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Canon 70-300mm IS MK II review

This is about the new Canon 70-300mm\ 4-5.6 IS II Nano USM lens, Canon finally updated their consumer grade version of the 70-300mm. I did owned the previous version (70-300mm IS USM), it was a good lens for the price but the IS was loud and clunky, this new version will certainly be better in that department. As soon as it was available I pre-ordered one, I currently own the 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS) which is a very good lens but i’m often in needs for more reach and i’m missing the IS. Also I have a big gap between my 70-200mm and my 400mm/5.6 L.

My expectations for this newer version of this lens are: better AF, better IS and better IQ than the older version.

OVERVIEW

Canon still doesn’t supply lens hood with their consumer lenses compared to Pentax and Fuji (2 brands that I’ve owned or still use, which supplies hood with virtually all their lenses). Unfortunately the hood of my 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS) doesn’t fit even if the filter size of both lenses is the same 😦  So I had to buy the Canon ET-74B for 73$ (Canadian), this hood have a release button on it, so the hood is really solidly locked to the lens, good design but is missing a window to turn polarizer filters.

The minimum focusing distance is closer than the previous version (1.2 meter versus 1.5 meter) but the magnification ratio is the same 0.25 x which means that the version II is framing wider than the MK I version.

The LCD display on the lens is something new in lenses, ZEISS have it and now Canon. Is it a gadget, will it endure years of field abuse ….. only time will tell but the LCD on my 7D is still working and if the quality of the LCD on the 70-300mm is equal it should last the life of the lens ! Personally I don’t see any use for it on such a lens …… maybe on a Wide angle zoom lens the DOF marks for the f-stop would be useful but not on a telephoto zoom lens, and focal lengths are not useful to me since they are already marked on the lens barrel, but I find it more useful in the EXIF data anyway. As for the IS info it’s completely useless in my opinion !

Build quality is very good, certainly a good step above the MK I version. The lens feels solid in the hands and the zooming ring is well dampened but the focusing ring is more like most AF lenses a little loose but I’ve seen worst than this one.

The lens have a button to lock the zoom ring at 70mm for transport, it would have been great if it could be locked at different focal lengths …… maybe too much to ask 🙂

Autofocus

I really like the new Nano USM AF system, very silent and fast, certainly better than the one on my 70-200mm/4 L non-IS ! Works quite well up to now. The Nano AF system will be very useful for video shooting.

Image Quality

All the photos posted here were taken with my old 7D in RAW. In short the IQ is quite good at every focal length, it’s not as good as an L series lens but better than a consumer grade lens….. a good compromise in term of price versus IQ and size.

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Taken at 300mm at f/5.6 in RAW with IS activated.

 

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Here is a crop of the photo taken above with no PP and no sharpening.

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Taken at 300mm/5.6 during a snowstorm at a local ZOO.

 

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Taken at a local Zoo at 250mm at f/5.6

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One of the reason i bought this lens was because of it’s close focusing ability. Here is a “close-up” of ice taken at 213mm at f/10

Lens Flare 

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Here is a backlit photo taken at sunrise, it was -20°C no lens flare, the sun was just out of the frame on the top. Taken at 176mm at f/10

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Same location and morning as the above shot but with the sun directly in the frame, still no flare. Taken at 81mm at f/10.

Up to now i have to say that i’m really satisfied with the flare resistance of that lens, certainly better than my 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS). As you can see in the photos above even with the sun directly in the frame the lens didn’t show any flare.

70-300mm IS MK II vs 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS)

One of the reason I bought that lens is because that I often missed the 200mm to 300mm range. I don’t expect the IQ of it to be as good as the 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS) , especially wide open, but if it’s close enough it will be worth it.

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70-300mm MK II at 200mm at f/5.6

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70-200mm/4 L at 200mm at f/5.6

You can see from the crops above that there is not much difference in details resolution, the 70-200mm/4 L (non-IS) is a little sharper but not by much. The 70-300mm produce more CA in the OOF areas and at the same setting it’s wider than the 70-200mm and the 70-200mm produce a smoother “Bokeh”. I will not post many crop because it’s always nearly the same difference in framing and sharpness between the two lenses.

Conclusion

This is my impression after about 1 month of field use, i will post updates as i gain more field experience with that lens but it’s already proved to be a very useful and versatile lens.

