Muskegon, December 6th, am I spoiled? Part II
This post is a continuation about a trip that I made to Muskegon on December 6th, in which I asked myself if I’m spoiled by all the wildlife that I’m able to photograph. My answer was, yes I am spoiled.
That plays into some of the reasons that I’m not able to get the quality of images that I would like to be shooting.
That may need some explanation. I went to Muskegon, and I was up to at least 14 eagles when I stopped counting eagles. It’s too easy not to work very hard at getting good photos when good subjects are so abundant, even if I seldom see those subjects in situations that would lead to great images. I assume that great photos will just fall into my lap if I go there often enough, but it doesn’t happen that way. Relying on luck is not the way to success, it’s like playing the lottery in hopes of getting rich.
Another easy way to excuse my poor images is to blame the equipment, thinking that if only I could afford the best of camera gear, that my images would become that much better. Yes, and no.
When I research how the good wildlife photographers get the photos they do, I see that they are often using a camera and lens combination that cost nearly four times what I have invested in all my photo gear combined. That is, if they’re not photographing captive subjects. 😉
Even some of the people who I bump into in the Muskegon area have lenses that I can only dream of owning someday. On the day when I was able to get fairly good images of a peregrine falcon…
…a person I was talking to was using a Canon 600 mm L series lens, which retails for $12,000! That lens alone cost twice what all the gear that I have combined has cost me. Even if I could afford that lens, I probably wouldn’t buy it, I’d rather spend the money taking extended vacations to shoot more photos. Besides, what good is the best equipment if I don’t know how to use it, or I forget to prepare for the photo opportunities that it’s a safe bet will come my way?
That’s where being spoiled by being able to see birds and animals that most people never see becomes a handicap in a way, like I said earlier, I assume if I go to Muskegon often enough, great photos will just happen, and I don’t think of the ways that I could improve my photos as I’m shooting them. And, because of how often I’m able to see rare birds, and my desire to add to the list of rare birds that I’m able to photograph, I lack the patience to sit and capture the moment that would result in a spectacular image.
The snowy owl is a perfect example of that. Due to the circumstances, I couldn’t get as close to the owl as I would have liked, so I knew that I would be cropping the images that you see here. I sat there watching the owl, and occasionally shot a few more photos if it looked as if it was going to do something besides sit and soak up the sunshine.
These may look like repeats of the same photos as in the last post from Muskegon, but they’re not. Wanting to make sure that I had good photos, whenever the owl moved at all, even if it was just fluffing its feathers, I shot more photos.
After about twenty minutes of watching the owl, this is the way that I was beginning to feel about sitting there.
I did sit up and take notice when the owl turned into the wind to check out something that it had heard.
I was getting bored sitting there, I wanted to go searching for something new to photograph, and I shouldn’t have been.
I should have been thinking of ways to get even better images of the owl, such as trying the 1.4 X tele-converter behind the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens), but I didn’t. I should have gotten the other camera body that had the 300 mm prime lens and tele-converter on it ready for action photos, but I didn’t. So when the owl did take flight, I was totally unprepared, and not even paying much attention to the owl by then, so I missed the shots that could have been the great ones. I lack the patience to sit in one place for very long, watching one perched bird, even if it is a snowy owl, for me to capture the special shots.
Well, that and who knows what I’ll find next to photograph, especially in the Muskegon area. The lure of seeing something new to photograph limits how long I am willing to sit in one place hoping to shoot a great photo. In some ways, starting the My Photo Life List project has been a mistake of sorts as far as my ability to sit and watch one bird is concerned.
I’m more concerned with seeing and photographing new to me species of birds for that project, and less concerned with sitting in one spot photographing a species that I have already gotten reasonably good photos of for that project. I need to strike a better balance between finding new species, and getting better photos of species I’ve already done.
I’ve considered either making or purchasing hides, or as we used to call them, blinds, and try staying hidden in one to get the great images, but I doubt that I could sit still for very long.
There have been a few days each of the last two summers when I’ve gone to Lost Lake in Muskegon State Park and hiked back to the observation deck there by the lake to use it as a hide. About half an hour is all I can sit before I start wandering around the area chasing dragonflies or looking for wildflowers. That is, unless I nap there, and I’m not going to shoot many great photos while sleeping, other than the ones in my dreams. 😉
It’s much more interesting to me to chase the smaller birds around in hopes of getting a good photo of them. It’s the “thrill of the hunt” as it is in progress that keeps me focused on one bird at that time. I can hold the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) up and heave it around following the smaller birds around as they flit from place to place in search of food for as long as it takes for the bird to make a mistake and allow me a clear photo of it.
