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Common Loon Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom ISO 800, f8 @ 1/200 sec Handheld capture from canoe on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario

Common Loon
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/200 sec
Handheld capture with OS function turned on from canoe on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario

During the week of July 19th, Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses, kindly loaned me the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Telephoto Zoom  for review. The first thing I noticed about this lens upon arrival was the impressive, professional build quality; all metal construction, sturdy metal lens hood, silky smooth rotating tripod collar with click stops, and a beautifully smooth zooming action. This lens weighs in at 6.3 lbs, roughly 5 lbs lighter than a Nikon 600mm prime lens – a light-weight when compared to a hefty prime lens and at a fraction of the purchase price too. Another noteworthy point is that this lens’ minimum focusing distance is a mere 8.5 feet compared to Nikon’s 600mm prime lens which has a minimum focusing distance of 15.7 feet. This will allow this lens to very functional in creating imagery of smaller subjects such as Chipmunks, Chickadees, and Frogs. When reviewing lenses I do not pay attention to lens charts and such or other on-line reviews of the product. I prefer to take the lens out into the real world and judge its performance capabilities based on my preferred locations, subjects, and shooting style.

Beaver eating lily pad leaves Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sports Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/160 sec. Handheld from the canoe with OS turned on and the 1.5 DX sensor crop activated for an effective focal length of 900mm

Beaver eating lily pad leaves
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sports Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/160 sec.
Handheld from the canoe with OS turned on and the 1.5 DX sensor crop activated for an effective focal length of 900mm

When designing this new Global Vision lens Sigma clearly had professional use in mind. The lens is weather sealed to protect it from dusty environments and it is splash proof as well. In addition, the front and rear elements of the lens have been treated with a new oil and water repellent coating. This lens is sure to withstand the demands of the professional photographer.

Great Blue Heron on fallen tree Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 370mm ISO 1600, f6.3 @ 1/320 sec Tripod mounted from canoe with OS turned on and loosened ballhead for additional support. The 1.5 DX sensor crop was activated for an effective focal length of 555mm

Great Blue Heron on fallen tree
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 370mm
ISO 1600, f6.3 @ 1/320 sec
Tripod mounted from canoe with OS turned on and loosened ballhead for additional support. The 1.5 DX sensor crop was activated for an effective focal length of 555mm

Another noteworthy point; the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Telephoto Zoom is compatible with the optional Sigma USB Dock and Sigma software allowing the user to apply custom settings and autofocus calibration settings. I did not use the Sigma USB Dock to set any custom settings prior to conducting this review.

Common Loon Nikon D800, SIgma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/250 sec Handheld from canoe with OS turned on. This loon was photographed at the minimum focusing distance of the SIgma lens which is 8.5 feet.

Common Loon
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/250 sec
Handheld from canoe with OS turned on. This loon was photographed at the minimum focusing distance of the Sigma lens which is 8.5 feet.

In the photos below you can see the zoom lock switch conveniently located just behind the zoom ring which locks the lens at 150mm and all other controls are nicely arranged vertically on the side of the lens barrel. First is the Focus switch, followed by the AF distance limiter switch, Optical Stabilizer switch, and lastly the Custom settings switch. For the purposes of my review I used the autofocus position, the AF distance limiter switch in Full, Optical Stabilizer in Position 1 (for static subjects – Position 2 is for panning action), and the Custom switch OFF as I did not program any custom settings. Each of the photographers accompanying this review were either handheld or tripod mounted. This will be noted in the image captions for each photo.

The Sigma 150-600mm Sports lens barrel showing the layout of the controls on the left side of the lens

The Sigma 150-600mm Sports lens barrel showing the layout of the controls on the left side of the lens

The vertical arrangement of the Focus, AF Limiter, OS, and Custom switches

The vertical arrangement of the Focus, AF Limiter, OS, and Custom switches

IN THE FIELD PERFORMANCE & IMAGE QUALITY
To review the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Telephoto Zoom was mounted on my Nikon D800. I was excited to try this combination due to the selectable sensor crop features of the Nikon D800. As a result I would often switch between the FX (full frame) sensor and the DX 1.5 crop sensor. The latter is like having a built-in teleconverter at your disposal, ready and waiting. When using this lens with the DX 1.5 sensor crop activated the lens has a 35mm equivalency of 225mm to 900mm (folks using DSLRs with APS-C size sensors will particularly enjoy this long reach). This extended reach proved to be most beneficial in capturing flighty subjects such as Great Blue Herons, Beavers, and for close-ups of Bullfrogs too. At the lens’ minimum focusing distance of 8.5 feet and an effective 35mm focal length of 900mm this lens was quite deadly for Bullfrogs :) Be sure to read the captions for each of the images below as I have indicated which sensor crop was selected to create each image.

Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sports Telephoto Zoom ISO 800, f8 @ 1/80 sec Handheld from canoe in overcast light

Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sports Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/80 sec
Handheld from canoe in overcast light with OS function turned on

Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom ISO 800, f8 @ 1/80 sec. DX 1.5 sensor crop selected for an effective focal length of 900mm. A lifejacket over the side of the canoe provided the needed support while handholding this capture

Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/80 sec.
DX 1.5 sensor crop selected for an effective focal length of 900mm. A lifejacket over the side of the canoe provided the needed cushioning and support while handholding this capture with the OS function turned on

To zoom the lens in and out the zoom ring is turned in the same direction as Canon zoom lenses – the opposite direction to Nikon zooms. This took some getting used to on my part but by the end of the week the correct zooming direction had become second nature. My chosen location to put this lens through its paces was the wetland on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario, in the Muskoka District and a short excursion down the Seguin Trail in Parry Sound. I used the lens both handheld and tripod mounted with the latter mode utilizing a loosened ballhead for additional support with the Optical Stabilizer (position1) activated. Once again do note the captions for each image for greater description on capture information.

Great Blue Heron in Spruce Tree Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom ISO 1250, f6.3 @ 1/200 sec I found this heron roosting in the spruce tree late in the day. Dialing in an ISO of 1250 and using a wide open aperture of f6.3 and the tripod with a loosened ballhead for additional support and the OS function on the lens yielded excellent sharpness for this image

Great Blue Heron in Spruce Tree
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 550mm
ISO 1250, f6.3 @ 1/200 sec
I found this heron roosting in the spruce tree late in the day. Dialing in an ISO of 1250 and using a wide open aperture of f6.3 and the tripod with a loosened ballhead for additional support and the OS function on the lens yielded excellent sharpness for this image. The 1.5 DX sensor crop was selected for an effective focal length of 825mm

NOT JUST FOR WILDLIFE
The Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Telephoto Zoom is not just a lens for wildlife it is also a serious performer for landscapes too. I often utilize longer focal lengths to extract intimate scenes from the grand vistas before me. When doing so the lens was tripod mounted with the Optical Stabilizer turned off and the ballhead controls firmly locked. The mirror lock feature on the Nikon D800 was also utilized to eliminate any vibrations resulting from mirror-slap from degrading image sharpness. For landscape use I would highly recommend the use of a polarizing filter – this lens would require a 105mm filter size.

Intimiate view of Horseshoe Lake shoreline details Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 150mm ISO 800, f8 @ 1/80 sec Handheld from canoe

Intimiate view of Horseshoe Lake shoreline details
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 150mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/80 sec
Handheld from canoe with OS function turned on

Nameless Lake on the Seguin Trail near Parry Sound, Ontario Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 150mm ISO 100, f16 @ 13 sec Tripod mounted with OS function turned off.

Nameless Lake on the Seguin Trail near Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 150mm
ISO 100, f16 @ 13 sec
Tripod mounted with OS function turned off. I do like the way the 13 second exposure rendered the falling rain drops in the water

Wetland, Rosseau, Ontario Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 200mm ISO 200, f16 @ 1/20 sec Tripod mounted with the OS function turned off

Wetland, Rosseau, Ontario
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 200mm
ISO 200, f16 @ 1/20 sec
Tripod mounted with the OS function turned off

BACK AT THE COMPUTER
After a week-long shooting spree with the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Telephoto Zoom I arrived home to upload several thousand images to the computer. As I began editing and optimizing these image files I did note that aside from chromatic aberration being very well controlled, the resulting image quality surpassed my expectations with excellent fine details present. Any images that were not sharp was the result of me pushing the Optical Stabilization passed its limits. It is important to push new gear to its limits to know what you can accomplish in the field. Know your gear and know its limits.

