In honor of Veterans giving the ultimate sacrifice on this Memorial Day, F-18 nearing the speed of sound at 2007 Wings Over Houston airshow. It was fun to go back in time and reprocess this photo using some gained skill and software since then. Went with B&W to better show off the vapor cloud.
Canon 30D and 100-400 lens @ 100mm
Drove down to the Rockport, TX area at the end of April to participate in a workshop with Hector Astorga. We spent two mornings visiting the Aransas NWR rookery by boat. We experienced very high winds and high surf but boat captain Kevin Sims did an excellent job as always. It was quite the roller coaster ride getting to the rookery with three foot waves bouncing the small flat-bottomed boat around in the dark before sunrise.
Once we arrived at the rookery, the waves reduced but the anchor wasn’t successful at keeping the boat still so Kevin put on his waders, jumped into the water and held onto the boat to keep it from moving around. He would then push the boat around manually when we needed to switch positions around the island. He definitely went above and beyond the call of duty on this trip
The rookery was filled with great blue herons and spoonbills, along with a few snowy egrets, reddish egrets, black crowned night herons, oystercatchers and terns. Most of the chicks were fairly large but were still actively being fed by their parents.
Caught this spoonbill coming in for a landing with his wings outstretched while positioned at the upper deck of the boat. With the wind/waves, it was challenging to keep the camera steady on my tripod. Took way too many photos but liked how this one turned out. Very minimal cropping on the right side. Had to crank up the ISO to 3200 to get a decent shutter speed.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500mm F4 IS II mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head
Aperture priority, 1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, 500mm
About 3 minuets after the brown pelican sunrise photo per my last post, caught this group of American Avocets passing under the sunrise. Made for a cool silhouette shot.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 500MM F4 IS II with 1.4X III teleconverter mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley II gimbal head
Aperture priority, 1/8000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, -1/3 exposure compensation
Made another trip to Santa Clara Ranch in south Texas over the weekend. Had a great time, as always. Thanks Hector. Finally got to experience the raptor blind and it was awesome. With a somewhat slow start, the action picked up with Scott and I maxing out with 10 raptors at the same time with a couple of Harris Hawks and the rest being Caracara.
Started out using my 100-400 lens and later switched to the 500. Got several decent flight shots and wing spread photos when they came in to land. This juvenile Harris Hawk put on a good show.
I’d go back just for the raptors. Hope to make another trip next year.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 100-400mm II lens, mounted on tripod with Wimberley II gimbal head
Aperture priority, 1/5000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 3200, evaluative metering, 400mm
Spent two full days last weekend taking photos at the Wings Over Houston airshow. It was great weather, which brought out record crowds as they sold out the show on Sunday. Got to hang out with Christine and her father on Saturday, who is a former A4 pilot. The Blue Angels were awesome as always. With bright blue sky’s, blue jets and harsh sunlight, decided to try B&W for something different, which helped to bring out the details in the smoke trails with the higher contrast. Took lots of photos so more to come.
Taken with Canon 1DX and Canon 100-400 lens, handheld
1/1250sec @ F10, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
1/1000 sec @ F8, ISO 800, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation
Tales from the whales…the Monterey Bay, CA whale watching trip was awesome. The day started early with leaving the hotel in Morro Bay at 5:00 a.m. so that we could get to Monterey Bay in time to catch the boat. There were +/- 30 to 40 people on the boat along with a couple of dogs (?). More to come on the canines. It was a cloudy/foggy/hazy day which wasn’t a bad thing as the sun would have been pretty harsh for photography at mid day.
The best advice from our photographer guide, Bill, was that I shouldn’t take my 500mm lens as the whales would be too close. To be honest, I didn’t believe him but luckily took his advice and used my trusty 100-400mm lens. We sat at the back of the boat and headed out to sea towards the continental shelf where the whales like to feed. Killer whales had been seen in the area recently so we were hoping for the best but I wasn’t convinced that we would see anything. My previous whale watching experience was limited to on-shore spotting from Palos Verdes, CA which was always a bust.
On the upper deck of the boat where the captain was, they had a naturalist that would tell us where the action was happening and give some detailed information about the wildlife that we would see. They also had a dog up on the upper deck, which was a little strange in my opinion. During the trip off shore, the naturalist didn’t have much to talk about except a few birds flying around. The boat was bouncing around too much to try to get a decent shot so I stayed put in a seated position. Finally she spotted a whale off of the right side of the boat so everyone moved in that direction. I could see a whale with his head sticking straight up out of the water but wasn’t able to get in position quick enough and got a blurry shot, bummer. At least we had spotted one I thought. My hopes started to rise. It was a Humpback whale and we ended up spotting a few of them with 2 getting very close to the boat.
