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Snowy Owl_6905

Snowy Owl in Flight (Nikon D500 & Nikon 200-500mm Lens)

Over the last couple of days we have received several inches of heavy, wet snow around my home, which has coated the trees and turned the area into a lovely, winter wonderland. I was excited to get out and explore the surrounding farmland near my home for scenics as well as snowy owls. Every year several snowy owls over-winter on the farmland around my home. They gather to feast on mice and meadow voles that are scavenging the soy beans and corn that is spilled during harvest. Pictured above is the only image I have been able to create of a snowy owl so far this year. I do like the over-the-shoulder stare that the owl is giving me as it flies out over one of the fields.

Pictured below are a few of the scenic images that were created during my search for the snowy owls.  My choice of lenses for these images was the Nikon 200-500mm lens or the Nikon 28-300mm lens on either my Nikon D500 or Nikon D800 body.

Winter Tree_6947

Winter Tree in Snow Storm (Nikon D500 & Nikon 200-500mm Lens)

 

Winter Farm_9041

Winter Farm Scenic (Nikon D800 & Nikon 28-300mm Lens)

 

Winter Tree_6932

Winter Tree (Nikon D500 & Nikon 200-500mm Lens)

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Winter Trees (Nikon D500 & Nikon 200-500mm Lens)

Winter Trees_6941

Winter Trees (Nikon D500 & Nikon 200-500mm Lens)

 

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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

Saw Whet Owl_5812

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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Wood Duck Drake, Toronto, Ontario

On Tuesday, April 24th I conducted a private in-the-field Wood Duck workshop. We had bright over-cast light throughout much of the day, which in my opinion is great light for photographing this waterfowl species. At a couple of areas around the pond the early spring growth on the willow trees lining the shoreline was reflecting on the water with lovely yellowish tones, partially reminiscent of reflected autumn colours. We started the day early to take advantage of calm conditions on the water’s surface in hope of catching some nice reflections of the ducks as they swam through the calm water. We were rewarded nicely.

Being able to photograph tame Wood Ducks is a real treat as there is ample opportunity to capture tight portraits, wing-flaps, swimming imagery and feather details too. To book your very own, 4 hour, private in-the-field workshop please contact me by clicking here. Pricing information for a private in-the-field workshop can be found by clicking here. Let my expertise get you on location, ready to capture breath taking imagery of our beautiful waterfowl species. Learn how to achieve the correct exposure every time, elements of composition, head angle, light angle, anticipating the action, and so much more. Full day (8 hour) private workshops can also be arranged for those wishing to extend their in-the-field education (lunch will be provided)…please inquire.

 

Wood Duck Drake, Toronto, Ontario

 

Wood Duck Drake, Toronto, Ontario

 

Wood Duck Hen Wing-Flap, Toronto, Ontario

 

Wood Duck Hen Feather Details

 

Wood Duck Drake, Toronto, Ontario

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Mallard Drake Preening
Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 460mm
ISO 500
f8 @ 1/1250 sec.

We had a great group of participants for yesterday’s sold out Teaching Moment Photographic Workshop – “Waterfowl of Humber Bay Park.” It was a chilly start to the day with temperatures slightly below freezing and thin ice over some of the smaller, quieter ponds. The weather never really improved as the forecasted sunny skies turned cloudy and a brisk wind kicked up. Yes we had icy, wintry conditions for waterfowl photography in April! That’s gotta be a first! The weather conditions certainly worked against us and did keep away some of the commonly seen waterfowl species of Humber Bay. Nonetheless the group was patient and some excellent opportunities did present themselves. Early in the day we had a Mallard drake preening in the pond beside the boardwalk bathed in lovely early morning light. Although Mallards are a very common species they do make great subjects for folks wishing to improve their photographic skills in all aspects from preening to head shots to flight. Today’s post features a few of my favourite images from the day.

Mallard Hen                                                                    Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm lens @400mm
ISO 500
f8 @ 1/500 sec.

As the morning progressed we were faced with the previously mentioned increasing cloud cover, which was very undesirable, but our perseverance paid off in spades when one of the resident Red-necked Grebes came into point-blank range just as the sun broke through a small opening in the cloudy sky.

Red-necked Grebe
Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm Lens @ 490mm
ISO 500
f8 @ 1/1000 sec.

All along the Lake Ontario shoreline there is an incredible abundance of Ring-billed Gulls as well. Often very tame, they also make excellent subject matter for practicing head shots and watching for the good head angles too…not too mention they really are a beautiful bird 🙂

Ring-billed Gull
Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 450mm
ISO 500
f5.6 @ 1/5000 sec.

We were also able to focus our attention on other subjects besides waterfowl as there was a very busy Muskrat swimming around collecting material for it’s home. The cloud cover actually was a blessing here for casting an even light over the scene.

Muskrat
Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm
ISO 500
f8 @ 1/400 sec.

Towards the end of the 4 hour workshop the cloud cover had become very thick and we decided to work our way back over to the boardwalk ponds. On our way back I quickly alerted the group to the landscape photo opportunity that presented itself to us. Trees on the distant shore of the pond were casting a lovely abstract-type reflection on the pond as the breeze rippled the water’s surface.

Reflected Trees in Pond
Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 250mm
ISO 500
f11 @ 1/250 sec.

For flight action we enjoyed a brief period of Mallards flying back and forth during the sunlit conditions of the early morning. Working in manual mode ensured proper exposure as the mallard drake flew across differing backgrounds, in even and unchanging light.

Mallard Drake in Flight
Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 210mm
ISO 500
f5.6 @ 1/1600 sec.

 

Mallard Drake in Flight
Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 210mm
ISO 500
f5.6 @ 1/1600 sec.

 

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On Saturday April 7th I will be offering a short notice Waterfowl of Humber Bay photographic workshop. This event is being designated as A Teaching Moment Photographic Workshop. This is a perfect time to view and photograph migrating waterfowl along the Lake Ontario shoreline. Humber Bay has long been one of my preferred destinations for photographing waterfowl. During this Teaching Moment Photographic Workshop you will receive friendly, in-the-field instruction and guidance. You will also learn proper field technique for both handheld and tripod mounted lenses, crafting the composition, photographing the action, and tons more. I highly recommend using a lens with a minimum focal length of 400mm to get the most out of this workshop. I typically take a Nikon 28-300mm lens on a Nikon D800 and a Nikon 200-500mm lens on a Nikon D500 when I am photographing at Humber Bay. Often the more common species of waterfowl can be encouraged to come in to close proximity to us, but other species do tend to stay a little further out from shore. We will meet at Humber Bay Park at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday April 7th and conclude the workshop at 12:00 p.m. The cost of Waterfowl of Humber Bay – A Teaching Moment Photographic Workshop is $65. To register and arrange payment for this event please contact me by clicking here for further information. The maximum number of participants for this workshop is 8.

Do remember that attending A Teaching Moment Photographic Workshop allows you to earn rewards – after attending 5 of these events you will receive a $50 discount on any future workshop of your choice! Please note that attendance at any of my currently scheduled workshops will also earn you an automatic $50 discount on my Lake Superior Wild & Scenic Photography Retreat.

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