My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

I have the rest of my life, Part II

I purchased my Canon 60 D body and the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) in April of 2013. Since then I have purchased the following.

  • Canon EF 70-200 mm f/4 L USM
  • EF-S 15-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
  • Second Canon 60 D body
  • Tokina AT-X AF 100 mm f/2.8 Macro Lens
  • Tamron SP AF 1.4X Pro Tele-Converter
  • Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 tripod
  • Manfrotto 804RC2 Pan Tilt Head w/Quick Release Plate
  • Canon EF 300 mm f/4 L IS USM

After I purchase the Canon EF S 10-18 mm lens in July, I’ll have focal lengths from 10 to 700 mm (The Beast plus Tamron extender) covered.

Each piece of equipment that I have purchased has also come with a learning curve, some steeper than others. It took me most of last year to get past the bad habits that I had picked up while using my old Nikon body and very poor lens that I had for it. I don’t care to rehash that story again, so I’ll move on.

In researching the lenses that I bought, and of course that meant researching the alternatives as well, I learned a great deal. In trying to figure out why the first 60 D body that I purchased wouldn’t perform well with either of my L series lenses, I learned a good deal more.

One of the things that I learned is the lenses that we attach to our cameras are so much more than just the optics within the lens these days. A modern lens with auto-focus contains a processor (computer) and also stores the algorithms that the lens and camera use to auto-focus.

One of the things that I read all the time is that you should always purchase the lens with the widest aperture opening so that you’ll be able to shoot photos in low light. I would think to myself that you may be able to shoot a photo, but what good is it if there’s no depth of field, and most of your subject in the photo is out of focus?

This wasn’t shot in low light, but I did stop the lens down to f/16. Look closely at the pavement around the toad to see how large the depth of field was, even with the lens stopped down.

Toad at f/16

Toad at f/16

The toad’s toes on its rear feet are already starting to blur from being out of focus, can you imagine how little of the toad would have been in focus at f/2.8?

I have learned  that the reason to purchase a lens with a wider aperture is that they do auto-focus better in low light, but, you’ll still have to stop the lens down to get a usable photo of anything that’s not flat, and very little of what we see in nature is flat. But, you won’t get any photo if the lens and camera can’t auto-focus on the subject that you’re trying to photograph, that’s the real reason for choosing faster lenses.

You’ll often read about how good or poor a camera body’s high ISO image quality is, but I have never read anything about how much the quality of the lens on the camera body has on image quality at higher ISO settings.

In good light, the images that I get from the Beast are about equal to those that I get from the 300 mm prime lens. However, as the lighting gets worse, and I have to shoot at higher ISO settings, the difference between these two lenses becomes very noticeable, even though I am using them on the same body. I find that I get about the same level of sensor noise shooting at ISO 3200 with the 300 mm prime lens as I get from the Beast at ISO 1600. The 300 mm prime lens is sharper at ISO 3200 than the Beast is at 1600 as well. Same body, different high ISO results.

If you saw my last post, the cardinal was shot in low light, at a relatively high ISO of 1250, yet it is one of the best photos that I have ever shot in my opinion. The photos would have been good if I had shot them with the Beast at the same settings, but not nearly as good as what the 300 mm prime lens produced.

I just happen to have a few photos from this past week that I shot in very poor light to show how well the 300 mm prime lens does under such conditions. 😉

I’ll start with Jack and Diane, the mallards that spend their afternoons snoozing in a nearby creek.

Mallard pair

Mallard pair

This next photo is poor, but, it shows that I am to the point where I can pull off a usable image under the very worst of conditions.

Woodchuck

Woodchuck

I was facing south, straight into the noon sun, the woodchuck was in the deep shadows of its burrow, I can’t think of a more difficult situation under which one would try to take a photo. Yes, the rocks are overexposed and blown out, if I did any post-processing, I could make the photo better, but I post what I shoot other than cropping.

Getting back to the main point, the camera body and how it handles higher ISO settings is only part of the equation, the lens attached to the body plays an equal or even greater role as far as image quality when shooting at higher ISO settings from what I’ve seen with my camera and lenses.

One more thing about those two photos, one was shot at 1/25 second, the other at 1/30 second, using the 300 mm prime lens and the Tamron extender for a focal length of 420 mm. I love image stabilization! I could have shot those photos with the aperture wide open to get a faster shutter speed, but then I wouldn’t have gotten enough depth of field in either of them.

