Even though I’m supposed to be taking a break from blogging, I can’t resist starting another post of some of the more notable photos that I shoot. This post will be nearly all photos and few words. I’ll start with a species of goose that I just recently crossed off the list for the My Photo Life List project, a Ross’s goose.
Much better than any of the photos I shot the first time I saw that species.
Also, using the 400 mm prime lens, 2 X tele-converter, and live view focusing with the set-up mounted to my new gimbal tripod head, I was able to get my best ever photos of a golden eagle.
What’s also notable about that photo is that I waited half an hour to 45 minutes for the sun to break through the clouds to give me some good light to shoot that one in.
I have the feeling that using the gimbal head is going to make a great deal more improvement to the quality of images that I shoot than I had thought.
I’ve only used it on flying birds a few times, but it allows me to better track the birds more smoothly than I can by hand. I’ve only used it on the eagle as far as perched birds, but it allowed me to do exactly what I hoped it would. After shooting a few bad photos handheld, I saw that the eagle wasn’t going to fly away soon, so I set the tripod up with the gimbal head and shot a few better images.
However, it was still quite gloomy then, but I could see that holes were opening up in the clouds, so I waited. The way that the gimbal head works, I could keep the camera pointed at the eagle as I waited, and I shot another series of photos every time that I thought that the light had improved a little. Eventually, one of the holes in the clouds opened so that there was sunshine on the eagle, giving me the image that you see here. I was hoping that the eagle would stick around long enough for there to be sunshine on it and blue sky behind, but the eagle flew away before that happened.
I can’t say for sure, but I believe that the eagle flew off to stay in the sunshine. It had been a chilly morning, and I could really feel the difference when the sunshine hit me, it felt very good. The hole in the clouds that had put the sunshine on both myself and the eagle had closed, so I took that opportunity to check the quality of the images that I had just shot. When I looked up, the eagle was flying off, and it stayed in the sun as it did. The last time that I saw the eagle, it was riding an updraft to gain altitude without having to flap its wings at all.
There wouldn’t have been an updraft for the eagle without the sunshine to heat the ground and the air above it, so I wonder if the eagle had stayed perched there waiting for the sunshine to create the updraft. I know that it warmed up quite a bit as soon as the sun came out for good, and that I remember being jealous of the eagle’s ability to follow the sunshine as the size of the holes in the clouds increased the way that they did that day.
Anyway, I have digressed again, back to the gimbal head and the tripod that I have it mounted on. The tripod is a Benro Com37c, which I would classify as a medium heavy-duty tripod. It’s much sturdier than the Manfrotto tripod that I’ve been using for landscapes, and I was able to purchase it for about half price while it was on sale through B&H Photo. It doesn’t have a center post to use to adjust the height, I have to do that through the angle of the legs and how far I extend them. I believe that not having a center post is one of the things that makes it so steady in use.
One added bonus to the Benro tripod is that it has a hook under where the center post would be if it had one, and I can hang my second long lens/camera set-up from that hook. It makes the tripod even more stable, and then I don’t have to set the second long lens set-up on the ground as I use the one that’s mounted on the gimbal head. If I hadn’t been reviewing my photos when the eagle took off, I would have snatched the second long set-up off from the hook, and used it to shoot a few images of the eagle taking off.
I could have mounted the gimbal head to the Manfrotto tripod that I already had, as it’s a fine tripod, but I don’t think that it would have been as solid as the Benro is. Also, the gimbal head works great with my long lenses for the way that I shoot with them, but I don’t think that the gimbal head would work as well for landscapes. Besides, I can see that there will come a time when I have the Manfrotto tripod set-up shooting landscapes, and the Benro tripod and gimbal head set-up for shooting wildlife at the same time.
An update. I got the excellent price on the Benro tripod that I did because it was being discontinued. That’s also why I was I was able to get the Manfrotto tripod that I’ve been using for a few years now. I really lucked out when it came to shopping for tripods, I now have two high quality carbon fiber tripods and I paid about what I would have paid for either of them if I hadn’t gotten them on sale.
In my never-ending playing with my camera gear, I used my 100 mm macro lens for this image.
If only there wasn’t the reflection of a second gull in that image, oh well, I learned a lot while shooting both perched and flying gulls with the macro lens.
Another week has gone by, and this past weekend was wet, cold, and windy. What’s notable about these images is that they turned out as well as they did in very poor conditions for photography, even the ducks looked as if they hated the weather at times.
You can see the rain drops beading up on the shoveler’s back.
I think that ducks are some of our most colorful and beautiful birds, but with many species, you have to see their wings to fully appreciate their beauty, which means photographing them in flight. I wasn’t very hopeful when I saw that more species were returning in their full breeding plumage, but despite the low-light, I gave it a shot.
With the 7D Mk II and the lenses that I have now, getting birds in flight is much easier, not only ducks, but raptors like this northern harrier as well.
I was able to shoot a few much better photos of another recent addition to My Photo Life List, the northern shrike.
That brings me to a species of bird which has just returned for the summer, but isn’t colorful at all. They are fun to watch however, and I missed them while they were gone.
They use their oversized lobed feet as ducks use their webbed feet for swimming, but the coots are also able to wade in soft mud as well. They don’t fly unless forced to, so it’s a little unusual to see them with their wings spread.
That one was using its wings for balance as it climbed up on the rocks.
Give them a little food, and they look so happy.
A few weeks ago, I shot this photo of a horned lark showing its horns.
And this past weekend, I got the quintessential image of a male red-winged blackbird staking out his territory.
The time has come for me to put a hold on purchasing any more camera gear for a while, and instead, to get some type of portable blind to hide in and also some camouflaged clothes so that I can get closer to my subjects.
As if by magic, I found a portable hide designed for photographers and have ordered one. I don’t know if I’ll have the chance to try it this coming weekend or not, the forecast for the weekend is looking very good right now. If it turns out to be as nice as predicted, I’m planning on doing some doing some longer walks at some of the better birding locations in the Muskegon State Game area.
I suppose that I’ll have to give the new hide a try, since the one that I ordered is made for photographers that move around quite a bit. It’s not much more than a tarp with an opening for the lens to stick through, and a mesh opening to look through to spot the subject. It folds into a carrying pouch that you can wear on your belt if so inclined and weighs less than three pounds. The one that I ordered is the right colors for spring or fall, and if it works out well, I may eventually order a second one in white for our snowy winters here in Michigan.
Most of all, I’m looking forward to getting out in nice weather for a change, and the forecast is looking good for that right now. For the last month or more, if it was warm on a weekend, it was cloudy and gloomy, if there was good light, it’s been cold. The forecast for the upcoming weekend is for slightly above average temperatures and sunny skies, something I’ve not had since last fall.
Also if by magic, since my last post where I complained about not having enough time to blog, I’ve been getting home an average of an hour earlier than I was when I wrote that post. That still doesn’t leave me a lot of time to work on my blog, it’s still more time than I used to have. And, I still don’t have time to make it outside during the week. So, I’m really excited about having two good days to be out and about for a change.
I shouldn’t have typed that last paragraph, since I did, work has gone back to the way that it was before, leaving me just enough time to eat, sleep, and do the other things required just to survive. Still, I’m looking forward to a full weekend of being outside starting tomorrow.
Well, it’s Sunday morning as I type this, and Saturday was every bit as nice as they had predicted. Although, the day did begin well below freezing, so I began with some drive by birding at the Muskegon County wastewater facility as I have been doing. The light was so good that I installed a polarizing filter to the 400 mm lens to shoot ducks in flight. The polarizing filter helps to cut the glare coming off from the water, but it seemed to shift the colors of the ducks that I shot. Look at the colors on this northern shoveler’s wings…
…compared to the photos earlier in this post.
Also, nice weather brought out a lot of birders, keeping most of the birds well out of range of my camera. Still, I was having fun trying to get good shots of ducks in flight.
I hate to brag, but I’m getting better all the time. However, there are still times when the birds won’t cooperate. I saw this pair of hooded mergansers, and tried to get a photo with both of them looking back at me at the same time, this was the best that I could do.
Then, there are the wood ducks. Getting close to one out in the open is tough enough to begin with, then, they have so many colors in so many places, that it’s hard to get an image showing all those colors in one shot.
That one shows the purple on the back of the duck’s head, but then you can’t see how colorful its face is.
That one does a better job of showing the duck’s face, but then you can’t see the purple on the back of his head. It’s going to take perfect lighting at the perfect angle to fully capture all the colors of a male wood duck, so I’ll keep trying.
Once it had warmed up, I went to the headquarters of the Muskegon State Game Area, but there were some people target shooting there. they were set-up so that they were shooting right at the best birding trail, so I left. My next stop was Lane’s Landing, but by that time, most of the birds were taking their afternoon siesta, and I saw very few birds, and none close enough for a photo. I hope to do better today.
Sunday turned out to be a pretty good day, I could fill a post with the photos that I shot today, but I’ll stick to the notable ones, starting with another lifer for me, a rusty blackbird.
I came across a small flock of them in a swamp near the Muskegon River as I was scouting for places to use the new portable hide when it arrives, and I managed to get that one good image, plus another not so good image of one of the flock.
The rusty blackbird looks a lot like a common grackle, but the common crackle has a much longer tail as you can see here.
I also got my first photos ever of a bird that I used to see quite often when I hunted, an American Woodcock.
They’re an odd-looking bird, their eyes are so far back on their head that they can see behind themselves.
They also have a flexible bill that they use to probe the soil for worms, and they constantly bob up and down as they walk. They are considered a shorebird even though they are seldom found near a shore, other than a small inland lake from time to time.
With the photos of those two species, I am now two-thirds of the way through the list from the Audubon Society that I’m working from as I try to photograph every species of bird seen regularly in Michigan. Not bad, it’s only taken me a few years to make it this far, now I need some time to be able to catch up in posting to the series of posts that I’m doing as I continue to cross new species off from the list. But, that would probably take away time that I could use in search of more species to cross off from the list.
