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Saw Whet Owl_5477

Northern Saw Whet Owl, Ontario

Late on the morning of November 12th I finally located my first Northern Saw Whet Owl. I have tried several times over the years to locate and photograph this tiny species of owl, often coming close but never succeeding. After scouring a small cedar grove for about an hour I paused to rethink where I should look next when I noticed two bright yellow eye staring back at me, not more than 3 feet from where I stood. Alas, I had found a Northern Saw Whet Owl. As the owl was roosting within the thick boughs of the cedar trees it was tricky to get a clear photograph so I decided to frame the owl in such a way that also tells a story about its habitat.

My go-to lenses for these images were the Nikon 200-500mm Lens and the Nikon 28-300mm Lens. The Nikon 200-500mm lens was deployed to capture tight portraits of the owl hidden within the branches of the cedar trees. The Nikon 28-300mm lens was the main lens used as I was able to easily capture full body images with minimal foreground clutter. The minimum one foot focusing distance of the Nikon 28-300mm lens makes it a very versatile and functional lens. Often the Nikon 28-300mm lens is trashed by the “so-called” internet experts, but this lens in the right hands, with the right vision, and proper photographic technique yields quality imagery everytime!

Below are a few additional images of the Northern Saw Whet Owl I photographed yesterday.

Saw Whet Owl_5557

Northern Saw Whet Owl, Ontario

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Northern Saw Whet Owl, Ontario

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Northern Saw Whet Owl, Ontario

Saw Whet Owl_5568

Northern Saw Whet Owl, Ontario

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Snowy Owl in a near blinding blizzard near Thornton, Ontario, Canada.

 

I am pleased to announce that my Snowy Owl image has been awarded an Honourable Mention in the “Animals In Their Environment” category of the 2018 Siena International Photo Awards, which received the highest international participation ever with close to 48.000 images submitted from amateur and professional photographers from 156 countries worldwide.

To view the gallery of amazing and inspiring, winning images please click here.

I am always fond of creating animate landscape imagery. When I discovered this Snowy Owl roosting on the ground, in a field near my home, during a near blinding snow blizzard I immediately chose to create this small in the frame image of the owl within its habitat during the inclement weather.

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Brown Booby in flight, Cayman Brac
Nikon D500, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 90mm
ISO 500, f6.3 @ 1/5000 sec.

Originally released in August of 2010 the Nikon 28-300mm VR lens has to be one the most versatile lenses available. Often you can find this lens in the used gear department for approximately $700 CDN. Like most folks, before I purchased this lens for my own gear bag I read several on-line reviews. I did not believe that the lens could really be as bad as folks were leading on. Here is a selection of some items that I noted during my internet readings:

  • softness in the center, sharpening up out towards the corners, and the some more corner softness
  • stopped-down results are downright blurry at the telephoto end of 300mm @ ƒ/36)
  • the 28-300 isn’t a really sharp lens and the corners are mush
  • zoom range exhibited shockingly poor off-axis image quality
  • is not a pro level lens nor one I’d use for critical shoots
  • I’m assuming this lens was defective as I couldn’t get a sharp picture no matter how hard I tried

I determined that in order to find out for myself I would need to add this lens to my gear bag. Right before I boarded the plane for my Cayman Brac Photo Tour in February I did just that. It is now one of my most favorite lenses. The lens does have one annoying habit, or at least my copy does. When the lens is pointed downward the zoom creep is very evident. Nonetheless, my honest opinion is that this lens does produce stellar results when good technique and creative vision is applied. Often I can be found in-the-field with my 28-300mm lens attached to one of my Nikons ready to capture those fleeting moments where changing lenses is not an option. The 28-300mm range is perfect for such circumstances.

I have never been one to trust the so-called internet experts. I much prefer to take gear out into the field and put it to the test. A real world review illustrating the quality of the lens with photographic examples.

Having the ability to zoom from 28mm to 300mm is a definite plus. On Cayman Brac I was able to photograph nesting Brown Boobies at close range and then quickly zoom out to 300mm to capture Brown Boobies in flight as they approached the cliff edge on their return to their nests.

Brown Booby pair at the nest, Cayman Brac
Nikon D500, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 55mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/400 sec.

I also find the lens to be a powerful tool for my landscape work as illustrated in the below image of a winter wheat field at sunset near my rural home in Thornton, Ontario. A Singh Ray 3-stop reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter was also used in the capture of the sunset scene below.

