As I make the transition, Part II
I hope to begin scouting a few places in the Muskegon area this weekend where it would be both feasible and worthwhile to set-up a hide to photograph wildlife from. I’m starting with the Muskegon area, because it’s only an hour drive from where I live. There are other reasons as well, there’s a wider variety of species of birds to be seen along the shores of the Great Lakes in Michigan than there are in more inland areas. It’s also cooler near the Great Lakes in the summer, and that also appeals to me in the summer.
I have the feeling that any place that I find close to home in the near future will be test sites that I’ll use for the time being, but eventually I’ll be traveling farther north to get the best photos and videos. I’m not sure that there’s anyplace so close to home where there won’t be human background noise that will end up on any videos that I shoot. One way to get around that in the short-term is to get out there early, before most people begin their daily lives. I plan to do that anyway, since dawn is both my favorite time of day, it’s when there’s good light…
…and it’s when the most wildlife is active.
That’s one of a pair of twins, here they are together.
For the photo of the fawns together, I tried something that usually works very well. I have the Canon 7D Mk II set-up so that it only activates the focusing system when I press either of the two rear buttons that I have programmed for that. When I press the shutter release, it doesn’t activate the focusing system, only the exposure metering system, and of course, the shutter release when I press the button all the way down.
I wanted a photo of the two of them together, but then, the focus point would have been on the background vegetation, and the fawns would have been out of focus, unless I had taken the time to move it so it was on one of the fawns. That’s what I probably should have done, but I didn’t know how long the fawns were going to stick around. They were quite nervous as they watched a cyclist approaching from the direction that they’re staring so intently towards. The fawn on the left was also moving at times as it debated whether it should flee or continue to eat.
What I did was put the focus point on the butt of the fawn on the right, and once the camera had a focus lock, I would let off from the focus button, then move the camera so that both fawns were in the frame. I chose the butt of the fawn on the right, as I thought that it was about half-way between the two fawn’s faces, so both of them would be in focus.
Anyway, that image isn’t as sharp as I wish it were, I don’t know if I missed with the focus, or if it was due to the slow shutter speed, since there wasn’t much light at the time. That was shot at 1/80 of a second at 420 mm and taken handheld.
In many ways, that last photo can serve as an example of why I’m making the plans that I am for the future. A full frame camera body with better low-light performance would have resulted in less noise in the image. Getting into a hide before dawn, and using a tripod would have resulted in a much better photo also. And finally, getting away from other people may have given me the chance to catch the fawns looking at me, or at least not away from me as they watched some one else.
It’s why I’m going to wait to purchase a full frame camera body until Canon makes one that has all of the features of the 7D Mk II that I’ve come to rely on so heavily, like being able to decouple the auto-focusing system from the shutter release button. I keep the 7D in the servo mode of auto-focusing, so it can track moving subjects like this as long as I am pressing one of the rear buttons for focusing.
But, I can release the auto-focus button so that it functions like one-shot focusing as I did with the fawns. If I don’t have the time to shift the position of the focus point, I can put the center point on what I want to have in perfect focus, such as a subject’s eye, then let off from the button, recompose the shot, and shoot it.
I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve tried the same trick with the 60D body, but it doesn’t work, because I can’t decouple the auto-focus from the shutter release. The 60D does have rear button auto-focus, but if I let off from that button, then press the shutter release, that body re-focuses again, so I have to start all over, remembering that it doesn’t work the same way as the 7D. Not to mention how limiting I find the nine focus points of the 60D compared to the 65 points that the 7D has.
My plan is simple, really, it’s to get to a hide before dawn with a full frame camera body with the longest fixed focal length lens/tele-converter combination mounted on my tripod to shoot portraits like these.
And, I’ll have the long telephoto zoom I plan to purchase mounted on the 7D for any action photos, like these.
Although, I probably won’t remember to zoom out so as not to cut off a bird’s wing when it gets that close to me. 😉
I love that my large bird in flight photos are now about as good as my bird portrait shots of just a few years ago. It’s all the practice shots of gulls that I shoot.
I still need to work on my photos of smaller birds in flight though.
But, they are getting better, as are my photos of other types of action.
I miss the days at the old apartment complex where I could shoot the geese and ducks on a daily basis. Since most of the waterfowl that I see these days are during their migration, most of the time they are feeding or sleeping. But, every once in a while a fight breaks out.
Okay then, this may sound funny at this point, but I’ve come to realize that I am not a great photographer. I’m trying to get better, but I don’t know how far that I’ll be able to go. I occasionally shoot a good photo of a flower…
…or, a bird.
