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Posts tagged “nature

How i use the K-01 for ground level photography.

Many peoples on forums ask how well the LCD of the K-01 is useable because it does not tilt or swivel. So i decided to do a video on how i use my K-01 for ground level photography and to show you at which angle i can see the LCD and still being able to compose and focus accurately.

You will see that i use my thumb instead of my finger to press the shutter release button, it’s the best way to do it, i tried with my finger but from this position it’s not comfortable and not as steady.

Sorry for the model in the video, Brad Pitt was not available ūüôā

By chance i had a fresh haircut last night and i’m also freshly shaved from this morning…. i’m at my best !

Here is the video:

K01 viewing

Here is the photo i took in the video, more of a snapshot than a real photo.

K-01 with DA35mm Macro Limited, ISO 800, 1/200 sec.at f/6.3, with SR.

Here is another shot i took this week using the same combo and technique:

All photos on my site are copyrighted, property of Steeve Marcoux.


Showing Wildlife in their habitats.

When i started photography (and most people for that matter), all i wanted was getting closer to wildlife to have a close shot of the animals. It’s always fun to have a great portrait of an animal, i still do that when i have the occasion. But now, whenever i can, i try not to get too close and show the animal in it’s habitat, i think it will be the kind of photos that will sell more and more now that the environment in which the animal live is considered as important to protect than the animal itself …. well i hope it will be in most countries!

It’s not always easy to show an animal in it’s habitat, often there is distracting elements that you can’t crop from your composition.

In this shot the Great Blue Heron was at the base of a waterfal that is not natural. I was able to frame the heron against the waterfal and still show the heron in this particular environment without showing the artificial construction. I could have gotten closer but i would have lost the background and it would have been “yet” another Great Blue Heron portrait. Sony NEX-3, Pentax-67 M*400mm/4.

It’s more like taking a landscape photo but with an animal in your composition, so you need the same thing as a landscape photo: good composition, beautiful light certainly helps and an interesting landscape or atmosphere. The rule of thirds is still a valuable starting point, placing the animal at one of the crossing points makes for a dynamic photo, if necessary you can place the animal elsewhere in the frame if it makes for an even stronger composition.

This photo was already posted here on my Blog but i think it shows what i mean about showing an animal in it’s habitat. Those Canada Geese stayed very late at that place, they left when they had no more place to go¬† on that pond (free water), so even in december you can have great opportunities to show how an animal can survive in their habitat even if it gets cold. Pentax K20D, Pentax-67 M*400mm/4.

Don’t forget the small animals that can be found at your feet, i like to use my 14mm lens at or near it’s minimum focusing distance and show a frog, snail or insect in it’s habitat. Unfortunately not all wide angle lens can focus very close, especially zoom lenses where the minimum focusing distance is often not as close as a prime wide angle lens.

This close-up of a Snail¬†on Stone crop and moss is interesting because we can see the details and textures of the animal but doesn’t show too much of the snail environment . It was taken on a rainy morning around sunrise. Pentax K20D, Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR.

This one was taken on another morning but close to where the shot above was captured. Here i took the photo with my Pentax DA14mm which can focus very close for such a wide angle (0.17 meter and a repro ration of 0.19x), which is very useful to take the kind of shot like this one. With such a wide angle i was able to show the snail environment and create a dynamic photo, the snail looks like is following the rock path along the water to go back in the vegetation in the background . Pentax K-01, Pentax DA 14mm, at f/8, handheld, SR (Shake Reduction) activated.

Next time you will¬†go hunting wildlife with your camera,¬†¬†keep in mind to also capture them with a wider perspective, showing¬†the animal¬†in it’s habitat can give viewers another experience when looking at your images.

The Super Moon.

I went with my wife and my 2 young girls to see the Super moon at sunset, we went to the shore of the St-Lawrence river near my home where i hoped to have a good view for taking some photos. There was some elactrical pilone and houses but not too bad, luckily some Canada Geese were there to see the moon also, i included them in my shots.

On our way back home we saw 2 Barred Owl in flight, they flew just in front of my truck, we got a good view of them!

Here are my resulting shots all taken with my Pentax K20D and Pentax-67 M*400mm/4:

First bird shots with K-01 and Pentax-67 M*400mm/4.

I finally had a chance to try out how the K-01 would perform on my Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 for photographing birds. I already took some shots of Rabbits, but they were not moving so it was easy for the K-01.

