In 2016 I was fortunate enough to take 6 different trips, including two new ones, as well as travel throughout Alberta on the weekends. I started in the spring by visiting the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary. That was followed by a new trip in late July to Northern British Columbia to photograph Fishing Grizzlies of the Taku followed shortly after by the Marine Mammals of the Johnstone Strait. In September I travelled for my third year to the Great Bear Rainforest, and ended the by visiting Haines Alaska in November, and Yellowstone National Park in December. I am walking away from 2016 with many great images (most of which I haven’t had the time to process year), and great memories, and even some new friends that I met on these trips.

 

In 2016 I was provided the opportunity to photograph a variety of different species, from Grizzly Bears, to Black Bears, Humpback Whales, and Bald Eagles, and many species in between. This series of blog posts will focus on my “Top 10 of 2016”. Some of these images will be in the top because of the experience, not just because it’s the “best quality” image that I have taken in the year.

 

The first image in my Top 10 of 2016 is of a Spirit Bear from my trip to the Great Bear Rainforest, which is abstractly titled “Spirit & Salmon” (haha – right).

 

I credit the Great Bear Rainforest (and a last minute cancellation by someone in 2014) for really getting me interested in travelling to the British Columbia coast.

Top 10 of 2016: #10 – Spirit & Salmon

Not only does the Great Bear Rainforest provide the opportunity to photograph marine mammals, Black Bears, Grizzly Bears, but it is also the only place in the world to find the rare Spirit Bear. Spirit Bears are part of the black bear species but has a recessive gene that can cause them to have white fur when they are born with two versions of the recessive gene (similar to a human being born with red hair). Sprit Bears (or white bears) can have either black or white cubs, just like a white cub can have a black or white mom. I also saw an instance in 2014 when a black bear mother had both a black cub and a white cub.

 

Given how rare it is to see a Spirit Bear (or white bear) I think that in itself makes the spirit bear image end up on my top images list of the year – at least until I spend a few more years in the Great Bear Rainforest and get so many images that I’m tired of them (kidding – I don’t think that is even possible).

 

This Spirit Bear is the very first spirit bear that I ever saw in the Great Bear Rainforest two years ago. And it was a real treat to get to see her again in 2016. She is a very gentle and tolerant bear, and she was actively fishing the stream that we were sitting alongside and catching quite a few fish. In this image she came pretty close to where we were sitting, almost like she was showing off the salmon that she caught. This image was only photographed using a 300mm focal range. If you had told me that I could get that close to a rare species before I went on this trip I wouldn’t even believe you.

 

For some reason, which is not well understood, it was noticed by researchers that black bears were successful in catching fish one quarter of the time when fishing during the day, however the spirit bears were successful one third of the time, making them more successful. One scientist speculated that the salmon were less concerned when there was something white above them compared to something black, therefore leading them to be more successful. I know the day we watched this Spirit Bear, she was successful even more than one-third of the time (of course I know that one day is not a representative sample), but it was amazing, it was like she just couldn’t miss on that particular day.

 

There is something that seems so gentle and calming about the spirit bears, and I hope that when I am in the Great Bear Rainforest again in 2017 that I will be fortunate enough to see another one of these beautiful creatures.

 

Click the link to see more of my image from trips to the Great Bear Rainforest. If you are interested in finding out more about this image, or the Great Bear Rainforest, email me.

In 2016 I was fortunate enough to take 6 different trips, including two new ones, as well as travel throughout Alberta on the weekends. I started in the spring by visiting the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary. That was followed by a new trip in late July to Northern British Columbia to photograph Fishing Grizzlies of the Taku followed shortly after by the Marine Mammals of the Johnstone Strait. In September I travelled for my third year to the Great Bear Rainforest, and ended the by visiting Haines Alaska in November, and Yellowstone National Park in December. I am walking away from 2016 with many great images (most of which I haven’t had the time to process year), and great memories, and even some new friends that I met on these trips.

