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Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Tamrac Pro Digital Zoom 10

During the last few months I have been using Tamrac’s M.A.S. System (Modular Accessory System) and the Pro Digital Zoom 10 to carry my equipment during photo excursions. The folks that have been following my blog for a while may recall last September I wrote about a mishap I encountered with one of my old Lowepro Street and Field lens cases. For those of you who have recently began to follow my blog here is the short version – while jumping down from a log beside a beaver pond, the velcro fastening system on the Lowepro lens case failed and the case went for a swim in the pond with my Nikon 12-24mm lens inside. I quickly went for a swim in the pond to rescue the lens before it suffered any damage resulting from the dunking.

Fast-forward to this year when the opportunity to become sponsored by Tamrac was presented to me by Gentec International, the supplier to Tamrac products in Canada, I was very eager to try out their M.A.S. System, which stands for Modular Accessory System and their Pro Digital Zoom 10 pack. When the packs arrived I was immediately impressed with the high quality fabric used in their construction. This fabric is called ‘ballistic nylon,’ which is a thick, tough, synthetic nylon material that is very durable. All the zippers have large pull tabs that make opening the packs and lens cases a breeze. I have also noted as I canoe throughout wetlands, when I inadvertently splash water over the packs that the water actually beads on the fabric.

What I love most about modular systems, aside from being able to customize them to your individual needs, is the ability to simply meander about in the field, knowing that everything I need is with me when photographic opportunities are presented. There is no searching for the pack you left laying on the ground while you wandered about or worse, hoping you have time to run back and grab that one piece of gear you need to photograph that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you have been dreaming of. This type of carrying system is also very friendly towards by frequent back problems.

Here is what I love about the Pro Digital Zoom 10 Pack:

  • large flap on top of the pack provides excellent protection from the elements, although not being used to such an extra large flap did take some getting used too but the extra protection this provides my gear in the field is paramount.
  • inside the large flap is a zippered pocket that I often carry my most frequently used filter – a polarizing filter.
  • easily holds my Nikon D800 with the Nikon 80-400mm VR lens attached.
  • I can carry the pack as a shoulder bag or use the built in belt loop to attach the pack to the M.A.S belt.
  • it is compatible with the M.A.S. system allowing me the convenience of changing the accessory packs around to suit the photographic needs day. In the above photo I have fitted the Pro Digital Zoom 10 with the Lens Case Pro 200 and the Lens Case Pro 50. In the Pro 200 case I have housed two small lenses, a 12-24mm and a 18-70mm lens (separated by a piece of foam padding) and in the Pro 50 case I have housed my 105mm micro lens.
  • a large front pocket to house additional items such as cable release, double bubble level, spare battery, and compact flash cards. Note the batteries and flash cards can be stored in Tamrac’s ‘Battery Management System‘ that is also found inside the large front pocket, however, I do prefer to carry my compact flash cards in water tight protective cases.

My personal M.A.S. set-up

In the above photograph (click on the photo to see a larger version that also shows the weeds and clover growing in my lawn :)) is my personal set-up of M.A.S. packs attached to the accessory belt. On longer hikes I will often remove the lens cases from the Pro Digital Zoom 10 and fasten them to this belt. The image above shows the two medium sized Backpack Side Pockets, the Lens Case Pro 100, and the Filter Belt Pack. Here is what goes in these packs:

  • the first Backpack Side Pocket houses my Wimberely Macro Bracket-single arm set-up and my Nikon SB400 Speedlight that I frequently use for my frog photography.
  • the Lens Case Pro 100 will often house an additional lens or other small accessories that I may carry into the field. This all depends on the needs of the day.
  • the second Backpack Side Pocket contains my Better Beamer Flash Extender and my SB600 Speedlight or alternately I will use this pack for my graduated neutral density filters.
  • the Filter Belt Pack is used for various filters such as my 3 & 10 stop Neutral Density filters, Canon 500D close-up filter, and my Singh Ray Warming Polarizing Filter

One small detail of the M.A.S. system that has impressed me most of all is the method by which they are attached to the accessory belt or the Pro Digital Zoom 10 pack – velcro and snaps. Velcro is often the main choice of camera bag manufactures to fasten such accessory items to the main packs, however, Tamrac have taken the time to add durable metal snaps (see the image below) for added security to ensure the accessories do not fall off. I most often find that velcro tends to lose its effectiveness over time but with these metal snaps I feel very confident that the next time I jump over a log alongside a beaver pond I will not be going for an unanticipated swim to retrieve any lens cases from the pond.

Velcro and metal snap buttons found on M.A.S. system accessories

If you are in need of a new modular carrying system for your photographic forays check out the various accessories that are available for the Tamrac M.A.S. system to see if there is a selection of packs and cases available to suit your individual photographic needs.

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While I find photographing animals in the wild to be a much more fulfilling and rewarding experience, controlled subjects can also offer unique opportunities. I will often attempt to capture images of a given subject that I know will be virtually impossible for me to capture in the field, such as the Bobcat portrait above. I also tend to select subjects that are threatened or endangered. Here is a collection of some of my favorite images of controlled subjects. Hope you enjoy this collection of photos.

This Red Fox was trying to sleep while keeping a watchful eye on a pair of young Siberian Tigers were playing in an adjacent enclosure.

I highly doubt that I will ever see a Wolverine in the wild so when the opportunity to photograph one in a controlled situation presented itself I jumped at the chance.

A young Siberian Tiger hissing at its litter mate while playing. Would you really want to be this close to a tiger in the wild with this menacing look?

