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Archive for the ‘Wetlands’ Category

Bullfrog_1116

Bullfrog in Wetland – Nikon D800 & Nikon 18-35mm

This past summer I created numerous frog-scape photographs using either the new AFS Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5G ED Lens or the Sigma f2.8 EX DG 15mm Fish-eye Lens. Nikon’s new 18-35mm lens allows a close focusing of 12 inches while the Sigma Fish-eye focuses down to 5.9 inches, which is almost a full 4 inches closer than that of Nikon’s 16mm fish-eye lens (being able to focus closer with the Sigma lens is a huge advantage). The main difference between using the fish-eye lens versus using the wide angle zoom for frog-scapes is that the fish-eye lens will distort the horizon line giving it a rounded appearance, while the wide angle zoom will keep the horizons straight. I like both perspective equally so I will often change lenses to create two variations, especially when the subjects are being co-operative.

As you scroll through my favorite frog-scapes created last summer at the family cottage on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario, do note the captions that indicate which lens was used to create each of the images.

Please click on each image to see the larger, sharper versions and please take a moment to let me know which ones are your favorites.

Bullfrog in Wetland - Nikon D800 & Sigma f2.8 EX DG 15mm Fish-eye Lens

Bullfrog in Wetland – Nikon D800 & Sigma 15mm Fish-eye

Bullfrog in Wetland - Nikon D800 & Nikon 18-35mm

Bullfrog in Wetland – Nikon D800 & Nikon 18-35mm

Bullfrog in Wetland - Nikon D800 & Sigma 15mm Fish-eye

Bullfrog in Wetland – Nikon D800 & Sigma 15mm Fish-eye

Bullfrog in Wetland - Nikon D800 & Sigma 15mm Fish-eye

Bullfrog in Wetland – Nikon D800 & Sigma 15mm Fish-eye

Bullfrog in Wetland - Nikon D800 & Sigma 15mm Fish-eye

Bullfrog in Wetland – Nikon D800 & Sigma 15mm Fish-eye

 

 

 

 

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Bullfrog_8692

One of my main reasons for wanting to try the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye Lens, which was on loan from Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses, was for photographing Bullfrogs in the wetland on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. When my parents bought our family’s cottage over 30 years ago there were great numbers of Bullfrogs to be found and their signature jug-o-rum chorusing would echo through the night air. Today all but a few individuals can be heard singing at night and locating them can be a chore some days. Fortunately, there is one very reliable fella that always hangs out in the vicinity of a very tiny island, covered with sedges and shrubs, within the wetland. I have had the pleasure of photographing this individual for over and over. For exactly how long I am unsure, but I would guess at least three years. I can often place my hand underneath him and he will crawl aboard and allow me to pose him. Do note that amphibians should NEVER be handled if you have insect repellent or sunscreen on your hands – it is deadly to them.

Each of these frog-scapes were photographed handheld, selecting the Live View function on my Nikon D800, auto-focus and a double bubble level in the hot shoe to make sure the froggies were sitting square with the world in the photos. This is the easiest way I know of to capture such images from the dry comfort of a canoe. Often my hands are submerged in order to hold the camera just millimeters above the water’s surface. I found over-cast conditions to be more favorable as with the extreme wide angle view of this lens it was easy to accidentally see my shadow or that of the camera and lens within the frame under sunny conditions. Also if the camera and lens is held above and over the frogs it is easy to get the camera and lens reflecting in the water in front of the subject, but by hand-holding the rig just above the water this problem is eliminated. A slight downward pointed fisheye lens will create the rounded prespective that works beautifully to show the frog’s within their world. And since the world is round, this is a pleasing perspective :)

Below are some of my favorite frog-scapes photographed while using the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye lens.

Please remember to click on the photos to see the larger, sharper versions and let us know which is your favorite and why.

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Bullfrog_8806

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Gray Treefrog_7662Gray Treefrog and Caddisfly

Early last week I could here a couple of Gray Treefrogs chorusing near my home, so I decided to try to locate them and I did. It was most difficult to photograph these frogs as the ponds substrate was very mucky. Often with each step my feet would sink about 12 inches into the mud. Once I was able to position myself close enough to the frogs I would kneel down in the mud to allow myself to be able to photograph from a low perspective. As I worked my way into position for the above image I was initially bugged by the bug resting on the frog’s head and then I thought that this may just make a fun image, so I happily captured numerous frames of this male Gray Treefrog chorusing with the Caddisfly atop its head.