 

In 2016 I was provided the opportunity to photograph a variety of different species, from Grizzly Bears, to Black Bears, Humpback Whales, and Bald Eagles, and many species in between. This series of blog posts will focus on my “Top 10 of 2016”. Some of these images will be in the top because of the experience, not just because it’s the “best quality” image that I have taken in the year.

 

The first image in my Top 10 of 2016 is of a Spirit Bear from my trip to the Great Bear Rainforest, which is abstractly titled “Spirit & Salmon” (haha – right).

 

I credit the Great Bear Rainforest (and a last minute cancellation by someone in 2014) for really getting me interested in travelling to the British Columbia coast.

Top 10 of 2016: #10 – Spirit & Salmon

Not only does the Great Bear Rainforest provide the opportunity to photograph marine mammals, Black Bears, Grizzly Bears, but it is also the only place in the world to find the rare Spirit Bear. Spirit Bears are part of the black bear species but has a recessive gene that can cause them to have white fur when they are born with two versions of the recessive gene (similar to a human being born with red hair). Sprit Bears (or white bears) can have either black or white cubs, just like a white cub can have a black or white mom. I also saw an instance in 2014 when a black bear mother had both a black cub and a white cub.

 

Given how rare it is to see a Spirit Bear (or white bear) I think that in itself makes the spirit bear image end up on my top images list of the year – at least until I spend a few more years in the Great Bear Rainforest and get so many images that I’m tired of them (kidding – I don’t think that is even possible).

 

This Spirit Bear is the very first spirit bear that I ever saw in the Great Bear Rainforest two years ago. And it was a real treat to get to see her again in 2016. She is a very gentle and tolerant bear, and she was actively fishing the stream that we were sitting alongside and catching quite a few fish. In this image she came pretty close to where we were sitting, almost like she was showing off the salmon that she caught. This image was only photographed using a 300mm focal range. If you had told me that I could get that close to a rare species before I went on this trip I wouldn’t even believe you.

 

For some reason, which is not well understood, it was noticed by researchers that black bears were successful in catching fish one quarter of the time when fishing during the day, however the spirit bears were successful one third of the time, making them more successful. One scientist speculated that the salmon were less concerned when there was something white above them compared to something black, therefore leading them to be more successful. I know the day we watched this Spirit Bear, she was successful even more than one-third of the time (of course I know that one day is not a representative sample), but it was amazing, it was like she just couldn’t miss on that particular day.

 

There is something that seems so gentle and calming about the spirit bears, and I hope that when I am in the Great Bear Rainforest again in 2017 that I will be fortunate enough to see another one of these beautiful creatures.

 

Click the link to see more of my image from trips to the Great Bear Rainforest. If you are interested in finding out more about this image, or the Great Bear Rainforest, email me.

Canon’s Extenders (referred to as tele-converters by some) are available in 1.4x and 2.0x versions, and can be used with most of Canon’s prime L-series lenses, and 70-200 & 100-400 zoom lenses. But the question I often get asked is whether they are any good. The common answer that I have for this question is “It Depends”. My comments below will be based on using the newer series of the extenders (1.4x III and 2.0x III versions of the extenders, and it may not carry through to the previous versions).

 

I own both the 1.4x III, and 2.0x III extenders, and I always bring them both when I travel, and will use them when I want to get a fuller frame shot, or when shooting something off in the distance, however, I’m doing so being aware of the trade-off of doing so.

 

What does “it depend” on:

If you can get the image without using them, then do it
What I mean is that you have another lens with you that can get you the same focal length then it’s probably going to provide you a sharper image than getting there with a lens plus the extender (I can’t say definitely without evaluating every single possible combinations of lens). When you add the extenders you are

Grey Wolf Yellowstone

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4x III Extender

basically adding more glass in between the camera and the end of the lens, that means there is more for the image to go through now before it reaches the sensor, so more that can distort the image.

 

If you have a 70-200 f/2.8L and a 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L, you will be better off (and should see higher quality images) from the 400mm on the 100-400 than you would if you are using the 70-200 plus a 2.0x extender. At least that has been my findings when testing this very combination.

