When it rains all day, it’s time to play
Inside that is. Normally, I don’t mind walking in the rain, but this past week, we had three days when it rained steadily all day, and quite hard as well. In some ways, I feel like it was a wasted week, I stayed home on the two good days waiting to take delivery of the neutral density filter that I mentioned in the last post. By reducing the light coming into the lens, you can hold the shutter open longer, or open the aperture if that’s what you want to do. I put that filter to use on Sunday evening to shoot another sunset at Duck Lake State Park.
Neutral density filters are supposed to be color neutral, hence the name. However, the B+W brand multi-coated filter that I purchased adds a slightly warm color cast to the images that I’ve shot so far. That isn’t unpleasant, nor is it more than I can easily fix in Lightroom by decreasing the color temperature slightly, as I did in that photo. In fact, many people would be pleased with slightly warmer tones in their sunset photos to increase the colors, but I’m still going for reality, almost. 😉 The neutral density filter did what I intended it to do, smoothing out the water to some degree, making the overall image more pleasing with the blur created by the long shutter openings adding a sense of motion to the image.
I don’t think that the image above is all that bad for my first attempt at using a neutral density filter. I set the focus before attaching the filter, then turned the auto-focus off, as with 6 stops of light lost with the filter, I doubt if the 60D would have gotten the focus correct with the filter on. But then, that’s how I do landscapes anyway, setting the focus to what I judge to be 1/3 of the way into the scene, then shutting the auto-focus off. I hope that I get other chances to play with that filter again soon.
Speaking of playing, Saturday had been one of the three cold, wet, and windy days last week, so I put the day to use spending some quality time with the manual for the Canon 7D Mk II and learning to take advantage of more of the features it has. One of those is in camera multiple exposures, while I doubt that this feature will see much use in my nature photography, you never know, and I can see the creative potential for other types of photography.
I had the camera set-up on my good Manfrotto tripod, and as you can see, I shot the two images at different focal lengths, and the camera stacked them on one another.
An evil thought popped into my mind today as I was walking though, the 7D holds two memory cards. I could fill the back-up card with great sky photos on days when there are interesting cloud formations, then call one of those photos up and shoot a landscape over it on days when we have boring blue skies. No, I wouldn’t do that, but some people have libraries of skies and other things saved to insert into photos using Photoshop when the scene that they see isn’t exactly what they would like it to be.
Anyway, in my last post, I raved about how good the good carbon fiber Manfrotto tripod is, here’s an example of how steady it is.
To shoot that, I set the camera up for a long exposure, then slowly turned the zoom ring on the lens while the shutter was open. You can see that the camera moved a little while I was zooming, but not much.
Good gear may not make great photos, but it sure makes it easier to get the great photo when the opportunity arrises, not that the two preceding photos are great, they were just playing around, learning new techniques. However, I’m getting so spoiled by the 7D, that’s the reason that I want to eventually add the EOS 5DS R camera to my arsenal, as I also noted in my last post. However, I neglected to point out the biggest reasons.
I was going to have one of my landscape photos printed out in a large canvas print to see how good it would come out. But, when I uploaded it to the web site of the service that I was going to have print the print, I got a warning that resolution of my image was too low to print that large of a print. My 60D may be a very good camera, but the images it produces are limited by the small sensor. If your going to print large size prints, then a full frame sensor is the way to go, and if you do have to crop an image, the results will be better.
Another reason to want the EOS 5DS R, it will do in camera time-lapse photography, but so will the 7D. Here I go shifting topics again, I didn’t use the 7D to create this time-lapse slide show, I did this in Lightroom, something else that I learned to do while it poured outdoors.
That was produced from the series of images that I shot the past weekend. The entire time that I was shooting the sunset this weekend, I was thinking that I should have used the time-lapse feature built into the 7D, but the one I made in Lightroom isn’t bad, and learning how to produce them will come in useful in the future. I did shoot a series of time-lapse photos with the 7D to learn how to do it, but they were also of my alarm clock, and I think that you’ve seen enough of it already. 😉
The video isn’t a true time-lapse either, I didn’t time myself between shots, I pressed the shutter release when I noticed that the light had changed, or at specific positions of the sun in relation to the water of Lake Michigan. You can purchase a device to make any camera shoot at a specific interval of time for a specific number of photos, but then there’s something else to purchase, and something else to remember to lug around with you. It’s so much easier having it built right into the camera.