But photos of small birds seldom make people “oooo” and “aah” over them.
If there are action shots to shoot, I can sit in one spot and shoot away for as long as the action continues.
You may be thinking that these are pretty good, what’s this guy complaining about? Well, I tend to remember my failures more so than my successes. I had two major failures on this trip, one because of my forgetting to switch off the Optical Stabilization of the Beast, one because my 60D body with the Beast on it doesn’t auto-focus fast enough for what I was trying to shoot.
First, my failure, I saw a rough-legged hawk flying almost straight at me.
The hawk began hovering nearly directly over my head, so I got the camera body all set as far as exposure and switched to the high-speed burst mode of shooting, but since I had the lens pointed nearly vertical, the OS of the Beast caused ghosting in every one of the nearly 100 photos that I shot before the hawk moved off.
When the hawk did move off, it wasn’t very far, and it landed, but the heat waves coming off from the bare ground spoiled this image.
Now then, for the camera failure, I saw a red-tailed hawk being mobbed by crows, and the hawk flew right past me in an attempt to shake the crows off from its tail. I started shooting, but the auto-focus system of my camera couldn’t keep up with the hawk, notice that each of these photos gets a little sharper as the hawk slowed down to land.
I zoomed out a little for these, as one of the crows made one last pass at the hawk.
Then I zoomed back in to catch the hawk looking at me as if to ask why the crows were picking on him.
One good thing is that if I have some good light to work with, my portraits of birds are getting better most of the time.
Now then, we interrupt this post for a news flash! I did a dumb thing this afternoon, I went to the camera store to check out a new Canon 7D Mk II and also a 400 mm prime lens with doubler behind it, now I can’t stop drooling. What a camera and what a lens!
To begin with, the 7D Mk II will auto-focus if I use the Beast and the 1.4 X tele-converter, giving me an effective focal length of 700 mm. With my 60D bodies, I have to manually focus, and the images were only sharp if they were shot at close range. Here’s what the 7D, the Beast, and the Tamron extender can do together, shot through a dirty window.
The 7D will also auto-focus if I use a 2 X tele-converter behind the 300 mm prime lens I already own.
The 7D won’t auto-focus if I use the 400 mm prime lens and a 2 X tele-converter behind it, but here’s what I got manually focusing.
And, I got this shot inside, handheld at 800 mm and a shutter speed of only 1/100th!
You’re probably thinking that these images aren’t that great, but I was giving the camera and lenses the torture tests, much higher ISO settings than I can get good photos with currently using my 60D bodies at extreme focal lengths and very slow shutter speeds for the most part.
The first thing that I noticed is that both the Beast and the 300 mm prime lenses I have were sharp at all distances when using them on the 7D body. The differences that they show when used on my 60D bodies has to be due to the body, and not the lenses. I shot quite a few photos close, mid-distances, and far away, and the Beast didn’t go blurry past 100 feet as it does on my bodies, nor did the 300 mm prime go soft at mid-distances. I had stopped trying the 1.4 extender behind the Beast, the results were too poor. Not with what I saw from the 7D today, I’d have no qualms using that set-up for birds like the snowy owl in good light at any distance.
Even with the 2X extender behind the 300 mm prime lens, it was sharp at every distance, and I didn’t have to play games with the focus to get the images sharp as I do now. With the 1.4 X extender, it was also sharp at every distance that I tried.
But the real shocker was how much better the 400 mm prime lens that I tried out is than either the Beast or the 300 mm prime lens. If you remember, I flipped back and forth between the 300 mm and 400 mm prime lenses for months, and purchased the 300 mm because of how close it can focus. I hate to admit it, but I should have purchased the 400 mm prime instead, maybe I will some day.
First, I have to save up for the 7D body first, maybe I’ll find out once I get it dialed in for my existing lenses that I’ll have no need for the 400 mm lens.
I see that I’ve been prattling on again, not making much sense. What my trip today all boils down to is this, the auto-focusing system of the 7D is head and shoulders above my 60D as is its high ISO/lower noise capabilities. Just what I need for shots like these.
Or this one.
I’m really geeked at the idea of using a 7D Mk II next spring, so much so that it would be all that I could write about right now, so for now, this is the end.
That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!