In frog photography patience is a virtue and good things will come to those who wait. On May 30th of this year (yes, I am way behind on processing my image files) the night time temperatures were perfect for the male Green Frogs to congregate at a nearby wetland and chorus to entice females to the pond for mating. As I waded about the pond I noticed one particular male that was clinging to an old cattail stem, while floating in a section of the pond with no distracting debris floating in the water. I slowly made my way over to where he was and once directly in front of him, I slowly moved myself into a kneeling position in front of him. As I did this I was reminded of the hole in my chest waders as cold pond water began to trickle into the waders. Also it was a perfect night for the first mosquitoes of the season to emerge and feast upon your truly. I do not use any sort of bug spray when I am out photographing frogs and toads due to its toxicity to them. I would hate to handle a frog or toad with bug spray on my hands as it would be harmful and likely fatal to them. The time span between the above image and the one below is exactly seven minutes. Once I was in position, I waited and waited and waited, all the while swatting mosquitoes with slow-motion-like movement so that I would not disturb the frog. As I was waiting I kept watching the frog’s torso, as it began to fill with air I knew it was going to call very soon. In the above photo you can clearly see how bloated the frog looks and then in one quick moment all the air is pushed out, inflating the vocal sac, and the Green Frog’s signature loose banjo string-like call can be heard.
Posts Tagged ‘photography’
Posted in Amphibians, Frogs and Toads, Macro, ontario, Reptiles and Amphibians, Wetlands, tagged amphibians, frog photography, frogs, green frogs, nature photography, ontario, photography, wetlands on September 24, 2015 | 4 Comments »
Posted in Frogs and Toads, Horseshoe Lake, Macro, Macro Photography, Muskoka, ontario, parry sound, Photo Gear, Reviews, Uncategorized, Wetlands, tagged denise ippolito, frogs, gentec international, muskoka, nature photography, ontario, photography, sigma, sigma 180mm f2.8 APO Macro EX DG HSM OS, sigma lense, wetlands on September 21, 2015 | 4 Comments »
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted in Astrophotography, Horseshoe Lake, Landscapes, ontario, parry sound, tagged astrophotography, landscape photography, milky way, muskoka, nature photography, nightscapes, ontario, photography, star trails, starry skies, stock photography on September 10, 2015 | 4 Comments »
For those who embark on photographing the night sky for the first time are sure to find it addictive. It is a ton of fun to say the least. A few days ago I wanted to try something a little different and rather than create a sharply focused starry night sky, I opted for an image of star trails above Horseshoe Lake. The two photographs that accompany this post are the exact same scene photographed with two different techniques.
After creating some initial starry sky scenes from Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park several weeks ago a colleague pointed me in the direction of an eBook by Royce Bair – “Milky Way Nightscapes.” I highly recommend this eBook to anyone interested in photographing the night sky. This 140 page eBook is jam packed with all the info you will need to get started with photographing the night sky and applying the special processing techniques to eliminate any noise generated from using very high ISO numbers.
Essentially the scene above was created to confirm my composition before commencing with the star trail scene below. Do note the different settings used in each of the images to capture the desired effect. While I do enjoy the 30 minute exposure at f4 for the star trails, I am wishing that I had selected a one hour exposure at f5.6 for a longer trail. I tried to do this on the next evening but storm clouds rolled in. When creating these night scapes do be sure to activate the long exposure noise reduction feature and since this feature is creating a second “black” frame to analyze the data and reduce noise, a 30 minute exposure will take an additional 30 minutes for the camera to process. Subsequently, if an one hour exposure is selected an additional one hour will be required by the camera, therefore, it is also important to ensure that you are using freshly charged batteries for long exposure star trail imagery. Shooting a quick frame to confirm the composition will reduce the need to retake the one hour star trail scene…after all you would only be able to create one image every two hours.
Hope you enjoy the starry night imagery.
Which scene do you prefer – star trails or pin-point stars?
Please remember to click on each of the images to view the larger, sharper version.