That goes for the bulb timer feature of both the 7D and the 5DS R. Most cameras will only hold the shutter open for 30 seconds on their own. For photos requiring a longer exposure, you have to hold the shutter release down for the entire exposure, not fun when shooting a 15 minute exposure as I did this summer when shooting the star trail photos. But, since I used the 7D for the star trails, I just set the bulb timer to the length that I wanted. Or, you can purchase (there’s that word again) a device to time the shutter opening for you. Of course, it does you no good if it’s at home, so it’s something else to carry.
Sidenote, the manual for the 7D says that you can combine time-lapse with exposure bracketing, but doesn’t explain how, at least not in the section of the manual dealing with time-lapse photography. It took me a couple of tries, but I learned how to make it work, which means that I can shoot a series of three photos to create HDR images at specific time intervals and blend the HDR images into a time-lapse slide show, just the ticket for sunrises and sunsets!
Another side note, I use what I learn from the 7D to make the photos that I shoot with the 60D better, but conversely, I use what I know from using the 60D to figure out how to make the 7D do what I would like it to. While it was easier when I was using two identical bodies, I’m learning so much more using two different bodies.
Yet another reason to want to upgrade from my 60D is more focus points. I can get by for now by focusing and re-composing my landscape photos, I do it all the time with the 60D now. However, having focus points exactly where I’d like them to be, as with the 7D, makes photos like this possible.
The depth of field at 420 mm is so short that being able to put the focus point right on the squirrel’s eye is the reason that it’s as sharp as it is. My first two shots of the squirrel weren’t bad, but I had the focus point in the center of the frame, and on the squirrel’s eye. That meant lots of wasted space to the right, and none of the tree or parts of the squirrel from the left of the frame above were in the first two shots. But since the squirrel was in no hurry to leave, I took the second or so that it takes me now to move the focus point, resulting in a better photo. I should have shifted one more increment to the right, but still, this is way better than the first two were as far as composition.
While I can get by with just a bit of playing around when shooting landscape photos, I’d like to shoot macros using the higher resolution 5DS R body as well, that’s when having all those focus points will come in handy. The same applies when shooting bird portraits…
…when the times are right, I could use the 5DS R for photos like that one, and have the 7D all set for bird in flight photos for images like these.
And the one final reason that I’d like a 5DS R eventually is that it has the same metering system as my 7D, which lets me shoot photos like this without very much fuss or bother.
Any camera whose metering system allows you to shoot an all white bird that’s in the sun, but right on the edge of the shadow line across the water with just a 1/3 stop of the exposure compensation is a winner to me!
I didn’t figure it out this past weekend, but it was about a month ago that I learned how to shoot videos with the 7D. It doesn’t have a dedicated video mode, all you have to do is flip it into live view, then press the start button, no matter which mode that I have the camera set to. Too easy. I was sitting, watching an eagle in case it flew off letting me get a few photos of it in flight, which I did eventually.
However, I had been shooting stills at 600 mm (300 mm lens and 2 X extender) when I had the great idea of trying to shoot a video. I have to warn you, you may become seasick from the motion in this video, but here’s the first video that I shot with the 7D.
At 600 mm, I should have used the tripod, but I was just playing at the time, seeing how to do it. Later on the same day, I found that same eagle in the eagle tree, where I can get closer to any eagles there for better photos.
I call that one large pine the eagle tree since I see so many different eagles using it to scout from, but there’s actually several eagle trees in the Muskegon area. There’s a second eagle tree to the south of the large pine, and it can hold two eagles at one time.
I let myself get sidetracked with the eagles, but that’s okay, it gave me a chance to use up a few of the eagle photos that I have saved to post.
Some time ago, I said that I thought that most of any future improvements in my images was going to be due to doing the small things right, and learning to use accessories such as filters. I think that I was right. Adding a neutral density filter produced that first sunset photo, along with this one.
Using the polarizing filter produced this photo, which was my best ever of a male mallard, up until today.
Today, with some brightly colored maple leaves on the water, I knelt down to get an even better angle on the mallards for photos like this.
I now feel as if the biggest constraint that I have as far as getting better photos is time. It doesn’t matter if it’s a landscape or a mallard, it takes putting a lot of thought into the scene, which takes time. I knew that last photo was pretty good, and I was going to settle for that one. I even started to walk away from the ducks, as I have limited time to get my walk in before work. But, something made me go back , re-adjust the filter, change a couple of settings, and shoot these.
You can always click on any photo for a larger view of any photo here, and if you are ever tempted to do so, then the last few photos, along with this one…
…would be good ones to see in a larger size. It may sound as if I’m bragging, but those last two are the best images of anything that I’ve ever shot technically, and they are pretty darned good artistically. Still, if there had been more time, I could have done even better.
