Mediterranean Macro Holiday June 2018!

2 blogs in one day!! You are being spoiled now!

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Thomisus sp found on the 2018 Trip

So, last year in June 2018 I teamed up with Greenwings to offer my Mediterranean Macro Holiday for photographers of all abilities. The holiday was focused around learning various Macro Photography techniques whilst out in the field, although one guest simply chose to paint scenes from each day, and they were brilliant. We stayed at the awesome Limneo Guest House at Lake Kerkini and ventured in and around the surrounding lakes, mountain and meadows.

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Sunrise View From Limneo Guest House

 

Every morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast prepped by Nikos and his family, from homemade jams to beautiful pastries, cereals and scrambled eggs, truly a great way to start the day.

After some food, and a few coffees we grabbed our gear and loaded up the minibus, we were always keen to get out and make the most of the day. The first day we always take it nice and easy and stay very local exploring around the lake. It doesn’t take long to find wildlife around here, the diversity is amazing, we had Bee eaters and Rollers spotted just as we drove a short distance to our first stop, beautiful birds. The lake itself is amazing for wildlife and often a hotspot in the winter months for the Pelicans, and any area rich in birds is going to be rich in inverts!

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How many here?

In the day we like to mix it up, staying a few short hours at each spot before moving on to different areas. Coffee and Ice Cream stops are always a must. Packed Lunch is provided by Nikos and his family and its always fresh and tasty, although on some days we like to switch it up and eat at a local taverna for lunch.

Each day we find something new and interesting in every area we visit, no matter how high or low. We practiced stacking techniques, using flash or natural light and when which one is suited best. We talked about hand hold techniques, using tripods, you name it, we discussed and practiced it. We learn how to get close to subjects without scaring them.

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After a fun filled day we all retire to our rooms for a freshen up and rest. The village has a few local tavernas and bars, this is where we would recap on the day over a cold beer and hot food.

The area is truly amazing, so much to find and photograph. If you like the sound of this holiday, click here and book now 🙂 Below is just a few shots from 2018’s trip.

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I hope you join me this year, there’s only a few spaces left!

Matt

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Matts Macro On Tour

Hi Everyone,

Firstly I must apologise for not being as active as I’d like on this site, 2019 is the year for that to change. So, how are we all? How is 2019 treating you so far?

Obviously I’m back to blogging and uploading new content to the site and for my first blog I’ve got some exciting news regarding Matts Macro Classroom sessions.

I’m happy to say that I will now be offering my classroom sessions out to all primary schools between Edinburgh and Glasgow, well, to be honest I haven’t really put a distance limit on so please feel free to contact me and we can discuss.

So, some questions and answers then……

What does the session contain?

Simple, Fun, Informative and an Educational approach to conservation, biodiversity and in most cases a chance to get up close with some beautiful insects like praying mantis, stick insects and so on. The sessions will be held by me, in your classrooms, and sometimes I may have help from Apithanny Bourne Chair of East Scotland Butterfly Conservation. Session times can be 30/45 minutes long, and more than one class can be seen in the day, in fact I hope that’s the case, or if the school has an eco-club we can do it with them too. If you don’t have an eco-club we can discuss setting one up.

What’s the cost?

Absolutely nothing, just your time and attention. I’m doing this in my free time in between working shifts.

What do I plan to achieve?

Through each session I want to inspire each and every one of you, children to adults. I want to showcase the beauty of the natural world, I want to set a spark that ignites a passion for conservation and awareness of the natural state of our wildlife and environment, to wow each pupil so that next time they see a spider scuttle across the floor they won’t squish that spider into the carpet and scream, but instead learn to appreciate all wildlife no matter how big or small, learn to be intrigued by it, to see it’s worth and ultimately protect it.  We will discuss the environment and ways in which the school can help local wildlife. Grow Wild UK have kindly donated wildflower seed kits for each school taking part, and I will be on hand for some of you to help sow and maybe plan out these gardens or wildflower areas with you.

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It won’t be preachy, I won’t be pushing my own ideas, it will be a fun and educational session for all.

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Have I done this before?

 

Yes! I do it in my daughters primary school often, if A reference is needed, just let me know. I’ve done it both here in Scotland and back in England before we moved up. Last year I’d arranged a FaceTime Question time with Chris Packham CBE and the schools eco-club, it was amazing, with a few of the teachers fan girling a little.

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Chris Packham CBE on the screen speaking to the Eco-Club

This sounds great, how do we get involved?

 

So, if this is for you and your class/school/club then simply drop me a message on any of my social media platforms, or simply drop me an email at mattd2012@yahoo.com . From this point we can discuss dates and times and get you booked in.

