Wildlife Photography – Anhinga

Happy Monday Morning Everyone!

I thought I’d start off this week a little differently after last week’s fanboy review of full frame sensors and the new 5D Mark II camera. I took this shot about nine months ago using an EOS 40D camera. I stalked this anhinga for about thirty minutes as it flew from tree to tree at the Brazos Bend State Park near Needville, Texas. I took almost 100 shots of this beautiful bird as I slowly walked to within fifty feet or so from where it was perched.

The lighting that afternoon was dismal with high clouds blocking most of the sunlight and the smell of rain in the air. The anhinga was lit from the right side and I thought I could get some decent shots if it would just spread those beautiful wings for me. Once it happened I had only milliseconds to react and my 40D’s 6.3 fps frame rate and fast AF system really saved the day as I snapped off sixteen frames in a little under 3 seconds before the anhinga took notice and flew off.

I really don’t think this result would not have been possible with the 5D Mark II’s meager 3 fps frame rate unless I got really lucky. I guess what I’m trying to say to you crop body owners out there is don’t despair. The EOS 40D and 50D cameras are quite possibly the best sports and wildlife cameras currently available for under $3000. Yes, I prefer the 5D Mark II for landscape and commercial work but if sports and wildlife are your passion, then spend your money on one of these and use the savings for a telephoto lens like the EF 300mm f/4 L IS USM.

BTW – Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t get great looking bokeh from a crop body camera. This shot was taken with the 40D and EF 300mm at f/8 and post processed entirely in Lightroom. No Photoshop magic here.

Anhinga

Anhinga
Copyright 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 40D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 300mm f/4 L IS USM + EF 1.4x Extender monopod mounted. The exposure was taken at 420mm, f/8 for 1/30th of a second at ISO 100 on Sandisk digital film. Post capture processing was done entirely in Lightroom 2. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Bird Photography, Canon, Canon 40D, Photography, Wildlife Photography

Just a Normal Post on Wildlife Photography

Here’s a shot I took many months ago and decided to redevelop in Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4. Blue-winged Teals generally swim in mating pairs and it’s difficult to get a good shot of a single bird in the water. This little beauty was kind enough to swim very slowly and let me get several shots before the sun completely set.

BTW – If the rumors are correct, Canon should be announcing something big either today or tomorrow. Probably another high pixel density DSLR with more wiz-bangs, golly-gee willikers and do-hickies than any of us really need. How do I know you ask? Because I just bought and new DSLR and being Irish, Murphy follows me around like a bad rash.

Swimming Alone

Swimming Alone
Copyright 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 50D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 300mm f/4 L IS USM + EF 1.4x Extender monopod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 420mm, f/8 for 1/30th of a second at ISO 100 on Sandisk digital film. Post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 using Nik Software’s Viveza plug-in filter. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Brazos Bend State Park, Canon, Canon 50D, Photography, Wildlife Photography

Bird Photography – Odd Man Out

So here’s a quick post from an image taken last December. I stood and watched these whistling ducks for over an hour before this White Ibis decided to crash the party. I never grow tired of watching nature tell a story. It’s very important to slow down while you’re out shooting and wait for the story to unfold. Trust me on this folks. You won’t be disappointed.

Odd Man Out

Odd Man Out
Copyright 2009 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 40D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 300mm f/4 L IS USM + EF 1.4x Extender monopod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 420mm, f/6.7 for 1/350th of a second at ISO 100 on Sandisk digital film. Post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 using Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro plug-in filter. Click on the image above for a larger version.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Bird Photography, Canon, Canon 40D, Photography, Wildlife Photography

Using Alien Skin’s Bokeh for Wildlife Photography

I realize that this post may offend a certain population of wildlife photographers out there and for that I do apologize. I’m not a wildlife photography “purist” and I will enhance my wildlife images in Lightroom or Photoshop just as I do my commercial, portrait or landscape work. I do this in wildlife images for the very same reason I do it in other types of images, to tell a story and to evoke an emotional response. For me, that’s what photography is all about.

Having said that, I do realize that many well known wildlife photographers (and most wildlife magazines) require that the image be manipulated as little as possible, just as a photojournalist would when covering the war in Iraq for example. I certainly respect that style of wildlife photography but it’s just not my style and that’s why I’ll always let you know when I’ve manipulated a wildlife image during post capture processing as I did in this image below.