But, Image Stabilization doesn’t always help. I have found that even though both the 300 mm prime and the Beast have settings so that the IS is supposed to function when you’re tracking a moving subject, those settings do not work well as I point the camera close to straight up, as when I’m photographing birds flying directly overhead.

When I first starting using the Beast, I saw “ghosting” in almost all the photos that I shot of birds in flight. I got to the point where I turned the IS off completely whenever I had the time to do so when shooting any birds in flight, and the ghosting never showed up if I had the IS turned off.

But, there were a few times when I didn’t turn the IS off, and I got very good images.

When I bought the 300 mm prime, the action mode for IS worked much better, but I would get ghosting when the birds were directly overhead. It took me a while to figure out that it all has to do with how close to vertical I have the camera pointed.

With the Beast, if I have the camera pointed more than about 45 degrees above the horizon, then the ghosting appears if I use the action mode of IS. I can point the 300 mm prime up more than 45 degrees, to maybe around 75 degrees, but after that, I get ghosting, and I’m better off turning the IS off.

Apparently, the IS of both lenses goes haywire when the lenses are pointed straight up. Hmmm, now I wonder if the same thing would happen if I point the lenses straight down. That would be tough to test, as it isn’t often that one would find oneself shooting a moving subject directly below you feet.

I think that it’s time for a few photos, even if they don’t have much to do with what I was just prattling about.

Eastern meadowlark in flight

Eastern meadowlark in flight

Cedar waxwing in flight

Cedar waxwing in flight

Barn swallow in flight

Barn swallow in flight

The last photo reminds of something else that I learned, that has nothing to do with photography.

I saw the swallow perched on the ground, which isn’t unheard of but isn’t something that I see everyday. Yes, I shot a photo, but it wasn’t worth posting, so it has been deleted. Anyway, the swallow acted distressed, or I should say that I sensed the swallow was distressed, and I can’t tell you why I felt that way. But, I continued to watch the swallow, and soon, it hacked up something dark, and large enough that I could see it bounce along the ground. After the swallow flew off, I walked over and found a partially digested very large beetle that the swallow had coughed up.

I guess that I’m going to have to learn how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on birds. 😉 Who knew that birds would try to swallow things that could choke them? I’ve heard of herons choking on large fish, I never quite believed those stories, but maybe they are true. I would have thought that wildlife had more sense than to try to swallow things too large.

Back to the photos.

Mulberries

Mulberries

Cedar waxwing hiding

Cedar waxwing hiding

Cedar waxwing not hiding

Cedar waxwing not hiding

Unknown

Unknown

Red clover

Red clover

I should stop shooting the following type of photo, a hummingbird perched in a treetop. But, I like catching “wild” hummers. I could put up a feeder for them somewhere, and shoot them when they become tame, maybe someday.

Ruby throated hummingbird

Ruby throated hummingbird

Juvenile orchard oriole

Juvenile orchard oriole

Butterfly

Butterfly

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

I tried to do some creative cropping to get just one turkey in an image at a time.

Tom turkey

Tom turkey

But, it wasn’t working well, so here’s all three of the turkeys together.

Tom turkeys

Tom turkeys

A doe passing by stopped to check out the turkeys.

Cedar waxwing hiding

Whitetail deer

But after a quick look-see, she went on her way again.

Cedar waxwing hiding

Whitetail deer

Goat's beard seeds

Goat’s beard seeds

Unknown

Unknown

Growth under leaves

Growth under leaves

Light echos

Light echos

Butterfly on daisy

Butterfly on daisy

Moth mullein

Moth mullein

"big eyed" beetle

“big eyed” beetle

"big eyed" beetle in flight

“big eyed” beetle in flight

Unknown berry flowers

Unknown berry flowers

Witches broom on blackberry

Witches broom on blackberry

Witches broom on blackberry

Witches broom on blackberry

I still have quite a few tidbits of knowledge that I would like to pass on to those who are interested, and plenty more photos. But this post is getting long, so I’ll sum things up for now.

