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Weekly photo of 17 April 2016

This week it’s not a photo from the Natural world as usual, it’s a photo of humans. I took that photo of my 11 years old girl at the Rossetti store with Mr. Sean, her pointe shoes needed some adjustments before her next ballet lesson.I love that store, it has a lot of “cachet”, very photogenic (It’s on St-Denis street). I waited until my girl talked to Mr. Sean to explain where her shoes were hurting her. The first shots were OK but then i saw their reflections in the mirror and zoomed my lens to a wider setting and adjusted my composition.

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Canon 7D with my 10-18mm STM set at 11mm, ISO 800, 1/6 sec. at f/5.0, handheld with IS activated. 


Weekly photo of 20 March 2016

This week the temperature was up and down, the morning I took that shot it was very foggy and the Old Canal was particularly interesting. I waited until the sunrise so i would be able to include it in my composition. I didn’t push the contrast too much during the processing since I wanted to keep the mood of that morning.

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Taken with my Canon 7D and 24mm STM, ISO 100 at f/10.


Weekly photo of 12 March 2016

Spring is coming and the Ice is melting on the lake, so I stopped on the shore of a lake to see if I could photograph something interesting. I found that ice pattern with an Eagle head that you can see in the upper right corner of the ice. I had to take the photo handheld at arms length, so I took short burst of 3 to 4 shots. When I took the photo I knew I wanted to convert it to B&W, I played with the curves and contrast as well as the dark slider in LR.

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Taken with my Canon 7D and 24mm STM, 1/25 sec. at f/9.0, ISO 800


Canon 24mm STM review.

I love “Pancake” lenses because they don’t take too much space and don’t add a significant amount of weight in my camera bag ! A Pancake lens needs to have some compromise optically to be so small, so you can’t have it all for such a small lens and low price. Usually they are slower lenses, it’s inevitable if you want a pancake lens, if you want a fast lens it will be bigger and heavier. I’ve owned some Pancake lenses over the years, very good ones like the Fuji XF 27mm and some not so good like the Sony E-mount 16mm.  Pentax makes some great Pancake lenses in the DA Limited series, currently I own the Pentax DA 40mm/2.8 XS which is a derivate of the Pentax DA 40mm/2.8 Limited but even smaller …. it’s the smallest lens available for an APS-C camera.

Canon finally came-up with two Pancake lenses, the 24mm STM and 40mm STM. For me the 24mm was more interesting since I already had the Pentax DA 40mm XS in my bag and also because of the close focusing ability of the 24mm which is interesting for it’s focal length. So I bought one last fall (2015) and I now have enough experience with it to share my thoughts with you.

The built quality is not as good as the Pentax Limited lenses which are all metal construction, even the front lens cap is made of metal. But for a plastic lens at that price it’s quite good, especially if you compare it to Canon’s 50mm/1.8 or the 18-55mm kit lenses !

Here are my two Pancake lenses that I have in my camera bag: on the left side the Pentax DA 40mm/2.8 XS and on the right side the Canon 24mm/2.8 STM.

This photo was taken the next morning I bought the Canon 24mm. It was -4°C and all the vegetation was covered with a thick layer of frost. Taken at f/11 on a tripod.

This photo of an old canal was taken on a cold morning, I used a Polarizer to obtain a longer exposure. Taken with the Canon 24mm at f/11 on a tripod.

I arrived at the Rouge River in Grenville before sunrise in late October, suddenly close to sunrise the clouds behind me took a pink/orange color that casted that warm glow on the landscape. Taken with my 7D and 24mm STM, ISO 100, 25 sec. at f/11, tripod.

The IQ of the Canon 24mm STM is quite good at normal distances and also at the closer focusing distances but some distortion can be seen. It’s not as good as my Pentax DA 40mm XS but it’s not the same focal length, maybe I should try a head to head battle between my Pentax and the Canon 40mm STM ( would have to buy one first) !!! So, in term of sharpness I would rate it as very good.