I know that my ramblings about working on the My Photo Life List bore some people, but it’s one of the best things that I have ever undertaken. It helps to keep my eyes and my mind sharp as search for new species, and how to identify birds quickly. It’s improved my skills as a photographer as I often have to shoot under less than ideal conditions when I first see a new species. I’m learning to be more patient as a scan a flock of birds to see if there are any different species “hiding” within a flock of birds. Mostly, I’m learning how diverse birds are, how beautifully marked many of what are considered plain birds are, such as the woodcock, and I’m also learning much more about the state that I live in, Michigan, as I search out the correct habitats for the birds that I need to find yet.
Moving on, some of the insect-eating birds have returned from down south, including the eastern phoebe…
…and eastern bluebirds.
At one point, the swallow was discouraging the bluebird from using one of the nesting boxes people have installed in the area, but they were too far away from me to get any photos of that.
I did get photos of two buffleheads fighting over a female.
I shot close to 100 photos of them going at it, but I’ll just post that one.
I added to my collection of good photos of ducks in flight, or I suppose that I should say, ducks landing.
This will be too many photos for this post, but I have to use them all. Male Bufflehead are quite comical in the way that they land as they are trying to impress females.
After they hit the water, they ride on top of the water as tall as they can make themselves look.
Until they run out of steam, and slip straight down into the water.
It’s fun to watch them as they run across the water to build up speed so that they can skate on top of the water until they sink, then surface, bobbing their heads up and down, all to impress a female nearby. One of these days, I’m going to be in the right position and in the right circumstances to shoot a good video of them going at it.
Well, that’s about it for this post, but I’m going to throw in one last photo that shows that spring has finally arrived here in Michigan.
It’s so good to step outside and here all the birds that have returned singing away in the mornings, and it gets better each day as more birds arrive.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
I’ve been working on this post for weeks now, during the few moments when I have a chance to do anything with it. My work schedule allows me about an hour to myself in the morning, and that includes eating breakfast and getting dressed for work. On many evenings I have about an hour or a little more to myself, and that includes making supper and doing dishes after I eat. The only part of the week when I have any free time at all is on the weekends and that’s my time to be out shooting photos, editing them when I get home, adding keywords, and all the other things that I need to get done since I have no time during the work week.
Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been commenting on your blog posts, it isn’t that I didn’t enjoy the posts, but I simply have no free time for myself the way that my current work schedule is.
So, I am going to take a break from blogging for a while, until my schedule changes so that I have more time for both my blog and all of yours’. My schedule should change late this spring, about the time that I take my vacation in the middle of May, as the parts that I carry won’t be used on the next year’s model of car.
I may whip out a few of the posts on species of birds for the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on, since I’m so far behind doing those posts. If I do publish any of those posts, I’ll turn off the comments and likes, since those posts are rather boring to most people anyway. I know who the readers are who actually appreciate those posts whether they comment or like the post anyway, and that way I won’t feel as obligated to keep up with their posts on their blogs, as I simply don’t have the time right now.
I really don’t want to take a break right now, as with the weather improving and the light getting better, I’m back to shooting some very good images again.
So for now, it’s back to the post that I have been working on for a while.
The temperatures have been up and down around here over the past two weeks, with some days feeling like early spring, and others feeling like the middle of winter. It snowed here most of the day on Saturday, but by Sunday afternoon, it was feeling and looking like spring again.
Other than the dramatic change in the weather between Saturday and Sunday this weekend, the big news was how many species of birds are returning from their winter homes already.
I’m really looking forward to this spring, and trying to improve my photos even more than what I have already. One group of birds that I’m going to focus on early is waterfowl, mainly ducks.
I can see that I’m going to have a lot of fun shooting the ducks in flight, both for their beauty and to show how different species make it airborne. For example, the male ring-necked duck in these next two photos was able to launch itself into the air without a running start. However, the lesser scaup that it was hanging out with need a running start to build enough speed to get off the water.
So, the ring-necked duck was staying low and close to the scaup as you can see better in this photo. You can also see that the two species look similar, but between the way that they take off and the differences in their bills, it’s really quite easy to tell them apart in a good photo.
Here’s a for the record photo, a lone trumpeter swan on a frozen farm pond…
…because it’s unusual to see a lone swan since they mate for life, you almost always see at least two together most of the time. This may have been a young male looking for a territory to call its own.
I was afraid that my blog would end up being just gulls…
…with an occasional bird of another species once in a while.
But with the return of more species of birds every day, that shouldn’t happen.
Another week has gone by, and I’ve had very little time to work on this post. My work schedule leaves me with no time for blogging except for on the weekends, and then I’d rather be out shooting photos than writing about shooting photos. This past week was worse because I had that nasty cold which caused me to need more sleep, but it’s been the same since I started this run in January. All that I have time for during the week is to eat, sleep, and work.
My plan for over the winter had been to post a few of the species of birds that I have saved for the My Photo Life List project that I’ve been working on, but I haven’t had the time to do any of those posts along with my regular posts. That’s too bad in a way, for I have been finding a few new to me species of birds this winter, like this lesser black-backed gull that I found on Saturday.
And, I was able to better images of an adult glaucous gull also…
…if I remember correctly, my best photos of that species were of a juvenile, so I can update the post for that species with good images of an adult.
As with most things, I jumped into that project without thinking through everything that it entails, such as looking at thousands of gulls…
…to find the two odd individuals from within that huge flock of mostly ring-billed and herring gulls. On the other hand, I’ve been learning so much from taking on that project about birds, photography, and myself, that I’m extremely happy that I decided to tackle it. Who knew that common gulls like the ring-billed go through a breeding plumage phase?
And, getting good photos of a bird in question makes it easier to properly identify which species it is. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a greater black-backed gull, so I assumed that the lesser black-backed from above was also a greater, until I got good photos. Then, I saw that the gull in question has yellow legs, making it a lesser black-backed gull, since greater black-backed gulls have pink legs. If I had been working from just my memories of the bird in question, I wouldn’t have been able to make a positive ID.
Okay, the only way that I wrote the introduction to this post where I explained that I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a while is by bringing my Macbook Pro with me while working, and typing while the trailer is being unloaded and then reloaded again.
I’m going to throw in a few more of my most recent photos to finish this off.
By the way, I shot another video of northern shovelers in a feeding frenzy, and it’s the best video that I’ve shot to date.
I should have, but didn’t, use my newest acquisitions to shoot that video. With all that I’ve been working lately, I’ve been able to afford a very sturdy but simple tripod and a gimbal head to go on the tripod. After much soul-searching, I went with a cheap off brand of gimbal head, only after having tested it out in the store with my birding set-up mounted on the gimbal head. While I’m sure that the head that I purchased wouldn’t be good enough for one of the monster long lenses that I’ll never be able to afford, it seems to be adequate for the medium length lenses that I have.
I also shot this image of a goose after it had fallen through thin ice and was on its way to catch up with the rest of the flock that had flown across the ice.
I was surprised how easy it is to follow a moving subject the very first time that I used the gimbal head, it will only get better in the future. In some ways, it’s easier to follow the motion of a subject with the tripod and gimbal head supporting the camera, allowing me to concentrate on tracking the subject in a nice smooth manner. That’s because I’m not dealing with my own wobbling around, the camera and lens are steady on the gimbal head making it easier to pan with the subject’s motion.
The gimbal head on the tripod will also come in very handy once I begin doing more of my photography from a blind or hide. That’s because the camera/lens can be balanced on the gimbal head so that the lens stays pointed where ever I want it pointed. So, I can leave everything set-up pointed in the general direction that I plan to shoot in, rather than having to set the camera down all the time because it’s too heavy to hold up all the time.
I didn’t use a hide or the new gimbal head, but I did sit stationary waiting for many of the small songbirds in this post, including these.
While these are good, I’m sure that if I were in a hide and had the camera all set-up on the gimbal head/tripod that I’d be able to do even better.
Like I said, I should have used the tripod for the video, but I had gulls flying overhead all the time, doing what gulls are known to do, as in pooping in flight so often that I had to wash my car on my way home, so I decided not to risk getting pooped on myself, since I can’t use the tripod and gimbal head inside of my Subaru.
You can be sure that I’ll continue to play with the new tripod/head set-up, just as I continue to play with lenses and settings.
A while back, I wrote that I had come up with new bird in flight settings based on using the manual mode, those settings worked so well that I’ve been using the manual mode more often lately for both flying and perched birds.
Shooting in manual works best if I’m shooting the same or very similarly colored species of birds multiple times, so that I can get the exposure perfect for the birds. Then, it doesn’t matter if the background changes from light to dark or vice versa, the bird is exposed correctly most of the time.
I also used that photo to make another point, since I shot it with the 70-200 mm lens, you can see much more of the background due to the use of the wider lens. Most of the time a longer lens works better to reduce distractions in the background, but there are times when I like the wider view better. What I should have done is to have used the 100 mm f/2.8 macro lens for that shot, not that I needed the added focal length, but so that I could have used a smaller aperture to blur the background more. But, I’m not used to getting that close to my subjects.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
I may as well start at the beginning for a change, since it’s rare that one of my first photos of a day is also one of best, unless it’s a sunrise photo.
With the eagle perched there and willing to pose for me, I switched camera bodies and long lens/tele-converter set-ups to shoot this one.
As I sat there watching the eagle, it assumed an aggressive posture to warn away other raptors, letting me know that another raptor was in the area.
It turned out that a red-tailed hawk that was being mobbed by crows had landed in the same tree as the eagle. I didn’t get a good shot of the hawk though, here’s the best that I could do.
If the hawk thought that landing near an eagle would discourage the crows, it was mistaken, for the crows paid no attention to the eagle, and the eagle paid no attention to the crows.
