I took the following shot on a morning just before going to work, at first I was looking for Frogs but came back with that backlit shot of a Fly. I liked the fact that it was upside down.
This week it’s a photo of a Rose Chafer that i found on a walk near a pond. there were a lot of them i just had to choose the one who was best positioned and most photogenic.
I just bought a used Canon 70-200mm/4 L and wanted to test it out in the field to see if everything was working as it should and the that the IQ was what it’s supposed to be. I was taking some boring photos of a bridge as a test target, then I decided to walk along the shore of the lake. Directly on the edge of the water I saw a Big Male Bullfrog, I set-up my tripod and took some shots without much hope that it would make a good photo. When I got home later that day I opened the photos and did my regular processing but the photo was not that interesting.
Then I tried it in B&W to see how it would look, it turned out to be a better shot, by eliminating the color the pattern of the weeds surrounding the frog was put in evidence as well as the water and also the texture of the skin on the back of the Bullfrog. Sometimes I know when I took a shot in the field that I will do a B&W conversion but other times I realize during the PP that a B&W conversion is what a photo needed to really come to life.
This week photo is more abstract than usual, I found a Fern that was underwater and also liked the trees reflected on the water surface. So I used a Polarizer to cut off some reflection to be able to see the fern but not too much polarisation so that I could still see the reflection of the trees.
The young American Robin are finally out of their nest and they are easy to find because of their constant demand for food ! You just have to follow their chirping sound ! This little fellow below was high on a branch waiting for one of the parent to bring some foods, unfortunately when one of them brought foods it wasn’t at a good angle and wasn’t worth a good shot. So here is my favorite of the series, the wind was blowing as we can see in it’s feathers.
Over the years i’ve owned several telephoto zoom lenses in that range from different brands: Canon 70-200mm/4L (2 times), Canon 70-300mm/3.5-5.6 IS (non L version), Fuji XF 55-200mm/3.5-4.8 OIS, Pentax DA* 50-135mm/2.8, Sony 70-300mm/3.5-5.6 G series and also many older manual focus lenses! Since i wanted to save weight and have a 2 lens kit when i want to travel light or as a general lens for landscape, tame wildlife and with good close-up ability for some bigger frogs like Green Frogs and Bullfrogs, so i decided to give a chance to that Pentax HD DA 55-300mm/4-5.8 WR. If the IQ is not good enough for me i can always sell it and buy a different lens. My expectations are that it will probably be more in the same league as the Canon 70-300mm IS (non L version) mentioned above.
When i first opened the box i was surprised by how small and lightweight it is, i’m used to bigger lenses in that range. It’s well balanced on my K50 and they will make a great lightweight kit, some will say that it feels big to them, go in a store and try a Canon 7D fitted with a “small” Canon 70-200mm/4L and a TC 1 4x !!!
WR is a big plus for my style of photography
I live in Canada and i encounter all type of bad weather, so it’s one of the reason i came back with Pentax, it’s a lot easier to continue shooting in the rain when you don’t have to protect your gear from it. From my past experience with Pentax DA* and WR lenses i know that i can shoot in very bad weather and be “ZEN”. My favorite subject is Frogs, i’m often shooting along the shore of ponds, so my gear gets muddy and wet most of the time. Up to now it copes with the climate very well.
Well, it’s always a big part of the decision when you consider buying a new lens. I was hoping that this lens would deliver good IQ at 300mm for occasional tame wildlife, showing wildlife in their habitat and at the ZOO (i like to go at different ZOO we have around here). The lens deliver good results in the field especially in the center, i prefer to use it between f/6.3 and f/8 at the longer settings (200mm to 300mm) but I wouldn’t call the IQ tack sharp at these focal lengths. For my general shooting i have no problem to stop it down to f/11-13 at closer range for more intimate landscape photos, especially at focal lengths below 200mm. Sure it’s not in the same league as the lenses i’ve used in the past in that range like the Canon 70-200mm/4 L, Fuji XF 55-200mm or Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8, but it certainly can compete with the Canon 70-300mm IS (non-L). The corners at the longer focal length are not up to the center but it’s less important since most of the time I will shoot it at wider apertures for wildlife where the corners are not as important.
There is still some CA visible at 300mm at f/8 in high contrast situations but it’s easy to correct it in LR.
Here we go with some real life photos:
BTW, i tested my lens to see if the centering was good and it looks like i have a very good copy in that department.
