Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fly on Bird of Paradise

Don't really have anything interesting to say about this image. I wanted to photograph the bird of paradise against the green of our lawn from a particular angle.

The most straightforward way to frame the image in a way where the lawn was in the background and the flower was positioned in a desirable way was to use a tilt shift lens (tilting the plane of focus) which is I did for this second image.

Technical Specs: First: Nikon D3s, 105 VR, f/32, 1/160s, ISO 5600. Second: Canon 1Ds3, 90 TS-E, f/4, 1/80s, ISO 100.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron

I went for a stroll along Charleston Slough yesterday and saw this little fella. I only had the chance to fire off a couple of frames before he took off.

Technical Specs: Canon 1D Mark IV, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/5.6, 1/320s, ISO 100.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mallard Hybrid?

I have been trying to identify this duck for the last couple of days. Its the only image I have of the duck, I photographed it in San Diego in January. It has several distinctive features (like the bill color, underside and head color) but looking through my books I can't find an exact match. My best guess is that its some kind of Mallard hybrid. This site has a bunch of them but I don't see an exact match there either.

Technical Specs: Nikon D300s, 200-400 VR @ 310mm, f/4, 1/400s, ISO 400.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Western Gull Portrait

There's something about the post and head angle of this Western Gull image that I like and keep coming back to.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds Mark III, 800 f/5.6 IS, f/8, 1/1000s, ISO 400.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Which Ibis is this?

As I was photographing this Ibis, there was a lot of debate as to which kind (Glossy, White-faced or some hybrid). Several folks had their various field guides with images of various Ibis throughout the year.

I am fairly certain its a White-faced Ibis even if some of the face coloring isn't an exact match of other images I have seen. Any ornithologists (professional and aspiring welcome) want to comment?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Three Waterfalls

I went for a longer hike at Big Basin yesterday. I wanted to hike to and photograph three of the major waterfalls in the park, Berry Creek Falls, Silver Falls and Golden Cascades Falls. The total hike was around 10 miles and it took me about 6 hours to complete (with all the photographic stops).

Berry Creek Falls was the first and arguable the most impressive. As I rounded the corner on the trail the above image was what I saw.

After spending about 15 minutes photographing the falls from far away, I hiked up and photographed it up close. I did the most experimentation (and took the most images) with Berry Creek Falls. Some of it worked (like the close up above) and others not as well. You can see more images in the gallery.

Another 20 minutes of hiking later, I came up on Silver Falls (pictured above).

And finally, nearby is Golden Cascades Falls. After a quick rest, it was time for the 5.8 mile hike back to the park headquarters. The hike was definitely strenuous (especially with a 20lb pack of gear on my back) but the falls were beautiful and there's something relaxing about hiking in a redwoods forest.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Shorebirds in Flight

Later this past week, I had the chance to do some handheld flight photography with the 1D Mark IV and the 500mm lens.

Due to the location, tide and light at that time of day, shorebirds were the most abundant targets (I was hoping for some raptors but didn't see any).

The 1D Mark IV's auto focus performance was very good. In general, the birds take a fairly predictable path with minimal clutter in the background or foreground to confuse the AF. However, since I was hand holding, keeping the AF point on the bird throughout the entire flight sequence was a challenge.

Regardless, I got several entire sequences of the birds in perfect focus.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

American Avocet in Breeding Plumage

Just wanted to share several images I made on Saturday of Avocets in their beautiful breeding plumage.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hand holding the 800

I finally had the chance to spend some serious time with the 1D Mark IV. Just to change things up a bit, I decided to leave the Wimberley at home, opting instead to hand hold my 800mm lens. The lens weighs about 10 lbs, the body another 3 lbs or so. Now 13 lbs may not seem like a lot but trying it at eye level as steady as possible for a few minutes...

I walked around for about 2 hours photographing various subjects. The light was very good and the Ibis (pictured above) was co-operative resulting in some of my best Ibis images so far this year.

Since I've been shooting mostly on a tripod with my Wimberley this year, I'd forgotten how refreshing hand held bird photography can be. Being able to move quickly to follow a subject and being able to very pick point in the direction of new action is great. It isn't without challenges though. At that focal length, it takes a lot of effort to keep the AF point on the intended part of your subject, not to mention things like shake.

The Black Phoebe above was taken at 1/500s at f/7.1 and ISO 400. Here is a view of the actual pixels.