Yesterday morning i found 4 Greater Yellowlegs on the shore of a big river near my home, so i decided to use my K-01 instead  of my K20D. The positive part is that you now have a 3 inches viewfinder to focus and compose your shot with focus peaking to help manually focus your shots. The focus peaking is very accurate and if you need more precision you can always magnify the view to 2X, 4X or 6X.

The biggest drawbacks of the K-01 is the 1 fps in RAW and the image freezes between each shot so when your subject moves you can loose it on the LCD. That camera was not designed for fast action obviously but maybe the next K-02?

IQ is great and the performance of high ISO is better than my K20D is a plus for the K-01…sure i could have buy a K-5 but the K-01 is a great Macro camera and i think it’s where it is the best camera i have ever use for that purpose.

My Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 is an 8.3 pounds beast and i think it requires a camera that is bigger than the K-01 for the best handling, my K20D is a perfect match, sure i will use my K-01 again with that lens mostly for photographing frogs when they will come out for good. The K-01 might be easier to use for bird photography with the DA*300mm/4 or the FA* 400mm/5.6, on a tripod of course, i always prefer a good tripod.

Here is my shots i took with the K-01 all at ISO 1000, 1/200 sec at f/5.6, tripod.

Greater Yellowlegs

Canada Goose

Snails are not only beautiful at the restaurant!

Snails are popular at the restaurant but they are overlooked as a photo subject. Close to my home i have a Park where there is a lot of them and easy to find and photograph . I prefer misty morning or rainy days because on hot sunny days the snails just stay in their shells, they like humid days or habitat.

You will need a tripod but also something that you can use to stabilize your camera at ground level (beanbag, or a ziploc filled with sand), my camera have Shake Reduction (SR) and it’s very helpful for this kind of photography. Now with my K-01 it’s easier to shoot at ground level since i don’t need to look in the viewfinder like my K20D, the live view and focus peaking work very well to compose and focus the shot. A camera with a tilting or swivel LCD would be even easier to use, but the K-01 is still quite easy to use at ground level.

You will need a relatively fast shutter speed….. yes i’m serious …. those snails are always on the move and the antenna (eyes) are nearly always moving. Having the eyes, head and shell in relatively the same plane of focus is not evident since they move their eyes in many directions very often. Flash can help to obtain better light and/or faster shutter speed, i prefer to use natural light.

Most of my photos are done at/or near ground level but don’t forget to look in the trees because they are often hanging on the branches or leaves. Vary your point of view and habitat if possible,¬† so not all your shots will look the same.

Snail at sunrise in autumn light.

Surrounded by Stone crop flowers.

Young Snail on a weed.

All 3 shots above taken with Pentax K20D, Pentax DFA100mm Macro WR, tripod.

The most useful lens is a Macro lens, the majority of my snails photos are taken with my 100mm Macro because snails are quite small and to better control the background. If i can i will use my 35mm Macro and 14mm to show more of the habitat. My Pentax DA14mm can focus quite close so i’m able to get the snails large enough in the frame and still have place to show it’s environment. You have to be careful with that 14mm since you will be shooting at it’s minimum focusing distance (17 cm) you can cast a shadow with the camera or your head on the subject.

Snail on an Aspen tree after the rain.

Pentax K20D, Pentax DA14mm, handheld with SR, ISO 800, 1/15 sec. at f/11.

Pentax K-01, DFA 100mm Macro WR, ISO 1000, 1/80 sec. at f/6.3, handheld with SR.

K-01… the Pentax’s Black sheep ?

Pentax took a big risk with the design of the K-01, nobody is indifferent to that new camera, you either like it or hate it. It will certainly not be a camera that will appeal to the majority of photographer because it’s not like other MLC (mirrorless camera). But under that design there is a real camera that can certainly take great photos when you get to know it.

I wanted a second camera body with very good image quality, with good live view and not too big, Shake Reduction (SR) is a very welcome addition and didn’t necessarily needed an EVF/OVF. Sure it’s bigger than any other APS-C¬† MLC but it’s still smaller than a DSLR and because of it’s shape it’s easier to find a place for it in a camera bag than a DSLR. I have my Pentax DA35mm Macro Limited attached to the K-01 and it fit nicely in a section of my bag.

Here are my first impressions so far.

Ground level photography.

