Light is Everything!

Wildlife

And So This is Earth Day: A Photo Essay of Reality

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Today is earth day. Nice green trees, fresh water streams, bumble bees going hither and thither. Not here! We’re still caught in the death grip of winter at the end of April for crying out loud! It’s insane. Riddle me this. Why don’t climate action groups ever hold their meetings in Oxbow?! Nope, it’s always Florida or Hawaii or someplace nice! ;) Come here and get your global warming, it’s buried under 3 feet of snow! :twisted:  (more…)


Unique Deer

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Deer are deer right? They all look the same to me! I used to think that way until this one doe kept coming into the yard. She had really dark eyes, like she was wearing eyeshadow almost. It made her eyes look enormous, like a fashion model! Other whitetails typically have more of a white rim around their eyes, but this doe is quite unique from the rest. Also, in our yard, it is rare to see any bucks. It is primarily doe and fawn pairs that show up to gobble up my bird seed. But lo and behold, a big bodied buck showed up – missing his head gear.

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20130201Deertz 3I immediately knew that this was a different deer that hadn’t been in the yard before. I wanted to get a head shot of his antler sockets too. I finally was able to nab this (100% crop) image and get a better look. Pretty nifty!

20130201Deertz 4You can also notice what a different color the buck is from the doe and fawn. He’s much more golden brown than the typical grey color that winter whitetails usually sport. It truly is amazing how well the doe blends into the tree branches. They melt away just by turning sideways.

20130201Deertz 520130201Deertz 6And finally, a blurry action shot of the male deer “doe-slappin’” the female. She was too close to his food store, aka my bird feeder. It was quite the exchange. For everyone who thinks that Bambi is the way life is in the deer kingdom, think again! In the winter, food competition is tough and the biggest deer gets the spoils. And, they have no problem beating the crap out of the competition. I’ve seen does up on their back legs kicking each other like kangaroos! Note the awesome body language here, besides the hoof slap. His ears are WAAAY back. Look out deer pals, trouble’s a brewin’! :cool:

 


Yard Pals

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When the weather gets bloody cold, the deer come to town. Even if you don’t see them, you see their tracks in the snow. But lately in the cold snaps we’ve been having, we’re getting deer coming through the yard right in the middle of the day! But predictably, they start to come in right about sunset. I feed the birds and they help themselves to whatever the birds don’t eat. It’s a whitetail bonanza and it’s great for getting the deer to come in close to the camera. I shot all these photos from our little deck that sits up high above the back yard. It works great because deer don’t have any natural predators in trees, meaning, they don’t look up much. :cool: This doe is letting me know she’s putting her foot down! hehehehhe… ;)


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More Insane D800 Stuff

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Deer from the deck

OK, OK. I’ve nearly got this camera nerdery out of my system. But check this out. The deer were coming by the yard to freeload and eat the bird seed. I waited until it was very dark outside with barely any light, save what was spilling through our living room window. I had my 70-300 lens on the camera, 300mm 1/25 f/5.6 (bleh, I know) but I nabbed these deer shots at 25600 ISO or H2.0 in Nikon speak. The files are heinously, cell-phone-esque noisy, but a) the camera nailed the focus in utter darkness and b) when down sampled they are nearly usable! All that resolution really helps make a purse from a pig’s ear. :cool: I didn’t edit the shots except for watermark and the one crop. They are all SOOC RAW conversion.

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Welcome to the buffet, you fat lard!

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50% Crop! 25600 ISO

And, here’s one more I shot earlier at 6400 ISO which is totally usable. :D I heart the D800!

Deer


The Crops

At lunch today I went out back and nabbed a few shots of some chickadees and redpolls that were coming to my black sunflower seed bonanza. I wanted to see how much you can crop a D800 RAW file. As a rule, I don’t crop anything. I like to fill the frame and have the shot exact in camera. But for this challenge, I wanted to see how the detail would hold up as we crop in on an image. Chickadees and other small song birds have loads of fine feather detail and I couldn’t wait to see how the D800 would do. Truly it is amazing how much information is there in these files. You can see in these shots, one at full size, one at 50% and the third at 100%.

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50% Crop

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100% Crop

Isn’t that wild? It’s unbelievable! But, all that resolution beats the living tar out of your lenses too. I shot this with a 70-300, Nikon’s el-cheapo telephoto and it shows. The fine details quickly turn to mush-mush. It would be nice to see what a 300 f/2.8 would be like. :cool:

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50%

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100%


Sunbathin’ Yote

It was cold this morning, mercury was dipped to -22C. Cold enough even for the creepy crawly critters to seek out a warm sunny spot. :cool: I watched this coyote walk up the ridge opposite to our house. He slowly climbed down over a big snow bank and spun around a few times, making a cozy little spot to catch some rays. I was on breakfast detail so after I had finished my chores, I grabbed the camera and snuck out in our backyard to see if I could nab a shot. My trusty 70-300 has always been my goto wildlife lens, though it’s performance is sluggish. I barely made one frame of the coyote  before he saw me and got nervous. The slow AF on the lens didn’t help much either as I wasted precious seconds trying to acquire focus. But I nabbed one while he was resting and a couple more as he began to flee.

