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Muskoka Fall Colour Spectacular_2020

Join Andrew McLachlan in Ontario’s Muskoka District on October 5th, 6th, & 7th 2020 for 2 ½ days of in-depth photographic exploration of the finest waterfalls, rivers, forests and wetlands of the region. Embrace the beauty of Muskoka and learn the skills of landscape photography amid the palette of autumn.

Maximum number of participants is 8.

Why worry about dealing with unrelenting crowds in Algonquin Provincial Park when you can enjoy photographing fall colour in Ontario’s Muskoka District without crowds and with better scenery!

Do note that there will be some walking involved on woodland trails over uneven ground. The longest walk will be roughly 1 kilometre in length. Please do not hesitate to inquire should you have any concerns regarding physical limitations that may affect your ability to attend this event. Most of the locations selected are within very close proximity to where we will park our vehicles.

New for all landscape workshop participants is the availability to use the same Singh Ray Filters that I personally use, in-the-field, to explore my creative vision. Find out first-hand why I trust Singh Ray Filters to capture the scene in one frame without the need to spend hours at the computer blending multiple images.

Itinerary:

Monday, October 5th:

• Meet in the parking lot of Brooks Falls (Huntsville area) at 7:00 a.m. for waterfall photo session

• Stop for lunch at 1:00 p.m.

• Oxtongue Rapids & Ragged Falls (Huntsville area) photo session

• Dinner at local restaurant at 7:00 p.m.

• Get some rested for early start on Tuesday

Tuesday, October 6th:

• Meet at 6:00 a.m. at the Sleep Inn Bracebridge and carpool to waterfall for photo sessions

• Stop for lunch at 1:00 p.m.

• Additional waterfall / river sessions

• Sunset photo session – weather permitting

• Complimentary dinner at local restaurant

Wednesday, October 7th:

• Meet at 6:00 a.m. at Sleep Inn Bracebridge and carpool to Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Reserve for sunrise and morning photo session

• Depart for home 12:00 p.m.

What’s Included:

• In-depth photographic instruction during each photo session with LCD review

• Use of various Singh Ray Filters to explore and capture your creative vision

• Complimentary dinner at nearby restaurant on Tuesday October 6th

What’s Not Included:

• Accommodations (I will be staying at the Sleep Inn in Bracebridge – they serve a continental style breakfast)

• Transportation

• Car pooling of participants is encouraged to arrive at each location

• Breakfasts, lunches, and Monday night dinner

• Alcoholic Beverages

Workshop Fee:

$350.00 CDN plus taxes

Payment can be made via email transfer or by cheque.

To reserve your spot in the Muskoka Autumn Colour Spectacular please contact me by clicking here to arrange payment.

Please do not delay in booking your accommodations as hotels / motels in the area will fill up quickly.

Cancellation Policy:

61 Days or greater – full refund less $75 administration fee

60 Days or less – No Refunds

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The 3rd Annual Muskoka Winter Waterfall Spectacular Photographic Workshop wrapped up today. This year we were blessed with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark with no wind whatsoever. It was quite lovely to be able to photograph without the constant need for gloves to keep fingertips warm. We also had mostly overcast conditions which is the best light of all for photographing the woodland waterfalls we were visiting. A relatively shallow bed of snow also made for mostly easy walking along the trails, although the mild weather did create a few sections where we had to be careful of slip and fall due to icy sections. Nonetheless, we succeeded in completing our visits without incident. I always recommend to folks to bring along crampons for added traction along trails that may have icy sections.

Below is a selection of imagery created at each of our stops on this one-of-a-kind workshop in Ontario’s Muskoka region. I used a variety of lenses from my trusty Laowa 12mm Zero D lens, to my Nikkor 28-300mm lens, and also my Nikkor 200-500mm lens, which is very useful for reaching out into rivers to capture icy details on exposed rocks and such. My filter choices for the vast majority of all my winter photography are those created by Singh Ray Filters and my go to filter choices are neutral polarizers and neutral density filters.