 

Must have light
One of the biggest downsides to using extenders is that you lose a stop if you are using a 1.4x extender or two if you are using the 2x extender. Therefore, if you have the 400mm f/2.8L lens, when you add the 1.4x extender you now have a 560 f/4 lens, and if you add the 2x extender you end up with 800mm f/5.6 lens.

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + 2x Extender

 

What this all means is that if you are shooting is low light, for example owls at dusk, or mid-day in the Great Bear Rainforest (kidding – kind of), then you may be limited in shutter speeds due to the ISO limitations of your camera. Because now instead of shooting your 400 at f/3.2 you can’t go any lower than f/4.

 

Therefore when you are in low-light shooting scenarios, even when you want the extra reach, it may be worth not using the extender and just getting the shot as opposed to trying to hand-hold a 400mm lens at 1/80 and ending up with a series of zoomed in, but blurry shots. I will touch on this again in the Camera Body section as well.

 

Which Camera
I have found that some camera bodies respond better to using extenders than others. I would say that the most responsive (and produce the best results) are the

Bald Eagle in Fall Watercolors

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM + 2x Extender

newest full frame cameras by Canon, the 1D X Mark II, and the 5D Mark IV. I think there are several reasons for this. Both have an improved AF sensor with an increased pixel size (360k pixels in the 1D X Mark II), and I find they are faster to focus when used with extenders. Also both of these cameras have the all AF points available at f/8, which means that you can attach a 2.0x extender to the 500mm f/4L IS II lens and have the ability to focus with any of the camera’s AF points.

 

Tying into the “Must Have Light” above, these camera bodies also have very high limits for ISO performance. I can shoot the 1D X Mark II at ISO 12800, and the 5D Mark IV at ISO 6400 on almost any scene and get an image I am able to work with without too much noise, or lost dynamic range. Therefore with these

cameras you will be less restricted by the lost stop (or two) than you would be when shooting the 7D Mark II which I don’t like to even take to ISO 1600. I have also found that when using extenders with the cropped sensor Canon bodies, even the newest one (the Canon 7D Mark II), I often end up with results that are noticeably softer than when I use the extenders on a full frame, or on the copped body without an extender.

 

Which Lens
The image quality from using extenders will also depend on which lens it is paired with. For example, if you pair a 2x extender with the Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L (version 1) you will lose your ability to autofocus, so therefore if you are shooting fast moving subjects, it’s going to be very hard to produce a sharp in-focus image (unless you have a lot of practice with manual focus, which I don’t).

 

I find that using the 1.4x with the newer f/2.8L prime lenses, and even the 500 f/4 lens (a combination which I use a ton), the results tend to be better than with

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM + 1.4x III Extender

then when I pair it with the zoom lenses (regardless of whether they are f/2.8 or f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens).

 

Also the aperture of your lens will also impact the results of adding an extender, as mentioned previously, you lose a f-stop for the 1.4x and two for the 2.0x times extenders. So if you are starting at f/5.6, you are really limiting yourself if you are using the 2.0x extender.

 

Why not just crop?
A question I am often asked is why not just crop the image instead of using the extenders. Well that’s fine if you are shooting with the 5D Mark IV at 30 mpix, or even the 1DX series of cameras 20 mpix. However when considering cropping, especially when it’s a large amount of cropping, you are limiting your use of the image. So if you take a 1dx mark II image and crop it in half (to make it equivalent to shooting with a 2.0x extender) you are suddenly only left with 10mpix image.  Whereas you could use a 2.0x extender and end up with a 20 mpix image, and then you have the ability to crop even further. So while cropping works, and I have done it in scenarios where I didn’t have a big lens along, or didn’t have time to add an extender, I’m not generally a fan of shoot to crop significantly.

Grizzly Bear eating Pink Salmon

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM + 1.4x III Extender

 

SLOW Down
One issue that I have had when using the extenders, especially the 2.0x extender, is that the AF is noticeable slower. And to tie this into the which camera discussion above, if you are using a camera with a slower AF system, such as a 5d Mark II or 6d, using a extender may mean that you are missing the action shots. Also along this same line is that I find that the lenses are more likely to lose focus, or have to search for focus (when the lens goes from the minimum to maximum focus distance without finding the focus).