It’s a very good lens that delivers very good results in the field, good contrast, Bokeh is not too bad and sharpness is certainly very good. This lens is doing good to very good in most department but it’s not an “L” lens, if you want the best IQ possible in all department then buy the 70-300mm L IS lens, but if you don’t want or need the “L” version this 70-300mm IS MK II is worth considering. I already like it and can’t wait to use it for photographing my Frog friends next summer !


One of my photo in a Canadian Geographic article.

Today I received an E-Mail from the Canadian Geographic society that one of my Beaver photo was published in an article on their web site ! You can read the short article by following this link: http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/blog/posting.asp?ID=1946

My photo is the one with the Beaver swimming on a foggy morning, my name is at the bottom of the photo.


Jaguar at the ZOO.

Yesterday we went to the Granby ZOO which is open even during the winter, it’s different to see the animals in the snow. I’m not finished processing my photos but here is one that i was surprised that came out sharp since it was taken through a thick dirty glass.

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Taken with my Canon 7D and 400mm/5.6 L.


Butterflies in Liberty photo series.

I’m finally finished editing my photos from our visit at the Butterflies in liberty at the Montreal’s Botanical garden . It’s such a great event, not just for photography but for the experience also. All my photos were taken handheld because a tripod is not allowed inside due to the tight spaces and it would be dangerous for the other visitors. The SR system of my Pentax K50 was useful since I was not using flash, my Canon kit didn’t had IS but I was able to get some sharp shots with my 24mm STM.

 

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Small Postman, Taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro. 1/125 sec. at f/4.5, ISO 800.

 

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Scarlet Mormon, Taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro, 1/60 sec. at f/5.0, ISO 1250.

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Blue banded Morpho. I liked that the colors of the butterflies are matched by the colors on the leaf. Taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro. 1/80 sec. at f/4.5, ISO 800.

 

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Scarlet Mormon. Taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro. 1/125 sec. at f/3.5, ISO 800.

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Monarch. Taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro. 1/60 sec. at f/4.0, ISO 800.

 

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Blue banded Morpho. My Canon 24mm STM was also useful with it’s close focusing ability, I like to use it to show more of the “habitat”. 1/200 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 800.

 

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Orange-barred Sulphur. They were very difficult to find, they were nearly the same yellow as the flowers. Again, my Canon 24mm STM did a great job. 1/400 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 800.

 

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Doris Longwing. Taken with my Canon 7D and 24mm STM. 1/160 sec. at f/7.1, ISO 800.

 

 

 


Ducks on a cold Canadian morning.

Yesterday it was -28°C (-38°C with the wind chill factor), a good occasion to go to the St-Louis river in Beauharnois to photograph the Mallard Ducks that stays there all winter. At these temperatures it’s important to be well dressed if you want to stay warm and keep shooting, especially your hands, i did put hand warmers in my mitts to keep my fingers warm.

First, here is some photos of the river to show you the habitat:

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Here is a photo taken at the base of the waterfall, down the river there is less ice and the Ducks have access to open waters and foods. Taken with my Canon 7D and 10-18mm STM at 12mm.

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Taken with my Canon 7D and 10-18mm STM at 11mm.

Since it was very cold, there was a thick layer of fog over the river and it was difficult to get accurate focus on the Ducks.

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Canon 7D with my 70-200mm/4 L.

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Canon 7D with my 400mm/5.6 L.

 

 

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This Male is trying to stay warm in the water. Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6 L.

 

 

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Time to eat to get some fuel to stay warm, it’s tail was covered with ice. Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6L

 

I also found Cedar leaves in the snow in the forested area along the river, so I took close-up shots.

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Canon 7D with my 24mm STM.

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Pentax K50 with DA 40mm XS

 

 

 

 


Always carry a camera with you !

I try to carry a camera with me as often as possible, you never know when a good opportunity will happen in front of you. This was shot tonight, I just ordered a Pizza at a local restaurant and I had to wait 20 minutes for it to be ready, so I decided to see if I could find something to photograph along the old Canal that is not too far away. After walking along the edge of the ice I finally found those 2 leaves surrounded by ice bubbles. Keep a camera with you and open your eyes.

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Taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro, ISO 100, f/11, tripod.


Same subject but different P.O.V. , day, camera and lens !