Folks that may be interested in attending the 4th Annual Muskoka Winter Waterfall Spectacular Workshop or any other events that I have or will announce this year can contact me by clicking here to be added to my workshop contact list 🙂

Potts Creek in winter, Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada

Potts Creek in Winter, Muskoka, Ontario

 

Skeleton Creek in winter at Hatchery Falls, Rosseau, Ontario, Canada

Skeleton Falls Details in Winter, Muskoka, Ontario

 

Skeleton River in winter at Skeleton Falls, Rosseau, Ontario, Canada

Skeleton Falls in Winter, Muskoka, Ontario

 

Rosseau River at Lower Rosseau Falls, Rosseau, Ontario, Canada

Rosseau River in Winter, Muskoka, Ontario

 

Potts Creek in winter, Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada

Potts Creek Details in Winter, Muskoka, Ontario

 

Potts Creek in winter, Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada

Little High Falls in Winter, Muskoka, Ontario

 

Rosseau River at Lower Rosseau Falls, Rosseau, Ontario, Canada

Rosseau River in Winter, Muskoka, Ontario

 

Skeleton River in winter at Skeleton Falls, Rosseau, Ontario, Canada

Skeleton Falls in Winter, Muskoka, Ontario

 

Rosseau River at Lower Rosseau Falls, Rosseau, Ontario, Canada

Rosseau River Details in Winter, Muskoka, Ontario

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Wimberley F-2 Dual Arm Set Up With AP7 Cold Shoes_9950

Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket Dual Arm Set-up with AP-7 Cold Shoe Flash Adapters Attached

Several years ago I did a review of the Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket Single Arm Set-up, which can be found by clicking here. I do stand by my comments from 2012 that this is by far the best design and the most user friendly macro flash bracket on the market today! Fast forward to today and Wimberley have created a new lighter version of the F-2 Macro Bracket and it is just a sturdy as the original design. Please do note that the F-2 Macro Brackets configured into the dual arm set-up pictured above are attached to a M-8 Perpendicular Plate. Wimberley have also developed and released the optional AP-7 Cold Shoe Flash Adapter that enables rapid attachment of flashes to the brackets. In nature photography being able to move quickly can mean the difference in getting or missing the shot.

AP7 Cold Shoe Flash Adapters_9953

Wimberley AP-7 Cold Shoe Flash Adapters

In the photo below you can see my personal set-up using the Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket Dual Arm Set-up with the Meike MK-MT24 Dual Flash Speedlight Trigger. Each of the two flashes have a homemade diffuser affixed to them. These diffusers were made from two small Rubbermaid containers, lined with foil and 3 layers of polystyrene foam sheeting to effectively diffuse the light emitted from the flash tubes.

Dual Macro Flash Set Up_9942

My Wimberley Dual Arm Set-up using the Meike Dual Macro Flash System

This dual flash set-up is now my go-to system for photographing invertebrates as it provides a beautiful even light around the subjects without any distracting shadows, which is often results when using a single speedlight. I can easily revert this set-up back to a single arm set-up for photographing frogs. The flexibility of the Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket Dual Arm Set-up allows me to position the speedlights in any manner that I desire, to create the lighting I want. This feature is indispensable when the speedlights may need to be positioned around objects that may otherwise block the light emitted from the flash, or when you may wish to have one flash illuminate the subject while the second flash illuminates more of the background. The possibilities for enhanced creativity are endless with this design. This flexibility is the result of the clamshell locking mechanisms. The clamshell locking design of the F-2 brackets also allows me to ‘fold’ the brackets so that they fit into my gear bag effortlessly. The AP-7 Cold Shoe Flash Adapters allow me to quickly attach my wireless flash heads or sync cord by means of the thumbscrew locking mechanism.

Below is a selection of imagery recently created using the Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket Dual Arm Set-up with the AP-7 Cold Shoe Adpaters to securely hold the Meike MK-MT24 Dual Speedlights. As you can see in the Tan Jumping Spider images there are two catchlights in the eyes, but I find these to be acceptable for invertebrate photography. When photographing frogs however, I do find the presence of two catchlights to be very distracting. As a result, in each of the frog photos below I have evicted one cathclight from each eye for a more pleasing look.

Tan Jumping Spider (Platycryptus undatus)

Tan Jumping Spider (Platycryptus undatus)

La Palma Glass Frog_2667

La Palma Glass Frog (Hyalinobatrachium valerioi) – captive

Argentine Horned Frog_2647

Argentine Horned Frog (Ceratophrys ornata) – captive

Madagascar Rain Frog_2645

Madagascar Rain Frog (Scaphiophryne madagascariensis) – captive

Tan Jumping Spider (Platycryptus undatus)

Tan Jumping Spider (Platycryptus undatus)

The new lightweight design of the Wimberley F-2 Macro Brackets configured into a dual arm set-up is an integral part of my macro photography now and I cannot wait for the invertebrates to emerge from hibernation in the spring so that I can get out and photograph the wealth of subject matter that will be available.

