Florida Brown Pelican
A Florida Brown Pelican sitting on a pier preens in the late afternoon sun.
The relatively flat Captiva Island landscape means that the warm late-day sun reaches the island's eastern/bay-side dock piers - providing great lighting for photographing the pelicans that like to sit on these piers.
I carried the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens with the Canon EF 2x III Extender for my lightweight bird lens on this trip. The f/8 image quality this combo delivered is impressive.
600mm f/8.0 1/640s ISO 400
Christmas Cactus Flower 2x
To get more magnification from the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5 L USM Lens, add a Canon EF 2x II or III Extender. The resulting 2x magnification is quite impressive.
360mm f/11.0 1/160s ISO 100
Shooting Sports with Extenders
There are few lenses that work as well with extenders as the Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens. This shot was taken with a Canon EF Extender 2x III mounted for a 600mm focal length.
The results are remarkable.
600mm f/5.6 1/2000s ISO 320
Drying Brown Pelican
A Brown Pelican dries itself in the warm late-day sunlight.
For ideal bird photography lighting, I oriented myself so that I was between the sun and the pelican (or nearly so).
600mm f/8.0 1/250s ISO 160
Partially Cloudy Partial Lunar Eclipse at 1200mm
It seems that, every time there is an astronomical event scheduled, the sky turns cloudy where I am. I'm sure that this is one of Murphy's laws, but ... sometimes everything works out anyway.
This particular lunar eclipse was happening early in the morning and I setup my gear the evening before. After checking the weather report immediately prior to going to bed, I turned off the alarm. The odds of the cloud cover clearing were very low and I decided that a clear mind from a solid night of sleep was the wiser decision.
Fortunately, my Mother-In-Law was wiser than I was (or more excited about the event) and, upon seeing some clearing in the sky, she called me at 4:30 AM. I crawled out of bed, dressed warmly, hauled the ready-to-go gear out to the front yard and found a chair to sit on. I established the focus distance and changed the lens to MF. I then established the exposure needed to keep the moon very slightly darker than blown (mostly avoiding pure white/blinkies on the LCD). The clouds indeed cleared (mostly) by the time of the event and I was able to capture many good shots.
As is generally the case with landscape photography, I had to embrace what the weather provided me and in this case, some remaining clouds moved across the moon at times during the eclipse. The brightness of the moon was much for the clouds to remain visible in the frame most of the time (except when the moon was very obscured), but I wanted to show the clouds in some images with the moon only slightly obscured. Thus, I used an HDR technique involving two exposures stacked and merged in Photoshop.
The result of this particular image is that the eclipsed portion of the moon is not as dark (due to the presence of the clouds) as those captured without clouds, but the clouds appearing to radiate from the moon yields a different look to this infrequent occurrence.
Obviously, for this lunar eclipse, I opted to fill the frame with just the moon vs. including a landscape in the frame. The 600mm f/4L IS II is a much-appreciated part of my kit, and this was an instance where the 2x extender proved useful.
1200mm f/8.0 1/200s ISO 500
Little Blue Heron in Corkscrew Swamp Wildlife Refuge
Corkscrew Swamp Wildlife Refuge is a great place to photograph wildlife - from Painted Buntings to butterflies to alligators to Cottonmouth Water Moccasins to various wading birds and much more. This Little Blue Heron was intently hunting below the boardwalk.
I carried the 300 f/2.8 L II and 1.4x III combination while exploring the boardwalk. And I carried them in a Think Tank Photo Glass Taxi when not actively shooting. Not long after this shot, I opened the pack - and a camera body cap with a rear lens cap attached rolled out, across the boardwalk and into the alligator-infested water below. While I was not happy about the loss of the caps, I was even more disturbed to have put litter in the water. at this great place. After finding a refuge worker, I was given permission to hang over the edge of the boardwalk (while being held onto) and retrieve the still-floating caps using two large, dead sticks (that I had to also-retrieve) as chopsticks. The retrieval was successful (and entertaining to those watching I'm sure). Phew.
600mm f/8.0 1/100s ISO 1250
Great Horned Owl in Nest Cavity
This mother great horned owl may be the most popular and most photographed of its species in the Mid-Atlantic states at this time. Being able to photograph a primarily-nocturnal bird, very visibly sitting in its nest throughout the day, is an unusual situation and MANY photographers took advantage of this opportunity. I made this opportunity a priority and carved most of a day out of my schedule to get my great horned owl photo.
The viewing area of this nest is in a public park with a significant bank and stream separating viewers and the owl family (two owlets are deeper in the cavity). This meant as much focal length as possible was needed in front of a full frame camera (and a significant amount in front of an APS-C model). For me, this meant the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens in front of an EF 2x III Extender along with the ultra-high resolution Canon EOS 5Ds R.
While this uncropped image indicates a clear view on the nest cavity, that was not completely the case. Getting the right position for a semi-clear view of this owl was challenging and I spent much of this day leaning to the side so that I could use a tripod position immediately next to another cooperative photographer for the best-available view. My primary concern was getting a clear view through the tree branches on my side of the creek as these branches became very defocused and lowered contrast over a significant portion of the image if in the frame. The branches on the nest tree were of a lower concern as the healing brush in Photoshop made branch removal a trivial task.
While the owl spent most of the day sitting nearly motionless, it occasionally changed positions. When a loud motorcycle came into the park, the mother great horned owl showed her personOWLity, making for one of my favorite shots of the day.
1200mm f/11.0 1/500s ISO 800
Airplane Over Harvest Moon at 1680mm
I decided that, with a clear sky, I was going to stack a pair of extenders to the back of my Canon EF 600mm f/4 L IS II USM Lens and capture the "Harvest Moon" (the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox).
Stacking a Canon EF 1.4x Extender with a Canon EF 2x Extender requires a 12mm extension tube to be mounted between the two – to make the fit possible. The result is 600mm x 2 x 1.4 = 1680mm = Wow!
While you should not expect amazing image quality from this setup, the tight angle of view delivered by 1680mm is quite amazing. So tight that tracking the moon through the frame is a constant task. And, avoiding vibrations is a challenge. I opted to use mirror lockup with the 10 second self-timer to make sure that the camera fully settled down before the shutter release.
I was trying different exposure settings and verifying the results on the LCD. During one such check, I saw a black spot on the moon. My first thought was that I had a piece of dust on my sensor. Zooming in revealed otherwise.
I live well over an hour from the nearest large airport. The sky was black and I had no idea that there were any airplanes in the area. Using the 10 second timer, with the narrow angle of view, meant that I was predicting where the moon would be in the frame at shutter release. Not only did the airplane happen to cross the moon at the exact time of the shutter release,, it happened to be in a perfect location over the moon. The timing was divine.
This image is an un-touched and uncropped (but reduced in size of course) conversion of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III RAW file. Photography is so fun.
1680mm f/11.0 1/80s ISO 800
Florida Brown Pelican on a Pier
The piers on the east/bay side of Captiva Island are great places to find Brown Pelicans - and late in the day is the ideal time to photograph these very interesting birds hanging out there.
With a mostly-still bird and adequate time to capture the shot, I was able to handhold this 600mm-effective lens and extender combination at a shutter speed of 1/30 second.
600mm f/11.0 1/30s ISO 200
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