Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sky Watch Friday: More Pennsylvania Elk Photos

Ronald "Buckwheat" Saffer and I encountered a herd of cow elk with a spike bull last Wednesday evening. It was one of those evenings with a lot of clouds in the sky. There were periods of sunshine, interspersed with times that the sun was behind the clouds. When the sun did shine, there was very dramatic lighting. Since we were busily photographing the elk, I did not want to change lenses, so at one point I took this shot of the sky with the 100-400mm. This photo is cropped to give it a panoramic look as it is actually more appealing in this format.

Taken From Winslow Hill Toward Quehanna Wild Area: Canon 40D-100-400mmF5.6L at 100mm

One seldom gets to photograph elk against such dramatic cloud formations. I have taken some very effective shots of animals later in the evening, when the shot was exposed to make a silhouette of the foreground and the animals against the sky, but this is one of the few times that I have been able to get good detail and exposure in both the animals ands the sky. I used the f13 aperture to get both the foreground and sky as sharp as possible.

Canon 40D-100-400mmF5.6L at 250mm 1/125 sec. F13 ISO 200

The final photo was taken at 1/350 sec. so as to stop the action. It did work in this case, but sometimes even more speed is required for successful action shooting. Notice that the depth of field is not as great in this case so there is not as much detail in the sky!

Canon 40D-100-400mmF5.6L at 300mm 1/350 sec. F8 ISO 200

I have not used the 100-400mm much in the last year, but both Salty and Billie Cromwell reported good results with it on the Canon 30D, so I pressed it back into service, and I must say that I am pleased with the results. It did work well on the Canon 10D which I previously used as long as the image was not cropped a significant amount. It seems to be a different story with the 30D and 40D and stands up well to cropping. Is it as good as the 500mmF4? No, but the 500mm is not nearly as versatile. In this case I could not have been shooting video also, but would have had to have the 500mm on a tripod and been further away to get the same composition. As it were, I could use the video camera on the tripod and carry the 40D with 100-400mm on my chest. My favorite shooting method in this case is to rest the rear of the 40D on an accessory bracket on the back of the XL-H1 camcorder and rest the lens in my left hand which is in turn supported by the top of the camcorder near the front of the body. This combined with the image stabilization gives one excellent potential for sharp images.

For more Sky Watch photos, visit Tom at Wigger's World!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More Pennsylvania Bull Elk In Velvet

Here are more photographs from last week's trip to Elk County. The primary purpose of the trip was to videotape calves, so as usual the camcorder came first. I couldn't carry my big gun-the 500mmF4 as it requires a tripod.

I almost never shoot video without a tripod as I cannot stand an jiggle whatsoever. This means that I have to make still photography secondary, so I carry the 300mmF4, and the 70-200mmF2.8, both of which have image stabilization. I also carried the 100-400mm F5.6 for the first time in well over a year (in the elk range) and I was pleased with the results. All of the above lenses have image stabilization, and are reasonably portable, so I can shoot them without a tripod. In addition they can be fitted to the Canon XL-H1 Camcorder in which cases their focal length is multiplied by a factor of 7.2 due to the 1/3" sensors of that camera. This gives a 400mm an effective focal length of over 2,800mm. It is amazing at what distances one can take excellent video, if the atmosphere is free of haze or heat waves.

At any rate, I encountered a very nice bull in the backcountry, late on Tuesday evening. He was with a bachelor group of small bulls that were resting in a nearby meadow. I concentrated on him and got the following shot. The photo is cropped severely. I would have liked to have been closer but there was no opportunity to do so!

For those familiar with the Pennsylvania elk herd, this is bull number 62. Unless there is a particular reason to let it there, I usually remove the collar with Photoshop as I detest the way they detract from the natural look of the animal, so yes this animal had a bright yellow collar with large black numbers before Photoshop worked its' magic.

Canon 40D: 100-400mmL F5.6 at 400mm-1/180 sec. f5.6 ISO 400

"Buckwheat" and I were shooting together on Thursday evening when we had an encounter with a small but beautiful bull. I used to like photographing wildlife best in the autumn and especially liked to photograph deer and elk during the rut, when there is a lot of exciting action, but now I find that I like summer as much when it is not too hot and humid. An evening like this is hard to beat with beautiful late evening light, a nice tang in the air, and best of all-complete peace and quiet!

Canon 40D: 300mmL F4 a-1/125 sec. f4 ISO 500

The young bull was completely trusting and allowed us to photograph from about 50 yards or so. This was a good comfortable working range and we had no reason to get closer. Buckwheat also shoots a Canon 40D and was using his tried and true 300mmF2.8.

Canon 40D: 300mmL F4 a-1/125 sec. f4 ISO 500

What better way to spend an evening than photographing wildlife in the great outdoors!