The best is yet to come
I’ve had a very good summer as far as the quality of the images that I’ve been getting. I’ve been saying all summer long that they’re the best that I’ve ever shot, and they’re continuing to improve as time goes on. As I refine my camera and lens settings, my technique, and how I position myself in the right spot at the right time, I think that my photos will improve even more. I’m even looking forward to winter, in hopes that a few snowy owls will show up around Muskegon.
I probably shouldn’t have put as many images of the great blue heron in flight in my last post as I did, but I wanted to show that such images are no longer a matter of luck, but that I can repeat the quality of those images over an entire series of photos. It will make choosing which images to include in my posts more difficult, but I think that I can live with that. 😉
I haven’t had a chance to try the new 100 -400 mm lens out on birds in flight yet, I hope to be able to this coming weekend. However, I did put the 2 X tele-converter behind the new lens for a few test shots inside yesterday, and I was stunned by how good the images were that I got. Because of the maximum aperture of the new lens, I have to manually focus with the 2 X extender behind it, so it won’t work well for action photos, but it turns the 100- 400 mm lens into a 200-800 mm lens.
That does present a dilemma of sorts to me, I didn’t think that the new lens would perform well with the 2 X extender, since the new lens is a zoom lens. My plan had been to use the new lens for action shots, and the 300 mm lens with the 2 X extender for portrait photos. However, if the new zoom lens outperforms the 300 mm lens, then my plans will have to change. That remains to be seen though, the few images that I shot in the kitchen may not tell the entire story.
Stop the presses!
I worked a short day, so I had time to go for a walk after work. It was a grey, blustery day for most of the time that I was out, although I did get some slightly better light later. I have a lot more babbling to do later, but first, this is what you can expect to see more of in the future.
I am happy to report that the new lens is even better than I had hoped it would be. Even with no light and difficult conditions, it performed almost flawlessly, even on small birds in the brush.
Being able to zoom out and follow along with the birds as they flitted about, then zoom in for shots like those made taking the photos almost easy. Here’s an angle that I don’t often post a photo of, but if you look closely, you can see the warblers eyelashes…
…how’s that for detail?
I’m also happy to report that the lens works well close-up…
…it handles like a dream to get shots of birds in flight…
…and it also captures other action well.
It does well on portraits also.
I even tried a few landscape photos, but I’m only posting this one.
Unlike some of the lenses that I own, I couldn’t find a weakness in the new lens, and I knew that I had finally picked a winner when I shot this one.
The goldfinch was well out of range of the 300 mm lens even with the tele-converter behind it, not because of focal length, but because the 300 mm lens goes soft much beyond 20 feet or so. Not the 100-400 mm lens, I shot the goldfinch at just over 30 feet, then cropped the image much more than I usually do, and the goldfinch is still sharp. You know, that may not be a goldfinch, even though it was in a flock of goldfinches. Oh well, that doesn’t matter as much to me right now as do the images that the new lens seems to be capable of.
By the way, if you’re relatively new to my blog, you may be asking why I didn’t start with a Canon 7D Mk II and the 100-400 mm lens. That’s an easy one to answer, neither the camera or the lens were on the market when I purchased what I’ve been using.
Anyway, I gave the camera and lens the supreme torture test today, a chickadee in deep shade against a brightening sky that was still cloudy.
The new lens is like the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) in that it seems to zero in on the birds when it focuses, even in very low light.
Unlike the Beast, the new lens is easy to carry. It balances very well, most of the weight is in the center of the lens, even when it’s zoomed out all the way. The Beast is very front heavy, which makes using it difficult, especially for birds in flight. The new lens also has an adjustment that allows you to control how much effort is required to turn the zoom ring. I have it set so that the lens doesn’t extend itself while I’m walking, but it still zooms as smooth as silk when I turn the ring. That’s how I got the flicker in flight, I’d never be able to swing the Beast around as quickly and operate the zoom mechanism as I did the new lens for the flicker shot.
Unlike the 300 mm lens and tele-converter, the auto-focusing of the new lens is fast, very fast. I don’t know if it’s faster than the Beast, but it is at least as fast as the Beast is. And, since the new lens handles so much better than the Beast, that doesn’t matter as much anyway. I know that I can get the new lens on the birds quicker, which gains a few precious portions of a second to allow the lens to focus. It’s going to be just the ticket for warblers and other small birds next spring.
As I said in the last post, the color, sharpness, clarity and level of detail that I’m seeing in these images…
…has me doing my happy dance! Because of the level of detail and the definition in the bird’s feathers, some of the images have a 3 dimensional quality to them, something that has been hard for me up to achieve up until now.
