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Archive for July, 2012

Bullfrog and approaching storm

(Nikon D800, Nikon 12-24mm lens with a 2-stop ND Grad Filter)

One of the features that I am absolutely in love with on the Nikon D800 is the “Live View’ feature. While this is not new to DSLRs, it is new to me and it is saving me boat-loads of time when I am creating my frog-scapes. To photograph my frog-scapes now I simply activate the feature, extend my arm out from the canoe and position the camera at the water’s surface, compose the scene and press the shutter. Presto! I have the image I wanted. Prior to this I would be shooting ‘blind’ firing off many frames and then review the images on the LCD screen to see if I captured the one I had hoped too. The images above was photographed using the Nikon D800 in crop sensor mode as I was using my Nikon 12-24mm DX lens. A 2-stop Graduated Neuratl Denisty Filter was used to hold back the cloud formations of an approaching storm. Below you will see a couple of additional images that were photographed using the live view feature. Please note that when I am utilizing the live view feature on the D800 for my frog-scapes I am still using my double bubble level in the hot-shoe to make sure the camera is square with the world. Even though the D800 has a ‘Virtual Horizon’ feature I find the double bubble level to be more practical for my frog-scapes.

Please click on each of the images to view a much larger version. And stay tuned tomorrow for an announcement about a very cool e-mini mag that I am honored to be a part of.

Bullfrog in wetland

(Nikon D800, Sigma 8-16mm lens)

Bullfrog at dusk in wetland

(Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm lens)

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Lower Rosseau Falls with the Sigma 8-16mm lens at 8mm

During my last trip up to the Parry Sound region Gentec International the distributor for Sigma lenses in Canada was kind enough to loan me a Sigma 8-16mm f4.5-5.6 DC HSM lens for a special project that I am working on at the moment. Since this lens is designed for use with DSLRs that have the APS-C sized sensors, I had originally planned to use this lens with my old Nikon D200, but I had also just received a call that my Nikon D800 had arrived and was waiting to be picked up. A new lens to play with and a camera body that I was unfamiliar with – Yikes! Fortunately, the Nikon D800 automatically crops/adjusts to lenses designed for use with APS-C sensors and with the ‘Live View’ feature and high ISO capabilities I knew this lens and camera combination would be perfect for the images I envisioned photographing with it. When the lens arrived I was immediately impressed with the build quality and the zoom and focus rings just felt right. The lens is an autofocus lens with manual over-ride just like all my Nikon lenses have. I  primarily wanted to use the lens for wetland related imagery and to take the lens over to a picturesque waterfall that was nearby. Due to the design of the front lens element filters cannot be attached to this lens, but that is no reason to pass up this little beauty. With a lens that provides such a wide angle of view you don’t really want to add a polarizer anyway, as you will certainly have lots of blotchy blues throughout the sky. There were a couple of instances where I would have liked to add a graduated neutral density filter into the mix but could not, however, these scenes are easily captured as HDR images nowadays, allowing you to over-come such situations. Knowing that filters cannot be attached you simply need to pick the time of day you photograph certain subjects a little more carefully, as a result I made my way over to Lower Rosseau Falls at dusk when the light would be low enough to allow for long exposures to blur river’s flow. It was a blustery evening though and you will notice much movement in the trees and leaves of the surrounding forest. I found this lens to extremely useful at Lower Rosseau Falls as some of vantage points are not possible unless you are using a wide lens such as this one. Below are two additional images from Lower Rosseau Falls.

Lower Rosseau Falls with the Sigma 8-16mm lens at 9mm

Lower Rosseau Falls with the Sigma 8-16mm lens at 8mm

The images below are some of the photos I envisioned capturing and they would not have been possible without the Sigma 8-16mm lens. Whenever I test out a potential new lens to include in my gear bag I consider them to be merely tools to do a job. I am seldom concerned with the high-tech stuff that you can read about on the internet. The Sigma 8-16mm lens turned out to be the perfect tool for me to capture the wetland imagery I had hoped too. Without the lens’ close focusing capabilities of 9.4 inches throughout the entire zoom range I would have been unable to create the bullfrog and water lily images you see. In fact, with the lens stopped down to about f16 the depth-of-field will allow you to focus a little closer than the 9.4″ minimum. The photographs below were all created, handheld, in ‘Live View’ mode while extending my arms out from the canoe to hold the camera and lens just above the surface of the water, often my left hand was partially submerged while doing this. To make sure that I was square with the world a bubble level was placed in the hot-shoe of the camera. By using the ‘Live View’ feature I was easily able to tell if I was too close for the lens to focus or not. If so I would simply back off a little until the frog or blossom came into focus. I had to make a few tries with the bullfrog before he began to tolerate the lens being only a few inches away. One thing that I noticed with using such a wide angle lens in close like this was the lens’ shadow on the surface of the water. This happened most often when trying to hold the lens just above the subject, but once the lens was positioned for a ‘frog’s eye view’ the shadow problem was eliminated.

Bullfrog with the Sigma 8-16mm lens at 14mm

Bullfrog with the Sigma 8-16mm lens at 8mm

Bullfrog with the Sigma 8-16mm lens at 16mm

Horseshoe Lake Wetland with the Sigma 8-16mm lens at 8mm

Bullfrog habitat with the Sigma 8-16mm lens at 8mm

Water Lilies with the Sigma 8-16mm lens at 16mm

Water Lily on Horseshoe Lake with the Sigma 8-16mm lens at 8mm

In short, this is a fun lens that delivers superb quality and sharpness throughout the zoom range. You may notice in the Water Lily image above and in the second Bullfrog image that there is a touch of out of focus in the foreground, those are simply areas that are too close for the lens to focus on, but I do think the images are still successful images. During my week long visit to the Parry Sound region this lens spent much of the time affixed to my D800. I loved it and the images I created with it were fun to shoot too. I can’t wait to add this lens to my everyday gear bag. Photography is about having fun creating photographs and this lens certainly delivers tons of fun. I highly recommend this lens for the big wide world. It is available in mounts for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and Sigma cameras.

Please remember to click on each photo to see a much larger and sharper version of the images and send us a note letting us know which is your favorite.

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I have just return from several days up near Parry Sound, Ontario at the family cottage on Horseshoe Lake where I spent much of time getting to know my new Nikon D800 and swimming in the lake with my daughter, who is now able, with floaties, to swim quite some distance out from the dock.

I will do a more in-depth look at the D800 in a future post, but first wanted to share these images of the Common Loon family that reside in our bay on the lake. They have two chicks and both seem to be doing very well, diving on their own and both have very healthy appetites. Last year one chick had perished but hopefully this year’s brood will survive. The first two images in this post were photographed from the canoe, using the handheld Nikon 80-400mm VR lens with an ISO setting of 800 and the last image was captured with an ISO setting of 1250. I did not need any additional focal length to create images of these loons on this particular day, but when I did need extra focal length I could easily select the 1.5 crop mode on the D800 and immediately convert the 80-400mm lens to a 120-600mm lens.

Please remember to click on each photo to view a much larger version.

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