The eagle was focused on the hawk, and giving the hawk “the look”, which meant that the eagle thought that the hawk should move on.
It wasn’t long before the hawk took off, taking its entourage of crows with it, leaving the eagle by itself again.
Some of those were shot with the new 7D body, some with the older one. Some were shot with the 100-400 mm lens and 2 X tele-converter, some with the 400 mm lens and the same tele-converter. In good light, both set-ups are about equal as far as image quality.
I had very high hopes for the day, there was great light, very light winds, but very few birds. I saw very few mallards or Canada geese on Saturday, I have no idea where they had all moved to. I did find gulls to practice on though.
I was using the newer body with the 100-400 mm lens with the 1.4 X tele-converter for these next two. That set-up works great when I get very close to birds, I can zoom out to get the entire bird…
…or zoom in for a head shot.
I used the same set-up to get the best images of a snow bunting that I’ve ever shot.
They may not have the wow factor of some other species of birds, but I love their markings…
…and it was nice of this one to do its yoga exercises while I was shooting photos.
They’ve created a short nature trail at the Muskegon County wastewater facility, and so I walked it on Saturday for the first time. I missed the other birds because I was trying for only very good images, but I did get a chickadee…
…if I had been quicker, I may have gotten a shot of it as it tried to perch on my hat, but I had to settle for this one.
Stepping out of the woods and into one of the fields, I was greeted by two red-tailed hawks hunting together, probably a mated pair.
I had very high hopes for this weekend, as you can see in my photos so far, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky most of the time. However, two things limited the number of images that I shot. One was a lack of birds at the wastewater facility, and the other is that I’ve come down with a nasty cold or the flu. It’s hard to get close to birds when your nose is running all the time, and you’re coughing and sneezing most of the time as well. Yesterday, Sunday, I started at the Muskegon Lake Nature preserve hoping to sneak up on a few of the smaller birds there, but between how much noise I was making due to the cold, and just how cruddy I felt, I had to give it up and return to the wastewater facility where I could do most of my birding from my Subaru. I saw some promising signs that the waterfowl are returning, however, they stayed well out of camera range.
I must apologize to the people whose blogs I follow and comment on also, I’ve had a headache for the past three days which only gets worse when I try to comprehend what they have written. I’ll try to get caught up once I’m feeling better.
It’s now Tuesday morning, and this cold is still kicking my butt. That hasn’t been helped by returning to work yesterday. The hardest thing to deal with is trying to get enough sleep with the long hours that I have to work. At least I got a nap yesterday while waiting for the truck to be unloaded then reloaded on the other side of the state. I’ll probably do the same thing today.
Anyway, I’m going to throw in a few more photos that don’t require any comments from me, then call it good for this post.
It may take me a while before I’m able to catch up on every one else’s posts, and the same will apply to comments that people may leave to this post also. Last night, I came home, ate supper, did the dishes, and went straight to bed, I’ll probably do the same tonight the way that I feel right now.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
It was another mostly dreary weekend, that is for all of Saturday and most of Sunday. I went to a local park that I hadn’t been to in a while on Saturday, then went to the Muskegon County wastewater facility on Sunday. It was Sunday afternoon when gale force winds finally blew the clouds away to give me the best light that I’ve had for photography since the end of November.
I’ve shot more interesting photos of a Canada goose before, but I think that the photo above is the best technically as far as sharpness and exposure. The goose appears to pop out of the background, almost to the point of looking as if I combined two photos into one. That was shot with the 400 mm prime lens.
Unfortunately, because of the extremely strong winds, all the birds were hunkered down to stay out of the wind. They were having such a difficult time flying that I didn’t have the heart to try to get close to them which would make them take flight. But, in the few photos that I did shoot, I realized that I’ve just been killing time while waiting for good light all of this past winter.
The two days this past weekend couldn’t have been more different. On Saturday, it was cool and a bit foggy, with just a hint of a breeze now and then. Rather than walking in the park closest to me as I usually do, I went a few miles away to Palmer Park, which I used to walk on a regular basis. However, the trail that I most wanted to take was the boardwalk that ran through a swamp and connected trails maintained by Kent County with trails maintained by the City of Wyoming, Michigan. The last few times I walked there, the boardwalk was closed due to damage caused by flooding, mostly to the footings that held the boardwalk up over the swamp. But, rather than repair the boardwalk, I found that it had been ripped out completely.
I also found that most of the birds were feeding high in the tops of trees. We had a couple of very windy days towards the end of last week, and I believe that the birds were taking advantage of there being no wind to look for food in the tops of trees. I even walked the trail that runs right on the edge of the park, where there are houses right next to the trail, with many of the homes having bird feeders in the backyard. I didn’t see a single bird on any of the many feeders that I saw. Most of our winter resident birds use bird feeders, but they don’t live on seeds alone, they eat mostly insects in the wild, and I think that’s what they were doing on Saturday.
That’s the only photo that I shot of a bird other than a few mallards which I’ll get to later. Because of the weather conditions and the light, it wasn’t worth shooting any other photos of birds in the treetops. It was very nice to hear them and watch them at times, but any photos would have been as bad as the one above.
I chose to walk Palmer Park because I knew that there would be other things to photograph besides birds, and that I’d also be able to try out the 100-400 mm lens on subjects that would require that I used its ability to focus up close. The strength of the 300 mm lens is that it functions almost like a macro lens because it focuses at such a short distance. According to the specifications, the 100-400 mm lens should focus as well as close as the 300 mm lens. I’m not convinced that it does though, it doesn’t seem to be as sharp as the 300 mm lens up close.
Before I get to the photos, I’ve been reading Allen’s blog, New Hampshire Garden Solutions, for years now, and I still can’t identify any of the mosses, fungi, or lichens that I see. Still, I find them both beautiful and interesting, and good subjects for photography.
It must be that this winter suits this moss quite well, as I’ve never seen so many of the spore bearing parts of moss as I saw here.
I’m probably wrong, but I think these are turkey tails.
I tried and failed to get them all in focus at the same time, but I still like this photo.
I’m afraid that this tree isn’t long for this world, as I say, I don’t know much about fungi, but this looks deadly to the tree to me.
The tree is almost 18 inches in diameter, and the entire side was covered with the fungus, here’s a closer look at it.
It’s hard to believe that I almost missed this very brightly covered one, but it was hiding in a difficult to get to spot.
Maybe my photos would have been better if it hadn’t been this kind of day.
You never know what critters you’ll find in the woods if you look hard enough.
Speaking of spring, I have no idea what this plant is, but it looks as if it’s getting ready to bloom.
I spent some time admiring the artwork produced by insects in a fallen log…
…and looking for a good background to shoot these alder catkins.
I found a few mallards in one of the small ponds, and was all set to catch them at take off. However, they refused to take flight while I was ready, they walked back into the reeds that surround the pond. I gave up waiting, but as I began to walk away, then they burst into flight. I was lucky, one pair circled me before moving on to the next pond.
I suppose that those aren’t too bad considering the conditions, dreary and a bit foggy, but compare them to this one from Sunday when I finally had some good light for a change.
Have I said that I love the 7D Mk II and the way that it can track flying birds?
It took me a little over a year to fully understand how to get the auto-focusing system set-up for what and how I shoot, but it was worth it! This was shot with the new 400 mm prime lens, as were the mallards in good light just above.
I learned something again on this day, I had thought that the 400 mm prime lens wasn’t as good as the 100-400 mm lens is in tracking birds in flight, but it all depends on the light. With good light, the 400 mm lens does just fine, since I got a good focus lock on the kingfisher while it was in the open, the 400 mm lens continued to track it as it flew through some cattails.
It stayed locked onto the kingfisher as it prepared to land on one of the cattails…
…but even at ten frames per second, I didn’t catch the actual landing…
…and I had to settle for these.
That’s when I knew that I’ve been just killing time, waiting for better light for photography!
This series also makes me realize that all of the money that I’ve spent on better photo gear and the time that I’ve put into learning how to get the best out of it has all been worth it as well. There are two reasons that I’ve been working so hard to improve my photos, one is to capture action series like the one above, the other is to get better images to help me identify birds.
In my last post, I showed the differences between a crow and a raven, in this post, I’ll show the differences between a juvenile bald eagle…
…and a juvenile golden eagle.
The first clue was actually behavior, the golden eagle was hunting over a field the same way that a hawk would, gliding over the field and pausing to hover over one spot from time to time as it looked for lunch. Bald eagles seldom hunt that way, they prefer to perch and keep an eye out for prey.
The second clue is the golden brown feathers on the neck of the golden eagle, barely visible in this shot, but they are what gave the golden eagle its name.
The next clue is that the white on the underside of the golden eagle’s wings are in more of a distinctive pattern, rather than the mottled white of the juvenile bald eagle.
Then, there are their beaks, the bald eagle has a massive beak that joins its face above its eye, while the golden eagle has a smaller beak that meets its face below its eye.
Finally, there’s the white band on the golden eagle’s tail, young bald eagles may show some white on their tails, but never in a distinct band like the golden eagle has.
I’ve had a couple of very long days at work this week, but this weekend is supposed to be a fantastic early spring weekend with warm temperatures and plenty of sunlight. I sure hope so, as I’ve been getting ready mentally all week-long since I saw the forecast. The very long work days have meant that I haven’t had much time to work on this post, and the warm sunny weekend that they forecast is here. So, here’s the rest of the photos that I shot this past weekend.
And with those, I’m out of here. I’m going to finish the last of my coffee, and get out there in the sun to shoot a few good photos for a change.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
In my last post, I had a terrible photo of a male horned lark, the only reason that I included it was because he was singing his spring song. The very next day, Sunday, I heard this little guy singing his spring song also!
It was nice of him to take a split second off from trying to find something to eat to pose so nicely for me. Maybe it was because the sun came out as I was photographing him, and that prompted him to stop and sing a few bars in the warmth of the sun.