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It was useful at the ZOO to take close-ups of more accessible animals.

 

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This is a crop of the previous shot after processing and some sharpening, it was taken at 1/640 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 400.

 

 

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If you look carefully you can see that the Canon 24mm STM still produce some CA along the edge of the ice even when stopped down to f/11. But it’s easily removed in LR.

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Another shot taken at sunrise along a frozen river, at f/11.

 

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A more abstract shot, this is a rock covered with snow. Taken at f/11

 

I find the new STM AF system “strange”, it take some times to get used to it, the lens tend to hunt in some situations. I’m using it mainly in LV and on a tripod so even if the AF is not top notch I don’t mind. Keep in mind that i’m using it on a 7D, so a more modern 70D or the new 80D certainly are better cameras to take advantage of the STM motor.

With this photo I was able to test the close focusing ability of the Canon 24mm. The Bokeh at f/7.1 is not too bad.

Again, the close focusing ability of the Canon 24mm was useful to get the composition I wanted. I usually don’t place my subject in the center but this time it was what worked the best to my eye.

A small river in a forested area, I used a Polarizer to remove the reflection off the water’s surface. Taken at f/11.

What I like about that lens is when i use it for “close-up” shots, it produces a feeling of being more intimate with the subject compared if I had used a longer lens like a 100mm Macro lens which produce a more compressed look due to being a telephoto lens. The minimum focusing distance of 0.16 meter gives you a maximum magnification of 0.27, which is very good for a 24mm lens. Most of the 24mm lenses don’t focus close enough, i think manufacturers could make an effort to design more lenses with a closer minimum focusing distance. Tamron new SP 35mm/1.8 VC and 45mm/1.8 VC are very good examples of lenses that focus closer than the competition and really interest me.

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This photo of Cedar leaves was taken on a cold Canadian morning (-28°C and with the wind chill factor it was -38°C). Another good example why I really like that lens for more intimate shots. Taken at f/11.

 

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A leaf on a road covered with ice. This is the kind of subject that I really like to photograph and the 24mm STM is a very good choice to render the perspective I want. Taken at f/11 on a tripod.

 

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Ice fishing cabins in B&W, taken at f/10.

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Freezing rain was still falling when I took that shot of a frozen Blueberry shrub with a rock in the background. I converted it to B&W and processed it until it looked how I wanted. I was able to handhold it at 1/100 sec. at f/11, ISO 200

Update on CA

I wanted to update my review about the CA that I didn’t talked much about. It might not be evident on regular subjects or even on more prone subjects like high contrast but during this winter I was able to find some CA on ice and snow shots. Sure it’s not visible at regular viewing but when zooming in you will see it but it’s easy to correct in LR.

As you can see there is more to a lens than sharpness, sure I like very sharp lenses but when buying a lens i also look at the lens in general, not just how much details it can resolve. Usually i prefer a lens that will focus closer to a lens that is the sharpest lens on earth but can’t focus close enough for my needs. It’s because of my shooting style, it will probably be different for another photographer.

Conclusion

The more I use that lens on a crop sensor camera the more I realize that I like shooting at that focal length. It’s a very useful FOV and especially with the closer focusing of the 24mm STM it makes a great all around lens. I now see more and more potential photos as I become more familiar with it. At one moment it’s a “Wide angle” lens and then it becomes a Close-up lens.

Canon came out with a very good lens with some compromises (CA and distorsion), but because of it’s small size, very good IQ and minimum focusing distance, it now have a place in my camera bag with my other Pancake lens, the Pentax DA 40mm XS, especially since I paid less than 300$ Canadian for 2 lenses ! I can’t wait to use it for photographing Frogs up-close next summer and I think it will do a great job even if there is no IS incorporated. The only thing i’m missing now to take full advantage of it’s small size …… is a Canon SL1 !

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This shot was taken around sunrise along a frozen river. Taken at f/13.


Little details makes a difference in your photos.

