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The outside temperature in Thornton, Ontario today is a balmy 13 degrees Celsius, clear skies, and no snow on the ground. It is feeling more like a fine spring day than December 24th. Either way it is Christmas Eve and I wanted to take a moment to thank each and everyone of you that subscribe to my blog for their continued support (it is very much appreciated) and to wish you, your families, and your dear ones a safe and joyous holiday season and all the very best for 2016.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

Christmas_4584

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Sigma 180 Macro_4363

In 2012 Sigma released the Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens. In July of this year I had the opportunity to spend about a week with the lens, to give a thorough workout, as it was on loan to me from Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses. The Sigma 180mm Macro lens is physically a large lens yet does handle very nicely. It is equipped with Sigma’s Optical Stabilization feature, which will compensate for about 4 stops. At the time of this lens’ release it was the only 180mm Macro lens to offer such superb stabilization. It is also a fast lens with a maximum aperture of f2.8 therefore the viewfinder is bright making manual focus easy (should you prefer to manually focus your macro lenses – I generally do). Since my main objective was to use this lens handheld from the canoe for frog photography and wetland details too, I was very eager to put the Optical Stabilizer to the test. Some other features that are noteworthy to mention for this high-performance lens are:

  • Three low dispersion glass elements for excellent correction of both axial chromatic aberration and lateral chromatic aberration.
  • Hyper Sonic Motor delivers auto-focusing that is quiet, fast, and accurate.
  • Multi-layer coatings to minimize flare and ghosting.
  • Accepts 86mm size filters.
  • Tripod collar to easily switch from horizontal to vertical orientations.
  • Minimum focusing distance of 18.5 inches.
  • Magnification ratio of 1:1 at the minimum focusing distance.

Let’s head out into the Horseshoe Lake wetland in the canoe and see what we can find. Do note additional info that is provided in the image captions.

Bullfrog Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 800, f11 @ 1/160 sec.

Bullfrog
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 800, f11 @ 1/160 sec.

 

Bullfrog Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 800, f11 @ 1/100 sec.

Bullfrog
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 800, f11 @ 1/100 sec.

One of the first things that did take some getting used to on my part was working with the greater minimum focusing distance. Since I am most accustomed to using my Nikon 105mm Micro Lens which has a minimum focusing distance of 12 inches I often found that I was getting in too close with the Sigma 180mm Macro lens and would have to adjust my positioning to accommodate for the greater minimum focusing distance. This is by no means a hindrance though, in fact the greater minimum focusing distance has many benefits to it. If you enjoy photographing butterflies, small lizards, snakes or other often difficult to approach subjects, the Sigma lens will permit photographing from a greater distance which in-turn will lessen the chance of entering the animals comfort zone causing them to take flight.

Hand-holding the Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens in the Horseshoe Lake wetland was a very enjoyable experience and allowed me to create numerous images that would have been difficult to do otherwise, as it would have been impossible to set-up a tripod in the soft mucky bottom. Do note that macro lenses as a rule are some of the best optics available and I will often use them for landscape imagery as well, including some of the intimate wetland scenes below.

Fragrant White Water Lily Blossom Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 200, f16 @ 1/80 sec.  Hand-Held

Fragrant White Water Lily Blossom
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 200, f16 @ 1/80 sec.
Hand-Held

 

Spatulate Leaved Sundew Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 800, f11 @ 1/50 sec. Hand-Held

Spatulate Leaved Sundews at the Edge of the Wetland
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 800, f11 @ 1/50 sec.
Hand-Held

 

Wetland Details Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 800, f8 @ 1/250 sec Hand-Held

Wetland Details
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/250 sec
Hand-Held

 

Arrowheads at Edge of Wetland Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 800, f11 @ 1/80 sec. Hand-Held

Arrowheads at Edge of Wetland
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 800, f11 @ 1/80 sec.
Hand-Held

After photographing several different scenarios in the wetland environment I decided to head into the woods with my tripod and photograph some woodland details. Many years ago I used spend much of my time in woodlands photographing woodland plants, tree bark details and any bugs that I could find. It was a ton of fun to take the Sigma 180mm Macro lens into the woods to re-visit my photographic roots.

Staghorn Sumac Leaves Close-up Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 400, f16 @ 0.6 sec Tripod Mounted with OS off

Staghorn Sumac Leaves Close-up
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 400, f16 @ 0.6 sec
Tripod Mounted with OS turned off

 

Silver Birch Tree Bark Detail Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 200, f29 @ 6 seconds Tripod Mounted with OS turned off

Silver Birch Tree Bark Detail
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 200, f29 @ 6 seconds
Tripod Mounted with OS turned off

 

Daddy Long-Legs on White Birch Tree Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 200, f32 @ 8 seconds Tripod Mounted with OS turned off

Daddy Long-Legs on White Birch Tree
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 200, f32 @ 8 seconds
Tripod Mounted with OS turned off

And last but not least, I could not resist the temptation to create a pleasing blur of a lovely cluster of ferns growing alongside of the cottage road. To create the blurred effect I simply stood at the edge of the road, looking down upon the ferns and using an in-camera sideways motion with a shutter speed of 1/15 created an image that revealed the subject matter, yet had a pleasing amount of blur to it as well. This is a technique that I learned from colleague, mentor and friend Denise Ippolito.