How does it perform in close-up range with an extension tube
I always try my lenses with extension tubes to see how they perform and if they can be useful for “close-up” shots, especially for Frog photos. The Pentax DA 55-300mm WR alone already focus at 1.40 meter which gives me a 0.28x repro ratio. After some test around my house it performs like my Fuji XF 55-200mm with extension tubes …. it’s not worth it. The corners suffers a lot, my guess is that the image circle that these lenses produce was really made for APS-C sensor and by putting an extension tube the corners IQ drops too much. Most of the lenses i’ve owned over the years were FF lenses or Medium Format lenses, so the corners were always very good when using extension tubes because of their bigger image circle.
Handling in the field
What i found is that you need to support the lens on a solid support or have a fast enough shutter speed when using it from around 200mm to 300mm settings to obtain sharp results and it’s probably why i read on the internet that it was soft at the long end. Because when zoomed in that range it is more prone to vibrations than the other telephoto zoom lenses that i’ve owned (the ones in the first paragraph). Even when using it on a solid tripod if there is some wind or you press the shutter button with your finger when it’s zoomed all the way to 300mm it will be enough to cause vibrations and resulting in a soft photo (even if using the MLU with the 2 second delay). So you have to be more careful in the field when using it at the longer end of the range and that’s the reason i just ordered a remote release. Compared to Pro lenses that doesn’t extend like the DA* 50-135 or the Canon 70-20mm lenses which are stiffer because of that and also they are made more out of metal, the weight helps in windy conditions. When using it handheld if you use a good telephoto shooting technique the lens will deliver good details.
Other than that i really like how it handles and it feels good with my K50. I really like the feeling of the focusing ring, it’s easy to obtain focus when using it in MF with the help of the LV. The only complaint i have is that the focusing ring turns when in AF, so watch your fingers ! I found that my copy needed a +1 adjustment for the AF, good to have that kind of adjustment available in the camera ! AF certainly needs good light to be fast and accurate at the same time, especially at the long end, this might be due to my K50, a K3 would certainly deliver better results.
After some use i can say that the lens will not suffer from Zoom creep, the zooming ring is stiff enough to prevent that, probably a bonus from the WR seals !
It’s a good lens for what it is but if you’re looking for Pro grade IQ …. it’s not the lens to buy. It’s quite good up to about 200mm but after that there is a drop in IQ, you will have to stop it down to around f/6.3-8 to get good sharpness again in the center. If you’re looking for a lightweight telephoto zoom lens, WR and with good IQ in most of it’s range and are willing to stop it down a little …. then it’s a good choice. It will never deliver the same beautiful images that my DA*50-135mm was giving me but it does exactly what i was hoping for when i bought it. As a final point, I will buy another lens in the same range but with better IQ like a DA*60-250mm or the new DFA 70-200mm or even a Canon 70-300mm IS L (we never know) and this lens will be my lightweight telephoto lens.
This morning I went to a local pond where there is many adult Bullfrogs at close range. Some are more tolerant than others, I just need to find a Bullfrog in a beautiful setting and that will let me close. What I liked about this adult male American Bullfrog was the moss on the shore and the perfect reflection.
This morning I went to one of my favorite place for photographing Green Frogs and Bullfrogs. It’s a local Parc with several ponds from small to big, it’s a Frog paradise and photographer paradise 🙂
To get that low view of this Bullfrog I positioned my tripod in the water until I got the framing I wanted.
It’s been a long winter and I was happy to see my first frogs this week ! I was able to photograph my first Green Frogs in one of my favorite pond. I hope that this summer will be great and that I will get some great shots !
Last week I stopped a couple of times along a lake shore to see what I could found, I was able after 3 encounter with a Canada Geese couple to take an interesting photo of one of them last week with my 400mm lens.
But I saw this Canada Geese couple swimming among the long weeds to find foods. They kept coming closer and closer, in the end they were too close for my 400mm lens. To my surprise the got off the water and walked directly in my direction, I grabbed my K50 which was equipped with my DA 16-85mm, they walked just past me and I had time taking some shots. The light level was very low and I didn’t had time to change my settings and I forgot to turn off the SR ( the shutter speed was fast enough to stop the camera movement but not the birds movements).
I got one shot that is sharp enough (no bird movement) and a good pose by one of the Canada Geese. It’s the first time that I saw Canada Geese coming so close to me, usually they swim or flew away when i’m at around 300 feet !!!
