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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

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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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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Gadwall Drake Wing Flap, Humber Bay, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR lens
ISO 500, f8 @ 1/640 sec

I have been spending some of time over the last week traveling between the cities of Barrie and Toronto, Ontario to photograph migrating waterfowl. Kempenfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe in Barrie had a mix of Common Loons and Pacific Loons in full winter plumage, while Humber Bay on Lake Ontario in Toronto was productive for Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, and Mallards. An alternate location to Humber Bay and located nearby is High Park, it turned out be productive for Wood Ducks, which are still hanging around due to our warmer than usual start to winter. This slow start to winter has also led to some late season fall colour that adds a lovely pop of colour to some situations as it reflects in the water. Here are a few of the images I created last week during these outings.

Mallard Drake, High Park, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens
ISO 500, f8 @ 1/60 sec

 

Mallard Hen quacking, Humber Bay, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens
ISO 500, f8 @ 1640 sec

 

Common Loon (winter plumage), Kempenfelt Bay, Barrie, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens
ISO 800, f8 @ 1160 sec

 

Pacific Loon (winter plumage), Kemenfelt Bay, Barrie, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens
ISO 500, f8 1/250 sec

 

Northern Shoveler Drake, Humber Bay, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens
ISO 500, f8 1/2500 sec

 

Northern Shoveler Hen, Humber Bay, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens
ISO 500, f8 @1/500 sec

 

Wood Duck Drake, High Park, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens
ISO 500, f8 @ 1/500 sec

 

Wood Duck Drake Wing Flap, High Park, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500. Nikon 200-500mm VR lens
ISO 500, f8 @ 1/1000 sec

 

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Common Loon, Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500
Nikon 200-500mm VR lens @ 500mm (35mm equivalent = 750mm)
ISO 800
f8 @ 1/2000 sec

I spent much of last week on Horseshoe Lake enjoying the last week of my daughter’s summer break from school. We were treated on more than one occasion to the resident Common Loons bringing their late season chick into our bay to feed. Each time they arrived I paddled out into the bay in my canoe with my Nikon D500 and Nikon 200-500mm VR lens to create some fresh, handheld, imagery. I much prefer using a canoe over a motor boat for photographing loons as it allows for a peaceful approach that does not cause any distress to the birds.

This year the loons have what appears to be a late season chick that has only recently began to molt. Why late season? We had a very cool spring and early summer and Horseshoe Lake has experienced extremely high water levels all summer with the lake level sitting at roughly two feet higher than normal – the highest I have ever witnessed in 35 years on the lake. This high water level negatively impacted nesting sites on the lake. I have never before seen an adult Common Loon coming into winter plumage with a chick of this size, at this time of year.

Here are a few newly processed images from my time with the Common Loons last week. My favorite is the tender moment shared between adult and chick. It was fun watching the chick diving and swimming while following the parent underwater. Each time the chick surfaced a wing flap would occur. The adult was having great success catching crawfish for the chick to eat. If the parent surfaced without any food the chick would bite the adults neck gently – perhaps to say “I am hungry, you need to do better than that”

Please do remember to click on each of the photos to view the larger versions.

Common Loon with chick, Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500
Nikon 200-500mm VR lens @ 500mm (35mm equivalent = 750mm)
ISO 800
f11 @ 1/800 sec

 

Common Loon juvenile, Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500
Nikon 200-500mm VR lens @ 240mm (35mm equivalent = 360mm)
ISO 800
f8 @ 1/640 sec

 

Common Loon juvenile, Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500
Nikon 200-500mm VR lens @ 500mm (35mm equivalent = 750mm)
ISO 800
f8 @ 1/640 sec

 

Common Loon, Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500
Nikon 200-500mm VR lens @ 500mm (35mm equivalent = 750mm)
ISO 800
f11 @ 1/1250 sec

 

Common Loon, Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D500
Nikon 200-500mm VR lens @ 500mm (35mm equivalent = 750mm)
ISO 500
f8 @ 1/1000 sec

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