Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bald Eagle Pair On the Nest

I finally managed to see both the adult eagles on the nest yesterday. There was also pretty evident feeding activity. It will be a race to see if the eaglets get big enough to see before the leaves come out and hide the nest. Once the leaves are out we'll have to wait for fledging to see the young ones.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Cooper's Hawk Nest on Peebles Island

I've been waiting for a chance to shoot both Bald Eagles on the nest without luck until this morning. I was only at the nest for about 15 minutes and viewed lots of activity. However, as I was taking the scenic route back to the parking lot, I saw a largish bird landing on a nest I hadn't noticed on a different part of the island.

The nest was partially back lit and there were a lot of small branches in the way. So autofocus was out and I had to manually focus on the nest. After seeing the silhouette of the bird, I had an initial guess of the identity but I couldn't tell for sure. Here are some shots of what I could see as I zoomed in on the photos on my camera.

There were two adults coming off and on the nest every minute or so and luckily one decided to pose on a tree branch near where where I was standing. It's nice when birds cooperate like this. Here are two uncropped shots of the Cooper's Hawk followed by 100% crops of the head.

The shots of the Bald Eagle pair on the nest will come later or tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The More I Use It The More I Like It

It's hard to believe I was ready to get rid of my cheaply obtained Sigma 150-500mm lens only a week or so ago. I had been using it with my EOS 7D and SL1, both APS-C crop sensor bodies and the results were unacceptable. Once I used it with my full frame EOS 5D Mark III, however, the results were, and remain, useable.

On Peebles Island this morning, the eagles were boring and during the half hour I was there one sat on the nest and the other on a branch nearby. I decided to do a test of the image quality other than in the center of the image circle of the Sigma lens.

There are certain truths to getting decent images from this lens. You need a full frame body. You need to shoot at f/11 which means you need to have good light. Even with image stabilization and a monopod, you need at least 1/750th of a second to get sharp results. But, I wouldn't hesitate to go up to ISO 3200 with the 5DIII as long as I'm not doing HDR processing. Today's images were f/11 at 1/750th and ISO 800.

Here are the original photos with 100% crops. I'm not noticing a lot of difference. The vignetting (light falloff toward the edges) in the uncropped shots is apparent, even at f/11. This isn't really a problem for the wildlife or sports purposes for which I'd be using this lens.

The bottom line is I'd recommend this lens for anyone using a full frame body that wants a 500mm lens without shelling out a lot of funds. Used, this lens can be had for around $500.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

This Morning at the Bald Eagle Nest

I haven't been to the nest viewing site on Peebles Island since last Sunday, when I was pretty sure that there had not yet been a hatch. This morning, I'm pretty sure that there has been at least one hatch. The adult on the nest was paying much more attention to the nest and seemed to be interacting.

I spent about 90 minutes at the viewing site and did not see the other adult. I was hoping for a shift change to see if food was brought in, etc. Perhaps next time. Here are a bunch of 100% crops from this morning, all made with my 5D Mark III and Sigma 150-500mm lens at f/11 and ISO 800. I'm noting the time of each photo.

8:53 AM

9:24 AM

9:25 AM

9:26 AM

9:27 AM

9:56 AM

9:57 AM

9:58 AM

10:09 AM

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Slightly Above Flood Stage

On February 20th, I posted a blog entry documenting the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers in Waterford, New York right at flood stage. You can see those photos here.

Yesterday, I made some photos at the same location with the rivers slightly above flood stage. Weather forecasts call for more rain in the region today, tonight and tomorrow, with a chance for more severe flooding.

Here are some shots from yesterday.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Reprieve for the Sigma

Well, yesterday I was ready to unload the Sigma 150-500mm lens and I even put up an ad on Craigslist. This morning, the sun was out, it was warmer than it's been in quite a while and I decided to give it one last try out - this time with my full frame 5D Mark III. The light was good enough that I could shoot at f/11 and 800 ISO while keeping shutter speeds fast enough for use with the monopod.

I was pretty happy with the results and will be keeping the lens for use with my 5DIII. The lens is definitely sharper at f/11 than it is at f/8. There are probably three reasons why the full frame camera gets better results with this lens than the smaller sensor cameras I've used it with.
  1.  The sensor in the 5DIII is simply bigger, newer and better, and captures better files, as it should.
  2.  The smaller apertures that get good results from this lens are less likely to result in softening from diffraction on a full frame camera as the pixel size is larger.
  3.  The 5DIII has much cleaner files (less noise) at the higher ISO settings that enable smaller apertures.
These photos are all from this morning and are processed in Canon's DPP software so there is no lens correction done in DxO Optics Pro as with the other photos I've posted from this lens. The first shot is from a slightly different location and the second from my usual spot.

Both adults were around while I was there today. Here is a shot of one in the air and then after it landed on a branch near the nest. The second shot is a non-cropped image at 500mm with the full frame body.