Posted in Photo Gear, Reviews, tagged camera bags, gentec international, landscape photography, manfrotto advanced travel backpack, nature photography, photography on September 2, 2015 | Leave a Comment »
With the multitude of camera bags available on the market today it can often be a difficult choice deciding on that one bag to meet the varied needs that each photo excursion. I have used many backpacks, holster bags, belt & pouch systems, and small travel backpacks. Let’s consider the pros and cons of each of these bags:
- Large backpacks have the ability to allow the photographer to carry a vast amount of gear into the field at the expense of lugging around a ton of weight, making them impractical for long wilderness hikes (I once lugged my large backpack through the Pukaskwa wilderness for 4 solid hours and paid the price for it too).
- Holster-style bags usually allow us to carry a camera body with a 70-200mm or 80-400mm lens attached as well as a couple of additional lenses in small side pouches. While this type of bag addresses the excessive weight issue of a large backpack, making it a joy to take on long hikes it is often lacking in that extra space one wished they had for a few additional items.
- Belt & Pouch systems allow for a more practical way to take along lots of gear whereby the weight can be evenly distributed about the photographer’s waist and torso via a belt and vest configuration, however, this system is not very user friendly during the winter months and in the heat of the summer can be rather uncomfortable and hot to wear.
- Smaller backpacks designed specifically for travel are often the perfect weight for an all day hike. These packs are typically designed to have a compartment for camera gear and a compartment for personal gear that may be required for the hike. These two compartments are generally separated by a divider that is permanently stitched into the pack.
Several weeks ago Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for the Manfrotto line of products asked me if I would be interested in trying out the new Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack. I have since used this pack to carry my gear through the wilds of Algonquin Provincial Park, the Georgian Bay Rugged Hiking Trail, numerous canoeing day-trips, and my day-to-day photographic needs. It has been a joy to carry around my gear in this light-weight bag.
Let’s take a look at some of the unique features that the Manfrotto Advance Travel Backpack has to offer:
- expandable padded side pocket to accommodate small travel sized tripods
- straps on the back to fasten a tripod to the outside of the pack…these straps could be used to tie-down a variety of things such as a light jacket
- a dedicated compartment for a 13 inch laptop
- upper compartment for personal belongings
- lower compartment for camera gear configured for quick access to the camera
- a removable, zippered divider separates the upper and lower compartments
- protective rain cover included
- comfortable, well padded harness system with a sternum strap for added comfort and a waist strap too (I do wish the waist strap was a little wider and of a padded design, but this is a personal preference)
- numerous zippered pockets for storing smaller items
In the below photo (please remember to click on the image to see the larger, sharper version) you will see the assortment of gear that I am able to pack into the Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack and comfortably carry into the field for an all day hike.
Here’s what’s in the bag:
- Gepe waterproof case for my Compact Flash and SD cards
- Double-bubble Level
- Micro Fibre Cleaning Cloth
- Two spare batteries for the camera
- Allen key wrench for quick release plates that may require re-tightening
- Small Mini-Mag flashlight
- Small reflector that is often used to provide shade for such things as flowers or insects
- Cokin “P” sized filter holder
- Nikon Polarizing Filter
- B&W 10-stop ND filter
- Filter stack containing a Canon 500D Close-up Filter, Tiffen 3-stop ND Filter and a spare Tiffen polarizing filter
- Cable Release
- Singh-Ray 2-stop Soft Edge Graduated ND Filter
- Singh-Ray 3-stop Reverse Graduated ND Filter
- Nikon D800 with attached Nikon 80-400mm VR Lens
- Sigma 15mm Fisheye Lens
- Nikon 18-35mm Lens
- Nikon 24-85mm Lens
- Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
- Nikon 80-400mm VR Lens Hood
- 13″ Laptop (when needed – I do not generally carry a laptop for day-tripping)
Now that’s a ton of stuff and it all easily fits into this well designed and well built travel pack. Being able to easily pack, access, and carry my gear on long hikes through the wilderness, or on short day-trips, or during simple day-to-day activities means I am always at the ready. I often head out to photograph during periods of inclement weather and knowing that I can easily protect my gear with the supplied rain cover, provides the peace of mind knowing my gear is safely stowed away until conditions improve. Being able to easily store a small travel sized tripod in the expandable side pocket eliminates the need to carry the tripod around by hand or via a shoulder strap. The ability to conveniently store and access an assortment of photographic gear only enhances the photographic experience. There is nothing more frustrating than having to fumble around with bulky gear bags to get to your equipment when those fleeting moments in nature go whizzing past. The Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack has quickly become my new favorite gear bag for all of my photographic adventures.