We share this planet with so many amazing creatures and it’s up to us to do our best to conserve it! Together we can make a difference.

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#InWingmanWeTrust #InSocialMediaWeTrust

Hi everyone,

So! Social Media, there is no escaping it, it’s a big part of our world, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram……Lot’s of variety for every user, 7.3 billion people in the world and of that, 3.17 billion have access to the internet in some way or another, and of that, 2.3 billion are active on Social media with the average person owning 5 – 6 different accounts.

Now, why am I banging on about social media? I’ll tell you. Social media gets lots of bad press, Cyber bullying, A false sense of connection, No privacy etc but it can be used as a very effective tool! And I have the perfect story to show you how!

I use male grooming products from a company called ‘Wingman’, more specifically I use the Face Scrub. I noticed that the scrub contained some form of roughing agent to exfoliate the skin and with the impact some of these exfoliating agents have on the environment I was curious to find out what exactly they was, so, using my facebook account I contacted them via their business page.

A few days later they replied, and told me that they would contact the manufacturer to check. A few weeks passed and they contacted me again to say how disappointed they were to find out that polyethylene is one of the 3 exfoliating agents used and despite extensive checks at the formulation stage this must have been overlooked. They seemed genuinely disappointed and assured me that they would be in contact again. What struck me was how concerned they were, and at how fast they got in contact with me, a pleasant surprise.

Wingman have now confirmed that they have notified the manufacturer and the polyethylene will be removed in the next batch, leaving them with a plastic free face scrub using only natural scrubbing agents. Perfect! Not only do Wingman donate some of the profits to help the heroes, they now help our planet by not cutting corners and using the cheap mass produced micro beads. Other companies should take note!

So, just by me using my facebook account, to send a simple 5 minute message, I have not only highlighted to a company what they were doing wrong and how it was impacting our environment, I’ve just actively made a contribution to conserving our planet and wildlife…..and it took me all of 5 minutes to get the ball rolling.

So why don’t you give it a bash, why not contact the manufacturer of your toothpaste or shower gel, use your facebook, twitter and other social media platforms and ask them why they are using these micro beads, show them that there are alternatives out there that have no or less impact on our environment and wildlife. You could change the world sat in your armchair, sofa, bed, car! If I can do it, so can you 🙂

…..And to Wingman, Thank You, Thank You for being a shining example for all other companies to aspire to! Wingman have a slogan ‘ In Wingman We Trust’ and now we certainly can!

 

Venus Optics Macro 2:1 Lens Review

Hi everyone,

I haven’t blogged in a while so I thought I would 🙂 Starting with the review of the Venus LAOWA 60mm f2.8 2:1 Macro lens.

I was sent this lens by Venus Optics a few weeks back and decided I would take it to Greece with me on my wildlife guiding trip to test it out, although this  lens has been in the market for some time, people still haven’t herd about it, which is odd as its a fantastic lens.

The lens comes with a nice little padded pouch, but no hood, this is no issue for me but other macro lenses do come with them. The build quality seems really robust, all metal, which adds strength and durability that other similar macro lens lack.

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It’s important to note that this is an all manual lens, so along with manual focus you will have to set the aperture using the dials on the lens. I always use manual focus anyway but the setting of the aperture on the lens was new to me, and…… I kind of liked it!. I found it easier and quicker to change meaning less photo opportunities missed. If you are a macro photographer like me then you know all too well that an insect can jump, crawl or fly away in an instant and you missed your shot because you had to look at your camera to change F stop, with this you don’t, you can move the dial just as you would a focus ring whilst composing your shot, simple.

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Empusa Pennata – Canon 6D – Venus Macro 2:1 Natural Light

I was keen to try this lens out using only natural light mounted on my Canon 6D and it didn’t let me down, the bokeh rendering compared to other macro lens was just superb, smooth and slightly saturated colours and a sharp subject matter making the image pop.

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Blue – Canon 6D – Venus Macro 2:1 Natural Light

I did suffer some vignettes using this lens for portraits, but it is designed for Crop bodies so that was to be expected using it on a Full Frame 6D. It doesn’t effect macro what so ever. I wish I could have tried it out as a portrait lens, maybe they will release a full frame macro lens in the future.

I had read that some users also suffered from a warm orange tint to their photos when using this lens, But I didn’t experience any of it. The lens is a tad heavy compared to others, but its strong reliable build reflects this.

All in all I would definitely recommend this lens to my friends and fellow photographers, It will be a regular in my camera bag from now on. Reasonably priced, quality build and 2:1 macro without the need for tubes, it’s an absolute little beauty.

If you have just started to get into macro but want to get that little bit closer, then this is the lens for you!

http://www.venuslens.net/product/venus-v-dx-60mm-f2-8-ultra-macro-lens/

More shots will follow over the next few months!

