Friday, February 22, 2013

Winter Wildlife and The 5D MK III

Late February, some days are relatively mild, making one think of the spring to come, only to be followed by cold, windy periods that make life difficult for wildlife and humans alike. The last few days have been especially brutal, with strong winds and piercing cold. Through it all wildlife must go about the daily struggle of living.

Whitetail Doe in Falling Snow:  Canon 5D MK III-Canon 500mm f4-ISO 640-1/400 sec.  @f4.5

Alert Doe :  Canon 5D MK III-Canon 500mm f4-ISO 1000-1/500 sec.  @f4.5
Many of the bucks have shed their antlers by now, but it is still possible to see a rack buck on occasion. 

Winter Bucks Canon 5D MK III-Canon 500mm f4-ISO 1000-1/500 sec.  @f4.5
In this case, it was growing late on a bitter, cold evening and the wind was blowing in strong gusts.  It was so uncomfortable that I  decided to leave before photographic dark, and stashed the cameras and tripods away in the vehicle.  Before leaving, I paused to take a quick look at a camera manual.  When I was done reading, I looked up and was astonished to see a bachelor group  crossing the meadow.  Only one was a rack buck, but there were a few spikes, three-points and  four-points, etc.  The rest had already lost their antlers, but it was easy to tell that they were bucks as the pedicles were visible. The deer hidden behind the rack buck is a button buck that was born  last spring and is seen each day, but the others are not  frequently seen in this area. Bucks are difficult to see at this time of year since many were killed in  the fall hunting season and,the population is at a yearly low.  Most of those that remain are together in bachelor groups. Few live in herds with the does and yearlings. Even though they may feed in the same area at the same time, they are not part of the same herd.  Since there are two to a dozen or more bucks in these bachelor groups, most of the bucks in a large expanse of territory may be together.  As a result, there are a lot of bucks where they are, and very few where they are not.

I was lucky to see the bucks, but putting the equipment away early made the situation very difficult.  There seemed to be no hope of setting the tripod up again without spooking the animals, but a nearby round bale saved the day. I crept to it with the 5K MK III and the 500mm.  This is the type of situation where IS can save the day and it this case it worked reasonably well.  The rack buck in the photo above is sharp at 100% in Photoshop.  The photo below is slightly soft at 100%, which was was caused by a bit of motion blur from camera movement. Regardless of this, it works well for posting on the internet, and looks as though it would make a decent 8x10 print.

Alert Eight-Point Buck Canon 5D MK III-Canon 500mm f4-ISO 1000-1/500 sec.  @f4.5

I took several frames, but these were the best of the series. The bucks were about 100 yards away, so the last photo is severely cropped.

5D MK III images do stand up well to cropping, as long as the photo is sharp. It is the best camera by far that I have owned to date, but the same was true of the 7D over the 40D when I made that upgrade, as was the 30D and 40D over the 10D.  At the end of the day though, the fact remains that the best photos taken with the 10Dand the other models as well,  are still quite usable today.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


Nancy J said...

Super photos, the "alert doe" is truly stunning. The last one, I guess he was very aware of you somewhere there, but yes, cold weather, I sometimes wonder how they have to struggle to survive, no long fur, no hibernation, little food left, and I have always thought they are truly beautiful animals.Thanks so much for sharing, I enjoy your words . Greetings from Jean.

Linda said...

Your photos are really beautiful, Willard, thank you so much for sharing.

PaWingers said...

The first image is my favorite. All great shots though!

Lindsjö taxar said...

Great pics. I am satisfied with my 60D but I have to learn all the technics I can do with it. I also have PS 11 now but have to learn about that too

Linda G. said...

Love "Alert Doe"!
I'm happy that the hay bale was nearby so you could use it to help steady the camera. The last two photographs turned out well.

Greg said...

Beautiful images, love the overall quality of light and amazing bokeh!
Thanks for including the setting specifics, a real help!
One question though, did you use any automatic settings such as Av or Tv, or was everything Manual?

Greg Douglass

Willard said...


All were taken in manual mode. I usually use manual and try to keep the aperture at f4 or 4.5 when using the 500mm F4, although this may vary depending on the depth of field I want to get. When I use an auto mode it is usually aperture preferred in which I pick the aperture and the camera selects the shutter speed. I use that mode quite a bit at times, but the main reason I prefer manual is that often my subjects are in a different lighting than substantial areas of the background, such as a deer in a brightly lit meadow, with much darker woodland for the background. In that case, if one uses an auto mode, it will let the dark background unduly influence the exposure and blow the detail out on the deer, unless they use the exposure compensation dial.

Unknown said...

Beautiful as always! I live visiting this site.

Anonymous said...

Wow -- these are magical shots.