When I woke-up on Monday morning it was -20°C, finally a cold night ! I took the following photo from the bottom of the canal looking directly at the waterfall. The shot was taken with my Pentax K50 and DA 40mm XS at f/11.

Two days later after 2 nights of -20°C temperature and that morning the temperature was around -12°C, i went back, but this time I positioned my camera at the top of the canal and waterfall and looking down at it. This time I used my Canon 7D with my 24mm STM also set at f/11. You can see that there is a lot more ice on the canal !


Published in Canadian Geographic ” Best Wildlife Photography 2016″.

Every year the Canadian Geographic society publish a special edition magazine of photos from their different contests that they run during the year. In this year issue I have 2 photos published in it on page 63 and 69, it’s probably no surprise that they are 2 photos of Frogs 😉

Taken with my Fuji X-E1 and 14mm from a canoe.

This one was taken in a small pond with my Canon 7D and 400mm lens + extension tubes.


Sometimes you realize during the processing that you got a good shot !

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.

Taken with my Canon 7D and 70-200mm/4 L at 200mm, f/7.1, tripod.


Frogs are back …… finally !

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 !

Close view of a Green Frog. I positioned my camera as close as possible to the water level, in fact I went a little too close and the base of my 7D and the tip of my lens touched the water ….. Oups ! Taken handheld with my 7D and Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro, ISO 800 at f/8, I used the LV to focus since it was impossible for me to see in the Viewfinder.

 


Canada Geese are back !

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.

Frosted feathers.

Close-up of a paw of a Canada Goose.

Another frosted leaf.

 


The cycle of life !

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.

You gotta love this little guy 🙂

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 ???

Sad but i hope that next summer i will have the joy to have new Cottontail rabbit babies in my backyard.


Visit at the Ecomuseum, a local ZOO.

My 10 years old girl is in vacation of school for the Christmas and new years weeks and she wanted to visit our local ZOO, the Ecomuseum of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, which is a short drive from my home. It’s not a big ZOO but always fun to go with the kids and they made some improvements this year to the enclosures of some of their animals.

Even in a ZOO i like to use long lenses to concentrate on the animal and not showing the enclosure, so for all the photos posted here i used my Canon 7D with my 400mm/5.6 L. I always try to get as natural looking photos as i can. But in some occasions i did exactly the opposite and showed the fences, not this time, probably next time i will try to do that and show the animals against their limits.

Close-up of a Caribou.

Another close-up of a Caribou.

 

Gray Wolf.

Big Raccoon in a tree.

Gray Wolf taking a rest.

 


The Rouge River, another beautiful autumn morning.

For some years now, i like to take a day off to drive the dirt road along the Rouge River in Grenville-sur-La-Rouge to photograph the colorful autumn display ! The night was cold (around 1 °C), clear and with calm winds, so everything was set for a good foggy morning over the river. I woke-up early since it’s a little more than an 1 hour drive from my home and arrived at least 45 minutes before sunrise.

For sure there was fog everywhere along the river and the surrounding mountains as well, great photo opportunities to come 🙂

The fog was very thick, at times i couldn’t see the shore on the other side of the river. Fuji X-E1, XF 55-200mm, tripod.

 

The light level was very low, i liked the trees hanging on the rocky shore. Fuji X-E1, XF 14mm, tripod.

Close-up of an Oak Tree seed amongst Cedar leaves and Pine needles in a rock crevice. Fuji X-E1, Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro, tripod.

I always look on the ground for interesting subjects, i saw that there was a lot of Pine needles on the ground, so i looked around to find something and finally found those 2 Maple Tree leaves on needles in a shallow waterhole. Fuji X-E1, XF 55-200mm, tripod.

Along the road small rivers comes down from the mountains to finish in the Rouge river, i always stop at one of them for more intimate landscape of a river running in a forested area as well as some close-ups of leaves on rocks.

As you can see in the forest in the background, fog was also present in the forest. Fuji X-E1, XF 14mm, tripod, Polariser.

A vertical version of the same scene but this time i put a rock covered with leaves and Pine needles. Fuji X-E1, XF 14mm, Tripod, Polariser.

One of the thing i like to do in autumn is to explore the wet rocks in the river to find colorful fallen leaves. The rocks are very slippery, so you have to be careful while walking on them but it’s worth the risk. When setting a tripod in the flowing water you need to raise the ISO to get a faster shutter speed because the water causes vibration and your shots will be blurred. Fuji X-E1, XF 18-55mm, Tripod, Polariser.