Matt

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Nemoptera bipennis – Canon 6D – Venus Macro 2:1 Natural Light

 

 

 

 

Garden Bioblitz and #30DaysWild

Hi all,

As many of you know, June is the month in which The Wildlife Trust start #30DaysWild, it’s an amazing challenge for you and your loved ones to get out and about enjoying our wildlife and environment. More info here ( http://action.wildlifetrusts.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1823&ea.campaign.id=48499 )

We have been doing the challenge since Day 1, in fact we started a tad early and had a nice trip to a local meadow, walking and relaxing a few days before.

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Day 1 – My wife and her friends went to a local park, bug hunting and tree climbing whilst I did some bug hunting.

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This is one from Day 1, even made its way onto the BBC Springwatch website.

Day 2 – We had a nice walk to another local meadow which we have never visited at this time of the year.

Day 3 – We set the moth trap up in the evening

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Day 4 – We checked the Moth Trap this morning and ID’d the species and then we took part in the Garden Bioblitz which is happening today and tomorrow. More info here ( http://www.gardenbioblitz.org/ )

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The girls getting ready to record the species in the Bioblitz.

We love the Garden Bioblitz, such a fun way of introducing the kids to the wildlife in your garden, and at the same time recording and discovering beautiful creatures! The first thing we discovered, after moving some rocks was this Red Ant nest, the girls were amazed!

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After admiring the hard working Ants for a few minutes we began to dig deeper into the garden and collect our specimens to be ID’d later. We hung an old shower curtain up, and with the help of the kids we shook the bushes and trees hoping whatever fell would land on our sheet. We actually got this Idea from watching BBC Springwatch, although they used and umbrella 🙂

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shaking the bushes

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Amber inspecting with a pot ready to capture whatever scuttles out.

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Our nephew Noah getting involved….Not sure what’s going on with Amber and Jasmine’s poses though 🙂 🙂 🙂

After a 2 hour period we began to list and ID all species we found and have some lunch.

 

In total we found :

  • Greenfly x a gazzilion
  • White lipped Snail x 3
  • Common Garden Slug x 5
  • Southern Garden Slug x 1
  • Red Ants and Larvae x way too many to count
  • Garden Snail x 10
  • Common Garden Frog x 1
  • Common rough woodlouse x 35
  • Female wolf spider and egg sack (Pardosa Sp.) x 5
  • Red Velvet Mite x 7
  • Male Wolf spider (Pardosa Sp) x 15
  • Common Garden spider x 10
  • White tailed Bumblebee x 1
  • Black Ant x 1
  • White legged Millipede x 2
  • Brown lipped Snail x 2
  • Earwig x 1
  • Small White Caterpillar x 1
  • Female Zebra Jumping Spider x 7
  • Male Zebra Jumping Spider x 5
  • Micro Moths (Various) x 3
  • Cadisfly x 15
  • Common shiny woodlouse x 19
  • Blue Bottle x 8
  • Common Green Capsid x 5
  • Harvestman
  • Sac Spider x 6
  • Meadow Brown Caterpillar x 1
  • Weevil ( possible Polydrusus tereticollis) x 1
  • Running Crab Spider x 8
  • Skipper caterpillar x 1
  • Earthworms x 10
  • Owl Midge x way too many to count
  • Hoverfly
  • Female Hairy Footed Bee
  • Sawfly Larvae
  • Small White Butterfly
  • Large White Butterfly
  • Common Wasp
  • Lacewing
  • Large dragonfly
  • Horsefly
  • Springtails
  • Fruitfly
  • Yellow Slug
  • Blackbird
  • Sparrow
  • Wood Pigeon
  • Robin
  • Magpie

Some list that for 2 hours in a small garden!!!

Of course, I had to get a photo of those Ants with my Macro Gear!

Bring on the rest of the Month 🙂

Matt

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#WildWorkPlaces

Wildlife, it’s all around us you may think, but stop what you’re doing now and have a look around? Unless you are lucky enough to work in the countryside or national trust parks etc the chances are what you see around you right now are man-made structures and concrete.  Yes we have national parks and yes we have farms and local parks, and if you are lucky some of you have beautiful gardens and that’s great, it’s a massive help, but it’s not enough.

Our wildlife has been in a rapid decline for some time and one of the main reasons is that there are not enough places for our wildlife to habitat, but we can change that.

How you might ask? Easy! #WildWorkPlaces! Let me explain more.

I was walking around the factory grounds where I work a few weeks back and noticed lots of the land that my workplace owns was just baron and not being used, square meters upon square meters of it. Madness!

I can almost guarantee that your workplace is the same! This is where #WildWorkPlaces comes into play, lets utilise that land!