So, none of those will ever win a photo contest, however, for a day when conditions were poor, and I shot everything that I could get in focus just to see how the new lens performed, I think that it passed the test. It’s sharp through the entire zoom range, and also through the entire range of aperture settings. That’s where using it on a 7D Mk II camera comes into play. I could move a single focus point around to keep it on a bird’s eye so that the eye is always sharp, and then with the lens wide open, you can see that in some of the photos, I started to lose focus on the parts of the birds farther away from its eye. I no longer have to keep the aperture stopped down a little for more depth of field to be sure that I have the bird’s eye in focus. The auto-focus seems to be dead on!
That will allow me to get a little more creative, and it will also be helpful when shooting in low light, but I hadn’t learned that when I was shooting the small birds. I can hardly wait to give the new lens a proper test on birds in flight, hopefully, that will come this weekend. I’d also like to do more testing with the 2 X tele-converter behind the lens for portraits as well. The camera will have to be on a tripod for that, as it’s almost impossible to hold the lens steady at 800 mm and run the focus ring at the same time.
I’m really geeked about what the future holds in store once I get even more familiar with the new lens.
So geeked that I almost forgot to mention that I ran into Brian Johnson as he was banding birds again, and that we had another long conversation. He said that his bird counts were still way down this year, with young birds being the ones that are missing. I asked if the nice weather that we’ve been having has delayed many bird’s migration, and his reply was that just the opposite was going on. Since the adult birds hadn’t raised many young, there was no reason for them to stay around here, and that they had started south earlier than in most years from his counts.
He explained that birds were always in a hurry, and that getting to their winter ranges earlier meant that they could pick out the choicest territories for the winter as far as the food supply. I asked if that was why birds migrated north early in the spring, to choose the best territories, and he told me that birds actually select their spring territories in the fall, before they migrated south.
One thing led to another, and Brian told me that he much sooner trust the observations of an amateur than the stated opinions of the professional environmentalists. His complaint was that everything these days seems to be geared towards raising money for various environmental causes, even if that means putting out false information if it fits a narrative that the environmentalists are pushing in their latest fundraising efforts. I’d better stop there, or I’ll be in trouble again. 😉
We also had a long talk about the mimicry that some birds do of other bird’s songs, and how young birds learn to sing the correct song for their species. He’s often heard young birds singing the wrong song, but that they eventually learn to sing the correct song. We also talked of the injuries that birds have suffered but still managed to survive despite those injuries. If you remember, a few years ago, I saw a male northern cardinal that had lost an eye, which would make life very difficult as far as judging distances when flying, and finding food. But, I know that the cardinal survived for at least three years because I saw him repeatedly in the same small area over those three years.
More breaking news!
Not only have I sold a few photos lately, but now one of my photos from a few years back is going to run in the local newspaper. It’s of the fall foliage as seen from the landslide overlook looking out over the Jordan River Valley in northern lower Michigan.
It makes me want to run up there and shoot it again using the skills that I have learned since then!
I should get more serious about selling some of my images, starting with the simple task of having some business cards printed. There have been several times when I’ve been talking to people and they’ve asked if I had a business card, what a silly goose I’ve been.
Of course I’m proud that one of my photos will make the press, but we won’t tell any one that it’s just because the press is too cheap to pay for a stock photo. 😉 If it helps in any way to develop some name recognition, then it’s worth it to me to let them run the photo for free.
Anyway, I’m feeling really good right now, I’m loving the images that the new lens is turning out so far, and getting my name in the press associated with my photography just adds to the good feeling that I have.
I almost hate to use up a few more of the leftover photos that I have, but I suppose that I should. Either that, or delete them and start saving more that are even better.
I guess that I’ll use up some of the older photos. It’s been a good year for aphids.
I just learned that there is a crack in the wall which is where the water is coming into my apartment. It will take a while for the contractors to come, dig up around the wall, waterproof it, then the carpet will have to be cleaned and dried again. I talked to the manager, and he must have lit a fire under maintenance. Especially since it’s time for me to renew my lease, the manager must not have wanted to lose a tenant. It still seems silly to me that they had the carpet cleaned and dried once, then tacked back down, and now that will have to be done again, no wonder my rent is going up. 😦
Some of these photos aren’t very good, but they are of birds that I don’t see very often, mostly during migration.
I like the angle that I can shoot at when insects land on my windshield, I should keep the windshield cleaner for these though.
I should save some flower photos for winter, when there won’t be any to shoot, but here’s one for now.
I suppose that the same could be said of turtles, I won’t see any of them over the winter either.
For that matter, it applies to many species of birds.
It looks as if it’s going to rain Saturday, that’s okay, I have to work Saturdays now on my new work schedule. The bad news, it may rain on Sunday also, but the weather should finally clear here on Monday, which I now have off from work. I hope to give the new lens a real workout, and see what it can do with some good light, but so far, I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen from it.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!