I tried some handheld shots at ground level, with the help of SR it performed very well and getting sharp photos was easier than i thought it would be. Since you can’t hold it as steady as a DSLR because you’re not looking in a viewfinder and can’t brace the camera on your forehead, you learn to hold it differently. When i’m taking photos at ground level i can view the image and focus on the LCD from an angle of 45¬į from above the camera and press the shutter button with my thumb instead of my finger, seems to work fine for me. An advantage of a MLC is that it’s not as hard on your body (back and neck) since you don’t have to contort yourself as much to compose your shot, like trying to see something in the VF of my K20D while photographing frogs at eye level on the shore of the pond.

Here is 2 photos taken handheld with the DA14mm:

DA14mm, ISO 400, 1/25 sec at f/8.0

DA14mm, ISO 500, 1/20 sec. at f/7.1

Powerful Macro tool.

One of the reason i bought the K-01 was that i wanted a camera that would help me with manual focus, the live view and focus peaking were a big selling point for me. I shoot a lot of close-up and Macro and always use manual focus. When you combine a great sensor with very good focus peaking,¬† you get a camera that is great for Macro photography. Taking Macro shots at ground level will be easier, as discussed in the previous paragraph. Can’t wait to try out some frogs photos with my Macro and DA14 lenses.

DFA100mm Macro WR, ISO 160, 1/100 sec. at f/6.3, tripod.

DFA100mm Macro WR, ISO 200, 1/80 sec. at f/4.5, tripod.

With long lenses, i think i’m crazy !

One thing i wanted to try was how it handles with long lenses, because of it’s better high ISO performance than my K20D i want to use it for photographing frogs using my Pentax-67 M*400mm/4 with extension tubes. The K-01 is bigger and have a better grip than other MLC so it’s not that bad on my 400mm, i can use it with good results, my hands don’t suffer from trying too hold and maneuver the gear on my tripod. If needed i will not hesitate to use my K-01 with long lenses.

That shot was taken around sunrise in a forest of Pine, this Cottontail Rabbit was relaxing under a big Pine. The good performance at high ISO and the focus peaking made that photo easy to get.

Pentax-67 M*400mm/4, ISO 1250, 1/80 sec. at f/5.6, tripod.

Focus peaking:

This is one of the reason i bought the K-01, combine with the magnification (up to 6X), it makes obtaining exact focus easier especially with manual focus lenses. I selected the red button (customization menu) for turning On and Off the focus peaking, it’s useful to be able to turn it off quickly because sometimes the peaking makes it hard to compose your shots. Even without the magnification the peaking is accurate and i like using it that way when i’m taking photos handheld at ground level. If you want to see how it works you can take a look at my other post here:


What i like about the K-01:

– The buttons and wheels are well made with firm clicks and feel.

– The shutter is very quiet, the first time i tried the K-01 in the field it was windy and i couldn’t hear the shutter.

– Focus peaking is great and accurate.

– Battery life is also very good, i made over 450 photos and some videos as well as playing around with the camera on the first charge.

– Built quality is also very good and i like the feeling of the camera in my hand, i don’t have problem with the layout of the controls.

– Shake Reduction is very good.

What i don’t like about the K-01:

– 1 Fps in RAW is my biggest negative point on the K-01, hope Pentax will address that in a future firmware update.

– Rubber door flap of the SD card compartment. I learned to close it with relative ease but my concern is more if it will survive in the long term ?

– AF is not the fastest but i don’t use it often anyway.


If i had to own only 1 camera the K-01 wouldn’t be my choice because i need a DSLR with a faster motor drive and a VF for wildlife photography. But as a second camera body i think it’s a great value for any photographer who want a MLC or a smaller camera than a DSLR with great built quality and with focus peaking,¬† you can’t go wrong…. and the IQ is superb!

About high ISO i can say that i like the results up to 1250 ISO, i did try it enough above that to make a conclusion how high the quality is good enough for my taste. Will make another post here when i will have more shots under my belt with the K-01.

Time will tell if Pentax made a mistake or not by coming out with the K-01, it is certainly a camera that is already controversial, it’s not for everyone, but i like that Pentax made that move since the market is already full of tiny MLC that or not always easy to use other than with small lenses.

The migrating Canada Geese.

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

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

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

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

Warning … dead frogs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Pentax DA 35mm/2.8 Macro Limited

– SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4

– Pentax DFA 100mm/2.8 Macro WR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some last points about that lens:

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

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

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

Some photos taken with that lens for you to enjoy .

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

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

ISO 100, 0.5 sec. at f/16.