Winter Wheat at Sunset, Thornton, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 82mm
ISO 100, f16 @ 3 seconds.

Having a minimum focusing distance of a mere 1.6 feet throughout the entire zoom range is also a huge bonus to my frog photography. In the past I would have to switch lenses to create my signature frog-scapes and close-up portraits. With the Nikon 28-300 I can simply zoom the lens from wide to telephoto and create both scenarios in mere seconds, as illustrated in the two Bullfrog images below.

Bullfrog, Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 48mm
ISO 500, f8 @ 1/800 sec.

 

Bullfrog, Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 300mm
ISO 500, f8 @ 1/640 sec.

While photographing Wood Ducks in Toronto, Ontario I am also able to create stunning portraits and close-up feather details due to the short, minimum focusing distance. While I was photographing feather details of a Wood Duck hen that had chose to sit beside me on a particular outing I had noticed that a lovely drake Wood Duck had also come into close proximity allowing me to zoom out and create a tight head shot of him. The versatility of the Nikon 28-300mm lens allowed me the opportunity to create both these images without the need to switch lenses , which would likely had caused one of the two birds, or both, to move further away.

Drake Wood Duck, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 300mm
ISO 2000, f5.6 @ 1/250 sec.

 

Hen Wood Duck Feather Details, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 300mm
ISO 1000, f11 @ 1/80 sec.

While walking along the shoreline of the Caribbean Ocean in Cayman Brac I came upon a dead crab. The shell of the dea crab was beautifully colored with interesting details too. To create the below macro shot of the crab shell details I used my Canon 500D Close-up Filter on the Nikon 28-300mm lens and stopped down to f22. There is some minor softness in the extreme corners of the image but this is due to the curvature of the shell. Ideally I should have used the focus stacking method to gain perfect sharpness in the corners.

Crab Shell Details, Cayman Brac
Nikon D500, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 300mm
Canon 500D Close-up Filter
ISO 100, f22 @ 1/40 sec.

For those of us longing for some cooler temperatures in this heat wave, I have included a winter river detail image from my Muskoka Winter Waterfall Spectacular Workshop this past January 🙂

Winter River Details, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 28-300mm VR Lens @ 300mm
ISO 100, f16 @ 1.6 sec.

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We have two new dates for the Frogs of the World Photographic Workshops (with an optional add-on Photoshop session from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.) that will be held at the Crinan Community Centre near London, Ontario. The dates are as follows:

Saturday, May 26, 2018 10:00a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Optional Add-on Photoshop Session 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.)

Sunday May 27, 2018 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (Optional Add-on Photoshop Session 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.)

The space for each workshop is limited to a maximum of 8 participants to allow ample time for folks to photograph each species of frog.

These are the only workshops available whereby you will be able to capture stunning imagery of 15 – 20 different species of frogs from all over the world. We will be photographing numerous varieties of dart frogs endemic to the Amazon rainforest, several tree frogs of Costa Rica and South America, as well as the bizarre Leaf Frog of the Malaysian jungle. It would cost tens of thousands of dollars to explore the jungles of the world on your own in hopes of photographing a mere fraction of these species. These workshops, in partnership with Understory Enterprises, will bring you an incredible opportunity to photograph these 15 – 20 species of frogs in a comfortable atmosphere with natural studio set-ups. The recommended gear for photographing these tiny frogs is a macro lens and off camera flash. Alternately, using high quality close-up filters such as the Canon 500D filters will allow many lenses such as the Nikon 80-400mm or Canon 100-400mm to focus close enough for these small subjects. Please contact me here if you have any equipment inquiries when registering for this workshop. I also have custom made flash diffusers that will allow folks to capture stunning imagery using camera mounted flash as well.

New to these two workshops will be an optional 2 hour add-on Photoshop session for folks that wish to see learn how I edit and optimize my frog photography. I will also be on hand to guide each participant through optimizing a couple of their own images from the day.

Coffee, tea and snacks will be provided during the workshop.

To register for this workshop folks may contact me by clicking here for availability and for making arrangement for payments, which are accepted by email transfer or by cheque made payable to Andrew McLachlan.

The cost of the workshop is $195 plus taxes. Folks that wish to sign-up for the 2 hour add-on Photoshop session please add $65 plus taxes.

