Another Sixer!

I had a wonderful time sitting in a ditch last week, all in the name of our favourite Hairstreak! Richard Hadfield had found a rare cluster of 6 eggs at Grafton Wood on the annual egg hunt at the end of December and of course, i had to photograph them! Easier said than done though. They were about 15cm from the ground in a ditch flooded with water. Where better to spend a beautiful sunny afternoon??

I apparently provided some good entertainment for the rest of the group though - whom i might add opted to stay nice and dry at the top of the bank and laugh at my horribly freezing wet foot and soggy welly. Wimps! Follow my adventure below, photographs courtesy of West Midlands branch Brownie Champion, Mike Williams.

We later trekked into the wood itself to re-locate a nice quad of eggs to photograph. By the time we arrived, we were a bit muddy, having almost slid down a long muddy track on our backsides. This was turning into quite an adventure! The light was waning at this point so its possible i may go back and do it all again. I clearly enjoyed this experience more than i thought! :)

Please note: The author will not be held responsible for soggy socks, wellies or drowning.

1. Put waterproof trousers and wellies on. A wetsuit, mask and snorkel may be required if water is deep. Maybe even armbands. Lifejacket?

2. Descend the depths and tentatively ensure you're not going to sink up to your neck in mud. It is worthwhile having someone on standby incase they need to rescue you (after rolling around laughing at your predicament).

3. Move the blackthorn into position and tie the stem in place if need be.

4. Set up the tripod and camera, ensuring it doesnt sink. Probably best to hold onto it actually, just incase. You'll need a dedicated macro lens, like the Canon EF f/2.8 100mm L IS - highly recommended!

5. Use a remote shutter release if possible to reduce camera shake. If you're multi-talented like me, you can take photos via the remote with your teeth.

TOP TIP: Dont be stupid and kneel down in the water like i did or you'll get a welly full - waterproof trousers or not!

6. Try to get your lens as close to the eggs as possible (depending upon your lens' closest focusing distance) to ensure maximum magnification. You can crop the shot a little later on.

7. If the eggs are low down and shaded, try and place something like a green leaf in the background to lighten the shot and add a bit of colour. This will also eliminate any nasty dark out of focus background blobs.

8. Take your time setting up the shot. Ensure its exactly how you want it before taking 500 photos. Turn off AF (and IS if using a tripod) on the lens and use LiveView (if using a Canon SLR) to zoom in and manually focus the eggs.

9. Take plenty of shots and keep reviewing them to check composition and make sure they're in focus. If need be, adjust the focal ring to take shots of any out of focus eggs for focus stacking later on.

10. Be sure you're happy with what you've taken before moving away as any knock to your surroundings will completely ruin your cameras positioning and focus on the subject. You'll then have to re-position, re-compose and re-focus everything.

11. Once finished, get your camera to safety (most important thing) and then scramble (or swim) out of the ditch.

12. Empty wellies if need be, squeeze out soggy socks and let your mates take embarassing photos of you.

13. If required, get someone to assist you with putting your wellies back on - preferably someone you trust not to push you back into the ditch for laughs.


True and admirable dedication to the cause!!
I also spend a lot of time in ditches during the winter months, seeking out those little urchins...however, I try and ensure that I am on my own, so as to avoid being photographed/laughed at. Your way looks like much more fun!!

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