I love photographing frogs because of their big eyes and also because they are very important for the ecosystem. However it can be frustrating to attempt photographing them because they often jump for the safety of the water before you even saw them ! In this article i will share with you what i’ve learned about photographing them so that you can try it out yourself and get good results.
The temptation is high during the warm summer months to head to your nearest pond wearing a T-shirt, shorts and a pair of sandals, but ………. MOSQUITOES and their friends are waiting for you and they can drive you crazy !!!!A hat is a good help to keep the insects away from your head, but this summer i will add gloves and also a net that i will put over my head to protect my face, ears and nose. I don’t use insect repellent because it’s not the friend of the plastic of my camera gear.
So my minimum kit is long sleeves shirt, long pants and a pair of knee high rubber boots. Then if needed when i’m shooting at a pond with muddy shores i will add a complete rain suit. Waders are also a very good option but i never needed them so far, but might add them to my kit eventually.
Here is a photo of me from some years ago at the same pond that i shot the video in this article, funny to see me with a mustache 🙂
Just a short talk on useful camera gear, the majority of my photos are taken with only two lenses: a Macro lens in the 90mm to 105mm range and my 400mm lens that i use with or without extension tubes. I prefer a Macro lens in the 90 to 105mm range because they allow a good working distance but they are also easier to handhold than longer Macro lenses. I suggest to have one with Image stabilization or a camera with IBIS like the Pentax SR (shake reduction) since i mostly shoot handheld while photographing frogs.
My 400mm lens is nearly always used on a solid tripod but i can sometimes use it directly on the ground. A long lens comes handy when frogs are too nervous to photograph them with my Macro lens or when i can’t get physically close enough. When using my 400mm lens on my tripod i will submerged it in the water as deep as possible to get my camera as close to the water surface as possible to get that eye level position.
Over the years i also used different lenses, even my 14mm lens or a telephoto zoom like a 70-200mm or a 55-300mm can be used with good results.
A piece of gear that is very useful is a bubble level that you put in the hotshoe of your camera or you can use the electronic level when using the LV of your camera.
Most of the time you want to photograph the frogs at their eye level like you would do for any other wildlife subject.
Tips on the technique
Now the part that you’ve been waiting for.
How do i get close to them on a regular basis ?
I do encounter a lot of frogs that quickly jumps into the water before i’m even close enough to them, but patience is the key element here. If you wait on the shore most of them will get back to the surface sooner than later and often nearly at the same place or not very far. Frogs can be easy to get close at a particular pond but nearly impossible to do so at another pond. Some species are more tolerant like the young Gray Tree frog and adult American Toad, while Wood frogs and Leopard frogs are quick to jump everywhere and are more difficult to photograph. When i’m photographing Green frog at my favorite pond there is some individual that are easier to get close with my Macro lens or even a wide angle lens, by going often during the same season i come to know and identify which one is the easiest to photograph.
The name of the game is to approach slowly and keep a low profile. I usually made the final approach on my stomach like in the army 😉
For better comprehension i made the following video, it’s better to show how i do it than trying to explain it with words (sorry about my bad english and the wind):
Gray Tree frogs are usually found in trees or hiding in the vegetation, so i prefer to use my Macro lens handheld as it is easier than trying to position a tripod. On some occasion i will use a tripod if i can but it’s not the majority of the photos i take. The young Gray Tree frog are very small and hide in the vegetation, the background is often very busy, so you need a shallow DOF to blur it as much as possible to eliminate the distractions. I usually use an aperture of f/4.5 to 6.3 most of the time and it will also give me a faster shutter speed since i’m shooting handheld most of the time.
I want to talk shortly about the settings, even if the frogs looks like they are very still in the water in reality they aren’t. Just by breathing they slightly move up and down when they are in the water, so you will need a shutter speed fast enough to stop that movement. Usually i try to have a shutter speed of at least 1/30 sec. but i can get away with 1/15 sec if the frog doesn’t move too much or if it’s hanging with it’s front paws on some vegetation.
This is it for this first article, will post other ones probably with videos of in the field footage when the season will begin. Hope it will help you get better photos of frogs.
Last night we went to an historical site at Coteau-du-Lac which is close to my home. We were lucky to observe a Great Blue Heron fishing in the river and he was quite good ! I couldn’t get closer or lower because of where i was and where the Heron was fishing but with some cropping the shot still have very good IQ. Sometimes you just get lucky …. not so much luck for the fish 😉
I just switched back to Pentax just in time for the 2015 frog season, i carefully selected my lenses to be useful for photographing frogs. I bought lenses that have a good minimum focusing distance or repro ratio so that i can use them to take the portrait of my little friends.