Here the fog was very thick, i decided to do a B&W conversion since the color version looked almost B&W anyway. Fuji X-E1, XF 55-200mm, tripod.

As the sun got higher the atmosphere became warmer and the fog started to evaporate, from now on i had to shoot quickly before all the fog would dissipates.

The sun came out and the fog was quickly evaporating. Fuji X-E1, XF 55-200mm, tripod.

The fog is almost all gone, after i finished shooting those Aspen trees and got back to my truck it was completely gone. Fuji X-E1, XF 55-200mm, tripod.

After the Aspen photo i decided to head back to the small river in the forest to see if i could get some Macro and close-up shots of small subjects. There was many red Maple leaves fallen in a secondary shallow channel of the river, after some not so good photos i finally found a good composition.

I didn’t use my Polariser here because i wanted the fastest shutter speed and also keeping the reflections on the flowing water. Fuji X-E1, Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro, Tripod.

My last composition of the day, 2 dead leaves on a rock with reflected yellow trees on the water in the background. I had some difficulties positioning myself and my tripod to get that one, water got into my knee high rubber boot ….. that water was so cold ! Canon 7D, 400mm/5.6L, a 20mm extension tube, tripod.

This was a fun and productive 5 hours photo session, i will go back for sure next autumn, i might go back in November when there is no snow but it’s cold enough that ice will have formed in the rivers making for new interesting subjects !


My 1st Street Photography experience !

I’ve been a Nature photographer for the last 26 years but i’ve always liked what Street photographers were producing, especially in B&W. I recently bought a Fuji X-E1 because i wanted something smaller, it’s a camera that reminds me of the old rangefinder cameras often used by street photographers in the past. So i was tempted to try street photography, so i took my X-E1 with my 27mm and 18-55mm and headed for a town near my home with a boardwalk along a river where big boats are anchored. There is also a lot of restaurant and stores are all side by side so i was hoping for some interesting occasions.

I started with the 18-55mm because of the OIS which was useful around sunrise, i thought that i would use the 27mm when the light would be sufficient but i stayed with the 18-55mm because of it’s versatility …. maybe next time i will bring only the 27mm to force me to use it. It was difficult, it’s not easy to photograph peoples in the street and found that i didn’t had much time to compose/focus and set the aperture needed for the shot.  Also i found it not easy getting close to peoples and take their photos, i will need more practice to find confidence at getting closer to peoples.

I liked the experience, it was fun and challenging to try a new photographic discipline, i will certainly continue to do it when i have time to get better at it.

Here are some of the photos i took this morning, all taken in RAW and converted to B&W in Silkypix and PS Element 12.

One of the first shot i took this morning.

Looking for glass bottles in the recycling bins.

Time to clean, kids had done drawings last night.

Waiting at the toilet cabinet.

This worker was taking a break while talking to a boat owner.

A beautiful and relaxing place to read the daily newspaper.


Weekly photo, 12 July 2014

Plants were covered with dew this morning and added something to the photos of  Gray Tree Frogs i took. But there is one that i prefer because of the colors of the leaves this Frog was perched on.

Taken with my Canon 7D and Tamron 90mm Macro VC, Tripod.


Gray Tree Frogs are out of the pond.

I was waiting for that moment with excitement, it’s the first time of the year that i went to the pond where there is a lot of Gray Tree Frogs, they are my favorite Frog that live here in my corner of the country  (Canada). At this time of the year i’m looking for the young ones that just got out of the water, some still have a small tail. I have a favorite pond where i go every summer, it’s a Beaver’s pond, many species turns from tadpoles to juvenile Frogs at the same time (American Toad, Gray Tree Frog, Spring Peeper Frog and Leopard Frog).

Those little fellows are quite small, about the size of my thumbnail, so a Macro lens is the best way to go and i would add that a lens with IS, VC, VR or a camera with IBIS is a bonus that help a lot since i often handheld my gear. They are often hiding on plants where it’s difficult to get a good view and a tripod is not always practical.

The King of the pond ! You can see the remaining of it’s tail.

