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Summer 2017 Issue of ON Nature Magazine

The Summer 2017 issue of On Nature Magazine has hit the newstand. On the cover of this issue is a starry nightscape created by yours truly. I created this image from the deck of my cottage on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario with a Sigma 15mm Fisheye Lens mounted to a Nikon D800 and pointed it straight up at the sky. The wide angle view of the fisheye lens also caught the tree tops as they were silhouetted against the dark starry sky.

Ontario Nature (formerly known as The Federation of Ontario Naturalists) dates back to 1931. They are dedicated to protecting our natural places through conservation and education. To find out more about Ontario Nature and how you too can get involved please click here .

Please click on the photo to see the larger version.

Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement about a nightscape workshop in one of Ontario’s absolute best locations for viewing the night sky.

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Nottawasaga Lookout Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens @ 35mm
ISO 100
f16 @ 8 seconds

When I was a kid I used to love watching a TV series called “Land of the Lost,” which aired on the NBC network from 1974 -1976. This series was essentially about a family that was trapped in an alternate universe inhabited by dinosaurs. There are a few locations throughout Ontario, especially along the Niagara Escarpment where I am often reminded of this show as the landscape really does make you feel as though you are entering a different world. On a recent excursion last week I found myself again in this situation. The place was the Nottawasaga Lookout Provincial Park which is a small, park with no services, just hiking trails. The hiking trails are part of the historic Bruce Trail that runs from Niagara River to Tobermory. This trail is more than 890 kilometres in  length with an additional 400 plus kilometres of side trails. Within the Nottawasaga Lookout Provincial Park we find the Standing Rock and Caves Side Trail which is where all of today’s images were created. After climbing down into the first crevice blue trail markers guide you through the deep, cool crevices with walls that are draped in thick carpets of moss, liverworts, and numerous species of ferns. I spent the better part of about 4 hours exploring these crevices and will definitely need to schedule a return trip to complete the exploration. I took only two lenses with me on this excursion; the Nikkor 18-35mm lens and the Laowa 12mm Zero D lens. The conditions in the crevices were very cool temperatures and due to the steep crevice walls many of the exposures were seconds long. The day was a hot, muggy kind of day but down in the crevices I was actually catching a chill. When I made my out of the crevices my lenses fogged immediately upon exposure to the warmer, humid air. Here are several images created during my first outing to this newly discovered location.

Please click on each of the photos to see the larger, sharper version.

Nottawasaga Lookout Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 3 seconds

 

Nottawasaga Lookout Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 4 seconds

 

Nottawasaga Lookout Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 1 seconds

 

Nottawasaga Lookout Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 3 seconds

 

Nottawasaga Lookout Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 1.6 seconds

 

Nottawasaga Lookout Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 30 seconds

 

In the below image we can see how the center slab of rock, millions of years ago, broke free of the rock wall on the right and went crashing into the rock wall on the left side of the composition.

 

Nottawasaga Lookout Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens @ 35mm
ISO 100
f16 @ 25 seconds

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Hogg’s Falls, Flesherton, Ontario, Canada
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
Nisi Polarizing Filter
ISO 50
f16 @ 1/5 sec

It has been several years since I have made the short one hour drive to Hogg’s Falls on the Boyne River along the Niagara Escarpment near Flesherton, Ontario, however, with perfect over-cast conditions this past Monday I felt it was time to make a return trip and this time I would be taking along my extreme wide angle Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D lens, complete with the newly arrived Nisi Filter System that allows me to fit a polarizing filter over the bulbous front element of the lens to effectively polarize scenes such as the one featured in today’s post. I am loving the 12mm perspective that is offered by this amazingly sharp, light weight lens and foresee many return visits to some of my most favorite locations throughout Ontario to create unique, ultra wide, landscape imagery. To create this extreme wide angle view of Hogg’s Falls first required me to climb down into the gorge, secondly find an angle where the spray from the cascading water would not be too problematic, and finally position my camera low to the river.

Please remember to click on the image to view the larger, sharper version.

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Lower Rosseau Falls on the Rosseau River, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f11 @ 1/6 sec

 

In the summer of 2016 Venus Optics released the Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D lens, the world’s fastest 12mm lens available for full frame cameras. The Zero D designation stands for zero distortion. Recently I purchased one of these lenses for both commercial and landscape photography. The Laowa 12mm lens is a fully manual lens (exposure and focusing). The Exif data recorded for images created with this lens will show no value for f-stop used or focal length of the lens, but that is by no means a deterrent to using this lens. All metal construction give this lens a “built like a tank” feel. It is also a very small lens and light weight at only 609 grams!