Here is my Pentax lenses which will be useful on my tripod but also handheld with the help of the SR:
– DA 16-85mm WR for bigger frogs that will let me close enough to use that lens to show them in their habitat kind of shot.
– DA 55-300mm WR that i will use mostly from 100mm to 300mm.
– Tamron 90mm Macro will be my main working lens especially for the Gray Tree frog and Spring peeper frog but also to take close-up shots of the bigger ones.
– Takumar (6×7) 135mm/4 Macro, this lens have a 1:3 ratio on a 6×7 camera and will give me more rech than my Tamron 90mm Macro.
I still have my Canon 7D and will be able to use my 400mm/5.6L with and without extension tubes when frogs will be out of reach of my Pentax DA 55-300mm WR. Also i have a Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro that have a 1:2 repro ratio that i will use on my 7D for more reach but still can do Macro shots.
I’m excited at the coming season that should start in a few days, i will be trying to vary my POV and came-up with different perspective and atmosphere. I will also explore new ponds this summer so that will help vary the environment in my photos.
Here are teaser photos from last year to give you an idea of the coming season 🙂
Friday it was 13°C and the next morning (yesterday morning) it dropped to -1°C and it was falling big wet snowflakes 😦
The photo below was taken at the Ecomuseum of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue near my home. Taken with my Pentax K50 and DA 55-300mm WR.
Last autumn i entered a contest in OPC (Outdoor Photograhy Canada ) magazine, one of my photo was selected for an honourable mention. I would have liked to win but you can’t win them all 😉
It’s the last photo at the bottom of the page “Smoky water and ice“.
Finally the Canada Geese are back here in Canada, it’s just the beginning but it’s one of the best sign that spring is here. I visited some places i knew where they like to stop during their migration to see if i could get some photos. I come home with not so interesting photos but always fun to be out and observe that spring migration after a long winter.
The most interesting photos i made were taken with my 90mm Macro lens of the carcass of a dead Canada Goose. In the coming weeks i will be concentrating my photography on Canada Geese while waiting for the frogs to come out. This year i will try to show them in their habitat when possible to show how much they are during the migration.
BTW, all the photos were taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro.
I didn’t post much lately, not much time and the temperature or subjects didn’t cooperated. Went to test my new Pentax K50 this morning, it was -15°C (-23°C with the windchill). I like to go to a local old canal to try out new gear because of the details in the canal.
It’s full name is : HD Pentax-DA 16-85mm/3.5-5.6 ED DC WR. I did owned the Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 and liked it a lot because of it’s range and quite good IQ, it was especially useful during our family vacation we took 2 years ago in the province of New Brunswick and P.E.I. here in Canada. The Pentax is even more desirable to my eyes because it incorporates WR, is cheaper than the Canon as well when there is no rebates. The Canon quickly developed zoom creep, which it’s known for, hope the Pentax will do better in that department. They both focus down to 0.35 meter and uses a 72mm filter size.
My first impression when i removed the lens from the box was it’s solid feel in my hand, always a positive thing to feel that a lens can take some abuse. The zooming ring feels stiff enough for the moment to prevent zoom creep, will have to wait after some months of field use to see if it will maintain that stiffness and not suffer from zoom creep.
IQ and field experience
One of the most important selling point of lenses is sharpness, if a lens can’t deliver in that department most people will not buy it. Do you need to absolutely have the sharpest lens available, probably not, but a lens needs to be at least very good. Does the Pentax DA 16-85mm is good enough …….. after shooting for some weeks with it in the field i can say that it’s a very good lens.
The focusing ring is placed close to the mount, which is not my favorite place to put it on a lens, which seems to become a “trend” with lens manufacturer, i prefer the “old” way. It’s probably because now peoples are using lenses mostly in AF mode and it’s a better place to put the zooming ring more at the front of the lens. I would have liked the focusing ring to be larger also but i will live with it. It’s my first Pentax lens with a DC motor and it’s quite fast and silent. The AF is very good in LV at any distances, works really well in the field with most subjects.
Flare control is always very good on Pentax lenses, so this lens is no different than all the other Pentax lenses i’ve owned.
The more i use it the more i find that it’s a very useful lens for nature photography because it’s a complete package.
Close-up , does the image quality is maintained ???