The thing about coyotes is, they’re survivors. When World War III happens and nuclear armageddon is unleashed, the last thing walking around will be a coyote. This one looks like it will survive the winter just fine. :) Unless it keeps hanging around my yard. Then it might have a little visit from Dr.223… :twisted: I took a couple other shots of those cool winter patterns and textures too.


Early Mornin’ Wildlife!

We got the phone call this morning from our neighbour Eagle-Eye Jimmy that there was a momma & baby Moose on our crescent sauntering around. Nature guide Olivia spotted them from the breakfast table. So I grabbed my camera and went out trying to get the photo of the year with mom & baby in town. However, they had already vacated the premises. But I did find a baby bunny in point blank range and . . . a giant black bear!!!! ;)


Turkey Stalkers

Ma & Pa Kettle are down from Moose Jaw and with the wild turkeys in full strut, it was high time to try and get some photos. Dad had his 500mm f/4 and I brought a . . . 16-35 f/4 wide angle. What other lens would do for wildlife?!? hehhehhe… ;) Anyways, we drove down the road and spotted some turkeys right beside the road. Dad was switching up lenses and some other guy in a truck drove by and spooked them. Great. They were now on the move. So I ran on ahead of them trying to cut them off and steer them back to where Dad was waiting. Well the turkeys must have been chased by coyotes this year because they are far more flighty then they were last year. I was able to walk up with 15-20 feet but this year not so. Long story short on the turkey stalk was me nearly having a heart attack running up and down ginormous hills trying to cut ‘em off at the pass. To which the responded by flying away. I have a whole new appreciation for Border Collies. :cool:


A Tale of 2 Dishes

Happy New Year! Another year of photos is ahead of us and that is an exciting prospect. I can’t wait to see what lies through the lens in 2012. Christmas was good for us and we had great visits with family who loved us much and spoiled us more. When Ma & Pa came down for a visit we of course got to talking about photos. Dad, being an avid nature & wildlife photographer, was showing me what he and his photo pals had been up to lately. Winter wildlife can be some of the most interesting stuff! While most guys are sitting around watching sports, these guys are outside watching the epic battle of survival unfold! Check out these amazing snowy owl photos! These aren’t photoshopped! :cool: Just chuck a mouse out onto the snow and watch as white winged warriors wrathfully wreak havoc on unsuspecting rodentia! The main course is served! Hence, dish one.

Photo Credit: Jim Kroshus

(Jealous that dad missed out on snows, we went out and nabbed this short eared owl. Still a magnificent specimen!)

Photo Credit: Bob Schultz

Now for those who can’t handle this much excitement, there’s beauty dishes. (Hence, dish 2). :lol: For Christmas dad got a wee beauty dish. It’s actually an Opus mini reflector. It’s basically a miniaturized beauty dish that gives you a punchy, light that is one notch off of bare flash. It’s a really cool light for, yes, you guessed it, beauty and glam shots as it gives the light a very contrasty feel. I wanted to see how this little guy compared to my DIY beauty dish that I made. It’s basically the same design idea. Light comes from the flash and bounces into a surface in front of the light, then into a reflector dish and then out onto the subject. A little bit of ping pong action is involved and it makes the light slightly more diffused but still has loads of punch.

Automatically you notice the size difference. And with lighting, unlike other areas of life, size matters. ;) The bigger the better. The small guy produces a much sharper/contrasty light while the bigger the light, the softer the light. It’s the same reason why natural light photographers want huge windows. Loads of big light nice and close to the subject = soft and glorious! Here’s an example of what each light produced on our subject Sven (he’s from IKEA). :D

Opus Mini Reflector Light Mod

Contrasty Light & Harsh Shadows

DIY Beauty Dish

Still got shadows but much softer and more wrapping

So, after a quick peak, you notice the difference. The little Opus dish is much smaller and makes a more focused, contrasty light. It also fits into a gear bag much more conveniently. The bigger DIY dish gives similar contrast and punch, but is more wrapping because it is much bigger. Could you replace the big one with the Opus? Perhaps, depending on the look you wanted. It sure would make hauling it around easier!

But then again, if beauty light isn’t your thing and you don’t care about f-stops & shutter speeds, you can always try Coyote hunting. It’s hours of fun and only about 1/3 the cost of photography! ;)

Photo Credit: Bob Schultz


The Sniper

Real men like war-based action movies with lots of guns. Plain and simple. We also translate that into Photography. Go and watch The Battle of F/Stop Ridge to confirm my thesis.