Flying Solo Again

Flying Solo
Copyright 2008 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 50D set on aperture priority (Av) using an EF 300mm f/4 L IS USM + EF 1.4x Extender monopod-mounted. The exposure was taken at 420mm, f/5.6 for 1/500th of a second at ISO 100 on SanDisk digital film. Post capture processing was done in Lightroom 2 and Photoshop CS4 using Alien Skin’s “Bokeh” plug-in filter. Click on the image above for a larger version.

My first step in creating this image was to process it as I would normally do in Lightroom. I generally work on the Basic settings like Exposure, Recovery (very important), Blacks (also very important), Brightness and overall Contrast. I almost always crank up the Clarity (adding mid-tone contrast) and Vibrance (adding mid-tone saturation) and may play with these two settings for 20 or 30 minutes until I find a combination I like.

At this point, my work in Lightroom is complete and my next step is to export the image in Photoshop CS4 and use the Quick Selection tool to select the duck as shown here. Although the selection doesn’t have to be pixel perfect, it always pays in realism to spend a little extra time making a thorough selection of all parts of the subject.

Using the Quick Select Tool

Using the Quick Select Tool

Once you’ve got a basic selection done it’s time to use the Refine Edge tool to Smooth, Feather and Expand the selection you’ve just made. For birds in flight these are the settings I normally use to make sure all the bird’s feathers are included in the selection.

Refine, Expand & Feather the Selection

Smooth, Feather & Expand the Selection

Once that’s done your new selection should look something like this.

Selection Refined

Selection Refined

You’ll understand why this step is vital when you begin to play around with the settings in the Alien Skin Bokeh plug-in filter.

Click on the Image Above for a Larger View

Click on the Image Above for a Larger View

Bokeh provides creative controls to enhance images by focusing the viewer’s attention anywhere you want. In the image above, the Bokeh plug-in was used to enhance the background blur. This allows me to shoot the image at f/5.6, which is the fastest my Canon EF 300mm f/4L + 1.4x Extender can go, but make it appear as if I shot it with Canon’s much more expensive EF 400mm f/2.8 lens. Blurring the background in an image like this one makes the subject “pop” and seem that much sharper.

Another trick to enhance an image like this is to apply some sharpening to the subject only, as shown below.

Using Sharpener Pro on the Original Selection

Click on the Image Above for a Larger View

It’s easy to do this by clicking on the layer that your selection is on and using Nik Software’s Sharpener Pro plug-in. I prefer this plug-in because it acts more subtly and with fewer artifacts showing up in the final image. Sharpening only the selection is important since you’d hate to mess up that beautifully blurred background you just created using Bokeh.

Blending Layers in Photoshop

Blending Layers in Photoshop

The final step in Photoshop CS4 is to blend the three layers you’ve just created using Lightroom (background layer), Alien Skin’s Bokeh (bokeh layer) and Nik Software’s Sharpener Pro (sharpener pro layer). Now you could do this simply by flattening the layers but I suggest you take a little time and experiment with the Opacity of each layer until you achieve the desired results. I tend to blend the Bokeh layer at 100% but the Sharpener Pro layer at only 60% – 80% to achieve the most realistic look to my image.

Once you’ve completed this process, you just save the image in Photoshop and it should automatically show up in Lightroom, ready to be exported or printed.

Posted in Photography Tagged: Alien Skin Bokeh, Bird Photography, Canon, Canon 50D, Photography, Wildlife Photography

Awesome Heart Touching Big Cats Photography

I am really very interesting to see lion, leopards and tigers photography together but we no need to forget that these all are photography taken after a big risk. I am sure that below photos is capture by very small distance from big cats which is dangerous. This attractive big cats breathtaking photos is a huge honor for wild life photographers especially for big cats shooters they takes life risk for a shoot. In wild life photography circle, the term often refers to the big cats. In this case, Lion, Leopards, Cheetahs, Tigers and jaguars might all be included in this big cat family, Here I am going to take you wild life big cats photography we hope you really like breathtaking shoots.