It was like roller derby when they would call out a whale sighting at different positions and everyone was quickly moving from side to side on the boat. It would have been fun to stand at the back of the boat with a wide angle lens and take pictures of all of the people trying to run back and forth on a bobbing boat. My 100-400 lens was small enough that it was fairly easy to manuever around with it. I would lean up against the railing with my body to try to stabilize myself while shooting. Had to grab the railing a few times as the boat was rocking pretty good. Talking my long lens would have been a major mistake. Thanks again Bill for the advice. A very smart man he is.
The whale watching boats communicate with each other to share whale locations and two other boats joined our hunt for the mighty humpback’s. At one point, the 3 boats were maybe 50 yds apart and we had 2 whales leisurely feeding in between us. It was an awesome experience. You could tell by their body position when their tails would be coming out of the water. Had to zoom out a few times as they were too close at 400m. My bird photography experience came in handy as and I ended up being fairly fast on the trigger to get action shots when they surfaced. Trying to get water spout shots was a challenge as by the time that you got your camera up to your eye, the action was over. Ended up using my camera like a big point and shoot and just would quickly point the camera in the direction of the spout, focus and shoot. Ended up getting a few decent shots using this highly scientific method.
Now the fun part of the trip. Once we slowed to a crawl while taking pictures of the whales, the boat was rocking back and forth big time and much more noticeable than when we were moving at higher speeds. Well, the motion of the ocean was not a good thing for some people in this case. We had several people “ralfing” off the sides of the boat. One guy got really good distance with some good ol’ fashion projectile vomiting but I wasn’t able to get a shot of it. Would have been a classic. I turned to the guy standing next to me and claimed that the sick guy was “chumming” for whales. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. Luckily, none in our group got sick.
Now for the stupid part of the trip. One, highly intelligent young couple, brought their very large dog on the boat. Now that was a very bright idea. I ended up having a love/hate relationship with that dog. On the way off shore, the dog ended up leaning up against my leg while bracing himself to keep from falling over. I didn’t complain too much as he helped keep my one leg warm. The intelligence factor came into effect when the dog ended up dropping loads out of both ends before the trip was done. Thanks people.
Needless to say, I had a great time on this whale watching trip. Here are some of my whale tail shots. I’ll post some more shots later.
Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 100-400 lens, handheld
Here are the two Humpback Whales that came close to the boat
1/1600 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 400mm
This is a full frame shot without any cropping. Had to zoom out to get the tail in the frame.
1/800 sec @ F5.6, ISO 250, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 285mm
A different angle showing the jagged edge of the tail, barnacles on the tail and a bird flying underneath it.
1/1000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 250, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 400mm
This is my favorite photo from the trip.
1/1250 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 400mm
I always get excited from a photography perspective when it’s foggy out in the morning. My favorite go-to place for fog shots is Brazos Bend State Park in Texas. It was a particularly fogging morning on this outing. The spillway bridge was almost completely fogged in making for a cool photo-op. Broke out the 100-400 lens for hand carrying it around the park.
Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 100-400 lens, hand-held
1/640 sec @ F11, ISO 400, evaluative metering
Got a front row seat along the fence for Wings Over Houston on Sat. Got up close and personal with the Air National Guard jet car. A little loud but an interesting photo op.
Taken with Canon 7D and 100-400 lens
A couple more batches of airshow photos and I’ll be back to birds, I promise. These shots were taken from the south side of the airfield along hwy 3 on Sunday. It’s always great to see the F22 Raptor. Needless to say, I took a few photos over the 3 days.
Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 500mm F4 IS II
I always get excited when the gas bombs start going off during the Tora Tora Tora portion of the Wings Over Houston airshow. Where there is fire, there is smoke, which leads to some interesting photo op’s. Tracked this Zero as he was heading through the smoke and was barely visible. When adjusting the color using curves in Photoshop, tried setting the black point even though nothing was showing black. It darkened the scene dramatically and led to this photo.
Taken with Canon 7D and 100-400 lens, hand-held
Shutter priority, 1/320 sec @ F18, ISO 200, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation
Had the privilege of visiting Gettysburg for a leadership seminar. It was led by Colonel Cole C. Kingseed, US Army, retired, former Chief of Military History at the US Military Academy at West Point. They did a great job of preserving the battlefields and had the opportunity to walk from Seminary Ridge to Cemetery Ridge, across the battlefield where Picket’s Charge took place. It was a very surreal experience.
I went a day early to get a chance to take some pictures, of course. Spent the first afternoon going to the visitor center and scouting out the area in preparation for shooting at sunrise the next day. Got to Cemetery Ridge just before sunrise. It was interesting to be there at sunrise with no one else around. Took several photos as the sun was coming up and then walked out on the battlefield where Picket’s Charge took place. It was a very interesting but humbling experience to say the least. I can’t imaging the courage that it took to cross that battlefield on July 3, 1863. Being there puts the history books into a little more perspective. A very moving experience.