So, when you’ve got a 500mm lens, you need to look and feel the part of a sniper. You can be back a loooooong way when you have 500mm to play with. It’s got über reach. The bokeh and compression with this bad boy are purely incredible. So, to put it to the test, we setup a blind in the backyard to see if Pa could nab any blue jay shots. For wildlife, the ultimate setup is the blind or “hide” as they are sometimes referred to. You setup and wait for the wildlife to come to you. In this case, we used the swing set and some hunting camouflage attached with zip ties. It’s quick and efficient and works really well. Dad also wore a full suit of camouflage to blend away into nothingness. The birds had no problems with the blind and came right in. The only issue was if he moved, then they took off. But other than that it worked really well and he got some awesome shots! All the bird images are copyright Bob Schultz of Sunwood Photography.


Flash Birds

I love wildlife photography, but as of late I haven’t done as much as I would like. Mainly I’ve been busy but I also am more interested in doing lighting stuff. But why not add lighting to wildlife? Well, it’s not easy, which is why people don’t do it much. Animals are unpredictable as to where they are going to be at any given time. At least with birds you can feed them. We have a tremendous amount of birds of different species that fly through our yard. But, they all love black sunflower seed! So I put some out and waited. And, I used 3 speedlights to make sure that when they flew in, I’d get some light on them. I used TTL, which I don’t normally do, and it worked pretty good. Letting the camera drive every now and again isn’t so bad! ;)


U can haz Kitties

Farms. They are a never ending source of life. Especially when it comes to kittens. All you need is one good Tom and a couple females and soon your whole farm will be over run. ;)

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Robin

 

Turdus Migratorius

Yesterday 10,000 robins descended on my mountain ash tree to gobble up berries like they were going out of style. Not really a good sign. Usually means big crazy cold coming our way. Or, maybe they’re just hungry. ;) Let’s hope it’s that one.


It’s a Murder!

Last night after another magical slow cooked dinner we decided to have a fire. After we got the s’more pit going, I looked up and noticed a gaggle pride flock band murder of crows. I know why they call them a murder.They make so much obscene noise you want to murder them all! It was a toss up between the camera and a gun on this “shoot”. ;) My theory is that there was something dead nearby because they and two hawks kept swooping in and out of the trees behind our house. Anyways, it was golden light and everything was rich in colour. Love it! Can’t beat it ever! I grabbed the 70-300 and nabbed a few shots before the light slinked away behind the horizon. It’s gyp that the sunsets aren’t lasting as long as they did even a few weeks ago. All of these shots (except the fire pit) are with the 70-300. You can see how longer glass gives you added compression and photo num nums. The power/telephone poles show this in the pics of the family. Even at f/5.6 0r f/8, they look compressed and bokehlicious. 8) And the shots of the lone yellow clover blossoms have sweet sweet bokeh at 300mm. That’s the added benefits of compression in images. If you’ve ever wondered why the vast majority of portrait photographers use that magical 70-200 lens, this is why.


It’s a Hummdinger!

I’m on holidays right now! YEE HAW! It’s great to get away. I’ve been busy on the ol’ picture mill too. After being in Grenfell for a few days taking in all the centennial activities as well as family fun, I’ve got 4 full memory cards, 8GB each – all RAW. That’s 24 GB of pics to wade through! I can’t wait. But today, while taking it easy, I got to play with my Dad’s (*ahem*) awesome Canon wildlife setup. 1D Mark III & a 500mm f/4. Does it get any better?! (If you said a D3 with a 600mm f/4 you’d be right) ;)  Mom’s garden is chock full of flowers and birds so I setup the big guns and nabbed some hummingbirds when they came in!

For the last shot, I setup Dad’s 580EXii on a stand with his Pocket Wizards. Super rad to light up these little hummers. They really shine! Not too bad a day, even if I had to use Canon stuff…. ;)


Boids!

Quick post as I’m on the run today. Woke up and looked out the window, tree was full of cedar waxwings. Ran through the house, grabbed the camera, got back upstairs and . . . they were all gone. :( But, I waited 5 minutes and one came back. Bang-a-rang baby, ya! Really nice golden light saturated the colors and, as an added perk, the wind picked up and gave me the Don King high-fashion look. Sweet! :)


And as an added bonus, this little yellow guy came on the scene for one frame only. I can’t identify this bird, so if you know what it is please leave a comment. Thanks!