A Lioness photographed near my home at a sanctuary that gives exotic pets a home when there owners realize that big cats don’t make good house pets.

A beautiful, captive, Swainson’s Hawk spreads its wings in the wind for a pleasing pose.

Great Horned Owl

Turkey Vulture – ugly as they may be, vultures are one of the most beneficial species on the planet – nature’s clean-up crew.

Lynx – I’ve seen one Lynx in the wild, in Ontario, in my lifetime. It ran across a highway with no chance to photograph it.

Eastern Screech Owl – difficult to find and photograph with a pleasing background.

Green Water Dragon – by using a flash I was able to eliminate many elements in lizards enclosure and give the illusion that it was photographed at night.

A highly endangered Cuban Crocodile photographed at a breeding facility in Cuba. These crocodiles are now thought to only exist in Cuba’s Zapata Swamp.

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A few additional songbird images from a couple of days ago. Lots of Blue Jays, House Finches and Black-capped Chickadees hanging around. Once we get our first significant snow fall there should be lots of activity and several others species should begin to show up at the feeders.

For now, hope you enjoy this installment of winter songbird images.

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I thought I would share an update on the Common Loons with two babies that I wrote about a few weeks earlier. I am very pleased to report that both chicks have survived. There are lots of snapping turtles in Horseshoe Lake, which is located near Parry Sound, Ontario, and I feared that one of the chicks would fall prey to them. They have not and are doing well. They are diving now to feed themselves, but like most babies still want mom and dad to feed them too. It is very difficult to try and get both parents and juveniles in the same photograph as they tend to spread out quite a bit when feeding. Below are two additional photos of one juvenile and one of the juveniles with one of the parents. Hope you like the photographs.

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This past spring was a quiet one and that I find quite disturbing. Behind my home lies about 40 acres of abandoned cattle pasture. This is traditionally a wet meadow with numerous vernal ponds resulting from the melting snow. I have lived here for 13 years and every spring we are serenaded to sleep by frogs and toads during the spring chorus. This year was an exception.

Normally, around my home, the frogs emerge from hibernation in the following order: chorus frogs, wood frogs, spring peepers, toads with leopard frogs, green frogs and gray’s treefrogs to follow. This spring began like any other – the chorus frogs were singing their hearts out by the end of March. The wood frogs and spring peepers followed, but as conditions warmed further where were the toads. Perhaps they would not arrive at the ponds until the first warm rainy night. Warm rainy nights came and went, but no toads. The toads never arrived this spring to chorus in any of the ponds within this field. The leopard frogs and green frogs did arrive, but only two gray’s treefrogs were heard chorusing on one occasion. I find this to be disturbing and puzzling. It is puzzling because during my forays to the ponds I could hear toads and gray’s treefrogs chorusing in distant ponds, but why not in these ponds? What happened? Where were they? I have no answers to these questions. Only more questions. I wonder if it is the first sign a frog populations in decline near my home.

All around the world frog populations and other amphibians too are in decline. Amphibians are considered to beĀ  “indicator species.” When their numbers are decreasing it indicates that there is something drastically wrong with their environment – a sign of biodiversity disaster.

Amphibians have been around for some 250 million years and survived when dinosaurs did not, but will they survive the impact of humans. We continue to destroy habitat. Wetlands are filled in and paved over all in the name of “progress.” In Southern Ontario, over 80% of original wetlands have been lost due to human development. Moreover, dryer summers as a result of global warming will mean there is a greater chance of vernal ponds drying out before amphibian larvae are able to complete their metamorphosis into adults. It would only take one or two such occurrences to have a drastic effect on local amphibian populations.

Declining amphibian populations is something that we should all take seriously. It is a warning sign!

Below is a selection of images to celebrate these amazing critters. Many of these images are older ones, captured on slide film with a Minolta X700, macro lens, and a cheap $5 Vivtar flash (purchased from a scrap bin at a Toronto camera store) mounted on a homemade flash bracket. The last two images are recent digital captures.

Hope you like the photographs.

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I have been away for a few days doing some shooting around my cottage on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. The weather was less than cooperative as it was raining most of the time. During one downpour I noticed a pair of Common Loons feeding two chicks out in the bay in front of the cottage. The only sign of life on the lake during this storm. When it looked like the storm was letting up, I jumped in the canoe and headed out onto the lake for a few photographs. My approach was very cautious – not wanting to stress the adult pair. I positioned my canoe well ahead of the direction they were heading in, letting the Loons decide how much they would tolerate my presence. It was a treat that they came close for several family portraits with no sign of being agitated. Had they showed any signs of being stressed I would have packed away my gear, left immediately, with no photos. No photograph is worth adding stress to the lives of our wildlife, especially wildlife with babies.

Considering the BP oil spill, I wonder what fate awaits these two chicks when they migrate south for the winter. Common Loons generally migrate along Atlantic and Pacific coasts and follow the Mississippi River to their winter homes along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coast waters. I hope these two little fellas aren’t headed for the Gulf of Mexico.

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Here’s a recently published image that is being featured as the “Hot Shot” photograph in the Summer 2010 issue of Outdoor Photography Canada. This is a captive bird, photographed during a controlled birds of prey in flight workshop with Raymond Barlow . The falconer was flying the bird from one perch to another. I decided to position myself where the hawk was going to land and tracked it as it approached. Once the wings were opened for landing I fired a sequence of images. I was pleased to see this image on my LCD screen later in the day.

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