Just to give you an idea of how many Gray tree Frogs there is on the shore of that pond, i was standing among the vegetation and i was counting at least 30 Frogs around me hiding on the plants, i even saw 13 of them on a single plant. Sure i have a lot of subjects to choose from but often the background is busy so i have to find a Frog where the background is more interesting or less busy. With the combination of early morning, handholding the camera, wind and the need to blur the background i often end-up shooting from f/4.5 to f/5.6.

I found this one hiding in a Pine, i was able to use my tripod and close my lens to a smaller aperture to have more DOF.

The Spring Peeper Frogs juveniles are even smaller, some are the size of a fingernail. This one was walking on a leaf, i only got 4 frames before he jumped on another leaf.

All the photos i posted here were taken on the same morning, when i arrived at the pond it was raining, a perfect situation for photographing Frogs. I used my Canon 7D and Tamron 90mm Macro VC either handheld or on a tripod. Hope you like them 🙂


Family portrait !

Last Week-end i was lucky to be able to photograph a cooperative Canada Geese family. Around here they tend to be nervous and difficult to get close to, but at that pond there are a lot of peoples going there for fishing and walking, so they are easier to photograph.

Nice family portrait, the young geese are so cute, they came very close to me after that shot. Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6 L.

The little geese up-close. Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6 L.

 


Sometimes Frogs are very cooperative !

Yesterday before going to work i stopped at a local Park where there is some small and bigger ponds with different species of Frogs and Turtles. But it was cold (10C) and there was not many Frogs to be seen, i took some photos of a frog but not very good, after 30 minutes i had to go to work.

Today was another story, the morning was warmer and humid, Frogs were easy to find and i just choosed the ones that were more photogenics and cooperative. However at that place they are more nervous than at another pond i go also for photograpphing Green Frogs, i usually use my 400mm lens with Extension tubes (all the photos posted here were taken with that lens).

I started with this Green Frog, not satisfied because of the OOF branch in the foreground.

Not far away, this one was on the shore probably waiting for something to eat.

Watch your back my little friend, they were 2 on that mossy rock, the other one jumped as soon as i tried to get close. Fortunately this one stayed there. At first i wanted to photograph it from the side but it would have been difficult to get a good shot, so i took it from behind.

This one was very well camouflaged amongst the dead dark leaves, i liked the reflection in the water which adds to the photo.

Just as i was walking back to my Truck, i saw another Green Frog on the shore on moss covered rocks.

It’s a beautiful Park for photographing Frogs because of the different ponds setting, some are surrounded with Cattails and like the photos posted here where i concentrated myself on the series of small and shallow ponds.

Again after 30 minutes i needed to leave and go to work, will try to go again tomorrow morning and see if i will get lucky!


P.O.V. when photographing Frogs.

When i’m photographing Frogs i always try to have the best point of view (POV) to show them at their best, it’s not always easy since they are small, so you need to get low and be ready to get dirty. The lower to their level you can get the best they will look on your final shot. Another benefit is that usually the background will look better when shooting low, that is if the background behind the from is not too distracting and select an aperture that will blur it.

Here is an example i took this morning, same Green Frog, both taken with 7D and Tamron 90mm Macro VC at f/5.6:

For this one i was on my knees and looking through the VF to compose the shot.

I switched to LV and put the camera as close to the ground as i could and tried to compose the best i could without falling into the pond !

I prefer the second photo because the Frog look better because the POV give it more pride. I nearly fell into the pond to get that second shot, the shore was steep and muddy and when i tried to get up my boots were just slipping on that muddy terrain ! As i was fighting to get up the slope the Frog never moved, it was probably waiting to see if i would fell into the pond to have a good laugh at me 🙂

For this photo of a young Bullfrog it was a different story, it was on a Moss covered branch at a good distance from me. The challenge here was to position my tripod mounted camera with a 400mm and 64mm of Extension tubes in a pile of branches to get the view i wanted. I would have liked to get lower to clear the branch in the background but i couldn’t get low enough and still get a good view, so i set the lens W/O at f/5.6 to blur the background as much as i could and did some burning in PP.

Those photos were all taken this morning at a local pond, it’s a great place to photograph different species of Frogs in a beautiful habitat and also Snapping Turtles. It offers a variety of backgrounds and mossy rocks and branches, i just need to look around and find the forg with a better surrounding that will make a great shot and reminds to get low.


Frogsicles !

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.

I found 5 Frogs dead in that small waterhole, maybe too small for them.

