13 January 2009

Featured 'tog Tuesday - Martin Dyer

This week's guest photographer is Martin Dyer. Martin describes himself as a wildlife photographer who has a particular passion for bird photography. You can start by reading his biography:

Martin's Biog:
I started to take photos from the age of about nine when I was bought my first camera. My late teens involved lots of trips to motorcycle races and airshows, so I have packs and packs of very poorly processed 6 x 4 prints taken from the same corner of different motorbikes or aircraft taking off and landing. Very rarely was there anything of any great photographic merit, although I do recall taking pictures of the 1996 F1 Champion, Damon Hill, some time back in the 80’s, on Kawasaki Z500 production bike in a clubman’s race at Brands Hatch, on the inside of the track at Druids Hill hairpin, when you could actually do such things as a member of the public.

Photography fell a bit by the wayside through the 90’s as I was disillusioned with a lack of control of the whole process, and I couldn’t afford or even want my own dark room.
In fact I was about to sell off my EOS500N and two kit zooms when Canon launched the 300D. Well that got me back in to it in a big way. I had been into my wildlife for a long time and so this now gave me the opportunity to combine my two interests. So I suppose you could say I was a wildlife watcher first before photographer, which in some ways gives me an advantage in terms of subject knowledge and behaviours. My philosophy is firmly that the welfare and well being of my subject comes first and is embedded in the Nature Photographers code published by the Nature Group of the Royal Photographic Society

I take regular trips to the Isle of Mull to watch the wildlife there, probably the best place in the UK to see Golden and White Tailed Sea Eagles. Very difficult to photograph, as everything is at extreme range, but you have to keep trying from public locations and hope they come near you. Last year a photographer ‘s actions resulted in the failure of a Sea Eagles nest and the subsequent loss of the chicks, which is totally unacceptable and I believe a prosecution resulted. No picture is worth that.

There are sites in Europe where you can pay plenty of money to photograph them in more controlled conditions if that is what you want to do. But to me, I get the greatest satisfaction as a result of fieldcraft and patience, which usually involves a lot of cold and uncomfortable sitting or laying about, often with nothing to show for it.

I do a bit of printing work, usually for Photographic exhibitions, using both the Canon Pixma Pro 9000 and 9500, depending on what type of work I am doing. Both are excellent printers in their own right. Since I acquired the 9500, it has opened up the monochrome world to me and can finally finish some of my landscape work.

If you would like to see more of my work, then I have a blog with another wildlife photographer friend of mine, David Courtenay at Wildlife Across the Water. and also my own personal website at Martindyerphotography.co.uk that I will be updating and overhauling very soon.

As with all of Tuesday 'togs, we ask them a list of questions and they get to choose which ones to answer. We also one question they all have to answer:

BLAB: What colour would your Ferrari be?
Well if it had to be a Ferrari, then there is only ONE colour and it must be Red.

But why would I want a car that crashes into walls in airport tunnels in Manchester? – No for me it would be a Porsche GT2 – in bright metallic blue with gold wheels, configured just like the one I have on the Nintendo - Wii Need for Speed Pro Street as my grip car 

BLAB: If you had been paid ten thousand pounds for being our 'Tuesday
tog', what photo equipment would you spend it on?

As a wildlife photographer, I would buy the EF800mm f5.6L IS USM as you never can have too much length, and also the EF400mm f2.8L IS USM as it is not something that I could ever see myself purchasing ordinarily, and the results I have seen from it are stunningly sharp

BLAB: Rucksack or shoulder bag and why?

I use both depending on what I shoot. For studio work and people shots that I get dragged into doing, I tend to use an old Jessops shoulder bag – does the job OK.

For my wildlife and landscapes I have three rucksacks. When I am using the 500f4, I use a custom designed and made bag that will take the 500f4, with the hood fitted the right way round, with a 1.4 converter attached to my 1Dmk3, ready to shoot straight out the bag. When I am shooting from the car, it sits in the passenger footwell good to go, and then out in the field pretty much the same. A frustration with most other bags is that you have to build your camera/lens combination, by which time that rare bird or mammal is a small speck in the distance. It is an exceptionally comfortable bag, made by a fishing equipment manufacturer, that I can carry for a long time on my back.