 

With that being said, I do find that it’s easier and results in better quality images when you use the extenders with a subject that is relatively slow moving (or even

still), as opposed to a subject that is rapidly moving, and this is particularly noticeable with the 2x extender.

 

Post Processing Skills

Snowy owl on frosty fence post

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4x III Extender

If you are good at post processing, including sharpening, than any loss of image sharpness as a result of using an extender can be easily recovered, and therefore may be more useable than someone who doesn’t know how to selectively sharpen images in post processing. Depending on the extender and lens combination used, you may notice some vignetting, distortion, or chromatic aberration, however these problems are all correctable (within limits of course) using both Lightroom or Capture One Pro.

 

Convenient
If you are always going on 2 hour hikes with your camera and don’t want to haul around a super tele-photo lens, or if you travel by air where there are weight restrictions, bringing along extenders is convenient and cuts down the total weight you need to lug around.

 

What is my opinion?
Well if you read between the lines above, I quite like them in certain situations. I like the 1.4x more than the 2.0x times, but they both have a time and place when they can be very effective and produce some great quality images that you might not have gotten otherwise. They are also convenient, I spend a fair amount of time travelling by air (including helicopters and float planes) and I am often restricted by weight, but I still want to have a long lens. So even if I owned an 800mm lens, I wouldn’t have the weight allowance to bring it along with a shorter lens for the situations when I have something closer like a 400. Instead I can bring my 500mm and the extenders and have 500-1000mm covered without much extra weight, or space.

 

They are also pretty cost effective with the 1.4x III and 2x III currently selling for $549CAD.

 

I have a number of high quality images that were shot with a number of different lenses/extender/camera combinations, a few of which I am featuring in this post. I would say that if you are looking for a relatively inexpensive way to increase your focal range, then go ahead and buy at least the 1.4x extender, but to test it out for yourself with your lens/camera combination before taking it on a once in a lifetime trip. Try to get a feel for when it’s worth it, and when it’s better to just crop, or work with what you have and make the image into more of a wider ‘scape type shot.

 

I know there are definitely people out there that will disagree and feel that if you aren’t using a prime lens then you aren’t getting quality images.

If you have any questions about my thoughts in this post, feel free to email me at contact@wildelements.ca.

I arrived back from a new adventure where I went to Alaska to photograph Bald Eagles. Bald Eagles congregate, in very large numbers along the river to feed on the salmon that are still present in the rivers even though it’s November. The trip was a unique experience and one I hope to do again next year.

 

Bald Head Shot

Bald Head Shot

There was certainly no shortage of Bald Eagles along this stretch of river, they seemed to be pretty much everywhere you looked, if you stopped and looked from any vantage point you could easily seem a minimum of 40 eagles perched in the trees are standing along the edge of the rivers. Because the Eagles are there to feed on fish, there was a lot of interaction among the eagles, with one pulling a fish out of the river, and others flying in to try to steal the fish or at least get a piece of the action.

 

In addition to Bald Eagles, we also saw Tundra Swans, Ravens, different types of Gulls, American Dippers, Moose, Fox and Coyotes, but the real focus and highlight were the Bald Eagles. Animals aside, the landscapes and backdrops were very impressive, especially the drive from Whitehorse to Alaska. I had hoped that I would get my first chance to photograph Northern Lights, unfortunately the conditions were not right for them, so maybe I will get those shots next year.

 

During this trip I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time trying different autofocus settings with birds in flight, as well as having the opportunity to really shoot with the 5D Mark IV, and used it the majority of the trip. In the next couple weeks I will be posting about my thoughts on using the 5D Mark IV with the birds in flight, and the overall quality of images that I got using this camera.

 

One thing I will say about this trip, some might consider this a negative, is that it was truly a long lens trip.  I found myself taking most of my shots with the Canon 500mm f/4 (either with or without a teleconverter/extender).  However, there were opportunities to use a wider camera for scenery, and also when we had the opportunity to photograph some close-up action.

