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Archive for September, 2015

Male Green Frog Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket

Male Green Frog
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket

In frog photography patience is a virtue and good things will come to those who wait. On May 30th of this year (yes, I am way behind on processing my image files) the night time temperatures were perfect for the male Green Frogs to congregate at a nearby wetland and chorus to entice females to the pond for mating. As I waded about the pond I noticed one particular male that was clinging to an old cattail stem, while floating in a section of the pond with no distracting debris floating in the water. I slowly made my way over to where he was and once directly in front of him, I slowly moved myself into a kneeling position in front of him. As I did this I was reminded of the hole in my chest waders as cold pond water began to trickle into the waders. Also it was a perfect night for the first mosquitoes of the season to emerge and feast upon your truly. I do not use any sort of bug spray when I am out photographing frogs and toads due to its toxicity to them. I would hate to handle a frog or toad with bug spray on my hands as it would be harmful and likely fatal to them. The time span between the above image and the one below is exactly seven minutes. Once I was in position, I waited and waited and waited, all the while swatting mosquitoes with slow-motion-like movement so that I would not disturb the frog. As I was waiting I kept watching the frog’s torso, as it began to fill with air I knew it was going to call very soon. In the above photo you can clearly see how bloated the frog looks and then in one quick moment all the air is pushed out, inflating the vocal sac, and the Green Frog’s signature loose banjo string-like call can be heard.

Male Green Frog with Vocal Sac Inflated Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket

Male Green Frog with Vocal Sac Inflated
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket

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Sigma 180 Macro_4363

In 2012 Sigma released the Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens. In July of this year I had the opportunity to spend about a week with the lens, to give a thorough workout, as it was on loan to me from Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses. The Sigma 180mm Macro lens is physically a large lens yet does handle very nicely. It is equipped with Sigma’s Optical Stabilization feature, which will compensate for about 4 stops. At the time of this lens’ release it was the only 180mm Macro lens to offer such superb stabilization. It is also a fast lens with a maximum aperture of f2.8 therefore the viewfinder is bright making manual focus easy (should you prefer to manually focus your macro lenses – I generally do). Since my main objective was to use this lens handheld from the canoe for frog photography and wetland details too, I was very eager to put the Optical Stabilizer to the test. Some other features that are noteworthy to mention for this high-performance lens are:

  • Three low dispersion glass elements for excellent correction of both axial chromatic aberration and lateral chromatic aberration.
  • Hyper Sonic Motor delivers auto-focusing that is quiet, fast, and accurate.
  • Multi-layer coatings to minimize flare and ghosting.
  • Accepts 86mm size filters.
  • Tripod collar to easily switch from horizontal to vertical orientations.
  • Minimum focusing distance of 18.5 inches.
  • Magnification ratio of 1:1 at the minimum focusing distance.

Let’s head out into the Horseshoe Lake wetland in the canoe and see what we can find. Do note additional info that is provided in the image captions.

Bullfrog Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 800, f11 @ 1/160 sec.

Bullfrog
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 800, f11 @ 1/160 sec.

 

Bullfrog Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 800, f11 @ 1/100 sec.

Bullfrog
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 800, f11 @ 1/100 sec.

One of the first things that did take some getting used to on my part was working with the greater minimum focusing distance. Since I am most accustomed to using my Nikon 105mm Micro Lens which has a minimum focusing distance of 12 inches I often found that I was getting in too close with the Sigma 180mm Macro lens and would have to adjust my positioning to accommodate for the greater minimum focusing distance. This is by no means a hindrance though, in fact the greater minimum focusing distance has many benefits to it. If you enjoy photographing butterflies, small lizards, snakes or other often difficult to approach subjects, the Sigma lens will permit photographing from a greater distance which in-turn will lessen the chance of entering the animals comfort zone causing them to take flight.

Hand-holding the Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens in the Horseshoe Lake wetland was a very enjoyable experience and allowed me to create numerous images that would have been difficult to do otherwise, as it would have been impossible to set-up a tripod in the soft mucky bottom. Do note that macro lenses as a rule are some of the best optics available and I will often use them for landscape imagery as well, including some of the intimate wetland scenes below.

Fragrant White Water Lily Blossom Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 200, f16 @ 1/80 sec.  Hand-Held

Fragrant White Water Lily Blossom
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 200, f16 @ 1/80 sec.
Hand-Held

 

Spatulate Leaved Sundew Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 800, f11 @ 1/50 sec. Hand-Held

Spatulate Leaved Sundews at the Edge of the Wetland
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 800, f11 @ 1/50 sec.
Hand-Held

 

Wetland Details Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 800, f8 @ 1/250 sec Hand-Held

Wetland Details
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/250 sec
Hand-Held

 

Arrowheads at Edge of Wetland Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 800, f11 @ 1/80 sec. Hand-Held

Arrowheads at Edge of Wetland
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 800, f11 @ 1/80 sec.
Hand-Held

After photographing several different scenarios in the wetland environment I decided to head into the woods with my tripod and photograph some woodland details. Many years ago I used spend much of my time in woodlands photographing woodland plants, tree bark details and any bugs that I could find. It was a ton of fun to take the Sigma 180mm Macro lens into the woods to re-visit my photographic roots.