Hatchery Falls on the Skeleton River, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f11 @ 1/6 sec

While this is not intended to be a lens review I will mention a few of things I like and dislike about the lens. First of all, light fall off is very acceotable and virtually disappears as the lens is stopped down. Chromatic aberration is also very well controlled and any that does become visible is easily fixed by simply checking the Remove Chromatic Aberration box in ACR. As mentioned the lens is an all metal build and this includes the two lens hoods. Yes I said two lens hoods. The lens has a small built-in lens hood that helps to protect the bulbous front element and there is also a removable petal-style lens hood as well. A disappointing note about the removable lens hood is that it causes slight vignetting. I simply choose to not use the removable lens hood when photographing with this lens, although at some point I will likely modify it so that it can be used with no vignetting.

Lower Rosseau Falls on the Rosseau River, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f11 @ 0.3 sec

The front element of this lens has what is called a “Frog Eye Coating” for repelling dust and water. What I have noticed with the coating is that water droplets will bead on the front element and can thus be easily wiped off the lens. I love this feature!

Does the lens live up to the claim of zero distortion? Yes! If the camera is square with the world straight lines will be straight. When you point the camera up or down you will notice that trees will have a tendency to lean in or out depending on the angle at which the camera is pointed, but this common to all wide angle lenses so it is not really a downside to the lens.

Oxtongue River, Dwight, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 1/8 sec

 

Hatchery Falls on the Skeleton River, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f11 @ 1/13 sec

As mentioned this lens is a manual focus lens. It also has an excellent hyperfocal scale engraved on the lens barrel that can be reliably used for focusing the lens. I simply compose the scene before, dial in my chosen f-stop, set the hyperfocal distance on the lens barrel, and click the shutter – everything from near to far is in sharp focus. To learn more about hyperfocal distance please click here for an excellent article that explains it in depth and how to apply it to your own photography.

Lower Rosseau Falls on the Rosseau River, Muskoka, Ontaro
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 50
f16 @ 1/10 sec

The Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D lens will not accept filters due to the bulbous front element, but there are specialized filter holders available that will permit the use of polarizers and 100mm square or rectangular Graduated ND Filters or ND filters. I am currently awaiting the arrival of the NISI filter holder and will post a review of the functionality of that filter after I have had a chance to  put it to use. Today’s images were all created without a polarizing filter. I would normall prefer to photograph waterfalls and rivers with a polarizing filter.

Lower Rosseau Falls on the Rosseau River, Muskoka, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f11 @ 1/5 sec

 

Oxtongue River, Dwight, Ontario
Nikon D800, Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D Lens
ISO 100
f16 @ 0.3 sec

If you are looking for an affordable, extreme wide angle lens for your full frame camera then look no further. The Laowa 12mm f2.8 Zero D lens will produce razor sharp imagery at a fraction of the cost of the Canon 11-24mm or Sigma 12-24mm lenses and at a fraction of the weight.

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

 

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Rainbow and Passing Storm, Thornton, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikkor 18-35mm lens
ISO 200
f11 @ 1/80 sec
Nikon Polarizing Filter

 

Inclement weather can often be a landscape photographer’s best friend. This is especially true during the moments of changing weather patterns as dramatic lighting can and will likely occur. Two nights ago as a series of thunder storms were rolling through the farmland surrounding my home an incredible fleeting moment presented itself as the storms began to clear . As I looked out the window, across my backyard, I could see that there was some clearing in the skies to the west. I grabbed a camera body and lens, ran outside, and across the road into the freshly plowed field as I was certain there was going to be a glorious rainbow as soon as the sun shone through the clearing in the western sky. I did not have to wait long before my prediction became a reality and the sun lit up the field before me and cast a rainbow in the east. After capturing a few frames of the full rainbow, with a partial double rainbow visible, many of the dark storm clouds had passed and a tiny bit of blue sky were being revealed but a very interesting and ominous cloud formation had formed overhead, while a touch of the rainbow remained. The incredible opportunity presented by this passing storm cell lasted only 10 minutes. Being prepared and attuned to the ongoing weather system ensured that I was ready for this fleeting moment in nature.

