Admitedley, this is not one of my greatest images, but, just as I tell people that it doesn’t matter the effort you put into making an image (i.e. hiking 15km through a raging blizzard with a broken toe and no mitts) it’s the final product that really matters, I am breaking my own rule. Yeesh, these birds don’t stop, they are just go, go, go spinning around and changing directions constantly in their search for food!! I was using my Tamron 500mm mirror lens on the E-M5 (equivalent to a 1000mm lens in 35mm talk), which is a manual focus lens. Well, it was almost impossible to follow these beautiful birds and keep them in focus while trying to press the shutter when I thought that the bird was in an interesting position. I got some better images that were out of focus and nobody will ever see those, so what you get is the best image I managed – rather so-so if I do say myself, but it is my small trophy from the day. Olympus, if you’re listening, or if someone out there knows someone on the Olympus lens design team, please bring out a nice long tele with AF…. soon, please!!
[Olympus E-M5, Tamron 500mm f/8 Mirror]
Red Deer County borders the City of Red Deer on all sides and I live only 3 blocks from the edge of town, so it’s a very short trip for me to end up in a rural setting. I set out a couple days ago really to just enjoy the late evening light. Heading out around 9pm gave me close to 45 minutes of sunlight and I was not disappointed with the view. A late day rainstorm had just passed through and was headed off to the east and I noticed a close to full moon peaking out from behind the clouds. I quickly drove to the east chasing the clouds looking for an appropriate setting to frame the storm and the moon. I didn’t need to go very far and the tiny Panasonic 20mm lens performed it’s magic capturing the soft light and delicate highlights of the clouds.
I stayed in this area until the sun set just enjoying the colours as the light slowly faded. The large green area is actually reeds and the ground covered with water, so the sounds of birdlife was everywhere and was great to listen to.
Once the sun set and the colours became muted I headed further south and noticed a Great Horned Owl on a power pole. I didn’t stop until I was quite a ways past and aimed my lens back toward the owl only to have it fly off. I followed the owl as it flew past my location and to my delight it decided the view would be great from another power pole which was facing the northwest towards the oranges of a sky emptied of the sun. I pulled out a Tokina 80-200mm f/2.8 lens which gives me the equivalent to a 400mm lens in 35mm film talk and captured the owl watching my every move or so I thought.
The owl instead was waiting for it’s mate to fly up and then the two flew off together. It was fun to watch the short story!
It was now getting close to 10pm and was also getting rather dark, and so I started to head back towards town. A little slough alongside the road caught my eye where an old fence line had been flooded. I used the same Tokina zoom lens and my tripod and captured a nice abstract with a four second exposure.
[Olympus E-M5, Panasonic 20mm f/1.7, Tokina 80-200mm f/2.8]
I had the great opportunity tonight to shoot some video of a tiny Northern Saw Whet Owl in Red Deer County thanks to Phil French and Jim Potter. Alexander and I headed out and we drove about half an hour SE of Red Deer onto a lease road as far as we could and then walked into the bush for a couple hundred meters to an old snag. Everyone was being very quiet as I set up the camera so as not to disturb the owl if at all possible. When all was set and ready to go, I started the camera and gave the sign that I was rolling. Jim rubbed a stick against the snag and almost immediately the owl poked her head out to see who was there. I shot about four minutes of video until the owl was satisfied we were not of any concern and hopped back into her hole. I packed everything back up and we left quietly and headed back to the vehicles after seeing an amazing little bird! This image is a still image grabbed off the video, so isn’t of very high resolution, but I wanted to share it.
[Olympus E-M5, Canon FD 800mm f/5.6]
I was fortunate enough to visit Slack Slough on Monday morning this week for a couple of hours. The avocets were around, but that was about it in my immediate vicinity. I would follow them around with my camera pointed towards them for long periods of time until they finally accepted me as part of the landscape and approached fairly close to where I was siting. One of the females then went into a beautiful courtship display where she would bow down with here bill on the surface of the water and her wings stretched up high. Needless to say my camera (Olympus E-M5) was in astroblast mode and I managed to capture about 5 images of the quick display of which this one tells the story best. Lighting was great and the reflection worked out fantastic. I had on my Tamron 500mm lens for this image and with the background far in the distance I was able to achieve a nice bokeh. I really like how the surface tension of the water is creating a meniscus up to her bill! I think that is how you would describe this, but if someone out there knows better, please let me know.