Staghorn Sumac Leaves Close-up Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 400, f16 @ 0.6 sec Tripod Mounted with OS off

Staghorn Sumac Leaves Close-up
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 400, f16 @ 0.6 sec
Tripod Mounted with OS turned off

 

Silver Birch Tree Bark Detail Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 200, f29 @ 6 seconds Tripod Mounted with OS turned off

Silver Birch Tree Bark Detail
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 200, f29 @ 6 seconds
Tripod Mounted with OS turned off

 

Daddy Long-Legs on White Birch Tree Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 200, f32 @ 8 seconds Tripod Mounted with OS turned off

Daddy Long-Legs on White Birch Tree
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 200, f32 @ 8 seconds
Tripod Mounted with OS turned off

And last but not least, I could not resist the temptation to create a pleasing blur of a lovely cluster of ferns growing alongside of the cottage road. To create the blurred effect I simply stood at the edge of the road, looking down upon the ferns and using an in-camera sideways motion with a shutter speed of 1/15 created an image that revealed the subject matter, yet had a pleasing amount of blur to it as well. This is a technique that I learned from colleague, mentor and friend Denise Ippolito.

Pleasing Fern Blur Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 800, f8 @ 1/15 sec Hand-Held with a Sideways Movement

Pleasing Fern Blur
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/15 sec
Hand-Held In-camera Blur with a Sideways Movement

Conclusion: The Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens was an absolute joy to use. The 18.5 inch minimum working distance took some getting used to on my part, but is very beneficial to photographing subjects that are prone to spook very easily. The Optical Stabilization feature’s performance is superb offering a stable solution to creating hand-held imagery in often difficult situations. While I mainly used the lens hand-held, the tripod collar did make switching from horizontal to vertical orientations effortless when a tripod was in use. Alternately, the tripod collar would offer an excellent and very simple solution to mounting an off-camera flash for night-time macro photography, much like I do for my night-time frog imagery whereby I use flash 100% of the time. I would highly recommend this lens to anyone looking for a macro lens, or looking to upgrade to a longer focal length macro lens. It is a large, sturdy, and well built lens that delivers superb image results. I only wish that I had more time to fully explore the capabilities this lens has to offer.

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

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Milky Way Over Horseshoe lake near Parry Sound, Ontario Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm ISO 6400, f3.5 at 20 seconds

Milky Way Over Horseshoe lake near Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm
ISO 6400, f3.5 at 20 seconds

 

For those who embark on photographing the night sky for the first time are sure to find it addictive. It is a ton of fun to say the least. A few days ago I wanted to try something a little different and rather than create a sharply focused starry night sky, I opted for an image of star trails above Horseshoe Lake. The two photographs that accompany this post are the exact same scene photographed with two different techniques.

After creating some initial starry sky scenes from Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park several weeks ago a colleague pointed me in the direction of an eBook by Royce Bair – “Milky Way Nightscapes.” I highly recommend this eBook to anyone interested in photographing the night sky. This 140 page eBook is jam packed with all the info you will need to get started with photographing the night sky and applying the special processing techniques to eliminate any noise generated from using very high ISO numbers.

Essentially the scene above was created to confirm my composition before commencing with the star trail scene below. Do note the different settings used in each of the images to capture the desired effect. While I do enjoy the 30 minute exposure at f4 for the star trails, I am wishing that I had selected a one hour exposure at f5.6 for a longer trail. I tried to do this on the next evening but storm clouds rolled in. When creating these night scapes do be sure to activate the long exposure noise reduction feature and since this feature is creating a second “black” frame to analyze the data and reduce noise, a 30 minute exposure will take an additional 30 minutes for the camera to process. Subsequently, if an one hour exposure is selected an additional one hour will be required by the camera, therefore, it is also important to ensure that you are using freshly charged batteries for long exposure star trail imagery. Shooting a quick frame to confirm the composition will reduce the need to retake the one hour star trail scene…after all you would only be able to create one image every two hours.

Hope you enjoy the starry night imagery.

Which scene do you prefer – star trails or pin-point stars?

Please remember to click on each of the images to view the larger, sharper version.

Star Trails Above Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm ISO 125, f4 @ 30 minutes

Star Trails Above Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm
ISO 125, f4 @ 30 minutes

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Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack All packed up and ready to hit the trails with the tripod in the expandable side pocket.

Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack
All packed up and ready to hit the trails with the tripod in the expandable side pocket.

