In one of my recent posts, I said that I was thinking of doing outings where I’d shoot mainly close-ups and macro photos, and that I should arrange the required photo gear for the dedicated outings accordingly. While I didn’t find many subjects suitable to photograph on my last day out with the camera, and a stiff breeze would have made such photography very difficult, I did manage to shoot this image.
That was shot with one of the 60D bodies and my 100 mm macro lens. I think that I’ll use that camera body for all of my close-up and macro photos from now on, as the image quality is more than good enough. Plus, I have found that the less often that I change lens and/or accessories on my cameras, the less often I have to clean the sensors to get rid of dust spots in my images. Using the 60D body will also reduce the wear and tear on the 7D bodies that I have, which will help to prolong their lives.
In addition, once I have a full frame sensor body and the wide-angle lenses for it, I can still make use of the wide-angle lenses that I have now for my close-up photography of smaller subjects on the 60D body, which is a good use for them.
I went to the Muskegon County wastewater facility yesterday, April 17th, and I was able to add another species of bird to my photo life list, a Franklin’s gull.
That’s hardly a good photo of the Franklin’s gull, but what I saw through the viewfinder told me that it wasn’t one of the more common Bonaparte’s gulls…
…as the Franklin’s gull has very dark red, almost black, legs, and Bonaparte’s gulls have bright reddish-orange legs, as you can see.
I stuck with the Franklin’s gull, and it landed to do a little preening, so I managed a few photos of it then also. You can also see another difference between the two species in this photo, the Franklin’s gull has a larger, dark red bill compared to the all black bill of the Bonaparte’s gull.
This gull was probably forced down in the storm that we had this last weekend, and was actually just ending as I shot the photos of it that I did. It was still snowing lightly as I reached the wastewater facility, with the temperature well below freezing still. I shot two photos to show the difficulty of shooting photos of a rare gull on this day.
One thing is the number of more common species of gulls there, here’s just a few of the gulls hanging out there.
Those are mostly ring-billed gulls, with a few herring gulls in the flock, and there was also a lesser black-backed gull in the flock that I didn’t get a photo of. You can also see that the road was covered with snow, here’s a photo to show how much snow fell this weekend, and it also gives you an idea how strong the wind was with this last storm.
That looks more like the dead of winter than the middle of April. But, at least by then, the snow had ended and the light was improving a bit.
One thing that I have to remember is how much the weather plays a part while birds are migrating. A nasty storm like the one this weekend forces birds to seek refuge from the weather, especially when high winds are part of the storm as they were this past weekend. I found another bird that was probably knocked down by the storm…
…I’m not 100% sure of my identification of the bird as a Phoebe though. It appeared distressed, so I shot that photo and moved on.
There were also thousands of ducks at the wastewater facility, but it’s hard to say how many were forced down by the storm, when thousands of ducks on any given day during migration isn’t unusual there. I was able to shoot some of my best images of a male ruddy duck in full breeding colors though.
Since ruddy ducks are so small when compared to other ducks, it’s harder to get close enough to them to show the details in their feathers well.
I also love the shade of blue that their bills have during the mating season.
That ruddy duck was a little mixed up though, as there were many flocks of that species scattered across the lagoons at the wastewater facility, while that one male was hanging out close to shore with a large flock of coots.
Other than finding the Franklin’s gull, and despite the large number of waterfowl and gulls there at the wastewater facility, it was a pretty boring day. The light was so poor that I had to be very close to the subjects that I was trying to photograph, but that isn’t always possible, as you know if you’ve ever attempted to shoot birds. So, going back to where I started this post, I did some lens and equipment testing to help myself think through a few things.
You may remember this image from my last post…
…as I said then, it isn’t just tack sharp, it’s razor-sharp. I attempted to duplicate that image which was shot with the 100-400 mm lens and 1.4 X extender using the 300 mm lens and 2 X extender that I have.