Pleasing Fern Blur Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens ISO 800, f8 @ 1/15 sec Hand-Held with a Sideways Movement

Pleasing Fern Blur
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/15 sec
Hand-Held In-camera Blur with a Sideways Movement

Conclusion: The Sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS Lens was an absolute joy to use. The 18.5 inch minimum working distance took some getting used to on my part, but is very beneficial to photographing subjects that are prone to spook very easily. The Optical Stabilization feature’s performance is superb offering a stable solution to creating hand-held imagery in often difficult situations. While I mainly used the lens hand-held, the tripod collar did make switching from horizontal to vertical orientations effortless when a tripod was in use. Alternately, the tripod collar would offer an excellent and very simple solution to mounting an off-camera flash for night-time macro photography, much like I do for my night-time frog imagery whereby I use flash 100% of the time. I would highly recommend this lens to anyone looking for a macro lens, or looking to upgrade to a longer focal length macro lens. It is a large, sturdy, and well built lens that delivers superb image results. I only wish that I had more time to fully explore the capabilities this lens has to offer.

Please do click on each of the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

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The Last Sunrise

image

On Thursday morning I start my long day of travel back home to Ontario from my two week stay on the Caribbean Island of Cayman Brac. This morning’s sunrise was probably the best during my two weeks here. I grabbed a quick cellphone snap of it, to share, using the HDR feature, that I love, on my Samsung Note 2.

See ya soon:)

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Cayman Brac Update

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Here’s a quick cellphone snap using the HDR feature on my Samsung Note 2. I did a pre-dawn trip to Pollard Bay this morning for sunrise imagery and then explored the rugged coast along the base of the 144 foot bluff located at the east end of the island.

My snorkeling trips have been very productive and I will share those photos with you once I return to Ontario and have time to process the image files. So far I have captured some nice photos of: Octopus,  Caribbean Reef Squid, Stonefish , Sand Divers, and Stingrays.

See you soon:)

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Cayman Brac

image

I have arrived on the beautiful island of Cayman Brac. After some much needed rest after a long day of travel yesterday I am ready to begin exploring the area above and below the sea. Cayman Brac will be my home for the next two weeks ☺

At dusk on the day before I left Ontario the snowy owl that has been over – wintering in the fields behind my house finally landed on a more suitable perch, instead of the usual barn roof or hydro poles. Below is my favorite of the many images I created of the owl. I photographed her until my fingers were numb from the cold, won’t need to worry about that for the next 14 days ☺

image

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Spruce Tree Sapling_6220

My second entry into the #treesinfourseasons challenge is a macro photo of a spruce tree seedling that I photographed while exploring the edges of a woodland beaver pond many years ago. I was immediately drawn to the way the radiating patterns of the hair-cap moss and the seedling resembled each other.

Today I nominate Roy Ramsay, the editor of Outdoor Photography Canada to continue the #treesinfourseasons photo challenge..

Your challenge images must represent all four seasons, one from each season. With each entry please challenge one other person and use the hashtag #treesinfourseasons so everyone can search to find all the entries as the challenge progresses.

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Aquarium Set-up_1173

Above you will see the temporary set-up that I used to create the Water Tiger images in the previous post. Click on the image to see the larger version and you will see that I have used a pair of clothes pegs to hold a small piece of cardboard that has been painted with greens and browns to try and get a pond water look onto the back wall of the aquarium. In the image above I used water-logged leaves as the substrate, which did work not bad but they do hold a lot of debris that can cloud the water. On my second attempt at using this set-up I opted for a sandy substrate that worked much better. By setting the small 2.5 gallon aquarium on the bucket photography was made so much easier and the dip net was essential for catching the various critters that I was able to photograph.

In the images below you will notice that some have relatively clean looking water. I achieved this by cloning out some of the larger particles that were in the water and also with a quick and dirty method discovered by reducing the structure and contrast sliders in Nik Viveza 2 to create the ‘clean’ look. Do note that the images with the sandy bottom yield a cleaner look. The debris in the frog photo (you shoulda known I could not resist the temptation for over-under froggie photos:) ), which is a result of the leafy substrate is acceptable to me as frog ponds are seldom crystal clear anyway.

Here are a few of the recent edits from the aquatic pond life set-up. Please let me know which is your favorite and don’t forget to click on each to see the larger, sharper versions.

Salamander Larva. Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens, ISO 50, f14 @

Salamander Larva. Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens, Nikon Speedlight SB400, ISO 100, f14 @ 1/60

Gray Tree Frog Tadpole. Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens, ISO 400, f20 @ 1/60

Gray Tree Frog Tadpole. Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens, Nikon Speedlight SB400,  ISO 400, f20 @ 1/60

Predaceous Diving Beetle Larva Breathing at Surface. Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens, ISO 400, f16 @ 1/60

Predaceous Diving Beetle Larva Breathing at Surface. Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens, Nikon Speedlight SB400, ISO 400, f16 @ 1/60

Green Frog. Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens, ISO 500, f16 @ 1/125

Green Frog. Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens, ISO 500, f16 @ 1/125

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