Juvenile Raccoon Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm ISO 800, f8 @ 1/160 sec Handheld in a crouched position using knee for additional support

Juvenile Raccoon
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/160 sec
Handheld in a crouched position using left knee for additional support with the OS function turned on

Juvenile Raccon Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm  ISO 800, f8 @ 1/160 sec Although the lens was set to 600mm I had activated the 1.5 DX sensor crop on the Nikon D800 for an effective focal length of 900mm

Juvenile Raccon
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/160 sec
Although the lens was set to 600mm I had activated the 1.5 DX sensor crop on the Nikon D800 for an effective focal length of 900mm. Again this photo was created handheld in a crouched position using my left knee for additional support with the OS function turned on. Cropping the sensor, in camera, was the best approach to prevent any undue stress on this young raccoon due to a closer approach

CONCLUSION

If you are ready for the extended reach of a 600mm lens the http://www.sigmacanada.ca/product/sigma-sport-150-600mm-f5-6-3-dg-os-hsm-lens–sos1506dgs/ is highly recommended – professional quality images, in a weather sealed design, at an affordable price. The 150mm to 600mm zoom range is very versatile, allowing for tight portraits as well as scenes that take in the surrounding environment too, without the need to change lenses. This saves time that in-turn may yield more results when the action heats up. The light weight design yet solid build makes this lens a joy to handhold when photographing birds in flight or when working from a canoe, as I did, which is something folks that already own heavy weight prime lenses may be interested in if they are looking for a lighter alternative. The Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Telephoto Zoom is my new favorite lens and be my go to lens for all of my long lens work. The Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Telephoto Zoom surpassed my expectations!!!

Please do remember to click on each of the images to view the larger, sharper version :)

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Conch Shell at Daybreak on Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Conch Shell at Daybreak on Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

As I continue to edit and process the images I created on the island of Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands, I came upon this one of a perfectly intact conch shell that my 6 year old daughter had found one day. I made sure to hang onto it for a few days to use as a prop at sunrise. When I began to optimize this image file I began daydreaming of the amazingly, wonderful conch chowder, which was served in restaurants on the island. I guess I’ll just have to go back next winter for more :)

The above photo was relatively simple to create. I used my Nikon D800 with the Nikon 18-35mm lens and a Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density filter. All of this was mounted on a Manfrotto BeFree Tripod, which is a great, light weight tripod designed for travel photography. If you did not get a chance to read my review of this tripod yet, please follow this link. I would then await the waves to wash in to shore and then as they retreated back into the ocean I would create the images, until I captured what I considered to be the most pleasing, outgoing wave blur.

Please click on the image to see the larger, sharper version.

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Sigma 15mm Fisheye Lens-McLachlan

For the folks that have been following along here at the blog you may recall I spent a great deal of time last summer using a Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye Lens, which was loaned to me by Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses. Today I am pleased and honored to have been featured in a recently designed promotional piece for this lens. Each of the images featured on the promo card were created as I traveled throughout my home province of Ontario, Canada. To view more of my photos created with this lens please follow this link to the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye Lens and scroll through the various thumbnail images, clicking on each to view the larger, sharper version. This lens was an indispensable tool for my frog-scapes, landscapes, and everything in between…not too mention highly addictive and a ton of fun too :)

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Sunrise on Cayman Brac (Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm leans, & Manfrotto BeFree Tripod

Cayman Brac Sunrise (Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm Lens)

During my recent trip to the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands, Gentect International the Canadian distributor for Manfrotto tripods was kind enough to loan me the Manfrotto BeFree, which is a small lightweight tripod designed for travel. When the tripod arrived at my home just prior to my departing I knew instantly that this lovely little tripod would be perfect for my travels, and throughout my trip I was constantly reminded why having a small light weight tripod is so beneficial for travel.  Whether I was using my wide angle zoom or my large and heavy Nikon 80-400 mm VR lens the tripod met my expectations of what should be expected in a travel tripod – lightweight yet sturdy.

Great Egrets in Cayman Brac Wetland (Nikon D800 & Nikon 80-400mm VR Lens

Great Egrets in Cayman Brac Wetland (Nikon D800 & Nikon 80-400mm VR Lens)

First and foremost the Befree Tripod comes with an attractive and very useful carrying bag. I would often hang the tripod from the handlebars of a bicycle to ride down the road to nearby photo destinations.