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:

http://www.naturenorth.com/winter/winterkill/Winterkill.html


Macro Photography: part 3

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).

In this photo of a Leopard Frog i selected a wider aperture to blurr the surrounding of the frog and was shooting handheld at ground level but the lens was braced on a kind of bean bag.

Pentax K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR

Controlling light

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.

Finding subjects

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.

This photo of a leaf caught in ice is a good example of having a camera with me. I took that photo on my way to work, i stopped on the shore of a lake and walked on the ice until i found the best subject.

Pentax K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR, Tripod.


Humans are not only leaving Footprints on our planet !

Shoe sole on the shore of a Lake.

A Beer Can in the Ice on an Old Canal.

Bottle in a river.

Some Forests are also covered with old garbages that are there since many years.

Roadkills are part of the problems we are responsible.

There is hope, Nature can take back what she lost.


Macro Photography: part 2

This time i will talk about how to use your gear to get better results. In part one i talked about the options you have to get into Macro range with different accessories. I did some quick shots just to show you the magnification you can get with each accessories.

All the photos below were taken with the lens set at it’s minimum focusing distance and at f/5.6 with no PP, not a test for IQ.

K-01+Extension tube of 25mm+TC 1.4X+A-50mm/2.

K-01+TC 1.4X+Extension tube of 25mm+A-50mm/2.

K-01+Extension tube of 25mm+A-50mm/2.

K-01+A-50mm/2 with Reversing ring.

K-01+Clubman 24mm with Reversing ring.

As you can see, some combos give about the same magnification. The IQ will vary depending on the lens, you will have to do some test to determine which one is the best, here i can say that the A-50mm/2 is not that good when used with those accessories.

Handholding your camera

If needed you can shoot handheld and it’s where a stabilized lens or a camera with a stabilized sensor will help you. Sure it will not be as effective as in normal shooting distances but it can help.

I often handhold my camera when i’m photographing frogs so that i can have a ground level perspective,  i brace the lens or hood on the ground or my gloves or i use a ziploc bag filled with sand to get the sharpest shot possible. The Shake Reduction (SR) in my Pentax cameras is useful here, with some practice i’m able to get some sharp shot with a shutter speed as low as 1/6 sec., with a low success rate though, but i usually try to have a shutter speed of at least 1/20 sec. I don’t have any experience yet with in-lens IS, i ordered a Tamron 90mm Macro VC for my Canon kit and will soon be able to compare it to my Pentax cameras SR.

Here is one taken handheld with my camera braced on cattails stem, the photo is sharp even printed at 11X14 inches.

Pentax K20D with DFA 100mm Macro WR, 1/20 sec. at f/7.1, ISO 1000

When photographing at ground level i focus manually at about the size i want my subject to be in the frame and then move the camera back and forth to fine tune the focus instead of using the focusing ring, that way it’s easier to nail the focus. I’m often laying flat on my belly to make my photos when handholding my camera for ground level photograhy.

Tripod

You will need a good tripod and/or flash to obtain sharp photos most of the time. A tripod help you get sharp photos, also it lets you use any f-stop or shutter speed and as a bonus you can fine tune your composition more easily than when handholding your camera. I prefer a tripod that can go very low or there is also tripod with the center column that can be positioned where you want.

A remote release or cable release is very useful to release the shutter to prevent vibrations. You can also use the 2 seconds delay with or without the release cable, i always use the 2 second delay because the mirror locks-up and the shutter is release after 2 seconds, some cameras even have a true mirror lock-up.

Last summer i found a new way to use my tripod for vertical shots at ground level, click below to watch the video.

http://s47.photobucket.com/user/leopold44/media/MVI_1574_zps3a1fbd56.mp4.html

The resulting photo.

K-01 with DFA 100mm Macro WR.

Digital cameras have advantages that will help you get sharper photos easier than it was when shooting film. High ISO image quality is so good now that shooting handheld with the help of IS gives you a higher keeper rate and also getting photos that were impossible before. The other thing is Live view, it’s so good now that getting critically exact focus is now so easy especially with cameras that have focus peaking like the Pentax and Sony cameras.

A tripod and focus peaking in LV helped me get a sharp shot and composing my shot while having all the DOF i needed.

 Pentax K-01 with SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4, tripod.

Practice often to get your technique better, especially when handholding your camera. Next article will be about finding your subjects, composition and more.