 

Rainbow and Passing Storm, Thornton, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-85mm VR Lens
ISO 400
f11 @ 1/250 sec

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The Dart Frogs of the Amazon Rainforest Photographic Workshop is fast approaching with limited space remaining. On Saturday May 13th at 10:00 am at the Crinan Community Centre located at 13568 Dunborough Line in West Elgin, Ontario those that are already registered will be creating incredible imagery of a vast variety of dart frogs endemic to the forests of Peru. In order to photograph this vast variety of frogs in the wild it would cost tens of thousands of dollars and extensive, guided travel, but in this four hour photographic workshop you will create impressive imagery of nature’s most colourful animals, in natural settings, in comfort.

One lucky participant will be walking away with a door prize donated by Wimberley!

One such frog we will be photographing is Phyllobates terribilis aka “The Terrible One.” This frog is the deadliest vertebrate on the planet with enough alkaloid toxins to kill 100 people. Fortunately all dart frogs in captivity lose their toxins and are perfectly safe. They develop their toxins through the ants and termites that they feed on in the Amazon Rainforest, without this food supply they lose their toxicity.

All frogs used in this workshop are captive bred specimens.

Here are a few examples of what you will be able to capture if you register for the workshop. Do note that there are limited spaces remaining. For more information please click here.

Phyllobates terribilis (mint) – captive

 

Phyllobates terribilis – captive

 

Dendrobates auratus campana

 

Epipedobates anthonyi – captive

 

Phyllobates vittatos – captive

 

Dendrobates tinctorius (Azureus) – captive

 

Dendrobates tinctorius (Citronella) – captive

 

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Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) – drake
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm equivalent)
ISO 500
f5.6 @ 1/800 sec

Without a doubt the Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) is North America’s most beautiful duck. In the late 19th and early 20th century they were hunted to near extinction, but in 1918 after the hunting season was closed they steadily grew in numbers and now there is estimated to be more than a million Wood Ducks in North America. I frequently encounter them in the woodland ponds and quiet lake shores throughout the Parry Sound region however, they are often very quick to take flight and disappear into deeper, inaccessible areas of the wetlands. During a recent trip to Toronto’s High Park to photograph the famous Sakura Cherry trees in full bloom I encountered a large flock of very co-operative and very tame Wood Ducks. I spent roughly three hours photographing the ducks until the lighting began to turn too harsh and created close to 3,000 images. The photos featured in today’s blog post represent a small number and my favorites of the initial edit from the day. The proximity of the pond that the ducks were foraging in provided a nice mixture of sun and shade which allowed for capturing the ducks in various lighting scenarios. My preference is to create images of the Wood Ducks in shade or overcast light for beautiful fine feather details.

Each of the featured images were created with the amazing Nikon D500 and the Nikkor 200-500mm VR lens handheld. Being able to capture images at 1o frames per second with the Nikon D500’s 200 image buffer ensures that I never miss a shot due to exhausting the camera’s buffer, which will happen often with my Nikon D800 due to the large size of the image files. I do however selectively use the 10 fps on the Nikon D500 in very short bursts. I will only hold down the shutter for longer bursts during periods of intense action whereby I am hoping to capture the best possible image for the corresponding action.

Please remember to click on each of the photos to view the larger, sharper view.

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) – drake
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 410mm (615mm equivalent)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/200 sec

 

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) – drake wing flap
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm equivalent)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/400 sec

 

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) – drake taking flight
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm equivalent)
ISO 800
f8 @ 1/2000 sec

 

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) – drake
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm equivalent)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/800 sec

 

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) – drake
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm equivalent)
ISO 200
f5.6 @ 1/320 sec

 

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) – drake
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm equivalent)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/400 sec

 

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) – drake wing flap
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 370mm (555mm equivalent)
ISO 200
f8 @ 1/320 sec

 

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) – drake
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm equivalent)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/500 sec

 

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) – drake
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 410mm (615mm equivalent)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/200 sec

 

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) – hen
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm equivalent)
ISO 400
f8 @ 1/100 sec

 

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) – drake
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm equivalent)
ISO 500
f8 @ 1/500 sec

 

Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) – drake
Nikon D500
Nikkor 200-500mm lens @ 500mm (750mm equivalent)
ISO 640
f8 @ 1/1000 sec

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