I am so spoiled by my camera gear these days, and I’ve learned what sounded like overkill when I heard that the 7D Mk II had 65 focus points does indeed make it easier to get a better image.
So does getting closer…
…and even closer.
That’s where having so many focus points comes in handy, I was able to put one of them on the squirrel’s eye so that its eyes were perfectly in focus. Those were shot at 400 mm and were not cropped at all. So, if I had left the one focus point that I used in the center, the composition wouldn’t have been as good and I would have had more empty space in the image. It may look like I used the single focus point in the center, but I moved it up one row, and shifted it two to the right for that image.
I shot this one at 170 mm and didn’t crop it…
…but I don’t like that image as well because you can see the reflection of snow in the squirrel’s eye as well as my own reflection if I were to zoom in on the image. I like this one better, even though the light wasn’t as good.
I suppose that the reason that I’m so impressed by how useful all of the 65 focusing points available in the 7D is that there is so much hype in the marketing of cameras and lenses that when I find out that something that I thought was just hype turns out not to be, it sticks in my mind.
I had made a mistake the previous day. In my testing the 100-400 mm and 400 mm lenses indoors, the 400 mm lens outperformed the 100-400 mm lens by a wide margin as far as sharpness. So, I tried the 400 mm lens with the 1.4 X tele-converter behind it for all of my bird portrait shots that day. However, in my indoor tests, I was manually focusing on a subject that didn’t move, and had nothing around it to distract the auto-focusing system as there often is when shooting in the real world.
Since my indoor tests, I’ve noticed that the 400 mm prime lens doesn’t auto-focus as quickly or as accurately as the 100-400 mm zoom lens does, and on top of that, even once the 400 mm prime lens does focus on a subject, it is still prone to hunting for a focus even after that, unlike the 100-400 mm lens which locks on a subject and stays locked in.
That’s the reason that the photo of the horned lark singing came out as fuzzy as it is.
On the other hand, when there’s nothing around a subject to distract the auto-focusing system, the 400 mm prime lens with the tele-converter does extremely well.
Also, with the proper settings for both the camera and the lens, the 10-400 zoom lens does extremely well for birds in flight.
What that all means is that I’m not going to be able to dedicate one of the two lenses to birds in flight, and the other to portrait shots as I had planned. I’m going to have to size up the situation and choose which of the two lenses will perform the best under the conditions at the time. That’s not all bad though, it’s great to have two lenses that perform as well as these two do.
To some degree, that means that I have to take that into account as far as the way that I set-up each of the two 7D bodies as well. Fortunately, because of how versatile and programmable the 7D is, that won’t be a huge problem either.
Anyway, here’s the rest of the photos that I shot on Saturday at the wastewater facility near Muskegon.
And, here are the rest of the photos from Sunday around home.
I have my next order for camera gear ready to submit as soon as my income tax refund clears my bank account. This order will be accessories for the second 7D, memory cards, a screen protector, extra batteries, and a battery grip. I thought about doing without the battery grip, but in using one body with a grip and the second without, I almost have to add a grip to the second body. I really miss the extra support that I can give the camera with the battery grip on it, no matter which way I have the camera orientated. That’s another of those things that seem like overkill until you’ve tried it.
You may wonder what my hurry is, I’m going on vacation in the middle of May and I want to be as fully prepared for the week as I can possibly be. Last year, I was using the 300 mm lens with the 1.4 X tele-converter most of the time, and that set-up was the pits for the small birds like warblers that stay in the brush most of the time. I had to switch over to the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) to get a set-up that could catch those smaller birds. But then, my photos of the larger birds in flight didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped because the Beast simply does not do well when the subject is in motion.
Based on what I’ve seen from my two new longer lenses so far, the 100-400 mm lens will be the one that I choose when chasing warblers and other small birds. The 400 mm lens will be the one that I choose when I’m shooting larger birds such as eagles, whether stationary or in flight. The beauty of the newer lenses is that either of them will work in a pinch for the subjects that they may not be best suited for.
I got by last year with the limited memory cards and batteries, but again, I want to be fully prepared for this year’s vacation. I may do something else different this year as well. I’m thinking of getting a motel room one for night during the middle of the week so that I have electricity available to recharge the camera batteries, and where I can safely set-up my Macbook pro and download the photos that I’ve shot so far that week to make it easier to keep the photos organized.
Just thinking of my vacation, even though it’s still several months away, has put me into the planning mode. Trying to decide what to bring with me, and what to leave home this year. I do know that the way that I slowed down a little and made sure that I took care of myself last year worked out very well. I may have missed a few opportunities for photographs while I was taking the time to eat real meals, but I’m sure that I made up for that “lost time” later in the week when rather than being run down, I was alert and on the go to the very end of my week up north. I just hope that the weather is half as good as it has been the past few years.
That reminds me, I have a pair of hiking boots that I’ve only worn a few times since I purchased them, and the boots that I’ve been wearing are about worn out. I should switch over now and get used to the new pair before my vacation since I’ll be on my feet most of the time that week.
In the meantime, here’s a few leftovers from last fall.
The next two show the difference between a raven…
…and a crow, mostly the size and shape of their beaks.
I have a number of images of a great egret leftover from when I was fine tuning my settings for birds in flight, this is as good of time as any to use them up.
I have a few from last fall from around home to use up also.
It will be really nice when the sun makes its way higher above the horizon during the day to produce quality light for photography again!
There’s one odd thing that I should mention. When I ordered the second 7D body from B&H Photo, the way that I could get the cheapest price was to purchase the body with some accessories in a bundle, with them choosing the accessories. They were a 4T external hard drive, a 64 MB SD card, and a Lowepro camera backpack. I have set-up the external hard drive as a redundant back-up to the other 4T external drive that I already had. The SD card will come in handy, one can never have too many memory cards, especially when traveling. I haven’t had time to fully check out the backpack, since I already have two, however, this newest one looks as if it could be the one that I end up using most of all. I think that I can get the second body, my macro lens, and my 15-85 mm lens in this newest backpack, and it has room for lunch and a few other items in it as well. I think that it will work well on longer hikes when I take the minimum of gear with me and spend most of a day out in the woods.
But, the odd thing about the accessory package is that there were several hundred dollars worth of stuff in it, but by choosing that option, I got $300 off from the list price of the 7D. It makes no sense to me. I’m sure that B&H chose the items based on their excess stock, at least the items I received will be useful, unlike most of the packages I’ve seen bundled with a camera or lens.
I didn’t order the extra batteries from B&H though, because they have to go in a separate package and the shipping charges were more than I wanted to pay. I can pick up the batteries here locally.
Anyway, I’m about set for my vacation as far as photo gear. As far as my wish list goes, it has gotten much shorter the past few months, and I’m really in no hurry to purchase the items that remain on the list. I can get by quite well with the wide-angle lenses that I currently have for the time being. So, with that out of the way, time for a few more photos from last summer.
That wraps this post up, except for one last thing to say. In a way, it’s pretty sad that I make it out for both days of a weekend, and yet still have to fill the post with mostly leftover images from earlier in the year. Hopefully, that will change as soon as the weather around here improves.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
It’s official, West Michigan was the cloudiest place on Earth last week with not a single minute of sunshine for the entire week. This week is shaping up to be very much the same, but with snow showers rather than the mist, drizzle and rain that we had last week because the temperature has dropped below freezing. I could post the statistics to let you know just how gloomy that it’s been around here, but that would only make me more depressed than I am already about the weather.
I shouldn’t be depressed at all, I just ordered the second Canon 7D Mk II and it should arrive later this week. But, with the weather forecast calling for the same old cloudy skies for the next week, it takes most of the thrill out of looking forward to the camera’s arrival. Still, it will give me time to get the new one fully set-up the way that I want it. The one that I already have will be the bird in flight body, and the new one will be used for bird portraits, landscapes, and macros.
I may sell one of the 60D bodies that I have, but I know that I’ll be keeping one of them as a back-up just in case one of the 7D bodies stops functioning. I thought of selling the beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) but it is a good back-up lens in case something happens to one of my newer lenses. I’d hate to be on a trip somewhere and have an equipment malfunction that would curtail the types of photos that I could shoot, and one never knows when that may happen.
I did some shopping this past Saturday, I picked up a copy of Sibley’s guide to birds so I finally have a good field guide to reference while I’m birding. The store where I got that used to carry binoculars and spotting scopes, but they have stopped carrying those items. So, I also stopped at the camera store, they do sell those items, but they only stock them in their Kalamazoo, Michigan branch, so I couldn’t try any of them out, darn.
I did something stupid while I was there as well, I played with the new Canon 5D Mk IV. I shouldn’t have done that. The low light, high ISO performance of that camera is leaps and bounds above what the cropped sensor 7D can do.
In a recent post, I bemoaned the fact that there’s no good way to be sure of the performance of any item of camera gear, but there is one way. As I’ve also said more than a few times recently, I’m following the North American Nature Photographer’s Facebook page. Not every one that posts there spells out the equipment that they used to get the images that they post, but enough do so that you can learn what stuff works well, and what produces just so-so results. I have to say, that the 5D Mk IV camera produces some stunning images, much better than one would assume it is capable of considering the way that critics panned it when it was released. Maybe someday, right now, I’m about set for camera gear.
Anyway, on to the photos, and I’ll start with sunrise a couple of weeks ago, one of the few days that there was any sunshine at all.
I purposely included more of the rocks in the foreground, for the patterns on them made by the frost. It was a very chilly start to the day. A few minutes later, the colors in the sky grew more intense.
The first image that included the rocks in the foreground was shot with the 60D mounted on my tripod, and is a HDR image of three bracketed images merged together. The second two images were shot with the 7D and 100-400 mm lens because I could tell that the light wasn’t going to stay like that long enough to get set-up for a proper shot. Also, you can see a hint of the haze that formed that day due to how cold it had gotten overnight, and warmer air and sunshine trying to warm things up.