I’m starting a new series of articles on tips to improve your photography, i will use photos that i took and show how i got them, how i made changes in the field to get what i wanted or how to improve them during the processing.

Little details can make-or-break a good shot, you have to pay attention in the field while you compose before you press the shutter button. If you wait until your subject have a better posture or better light falling on it, this is part of becoming a good photographer. Another way to improve a photo is during the post processing by adjusting the levels, color balance etc….. but also cropping to fine tune your composition.

I selected a photo of a Jaguar that i took at the Granby ZOO this week to show you some of the things that I did to end up with the finished shot. I had no choice but to shoot through a thick and dirty glass and handheld (I didn’t take my tripod with me). I used my Canon 7D with the 400mm/5.6 L, 1/250 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 400.

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On this photo the head of the Jaguar is turned just enough that we don’t see all the details of it’s eye and the photo loose some impact.

 

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I took several shots of this Jaguar and finally got a good one that we can see all the details in it’s eye. This is before doing any Processing, see below for the final resulting image after the processing.

 

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After selecting the photo with my subject in the best position, I needed to do some Processing, i adjusted levels and contrast as usual. The OOF background in the upper right corner was distracting to my eye, so I cropped the photo to eliminate it, now the viewers eye don’t get distracted by it.

 

 


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

 

 

 

 


Weekly photo of January 30, 2016

I was walking along the old Canal Soulanges in Pointe-des-Cascades before going to work to see if I could find something interesting. I did took some shots but was not really satisfied, as I walked back to my truck I finally “saw” a good shot while looking at the water. The reflection of the old Lighthouse and a tree on the water’s surface, as a bonus the light inside the lighthouse was in function. I tried different ISO and F/stop to obtain the shutter speed I needed to blur the slow flowing water of the Canal.

The shot was taken with my Canon 7D and 10-18mm STM at 18mm, ISO 250, 1 sec. at f/9.

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Weekly photo of 25 October 2015

I arrived at the Rouge River in Grenville before sunrise in late October, suddenly close to sunrise the clouds behind me took a pink/orange color that casted that warm glow on the landscape. Taken with my 7D and 24mm STM, ISO 100, 25 sec. at f/11, tripod.


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.


Weekly photo, 24 May 2015

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.

 

Taken with Canon 7D and 400mm/5.6 L at f/6.3.

 


Weekly photo, 16 May 2015

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.

Taken with my Canon 7D and 400mm/5.6 L, I pushed my tripod as far as I could in the pond to have a water level point of view.

 


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.

 


Weekly photo, 08 February 2015

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.

Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6 L at f/6.3, handheld.

 


Weekly photo, 03 January 2015

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.

Taken with Canon 7D and 70-200mm/4 L at 200mm, 1 second at f/13, tripod.

 


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 !


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.


Weekly photo, 25 May 2014

Frogs are easier to find now that the temperature is warmer, so this week it’s a photo of a Green Frog. I converted it in B&W because i felt it would look better that way.

Taken with Canon 7D + 400mm/5.6L with Ext. tubes, tripod.


Live View helped my Photography.

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.

Getting a low POV is easy now, even if the LCD screen of the K-01 is fixed you can see relatively well from about every angles. For this photo my K-01 was directly on the ground and i was able to shoot from a comfortable position instead of being forced to lay flat on the ground … it’s good when it’s wet and cold or you’re getting older 🙂

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.

For this long distance shot of a Cormorant in a tree i switched to AF in LV and zoomed in to get more accurate AF. I used my 7D with and 400mm/5.6 L on a tripod.

This is a good example of using LV for manually focusing precisely on the eye of a frog. Here i took that shot of a Bullfrog with my 7D and 400mm/5.6L.

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.

 

Here is an example of using LV with a cable release and waiting for a subject to flew in my composition. I was waiting and in a comfortable position without having to wait with my eye glued to the VF.

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:

http://s47.photobucket.com/user/leopold44/media/M4V06483.mp4.html

For this photo of a Green Frog i had to lay down on the shore of the pond and was holding my K-01 equipped with my DFA 100mm Macro WR as far as i could above the water. The big LCD, Focus Peaking and SR made that shot possible.