Manfrotto BeFree Tripod Bag

Manfrotto BeFree Tripod Bag

The Manfrotto Befree Tripod weighs in at only 3lbs and is 15.75 inches in length when fully closed and boasts a maximum payload of 8.8 lbs. As is the case with most tripods designed for travel it is not overly tall when fully extended. With the center column extended the tripod will reach a height of 56.7 inches and 48.4 inches tall when the center column is not extended. Since I am 6 foot 1 inch I did find this a tad short, but I also much prefer to photograph my landscapes from a lower perspective, so this was not really too big of a concern to me. Also, it should be noted that when any tripod’s center column is extended the stability of said tripod becomes immediately less stable. As a result I was not extending the center column during use, and I would advise strongly that folks avoid extending the center column of any tripod unless they absolutely need to do so.

The Manfrotto Befree Tripod comes with its very own mini ballhead incorporating Manfrotto’s quick release system that has been in use for a number of years. I have found this to be a very functional system that provides the convenience and stability a photographer would need. The quick release plates easily screw into the tripod threads on your camera by means of a collapsible-type of thumb screw and once tightened to the camera you can then tighten a small set-screw to prevent the quick release plate from twisting during use.

Three features I particularly liked about this tripod were; one of the legs has a rubber section incorporated into it which I found greatly improved the carrying comfort and which would be very handy for use in cold climates. Secondly, each leg has a silver adjustment tab that allows each leg to adjust independantly for use on uneven terrain or to fold it down for storage inside the carrying bag. Lastly, the legs of the Befree are four section legs that are controlled by three lever-type cam-locks. I found closing and locking the levers to be a very simple process, I would loosen each leg-lock, close the legs, and then with one simple motion use the palm of my hand in a rolling motion to close all three of the locks.

The leg-locking levers and mini ballhead are protected by misuse from airport baggage handlers due to the manner in which the Befree folds down for travel. The leg-locking levers and ballhead are protected by being positioned inside the sturdy aluminum tripod legs.

Below you will see a series of images that better illustrate the fantastic features mentioned above. Please click on each image to see the larger, sharper versions. If you are looking for a small, light weight tripod for your next travel adventure do consider the Manfrotto BeFree. I found it to be an amazingly light, yet sturdy tripod that ensured I was able to create the tack sharp images I demand from my work. This tripod will become my brand new companion for all of my travel photography needs.

Manfrotto BeFree Tripod

Manfrotto BeFree Tripod

Manfrotto Quick Release Ballhead

Manfrotto Quick Release Ballhead (note base is notched for storage too)

Manfrotto Quick release Plates

Manfrotto Quick release Plates

Rubber Carrying Handle Incorporated Onto Tripod Leg

Rubber Carrying Handle Incorporated Onto Tripod Leg

Three Position Leg Adjustment Tab

Three Position Leg Adjustment Tab

One Hand Technique For Closing Leg Locks

One Hand Technique For Closing Leg Locks

Folded Position For Travel (Leg Locks and Ballhead Protected)

Folded Position For Travel (Leg Locks and Ballhead Protected)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Agawa Rock_2307Agawa Rock in Ontario’s Lake Superior Provincial Park

On my recent trip to Lake Superior Provincial Park, which is located north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses, kindly loaned my the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fish-Eye Lens. Having visited this park on four separate occasions, I knew exactly how and where I would put the lens through its paces. In the image above that was captured at Agawa Rock, I waited for the late day sun to cast shadows of the evergreens upon the massive, pink granite cliff for an interesting perspective, knowing that the distortion qualities of the lens would curve the evergreens in towards the cliff.

Katherine Cove_2004Sunburst at Sunset at Katherine Cove, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario

In my previous post I shared a similar image of this sunset at Katherine Cove. Above you will see the fish-eye version of the same scene. The Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fish-Eye lens captured the sunburst much better than my Nikon 18-35mm lens did. At first I was unsure about the distorted horizon in this capture, but the more I look at it, the more I really like the distorted qualities of the image, and the nice thing with fish-eye lenses is the creative opportunities they provide photographers due to their ability to distort the landscape.

