Saturday, April 29, 2017

At Least One Eaglet

This morning there was clearly at least one Eaglet at the nest in Waterford. I was only there for about a half hour and did not see clear evidence of more than one chick. But their sleep cycles could easily be different and you can only really see them when they are up and moving around.

It won't be too long before the nest is mostly hidden by leaves so I hope to get a count of eaglets before then. If not, when they're out and flying around will tell for sure.

A reminder that to view a photo full size, click on it and then click on it again (depending on screen resolution).

Monday, April 24, 2017

Field Sports with the Sigma 150-500mm Lens

Yesterday was a gorgeous day in upstate New York with full sunshine and a temperature of 70 degrees. I was going to shoot a college division 3 Spring scrimmage soccer match and decided to experiment a bit.

I wanted to see how the Sigma 150-500mm lens functioned for sports with AI servo focusing with my 5D Mark III. I also wasn't in the mood to process a lot of RAW images so I set the camera to save both RAW and JPG files. I won't do that again.

First, the JPG's were useless. The files needed white balance correction and highlight lowering and/or shadow raising. Second, saving files in both formats slowed down the camera and shortened the burst duration. Live and learn.

The lens actually performed decently and, in full sunlight, I wouldn't hesitate to use it again for field sports. For night action I would need to use my 200mm f/2.8L lens with my crop sensor EOS 7D.

Here are some samples. The full gallery can be viewed at 500mm is nice. The shot showing the goal posts is from about 10 yards behind the opposite goal line and is not cropped.

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