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.


Weather sealing in Lenses and Cameras, a new trend !

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.

This photo of a Green Frog with friends was taken with my Pentax K20D and DFA 100mm Maco WR, it was raining and after 2 hours i was soaked but my gear had no problems at all.

Pentax is clear on which lenses are weather sealed and to which level:

http://c2b6d376b97bcc466063-5420c200a1f030d1394a9548df6eadbd.r5.cf2.rackcdn.com/files/support/Pentax_Ricoh_WR_White_V2%20_2_.pdf

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:

http://s47.photobucket.com/user/leopold44/media/MVI_4892_zpse0417590.mp4.html

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.

 


Weekly photo, 02 February 2014

This time it’s a photo of a Black Duck that i took last week-end on a cold morning (-22C) around sunrise. The fog add to the atmosphere of the silouhetted Duck.

Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6L, tripod.


Update, using Canon and Pentax as a dual system.

I’ve always been a Pentax shooter for over 25 years, i like Pentax because they makes such great prime lenses and have a good choice of Weather Resistant cameras and lenses at different price levels. Last year at the same date my kit was (all Pentax lenses) :

– Pentax K20D and K-01

– DA14mm/2.8

– FA20mm/2.8

– DA35mm/2.8 Macro Limited

– DFA100mm Macro WR

– DA*50-135mm/2.8

– K200mm/2.5

– Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 EDIF

– TC 1.4X (Tamron AF and Pentax 1.4X-S)

– Extension tubes set

In 2013 i wanted to cut the number of lenses and weight in my camera bag, at the same time i decided to be a dual systems user (Pentax and Canon), Pentax for their WR, small metal lenses (DA 20-40mm Ltd and DFA 100mm Macro WR)  , Canon for their long lenses and Zoom lenses choices for wildlife.

I sold some of my Pentax lenses, even my DA35mm Macro Limited !  In December 2013 i added a Canon 70-200mm/4 L (price was too good) and a Pentax DA 20-40mm/2.8-4 Limited WR. So now i have 2 zoom lenses for each system, the Canon zooms covers more range but are heavier and not weather resistant.The Pentax zooms are both weather resistant, smaller, lighter and of high built quality. Lets not forget that ALL my lenses are stabilized with Pentax SR. Here is my complete kit for each system:

CANON

– Canon 7D and T3i

– Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 IS (575 gr.) (Filter: 72mm) (great for travelling and vacation)

– Canon 70-200mm/4 L (705 gr.) (Filter: 67mm) (will be used for landscape, wildlife and Frogs)

– Canon 400mm/5.6L (1250 gr.)

– TC 1.4X II (220 gr.)

– Extension tubes set

PENTAX

– Pentax K20D and K-01

– Pentax DA 14mm/2.8 (420 gr.) (nothing like this lens in the Canon line-up, that wide which can focus so close)

– Pentax HD DA 20-40mm/2.8-4.0 WR Limited (283 gr.) (Filter: 55mm)

– Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8 (685 gr.) (Filter: 67mm)

– DFA 100mm Macro WR (340 gr.) (nearly half the weight of the smallest 100mm Macro of Canon, ALL FF)

– Tc 1.4 X (Tamron AF and Pentax 1.4X-S)

– Extension tubes set

From left to right:

Canon 15-85mm/3.5-5.6 IS, Pentax HD DA 20-40mm/2.8-4.0 WR Limited, Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8, Canon 70-200mm/4 L

As you can see, those 4 zooms are a big part of my kit now. Those 4 zooms are very good to excellent, the 15-85mm is the “weakest” one of the group but it’s still in the very good territory, it’s not perfect but if you know how to use that lens it will produce very good photos. In fact, last August during our family vacation in New Brunswick and PEI i took 90% of my photos with the 15-85mm even the photos for my Stock Photo Agency. They replaces many of my good primes i had, they certainly delivers the IQ i need.