Got my best photos in the early morning golden light, as always. Did get one bird photo that I’ll post later. Just wish that I would have had more time and a few more mornings to shoot. Good excuse to go back again someday.
You can see more of my photos from Gettysburg on my web site under the “History” gallery: http://www.timtimmis.com/History/Gettysburg/25484802_z3Qrcp#!i=2099796373&k=M8CcbMC
These photos were taken with my Canon 7D and Canon 100-400 lens, handheld. The wide-angle shots on my website were taken with my Canon 17-40mm lens.
Statue of General Webb with the sun rising behind it.
1/8000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, evaluative metering, -2 exposure compensation
Horse drawn carriage used for canon supplies that was glowing in the morning light
1/400 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, evaluative metering, -1 exposure compensation
Taken from the battlefield just in front of the union line at Cemetery Ridge. The tall grass was glowing at sunrise. Had to crank back the exposure compensation to -2.
1/6400 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, evaluative metering, -2 exposure compensation
There was a hint of fog in the air and the morning dew was everywhere. Made for a cool look on the canons. Zoomed in tight on this canon wheel and you can see the depth of field at F5.6.
1/320 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation
View approaching the union lines on Cemetery Ridge. A little lens flare for added effect. I was going to try to clone it out but kind of like the look so left it in.
1/8000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, evaluative metering, -1 exposure compensation
Got a front row seat for the final lift off of Space Shuttle Endeavor from Houston’s Ellington Field. Parked along hwy 3 at the end of the runway along with several hundred of my friends before sunrise and stood on the railroad tracks just outside the fence line. The first plane to launch was a commercial jet that took off to the east, in the opposite direction from where I was standing. Was a little worried that the shuttle would take off in that direction as well until a NASA jet took off towards me. On que, the 747 with Endeavor attached took off at 7:00 a.m., a little before sunrise. It was very cool to see, to say the least, including feeling the heat off of the 747’s engines.
Since it wasn’t fully light out yet, had to crank up the ISO to 1600 to get enough shutter speed. Was hoping that it would make a fly-by but alas it didn’t. It turned south and circled but went well north of Ellington, heading for downtown Houston.
Good bye Endeavor…you should have stayed 😦
Taken with Canon 7D and Canon 100-400 lens, handheld.
Patience pays in wildlife photography from stalking your subject to waiting to upgrade your equipment. After 6 years of using my Canon 100-400 lens, I finally got the new Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens. It was pre-ordered from B&H back on May 28th and arrived on August 1. Of course I took the next two days off of work to test it out in the field. I’ve been dreaming of getting a 500 for six years so I wasn’t going to waste any time just looking at it. Also got the 1.4 EX III teleconverter and the full Wimberley head. I love my 100-400 and have had good success with it but it was time to crank it up a few notches and expand my horizons with a longer, higher quality lens. The following first impressions are based on using the 500 on my Canon 7D camera.
After I almost hugged the UPS guy who delivered it (I said almost), I ended up taking the stereotypical photos of unboxing the lens, just because it’s the law. Next steps involved taking comparison photos of it alongside my trusty 100-400 and putting on the camo lenscoat. I felt bad for my 100-400 as it now looks very puny in comparison. It has big time lens envy. Cheer up little buddy, you will still be my go-to lens for airshows.
My first impression, other than it’s much larger than my 100-400m (well duh), is that it feels lighter than I expected. I knew that they had reduced the weight by 1.5 lbs from the previous version but it seemed very light compared to the size. Getting the lenscoat on the lens took a few minutes to get all of the pieces in place. Looks and feels great. I replaced the lens foot with a RRS replacement foot which is lower profile and lighter. I then mounted the lens on my new Wimberley head to see how it worked before heading out the next morning. The full Wimberley head works great and feels much smoother than the Wimberley Sidekick gimbal mount that I was using with the 100-400 lens.
Day 1 – Field Test
Headed out to Brazos Bend State Park before sunrise. Got my gear assembled in the parking lot and headed down the trail with my tripod slung over my shoulder, asking myself did I get everything tightened down well enough? Although the new lens is lighter than its predecessor, it still weighs 7 lbs and is much heavier than my old lens. Definitely could feel the weight difference on my shoulder. I left the flash off as my new flash bracket section to attach to the Wimberley head was going to be delivered that day.
My first subject was a Green Heron. First impression of the lens in action was that the focus is very quick and F4 is going to be great compared to F5.6 of my old lens. Getting decent shutter speeds that early in the morning is going to open up some possibilities that I didn’t have before. The Green Heron wasn’t doing much so I moved on.
Next stop along the trail found several juvenile Purple Gallinules walking around in a group of lily pads. Had some initial issues with trying to find the subject with the longer fixed lens compared to my 100-400. When I looked through the lens for the first few times, the birds were always above where I was initially aiming, although it didn’t take long to get used to that.