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Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area

Last weekend I made the trek to Tiny Marsh so that I could see how things were shaping up for this season. Tiny Marsh is located near Elmvale, Ontario. This is just one of many great landscape photography locations featured in my eBook ‘The Photographer’s Guide to the Ontario Landscape.’  The day I chose to visit Tiny Marsh was rather dreary as storm skies threatened above a landscape that has yet to show any signs of greening-up due to cold spring weather.  While being presented with these elements my thoughts immediately turned to Black & White photography and scene above represents the only scene photographed on this day. After carefully composing this image, placing the horizon line in the center for the mirror image-like effect, and creating a few frames, the rain began to fall heavily. By the time I had made my way back to the car I was thoroughly soaked. but I think the resulting image was well worth the effort. I did make note of the vast number of Leopard Frogs that were already chorusing during my visit. I will be planning a trip back to Tiny Marsh at night to explore the wetlands for night-time frog photography soon and am considering to offer this as a private one-on-one workshop. More details will follow soon.

The above image was converted to B&W using Nik/Google’s Silver Efex Pro 2 software. Please do remember to click on the photo to see the larger, sharper version. Hope you like it :)

Sigma Scholarship Contest Update:

The deadline for the Sigma Scholarship Contest is fast approaching. The contest closes on April 30, 2013. If you are a full-time photography student enrolled in an accredited Canadian College or University and photograph with Sigma lenses you are eligible to enter. To find out more on how to enter and to learn about the killer prizes available click on the Sigma Scholarship Contest logo in the sidebar of the blog or click here. Gentec International is the distributor of Sigma lenses in Canada. Best of luck to all who enter the contest.

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Those of you that have been following along here at the blog know that I have been photographing frogs and toads in vernal ponds found in an abandoned cattle pasture behind my home for a number of years. Vernal ponds are temporary pools of water that are critical habitat relied upon by frogs and toads as breeding sites every spring. Each and every spring chorusing frogs and toads would filled the air with song. Late last fall, the land which was zoned for agriculture was sold to an industrious farmer who promptly cleared every tree that lined the plots of land and then plowed the land. By plowing the land the farmer wiped out much of the frog and toad population in the immediate vicinity of my rural home.

As the temperatures began to warm this spring I would listen intently from my back deck listening for the songs of chorus frogs, which are always the first frogs to emerge from hibernation. A couple of weeks ago I heard the calls of one or two individuals. As the temperatures warmed further, the calls of the chorus frogs should have been incredibly loud, but not so. One or two individuals was all I ever heard. Last week the final nail in the coffin was delivered to this field as a farm drainage company arrived and tiled the field to drain the land, making it suitable for the planting of crops.

No longer will I hear or photograph the seven species of frogs that would breed in these ponds, or the snapping turtle that would come to gorge on the frog’s eggs. No longer will I see the chimney crayfish that would rise from beneath the ground on wet nights, or the bizarre insect larvae that depend on such habitats, and the fairy shrimps will no longer dance through their watery world.

This field had been laying fallow since 1975, but was always zoned for agriculture. I honestly feel that all agricultural lands that are left unattended to for such lengthy periods of time should undergo environmental assessments prior to turning the soil for agricultural purposes again.

Amphibians are the most threatened species on Earth, mostly due to habitat destruction, global warming, and the deadly chytrid fungus. We are responsible for each and every one of these that affect the world’s amphibian population.

Below you will see a selection of photos showing the tile drainage being buried. The field is so wet and soggy that a backhoe was need to pull the tile plow through the muck and frequently it looked as though the backhoe would flip into the soft muck of the field. In the first image below you will see the before and after versions of my favorite pond. The before image was photographed in the spring of 2012 and the after image was taken last night. In both images if you look on the left side you will see the abandoned barn. In the before image the barn is hidden slightly by the tree-line.

Please click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Before and After Frog Pond

Before and After

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Backhoe tipping into pond while pulling tile plow through

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Tractor driving through pond with weeping tile spool

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View of the pond from the road after tiling – the level has dropped significantly

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Draining Away

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Goodbye

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Bullfrog in Wetland on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario

For those folks who have been following the blog for some time now you may recall my review of Sigma’s 8-16mm ultra-wide angle zoom lens. For those who are new to the blog and for those who might like to read the review of this great lens again please click here for the complete article with loads of accompanying images photographed with the lens.