There is more to a lens than being THE sharpest lens … versatility, weight and FUN are certainly high on the list, but you also have to consider Bokeh, contrast and distorsion. Zoom lenses tend to have more distorsion than a Prime lens, especially the WA zooms. Now my camera bag is lighter and i change lenses less often in the field, especially useful in bad weather, even more when i’m using my Pentax Weather sealed lenses.

Do i take all those lenses with me every time ….. never, but i have choices now and take the lenses i need to do the job and i know they will all deliver great photos for me. I bought the Canon 70-200mm/4 L because i already owned the TC 1.4X II and i knew that it would work well together and it’s true after using this combo i can attest it still deliver very good IQ when used properly. Next summer i will use it with that TC1.4XII and also with my Extension tubes for photographing frogs, it will be a great addition for that kind of subjects. Another plus for that lens is that it takes the same filter size as my Pentax DA*50-135mm.

Taken with my T3i and 15-85mm IS, it was really useful for taking this photo, i was able to change focal length quickly to capture the action.

Snowy Owl taken at a local Zoo (Ecomuseum of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue), my first subject with my 70-200mm/4 L with the TC 1.4X II.

I really like my Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8, sharp and weather sealed, my favorite lens for landscape photography especially when it’s raining. I took that shot in autumn during a light rain, i didn’t protected my K20D + DA*50-135 at all, i was able to continue shooting without worrying about my gear.

Old Canal on a cold morning, i like that place when the nights are cold, in the morning everything around is frosted. My Canon 70-200mm/4 L was perfect for that shot and also for taking close-ups of the old canal.

Another one on a cold foggy morning at -23C with the Pentax DA*50-135mm, i was able to fine tune my composition with a zoom since i couldn’t get closer since i was already standing at the edge of the river.

One of the reason i switched to Canon for my wildlife photography was the choices in long lenses.The 400mm/5.6 L is also very useful when i’m photographing frogs from a distance, or i can add a TC-1.4X or Extension tubes to get closer.

Taken during a light rain, Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6L protected with a rain cover.

Conclusion

I think that i now have 2 systems that works well together and fits my needs and shooting style, i’m satisfied with what i have and can cover all i need to shoot. The only thing i will maybe change in 2014 is trying to update my K20D to a newer Pentax camera, i dropped it 4 times up to now and i had to put duct tape on it to keep it Weather Reasistant …. a very tough camera. The 7D is very tough also, i dropped it last summer in a pond while photographing frogs with my 400mm attached and they both survived after some drying time with rice !

The Canon gear is more a working set-up while the Pentax is more based on fun and high quality built metal and WR lenses. They both can be used to produce great photos and i will continue using both unless Pentax comes up with many choices in long prime and zoom lenses that are WR. An excellent DA* 400mm/5.6 or a DA* 100-400mm would probably be enough for me to come back a full time Pentax users, especially now that the K3 is a better choice for fast action photography.

The Canon 18 Mp sensor is good but still not on the same level as the Sony 16 Mp EXMOR sensor found in many Pentax cameras and the new 24 Mp sensor in the K3 looks very good also. Canon needs to come up with a better crop sensor, maybe in the 7D MK II ?


Photographing “Wild animals” at Omega Park

Well, this is not really Wild Animals since it’s a Zoo that animals are in liberty and you drive in the enclosure , excepts for the predators that are in “smaller enclosure” but not as small as a regular Zoo. I like to go there with my kids but also for taking photos of animals that would be difficult to find in the wild around here. Sure it’s not as fun as photographing a truly wild animal but it’s good to get close-up of them or to keep your skills sharp and try new equipments.

I’ve always shoot with my Pentax equipment before but this time it was the first time with my Canon gear (i only have my Canon since last March). By experience i knew what i needed to cover all the possibilities and weight was not an issue since you have to stay in your car for most of the viewing.