All of today’s featured images were photographed using a Nikon D500 with a Nikkor f2.8 105mm Micro Lens (non-VR version) with the exception of the Tan Jumping Spiders whereby I affixed a Raynox DCR-250 Diopter to the Nikkor 105mm Micro Lens for added magnification. The Meike MK-MT24 Speedlights were affixed to the Wimberley F-2 Macro Brackets configured into the dual arm set-up by means of the AP-7 Cold Shoe Flash Adapters.

If you are interested in photographing macro subjects in nature with a dual flash system I highly recommend using the Wimberley F-2 Macro Brackets configured into the dual arm set-up. The sturdy, lightweight design and the simplicity of positioning flash heads allows me to concentrate on my photography and not with the frustrations associated with cheaper, inferior products.

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Sunset on Georgian Bay, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada

Georgian Bay at Sunset, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada

I am pleased to announce, and honored to have been added to the Singh Ray Filters Pro Gallery. I have relied on Singh Ray filters for the last 25 years to get the job done and photograph scenes the way I see them. I never leave home with out taking them along. The above image was created at sunrise on the beautiful shores of Ontario’s Georgian Bay, near Parry Sound, Ontario. To control the dynamic range within this scene I used my Singh Ray 3-stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter. I much prefer to capture scenes such as this, in the field, the way I see it in one frame. This allows me the freedom to quickly process the image file later at the computer. Sure enough you could capture a few frames and blend the exposures in the digital darkroom, but would you not prefer to be photographing moments like instead of being stuck behind a computer blending exposures?

To save 10% on your next purchase of at Singh Ray Filters use the code “Andrew 10” at checkout.

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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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Manfrotto Pro Light Redbee-210 Camera Backpack

For the last few months I have been using a new camera backpack for my nature excursions as well as my commercial photography assignments. Enter the Manfrotto Pro Light Redbee-210 Camera Backpack. When I head out on a commercial shoot or into the wilderness it is of the utmost importance to me to have two camera bodies and a wide assortment of lenses on hand and ready at a moments notice. The Manfrotto Pro Light Redbee-210 camera backpack allows me to do just that.

I do not normally carry a laptop or tablet with me on single day commercial assignments, but the Redbee-210’s back panel is designed to accommodate both for extended assignment work whereby I would need to carry such devices.  Not only have I found the Redbee-210 to be very versatile but it also provides me with the peace of mind that my gear is protected during periods of inclement weather due to the water repellent nature of the specially coated fabric and included rain protector. The flexible dividers to separate and protect the gear are easily changeable to suit the needs of any assignment. The Redbee-210 is also designed to be compliant with standard carry-on luggage requirements (as airline restrictions change this may also change).

I am able to easily pack the following gear for a typical nature excursion inside the bag:

  • Nikon D800
  • Nikon D500
  • Nikkor 200-500mm Lens (attached to the Nikon D500)
  • Nikkor 18-35mm Lens
  • Nikkor 28-300mm Lens
  • Nikkor 105mm Micro Lens
  • Laowa 12mm Zero D Lens
  • Filters, memory cards, cable release, camera batteries are stored inside the customized back panel

The main access to the gear bag is accomplished by unzipping the back panel, which in my honest opinion is a design I wish had been thought of sooner. I cannot recall how many I have had to set my bags down in wet, mucky soils. With this new design the back panel stays relatively clean and dry so that it is comfortable to put on again after setting it down. After unzipping the main back panel you will then see that your camera gear is protected by a second zippered mesh system. This is a very nice feature that I have found helps to protect gear from debris during blustery conditions.

Redbee-210 Showing Back Panel Opened and Zippered Mesh System

 

Redbee-210 Showing Both Back Panel and Zippered Mesh System Opened

The shoulder straps are large and well padded for superior comfort and offer a sternum strap which I find invaluable on long hikes for the added comfort it provides. There is also a waist strap that is wide enough to be comfortable.

Redbee-210 Shoulder Straps

When the need to access gear must be swift there are also three external openings that will allow you to grab your your camera and lens combo very quickly. I have optimized my Redbee-210 to allow me to grab my Nikon D500 with the attached Nikkor 200-500mm lens through the top access opening. When one of those fleeting moments in nature occur I can simply unzip the top opening and pull out the camera and lens combo and am ready for the action.

