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Archive for November, 2011

I am converted for life….

November 14th, 2011

Let’s face it, it’s hard to obtain sufficient magnification to make pleasing images of wildlife with shorter telephoto lenses. It is possible to achieve good images without having extra long (super telephoto) lenses, but it’s much harder to get the magnification you want. Super telephotos make your shooting far more effective and enjoyable, yet even with them the focal lengths may not be enough at times. One way to overcome this shortness deficiency is to buy and use teleconverters, that are small lenses, which are designed to fit between your lens and camera.

The most common teleconverter sizes are:

— 1.4x – enlarges your lens’ focal length by 40%, so a 300mm lens becomes 300 x 1.4 = 420mm (loss of 1 stop of light)
— 2.0x – enlarges your lens’ focal length by 100%, so a 300mm lens becomes 300 x 2.0 = 600mm (loss of 2 stops of light)

The best thing is also that if you use a camera with a crop sensor, then the actual field of view will also change. It will be the total focal length of the lens multiplied by the crop factor. So if you use a 300mm f/2.8 lens coupled with a 2x teleconverter, you will have a 600mm f/5.6 lens (since adding the 2x teleconverter will equal the loss of two stops of light). On an APS-C sensor (1.6x crop factor) the lens will have a field of view equal to 600 x 1.6 = 960mm. However, you would need to consider your shutter speeds you choose to shoot at this apparent long focal length, because due to this crop factor of 1.6 the 1/FL rule of shutter speed selection will require you to use a shutter speed at least 1/960th of a second, with 1/1000th being the closest to this number.

1DMkIIn, 500mm f/4L IS USM, stacked 1.4x and 2.0x, ISO800, f/16, 1/80th, tripod and Wimberley MkII head used.

I find it rather strange, and perhaps funny, that the number of people I hear complain about or dislike using a 2x converter is far more than those who advocate their use. Why would that be? I suspect there are a number of reasons, but one may be that they lack good quality equipment or they just don’t go out and shoot often enough to get used to the limitations within which they could get great results using these pieces of glass that increase the lens’ magnification. Or perhaps they don’t have good long lens shooting technique to achieve good results. Let me clear one thing up. Of course one will see some image degradation when slapping a 2x converter between a lens and a camera. This degradation will be even more when the lens, converter (or both) are of inferior quality. I mean, not your Canon L-grade converters; do note that Canon don’t make any converter other than the L-designated, luxury, models. I suspect that Nikon are in the same boat as well. My good friend Stephen Davey has bought the new Nikon 2.0x converter about a year ago and his test shots with it, using his D3 and 600mm f/4 lens were just mind-blowing. It all comes down to technique and lens to subject distance. You simply, cannot use stacked (or any) converters and shoot a subject from 100m or more away expecting world class results. However, if you get close, then even stacking your converters will yield exceptionally good quality images. Needless to say that you still need to have good long-lens technique and a little bit of luck. But both go hand-in-hand with photographing wildlife. You need to know what you are doing, how and know your subjects, know their behaviour and learn to read them like a book.

The below image here was made yesterday morning with a very cooperative bird in Castlereagh, who was only too busy advertising his territory. My mate from Brisbane, and I, were taking hundreds of photos of this same individual Golden-headed Cisticola a week ago. I knew where he would pop-up to call, so I just had to stand just within 5m of this branch and he would come. That he did many times over an hour. I was so excited to see this image on the computer. I love it when my plan gets executed just how I like it. Note, the light was quite bad this morning and I was using fill flash to brighten the bird against a stormy sky, yet it looks (to me at least) like natural light.

1DMkIIn, 500mm f/4L IS USM, stacked 1.4x and 2.0x converters, ISO1000, f/19, 1/100th, tripod and Wimberley MkII head.

Whatever you do, wherever you are, don’t be afraid to shoot, experiment and learn. The more you shoot, the better your images become. I am eternally grateful to my wonderful wife and for the many subjects who (sometimes) cooperate with me. The best thing about getting this image (and the others before) that no call playback was used at all.

Stay safe and happy shooting.

Nature Photography

Some recent spotlighting finds

November 8th, 2011

Well, great to be back to the old ways of adding posts to this blog. I’ve tried to get out spotlighting as much as possible in the past two or so months, since spotlighting, night photography, is what I really love doing. A few different outings resulted in a mixed bag of critters and while nothing really new caught my eye, it was great to see the usual suspects doing what they do best, that is; be nocturnal animals in their habitat.