It will be interesting to see how the HDR landscape images produced by the 7D turn out compared to what I get from the 60D. I could be wrong, but I think that the difference will be very small if it’s even noticeable. What I’m really looking forward to is using the 7D for macro photos, I think that there will be more of a difference in image quality then. That’s because of the 7D’s better auto-focusing and high ISO performance over the 60D. I can’t wait until spring when I get to try that combination out.
By the way, I’ve had a new schedule at work for almost a month now, I’m back to working days rather than nights. I’m not sure how long it will last, but it’s a better schedule for now. I have to work more hours, but as bad as the weather has been, that’s not all bad this time of year. In fact, I’m working so many more hours that I don’t have time to do anything other than eat and sleep when I get home. I haven’t had much time to work on my blog, or to leave proper comments on other people’s blog the past few weeks.
Anyway, the second Canon 7D Mk II has arrived, and I was able to take it out for a test yesterday, and should make it out later today. I don’t think that I have all the settings of the new body quite the same as the older body yet, but that will come. It worked out well having one body and long lens set for portraits…
…and the second body and lens set-up for birds in flight at all times, whether it was for a single bird…
…or a flock of birds.
I went almost the entire day without switching lenses or tele-converters, although I did put the 100 mm macro lens on the new 7D body for these.
I know very little about lichens, so I don’t know how many different species of them there are in these photos. For example, I don’t know if the black ones are a different species than the orange ones, I believe that they are from their shape and size, but I’m not sure.
I had some problems shooting those, the wind was very strong yesterday, and the small trees that the lichens grew on were swaying in the wind. I also missed the set-up for the camera slightly for those as well. However, the important thing is that once I’m used to shooting macros with the 7D rather than the 60D, it will be easier, and with better results.
That applies to about everything concerning the new 7D body, I have to remember to set-up Lightroom to make the adjustments to the images automatically from the new body the way that I have it set-up for the other 7D and the 60D bodies also.
I could go on and on about camera and lens settings, but as I’ve said before, every piece of camera equipment has quirks, and one must learn to work around them. That applies to the 7D, and the new 400 mm lens. I will also say that not everything that was true during my indoor tests of that lens holds true when using it in the field.
Anyway, since I don’t have much time, here’s a few more photos from the last three weeks.
I should apologize for the quality of a few of these, but I don’t have the time to explain what I did wrong for each of the poorer photos. Most of the time it was because the light was wrong, for the rest, it was because I was working on those quirks that I have spoken about before.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
You’ve already seen the photos of the snow buntings that I shot last weekend at the Muskegon wastewater facility. I have a few more from that day to get to in a while, but first, some images that I shot around home. It had been a dreary night Saturday as I made the run from here to the Detroit area and back for work, but the forecast was for a nice day ahead. I stopped on the way home from work to grab a bite to eat, then took a nap while waiting for the sun to come out. I awoke to bright sunlight flooding my apartment, but it was already just after noon, not the best time to find birds.
Although the 100-400 mm lens would have been a better choice to carry because of its versatility, I chose to take the new 400 mm prime lens instead, just to see what it could do in good light for the first time since I purchased it.
That was actually one of the last images that I shot, but I think that it represents just how good that 400 mm lens can be. I decided to start with that one because it shows that with a good sharp lens that captures the details of a subject very well it produces an image that begins to take on a three-dimensional look.
I knew that the first photos that I shot yesterday wouldn’t be very good, since the minimum focus distance of the 400 mm lens is so long. I had to crop this first image much more than I would have liked to.
Still, it was nice to see something green for a change.
I’m not sure if it’s because I move the camera a bit as the shutter is going, or if the 400 mm lens needs more time to get a solid focus lock, but I see that I need to work on both. Here’s another robin photo that isn’t as sharp as it should be…
…and here’s the next photo that I shot. You can see that the second is much better as far as sharpness, but the robin’s pose isn’t as good as in the first of these two.
My original plan was to use the 400 mm lens for bird in flight photos, and the 100-400 mm lens for portrait photos, now I’m not as sure about that. The 100-400 mm lens definitely focuses faster than the 400 mm lens, which is better for birds in flight. I had the chance to test the 400 mm lens out again for birds in flight yesterday, for I saw a raptor coming towards me, and I had the time to switch the camera over to the birds in flight settings that I have saved in the camera.
My first few photos in the burst were okay, as you can see by that one and this one.
But the images later in the burst I fired were much better as far as sharpness when the auto-focus had a good solid lock on the merlin.
But by that time, the merlin had changed direction slightly to avoid me, so the light wasn’t quite as good.
You know, I am getting spoiled by what my latest camera equipment is capable of. I would have been very happy with either of the first two images not that long ago, now, I want them all to be as sharp as the last one is. Look at how sharp the eye and the face of the merlin are in that last image, it’s better than I could do on a perched bird a few years ago.
Enough bragging, sort of. The merlin landed towards the top of tree not that far away from me, so I went over to see if I could find an opening through the branches to get a photo of it perched. I shot a few at 400 mm, but then, I slipped the 1.4 X tele-converter behind the lens for this one.
That confirms what my indoor testing from my last post told me, there’s almost no drop-off in image quality when using the 1.4 extender behind the 400 mm lens in good light. It’s hard to see in these small version of the images, but check out the details in the feathers on the Merlin’s forehead and throat in the next image.
The merlin was in no hurry to move on, it even decided to check its talons out for me.
I shot these next two as a test of sorts, to see if there’s any fall-off in performance at greater distances.
Both of those were cropped a lot more than I usually crop an image, just to see if I’d be able to shoot a rare bird at a longer distance and still be able to identify the bird. I think that the verdict is yes.
I don’t normally photograph English sparrows because they are an introduced and invasive species that are displacing some of our native sparrows, but I wanted to shoot as many photos in good light as I could.
I still plan to put the photos from last weekend in this post, but first, I got another species for the My Photo Life List project that I’m working on. It wasn’t easy, and the photos are poor, but by using what I earned about using the 400 mm lens and 2 X teleconverter, I was able to get these photos of a Ross’s goose. I even used my tripod for these, although I couldn’t use live view focusing because the geese were moving as they looked for food.
The Ross’s goose is the smaller one with the shorter neck standing in front of the three snow geese lined up behind it.
I’m now just 4 species short of being two-thirds of the way through the list from the Audubon Society that I’m working from.
I think that I may be becoming a serious birder. As you can see, the Ross’s goose was in a flock of snow geese, just as the greater white-fronted geese were in a huge flock of Canada geese.
Seeing just the orange bill or foot of one of the greater white-fronted geese was enough to make me stay put and continue to scan the flock until I was able to pick the greater white-fronted geese out of the flock.
It was very much the same with the Ross’s geese, I saw two white geese within the flock that appeared to be much smaller than all the others. My first thought was that they may have been juveniles, but I also knew from researching the birds that I still need to complete my list that a Ross’s goose looks like a miniature snow goose, so I continued to keep an eye on the smaller geese in this flock.
I was also very lucky in this instance, there were two other serious birders there watching the same flock through binoculars. After a few minutes, one of them walked back to where I was parked and asked me if I noticed the differences in size, and if I had been able to make a positive identification of the smaller geese. I told him that I had noticed the size difference, but that I hadn’t made a positive ID. We then all got out of our vehicles and setup our tripods, them for their spotting scopes, me for my camera.
As far away from us as the geese were, I couldn’t tell for sure which of the smaller geese were the ones that we thought were Ross’s geese through the viewfinder, so I’d follow one of them, shooting photos hoping to be able to zoom in and tell for sure. I didn’t lock the tripod head solidly, I left it slightly loose so that I could follow the goose that I wanted to photograph as it moved around. This worked very well, keeping the shutter speed fast enough as I would have if I had been shooting handheld.
It helped that the serious birders had a field guide with them, and we could compare the photos that we shot with the field guide. I say the photos that we shot because one of the serious birders had an adaptor that let him mount his iPhone to his spotting scope to shoot photos through the scope. That’s known as digiscoping, and his photos were almost on par with the ones that I shot.
There have been other times in the past when I lucked out and received assistance from a serious birder with a good spotting scope in picking out the species of bird that I was looking for at the time. I may need to consider getting a good spotting scope for myself in the future.
The last three species of birds that I’ve added to my photo life list have been species of geese and all of the species have been in flocks of other species of geese. The cackling geese and greater white-fronted geese were in large flocks of Canada geese, and the Ross’s geese were in with the snow geese. For that matter, most of my photos of snow geese…
…up until this day also had Canada geese in the frame along with the snow geese.
I’ve said in the past that I don’t have the patience to sit there scanning a flock of birds through a spotting scope hoping to find another species within the flock, but that seems to be changing. It helps that in the case of all three species of geese that I’ve found lately, I first noticed the difference with the naked eye, or by scanning the flock through the viewfinder of the camera. I can see that a spotting scope would come in very handy for that.
And, if I’m going to purchase a good spotting scope, then I may as well purchase an adaptor to allow me to mount my camera to it to shoot photos through it as well. At the very least, having a good scope would allow me to ID birds at a distance, then I could decide if the species was worth getting closer to for better photos than I could shoot through the scope.
One thing is certain, I need to pick-up a good field guide to carry with me so that I don’t have to rely on my memory, or the kind gestures of other birders.
It doesn’t really matter what order I post photos in, so I may as well use up the ones from this week before going back to the week before, especially since the first bird that I saw when I arrived at the wastewater facility was this snowy owl.
The fog made photography difficult just after sunrise, but at least the owl had its eyes open then. I tracked it down later in the day when there was slightly better light for this photo.
That was another test of sorts, I used the 400 mm lens on one of the 60D bodies to see how well it would work for bird portraits. There’s not much difference in image quality between the 60D and the 7D Mk II when using just the 400 mm lens, but the auto-focusing of the 60D can’t hold a candle to what the 7D can do. I can’t even auto-focus with just the 1.4 X tele-converter and the 400 mm lens on the 60D.