Wild Life Photography (2)

Wild Life Photography (1)

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Wild Life Photography (3)

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Wild Life Photography (19)

Wild Life Photography (4)

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Wild Life Photography (20)

Big Cats Photography

Big Cats Photography

Canon’s Not So Secret Weapons for Wildlife Photography

In July 2010 I wrote a couple of short articles about Canon’s two “Secret Weapons” (1, 2) for landscape photography; the EF 17-40mm f/4L USM ultra-wide angle lens and the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM medium telephoto lens. Since these two articles got a lot of page views I thought I’d finish 2011 with an article about two of Canon’s secret weapons for wildlife photography; the EOS 7D camera and EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM lens.

The EOS 7D

Canon EOS 7D

There have been hundreds of articles written (including my own) about Canon’s groundbreaking (APS-C sensor) DSLR camera the EOS 7D, so I won’t bore you with yet another review here. However, I do want to point out a few key features of this camera as they relate to a favorite topic of mine; (relatively) “affordable wildlife photography”.

I have to qualify the term “affordable wildlife photography” since many will find spending anything close to $10K to photograph wildlife as completely absurd. For those of you that fall into this category, please stop reading. For the rest of you crazies out there, press on.

The Good News: A New AF System
One of the most fascinating new features found in the EOS 7D is the camera’s brand-new 19-point autofocus system that is currently the best AF system Canon has released to date! No other APS-C camera released by Canon has anything approaching this new AF system. In fact, it puts the AF system on my 5D Mark II to shame both in terms of speed and accuracy. It also gives the AF system on the new 1D Mark IV a run for its money at less than half the cost.

The completely re-designed system includes a new “multi-axis, cross-type, 19-point Auto Focus grid” which are clearly displayed through the new “Intelligent Viewfinder”. All 19 AF points are both horizontal and vertical cross-type (f/5.6) with the center point also including a diagonal cross-type sensor for f/2.8 and larger aperture lenses. The 19 AF points are arrayed in five user selectable “zones” similar to how the AF system on the Canon 1D series works. Another cool new feature is “Spot AF” mode which reduces the size of a single AF point making it easier to select the precise part of the subject to focus on – such as the eye of a bird for example.

The new system also includes an “AF Point Expansion” mode which uses a set of AF points adjacent to the selected AF point to assist focusing on moving subjects such as birds in flight. My own results shooting birds in flight using the “AI Servo” mode with the “AF Point Expansion” mode enabled were astounding compared to results from previous APS-C models like the 40D and 50D. Focus tracking birds in flight is tough for any camera’s AF sensor but the new 7D seemed to master this task with ease. I was quite honestly amazed and astounded by how many sharp images I could achieve shooting a high-speed burst of a white heron in flight.

The (Not So) Bad News: Digital Noise & Pixelation
Before I get started let me qualify what I’m going to say. First, the EOS 7D contains an APS-C size sensor and as such, it will never be the equal of the EOS 5D Mark II in terms of image quality and clarity. The 7D’s sensor is 60% smaller than the full-frame sensor found in the 5D Mark II and its “pixels” are 32% smaller. If you “pixel peep” (100%) a raw file from the EOS 7D and compare it to the raw file from an EOS 5D Mark II you are bound to be disappointed. The raw files created by the 5D Mark II’s sensor just look “crisper” (not a very technical term I’m afraid) and seem to exhibit much less pixelation. Now before you start flaming me, please understand that this is simple mathematics and has nothing to do with the usability of this camera for a variety of uses, including wildlife photography!

However, when viewed at a more normal resolution in Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop or even Canon’s own DPP, both images look great and both images will print up to 24″ x 36″ and look great. So here’s my advice about pixel peeping high res raw files; just say No!

The Great News: Reach
I love my 21 megapixel EOS 5D Mark II for commercial, landscape and nature photography but it stinks for wildlife photography for two major reasons; its outdated AF system couldn’t track a tortoise on a sunny afternoon in Florida and it has no “Reach”. A 400mm lens on my 5D Mark II is a 400mm lens. However, on the EOS 7D that same 400mm lens offers the same “field of view” as a 600mm lens does on my 5D Mark II due to the large size difference (but small resolution difference) between the two cameras’ sensors. This phenomenon is called “Field of View Crop Factor” and its the main reason that wildlife photographers shoot with “crop body” cameras.