 

If you are interested in joining me next year, stayed tuned for details to follow, or email me terri@wildelements.ca for more information.

I arrived back from a new adventure where I went to Alaska to photograph Bald Eagles. Bald Eagles congregate, in very large numbers along the river to feed on the salmon that are still present in the rivers even though it’s November. The trip was a unique experience and one I hope to do again next year.

 

Bald Head Shot

Bald Head Shot

There was certainly no shortage of Bald Eagles along this stretch of river, they seemed to be pretty much everywhere you looked, if you stopped and looked from any vantage point you could easily seem a minimum of 40 eagles perched in the trees are standing along the edge of the rivers. Because the Eagles are there to feed on fish, there was a lot of interaction among the eagles, with one pulling a fish out of the river, and others flying in to try to steal the fish or at least get a piece of the action.

 

In addition to Bald Eagles, we also saw Tundra Swans, Ravens, different types of Gulls, American Dippers, Moose, Fox and Coyotes, but the real focus and highlight were the Bald Eagles. Animals aside, the landscapes and backdrops were very impressive, especially the drive from Whitehorse to Alaska. I had hoped that I would get my first chance to photograph Northern Lights, unfortunately the conditions were not right for them, so maybe I will get those shots next year.

 

During this trip I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time trying different autofocus settings with birds in flight, as well as having the opportunity to really shoot with the 5D Mark IV, and used it the majority of the trip. In the next couple weeks I will be posting about my thoughts on using the 5D Mark IV with the birds in flight, and the overall quality of images that I got using this camera.

 

One thing I will say about this trip, some might consider this a negative, is that it was truly a long lens trip.  I found myself taking most of my shots with the Canon 500mm f/4 (either with or without a teleconverter/extender).  However, there were opportunities to use a wider camera for scenery, and also when we had the opportunity to photograph some close-up action.

 

If you are interested in joining me next year, stayed tuned for details to follow, or email me terri@wildelements.ca for more information.

Phase One has released Capture One Pro 10. I have processed a few images with it, mostly from my recent trip to Alaska (such as this one in my recent photos). I haven’t noticed much (if any) difference with the images when you first import them in (defaults seem to be pretty much the same), there has been an improvement with the sharpening tools, with an additional slider added for Halo Suppression. The Halo Suppression slider allows you to reduce the halos that can appear from aggressively sharpening an image. I try not to aggressively sharpen an image at this stage of my workflow and tend to do it selectively in Photoshop, however I have tried the tool and have noticed a difference when I use some heavier sharpening.

 

Capture One Pro 10 now has a three phase sharpening which includes input sharpening (through diffraction correction of lens adjustments), creative sharpening (which includes the new halo suppression slider), and output sharpening. I don’t use Capture One Pro to produce my final output image, therefore I will not be using the output sharpening, and have not tested the results.

 

With the image on the right, I have tried toggling off and on the Diffraction Correction, to see if I can notice a difference with the sharpness of the images.  This image was taken using my 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens plus the 1.4x III Extender, and as you can see in the attached samples there is a very modest difference in the sharpness noticeable when you downsize the image to 2400 pixels on long edge. (Note – All the other adjustments have been left at defaults, including default exposure, sharpness, noise reduction, etc. – so this in not intended to be a final image).

 

Additional improvements/changes to Capture One Pro 10 are changes to the overall workspace layout, changes to proofing features, and also additional features if you use the program for tethered shooting (which doesn’t work well when shooting wildlife in the snow).  I’m on the subscription model, and therefore I do not need to pay anything to upgrade, however if I wasn’t on this model, I would be struggling to justify the $99USD upgrade cost at this time, because the improvements just really aren’t that radical for my use of the program.

 

More details about the software can be found on the Phase One website.  If you have any questions, or would like to see more samples images of Capture One Pro 10 compared to 9, email me at terri@wildelements.ca.

With Diffraction Correction

Without Diffraction Correction

I’m headed out on a dry run of a new trip, focused on Bald Eagles in Alaska. During this time of year this unique location in Alaska will be home to the most Bald Eagles of anywhere in the world. Bald Eagles travel here to take advantage of the late run of salmon that come to these waters, and the fact that these waters are still open and not yet frozen.