The lens alone can focus quite close at 35cm resulting in a reproduction ratio of 0.26x, which is not bad. My Canon 15-85mm was not so good at 85mm at the minimum focusing distance, the IQ dropped, especially in the corners. Does the Pentax 16-85mm will perform better, will it make a good occasional “Close-up” kit ?
I gave it a try this morning, mounting it on my tripod i photographed some leaves on the ice. First thing i have to say is that the fact that it’s a Zoom makes it easier to change my framing, when using a prime Macro lens if your too close you have to play with the legs of your tripod, not as fast and effective.
I compared it with my Tamron 90mm Macro (model 72E) to see how it really performs at close range. It’s not fair in term of pure sharpness but i needed a benchmark, i’m not expecting the same degree of details from the DA 16-85mm, especially in the corners. But if the quality is good in the center it might be helpful for some Frog shots.
Here is my test subject:
At f/5.6 the Tamron has the advantage by a slight margin but at f/8 (the crop posted here) there is no real advantage, i would call this negligeable for field work. Adding the PP and sharpening and both could be printed quite large with very good IQ.
Pentax came-up with a great lens, from my experience it’s a better lens than the Canon 15-85mm that i was using in the past and it has the bonus of weather sealing !!! It makes a very good combo with my K50 and tough enough to shoot in very bad weather. It fits perfectly for the kind of photography I do, it can be landscape, Close-up or even family photos. With that lens i can do all that in good or bad weather while producing beautifully detailed photos. Like i said, my only complaint is the placement and size of the focusing ring, but that’s a personal thing because i’m using MF a lot in my photography.
Well, some will say that it’s pricey but if you look at how many lenses it replaces and how good it is, even for close-up photos, i think it’s well worth the price. Sure it’s a “slow” lens, if you need a lens with a faster maximum aperture to use in very low light it’s not the lens your looking for. But for a nature photographer who want a good lens that is not too big or heavy, for travelling or for everyday use, i think it’s one of the best option in Pentax land. Pentax really proved with that lens that they can make some excellent zoom lenses, not only small prime lenses. I will post updates when I will be able to try it out on Frogs.
During the last summer (2014) i was more than happy to found 3 young Cottontail Rabbits in my backyard, below is a photo i took of one of them.
After that i only saw one of them from time to time and sometimes their mother. I never had a real chance to photograph the young rabbit until some weeks ago on February 08 when he was under a tree in my front yard. I took a chance and got outside, i finally was able to took it’s portrait when he was on my neighbor’s front yard.
This afternoon i was playing outside with my younger girl and i found the young rabbit dead just in front of my house. This winter is very cold, so maybe that’s what killed him or he had an accident with a car ….who knows ???
This morning i went to a river in Beauharnois where there is many Mallard Ducks that stays there all winter. I wanted to test an adapter that i bought last December but didn’t had a chance to try, it’s an adapter that let me use my Canon 400mm/5.6L on my Fuji X-E1, but i can only use it W/O. It was snowing, i like that atmosphere when photographing wildlife in winter. The Ducks didn’t let me very close so i photographed them farther away and made more of an habitat shot. The weather was not the best to test that combo but focus peaking helped nail the focus at this longer distance.
Taken at 1/100 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 1250, tripod.
This afternoon we had a beautiful visit in our backyard, a Cottontail Rabbit, he was eating the branches of a tree just in front of my house. After awhile he went to another tree in the backyard of our neighbor. I decided to give it a try and got my camera out, he let me come very close to him and i was able to take several shots, he stayed under that tree all afternoon. To get that view i didn’t use my tripod, i put my camera directly on the snow, the thin crust was enough too support it and get a solid platform for my camera.
This past week was quite cold here in “La Belle Province”, a true Canadian winter week 🙂
On the morning that i took the photo posted below it was -30°C (-35°C with the windchill factor), the trees along the St-Lawrence river were covered with frost. I converted the photo in B&W because i felt it was better looking like that.
Didn’t had many occasion for photography this week but managed to get that one last Monday, it was -22°C before sunrise and -26°C with the windchill factor. I knew that along the Canal Soulange where there is those old wooden structures, the water froze on them and the surrounding vegetations.
Here it is, my first photo of 2015 taken on 02 January 2015 before going to work i stopped at the old Canal Soulanges in Pointe-des-Cascades. I like that place in winter, the scenic varies depending on the temperature, as it gets colder the ice get thicker. I liked the directional pattern the ice took this time, probably from the mist coming from the waterfall that is just outside the right side of the frame. As a final touch i placed the Maple leaf caught in the ice near a strong point of the rule of thirds.