Here’s a more realistic scenario to drive home my point. Take an EOS 7D camera ($1700) with an EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM lens ($5900) & 1.4x extender ($350) and you have an incredible 900mm wildlife setup for less than $8000. Now take an EOS 5D Mark II camera ($2700) with an EF 600mm f/4L IS USM lens ($8000) & 1.4x extender ($350) and you’ve spent $11,000 for a wildlife setup with less reach and a much less sophisticated AF system. Of course you could always get a 1D Mark IV instead of the 5D Mark II but now you’re up to almost $15K for a decent wildlife setup. Not exactly “affordable”, is it?

The EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM Lens

Canon's EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM Lens

For years I shot with Canon’s EF 300mm f/4L IS USM + EF 1.4x Extender as my primary bird photography setup and rented Canon’s 500mm or 600mm lenses with a Wimberley gimbal head when I needed more “reach” which was often. Believe me, for bird photography you always need more “reach”.

Unfortunately, my lower back’s ability to carry the Canon super-telephoto lenses like the 500mm (8.5 lbs) or 600mm (11.8 lbs) is long gone so my options were to give up bird photography completely (which I did for two years) or find another solution that would fit my budget and physical condition. I honestly hadn’t even looked at Canon’s “Diffraction Optics” (DO) lenses in almost ten years after reading several initial reviews critical of the EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM lenses made before 2005.

Canon’s EF 400mm f/5.6L USM wasn’t really a contender since it was designed in 1993, didn’t include image stabilization and won’t auto-focus with the 1.4x extender. The Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM was both too heavy (12 lbs) and too expensive ($7200) so I didn’t even consider this lens. I did rent Canon’s EF 100-400mm f/4-5.6L IS USM “push / pull” telephoto zoom but again it won’t auto-focus with a 1.4x extender attached unless you own a 1D series body.

In fact, nothing in Canon’s current super-telephoto lineup met my criteria of light-weight, small-size and affordability other than the EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM lens. So I got a loaner with a date code of 2008 and gave this much maligned lens a thorough workout on an EOS 7D body, without much hope of success. Boy, was I wrong!

Close Up

Up Close – Brazos Bend State Park, Texas
Copyright 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 7D set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM + EF 1.4x Extender mono-pod mounted. The exposure was taken at 560mm, f/6.3 for 1/250th of a second at ISO 200 with highlight tone priority turned on. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

The Good News: Sharpness, Contrast & Bokeh

EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM Lens MTF Chart

Early reviews of this lens complain about an apparent lack of contrast inherent in the (DO) diffraction optics’ design. All I can say is “hogwash”.

I shoot entirely in raw and use Adobe’s LR3 as my primary raw-to-jpeg conversion tool and I found the raw files created by the 7D and EF 400mm “DO” lens to be very similar in contrast and sharpness to those created by my 50D and EF 300mm lens. In fact, the MTF chart for this lens is not that different from the older EF 400mm f/5.6L or the much more expensive EF 500mm f/4L lens.

Bokeh for this lens is good but not quite as smooth as the other Canon super-telephoto lenses. It’s very easy to isolate your subject with this lens when shooting at f/5.6 or f/6.3 and the shallow depth of field remains strong even on a crop body camera like the 7D.

The Great News: Size & Weight

Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM Lens Size Comparison

Canon’s breakthrough “diffraction optics” technology allows lens designers to dramatically shrink the overall size and weight of the lens as shown in this graphic. In fact, the EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM lens is 25% shorter and 35% lighter than a conventional 400mm lens design. It’s roughly the same size as the EF 300mm f/2.8L lens but 1.5 lbs lighter.

For a wildlife photographer this directly equates greater usability and portability in the field. This lens is so much smaller and lighter than a 500mm lens that I can use a mono-pod in most situations rather than lug around a tripod and Wimberley gimbal head.

Conclusions
Wildlife photography is expensive and there’s just no getting around that fact. You need a high resolution DSLR with a quick and accurate autofocus system to capture the action (birds in flight) and a super-telephoto lens with enough reach to “get you there”. This is generally a very expensive setup for any photographer to afford and while I’m sure there are plenty of doctors and lawyers willing to spend $20K on their hobby, most of us just can’t justify the cost.