Redbee-210 Top Opening Zipped Shut

 

Redbee-210 Top Opening Unzipped

The other two quick access openings are located on each side of the bag, near the bottom. Depending on how you customize the interior of your pack it is possible to have two camera bodies with lenses attached and positioned at a quick access opening giving you speedy access to two separate cameras when the need may arise.

Redbee-210 Quick Access Side Opening

The side, quick access opening have both zipperes and quick connect snaps for added security. All zippers on the Redbee-210 also have a pull tab which makes closing the zippers very quick and efficient.

Redbee-210 Zipper Tab and Quick Connect Safety Clip

In my honest opinion the Manfrotto Pro Light Redbee-210 Camera Backpack is a prime example of quality, durability and efficiency being well thought out and implemented during the design phase of this pack. I am able to carry my gear in total comfort down remote wilderness trails knowing that I am ready for anything at the spur of the moment.

 

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Sachatamia albomaculata

On Tuesday, April 3rd I spent the day testing a new DIY flash diffuser while photographing numerous species of frogs for some of the soon to be announced frog workshops. Most of the species featured in today’s post will be available at the next workshop. I can honestly say that this is the absolute best way to diffuse flash when photographing frogs. I am certain that this method of flash diffusion will also work incredibly well for insects too. Often when using flash to photograph frogs there will be some flash generated spectral highlights. Over the years I have become quite skilled at removing such highlights in Photoshop, but the process is time consuming. In today’s blog post my newly created DIY flash diffuser was used to photograph each of the species that are featured. How much post production did I do to each of these photos? The answer is not much at all. Aside from a few tweaks in Adobe Camera Raw and removing a few dust bunnies in Photoshop these images are essentially as is, straight from the camera. I spent no more than about 5 minutes optimizing each of the images in today’s post. There were no flash generated spectral highlights to be concerned with. I cannot wit to get into the wetlands near my home, with my new DIY flash diffuser, to photograph the frogs and toads during the spring breeding season this year

How much did it cost to make my new DIY flash diffuser? The price of a 1 kilogram plastic jar of Kraft peanut butter! The other items I already had on hand and they included an elastic and polystyrene foam sheeting.

Below are a few photos of my newly created DIY flash diffuser and an explanation of how I constructed it to follow.

DIY Flash Diffuser Set-up

 

Polystyrene Foam Sheeting

 

DIY Flash Diffuser Components

 

Since polystyrene foam sheeting is rather flimsy and you will need the plastic peanut butter jar (or something similar) to support the foam sheets. Polystyrene foam sheeting is typically used as a packaging item to protect various goods from damage during shipping. I cut the bottom off the plastic jar and I also cut the jar lengthwise to spread out the plastic, to form a concave shape. Creating a concave shape will allow the lighting top be equal distance from the subjet providing a more evenly diffused light. I also made one cut to the top of the jar which easily allows me to mount it onto a 77mm lens hood and hold it firmly in place with an elastic. You will also want to have the plastic jar slope upwards away from the lens as it does in the first photo of the DIY flash diffuser. I did this by simply running boiling water over the plastic to soften it and then bend it by hand. I then taped two layers of foam sheeting directly to my old Nikon SB600 and three pieces, cut to shape, onto the main diffuser. I found this quantity of foam sheeting provided me with the perfect amount of diffused light to completely eliminate flash generated spectral highlights. Take a look at the remaining frog images below. I do think the benefit of using such a simple and inexpensive diffuser speaks volumes. Even the catchlight in the frog’s eyes is more pleasing, allowing us to see more of the eye ball details with this DIY flash diffuser. If you have any questions about how to construct your own DIY flash diffuser using the materials mentioned above please do not hesitate to contact me for further assistance.

 

Atelopus sp. Limon

 

Dendrobates auratus “el Cope”

 

Dendrobates auratus “Yellow”

 

Dendrobates tinctorius “Lorenzo”

 

Dendrobates tinctorius “Patricia”

 

Epipedobates anthonyi “Ankas”

 

Megophrys aceras

 

Oophaga sylvatica “Diablo”

 

Phyllobates vittatus

 

Ranitomeya flavovitatta

 

Ranitomeya immitator “Chazuta”

 

Ranitomeya sirensis

 

Ranitomeya ventrimaculata

 

Theloderma asperum

 

Sachatamia albomaculata

 

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