With the multitude of camera bags available on the market today it can often be a difficult choice deciding on that one bag to meet the varied needs that each photo excursion. I have used many backpacks, holster bags, belt & pouch systems, and small travel backpacks. Let’s consider the pros and cons of each of these bags:

  • Large backpacks have the ability to allow the photographer to carry a vast amount of gear into the field at the expense of lugging around a ton of weight, making them impractical for long wilderness hikes (I once lugged my large backpack through the Pukaskwa wilderness for 4 solid hours and paid the price for it too).
  • Holster-style bags usually allow us to carry a camera body with a 70-200mm or 80-400mm lens attached as well as a couple of additional lenses in small side pouches. While this type of bag addresses the excessive weight issue of a large backpack, making it a joy to take on long hikes it is often lacking in that extra space one wished they had for a few additional items.
  • Belt & Pouch systems allow for a more practical way to take along lots of gear whereby the weight can be evenly distributed about the photographer’s waist and torso via a belt and vest configuration, however, this system is not very user friendly during the winter months and in the heat of the summer can be rather uncomfortable and hot to wear.
  • Smaller backpacks designed specifically for travel are often the perfect weight for an all day hike. These packs are typically designed to have a compartment for camera gear and a compartment for personal gear that may be required for the hike. These two compartments are generally separated by a divider that is permanently stitched into the pack.

Several weeks ago Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for the Manfrotto line of products asked me if I would be interested in trying out the new Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack. I have since used this pack to carry my gear through the wilds of Algonquin Provincial Park, the Georgian Bay Rugged Hiking Trail, numerous canoeing day-trips, and my day-to-day photographic needs. It has been a joy to carry around my gear in this light-weight bag.

Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack All packed up and ready to hit the trails with the tripod securely fastened in the tie-down straps.

Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack
All packed up and ready to hit the trails with the tripod securely fastened in the tie-down straps.

Let’s take a look at some of the unique features that the Manfrotto Advance Travel Backpack has to offer:

  • expandable padded side pocket to accommodate small travel sized tripods
  • straps on the back to fasten a tripod to the outside of the pack…these straps could be used to tie-down a variety of things such as a light jacket
  • a dedicated compartment for a 13 inch laptop
  • upper compartment for personal belongings
  • lower compartment for camera gear configured for quick access to the camera
  • a removable, zippered divider separates the upper and lower compartments
  • protective rain cover included
  • comfortable, well padded harness system with a sternum strap for added comfort and a waist strap too (I do wish the waist strap was a little wider and of a padded design, but this is a personal preference)
  • numerous zippered pockets for storing smaller items

 

Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack A view of the well padded harness system and sternum strap

Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack
A view of the well padded harness system and sternum strap

 

Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack Included rain cover in place and ready for inclement weather

Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack
Included rain cover in place and ready for inclement weather

 

Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack Quick side access opened

Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack
Quick side access opened

 

Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack Side access fully opened - note I opted to use the upper compartment for additional camera accecories rather than personal belongings.

Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack
Side access fully opened – note I opted to use the upper compartment for additional camera accessories rather than personal belongings.

In the below photo (please remember to click on the image to see the larger, sharper version) you will see the assortment of gear that I am able to pack into the Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack and comfortably carry into the field for an all day hike.

Here’s what’s in the bag:

  • Gepe waterproof case for my Compact Flash and SD cards
  • Double-bubble Level
  • Micro Fibre Cleaning Cloth
  • Two spare batteries for the camera
  • Allen key wrench for quick release plates that may require re-tightening
  • Small Mini-Mag flashlight
  • Small reflector that is often used to provide shade for such things as flowers or insects
  • Cokin “P” sized filter holder
  • Nikon Polarizing Filter
  • B&W 10-stop ND filter
  • Filter stack containing a Canon 500D Close-up Filter, Tiffen 3-stop ND Filter and a spare Tiffen polarizing filter
  • Cable Release
  • Singh-Ray 2-stop Soft Edge Graduated ND Filter
  • Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse Graduated ND Filter
  • Nikon D800 with attached Nikon 80-400mm VR Lens
  • Sigma 15mm Fisheye Lens
  • Nikon 18-35mm Lens
  • Nikon 24-85mm Lens
  • Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
  • Nikon 80-400mm VR Lens Hood
  • 13″ Laptop (when needed – I do not generally carry a laptop for day-tripping)
Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack My assortment of gear that easily fits into the pack

Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack
My assortment of gear that easily fits into the pack

Now that’s a ton of stuff and it all easily fits into this well designed and well built travel pack. Being able to easily pack, access, and carry my gear on long hikes through the wilderness, or on short day-trips, or during simple day-to-day activities means I am always at the ready. I often head out to photograph during periods of inclement weather and knowing that I can easily protect my gear with the supplied rain cover, provides the peace of mind knowing my gear is safely stowed away until conditions improve. Being able to easily store a small travel sized tripod in the expandable side pocket eliminates the need to carry the tripod around by hand or via a shoulder strap. The ability to conveniently store and access an assortment of photographic gear only enhances the photographic experience. There is nothing more frustrating than having to fumble around with bulky gear bags to get to your equipment when those fleeting moments in nature go whizzing past. The Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack has quickly become my new favorite gear bag for all of my photographic adventures.

I can’t wait to take it on a Caribbean holiday 🙂

 

 

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