Please specify when registering for these workshops if you wish to sign-up for the Photoshop session afterwards.

Cancellation Policy

Full refund, less a $25 administration fee, 31 days prior to the workshop date

No Refunds 30 days prior to the workshop date

Hope to see you there!

 

On an alternate note, due to the severe inclement weather this weekend the Tiny Marsh Teaching Moment Photographic Workshop has been rescheduled to Sunday April 22nd. Please contact me by clicking here at your earliest convenience if you wish to join this event at one of south-central Ontario’s largest and most impressive wetland complexes.

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On Tuesday March, 27, 2018 I will be presenting my “Ontario & Beyond – Wild Places Wild Faces” program for the Ajax Photography Club at the Ajax Community Centre located at 75 Centennial Road in the HSM Room. The doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the presentation will begin at 7:00 p.m. Guests are welcome to attend for a $10 admission fee. Mark the date in your calendars and come on out for an enjoyable evening of nature photography and learn the secrets behind how I capture and optimize my my landscape and wildlife imagery.

Hope to see you there 🙂

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On Saturday May 5, 2018 join me for “Micro Fauna of the Desert – A Teaching Moment Photographic Workshop” What is a Teaching Moment Photographic Workshop? They are a series of inexpensive, half day workshops that give back to the participants! Just how will they give back? For every 5 Teaching Moment Photographic Workshops that a participant attends they will receive a $50 (Canadian currency) voucher redeemable on a future workshop of their choice.

This workshop will run from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The cost of this event is $125 plus HST, which includes admission to the Reptilia Zoo.

During Micro Fauna of the Desert we will cover the fundamentals of working with flash to capture incredible imagery of these fascinating, nocturnal animals. We will also incorporate some creative options for these critters such as white backdrops and mirrors. We will photograph scorpions under ultraviolet lighting – did you know they glow under such illumination! We will photograph  several species of tarantulas as well as two incredibly colourful  lizards – the Tokay Gecko and the Leopard Gecko. Time permitting we may be able to include a Madagascar Day Gecko too!

These various species will be photographed under controlled conditions using natural, table top set-ups, for approximately two hours. Afterwards we will explore the displays in the Reptilia Zoo and have opportunities to photograph many species of venomous snakes through the safety of their glass enclosures. Although the workshop will concluded at 12:00 p.m. participants are permitted to spend the remainder of the day exploring the displays within the Reptilia Zoo.

The recommended gear for this Teaching Moment Photographic Workshop is a macro lens and flash. Ideally a flash bracket to get the flash off camera will work best but is not mandatory. I have devised various options for working with camera mounted flash for macro work. If you do not own a macro lens you could always rent one for the day from either Henry’s or Vistek. Alternately, using a high quality close-up filter on a telephoto lens is another option to make such lenses focus close enough. If you are uncertain whether your lenses will be suitable for this event please do inquire so that I can provide you with the best advice and solution. A tripod will be required to photograph the scorpions under ultraviolet lighting.

To register your self for this Teaching Moment Photographic Workshop please contact me by clicking here. Payment can be made by email transfer or by cheque made payable to Andrew McLachlan.

Cancellation Policy: no refunds 30 days prior to the workshop date.

Hope to see you there 🙂

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Flat Rock Scorpion – captive
Nikon D500, Nikkor 105mm f2.8D Lens
ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket

On Thursday, March 8th I drove out to a potential workshop location to scout out some critters for an upcoming workshop. This workshop will feature Scorpions, Tarantulas, Geckos, and a few other very interesting subjects. While we were working with the subjects the handler suggested that we could use an ultraviolet light on the scorpions as they glow under such light. I thought that would be very cool to try, but I did not bring along a tripod as they would need to be photographed under the UV light along and flash could not be used. We gave it a try anyway and dialed the ISO up to 20,000 (that is not a typo!) to permit a hand held capture at f3.2 for 1/100 second. After applying some noise reduction in Adobe Camera Raw I was actually quite surprised at the end result. The opening image shows the Flat Rock Scorpion under normal lighting and below is the same scorpion glowing under the ultraviolet light. I was also surprised to see that the sand turns purple under the UV lighting.

For folks that do not want to miss out on their opportunity to attend this soon to be announced photographic workshop please send me a note by clicking here to be added to my workshop contact list.

Flat Rock Scorpion under Ultraviolet Light
ISO 20,000, f3.2 @ 1/100 sec

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