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Archive for March, 2012

The migrating Canada Geese.

Every year the Canada Geese migrate to warmer climate in autumn and come back in spring to nest here in Canada. They are millions to breed on our land (lakes, ponds etc…), they had some up and down in populations during the history of Canada.

They certainly make a great subject for the wildlife photographer because you can take photos of them in different environments as well as in flight, you can take them in couple or when they all eat in the fields of the local farmers.  They have a personality that i like, but they can be very aggressive between each others.

The more you photograph them the more you learn their body language and can anticipate their next move. When they swing their beak up and down and you hear their  “Honk … Honk … Honk”, you can be sure they are ready to take off,  so be ready. In autumn during the hunting season it can be difficult to get close to them, a hide might be your best bet. I found them easier to get close during the spring migration in my region.

Seeing those big birds flying over me and hearing the sound of their wings and their “Honk” as they pass by me is always an experience that i will remember all my life! I hope that i will be able to enjoy photographing them and share the Canada Geese migrations with my kids for many more years to come.

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Warning … dead frogs.

This morning i went to one of my favorite pond (more of a waterhole) to photograph frogs, my first try this spring. I wasn’t prepared for what i found, at least 20 green frogs were dead in the pond, smaller and bigger ones as well.

I don’t know if it’s due to a disease or i also found information on the web that on smaller artificial pond in peoples backyard the decaying leaves can release toxic gas and the frogs can suffocate during the winter ?

I saw only one frog alive that jumped in the water… that’s all !

Here are two photos i took this morning of the dead frogs.

This one looks like he nearly made it out of the deadly water.


Pentax DFA 100mm/2.8 Macro WR, how it performs in the wild !

I take a lot of close-up and Macro photos in bad weather because it gives a different feeling to the photos but it can be tricky to protect your gear when it’s raining. So when Pentax announced that lens i bought it as soon as it was available… i knew it would be a great lens for a nature photographer !

The DFA 100 Macro WR in it’s natural habitat during a rainy morning.

After 2 years with that lens i decided to share my experience of how it performs in the field. Over the years i have used and owned several Macro lenses, presently i have a kit of 3 Macro lenses:

– Pentax DA 35mm/2.8 Macro Limited

– SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4

– Pentax DFA 100mm/2.8 Macro WR

Each have their use and reason to be in my camera bag, when i don’t have enough space to back-up or want a “wider” Macro lens i use the DA35mm Macro Ltd or the Takumar 50mm/4. The DFA 100mm WR is useful when i need more distance from my subjects like insects and frogs or if i want to isolate the subject to eliminate a distracting background. So for me the 100mm Macro is the one that reach for in general when i need a macro lens since it’s the most versatile of the 3.

I use the DFA 100mm Macro WR most of the time on a solid tripod to get as much details as possible in my photos but when i need a view from the ground i use it handheld on my K20D. Since it’s not too big it balances quite well and with the help of shake reduction (SR) i can get sharp photos with a relatively slow shutter speed.

The image quality is a big point when you buy a lens and a Macro lens should deliver excellent photos at most F-stop and this one certainly can, i use it from f/2.8 to f/16 regularly with confidence and if i need more DOF i stop it down to around f/20 and the photos are still good.

When i got it i was a little concerned about the distances scale window that is open without any glass or plastic to stop water… but after over 2 years of hard use in the field in bad weather (rain, freezing rain, snow and around muddy pond shore looking for frogs), the WR seals never failed and i have no fear of using that lens in the same conditions as my DA*50-135.

The lens hood is attached to the body of the lens, the lens extends inside the lens hood as you focus closer and i think it’s a good thing since it offers more protection from the rain on that part of the lens. When you’re at the minimum focusing distance the hood doesn’t protect much the front of the lens from the sun rays and the rain. I’ve never had problem with flare but had some rain on the front lens elements on some occasions but easily cleaned in the field. Pentax probably made that compromise because they know how good is their SP and SMC coatings are ?

The focusing ring is large enough (i would have liked a little larger) and have a good feeling so it’s easy to obtain exact focus and with 8 rounded aperture blades the bokeh is more pleasing and so far the lens delivers beautiful background. The lens also delivers great colors and contrast so even when shooting in RAW the post processing is minimal.

Here is an example of the “bokeh”, taken at the minimum focusing distance of the lens at f/6.3.

The DFA 100mm Macro WR is also very good for taking photos at normal distances, the resulting photos are as good as when used at the Macro settings. I don’t use it often outside close-up and macro but i know that it will give me great results as well.

Old garage taken with the DFA 100 WR at around  f/11.

Some last points about that lens:

Some photographer will miss that there is no focus limiter on that lens but for me it’s not a big deal since i don’t use AF very often, and if i need it, the lens have quick shift focus. Another thing is that the lens hood is made of plastic, since the lens is made of metal i would have liked a metal lens hood… sure it would look like a Limited lens with it !

I prefer to use metal built lenses because they feel so good and the built quality is a plus when you use your lenses a lot in bad weather and they can be knocked, sure plastic lenses can also be very tough and durable but those metal one or just pure joy. There is something that is not fun about metal lenses, in winter they are colder than a plastic lens and you can froze your fingers faster when using it, so be careful.

I certainly hope Pentax will update the DFA 50mm Macro to be like the DFA 100mm Macro WR and maybe do a longer lens like a 150mm or a 200mm. If you need a great Macro lens that will give you superb photos and can take abuse and never let you down in bad weather… the DFA 100mm Macro WR is for you.

Some photos taken with that lens for you to enjoy .

ISO 500, 1/15sec. at f/11.

ISO 800, 1/4 sec at f/16.

ISO 100, 0.5 sec. at f/16.


Bring a camera with you as often as possible

It’s probably not the first time that you hear that tip, but now the photographers have more and more choices of high quality compact camera systems that are easy to bring everywhere without having a 25 pounds camera bag to lug around !

Great shots can happen everywhere and at anytime, having a camera with you even if you don’t have the “right lens” for the photo, it forces you to compose with the equipment you have. The light might not look good right now but you never know when it can change into something spectacular.

Family activities:  In september 2010  i went with my family (my wife and my 2 girls) at our local “base de plein-air” (summer camp), it’s a forested area where the kids can play, walk in the trails, skate…

I brought my DSLR with just 2 or 3 lenses but i always have my Macro lens with me since even in bad light i can manage to take a shot of a small subject. While my kids were playing i was looking around in the forest and suddenly saw a Gray Tree frog at the base of a big tree. The frog was very well camouflaged on the moss covered trunk and made a great shot.

Pentax K20D, Pentax DFA100mm Macro WR, tripod.

Before going to work: Nearly everyday that i’m going to work i bring a camera with me, sometimes it’s my full Pentax DSLR kit and sometimes it’s my NEX-3 with some lenses depending on what i expect to photograph. I don’t always come home with a good shot or not necessarily always  take photos. Luck will be on your side one day and you will have beautiful light on a great subject or you will encounter an animal that will let you take unexpected photos ! By having my camera with me i was able to take some very good photos over the years and at the same time enjoying the natural world.

Here are  shots i took on my way to work this year:

 

 

Pentax K20D, Pentax DA*50-135mm, ISO 100 at f/11, tripod, MLU

Pentax K20D, Pentax DA*50-135mm, MLU, tripod.

Pentax K20D, Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR, handheld, SR activated.