A fun(gi) day at Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve
On Saturday, September 7th, I went to the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve, once again hoping to find a few migrating birds. I did get a lifer, an olive-sided flycatcher, but overall, it wasn’t a great day of birding for me. I was too slow to catch the smaller birds as they flitted about under the leaf canopy of the trees, and I saw very few larger birds. Oh well, nature always provides plenty of subjects for photography if one takes a little time to look for them.
I know, the high contrast of those two isn’t every one’s cup of tea, but I do like to play with different styles, and I’m a sucker for back lighting.
Having two camera bodies means more weight to lug around with me, but, there have already been a few times when the following has happened. I was shooting this dragonfly with the Tokina macro lens….
…when I heard a cardinal almost overhead. I set the camera with the Tokina lens on it down, grabbed the body with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) on it, and shot this.
It hasn’t always been a dragonfly and a cardinal, once it was a goldfinch perching nearby while I was shooting flowers, another time, an eagle while I was shooting landscapes. But, you get the idea, two bodies come in handy.
I always have the one body with a long lens on it set up for birds, I use the other body for my other lenses and make the setting changes required for different subjects to it, so the birding set-up is at the ready all the time. I’ve gotten much better at remembering to reset any changes I make, but I do slip up from time to time, and it has cost me a few shots. There’s nothing like trying to photograph an insect, and when I press the shutter release, I find that I still have the mirror lock-up enabled and set to the two second timer. By the time the shutter actuates, the bug has gone. 😦 I’d hate for that to happen if I had a rare bird in the viewfinder at the time. 😉
Anyway, I continued on my way, shooting anything that caught my eye.
The weather was close to what most people consider to be perfect, so one of the reasons I didn’t see many birds was the steady stream of herds of humans passing me. I took a long break on the shore of the pond where I shot the turtles after several particularly loud groups had passed me. That paid off, as I saw more birds while I took my break than the rest of the day combined. Most of the birds were common species, but I did catch my lifer for the day as I started moving again.
Also on the shore of the pond, I spotted a bee going in and out of lobelia flowers, but the light was horrible there. I considered using the EX 320 flash unit that I recently purchased, but decided that the flash would probably be too bright at such short-range. I decided to try the LED light that’s also built into the EX 320.
Two things about this photo. First, you can see that the way that the flower grows insures that insects visiting the inside of the flower to drink the nectar will most likely rub pollen off from the stamen of the flower, which the insect will transport to other flowers to pollinate them.
Two, the LED light of the EX 320 worked extremely well, which sort of surprised me. I had tried to use it to kill shadows in direct sunlight before, and I hadn’t been impressed with the output of the LED light, the flash worked better. But, in the deep shadows that the flowers were in here, the LED light had just the right output to make the scene look as if I had shot it in full sun. There’ll be more on that later.
Why is it that spiders spend so much time upside down?
Why can’t they be more like dragonflies?
That was shot with the Beast, as the dragonfly took off before I could get the second body with the Tokina macro lens ready.
Now we come to the fungi. I had seen some earlier, but the herds of humans stampeding down the trails had seemed to go out of their way to destroy all the fungi, not so with this one.
I used the 10-18 mm lens for that shot, to make use of the extremely long depth of field of that lens. That was also the smaller of two clumps of the fungi, I checked to see if I could get all of the larger one in focus.
Seeing part of the smaller clump in the frame, I just had to see if I could get all of both clumps in focus. 😉
So, spotting a few other mushrooms, I started playing.
I had the base of the camera resting on the ground, and used live view to focus on the mushrooms, which were only about 3 inches tall. Then, I switched to the Tokina for this one.
That was shot at a slightly different angle, but at about the same distance as the first.
While walking around the area looking for more mushrooms, I saw a green heron near the shore of the lake…
…but the lighting was so poor that this is the best I could do.
I did spot a few more small fungi, too small for the 10-18 mm lens, so I used the Tokina for these.
I would have liked to have used the Tokina for this one, but I couldn’t get close enough to the spiders, so I had to use the Beast.
I don’t know what the spiders were up to, that was the best shot that I could get, and it isn’t as if I didn’t try. 😉
Speaking of trying, this toadstool made a great subject to play with lighting and the 10-18 mm lens.
Boring! So, I diffused the flash unit built-in to the camera for this one.
Maybe I should have tried the EX 320 on the camera, but I assumed that it was too tall to get any light under the fungus. I also tried to think of a way to make use of the wireless capability of the flash unit, but in such tight quarters, I couldn’t find a way to position things the way that I needed to for wireless. So, I fired up the LED light again with the flash unit off to one side.
And, a shot to show you how I did it.
Still not great, but I was getting better. I should have worked harder right then, but I thought things over as I continued my walk, until I spied this coral fungi backlit by the sun.
Maybe too much back lighting, so I tried dialing in the EX 320 to blend flash with the sunlight.
I was just getting close to what I wanted when the sun went behind a cloud.
I should have waited for the sun to come out again to continue playing with the light and other lenses than the Beast, but Coral fungi are common, so I’ll have plenty of chances.
Besides, it was getting late, and I was tired, so I wanted to finish up my hike. I did shoot several series for use in testing out the Photomatix HDR software, here’s the best before and after of the day.
I used exposure fusion, and the results look natural and a touch better than straight out of the camera, so I’m happy, I just need to practice more.
I continued walking and shooting what I saw that interested me.
Unidentified froggy object
I was almost back to my Forester when I saw another toadstool style mushroom to play with the lighting a little more.
I shot that one as a benchmark, then started playing with the flash, both on and off camera, and LED light of the EX 320 speedlite, which is what I used for this one.
A couple of things come to mind. I love the wireless function of the EX 320, but there’s no way to make use of it while shooting small subjects at very close range. I’ve had the same problem while trying macro photos with the flash. I think that I’m going to need a cable, so that I can use the EX 320 off camera, but not have to be set-up to make the wireless function work.
Another thing is that the more that I play, the more that I wish that I could carry even more gear with me. The LED panel light that I have would work well with the LED light of the EX 320, as the output of the 320 isn’t adjustable as the panel light is. I guess that I’m going to have to make room for the panel light and a few other things in the camera bag that I carry daily. Either that, or switch to the larger bag that I use mostly for storing the gear that I don’t carry daily.
I’d also like to carry the 15-85 mm lens with me as well, the more that I use the 10-18 mm lens, the more times there are that I wished that I had its “big brother” along also.
But, maybe it’s just as well that I can’t carry everything with me. Trying to remember the capabilities of all my gear as I take small steps forward would probably overwhelm me. It’s better that I continue to learn each item as I go, so that what I learn sticks with me.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!