Bald Eagle Perched in Downpour Hurricane

Perched in a Downpour

Given the number of eagles and the uniqueness of these waters with the late run, in 1982 the 48,000 acre Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve was formed, where anywhere from 1,000-3,000 Bald Eagles will visit during the month of November. A portion of the waters in the Preserve will remain open all winter due to what’s called “alluvial fan reservoir”, which causes the waters in this 5 mile area to be at least 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the rest of the water.

 

To catch the fish, Bald Eagles use their excellent sense of sight to dive down and catch fish with their talons, but they are not just great hunters, they are also scavengers, and will steal food from other animals as well. With so many Bald Eagles in close proximity to one another, we are hoping to get some eagles fighting one another for food.

 

In addition to looking for Bald Eagles on this trip, we will also be looking for other animals that may be visiting the rivers for the fish, and also animals that use the waters, such as Moose. Animals aside, we hope to photograph the Northern Lights (“Aurora Borealis”) if we get the opportunity, which will be a first for me.

 

I’m looking forward to seeing what this adventure has in store, and stay tuned to my website for the outcome and thoughts on this adventure.

I’m headed out on a dry run of a new trip, focused on Bald Eagles in Alaska. During this time of year this unique location in Alaska will be home to the most Bald Eagles of anywhere in the world. Bald Eagles travel here to take advantage of the late run of salmon that come to these waters, and the fact that these waters are still open and not yet frozen.

Bald Eagle Perched in Downpour Hurricane

Perched in a Downpour

Given the number of eagles and the uniqueness of these waters with the late run, in 1982 the 48,000 acre Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve was formed, where anywhere from 1,000-3,000 Bald Eagles will visit during the month of November. A portion of the waters in the Preserve will remain open all winter due to what’s called “alluvial fan reservoir”, which causes the waters in this 5 mile area to be at least 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the rest of the water.

 

To catch the fish, Bald Eagles use their excellent sense of sight to dive down and catch fish with their talons, but they are not just great hunters, they are also scavengers, and will steal food from other animals as well. With so many Bald Eagles in close proximity to one another, we are hoping to get some eagles fighting one another for food.

 

In addition to looking for Bald Eagles on this trip, we will also be looking for other animals that may be visiting the rivers for the fish, and also animals that use the waters, such as Moose. Animals aside, we hope to photograph the Northern Lights (“Aurora Borealis”) if we get the opportunity, which will be a first for me.

 

I’m looking forward to seeing what this adventure has in store, and stay tuned to my website for the outcome and thoughts on this adventure.

Sigma has released a firmware update for the Canon Mount Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 (both contemporary and sport). You can update the lens using the Sigma USB Dock (I think I had purchased mine for around $75).

 

This firmware update will improve the autofocus accuracy when used with the Sigma Tele Converter TC-1401. It is also expected that the firmware update will improve the autofocus, and decrease the operating sound, when shooting movies using Live View.

 

You can download the firmware from Sigma’s site and use your Sigma Dock to update your lens.

 

If you have any questions on this firmware update contact Terri Shaddick at contact@wildelements.ca.

I have had my Canon EOS 1D X Mark II for about 4 months now, and in that time I have been really busy travelling and really putting the camera to the test, under my “normal” shooting conditions. If it’s not obvious from my images, I focus mostly on wildlife photography, and am often shooting hand-held, sometimes from a zodiac, like on the Marine Mammals and Great Bear Rainforest trips. I often find myself shooting in low-light conditions, from the mid-day overcast in the Great Bear Rainforest, or shooting early morning before the sun is up in the Fishing Grizzlies of the Taku. Overall, I will say that I am extremely happy with the camera, and have not had one second of buyers remorse, even with he hefty price tag of the camera.

 

Being an owner of the Canon EOS 1D X, my main concern was whether it was enough of an upgrade over my current camera for the price, and I have heard other 1DX owners ask the same question (it’s not like we are talking a $500 upgrade).