After about 45 minutes of waiting for them both to be on the nest for a shift change, I gave up and headed out. Of course, as I walked down the trail what I had been waiting for happened. This is what I caught, from a bad vantage point.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Goodbye to the Big Sigma - I Think

I went back to Peebles Island this morning with the SL1 but brought the tiny, plastic EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens instead of the big 150-500mm Sigma. Yes, I gave up half of my focal length but I wanted to see if the quality difference meant I could crop closer and the extra stop (the Canon lens is sharp wide open while the Sigma needs to be at f/8 or smaller) meant I could use a lower ISO. The shorter focal length and lighter weight should also mean I can use a slower shutter speed and a lower ISO.

It was heavily overcast and even drizzling a bit. I used the monopod and here is a 100% crop of the Bald Eagle nest. I was cropping the Sigma lens shots at 1300 pixels wide while this one is 900 pixels wide. With better lighting conditions, I think the Canon lens out performs the Sigma.

250mm, f/5.6, 1/1500 sec., ISO 800

An advantage of the 55-250mm focal length range is that you can get other types of shots while you wait for something to happen with the Eagles. Here are some three file HDR shots on the trails along the way. I bracketed +/- 1.5 stops. Exposure info is for the normally exposed file.

55mm, f/8, 1/1500 sec., ISO 800

200mm, f/8, 1/180 sec., ISO 400

152mm, f/5.6, 1/90 sec., ISO 400
Should have used f/8 for more depth of field

250mm, f/8, 1/30 sec., ISO 400

And on Peebles Island there's always the deer you see on the way out.

250mm, f/5.6, 1/500 sec., ISO 800

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Some More Snow in the Forecast

Now that the snow from over two weeks ago is almost melted, we're in line for another extended storm system that will mix snow with rain. I headed over to Peebles Island around noon time today to see what's going on with the Bald Eagle nest.

The nest is being attended to but there's not much movement which I'm presuming means no hatches yet. Yesterday, I did see an adult on the nest and the other in flight around the area. Today, just one adult on the nest.

Yesterday, I came away with no useable shots of the nest. I'm increasingly disappointed with the used Sigma lens I traded a lot of good gear to obtain. One problem is that the older version (free) DxO Optics Pro software I was using to clean up the files isn't working on my computer since the most recent macOS update. The other problem is that, as some reviews noted, it's not as good with far away subjects as it is for closer in. The Eagle nest is not close. I may try and use it for some daytime field sports with a full frame body. There's something cool about a four pound hunk of metal and glass regardless.

Today, I tried some different techniques in an attempt to improve the image quality. Instead of using my 7D body and a monopod, I used my SL1 body and a tripod, manually focusing with zoomed in live view. Any differences were not noticeable. Here are some iPhone shots of the big lens/small body setup. You can see the nest in the second photo.

Here is a 100% cropped shot of the nest from today and a shot from yesterday showing that, not cropped and with a closer subject, the lens has some potential. My next experiment will be to take it out with my full frame body. Maybe up along the canal trail.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Leaves Melting Into Snow

The 22 inches of snow which fell two weeks ago is still hanging around even though it's the last week of March. It's been chilly and full sun has been sparse. But, there's been enough sun to heat up fallen leaves and twigs so that they melt down into the snow.

Instead of bracketing exposures, which might have been a good idea, I made single exposures, compensating for the fact that the camera's meter will try to make the snow gray. To be fair, though, the snow was gray as it was overcast, drizzling and the snow is two weeks old. One stop extra in addition to the metered exposure was about right.

I used my 5D Mark III and EF 100mm f/2.8L macro lens. I used ISO 400 and f/11. In post processing I boosted saturation a bit and lowered highlights some. Hopefully in a couple of days we'll see some sun. I'm overdue to check on the Bald Eagles.

All of the fallen leaf portraits can be viewed at

Friday, March 17, 2017

This Morning on Peebles Island

It's been a while since I've been over to check on the Bald Eagles at Peebles Island State Park. Since I've checked on them we've had two frigid weekends with low temperatures in the single digits and a 22 inch blizzard.

I was hoping there'd be enough of a path from snowshoers that the slightly over a half mile walk from the parking lot to the nest viewing site would be negotiable in my cross trainers. There was, although I had to use my monopod as a walking stick/ski pole a couple of times. Here's a view of the trail conditions for the half mile walk.

iPhone 7 with Camera+ app

There were a couple of smarter people with snow shoes on the trails, one of them also there to check on the Bald Eagles.

Canon EOS 7D, Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM at 150mm.

Canon EOS 7D, Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM at 150mm.

It was good to see a Bald Eagle tending to the nest and presumed egg(s) although in the half hour I hung around I did not see the other adult eagle. Here is a not so great shot of the nest with the lens maxed out to 500mm and cropped to 100% followed by an iPhone shot from the same location aimed at the nest.

Canon EOS 7D, Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM at 500mm.

iPhone 7 with Camera+ app

Lastly, you rarely leave Peebles Island without a few White-tailed deer sightings. This one was enjoying the show shoe trails as was I.

Canon EOS 7D, Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM at 370mm.