I returned later when the light had improved a little more to shoot these with the 400 mm lens and 2 X extender on the 7D.
The better the light is, the more they close their eyes and squint as they look around.
I said that the snowy owl was the first bird that I saw that day, here’s the second.
Dense fog, and I shoot photos of a white bird, and a black bird, but that’s me, always pushing to get photos no matter how poor conditions are at the time.
The same applies to this juvenile red-tailed hawk.
Actually, I’m impressed by how sharp that one is despite the fog. The same can’t be said for this photo as the hawk took off though.
If only there had been some light and fewer branches for that one. I have to be careful what I wish for, because I found another red-tailed hawk later…
…but that was shot near the landfill, and you can see the trash in the background. By the way, the hawks don’t seem to go for the scraps of food in the landfill as the gulls, crows, and eagles do, I never see them on the ground as they would be if they did. They appear to be hunting rodents that just happen to live near the landfill, that applies to the rough-legged hawks as well.
This is the artsy attempt of the day.
I suppose that I could use up the previous week’s photos, but I think that I’d rather go further back in time to last summer to use these photos up instead. That’s just to remind me that this winter won’t last forever, and that it won’t be long until I can photograph these subjects again, but better.
After a week of warmer temperatures, but with almost constant fog, mist, drizzle or rain, this week has been very depressing. I needed to see a few images from when the weather was nicer.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Since my work schedule has me up in the wee hours of the morning, and it’s too cold to spend much time outside even after the sun comes up, I was sitting around thinking about photography and how to improve the images I shoot. These days, I almost always use a tripod for landscape photos, so that I can dial the ISO down to 100 for the best image quality, and let the shutter stay open as long as necessary, since landscapes don’t generally move to blur the image.
That was shot on my way to the Muskegon County wastewater facility well before the sun came up. I know that because here’s the view that I had as the sun came over the horizon once I had arrived at the wastewater facility.
That scene lasted for only a few seconds, long before I could get somewhere for a better shot of the sunrise, the color was gone.
It turned out to be another very slow day as far as photography, I shot a couple of more snow scenes.
On this day, instead of shooting only fair photos of flying Canada geese, I shot fair photos of mallards in flight as soon as there was enough light to do so.
I suppose that those aren’t too bad considering how gloomy it was and that they were all shot with the ISO set to 6400 trying to get enough light into the camera. I did find a few eagles, only one perched though, and it was in a bad spot.
There was a flock of crows on the other side of the road keeping their eyes on the eagle, here’s one of them.
A brief thin spot in the clouds allowed me to shoot this mourning dove at 800 mm, the 400 mm lens plus the 2 X tele-converter.
In fact, I spent most of the day practicing my manual focusing techniques with that combination.
Those were the best that I could do yesterday, and I saw no point in going back today, which is Monday as I begin this post. By the way, none of the photos from the morning dove on were cropped at all, that’s why I’m trying to get better with the 400 mm lens with the 2 X tele-converter behind it.
Instead, I decided to do some indoor testing relating to the thoughts that I began this post with, how for landscapes, I use a tripod and can therefore set the ISO much lower. At first I couldn’t think of a suitable indoor subject for such a test. Over the past few winters, I’ve used a few different ones indoors as I experimented with my macro lens, my wide-angle lenses, or the extension tubes that I have. None of the subjects that I used for those tests really represented birds or wildlife well, even though one of the test subjects was a rubber ducky. The problem with it for testing is that it doesn’t have the fine detail of a real bird’s feathers. Then it hit me, I have a stuffed animal that an ex-girlfriend gave me 40 years ago.
That was shot with the 100-400 mm lens set to 400 mm, the camera ISO set to 100 and a several second exposure.
I learned a good deal in my testing, some of the things that I learned surprised me, but one thing that didn’t was that the 100-400 mm lens isn’t quite 400 mm even when zoomed all the way. That was confirmed when I switched to the 400 mm lens.
I hadn’t moved the dog or my tripod, yet the 400 mm lens gets a little closer than the 100-400 mm lens does. It’s common for zoom lenses not being quite the focal lengths that they are rated as.
But, here’s where the subject of image quality gets tricky. When I zoomed in on the stuffed dog’s eye in Lightroom, the 400 mm prime lens was significantly sharper than the 100-400 mm lens, even though it’s hard to see much difference in the full size photos. But, I prefer the color rendition of the 100-400 mm lens.
One of the things that surprised me right off the bat was how wobbly my tripod set-up is when using the long, heavy lenses. I had to set the shutter release to a two second delay to let everything stop moving before the shutter fired. The tripod legs are steady enough, as well as the head that I have on the tripod, but the quick release system that I have, along with the way that it mounts on the lenses seems to be where all the motion came from.
Also, the three-way head that I have may be rated to carry the weight of the long lenses, but getting aimed at the exact spot I wanted was a pain. I’m already planning to upgrade to a more suitable tripod system for my longer lenses, so that’s not really an issue, but it did open my eyes a little to how important that will be if I do begin using a tripod more often when shooting birds and wildlife.
Neither lens would auto-focus accurately in the low light in my kitchen, in order to get a sharp image, I had to manually focus to get a good sharp image. That led to the next surprise, the 100-400 mm lens is a royal pain in the you know where to manually focus. I think that it’s because of how fast it is to auto-focus, it requires only minute adjustments of the focus ring to make large differences in where it is focused at. I gave up testing that lens, and worked with just the 400 mm prime from there on for the most part. The 400 mm lens is a bit slower to auto-focus, and it requires that I turn the focus ring much more to make significant changes to where it is focused at, much like an old film era lens.
Next up, I added the 1.4 X tele-converter to the 400 mm prime lens. I found that I couldn’t manually focus accurately through the viewfinder, but if I went into the live view mode, and zoomed in on where I wanted the image to be in focus, I could pull off images like this.
That surprised me also, the 1.4 X extender didn’t seem to work well with that lens when I tried it in the field, but there was almost no loss of sharpness when mounted on the tripod.
Of course the next step was to switch to the 2 X extender on the 400 mm prime lens for this image.
There is a little fall-off in sharpness, but it still performed much better than I had expected, and better than cropping an image down to make the subject appear as close. That confirms the limited testing that I’ve done in the field with that lens so far.
I also learned a few things about my Canon 7D Mk II that I didn’t know before I did this testing. I had the ISO set manually to 100 for these test shots, or so I thought. When I went into live view to focus, I would see ISO 16000 appear in the screen while I was focusing. That makes sense, the camera had to turn up the ISO to form the live view image for me to see. Most of the time, I would switch live view off before I pressed the shutter release, but there was one time that I forgot to switch it off. Then, the camera stayed at ISO 16000 even though I have it set in the menu system to never go higher than 12800. But, the results weren’t that bad.
You can’t see the noise in the image as it appears here, but when I zoomed in using Lightroom, I could see the noise then, not as much as I thought there would be, but there was some.
Yet another surprise was that when I forgot to turn off live view before taking the shot is that the camera crops the image slightly as you can see by comparing the last two photos. When I viewed the images in the camera, it showed the entire image with bars across the image, but when the images were sent to Lightroom, all that was sent were the parts of the image within the bars.
I went back and tried the 100-400 mm lens again, using live view, but that was my last surprise, that lens can not match the 400 mm prime lens in sharpness, at least not in this test. I would have guessed that the two lenses were about equal, that’s what I had found from using both in the field. I should repeat this testing someday when there’s good light outside to see if I get the same results.
Having had more time to think about my unscientific testing, I should have turned off the Image Stabilization of the 100-400 mm lens since it was mounted on a tripod. The experts say that isn’t necessary to turn it off, but I always do on my short lenses when I’m shooting landscapes, and it seems to work better.
I did switch the lenses to manual focus while I was manually focusing. Despite what Canon says about manual over-ride, I found that the camera would fight me as I manually focused, and it would attempt to set the focus where it wanted.
Okay then, this very unscientific testing did confirm my original thoughts, that if I were to use a tripod and set the ISO much lower, I can get better quality images that way, if the subject sits still long enough.
It also confirms something that I’ve been thinking about as I read lab reviews of lenses, they don’t always equate into real world results. For example, the 100-400 mm lens failed in what I was trying to do inside, but as I’ve used that lens as I normally do outside, it has stunned me with how good it is. I would have rated it equal to or better than the 400 mm prime lens from the images it has produced in the field. I suppose that lab tests have their place, they tell you how well a piece of camera gear will perform in the lab under controlled conditions.
You can’t trust the reviews done by many of the professional photographers, because many of them either receive some form of compensation from the manufacturers, or are angling to be one of those who receive some form of compensation from the manufacturers.
It’s also hard to trust user reviews as well, since one never knows if the person doing the review is being honest, or if they even know how to use the equipment that they are reviewing.
You could rent a lens for a week or two, but I’m not sure that one would become familiar enough with a lens in such a short period of time. If you were to rent it for a long enough count of time to become sure of its capabilities and shortfalls, you may as well have purchased it in the first place.
The manufacturer’s specifications don’t help much either. For example, many manufacturer’s give a spec for the least amount of light required for a camera to auto-focus, what they don’t tell you is how inaccurate the auto-focus becomes as the amount of light approaches that lowest limit. That’s what happened when I started the test that I did, both lenses seemed to auto-focus, however, the fuzzy photos that I got told me otherwise.
As always, I learned a great deal during this little exercise, about my camera, the lenses, and my tripod system. One thing that still puzzles me though is why there isn’t more noise visible in the image shot at ISO 16000. I have to use Lightroom to remove noise in photos shot at ISO 6400 or higher normally. That one is a real head scratcher.