So, what’s the point of all this so far? I hate to admit it, but I turned 60 this year, and I’m beginning to feel my age. I’m slowing down whether I like it or not, so I’m starting to plan for the future. I’ll be able to retire in a few years, and once I do, I plan to travel extensively, to see the parts of the United States that I never got around to seeing before, such as the Grand Canyon and Yosemite to name two of many. There are places that I want to revisit, like Yellowstone and the Canadian Rockies. Heck, as much as I’ve traveled in Michigan, there are still plenty of places to be explored here.
I would like to have all the camera gear that I’ll need well in advance of when I retire, so I’m familiar with it before I go someplace really special and have to fumble around with stuff that I’m not used to using.
There are other changes taking place that will affect what I post here to my blog. You may have noticed that I’m no longer posting photos of every species of bird that I saw on any one day, I’m going for quality over quantity. I think that on the Birding Big Day in the spring, I will make that an annual event where I go out with a mind to get photos of as many species of birds as I can, but I no longer feel compelled to do that in every post here. I’m not giving up on the My Life List project, the one where I’m trying to get photos of every species of bird seen regularly in Michigan. Far from it, I just recently got photos that confirmed that the shorebirds that I thought were white-rumped sandpipers were indeed that.
Of course I wish that the photo that shows the small patch of white above the tail would have been better, I wish that all my photos were better. As I said, I’m finding that it takes time to get better photos. Time to sneak up closer to birds for one thing, then wait until they are in a position to show themselves in a position so that you can tell which species they are. Waiting for better light may help, but I never know how long the birds are going to stick around.
I’m getting better, but I still have to learn how to better balance the time that I spend on each subject. Maybe I could have gotten better shots of the mallards if I hadn’t taken time to shoot this tree from various angles and the like.
Maybe if I had spent more time working on my photos of the tree, I would have gotten even a better photo. But then, I would have missed this one.
That one was a huge disappointment, again. That’s the third time that I’ve tried to capture the pastel colors of the goldenrod leaves this fall, and every time, the background spoils the photo. I spent ten to fifteen minutes looking for plants that were far enough away from any other vegetation that I thought that this time I would succeed. Oh well, there’s always next year, and I hope to develop my skills by that time. That photo represents a common thing that I do wrong, many of my photos are too busy, as is this one.
When one leaf stands out in a sea of thousands of similar leaves, it deserves better. I should have done some simple housecleaning, removing the other leaves and the blade of grass that obscures part of the leaf that I wanted before shooting that one, but I was afraid of moving it. I should have used a tripod and dialed the ISO down, but I only had the compact tripod with me, and it won’t support the 300 mm lens. Maybe I should have tried one of the shorter lenses with the camera on the tripod, but I was in too much of a hurry, and I doubted myself. I wasn’t sure how well I could capture the patterns of the veins under the leaf, or that unique color. So I moved on. In a way, it’s just as well, for when I did get to Duck Lake later that afternoon, I didn’t have time to work this scene either.
I know that there were better photos there, but I was in a hurry to get set-up for the sunset that was already starting as you can see by the color of the reflections in the water at the top of the frame.
That brings up something else, maybe I would have been better of shooting some of the elements in that scene when the light got really good, rather than the sunset itself. Maybe I need six cameras mounted on six tripods. 😉
I did get a somewhat better photo in the other direction as I was setting up for the sunset.
But, I blew that one to some degree as well. I had the camera less than a foot above the wet sand, although it doesn’t look like it. My knees and elbows got soaked as I kneeled behind the camera, and it was getting chilly, so I wanted to stay as dry as I could. If I had moved the camera a foot or so to the left, that photo would have been much better, but to do that, I’d have been laying in the water to compose the shot. With a wide-angle lens, it’s surprising how much difference even a few inches make in the final image. Oh well, there’s always next time, and then, I’ll bring a wetsuit. 😉
Maybe six cameras still wouldn’t be enough, for while I was shooting the sunset at wide-angles, I was also shooting gulls with the sunset as a background, again. This time, they were stationary gulls though.
I’m never sure about those, I think that the vivid color may be too much, so I tried a different angle as well.
Since this post is getting long on words, I’m going to throw in three landscapes from earlier in the day last Sunday.
And, a few from around home last week.
Then, I’m going to call this one done. I’ll explain some of the ideas that I’m mulling for my blog in the next post, but I haven’t decided anything yet.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!