what a Fresnel lens was but a quick Google search enlightened me that this exotic sounding device is actually the thin magnifying plastic you can get at most stationary stores.

_EBT2158I decided to knock up a rough version first to see if it worked before I got too excited. Using a piece of lens out of an old ruler I had in a drawer, a couple of bits of cardboard and some sticky tape I had one ready to test drive in about 5 minutes. I estimated the distance to put the Fresnel lens in front of the flash by using it to focus on an object and then measuring the distance between the object and the lens.

This first attempt taught me not to have the lens at the correct focus distance in front of the flash because it does two things. Firstly it will cast a shadow of the concentric rings of the lens._EBT2124

Secondly, it focused the flash beam way too much. Now you might think that a good thing, but remember that you have to try and line up the, now very narrow, flash beam with your distant subject and your camera lens. Might be OK if your subjects not moving and you have the luxury of having a few shots to adjust it and get it right.

_EBT2143So I experimented with progressively shortening the length of the housing extender back until I got the result I was happy with. (I’m sure there are more scientific methods of achieving this)._EBT2144

Once I was happy with the prototype I bought an A4 sheet of Fresnel lens on eBay for $3 and used some old photo matting (strong but easy to cut) to make the housing. Glued it all together and then wrapped it in some cloth tape to add more strength.

_EBT2168  _EBT3982       _EBT3985



The end result was a complete success.  The photos illustrate the effect of the extender


no flash


on camera flash (SB700) in telephoto mode


with Flash Extender





This shot was taken at dawn using the extender, the cockatoo was 25m (82ft) up in the tree, not bad for a $3 extender.





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One day of gorgeous weather this week and I spent it out exploring the off shore islands.  Sometimes the days just aren’t long enough.









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The wind finally stopped blowing long enough for a paddle over to Penguin Island.  Seems that everyone else had the same idea.






_EBT3753 Panorama

_EBT3772 copy


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Banded Rail - Penguin Island  002

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Growing up’s always hard, no matter who or what you are.  And it ain’t no picnic for the birds either.

There’s that awkward time when all your friends are flying but you can’t…….


so with grim resolve you brace yourself to give it all you’ve got….


only to be come unstuck due by undercarriage problems….


and then there’s the embarrassment of running out of runway…….


and the sheer panic when you get caught by a gust and suddenly your not on the ground anymore……..


and you realise OMG.. I’m kinda …….. flying……


Ha!  Don’t know what all the fuss was about cause I R Soaring 🙂



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