In the April issue of Canadian Geographic Magazine the above photo has been used as a double-page spread for the beginning of the article ‘A Frog for the Killing‘ found on pages 46 & 47. Bullfrogs are an invasive species in British Columbia and are a very serious threat to the ecosystem in that province and must be eradicated. The frogs are not to blame – we are! Bullfrogs have actually invaded at least 15 countries as a result of importing them for the farming of frogs legs. Bullfrogs are known carriers of the deadly chytrid fungus which has decimated frog populations throughout the globe. To better understand just how this deadly fungus is affecting frog populations I urge you to please click this link.

The use of the image above as a double-page spread is a testament to the image quality that one can achieve with this amazing lens. I have primarily used the lens for bullfrog images in the wetlands of Horseshoe Lake, located near Parry Sound, Ontario. And because the lens focuses very close I am able to fill a large portion of the foreground with the frog while maintaining the vast expanse of their wetland homes.  I have also used this lens with great success in my waterfall photography as well. If I had to describe this lens in three words I would have to say it is a “ton of fun” to use.

The Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses in Canada is Gentec International. I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to Gentec International for loaning me this lens to create specific photographs that will be featured in my eBook on Frog Photography, which is in the writing stage and will be an extensive guide to creating stunning images of these amazing amphibians.

Please do remember to click on the above image to view the larger, sharper version.

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As readers of this blog will remember, about a year and half ago I had the pleasure of photographing an unusually colored heron in Cuba’s Jardines del rey archipelago, an UNESCO World Biosphere, on the island of Cayo Santa Maria. My photos of this odd looking heron eventually made their way to Dr. James Kushlan of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Heron Specialist Group. It is believed that this heron  is either a melanistic or genetic variant of the Green Heron and is most likely the first record for such plumage in this species.

Below you will see the JPEG version from the latest issue of Conservator, a beautiful magazine that is published by Ducks Unlimited Canada  and sent out to those that hold a membership with Ducks Unlimited Canada. The most recent issue of the magazine began hitting the doorsteps of DUC members this week and features an InfoGraphic on my Melanistic Green Heron that I photographed in Cuba. The inset image shows a normally plumaged Green Heron that was also photogaphed in Cuba.

Please take a moment to check out the Ducks Unlimited Canada website particularly the page that celebrates their 75 Years of Conservation Excellence.  DUC has conserved 6.3 million acres and has completed 9,000 projects all aimed at conservation. That folks is an amazing track record don’t you think!

To see a larger version of this excerpt from the magazine do remember to click on the image.

 

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Western Willet on Liebeck Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario

During my last trip up to the Parry Sound Region I decided it was time to take my 5 year old daughter on an excursion to Liebeck Lake. This is a small, cottageless lake found deep in the forest near the family cottage on Horseshoe Lake. A trail extends through the woods for roughly 3 kilometres before arriving at the lake and then the trail continues for about another kilometre as it follows the shoreline of the lake before it comes to an end at the Seguin Trail. Despite what you will read below we did have a wonderful time and my daughter was given the piggy-back ride all the way back to the cottage, which I promised her if she would walk all the way out to the lake with me.

Liebeck Lake is a beautiful lake and the water level of the lake is somewhat controlled by beaver dams. Once, about 10-15 years ago one of the dams sprung a leak and the water level dropped quite a bit. History repeated itself this year. During my visit to the lake with my daughter we were able to explore the newly exposed shoreline which is essentially a large mudflat now. While there I noticed a lone western willet feeding on the mudflat and shallows and I was able to get a few decent photos despite the relatively harsh lighting. When the lake level drops like this it exposes part of the areas history with the logging days of the late 1800s and early 1900s evident in the many dead-heads that are usually submerged when the lake levels are normal. These dead-heads tend to make interesting photo subjects themselves.

Please do remember to click on each of the photos to see a much larger, sharper version.

Dead-head on newly exposed shoreline of Liebeck Lake

Dead-heads on newly exposed shoreline of Liebeck Lake

A lovely trail leading us through the woods to a beautiful, quiet lake; the newly exposed shoreline covered with a multitude of Moose and Black Bear tracks and sandpipers arriving at the newly exposed mudflats to feast before continuing their migration south. Not so my friends! When I swing my camera to the left all you can see is a mudflat chewed up by thoughtless folks who have taken their ATVs out for a joy ride in the mud. The lovely quiet trail now looks more like a hideous logging road. Don’t get me wrong now…I have nothing against ATVs, they do serve a purpose but when the folks that drive them off through the woodland trails and wreck havoc on them or destroy shoreline habitat like you see in the photos below I get pissed off. Their are designated trails for ATVs and there are folks who abide them and respect nature and then there are the others…..

ATV damage on Liebeck Lake

What was once the lovely woodland trail to Liebeck Lake

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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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