I can’t wait to take it on a Caribbean holiday :)
Posted in Astrophotography, Horseshoe Lake, Landscapes, Muskoka, ontario, parry sound, tagged astrophotography, Horseshoe Lake, landscape photography, milky way, muskoka, nature photography, night landscapes, night sky, ontario, photography, starry landscapes, starry night sky, stock photography on August 23, 2015 | 6 Comments »
I have just returned from another week up on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. During the past seven days I spent a lot of time exploring the night sky. Photographing the starry night sky is quite addictive and each night, roughly two hours after sunset I would head down to the dock and create images of the Milky Way above the lake. Fortunately, the Milky Way can easily be seen from the dock, however, there is some noticeable light pollution from the town of Parry Sound, visible on the right side of the images. In the above photo I was quite surprised by the subtle green and pink hues present when I viewed the images on the computer the next morning. I did not see any of these colors in the sky as I created the images. In addition, I was also quite surprised at how each of the night scenes photographed considering that each was created at roughly the same time each night. Isn’t nature amazing :)
Here are a couple of additional photos of the starry sky above Horseshoe Lake. In an upcoming post I will cover the learning curve to creating and the special processing techniques to these addictive images. I found on my Nikon D800 that I was getting the best pin-point stars at 20 second exposures. In the opening image the 30 second exposure the stars are not all quite pin-points, some have tiny trails starting.
Please remember to click on each of the images to view the larger, sharper versions.
Posted in Landscapes, ontario, tagged algonquin provincial park, lake travers, landscape photography, nature photography, night sky, ontario, photography, provincial parks, singh ray filters, stars, sunrise on August 14, 2015 | 10 Comments »
Towards the end of last week I spent several days up on the shore of Lake Travers in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park. The first morning of my stay in the area provided the best conditions for daybreak imagery. The nights turned rather cool after this day and subsequently the heavy mist rising from the lake made visibility very poor, until the sun had rose high enough in the sky to burn off the misty conditions. The above scene was created at approximately 5:30 a.m. on the first morning. No less than half an hour later the sun still hidden by the horizon began to light the clouds hovering above the lake – as seen below.
After the sun had risen and the colors faded from the sky I jumped into the canoe and paddled out across the lake. After about an hour paddling about the perimeter of Lake Travers I turned to look over my shoulder (photographer’s must remember to do this – sometimes what is behind you is more interesting than the scene before you) and was more than impressed by the cloud formations. Using my Nikon 18-35mm lens with a Nikon Polarizing filter attached I composed the scene and created several varying handheld compositions. Each and every time that I create a handheld image, before clicking the shutter, I take a breath and hold it as this will often eliminate the risk of breathing from causing movement that may contribute to un-sharp images.
On my very last night in the park the skies were so unbelievably clear I could not resist the temptation to experiment with photographing the starry night sky. I think night photography will become a bit of an addiction :) I can’t wait to give it another go!
Please do remember to click on each of the images to see the larger, sharper versions.
I am on the road photographing again next week, but promise to return with lots of images to share and tips too :)
Posted in Muskoka, ontario, Photo Gear, Reviews, tagged beavers, bird photography, bullfrogs, frog, gentec international, herons, Loons, muskoka, nature photography, ontario, Parry Sound, photography, raccoons, sigma 150-600mm, sigma 150-600mm DG OS HSM sport telephoto zoom, sigma canada, sigma lenses, wildlife on August 5, 2015 | 4 Comments »
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 :)