Moved down the trail and found 8 juvenile Little Blue Herons fishing. That gave me a chance to practice action and flight shots with the new lens. I ended up not attaching the 1.4x teleconverter as the birds were too close to use it, which is a good thing. Didn’t have any problems using the new lens while keeping up with the action. It felt very natural and easy to maneuver on the Wimberley head. Could track the birds in flight without any problems. Caught a couple of whistling ducks doing a fly by and quickly locked focus on them. Had the usual challenges with keeping the white birds properly exposed with changing light conditions but no issues with the lens. Had to use the manual zoom feature of the new lens, i.e. my feet, a few times when the birds were too close.
Ended up spending about 2.5 hrs at Brazos Bend the first day and my first impressions were great however, more practice and testing would be required. Good excuse to go out the next two days as well.
1/1600 sec @ F4, ISO 400, spot metering
1/1600 sec @ F5.6, ISO 250, spot metering
Day 2 – Field Test
Went back the next day to Brazos Bend to practice some more. Met Doug at the park to check out his new camera and got a pleasant surprise when Sheldon showed up. The birds weren’t as cooperative as the day before so I got more hiking in and my shoulders felt it by the end of the trip. We did come across a somewhat stubborn Alligator lying near the trail that didn’t want to move. He did open his mouth a few times for some decent shots and gave me the opportunity to take the lens off of the tripod and tried lying down on the ground with it to get some full frame eye level gator shots. It balanced fairly easily on my elbows. Wouldn’t want to do it for a long period but it worked fairly well. Made me want to head to the beach to try out the lens with my ground pod, which was on the agenda for the next day.
I did attach the 1.4X III teleconverter but didn’t use it much as the birds were too close to effectively use it. First impressions are still pending on the teleconverter.
AV, 1/5000 sec @ F4, ISO 400, evaluative metering
AV, 1/500 sec @ F5.6, ISO 200, evaluative metering
Day 3 – Field Test
Headed to Galveston Island to break in the lens properly with some sand and salt water at the Gulf of Mexico. Went to East Beach near the jetty and broke out the ground pod. Wanted to go to Bolivar but high tides in the mornings this time of year make Bolivar an unattractive option for low-level photography. Not much was happening at East Beach each except for a few Willets near the shoreline. Laid down for about ½ hr on top of some piled up dead seaweed to try out the lens with the Wimberley head mounted on my Skimmer ground pod. The combo worked great. This is where the lens will really shine for me with the narrow depth of field and better blur on the backgrounds. The narrow depth of field with this lens will take some getting used to. I used to shoot my 100-400 wide open most of the time at F5.6. Can’t shoot everything at F4 or the bird may not be in focus over his whole body, depending on how close that he is. It will take some practice to get used to the required settings to use for different situations. The challenge with using a ground pod is that it’s difficult to keep it level so you have to level the shot in the camera view finder by loosening the tripod collar knob and manually rotating the lens to the level position. It takes a little more effort doing it with the larger lens than with my 100-400 lens.
After shooting from the prone position, got up and wandered down the beach to try out some hand-held flight shots. Again, the lens focused very quickly and worked well. It is definitely hand holdable but I wouldn’t want to do it all day. Had no problem holding the lens for about ½ hour while shooting terns and pelicans.
Left the beach and headed to the Texas City Dike looking for black skimmers that were nesting there last year at this time. No skimmers around but ended up finding a couple of cooperative American Oystercatchers at the dike and shot them out the car window while hand holding the lens. One was walking along the edge of the dike on the rocks so I followed him with the car. Got nearly full framed shots. The light wasn’t ideal but it was a great opportunity to try out the new lens. Note to self: put your beanbag back in the car.
1/1250 sec @ F4, ISO 400, spot metering, +1/3 exposure compensation
AV, 1/2000 sec @ F5.6, ISO 400, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation
1/1250 sec @ F4, ISO 250, spot metering, +1/3 exposure compensation
First Impressions – Summary
- It’s very sweet lens (that’s a technical term) and a keeper
- Focus is quick and accurate
- F4 is great for early morning photography
- Lens is light enough to hand hold but I’ll still use a tripod/ground pod most of the time
- Only used IS mode 1 so far and need to test modes 2 & 3
- Extra reach of the 500mm lens compared to my 100-400mm lens is going to be very nice with the ability to use the 1.4x to get to 700mm
- Works great with the full Wimberley head
- Narrow depth of field will take some getting used to but will lead to some great photos, especially from the prone position
- Blurring of backgrounds is excellent
- Having a high quality lens won’t make you a good photographer. It can help to improve the quality of your shots but it’s still up to you to be at the right place at the right time to get the shot in the right conditions/lighting and properly expose the photo
- I’m very lucky to live in SE Texas
- I’m going to have lots of fun!