Eastern Barn Owl, 1DMkIIn, 500/4L, ISO400, f/8, 1/60th, flash, hand held, full frame

Eastern Barn Owl, 1DMkIIn, 500/4L + 1.4x, ISO400, f/8, 1/60th, flash, hand held

Many of my outings were in the Cattai area, some on private property, lucky I am privileged to know some land holders in different locations. Once they see a few images from those areas, they are more than happy to allow me access with a simple courtesy phone call.

Hope you enjoy these humble images. 🙂

Common Brushtail Possum, 1DMkIIn, 500/4L + 2x, ISO400, f/10, 1/60th, flash and tripod used

Yellow-bellied Glider, 1DMkIIn, 500/4L + 1.4x, ISO400, f/8, 1/100th, flash and tripod

Nature Photography

Finally, time to write a little…

November 7th, 2011

I was privileged to hang out with a mate of mine from Brisbane, Chris Martinez (a fine bird photographer and great guy) last Saturday morning. We met at 05:50 just south of the town of Castlereagh and I dragged him along to a spot I regularly walk my dogs. Golden-headed Cisticolas have been rather vocal there for at least three-four weeks and I had no problems walking within 4.5m of them even with my three dogs around me. As soon as the sun appeared over the hill at Cranebrook it emitted the most incredible and beautiful light and we were making our way down the old road to one favored perch, a bushy lantana with the top branches at head height. I also pruned the area a little to create more appealing fence posts and lantanas with less intersecting branches the evening before. 😀 We saw the first male calling feverishly and as we put the tripods down, he perched right here in front of us!

The culprit with the big mouth! Almost ready for an outburst.

Now you're talking about attitude.

Then we came to the second perch that was a small branch atop a little bush and the male was busy there as well. In fact, he and his mate were building a nest below this bush. As Chris walked in close to trim one leaf from a branch he almost headbutted a Silvereye nest in the bush. That’s really cool as I’ve not yet seen a Silvereye nesting. We had a great session, I believe it was Chris’ best ever with cisticolas so I was pleased that the birds showed as promised. Some even more awesome opportunities arose after coffee near a small reedy pond where another male cisticola perched on top of a bush, and right in front of Chris. How good was that? There was the small resident flock of Chestnut-breasted Mannakins too, and the three or four Rainbow Bee-eaters that surely must have a nest hole over the drop-off.

I just love old, wooden fence posts.

Then I took Chris to see where Henry and his mate (kestrel) are nesting. As I got out of the car, I was just blown away to see both resident Wedge-tailed Eagles sitting on the same perch where I could approach the female really close about six or so weeks back. Having talked about this to other birders/photographers for ages it was just a total fluke that they were there, thus prove that I know what I am talking about. We got a few images, though not much worth keeping I think. By now the light was getting atrocious, so we took it easy watching Henry and his mate fly in and out of the tree where they are nesting. After about an hour of little activity, we drove to the weir on the Nepean River. Again, the light was just crap by now, but I wanted to show Chris my fave BIF spot, and in typical fashion one cormorant flew past in about 20 minutes of us standing on the water’s edge. It was not that great at this time to be honest, but it can be a magical bird in flight location. About 30m up were a pair of Dollarbirds swirling through the skies, so I suggested we walk back up onto the top, to the overgrown field to try for a BIF of these. Yeah right! At least that’s what you may be thinking. Well, in bird photography you can only prepare so much and then still need a dose of good luck to make it all come together.

This feisty little dude has a LOT to say!

Another male with hand held 500/2x combo. That's a 1000mm of focal lenght, almost full frame.

The field on top was perfect Brown Snake country with the knee-high grasses and weeds so I was treading as carefully as I could. We made it to around 30-40 meters from the tree in which these Dollarbirds were perching in between sorties, while I fielded a call from my wife Donata who asked what time to expect me for lunch. I said another hour as we are at the weir, checking things out and the Dollarbirds are “biting”. As we set-up our tripods and the super telephoto lenses I was only dreaming of a shot in flight. Nothing could prepare me for what came next. One bird took off and flew straight at Chris and me. I could not pick it up in the viewfinder until the last moment when it dropped really, really low and flew about 10m high or so, maybe even lower. I managed to get one really good shot of this head-on encounter, which you can see below.

Henry's mate banking close.

The amazing Dollarbird flight.

Enjoy this quick read and hope you will pop back soon for more great stuff that live in my neck o’ the woods.

NB. No calls or hides were used with the cisticolas. The Kestrel was cropped in half from a horizontal image and the Dollarbird is full frame, with some top/bottom trim only with a slight bit of canvas added on the right as the primaries were just too close to the frame edge.

Nature Photography