The hard work is just beginning
With the 7D Mk II and the new 100-400 mm lens, I now have great gear for shooting birds and other wildlife, the best that I’ve ever had. I’ve also learned a lot, both how to use my gear, and also what makes a great photo. However, I broke one of the rules for making a great image when I’ve been shooting the bald eagles recently.
Sorry for so many eagle photos lately, I had forgotten that I had shot a few photos as the eagle from my last post was regurgitating a pellet of indigestible remnants of a previous meal, just as owls do.
I purposely lined the eagle up with the tree that you can see behind it, because I’m not a fan of the high-key look that you get when shooting a bird against a cloudy sky.
I could have positioned myself so that I had only the sky in the background for the eagle photos, but my personal preference is not to do that, even when I should. The kestrel photo isn’t bad, since they have some color to them. But, while the experts may say that the kestrel photo is better due to no distracting background, I prefer the eagle in front of the tree.
I’ve been attempting to pay more attention to the backgrounds in my images so that there are no distractions in my images to take away from the birds, but that’s close to impossible when shooting small songbirds.
Those species of birds live on the ground or vegetation so thick that it’s a once in a lifetime thing if you catch one out in the open completely.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been missing shots of the smaller birds lately because I’ve been moving around too much while attempting to get the best shot possible.
According to the experts, for an image to be a great one, the only thing in focus in the frame is the subject, and nothing else, with a pleasing background in one of the neutral colors. You’d think that with so many birds around to shoot…
…that I’d have little trouble making an image that would make the experts happy. That isn’t the case though, not for me anyway. When it does happen, it’s mostly luck.
I was working the edges of the farm fields near the Muskegon County wastewater facility, looking for sparrows, and hoping to find a lifer that was migrating through. I didn’t find any lifers, but I did find a vesper sparrow willing to pose.
However, I should have used a wider aperture to blur the background more. More on that in a second. As I was looking for sparrows on the ground, I looked up to see a great blue heron flying in my direction. Fortunately, I had the time to switch camera settings and I was able to shoot a series of photos of the heron as it passed by me.
Not the best lighting in the world, but not bad either.
There’s no distracting background in those, and the blue sky made a pleasing background for those two.
I said two things about the new 100-400 mm lens that I need to explain a little more. The first thing is that I said that there wasn’t any learning curve that came with it, that isn’t true. There is something that I need to work out, and that’s the second thing that I said about it, that it seems to produce a wider depth of field at the same distance and aperture as my other lenses.
So, on my walks around home, I have been working on that, and for reasons that I still don’t understand, the new lens does seem to have a wider depth of field than my other lenses. I shot this one the way that I would have in order to get all the yellow leaves in focus with one of my other long lenses, with the aperture stopped down quite a bit.
Then, I opened the aperture up all the way for this one, and lo and behold, all the leaves were still in focus, but the fence behind them was beginning to disappear.
To be a true test, I should have also shot the same scene with one of the other long lenses, however, I’ve shot thousands of photos with those lenses, and know where I have to set the aperture to get what I want in focus in focus. In this next photo, there’s no way that either the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) or the 300 mm lens would have gotten both the yellow and green leaf below it in focus at f/8, I’d have to have gone to f/11 or even f/16 to duplicate this one shot with the new lens.
So, I put what I’ve been learning with the new lens to use in this image.
I have no idea why the new lens has a wider depth of field than my other lenses, but it does, which is something that I need to work with more.
Before I continue on this line, I have to say that my goal isn’t to shoot only images that the experts would like, I also want to continue shooting the images that the general public will like, and those two things aren’t always the same. However, there’s no reason that I can’t use a few of the tips from the pros to make all my images better.
That means working even harder to get better angles, better backgrounds, and better results overall, no matter which type of photo that I’m shooting.
You may remember seeing the same cardinal in my last post also. That was a wider shot, because I liked the colors of the leaves near the cardinal. In this tighter shot, I could and should have opened the aperture wider, since I was no longer trying to get the leaves in focus. 😉
Leave it to me to buy a lens that somehow magically produces a wider depth of field just when I’m trying to go for the short depth of field look.
I continued to play a little more on Sunday, when there was no light to work with at all. I couldn’t come close to freezing the wings of this palm warbler as it dried itself off.
Luckily, it stuck around until I got a good shot.
The background is out of focus, but there’s lots of noise left too. It’s the same with these images of a peregrine falcon.
Here’s the slightly cropped version.
There was a second falcon at the wastewater facility today…
…and that must have put the one that’s been there for a while into a bad mood, because it repeatedly attacked the newcomer.
If only there had been some light…
…I had to shoot with the lens wide open, the ISO maxed out, and shutter speeds that were really too slow to freeze all the action, whether one of the falcons was perched, or if they were both airborne.
But, that didn’t stop me from trying to luck out…
…I kept on shooting, trying to keep a focus lock on the less aggressive falcon…
…until the less aggressive falcon landed again…
…and I was able to shoot this one.
Those photos aren’t very good, but let me tell you, keeping one of them in focus all the time as fast as they are and as little light as there was is not easy. And, as bad as those images are, I can tell that the newcomer isn’t banded, which means it must have come from a nest not watched by any of the Federal or State Agencies in charge of such things, in other words, a wild nest so to speak. All the nesting boxes set-up for the falcons to use, or known nests are watched, and all the chicks that hatch are banded, the attacker wears a blue band with the number “40” on it. If I knew where to submit that information to, I may hear back about where that falcon was hatched and raised. But, the really cool thing is seeing an unbanned bird, which means that there’s more falcon reproduction than just in the controlled nests.
Besides, how many people get to see one peregrine falcon, let alone two of them going at it? Of course with my luck, it was when there was no light to work with, the story of my life. 😉
Anyway, with it being a rainy, foggy day, none of my images came out well at all. Here’s a pair of juvenile dunlin that I found.
A non-breeding horned grebe.
And, when I saw a shorebird with a huge bill, I had to shoot a few photos of it.
I did finally get the dowitcher alone, but all the way across the pond, so these photos aren’t very good either.
How would you like that bill hanging from your face?
The only other birds that I shot were this American pipit…
…and this great blue heron, which I shot at f/5.6, which is wide open with the new 100-400 mm lens set to 400 mm.
That image wasn’t cropped, that’s my buddy, the young great blue heron that poses for me so I can test things out. I can see that the days of having to shoot with the aperture stopped down to at least f/7.1, or better yet, f/8, to get a sharp image are gone with the new lens.
I’m already over my limit for photos, so I’ll save the foggy landscapes for the next post.
But, before I sign off, I have to apologize to all the regular readers of my blog. Some how, and I haven’t figured it out yet, WordPress turned off all the notifications that I get when people post their blogs, or comment to mine. I could see the comments to mine, so I didn’t need the notifications, but after a week, I thought that it was strange that every one else had decided to take a break from blogging, all at the same time. So, I’ve missed a lot of people’s posts, I’ll try to get caught up this week.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!