Like I said in the beginning, each new piece of equipment came with a learning curve, and I haven’t really mastered any of my lenses yet, but I’m trying. I have begun taking either the 15-85 mm or macro lens with me each day when I walk, even around home, and I have even used them. 😉

However, I think that the main point I would like to make is that each piece of photo gear has its own foibles that one has to learn, and that only comes by using them.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

 

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19 responses

  1. Yes, It is all about the glass always get the best your budget allows 🙂

    June 22, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    • Thanks, and you’re right, but I never knew how much good glass could lessen sensor noise before.

      June 22, 2014 at 9:45 pm

  2. Well that was interesting. I never would have guessed there could be so much variation. I would never have the patience to do the experimenting and comparisons that you do.

    June 22, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    • Thanks! Since I have no life, it’s easy for me to spend all my time playing with my camera gear. 😉 That, and I love solving problems.

      June 22, 2014 at 9:47 pm

  3. I really liked that first photo – the frog – it’s really cool! (I’m picturing you laying on the pavement to get it, LOL.) The mulberries are good, too, and the tom turkeys! I’m jealous of you seeing an orchard oriole, that’s awesome!

    I’m coming to the sad conclusion that I don’t think I’m every going to understand photography. I am trying and trying and my brain just will not get it. It makes me frustrated and discouraged with myself. I will keep reading and trying to understand the finer points and hope that one day it suddenly clicks!

    That big-eyes beetle made me laugh! 😀 And I love the “mirrored images” of the daisies and butterflies.

    June 22, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    • Thank you!

      I think that you’re trying too hard. I get frustrated at times as well, but then I remind myself that it’s all for fun. Like I said before, with digital photography, bad photos are no big deal, you just delete them. So shoot away, and have fun with it.

      June 22, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      • I appreciate what you always say about digital photos, it doesn’t cost anything to take bad ones. I probably shot more than 200 frames of those wrens over the course of two days! 🙂 I guess I will have to accept the fact that it’s okay if the camera is doing most of the work! I like to understand the what and why of what I’m doing though, and not just count on “luck”. But you are right, it’s all about having fun!

        June 22, 2014 at 10:00 pm

  4. The only time I ever tried to shoot a fast-moving creature underfoot, was when I saw a pair of muskrats zipping along under the ice. I followed them for a bit, but none of the shots turned out. But it wasn’t because of the gear.

    June 22, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    • Now that would be a tough shot to pull off!

      June 23, 2014 at 1:36 am

  5. Well, what a lot of gear you have, no wonder you take such good pictures. I loved the toad.

    June 23, 2014 at 3:13 am

    • Thanks Susan! I do have all the gear I need, but I seldom get a chance to use most of it.

      June 23, 2014 at 9:19 am

  6. Loved the moth mullein and the toad. I think I will never be able to take such good shots as you no matter how hard I try. There is too much to think about at the same time – my poor brain can’t manage it!

    June 23, 2014 at 5:22 am

    • Thanks Clare! The secret is to shoot many photos, then remembering everything becomes second nature.

      June 23, 2014 at 9:20 am

  7. You’re seeing a lot more wildlife these days, it seems. I don’t recognize either of the purple unknowns but the first one is in the pea family.
    It’s nice to see the cedar waxwings. Before too long the silky dogwood berries will be ripening so I’ll have to see if I can get some more shots of drunken birds.
    Those tom turkeys sure can puff themselves up but where were the females, I wonder.

    June 23, 2014 at 6:31 am

    • Thanks Allen! There’s been a lull in new flowers blooming, so I’ve been shooting more wildlife. The mulberries are ripening here, which normally attracts flocks of birds, but they don’t seem to be going for the mulberries this summer, at least not yet. Good luck with the waxwings!

      There were hens all around the male turkeys, but I couldn’t get the entire flock in a photo, and the hens are rather drab, so I didn’t post any photos of them.

      June 23, 2014 at 9:24 am

  8. I would need to be about twenty years younger with my brain in better condition and then I might be able to match your concentration. As it is, I sit and watch your industry with amazement and enjoy the results of your hard work.

    June 23, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    • Thanks Tom! That works both ways, I hope to be as spry as you when I catch up to you in age, even with all your moaning. 😉

      June 24, 2014 at 3:02 am

  9. Love those critter pics! Esp the ducks & the toad!!!

    June 26, 2014 at 11:51 am

    • Thanks Lori!

      June 26, 2014 at 2:51 pm