“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26 (ESV)
[Olympus E-M5, Tamron 500mm f/8]
I know the Black-Necked Stilts are there because I saw one as I was leaving the other day, but it was impossible to get an image as it was almost dark already. A good friend of mine caught them in good light the other day and talking with other birders, they are telling me that they are seeing them too. I just happen to get out when they aren’t around. Last evening I spent a couple of hours waiting patiently, but to no avail. It’s OK too, as I really just enjoy getting out and watching whatever happens to be there anyway. This past week our ball-team had it’s first game and I had a hard collision in the outfield(didn’t call the fly-ball!!!) that did some damage to my ribs making it very difficult moving around so I only took the little E-M5 and the Tamron 500mm lens as the big Canon 800mm was just too difficult for me to manoeuvre. I managed to get a few decent images and I hope you enjoy!
I am not completely crazy about the bokeh I get from the mirror lens. I may look for a similar focal length from maybe Canon or Nikon. Something like the Canon FD 400mm f/4.5. I would love to see Olympus come out with a 350-400mm telephoto, maybe f/3.5-f/4.5 and also a small 1.4x converter for this kind of shooting. Obviously my keeper ratio would go up with AF as well!
It was getting rather dark and the sky was still glowing pink and orange to the west and the Red-Winged and Yellow-Headed Blackbirds were still very active, so I stuck around for a bit and got a couple images which I wouldn’t consider “fine art”, but they do show the birds in their habitat nicely as opposed to a close-up portrait. I ended up using ISO 1250 at 1/60 sec, which really is going a bit far for this focal length of lens.
Otherwise known as an American Avocet. I think they look like they just flew off a Japanese painting! Man they are beautiful, and you can usually see them at Slack Slough without too much effort or waiting around too long. Again, I was using my Olympus E-M5 and a Canon FD 800mm f/5.6 lens.
[Olympus E-M5, Canon FD 800mm f/5.6]
A snap of what the outfit looks like –
Slack Slough resides immediately beside HWY2(stupid busy road) in Red Deer, Alberta. It is home to an amazing amount of birdlife. I visited the slough this evening to take in the sights and sounds. Of course I dragged along my camera and telephoto lenses to see what I might capture. I got there kind of late so didn’t have a lot of time before the light was gone for the day. Using a Canon FD 800mm f/5.6 with an adapter to fit my Olympus E-M5, I ended up using only 1/80 sec. at ISO 800 when I finally packed it in as that is really starting to push the envelope of what can be done! This monster telephoto gives me the equivalent focal length lens as a 1600mm on a 35mm/full frame camera, or a 32x spotting scope. Obviously one must use a large and very sturdy tripod/head combo. In this case,for those that care, it consists of a set of Gitzo 3 Series carbon fibre legs and a Sachtler FSB8 fluid head.
All that said, here are a few images of some Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes):
[Olympus E-M5, Canon FD 800mm f/5.6]
I took my E-M5 out today to Fleming Slough which is just on the south end of Penhold, AB. I’ve never been there before and quite enjoyed the couple hours I spent there. Unfortunately it was extremely windy so much of the birdlife was hiding amongst the cattails and grasses. I still managed to grab a few shots using my Tamron 500mm which is equivalent to a 20x spotting scope on this camera.
Mallards heading west…. and Canvasbacks heading east.
Thankfully Coots aren’t very shy, so the afternoon wasn’t a complete bust. Ducks were sure jittery today!!
I am including three images made last night which I didn’t get a chance to edit until today. They aren’t from Fleming Slough, but are in Red Deer County.
[Olympus E-M5, Tamron 500mm]
Same time and day as the last Chickadee post. Same camera, same lens, same technique. Different pose. You know these guys are so tiny, look at the needles it’s perched on, they aren’t even bending over!
We spent the weekend up at my in-laws again this past weekend as Alexander was playing in a soccer tournament in St. Albert, Just before we left last night I mnaged to grab a few images of the chickadees coming to feed from the seed that Elmer puts out for them. I prefocused on the branch here hoping that one would land before my arms gave out holding the camera up. Sure enough, one shows up and I was ready to blast off a salvo capturing this little guy. I was playing with the new Canon 70-300mmL IS lens and am quite impressed. It would lose focus and hunt sometimes, but all lenses will.It is very sharp throughout it’s range due to a floating focusing mechanism and the speed really isn’t too much of a problem as you can simply turn up the ISO if need be a stop or two. the only drawback to the slower apertures is the loss of shallow depth of field, but for the images I was taking there is plenty of separation between the background and the subject allowing it to really pop off the background. The lens is almost the same diameter as the Canon 100-400mm but is 46mm shorter in length and 330 grams lighter, so it makes a for a nice carry around size. Keep in mind it does not come with a tripod mount which would account for some difference in weight. You can however purchase a tripod mount for it. This lens is also fully weatherproofed and has the latest Image Stabilization from Canon which claims usability at four stops. They’ve also incorporated a Flourine coating which resists smears and fingerprints and really makes it a breeze to clean the front element. Rain and dust just don’t like sticking to Flourine either.
[Canon 7D, Canon 70-300mmL IS]