That’s “only” tack sharp, not razor-sharp, still, for close-ups and near macro photos, the 300 mm lens and 2 X extender is a very good option for me to use. Although, I may have to repeat that test on a day when the light is better. Both images were shot at ISO 100, so the camera’s resolution should be equal, but better light would help to define the details in the gull’s feathers more. The 300 mm lens and 2 X extender does get me a little closer to the subjects than the 100-400 mm lens and 1.4 X extender.
I know one thing, I used the 400 mm lens to shoot the head shot of the Bonaparte’s gull towards the beginning of this post, and also for this series, showing another Bonaparte’s gull picking a morsel of food out of the water.
None of these were cropped at all, that’s how close I was to the gulls.
You can see that the gull had plucked something from the water…
…and had swallowed it by the time this photo was taken.
What I was really trying to do was to get a head and shoulders shot of one of the gulls, but the 400 mm lens wouldn’t focus as close as required for that type of shot. So, I switched to the 300 mm lens with no extender, what a waste of time that was. I couldn’t get that lens to auto-focus on any of the gulls that were flying past me, not even at longer ranges. How I was ever able to get any photos of smaller birds with that lens escapes me now, the auto-focus of the 300 mm lens is as slow as molasses. It’s no wonder that I went back to the Sigma 150-500 mm lens to shoot smaller birds, even though the glass in the Sigma lens is inferior to the glass in the Canon 300 mm lens.
I knew that the 300 mm lens was slow, but this test really showed me how slow it really is. The same light, the same birds, the same distances, the same camera, and the same settings, the only difference was the lens itself. The 400 mm lens was the hands down winner of this test, it’s no wonder that the 400 mm lens is known as being a great lens for birds in flight.
Still, the 300 mm lens does have a few redeeming qualities, it’s ability to focus very close to the subject, and how sharp it is even when using the 2 X extender behind it for near macro photos, even though the already slow auto-focusing of the lens slows down even more when using the extender.
Another news flash:
I decided that rather than prattle on about my future plans, that with the nicest evening of the year so far, I should go out and shoot some of the photos that I’ve been thinking about for some time now.
Actually, the evening was more of a scouting trip along with figuring out which lenses I would need to shoot some of the things that I have in mind when the weather becomes even better. It was still chilly on this evening, but there wasn’t a cloud to be seen. Once the wind died down a little, it felt warmer than it had earlier, even though the actual temperature was dropping like a rock because of the clear skies. I needed the clear skies for an image that will show up later in this post.
I started out shooting photos of a few places in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is my home town. One of the first photos I shot was this building…
…and the only reason that I’m including it here is because the glare that you see in the lower right of the building was shining on a window facing that building…
…and that led to the image above. If I had been a little quicker in getting that shot it would have been even better, as the reflections were fading away as I got the right lens on the camera and moved to the best position to shoot that image.
I also shot a few photos of what is known as the Blue Bridge, for obvious reasons.
The city spent a small fortune on a special lighting system for this old trestle bridge that has been converted into a pedestrian walkway across the Grand River. I was also trying out the newer 16-35 mm lens and the perspective correction in Lightroom, because I plan to photograph the bridge at night sometime, and I need to have some idea how much space I need to leave around a subject for Lightroom to bend, stretch, and crop an image…
…so that buildings and other objects don’t look to be falling away from the camera, or much wider at their base than at the top.
While I was scouting the area, a pair of mallards landed in the river below me, and the light at the time told me to shoot a photo of them, even though I had the wide-angle lens on my camera.
Because of the very low sun angle at the time, you can see the undulations in the river, not only the wakes of the ducks, but in the other parts of the river as well. The undulations in the river are from the rapids that gave Grand Rapids its name, but are now covered be several feet of water behind a low head dam built to make that section of the river navigable by boats. I have plans to shoot more photos of along the river there, I’ll have to remember to shoot late in the day to get the same low sun angle when I do.
I had a little while to go before I could shoot the image that I had come for, so I decided to scout a couple of the old churches nearby. I hadn’t planned on shooting any photos this evening, I just wanted to see if the churches were worth another trip. This one is!