My other rucksacks are the Think Tank Airport Acceleration – perfect bag for travelling by air. I can get my 1D, 500f4, 300 f2.8, 70-200f2.8, 24-70f2.8 and 17-40, plus 100f2.8 macro in, plus numerous other bits and bobs – great and complies with the smaller of the aircraft carry on sizes that some airlines insist on. The other bag I use from time to time is my Lowepro PhotoTrekker, usually for landscapes as it made of materials that seem to cope with the usually disgusting conditions that I end up putting my bag in

BLAB: Natural light or flash and why?

Landscape and wildlife are my preferred genre so therefore natural light is everything for those subjects. All my best wildlife images are down to the light, well in my opinion anyway. My landscape work is usually done in the golden hours of sunrise and sunset, although I won’t waste overcast and cloudy conditions to ‘see’ and take monochrome images, particularly when it works well with the subject matter. So while I do use studio flash from time to time for portrait and figure photography, and have even been known to use flash for wildlife, usually with the Kirk Flash Extender, it is not my preference.

Martin has also selected three of his favourite images to show on blab:

Milkcap fungus. I enjoy the challenge of macro photography particularly for fungus, and here the technique is all about the lighting. Compared to other natural history macro photography, fungi are really easy as they are not going to get up and run away, so the results are entirely down to you. I took this a couple of seasons back with my beloved old 1Dmk2N plus my trusty Canon 100f2.8 macro lens at my local woods. It was a fabulous season two years ago and I have kept my fingers crossed every year since, but have been sadly disappointed. M mode, ISO400, f20 and 1/5 s exposure. Using aluminium kitchen foil to reflect light back under the head of the fruiting body. An additional bonus with this particular specimen is the lactating gills, hence the name.


This shot was just a practice pan and so goes in the lucky file. I was out in Switzerland last year with my good friend and wildlife photographer, David Courtenay at Lake Geneva, trying to photograph in flight, landing on the water Goosanders. Dave and I would take turns throwing in the bread to attract them while the other took the shots. Sadly for us, somebody else was also feeding the birds a bit across the lake from us, which was distracting our subjects. It was a late Feb afternoon and the sun was setting just behind us. I saw two Pochards coming round towards the feeding activity, and as I often do just practice my panning and focussing techniques, with a suitable subject. It look pretty reasonable in the viewfinder so just gave it a double tap to squeeze off two images, and really thought no more about it and when back to my Goosanders. Well it wasn’t until I looked at them on computer that I realised how good the image looked. Moral of the story – always use any opportunity to practice your skills. Taken with the 1Dmk3, which still wasn’t fixed at this time, although this doesn’t look too bad does it? and my Canon 500f4L. Av mode, ISO 400, f7.1, 1/2000

I saw these stunning birds for the first time last year courtesy of a friend of mine who took me to the site. We watched up to seven in this one field over a number of days. Another image blessed with late winter afternoon sun coming on from the left. I blagged my partner Sue’s Canon 40D for this image to give me some additional ‘reach’ with my 500 f4 plus the 1.4EFTC to give me the best chance for frame filling images. M mode metered off the grass, ISO400, f7.1 and 1/1250. I was pleased to get a ‘Highly Commended’ for this at the Smethwick International Exhibition this year in the Nature Digital Projected section.

BLAB: Thanks for your time and answers Martin, they're very interesting and will hopefully help some of the readers either learn a bit or get inspired to go out and shoot more themselves. 

If any readers have any feedback or thoughts about Martin's work, hit the comments! Equally, if anyone else fancies being our featured Tuesday 'tog, let us know! 

-blabpictures-

1 comment:

jordax said...

Good article and nice pictures! I love the pan with the duck...

One comment leapt out at me:

"A frustration with most other bags is that you have to build your camera/lens combination"

I totally agree with this and I wish bag makers would stop designing for body and lens separately. I don't use anything as massive as the 500mm lens, but even so I find many bags want me to take the lens off for storage. Hardly ideal if you need to do some quick shooting.