However, there’s nothing very artistic about the vast majority of the photos that I shoot, and that includes landscapes as well.
No, I’m not a great photographer, my real skills are my ability to spot and get close to critters, and the natural affinity that wildlife seems to have for me. Take this guy for example…
…he swan right up to me to give me a demonstration of how muskrats go about choosing what to eat. First, they give it the smell test…
…then, they lick it to see how it will taste…
…if it passes that test, then it’s time to munch away.
I watched it do the same thing with the tubers of some of the vegetation, but he had his head even more obscured by the vegetation then, so I’m not going to post those photos.
Most people would say that it’s only a muskrat, and that they couldn’t care less about them, what they eat, or how they eat it. But, that stuff fascinates me, I loved watching it pull young cattail shoots out of the mud, wash the tubers that they grow from off in the lake, sniff them, taste them, then eat them.
So, I have to take my lack of artistic skills into account, and play to my strengths as I search for out of the way places to set-up a hide.
It’s Sunday morning on the 3rd of July as I’m typing this now, the middle of three days off from work. However, these three days aren’t going to give me very much time to get outdoors. Yesterday, I had to get the first oil change done on my almost brand new pretty blue Subaru and some other chores that I don’t have time to do during the work week. Today, my brother and sister-in-law are having a family get together at their place, starting at noon, so that cuts this day in half as far as outdoor time. Also, I picked up the box of goodies that I had ordered from B&H on my way to work on Friday, so I’ve been busy with that stuff.
I think that I wasted my money upgrading from Lightroom V5 to V6, there doesn’t seem to be any new features that I thought that the newer version had, but at least I’m not as far behind as I was before the upgrade. I guess that I’ll eventually have to go to Lightroom CC, but I’m in no hurry to do that.
The new Macbook Pro is a great little computer from what I can tell so far, it’s everything that I wanted in a laptop computer to take on trips with me. However, after using a 27 inch iMac, the small display of the Macbook is going to take some getting used to. The main thing is that I can upload photos that I shoot on a trip to the laptop, sort out the obviously bad images, then transfer the images from the Macbook to the iMac once I’m home to do the real editing.
The battery grip for the 7D Mk II is a winner, although it will take some getting used to as well. Not only does it make the camera easier to hold when shooting in portrait orientation…
…but because of the shape of the grip, it also makes it easier to hold the camera in the landscape orientation as well as making it more comfortable to carry the camera. The second set of buttons on the grip aren’t exactly the same as on the camera itself, but they are close, but that’s what’s going to take some getting used to. When I used it yesterday, I’d forget that it had its own buttons, and I’d fumble around trying to find the old buttons as I used to do. It’s a well thought out piece of equipment, to install it, one removes the door to the batter compartment of the camera body, and there’s a place on the grip to store the door so that there’s no chance of losing it if you want to remove the grip for some reason. I can’t see myself doing that, the camera feels even better in my hands with the grip on it than it did without it.
I think that the new microphone is going to prove to be a winner also. I used it to shoot this video yesterday.
The sound quality is much better than what I could get with the camera’s built-in microphone, but I can tell that if I’m going to shoot more videos, I have to use a tripod most of the time. That, and remember to always bring my glasses so that I can see the small screen on the back of the camera to make sure that what I’m shooting is in focus.
The microphone has a built-in pre-amp that boosts the sound by 10 dB if you flip the pre-amp on, which I did for the meadowlark in that video. When I get as close to my subjects as I hope to in the future, then I can turn the pre-amp off to keep from having the sound too loud. There are other options, but for right now, I mounted the mic to the camera’s hot shoe, which is very convenient for having it ready to go quickly.
The subject of the video was an eastern meadowlark, and after three years of trying, I’ve gotten my best photo ever of one.
I still had to crop that one quite a bit, but it’s the closest that one of them has ever allowed me to get. Now if I could train one to perch somewhere other than the fence around the ball field, it would be even better. 😉
As I said, I’m not very artistic, but I’m working on it. Here’s an robin that I purposely shot as a silhouette.
I’ve also been shooting backlit birds on occasion…
…and I can see some possibilities there.
Still, my bread and butter, if you will, is getting close to wildlife…
…that wasn’t cropped, and I shot that as she began to move away from me. Here’s one of the earlier shots I took of her when I caught her eating.
But then, she had her head in the bush that she was feeding from.
I’ve been working on this post for too long already, so I’m going to throw in a couple of photos from today, then hit the sack.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!