Friday, March 27, 2009

Camera Critters: Closer Is Better-Eastern Wild Turkey

While the last post demonstrated that it is possible to get photographs at long range, today's photos show that it is better to get close.

This Friday morning came in with stars shining, but a thick low lying ground fog made visibility difficult. Dawn found me hidden beside a remote mountain meadow with turkeys calling in the distance. Just before sunrise the fog started to lift, and calling and gobbling drew nearer.

Canon 40-D 500mm F4

As the fog lifted the gobblers strutted on a distant hillside and eventually came past where I was hidden, giving me an excellent photographic opportunity.

Canon 40-D 500mm F4+ 1.4 extender

Even though one may be able to capture images of wildlife at fantastic distances with the big lenses, it is better to be reasonably close if one wishes to resolve detail in feathers or fur.

Canon 40-D 500mm F4+ 1.4 extender

From now until late May is the best time to photograph these majestic birds, as this is the mating season and the males are far more likely to strut and gobble at this time. It is always a challenge to capture them in an ideal pose and setting. I have never taken a gobbler photo that I am completely happy with.

Even though this spot is nearly a mile from where I photographed the turkeys in the previous post, I am reasonably certain that they are the same birds. A large flock may range over a substantial amount of territory, but will usually revisit favorite feeding and courting spots at least once a week and sometimes much more often.

For more Camera Critters photos, click HERE!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Long Range Turkeys

This morning I sighted a flock of turkeys at our farm, which were at least 300 yards (900ft.) away, and possibly more. I base this estimate from my youth when I hunted woodchucks and knew the distances to all of the strategic spots on our property. After all of those years I can't remember the exact figure, but I am certain it is at least that far.

The first shot shows the Canon XL-H1 Camcorder with the Canon 500mm F4 attached and shows the distance to the turkeys well. They are just above the red arrow. I used a 17-40mm at 19mm to take this shot. As a side note I did take video with the 500mmF4 attached, both with and without a 1.4 extender. Without the extender, this rig is the 35mm equivalent of a 3,600mm lens, with the extender it is 5,040 mm. This is not as good as it sounds because at those magnifications, mirage (atmospheric disturbances), and vibration from wind become a problem. Still I may get some usable video from this encounter

After an extensive videotaping session, I mounted the 500mm on the 40D and took several shots. Check label below each shot for comparisons.

500mm- No Cropping

500mm-Same Photo Severely Cropped

500mm- Canon 2x extender-Severely Cropped

These are certainly not magazine quality, or as Ronald "Buckwheat" Saffer would say, "Front Cover Shots", but I do think it is amazing what can be obtained at such extreme range.


Late in the evening there were more turkeys in the most distant field and now there were several mature gobblers. The birds were milling about and gobbling, preparing to move to a nearby roosting area for the night. This time I used the camcorder with the 100-400mm Canon lens at about 350mm. (for some reason this lens is soft at 400mm when used on the camcorder and does not provide satisfactory high definition video) In this case the turkeys were about 500 yards (1,500 ft.) away.

Canon XL-H1: 100-400mm @ 350 mm-500 yards card camera mode

It is always better to get close if one wants excellent quality photographs, yet this equipment is capable of taking snapshots at amazing ranges if one is unable to approach closer. If conditions are good, the XL-H1 will take usable professional video at these ranges, but one is not able to print high quality enlargements from the captures.