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An Easter Excursion

Just me, South Stack Lighthouse and the Kowa telephoto lens…

05.00: I’d set my alarm for 6.00 but I was awake at 5.00, I’d got that excited feeling in my stomach, just like I used to get at Christmas 30 years ago. I’d visited the RSPB  reserve at South Stack Lighthouse on the North West tip of Anglesey at least half a dozen times this year already – but this time I was taking my kit. The early start was for two reasons – South Stack has become more and more popular in recent years which is great and the result of lots of hard work by the RSPB, but the problem is –  Easter weekend, glorious weather predicted, if I had left it until mid morning I would be lucky to get a parking space. Reason two, and the main reason for me is that there is just something special about having South Stack all to yourself! South stack for me is either sunrise or sunset.

05.45: Coffee consumed, car loaded with kit and dog taken for a 10 minute walk much to his disappointment, I set off on the 10 minute car  journey from Trearddur Bay to the cliffs of South Stack.

06.00: Backpack on my shoulders and Kowa telephoto lens in hand I was ready. I walked along the track from the car park to the cliffs. The sun was still rising and there was not a breath of wind – pure silence apart from the dozens of Wrens  singing from the Gorse that lines the track.

Ready for action at South Stack

Ready for action at South Stack

06.15: I made my way down just some of the 400 steps to the light house to a good observation point to look over towards the cliffs. It is still early days yet in terms of sea bird activity, but give it a few weeks and these silent cliffs will be drowned by the noise of thousands of nesting Guillemot and Razorbill. A Peregrine Falcon cruised over my head and I enjoyed watching Fulmar and other gulls dart about the cliff face.

Early morning light catches the tip of South Stack Lighthouse.

Early morning light catches the tip of South Stack Lighthouse.

06.30: The early start rewarded me with fine, close up views of a family of Chough, a shy member of the Crow family which does particularly well in this part of the world. An hour flew by as I took image after image of these amazing birds with the Kowa telephoto lens using the 500mm f5.6 adapter and my Canon EOS 5D. It was a real treat, the birds came within twenty feet of me and I could capture in fine detail, their bright orange beaks and glossy blue/black plumage. The compact size and lightweight body of the Kowa telephoto lens meant I was able to hand hold it allowing me to react quickly and position myself where I did not disturb the birds.

The Kowa 500mm 5.6 telephoto lens captures fine detail

The Kowa 500mm 5.6 telephoto lens captures fine detail

 

chough-telephoto-lens2-2

Capturing interesting Chough behaviour on the cliffs of South Stack

 07.30: After an hour had passed by photographing the beautiful Chough, I wanted to do some general bird watching, so I quickly swopped the 500mm photo adapter for the Kowa prism unit and 25-60x wide eyepiece and my telephoto lens was transformed in to a spotting scope. After scanning the cliffs, I observed a number of Guillemot and Razorbill. I also turned the scope out to sea and pushing the eyepiece up to 60x zoom I spotted my first Puffin of the year!

Spot the Puffin - digiscoped with iPhone way out to sea.

Spot the Puffin – digiscoped with iPhone way out to sea.

08.30: At this point, I thought I’d have some fun digiscoping with my iPhone – That’s the beauty of the Kowa telephoto lens, one minute it is a 500m f5.6 lens on my DSLR, then I’m using it as a super high quality spotting scope, then in just a few moments – I’m digiscoping with my iPhone – it’s that versatile.

The birds were a long way off and I needed the extra telephoto power that digiscoping provides – a telephoto lens would not give me enough reach. Now with my iPhone connected and my Kowa 25-60x eyepiece cranked up to 60x optical zoom – I was achieving focal lengths of up to 2100mm.

Kowa iPhone adapter connects my iPhone to the telephoto lens

Kowa iPhone adapter connects my iPhone to the telephoto lens

razor-bill

Razorbill digiscoped on a distant cliff face.

10.45: As the morning went on and the car park started to fill, I packed up and headed back to the car – a full English breakfast beckoned.

 

Copy written and pictures taken by Rob Wilton

A wildlife photographer’s desire to do more

Rob Wilton explains what wildlife photography means to him

Anyone who photographs wildlife knows how challenging it can be, they will also know it’s often worthy of the effort required and that the rewards can be great, for me not material rewards, it’s more about rewards that reach my soul, happy memories and a sense of pride in my work.

It’s mental and often physical challenge- early starts, long waits, blurred images, frustration and missed opportunities. On the Physical side- heavy, bulky equipment, long treks and a painful choice of what gear to take and what to leave home.

It’s a challenge, but one that I relish.

I guess you could say I’m an opportunist, I struggle to sit in a hide for hours waiting for my subject to (hopefully) show up. I much prefer a bracing walk in the country side with my gear on my back and in my hands- if I’m fortunate enough to meet some wildlife on the way then I’ll do my thing. For me it’s more rewarding, I have to act fast, get into position, I need to focus and go for it.

Yes, it can be demanding and I know I may sometimes miss that perfect shot- but when I look back at my images and show them to family and friends, I feel a sense of immense achievement- I did this- this was my challenge, my image and it was worth it!

That’s where the Kowa Telephoto lens plays its part. I’ve used lots of telephoto lenses in the past, but this one is different.

Pictures

It’s hard to explain, but it feels like an extension of myself, I control the lens, it doesn’t control me- I create the picture the way I see it in my head before I press the shutter. For me it’s wildlife photography in its simplest and purit form, it’s how it should be- my choice is not removed by the decision of electronic circuits. What I’m trying to say is that I’m no control freak- but I want to control how my image turns out.

So why the Kowa Telephoto lens? For me it matches who I am and the way I photograph wildlife- here’s why:

The Kowa Telephoto lens has no electronics- it’s manual focus only. That may raise an eyebrow of some photographers out there to question Kowa’s decision to do this- but not me, my choice for wildlife is manual focus all the way. I don’t need to worry about autofocus hunting. If you’ve photographed wildlife yourself, I’m sure you’ve been there, you know, the one with the blurred bird, but a lovely sharp branch. But it’s not just the technical issue and restrictions that autofocus can bring, if it’s manual focus, then it’s my achievement- my creativity and that’s what I find really appealing.

It’s sharp- boy it’s sharp. A Fluorite crystal objective lens delivers the goods on image quality with beautiful contrast and detail.

It’s Flexible. I want compact and portable, not heavy and restrictive. I have the choice of three focal lengths, 350mm/500mm/850mm, the uniquie modular design means I can take the master lens and all three adapters in one kit bag, that’s three prime lenses out in the field at the same time! So one minute I’m photographing Terns flying over my head with the 350mm adapter- the next I’m photographing them on a distant nest with the 850mm one.

kit-bag

It’s tough and reliable. It needs to be, I’m always squeezing into tight spaces, knocking myself and my kit on rocky outcrops or crawling about in dark and damp places and I love it!

The Kowa Telephoto lens has my seal of approval- it may not suit everyone but it suits me and my world. It’s helped me get shots I would have missed with conventional kit and when I’m sitting at home on the computer browsing my images- one thing’s for sure, I created them!

 

You can learn more about the Kowa Telephoto lens at:

www.kowaproducts.com

See the Kowa Telephoto lens in action

A short video showcasing the Kowa Telephoto Lens: