This morning i went to a pond close to my home to see if i could find some Frogs to photograph, i could hear some but couldn’t find any of them. It was 5C and raining, it’s probably too cold, so Frogs or not as active, maybe in a week or 2.
I saw a Canada Goose defending the pond against another Goose who just landed on the pond, not long after i found why, there was another Goose on a nest ! They are very wel camouflaged in the vegetation and they keep a low profile. I took some photos and left them alone not to disturb them more than necessary.
This morning i took my first photos of Frogs in 2014, but it was not what i was hoping for as my first shots ! This 2014 spring is cold like the winter we had and it looks like we will have 2 more weeks of cold days. This morning it was -1°C, again, and there was ice on the waterholes. What i found in a small waterhole (about 2×6 feet) beside the small pond (about 5×20 feet) both not very deep, is 5 dead frogs caught under the ice.
So it looks like these frogs choosed a too small waterhole for the long winter and just suffocated.
Here is an interesting article i found about the subject:
Spring is quite cold this year and we still have frost on some mornings. While i was phtographing Canada Geese i found that plant with frosted leaves.
Back in late 2008 i was shooting with a Pentax DS2, i dropped it on my Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 and broked the LCD, i had to replace my DSLR! I bought a Pentax K20D to replace it, it’s equipped with LV but i’ve never liked it in that camera so never used it in the field. Then a couple of years later i bought a Sony NEX-3, i liked the focus peaking feature, it was so easy to get accurate focus now with my old Takumar (M42) lenses !
When the Pentax K-01 came out i bought one immediately, the focus peaking was a big selling point. This is the camera that really get me hooked on LV, the AF was accurate and getting photos from different angles was a lot easier than trying to look into the VF of my K20D.
AF in LV is useful for wildlife also, especially when they are a long distance from you. If the light is good it locks easily on your subject, if not i switch to MF. My 7D with 400mm/5.6L+TC 1.4X II can’t AF but in LV that combo can be use in AF, sure it’s not fast but it works. I’m using LV more often now for wildlife when my subject give me the time, it’s certainly a must have now for me when photographing frogs with my 70-200mm or 400mm with extension tubes and/or a TC 1.4X.
Having a big screen to compose is so much fun, better than looking at a VF, especially the VF of the entry level cameras. It’s more like a small View Camera. You can stay away from your camera in a more relax position, i use a cable release while looking on the LCD until my subject is at it’s best.
I never thought i would buy a DSLR with a tilt and swivel screen but i did it when i bought a cheap Canon T3i. I learned to appreciate that screen and can’t wait to use it for photographing frogs with it at my local pond, it will be useful when my tripod will be low in the water, it will be easier to see and focus on the LCD.
Sure they are not perfect, in bright sun it’s still difficult to see well compared to a VF, but i managed to use them anyway, if i really can’t see anything i use the VF.
Here is a short video on how i use my K-01 for ground level shots, a lot easier than trying to see in the VF:
LCD will get better in the coming years, resolution is already better than just a couple of years ago. There is LCD that have touch screen now, i have some experience with the Panasonic GX7 and it works pretty well, like an I-Pod. The camera manufacturer will include those touch screen more and more in the coming years for sure and probably other features that we can’t imagine yet but will make our life easier as photographer.
It’s been a couple of weeks now that i didn’t post my weekly photo because i haven’t shot any interesting subject. Canada Geese, Great Blue Heron, Cormorant and even Swallows are back from the South. Yesterday i was on the shore of the St-Lawrence river before sunrise to photograph Canada Geese in the early light, my goal was to get more artistic shots of them. I got some interesting ones, here is my favorite.
Now that i talked about the gear and how to use it, i will talk more about the artistic part and how to record and compose shots. The good thing about Macro/Close-up photography is that you can do it everywhere, you don’t need to live in a wild area, you can get some great shots even in your backyard. When i’m walking in the forest most of the time i’m looking on the ground to find an interesting subject. Once you found something interesting you will need to look for the best angle from which to photograph it, walk around (if possible) and get down on your knees if necessary.
I like this photo of a young Leopard Frog that i took early one morning on the shore of a small pond because it shows the animal in it’s habitat. There is enough DOF on the frog but not too much that the background would become distracting, the Bokeh of the lens also helps here. The low point of view and the dew covered grass adds to appreciate that little fellow.
Pentax K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR, ISO 1600, 1/60 sec. at f/5.6, handheld.
Background and DOF control
When shooting Macro photos you need to be aware of the background and always position your camera and also choosing the appropriate aperture to blurr the background so it will not distract the viewer from the main subject. You might need to move some weeds or branches in the background to have a cleaner composition. Color of the background can affect the final look of your shots and give different feelings when looking at the result.
Sometimes the background can add to your subject especially if the subject is smaller in the frame and it’s part of the habitat (like the photo above of a Leopard Frog).
Pentax K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR
You might need to control the light hitting your subject, you can use a flash, but personally i prefer natural light (i don’t own any flash). I often use myself, camera bag or even took off my shirt to shade my subject from direct sunlight when necessary. If i need to fill-in some light i use my DSLR book (which is always in my bag) to do that or you can have a small reflector.
I was looking for photographing frogs at one of my favorite pond and saw this Crab spider with her prey on a flower. Since they were underneath the petals the light was not so good so i used my DSLR user guide to fill-in some light, even then the white petals were blown-out but i can live with that. So always keep your eyes open, you never know what you can find.
Pentax K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR, tripod.
Often the most difficult part is finding an interesting subject, taking time to look around, taking time to relax will open your mind and be more productive than walking too much in hope of finding a better place. Usually the longer i stay at the same place the best shots i get. When i’m shooting frogs it’s the same thing, i try to find the frog that is in a better surrounding and let me get close enough to make a good photograph. After that i work around it and try different lenses if possible.
This was taken after a rainy day followed by a cold night, the water drops just frozed on the leaves. The difficult part was finding a subject with a beautiful surrounding. The technical part was easy, just stopped down the lens to have enough DOF to render everything in sharp focus.
Sony NEX-3 with SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4, tripod.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with shutter speed, DOF, lenses or even WB and ISO. Modern cameras give you a lot of choices and you’re only limited by your imagination. Don’t forget to bring your camera with you as often as you can since a Macro lens and a camera don’t take that much space and you never know when a small subject will cross your road.
Pentax K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR, Tripod.
Weather Sealing is not a necessity for the Outdoor photographer but it’s certainly a desirable option when choosing a new camera or lens. When i was shooting with film cameras my Pentax gear was not sealed and there wasn’t many of them that were sealed at that time. I was using plastic bags when it was raining, not the best thing but it gets the job done, i’m still using plastic bags and/or raincover for my gear with no weather sealing.
Camera and lens makers are including Sealing into more of their products now and it’s a good thing for the Outdoor photographers (Wildlife, Landscape , sports …..). Even Fuji with their new X-T1 and some WR lenses coming later this year is joining the party. Unfortunately not all manufacturers indicates clearly which lenses are sealed and to which degree they are. Canon L series of lenses are not all sealed, some not at all, some partially (they require a filter with a gasket to complete the sealing) and some are fully weather sealed. Nikon is also vague on this point, i’m not too familiar with their lenses and which ones are sealed.
Olympus and Pentax have a very good reputation for working in bad weather. I’ve been shooting with some Pentax WR and DA* lenses for some years now and i can attest that they can be used in any bad weather that we have here in Canada.
Pentax is clear on which lenses are weather sealed and to which level:
Recently i bought a Tamron 90mm Macro VC for my Canon kit and it is equipped with a rubber gasket around the lens mount but no other seal in the lens. I don’t know if the Tamron seal will be as good as the Pentax or if it will still work well after some years in the field, but it’s good to see a third party lens makers adding this feature to their lenses.
I did a short Video to show the difference between the Pentax and Tamron gasket around the lens mount:
The camera is also important, not all cameras have the same degree of protection against rain and dust. The Card and battery doors of my Canon 7D doesn’t have any gasket even if the camera is said to be weather sealed, however there are seals in other parts of the camera, compared to my Pentax K20D which have the best doors i have used with rubber gaskets and a very good locking mechanism.
All in all weather sealing is now part of the choices you have to make when choosing a new camera, lens or system, when i have choices i will buy a sealed lens over another one if all things are similar. It’s not a necessity but it certainly makes your life easier in the field and gives you a worry free experience while concentrating on getting the best shots you can.