I’ve heard that Live view focusing is the most accurate, because you are seeing what the sensor actually sees as it’s about to capture the image. You’re not using the focusing screen or relying on an auto-focus sensor to make the determination if the lens is in focus or not. I will say one thing though after this test, just how good the auto-focusing systems are today is amazing, despite their weaknesses.
So, another week has gone by, and I’ve made another trip to the Muskegon wastewater facility. It was a rare, almost sunny day, however a ground inversion in the atmosphere created a haze in the light, scattering it in ways that didn’t lead to the best photos. I tried to get my best images ever of a snow bunting using what I had learned from my indoor testing, but I couldn’t use live view focusing for them because they move around so much. Still, these aren’t bad considering that I was manually focusing the 400 mm lens with the 2 X extender behind it.
I’ll save the rest of the photos from my most recent trip for the next post, I’ll fill this one out with a few more images shot over the summer and fall. Heck, some go all the way back to spring.
Looking at these photos from last year make me wish that spring was here already! It’s been even gloomier here than usual this past week, other than on Sunday when I shot the snow buntings. It’s been warmer since then, which was nice, but the warm air has led to the snow melting, and that in turn has led to foggy days and nights with the moisture from the melting snow in the atmosphere. I am so ready for spring!
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
Well, 2017 started on an optimistic note, nary a cloud in the sky at dawn when I arrived at the Muskegon County wastewater facility.
But as you can see, things are still frozen over around here, although we’ve lost most of the snow that’s fallen so far this winter.
I had high-hopes that I’d be able to test out the new 400 mm lens in good light, and I suppose you could say that I did, but not in the way that I had hoped. Although I tried very hard, I could not get close to a perched bird, not even one of the many starlings there.
I couldn’t even get close to a flying gull.
It’s a pretty pathetic day when that’s the best that I could do as far as flying gulls.
I titled one of my recent posts “I remember my failures”, but I also remember my successes, and I was getting some very good photos last fall before the clouds, snow, and cold set in for the winter, like this one.
It’s very difficult to match that photo when there are few birds around to begin with, and the few species of birds left for the winter are busy trying to stay alive, and don’t have time to pose for me. I think that I need an attitude adjustment, each photo that I shoot doesn’t have to be better than the one that I shot before. Still, there were several times on Sunday when I considered going somewhere else in hopes of finding birds that I could get closer to.
I was even wondering if it was worth it to go to the wastewater facility as often as I do, because I know that I can get better photos at other locations, even if the photos are of fewer species of birds. But, there is one reason for me to keep going back to the wastewater facility, to get photos of species of birds that I have never photographed before. On Christmas Day, I finally got photos of a northern shrike for example.
Anyway, I was a bit bored despite the good light on Sunday, so I decided to test out the new 400 mm lens on a few of the Canada geese flying in and out of the grassy cells, mostly because I couldn’t find any other birds to shoot.
I’m happy to report that the new lens does very well, when I get everything right. The 100-400 mm lens is easier to use, but the 400 mm lens can produce sharper images of birds in flight as you can see. I’m finding that there’s more of a learning curve to the 400 mm lens though.
I shot those photos while I was as close to a huge flock of geese as I could get without causing them to all take off as a flock, and picking and choosing which small flocks to shoot as the smaller flocks came and went.
What I wanted to do was find a way to photograph the entire flock, which numbered in the hundreds, I even shot a few photos as I would a landscape, with a very short lens, but then the geese were nothing but brown lumps in a brown field. I was scanning the flock with the 400 mm lens, trying to find a way to convey just how many geese there were there, when I saw a bit of orange in the flock. At first, I dismissed it as a mallard, but it didn’t look like it was the bill or foot of a mallard, so I kept watching that spot.
That image was cropped, and I don’t know if you can pick out the orange bill of the greater white-fronted goose or not. I still wasn’t sure if I was seeing a mallard or some other species of duck, so I continued to watch that spot, and eventually, two greater white-fronted geese stepped out into the open, here they are at 400 mm and not cropped.
I cropped this next one, also shot at 400 mm.
While those images may have been good enough for me to use in the My Photo Life List that I’m working on, I wanted better photos, so I put the 2 X tele-converter behind the 400 mm lens for these two photos.
Not great, but there’s no doubt that they are greater white-fronted geese, and not a domesticated species that had escaped into the wild. Another species that I can cross off from my list, not a bad way to start the new year.
I would have preferred that I could have isolated just the greater white-fronted geese with none of the Canada geese in the frame, but I had to take what they gave me. Most of the time they were out of sight within the huge flock of Canada geese.
Not to brag, but I still have excellent eyesight, several other serious birders had checked out the flock of Canada geese without seeing the two greater white-fronted geese in the flock. I made the mistake of telling one of the other birders of my find, and it wasn’t long before there were several other cars surrounding me. So, I moved down to the next cell, and found one northern pintail duck hanging out with the mallards and Canada geese.
The pintail is to the left in the frame, I wanted a better photo, but that’s the best I could do.
A little later, I was scanning another portion of the flock of geese, when I spotted another northern pintail, see if you can pick it out of the flock.
Here’s the 800 mm and cropped version.
So, I guess that you could say that I did test out the new 400 mm lens, using it as a 800 mm manually focused lens to pick out individual birds out of the flock. Manually focusing is a pain, especially when the bird is moving, even if the movement is slow.
But, I did have good light, which helped, that’s one of my better photos of that species because I got the green of its head and its small crest in that image. I also got one of my better photos of a gadwall duck.
I’d rather not post photos of bird’s butts as they fly away from me, but there are times when I have little choice.
Maybe someday, I’ll get a really good photo of that species.
The same holds true of the kestrels…
…they’re so small and wary, that I find it impossible to sneak up as close to one as is required for a good photo. You can see that he had already spotted me and was watching intently to see if I’d try to get closer. As I was trying to switch to bird in flight settings, he took off before I could.
Here’s the last three photos from New Years Day.
I knew none of those would be great portraits, it was the light on the water in each photo that made me decide to shoot those.
So, that’s all of my photos from New Years Day, unless I were to bore you with a bunch of photos of the Canada geese in flight, and I’ve already put enough of those photos in this post.
Proofreading this post has made me realize just how spoiled I’ve become, both in the subjects that I shoot, and in the quality of the images that I get. While other than the greater white-fronted geese, the birds in this post may be very common for me to see, they aren’t for most people. And as far as image quality, the Canada geese in flight photos from this post show just how far I’ve come as a photographer the last few years. They’re sharp, in focus, and most of all, exposed properly so that you can see the details in their feathers, both under and on the tops of their wings.
Some of that is due to better equipment, using the 7D Mk II rather than the 60D, and better lenses, but most of the improvement has been because I’m learning how to get the photos that I’ve always wanted.
Probably the biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that every piece of photo equipment has certain quirks in the way that it operates and performs. I could easily do an entire post about the quirks that I’ve found with my gear, but I’ll give you a couple of examples. The 100-400 mm lens shows a wider depth of field at similar settings than the other three long lenses that I own, while the new 400 mm prime lens requires 1/3 to 2/3 stop more light in exposure compensation than my other lenses. I have no idea why those things are true, but they are.
In the past, I’d fight those quirks, thinking that I could force the equipment to perform exactly like the textbook says it should perform, but I’ve learned to accept those quirks and set the camera accordingly. If I’m using the 100-400 mm lens, I simply open the aperture one stop to get the depth of field that I want for an image. If I’m using the 400 mm prime lens, I add that 1/3 to 2/3 stop more light in the exposure compensation to get to the same exposure as my other lenses.
That may be the most important photography tip that I can pass along, learn your equipment and how it operates. Just because some one else uses certain settings to get a great image doesn’t mean that you’ll get the same results at those same settings.
Anyway, after the fairly nice day on New Years Day, we’ve been back in the deep freeze with almost constant snowfall. The snow hasn’t added up to very much, since it’s all been the light, fluffy lake effect snow, but with the clouds and the cold, I haven’t been out at all this week. I even volunteered to work Monday, which is normally a day off for me.
The forecast for this coming weekend is the same, cold, cloudy, and more light snow. So, I guess that I’ll have to fill this post out with photos from last summer and fall. That leads me to one last (for this post) comment on photo gear. Recently I said that purchasing the 300 mm lens was probably a mistake, after giving it more thought, I’ve changed my mind. While it may not be as good for birds…
…as either of my newest lenses, it’s an excellent lens for shooting subjects very close to me, such as flowers.
That lens is also excellent for insects as well.
Up close, the 300 mm lens is as good as any lens I own, it’s only at distances more than 25 feet that its performance begins to drop off. So, when I go somewhere such as Aman Park or Loda Lake to photograph flowers, and of course the insects on the flowers, I can take the 300 mm lens since it’s like a long-range macro lens. The extra distance that I can shoot insects from with the 300 mm lens versus the 100 mm macro lens means that I can get the shot without spooking the insects as I would if I used the macro lens. And, while the 300 mm lens may not be my best lens for birds, it does an acceptable job on birds.
That leads me another one of those quirks I was writing about earlier. According to the specifications, the 100-400 mm lens is supposed to be at least as good as the 300 mm lens at close distances, but in the limited number of times I’ve tried the 100-400 mm lens out on very close subjects, it hasn’t been able to match what I can do with the 300 mm lens.
However, flowers and insects are still several moths away, and thinking about photographing them only makes the current weather outside more miserable, so I’d better end this post now before I whine about the weather even more than I already do.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!
First of all, I hope that every one had a Merry Christmas and that the new year is beginning well for you!
Although I know that I have much more of it to do, for right now, I’m tired of planning for the future and researching camera gear, I want to get out and shoot some good photos!