EDIT: Thanks be to Heather for the bird ID on this one. It’s a Yellow Warbler. Warblerific!!! :)

 

 


Turf Warz

The tree swallows are back again this year and have been fighting like crazy over who gets to live on Moir Dr.  We had baby birds in this house last year and they want to do the same thing again. But it’s wild because all the birds want to live in there and several pairs fly in to try to steal it away from the dominant couple. They attack each other and high flying hi jinx results! It’s one wild acrobatic show!  I shot these suckers at ISO 1000 and shutter speeds of 1/800 and it still wasn’t enough to stop them. It’s crazy how fast these little guys are. Jet fighter pilots could learn from them! ;)


Red Tailed Hawk: Photo Essay

For the last week or so, there’s been a Red Tailed Hawk screeching at me in the back pasture. He’s been hanging out in the ravine and cruising on the air currents and thermals that rise up out of the valley. It’s been a nice addition to have some extra wildlife actually hanging around. I have noticed at times two of them, so I thought they might be nesting. Tonight, well after golden light had settled in, I grabbed my camera and my trusty 70-300, the dog and we hit the trail running. I wanted to nab shots of this hawk while the golden light was low on the horizon and would illuminate him while he surfed the currents. It worked out! He got lit up like a Dutch brothel! non-ethnically specified house of ill repute! ;) Just kiddin’! It was just lots of glorious evening light that highlighted him perfectly and was still high enough to creep into the east side of the ravine.

As I sprinted across the pasture, I was pleased to see he was still hanging around. He even let me get close. And as I crested the top of the hill, I found out why he’d been there: dead deer carcass. It was just ribs and spine, presumably a coyote kill, hopefully not a cougar (but possible). I’m fairly certain this hawk had been hanging around to take part in the bonanza. Soon though, the clouds bunched up and stole my light away. No more hawk pics. But, my attention turned from raptors to landscapes – well, cloudscapes. I ran down the big ravine to get back up the other side, stopping only to take the oak leaf shot at the bottom of coulee. It was raining far off and the light was coming in very rich and warm. It was burning through the clouds so brightly I could barely believe it! Shapes and even faces emerged in the clouds, even a wee rainbow if you look close. It was all very cool! As I stopped to snap the cloud shots, I barely even noticed the horde of wood ticks that had since covered my pants and started crawling up under my shirt. Anything for a picture right?   ;) Finally, I watched as the sun sunk into the horizon and burned the sky before saying nighty night!


Snow Turkeys

I got up today and looked out and behold, there were tons of turkeys, struttin’ their stuff. I grabbed my camera, some camo and went belly crawling for a half mile or so. Last year, they were more tolerant of me and let me get a wee bit closer than they did this year. But it was warmer then than it is now. uggg, this weather is getting depressing. While I was out, it started to snow which was throwing off the autofocus of my 70-300. I missed some shots because of that and for that reason I’m selling a kidney on the black market to get a 300mm f/2.8 hehehehe.. ;) Anyways, it’s true, in low light, that lens hunts for focus like Rita McNeil looking for prime rib in a buffet line. :) But what can you do? I did do some manual focusing to try and nab the shots I was missing. Here’s the shots of the day. It’s funny how from 330 shots, I get 32 good ones. Roughly 10% 

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EDIT! Here’s a video of me gobbling! I’m the turkey whisperer.


Winter Whitetails

Last night the deer were making a steady stream through our backyard from the field and into the ravine next to our house. I grabbed my 70-300 and made a few shots.

 

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Sleepy Doe

I woke up this morning and looked out my bedroom window and behold! There was a Whitetailed Deer snuggled into a snow bank across the ravine from our house. And not only that, she was framed inside a natural vignette! It was pretty cool looking, so I ran for my camera. After taking the window opener apart, I was able to get my camera in place to compose the shot the way I wanted to.

Sleepy Head

 

There were a couple of challenges to over come though. The first was as it was early morning, the light was garbage. I couldn’t setup a tripod because my bed is in the way. So I braced the camera on the window frame itself to try to make a rest. I tried a pillow too but there was too much shake. My 70-300 has the VR technology which helped but with an aperture of only f/5.6 it wasn’t what I would call optimal. So I had to crank my ISO to try to get a sharp image. As a result, the image quality degraded more than I would have liked.

I waited a little while for more light and I was able to drop the ISO to 800 and still get a reasonable shot, but it was still too noisy for my liking. I dropped the files into Aperture and fired up my Dfine 2.0 plugin from Nik. Pure awesomeness results! It magically cleans up the noise without eliminating all the detail from the shot. See the 100% Crop.

 

Dfine 2.0 Magic - Click to enlarge

As you can see, it is magic for cleaning up noise. Next, I had to fix the color. The early morning light was still too blue. I screwed up by not having my white balance on shade to warm it up to where it needed to be. Thanks be to RAW! I was able to change the white balance in Aperture and warmed it up substantially.

White Balance is Key! - Click to enlarge

I also did some some tweaking with Color eFex 3.0 to adjust the contrast and enhance the natural vignette by brightening the spot where the deer was lying. A couple other touchups and I had the final image I was happy with!

 

Sleepy Doe

Another reminder that pictures are happening all around us! :)

 

 

 


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