It never occurred to me to photograph a church at night, but seeing the light streaming through the stained glass windows from the inside of the church made me get out my tripod to capture that moment. However, the stained glass windows are lost in that image, so I’ll have to return and shoot a number of images with a longer lens to show how beautiful the windows are. There are a few statues on the other side of the church that I’d like to photograph as well.
Because of the way that the basilica is oriented, and the number of different individual subjects that make up the basilica as a whole, I should return several times to photograph them at different times of the day to photograph them all well. Here’s a handheld shot of the basilica to give you more of an idea as to the things about it that are moving me to photograph it better.
Because I shot that handheld, there’s a lot of noise in the image, and I couldn’t get far enough away from the structure to leave room for Lightroom to correct the perspective distortion in that image either. That’s why different parts of the building seem to lean in unnatural ways. I shot that one just to help myself plan future return trips and to give my memory a nudge as to what things I want to shoot close-ups of during those return trips.
Anyway, it was almost dark, so I returned to the spot where I shot the mallards and set-up to shoot a night view of part of the city of Grand Rapids.
You may remember that I mentioned that I had shot photos of the last full moon to use to produce fake images of the full moon appearing where it can’t be except by stacking images together. My 7D Mk II will shoot multiple images, and you can use an image already stored on the memory card as one of the images in a stack. So, I selected a shot of the full moon as the first image in the stack, but the moon was in the wrong place…
…that was a little too low in the sky!
I had actually planned on that problem to some degree, I had shot the full moon at a number of different focal lengths and in different areas of the frame. I finally was able to produce the image that I wanted.
Totally fake, but I like it. The full moon would never appear in that position naturally, it’s too low in the sky for one thing. Also, there’s no way that I could have gotten the exposure for both the moon and the city lights correct in one image. And, I shot the moon at 200 mm and the city lights at 28 mm, which makes the moon appear much larger in the image than it would otherwise. However, what motivated me to shoot that image the way I did was seeing a very similar scene of the full moon over Grand Rapids as I was driving for work one night. I thought that the full moon shining down on the city as it was all lit up and the lights reflecting off from the river was a beautiful thing to see at the time that I saw it.
I’ll have to be careful, this may start a dangerous trend for me, for seeing that image has me thinking of ways to add the reflection of the moon on the river to that image. 😉 However, there are times when our eyes see things differently than a camera possibly can record a scene, so is it wrong to produce images that are closer to what we see in real life than what a camera can record, even if it means doing things like shooting multiple exposures? All that I’ve done in reality is to produce an image very similar to what I saw in real life, even if it took trickery to record what I saw in a camera.
The full moon may not ever rise in that position to allow me to shoot that image straight without resorting to multiple exposures, but in the past, when I have tried to show the rising moon in an image, the moon tends to fade into the background and not appear to be as large as it looks to me as I watch the moon rise.
I didn’t produce that image to learn how to create fake images, but to use the same techniques in the future to produce better realistic images. There have been several times when I was shooting landscapes as the full moon rose, and as I said, so far, I’ve found it impossible to get both the landscape and the full moon exposed correctly, even shooting HDR images. That’s because the moon is so much brighter than the landscape to the camera. Our eyes can adjust for both, but the camera can’t. I hope to use what I learned in making the image above to shoot landscapes at moonrise and have them look natural, rather than the moon blown out to being a giant white blob in the sky. Or, to have the moon disappear in the background when it appears so prominent to the eye when looking at the scene before me.
All in all, it was an enjoyable evening spent learning a great deal about photography, and I was able to get a few very good images in the process. If my work schedule continues as it’s been for the last month, and as the weather improves, you may see more night photography from me in the future. That’s because I have a good deal of time off from work with my current schedule, but other than Tuesdays, most of the time off is at night, when nature photography isn’t possible for me. That’s okay with me, this was a nice change of pace from what I usually do.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!