So here is what i had with me:

– Canon T3i and 7D

– Canon 70-300mm IS (non-L )

– Canon 400mm/5.6 L

– NEX-3 with my 18-55mm Kit lens for the animals close to me while driving.

– Tripod for the walking part (Wolves).

The 70-300mm was the lens i used the most, it covers most of my needs there and makes switching composition very effective. When i use Pentax my DA*50-135mm with a prime 300mm lens are my choices. If you plan do go at that “Zoo” or other Zoo like this in the world, a 70-300mm, 80-400mm or 100-400mm is a must have lens that will cover the majority of the situations. I also brought my NEX-3 with a 18-55mm lens for animals that came very close to the cars, i always came back with interesting close-ups of animals taken with that kit.

Beautiful eye of the Alpine Ibex, i was able to quickly took that shot because i didn’t had to change lenses on my cameras since i was using 3 cameras and 3 lenses.

Sony NEX-3 with 18-55mm kit lens, at 55mm, ISO 200, 1/320 sec. at f/8.

Having a camera with IBIS or lenses with IS or VR is very useful but you can also use a bean bag, but many years ago i went there and i didn’t had any lens or camera with stabilisation and was able to get sharp shots by using good technic. Light level can be low in the forested area when animals are hiding in the shadows.

Elk are everywhere along the road and they like carrots a lot, as soon as you slightly open your window they put their big nose in the opening, so at the end your car windows are quite dirty 🙂

Elk with leaves certainly is a view from the rut season.

Canon 7D with 70-300mm IS, at 115mm, ISO 800, 1/640 sec. at f/5.6.

Same Elk but from a different angle, maybe not the best composition but i like the Canada Geese and Beaver house in the background that shows the habitat of that magnificent animal.

Canon 7D with 70-300mm IS, at 95mm, ISO 800, 1/400 sec. at f/5.6.

This one is a big Male taking a break, looks like is eye is damage, rut season is tough, even in that Park they battle for females.

Canon 7D with 70-300mm IS, at 100mm, ISO 800, 1/200 sec. at f/8.

We were lucky to experience a pack of Coyote howling, this was a lot of fun ! The friend of my older girl took a video with her iPod:

http://s47.photobucket.com/user/leopold44/media/IMG_1056_zps21bcb16c.mp4.html

My wife and i were able to take some shots of those Coyotes, my wife was on the good side of the truck for taking photos and i tried to get some shots, as well as i could from my position.

Coyote howling

Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6 L, ISO 800, 1/400 sec. at f/6.3

Coyotes howling

Canon T3i with 70-300mm IS, at 115mm, ISO 800, 1/160 sec. at f/8

Like i said above, this is a good place to obtain photos of animals but there is a negative point. Since you shoot from your car you can’t get lower and you have to shoot from the road which limits your mobility as a photographer, like this shot below of Wildboars.

Family of Wildboars, this is a situation that i was limited by my truck, they were walking and would have liked to be lower near ground level.

Canon 7D with 70-300m IS, at 110mm, ISO 800, 1/500 sec. at f/6.3

Bison on muddy terrain, in the background you can see a female with it’s young.

Canon 7D with 70-300m IS, at 110mm, ISO 800, 1/500 sec. at f/6.3

Close-up of the head of a Bison, this was a big male.

Canon 7D with 70-300m IS, at 85mm, ISO 800, 1/400 sec. at f/6.3

At one point during your visit there is picnic tables and a small farm where you can stop get out of your car and lunch. There is only White-tailed Deer in liberty, so there is no danger to walk down the trails.

This White-tailed Deer was photographed just beside the parking lot, i wanted to show how well they are camouflaged in their habitat.

Canon 7D with 70-300m IS, at 200mm, ISO 800, 1/640 sec. at f/6.3

This young White-tailed Deer was very tolerant, my kids were able to pet it like a dog.

Canon 7D with 70-300m IS, at 200mm, ISO 800, 1/500 sec. at f/6.3

Then we went to the trail to see Grey Wolf and Black bears as well as a show with different species, we even have the opportunity to pet a Turkey Vulture.