White Pine Roots and Granite_1926White Pine Root-scape on Granite Outcrop

After I had finished photographing various compositions at Chippewa Falls, which was also featured in the previous post, I turned to see this interesting root-scape spreading out across the granite outcrop. With the rounded look of the granite outcrop I immediately reached for the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fish-Eye to accentuate the effect.

I found this amazing lens to be most useful along woodland trails and the rugged Lake Superior shoreline where the terrain did not allow much room for a photographer to roam, without ending up in the lake :) If you love photographing creative landscape imagery be sure to add a fish-eye lens such as the Sigma 15mm to your tool kit. The possibilities are endless when it comes to fish-eye lenses and the Sigma 15mm version is capable of photographing almost twice as close as the Nikon 16mm version!!!

Be sure to click HERE to read my review of the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fish-Eye in Denise Ippolito’s Creative Photography eMiniMagazine – an amazing, free, on-line resource for photographers wishing to explore their creative side. Be sure to sign-up for the mini-mag…it’s free!

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Bullfrog_1431

Male Bullfrog on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
Technical Specs:
ISO 6400
f22 @ 1/40 second
Live View
Hand-Held

The last couple of weeks have been rather hectic, after returning from the cottage on Horseshoe Lake in Ontario’s Parry Sound Region I was only home for a couple of days prior to heading back to the cottage. During my first of the two stays I spent several nights working with the Bullfrogs. By the time I had noticed this fella with his head lifted nicely out of the water it was already getting quite dark out, as can be seen by the late setting sun reflecting in the frog’s right eye. I could have easily given up and called it a night, but if you don’t push yourself or the limits of your gear you will not know what is achievable down the road. It is very important for photographers to get to know both their limits and those of their equipment.

To create the above portrait of this male American Bullfrog I positioned my canoe in front of him and then sat in the bottom of the canoe for increased stability. Then utilizing the Live View feature of my D800, a bubble-level in the hot-shoe and a Nikon 105mm Micro Lens I framed the image. To capture the low perspective the camera and lens were hand-held at the water’s surface. In fact, both the lens hood and quick release plate were getting wet. As night was quickly falling upon the frog and I an ISO of 6400 was dialed in, which gave me 1/40 seconds at f22. The small aperture was necessary to maximize the depth of field at this close range. The canoe was sitting relatively stable due to very shallow water conditions at this location within the marsh and prior to pressing the shutter I took a breath then I clicked the shutter while holding the breath. This technique will help keep your body relatively still for slower than desired exposures, producing a better percentage of keepers.

When viewing the above image on my computer after I arrived home, I was quite impressed with the low-level of noise present at such a high ISO. It is critical to maintain proper exposure by remembering to expose to the right (ETTR). If you have to brighten a poorly exposed frame you will surely introduce noise into the image. In Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) I did perform a tiny bit of noise reduction and later in Photoshop I removed several dust bunnies :) Otherwise this is how the image appeared on the LCD screen in the marsh.

After I created several frames of this fella he lunged forward and gobbled up a smaller frog that I had not noticed, in one quick motion. Bullfrogs are notorious for their canabalistic tendencies.

Please click on the image to see the larger, sharper version and the D800 quality at high ISOs.

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Woodland Interior_9943Woodland Interior at Killbear Provincial Park, Ontario

I often found while photographing with the Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye Lens that I was creating images of subjects that I would normally walk by and not give any passing consideration to their photographic possibilities.  The Sigma 15mm f2.8 EX DG Fisheye Lens was on loan to me for  a week by Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses. With the fisheye lens mounted on my Nikon D800 it was like a whole new world of photogenic subjects materialized before me. One such scene is the image above of a large boulder that was most likely deposited here by receeding glacial action long ago. The boulder sits beside the footpath that is the Twin Points Trail in Ontario’s Killbear Provincial Park. In fact each of the images in this post are from this lovely and scenic trail leading out to the Georgian Bay shore. As you proceed along the trail, closer to Georgian Bay, the pink granite typical of the area becomes more prominent among the numerous rocky outcrops within the woodlands and along the shoreline, which can be seen in the two photos below.

Killbear Provincial Park_29Granite Outcrop at Dusk, Killbear Provincial Park, Ontario

Pink Granite and Woodland Interior_9953Pink Granite Woodland Outcrop at Killbear Provincial Park, Ontario.

Stay tuned for more fisheye fun and do remember to click on the photos to see the larger, sharper versions.

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