I have found a few more places to check out when the weather gets better, but there’s something that really irks me that I run into many times when checking out places online. A perfect example of this is the Detroit River International Wildlife Sanctuary, it sounded like a great place to go to find waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds. The website for the sanctuary has descriptions of the trails and the boardwalks that have been built to allow people to see and photograph the abundant wildlife there, but then you get to the kicker. Most of the sanctuary is closed to the public, including many of the trails and boardwalks, due to a lack of staffing in this instance, except for when they have an open house to hit visitors up for donations.
This is something that I run into time and time again, especially with places managed by the Federal Government and certain non-profit organizations, they have a website that tells you how great the place is, and what’s to be found there, but then I find that it’s closed to the public all or most of the time.
I understand that there are places that are too environmentally sensitive to allow unchecked public access, but what irks me is that to the Federal Government and these certain non-profit groups, most of the lands they hold are deemed too environmentally sensitive to allow any public access. At the same time, they are hitting me up for money because according to them, our public lands are under attack and they need money to fend off those attacks. My question is, why bother protecting public land when the public isn’t allowed access to them? And, as they continued to close off more and more areas to the public, then the people who want to get out and connect with nature are forced to use less and less land where public access is allowed, making those places more crowded all the time. Then, the overcrowding becomes an excuse to further limit access to public lands.
Maybe it bothers me so much because I’ve seen that scenario play out in one of what used to be my favorite parts of Michigan, what is now known as the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. That area was once two Michigan State Parks, and a few Michigan State Forest Campgrounds, along with some Michigan State Forest public land. Then, the Federal Government took control of the existing parks, and began adding more land, which I thought was a good thing. However, as time went on, more and more of the area was closed to the public, or you were only allowed to access it in certain places. The last time that I was up there, it was so crowded in the few areas where the public was allowed that I vowed never to return again. Oh well, there are plenty of places to go in Michigan, so if I have to cross a few places off from my list, it’s really not that big of a deal. I’d better quit here, while I’m behind, because I know many readers don’t agree with me on this subject.
I went to the Muskegon Wastewater facility on Christmas day, hoping to get some decent light to test out the new 400 mm lens in, but that didn’t happen. It was another dreary day here in West Michigan, and for most of the time that I was there, I couldn’t get a bird to sit still long enough to get any photo of them. It was not one of my better days, I almost got my Subaru stuck trying to drive on one of the roads that hadn’t been plowed in a while.
Eventually, there was a little bit more light, and a willing gull for me to use as a model when testing the new lens. Here’s the gull with the new 400 mm lens, and the image hasn’t been cropped at all.
I added the 1.4 X tele-converter to get to 560 mm for this one, which wasn’t cropped at all either.
The test didn’t go quite like I planned, as soon as I added the extender, I could only use the center focus point, so I couldn’t get the images as close to the same as I would have liked. Auto-focus doesn’t work at all when I swapped the extenders, going to the 2 X extender. But, out of habit, and wanting to keep the composition as close as I could for this photo, I still had the center focus point on the gull’s eye.
Not bad, it isn’t quite as sharp as without the extender, so the next step happened when I got home, when I cropped some of the photos. Here’s an image at 800 mm and cropped for a head shot.
Here’s an image shot at 400 mm and cropped to the exact same image size as the last one.
It’s still sharper than the image that I shot at 800 mm, but that changes when I cropped a 400 mm image down to get as close to the gull as I had at 800 mm.
The image shot at 800 mm and cropped slightly is sharper than the last one. For my use here, you wouldn’t know the difference, but if I were to print them out, the 800 mm image cropped would be superior to the 400 mm cropped image, by a wide margin. If there would have been better light, any of these images would have been even better!
I also tested the new 400 mm lens out on flying birds, with the same difficulty, no light, at least for most of the day. So, here’s an image of a mallard landing to show how much of a wake they make as they land.
As in the case of the portrait shots, eventually I got a little better light for flying birds.
I never noticed the radio antenna in the background when I was shooting the series, luckily, the 400 mm lens tracked the mallards well as I continued to shoot.
I don’t think that the 400 mm lens focuses as quickly as the 100-400 mm lens, but the 400 mm lens seems to do okay. I had no trouble acquiring the intended subject, and it did track the subjects well.
I love the fact the gull’s eyes in these last few photos are sharper than what I could get of a perched bird’s eye using either the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) or the 300 mm lens, with or without an extender, even at the higher ISO setting that I had to use for these.
It occurs to me as I think about comparing my two newest lenses, the two of them together weigh just a few ounces more than the Beast did alone. The 100-400 mm lens is well-balanced as I said before, and I can track birds in flight well with it. The new 400 mm lens is much lighter, lighter than even the 300 mm lens since the 400 mm doesn’t have Image Stabilization. The 400 mm lens points well, by that I mean that as I raise the camera to my eye, I’m on target and ready to shoot as soon as the auto-focus does its thing. That could be because of how long and skinny that lens is compared to the others, but all the weight is in the camera, not the lens, or so it seems as I use it. It will take me a while to get used to the balance of this set-up.
Anyway, I’ve now have two quality long lenses so that once I get a second body, I can have one set for portraits, and one for action. This is an example of why that’s important. In the middle of shooting some of the flying gull photos you’ve seen in this post, I spotted a kestrel. I thought that I had changed the camera settings, but I was wrong.
The camera settings were whacked, and I missed a good photo of the kestrel because I was too busy trying not to spook the bird to check the settings as I was shooting.
I have some more photos from Sunday, but first, there was almost good light for a short time today!
I was going to say that the new 400 mm lens wouldn’t be good for small birds, but I could be wrong about that. I started out shooting some goldfinches that were really too far away for a great image, but they turned out better than I thought that they would.
One of the last photos of the day was this one, when I was much closer to one of the goldfinches, but the light wasn’t as good by then.
I’ve seen squirrels eat the leaf buds from trees before, but never a bird, but that’s what the goldfinch is munching on, a leaf bud.
If only I had more time, I could have done better with the birds today, but I had to wait for the rain to come to an end before venturing out. When I did make it outside, I found a different world than what there was yesterday, a record high temperature for the date, and most of the snow was going fast. That left small lakes everywhere there wasn’t a new creek flowing to get rid of the rain and melting snow. Too bad it won’t last, even all day today, by tomorrow we’re back in the freezer again.
Anyway, I was able to shoot a few images with the ISO set under 2000, unlike most of the day before. And, you probably won’t be able to tell from these photos as they appear here, but the new lens exceeded my expectations when it came to the smaller birds.
I had to try this, to see how well the new lens can pick birds out of the brush.
Just for the heck of it, I tried this shot to see how close the new lens would focus down to, way too far away for lichens.
It was the next two photos which changed my mind about the new lens and smaller birds.
When I can dial the ISO down, the new lens is even sharper than the 100-400 mm lens, and that’s saying a lot!
It’s no wonder that the 400 mm f/5.6 lens from Canon has the reputation of being the lens for birders. Now, I can’t wait to see what it can do in very good light.
I think that the color reproduction is outstanding as well, but it seems to need a little more light when I set the exposure compensation.
Also, I don’t think that I get as much depth of field with the 400 mm lens as I do with the 100-400 mm lens, even though in theory, they should be exactly the same.
Overall, I’d say that the new 400 mm lens will make a great companion to the 100-400 mm lens when I’m out specifically for birds.
You can see that not all of the snow is gone, but a healthy chunk of it is gone. It was also the sunniest day so far this month, 17 of the first 25 days of December we had 0% of possible sunshine. It’s not hard to beat 0%.
That takes me back to Sunday, which was one of those 17 days with no sunshine.
I’ve seen coyotes before, but I believe that the one above is my first photo of one, they normally disappear before I can get a shot. The same is true of foxes.
You can see that this one was picking them up…
…and laying them down as it ran for cover.
There were two foxes, out on the center dyke of all places, completely surrounded by water except for that narrow dyke that separates the two lagoons. The one in the photos ran across the lagoon, the other ran along the base of the dyke so I didn’t have a clear view of it. Maybe they were lying in wait for a gull or a goose? It seemed like an odd place to foxes to hang out, I was on the center dyke looking for snow buntings, which weren’t there. All of the small flocks of snow buntings had joined into one huge flock…
…and that’s only a small portion of the flock. I shot one video, but in the middle of the buntings flying past me, I got the great idea to try to focus on those in flight, it did not go well.
So, I shot a second one, letting the buntings flit around while I tried to remain still.
Holding a camera with a 400 mm lens still at arm’s length so I can see the camera’s rear screen isn’t easy. I tried to cut the shaky part at the end off using Canon’s software, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Still, I think that you can see what I mean when I say that these birds are in perpetual motion.
Some one saw a snowy owl at the wastewater facility earlier in the week, but I couldn’t find it. That isn’t because my eyes are going bad, for I was able to spot this bird flying across a field more than 100 yards away from me, see where it landed, and then get close enough for a few poor images of it.
That’s a species that I needed for the My Photo Life List project, even though I have seen northern shrikes in the past, I’ve never photographed one. They are smaller than a blue jay, so to spot one at the distance that I was from it tells me my eyesight is still good. I watched it fly back across the field, but the photos that I took when I got to that spot weren’t as good because it was even farther away from me. I watched it hunt for a while, but I didn’t want to get greedy. I’ve found that once I’ve gotten poor photos of a species, better ones usually follow soon after.
Now that I know where the shrike hangs out, I hope to get better photos of it soon.
That doesn’t always work though, I still struggle when it comes to kingfishers.
I know where he hangs out, but that doesn’t help me get any closer to him, he’s far too wary for that to happen.
I have two more photos from Sunday (Christmas Day) left, and here they are.
All in all, not a bad weekend of using the new lens despite the lack of light most of the time. I can tell that there are a few things that I’ll have to get used as I use it more, but I rate it as a winner for sure. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to test the new 400 mm lens out in some good light this coming weekend, New Years Day is forecast to be sunny, but I’m not sure that I believe it.
Anyway, as I finish this one up, I’d like to wish every one a Happy New Years, and may 2017 bring you everything that you’re wishing for!
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!