Thats some fine detail, especially considering it was hand held.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Canon 1D Mark 4 Thoughts

Though I've had the opportunity to use the 1D4 for nearly two weeks now, sadly I've been ridden like a pony at work leaving little time to do much else. Well until now. The 1D4 is an impressive camera and there are already several reviews out there. Some comparing it to the Nikon D3s, others to the 1Ds Mark III. I won't rehash a lot of whats already been said. I am more interested in what this body can offer for my photography.

The foremost thought on most people's minds is what the auto focus is like. I didn't experience any of the more severe issues with the 1D Mark III. The most notable thing about the AF on the Mk 3 series in my mind is that it has more of a tendency to jump to the background when the AF point leaves the subject (even for a moment) and refuses to come back onto the subject.

The 1D Mark IV tends to jump away less and when it does, if you bring the AF back onto your subject, it returns quickly. I photographed this Ibis hand holding my 800mm lens and it was challenging to keep the AF point on the on the bird's head. At 10 FPS, it would move off the bird and onto the background as the AF point drifted (due entirely to my weak arms), but would almost instantly snap back onto the bird when I got the AF point back on target. This was not something I could get the Mark III bodies to do even with experimenting with all kinds of AF custom functions.

The other big question is image quality, especially at high ISOs. The image quality is decent. On a per pixel level, noise levels are generally comparable to the 1Ds Mark III, though the 1D Mark IV seems to have less noise in the deep shadows. This may not seem impressive as the 1Ds Mark III is over 2 year old technology, however keep in mind that the pixel density of the 1D Mark IV is higher, so progress has been made. The 1D Mark IV is definitely a better choice over the 1Ds Mark III for focal length limited photography.

The current champion of focal length limited photography is the 7D and one question I was very curious about is figuring out at what focal length the noise levels of the 7D negate its ability to resolve details.

The 1D Mark 4 files even at ISO 1600 require little noise reduction in post processing and take sharpening very well. In contrast the 7D does require some work at and above ISO 800 to get the very best out of it.

My own quick testing indicates that the 7D is still king of resolving detail for focal length limited photography up to ISO 400. At ISO 800, its possible to get more detail with the 7D with work (especially if the image is well exposed or exposed to the right). At ISO 1600 and beyond I'm not sure the 7D offers much more in terms of resolved detail and the 1D Mark IV files post process a lot easier.

This last image is only one in this post taken with the 7D, it was taken at ISO 400 but was a little under exposed so had to be pushed by about half a stop. Even this results in noise which comes out in the smooth areas when sharpening and makes it more pronounced than a similar image I shot with the 1D Mark IV at ISO 1600 (the first one).

I have a few more thoughts regarding auto focus performance in extreme low light, but thats a subject for another post :)

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Sempervirens Falls

This is the last set of images from the Big Basin hike. Due to the rains in the days leading up to the hike, there was a good amount of water at the falls.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Prisoner

It is difficult to convey just how freakin' huge the tree in the middle is. Chad and I both found this group of trees to be fascinating with the tree in the middle encircled by its 'guards'.

It was very challenging to photograph, the image you see is the result of both an HDR merge and a panoramic stitch done with a tilt shift lens. I used a total of 16 individual images to make this 28 mp composite. I'm looking forward to being able to make a very large banner print.

This is a single exposure made with a tilt shift lens to maximize the angle of view while minimizing perspective distortion.

Technical Specs: Canon 1Ds3, 24mm TS-E II, f/13, ISO 200, varying shutter speeds.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Forest Shapes

There are all kinds of interesting shapes in the forest.

There are circular shapes.

Then there are the funky bends.

Then there's the stuff that defies classification.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Forest Texture

Onto the next theme for my images from the Big Basin hike on Sunday, texture. I love going on a hike and just exploring all the wonderful textures. Its a great opportunity to make abstract images.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Forest Light

I went on a hike through a small part of Big Basin Redwoods State Park yesterday with Chad. We hiked up to Sempervirens Falls and back. The hike was spectacular and we had a great time. The air was moist with the rains of the past week and the falls had a lot of water (along with several other babbling brooks).

I made several images which I am working through processing. I am going to post them in batches organized by theme. The first is forest light. When we started our hike it was a little cloudy but part way through the sun broke though and we were treated to some very nice lighting. The image above is one such example. Once again the D3s allowed me to do something I haven't been able to do before, shoot in a dark forest at f/22, handheld (the ISO was 11,400). This is one my favorite images from the hike.

I find the way the sun lights up the moss covering the trees to be fascinating, though the images still can't convey the experience of being there.