I spoke with the MD of the company I work for and put across the idea of turning this land into a wild-flower meadow and/or a works garden. I told him how our wildlife, especially Bees, is in decline and we as the superior species of this planet should be doing something about it. I told him that with the companies funding and the donated time from some work colleagues we can make a difference.  If we can utilise all this wasted land across the 100s and 1000’s of workplaces in the UK, even the world, then we surely will have an impact on our wildlife.

Guess what….He Agreed! I could of kept quiet and not said anything, I could of just watched this land go to waste, now however I know that by next year, I, with the help of others, would have created a nice new habitat for the local wildlife, a place for my work colleagues to go and relax, but most importantly a place to give the local wildlife a helping hand, and that makes me feel very proud!

Now all workplaces are different, I understand that. Some of you may work in an office block in the town centres and may be sat reading this thinking, we don’t have any spare land! But you could however hang some baskets up or put some pots/planters at the entrance to your building, not only would you be helping the local Bee’s and Butterflies that fly past, you would also have a nice welcoming entrance to your building. I for one know that I would much prefer walking into work through a doorway with a nice floral display than a bog standard plain average one!  Every little space can be utilised in some way. You may not have access to soil or grass, that doesn’t matter, pots, tubs and wooden planters can easily turn a dull concreted area into a beautiful floral masterpiece, add some benches and hey presto, you have a nice works garden, a  #WildWorkPlace.

Still not convinced? Then imagine this, it’s your break time at work, the sun is shining, the skies are blue, but you’re stuck in the works canteen eating your lunch. Wouldn’t you much prefer to be sat in a works garden watching the local wildlife pop in and out and relaxing in the sunshine? I know I would. At night time these #WildWorkPlaces would become a haven and safe place for hedgehogs and other small mammals.  We really can make a difference.

I am in between talks with the Royal Botanical Gardens at present, I’m hoping that they can come on board and help spread the word and donate windflower seed packets to anyone who is willing to make that difference, but you can buy bulbs and seeds very cheaply, most of us have the odd plant pot knocking around the garden unused that could be donated and transformed into a passing buffet for our Bee’s.

If you have land around your workplace that is overgrown, then it may be best to leave it as it is, one man’s wasteland is another man’s treasure, what I mean is that overgrown area would already be teaming with wildlife. I talking more about the large concreted areas that lay waste doing nothing. If all the industrial sites across the country took part we could create a national wildlife corridor! How awesome would that be.

Now you have read all this, hopefully you’re fired up ready to make a difference, great stuff! Print this blog out and show it to your boss, show it to your colleagues, if your reading this on a mobile or tablet whilst on a bus or train then please turn and share it with someone who is sitting next you.

Let them know about #WildWorkPlaces

Share your pictures on facebook and twitter, and Instagram, you can use the hashtag #WildWorkPlaces. Share with the world what you are doing! Show us how you are helping!

I challenge you to make a difference! No! I ask you to make a difference.

When you arrive at your workplace please go speak to the people in charge, speak to your friends and colleagues and get them on board!

Let them know about #WildWorkPlaces

Let’s utilise this wasted land, let’s not sit back anymore and watch our wildlife dwindle, let’s take back some of this land and give our wildlife a helping hand!

It doesn’t just have to be a workplace, if you are at school, college or university, wherever you see wasted land, lets utilise it!

If you plant it they will come!

I can’t wait to see what you do!

Thank You

 Matt

#30DaysWild – Days 9-12

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the lack of posts, I have been working the night shift this week so I haven’t had much time at all to do anything or get out with the kids.

Here is a quick recap of what we got upto.

Day 9.

We decided to stay at home and refill, wash and fill the the bird feeders and table.

Day 10.

For day 10 we decided to plant some herbs in our garden. Jasmine and Amber seemed more interested in eating them than planting them. lol!

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Day 11.

We left the car at home again and decided to walk home from school, 2.2 miles to be precise. For me it was tiring as I’m used to my car, for the girls and my wife it was a breeze as they do this everyday whilst I’m at work.

On the way past one of the local parks the girls decided to try some balancing on the large rocks.

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Day 12.

This morning when I arrived home from work at 6am I decided to pop into the garden to see what I could find. I was shocked and excited to find this Red Damselfly on one of the strawberry plants. I’ve never had one of these in the garden!! Due to the fact it was so early in the morning, this beauty hadn’t fully warmed up, meaning I could get a decent picture. I eventually left it alone to wake up, and I went to bed.

I can only assume that someone has a rather large pond near my house, either way I was glad for the visit.

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Hopefully I will get out and about more this weekend. How are you getting on with your #30DaysWild?

Thanks for reading

Matt