Close-up of a Turkey Vulture that was giving a show.

Canon T3i with 70-300m IS, at 190mm, ISO 800, 1/500 sec. at f/6.3

The sun was out for this shot of a Grey Wolf, not the best light in a forested area but i had to do with it, i stopped the lens to f/11 to show how the Wolf blend in it’s habitat.

Canon 7D with 400mm/5.6L, ISO 800, 1/1250 sec. at f/8, tripod (BTW the only shot posted here taken with a tripod).

So if you want to visit the Omega Park situated in Montebello, Province of Quebec, Canada, you will not regret it.


Canon 70-300mm IS, my impressions.

I wanted a telephoto zoom lens to go along  my 400mm/5.6 L and 7D. I didn’t want to spend too much because my goal is to buy a 70-300mm IS L or wait to see if Pentax would come out with the 135-400mm WR that was on the roadmap. It’s a lens that will be used in vacation or when i don’t need or want to carry my 400mm lens. I read many reviews and user opinions before i finally bought one when a store here in Canada was selling brand new ones for 420$ . I could also have bought the 70-200mm/4 L as it was 600$ (i already own a TC-1.4XII), but i wanted to have a lens with IS.

The built quality is cheaper than my 400mm/5.6L and all my Pentax lenses (i don’t own cheap lenses for my Pentax cameras). I was aware of this before buying it, so not a problem. The focusing ring is not the best i’ve used and MF with LV is manageable at best.

Male Green Frog in the morning light.

Canon 7D with 70-300mm IS, 21mm Ext. tube, at 300mm, ISO 250, 1/320 sec. at f/11, tripod.

100% crop of the shot above with PP in Photoshop and sharpening applied (amount around 95 and radius at 1). You can see some CA in the highlights.

One of the reason i bought that lens was to photograph frogs which would need the use of Extension tubes on some occasions. At 300mm with extension tubes the sharpness is quite good , not as good as a Macro lens but good enough for publishing photos in a magazine. At shorter focal length the IQ is quite good, but with extension tubes and zoomed out from 200mm to 300mm the set-up is not very rigid and is prone to vibration so you need a solid tripod, i also use LV to focus and 2 second delay with a remote release.

7D with 70-300mm IS with 65mm of Ext. tubes, at 190mm, ISO 320, at f/10, tripod, remote release.

I’m lucky to have a young Cottontail Rabbit that likes to live in my backyard and he have a favorite spot just in front of a black spruce where it’s well hidden from predators. He’s now quite accustomed to see us in the backyard and i can get close to him with my camera and he even sleep when i’m close to him!

Here it is looking at me, below are crops from that shot, i was also trying Spot AF.

Canon 7D, at 300mm, 1/250 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 800, tripod, RAW.

Zoomed to 100% with no PP and no NR.

With some PP, sharpening in PS7 (Amount 89, Radius 1.0).

From what i’ve shot with that lens up to now it reflects what i’ve read on some reviews and user reviews, it’s quite good up to 200mm when stopped down 1 stop, at 300mm IQ drops but by stopping down to f/7.1 IQ is relatively good, not up to a prime lens.

This shot was taken near the minimum focusing distance of the lens using LV at 10X magnification.

7D with 70-300mm IS at 170mm, ISO 500, 1/25 sec. at f/6.3, tripod and Polariser filter.

This is a 100% crop of the previous shot.

A shot taken at “normal” distance, more standard use of the lens.

7D, lens set at 90mm, ISO 100, 1/50 sec. at f/10, tripod.

Sure it’s not as sharp as a prime lens at longer focal lengths but when stopped down it can produce very good photos until i can buy the 70-300mm IS L ! I’m now getting to know that lens and use it more often for photographing frogs and it’s doing very well. For the price i paid it’s a good value even if the built quality could be better especially the focusing ring that could have a better feeling. I wish that Canon would give at least the lens hood with their lenses like Pentax do.