Fortunately, there are some alternatives worth looking into like the EOS 7D camera and the EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM lens. Both can be purchased “refurbished by Canon” or used from my friends at Adorama. Yes, it’s still a lot of money but with some financial discipline and a bit of luck you can put together a wildlife photography rig that will won’t break the bank and will last for years and years.

Links
The Digital Picture’s Review of the EOS 7D Camera
The Digital Picture’s Review of the EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM Lens
Canon Camera Museum Technical Report on the EOS 7D Camera
Canon Camera Museum Technical Report on the EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM Lens

Filed under: Photography Tagged: Bird Photography, Brazos Bend State Park, Canon, Canon 7D, Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS USM, Photography, Texas Birds, Texas Wildlife, Wildlife Photography

Canon’s GPS Unit – It’s About Time!

The old saying goes something like this; “good things come to those that wait”. In the case of Canon shooters, this old saying should say “good things come to those that wait and wait and wait and wait some more”.

Canon quietly launched their first foray into the geotagging market earlier this year with the introduction of the GP-E2 hotshoe-mounted GPS unit. This unit gives “some” Canon shooters the ability to geo-tag their images with latitude and longitude data in the EXIF fields, a feature that Nikon shooters have had for several years now. For now, the GP-E2 unit adds this much-requested feature to the EOS-1D X, the EOS 5D Mark III and the EOS 7D cameras only, but Canon promises compatibility with future models as well.

Canon 5D Mark III with GP-E2

Features
For simple and accurate recording of time and location information, this compact GPS receiver is the perfect complement to the EOS 5D Mark III for landscape and wildlife photographers. The GP-E2 records location information such as longitude, latitude, elevation, direction and Universal Coordinated Time UTC as EXIF data, while also serving as an electronic compass on camera or off. Connectivity options include hot shoe connections with the EOS 5D Mark III and the EOS-1D X but USB connection only with the EOS 7D. The smart design and rugged construction ensures reliability plus the ability to be used as a standalone GPS logger.

Build Quality
To be able to endure a photographer’s travels, Canon designed the GP-E2 with much the same rugged and durable exterior construction as the EOS 5D Mark III DSLR body while still remaining compact and lightweight. Able to withstand harsh weather conditions, the GP-E2 is a great addition to the EOS 5D Mark III for those who take their EOS system out into even the most remote environments. It offers the same level of dust- and weather- resistance as the EOS 5D Mark III when connected to the camera’s hot shoe, but weather-resistance decreases somewhat when connected via the USB cable.

Canon's GP-E2 GPS Unit

Geo-Logging
Additionally, the GP-E2 can be used as a standalone GPS logger. It can be carried in its included case or users can wear it comfortably on their waist. The location information is automatically stored on the GP-E2 at specific intervals and logged information can be added to the EXIF information at a later time using the supplied Map Utility.

Batteries
The GPS Receiver GP-E2′s uses readily available AA batteries, so users can easily power up the receiver without worrying about recharging. Given that AA batteries are perhaps the most widely available power source anywhere around the world, I think Canon has made a good move here. Because the GP-E2 has its own power source, photographers can still get hours of continuous use with the camera because the GP-E2 will never drain the camera’s battery.

Canon's GP-E2 Top

Compatibility
Automatic geotagging when shooting is supported by EOS-1D X and later cameras such as the EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 7D. Manual geotagging after shooting (from logging information) supported by all EOS digital cameras.

Conclusions
Canon shooters have waited impatiently for GPS capabilities while watching their Nikon friends enjoy the benefits of a hot-shoe mounted GPS unit for several years now. With the introduction of the Canon GP-E2 and now the new EOS 6D, it seems like Canon shooters are finally on par with their Nikon brothers and sisters. All I can say in conclusion is “it’s about damn time!”

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Filed under: Photography Tagged: Canon, Canon 1Dx, Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 7D, Canon GP-E2, Geo-logging, Geo-tagging, GPS, Landscape Photography, Nature Photography, Photography, Wildlife Photography