 

So after four months of testing it under my shooting conditions, here are the main things I have noticed (compared to the 1D X):

– Auto-focus is improved
– ISO performance is better
– More frames per second
– Overall better dynamic & tonal range

 

Autofocus Improvement:
One of the reasons why you would choose to get a flagship camera, like the 1D X Mark II, over the other cameras in the line up is to get a “faster camera”. But fast to me isn’t just defined as the frames per second, it is also defined as the speed of the autofocus. But the question I had before owning this camera is how much faster is the autofocus over the 1D X, especially given that both cameras have a 61-point AF system.

 

According to the specifications that were available prior to the camera being released, even though both cameras have a 61-point AF system, you would expect that it would have improved autofocus over the 1D X, because Canon improved the RGB+IR sensor from 100,000 pixels to 360,000 pixels, which is a very

Breathtaking Breach

Breathtaking Breach

large improvement. This is the sensor which is used for autofocus, you would expect that it could focus over three times faster or better.

 

I will say that it is definitely faster, is it three times faster, I don’t really think so, but still faster. It’s hard to quantify how it’s “faster” because it’s not like if is something that you can really measure. However, when you are faced with the quick action of a Humpback Whale breaching, or a bird flying sporadically, it feels like the 1D X Mark II acquires focus quicker. This “feeling” that it was better was re-enforced as I have reviewed images from my recent trips, and having less culling to do, especially with action shots.

 

Another benefit of the improved sensor is the ability to focus in lower light with a one-stop improvement on AF to EV -3 over the 1D X. While this is an improvement over the predecessor, the question is whether you are going to be in the scenario where you will actually notice the difference and get a useable image (given ISO and shutter speed restrictions). It should be noted that the EV -3 is only on single shot mode and centre point focusing, which isn’t often a scenario I find myself in. However, even when not shooting at EV -3, I have found that shooting while it is darker, I am able to get focused on the subject quite a bit quicker than I am with the 1DX.

 

Another feature that is now available on the 1D X Mark II is that all AF points are f/8 compatible. This means that I was able to add a 1.4x III extender to my 100-400 or a 2x extender to my 500mm lens and not be limited to the centre AF point, and I was actually pretty surprised by the results. The Lunge Feeding

Lunge Feeding

Lunge Feeding

image that was photographed during the Marine Mammals trip was actually photographed using the Canon EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM + 1.4x III extender taken at a focal length of 560mm f/9 ISO 2000. I am waiting to get a loan of the 200-400 from Canon in order to compare the image quality of these two lenses, especially when the extenders are used.  Also the Loving Life image of a sea otter was photographed at 1000mm using the 500mm with the 2x extender. While I can’t say that I will always be using these f/8 extender options, I think in certain scenarios it will increase my focal range options, especially when travelling and limited by weight and the number of lenses that can be brought on the trip.

 

Overall, I am extremely impressed with the speed and consistency of the auto focus, and the ability to add extenders, takes the camera up a notch from its predecessor.

 

Look for my future blog post that address all things Canon Auto-focus, not just specific to the 1D X Mark II, but across the camera bodies from 7D Mark II and up.

 

ISO Performance Improved:
With the Canon 1D X, I often hesitated to take it much over ISO 6400, and it wasn’t just because the noise, but I often found that the loss of color

Rooting in the Rain

Rooting in the Rain

and the loss of details was often so much that it made processing the image quite difficult.

 

On my first day in the Great Bear Rainforest, I stuck with ISO 6400 with the 1D X Mark II. When reviewing the images I noticed quite quickly how much detail and color was in the images, and how manageable the noise in the images were. I immediately bumped my auto ISO limit up to ISO 12800 on the 1D X Mark II, and I was not sorry by that decision. Looking at images from the Great Bear Rainforest at ISO 12800 using the 1D X Mark II are very useable images, and I think in some scenes they are even better detail and color as what was available on 1D X images at ISO 6400.

 

Not only was this Rooting in the Rain shot at ISO 12,800 with the 1D X Mark II, it was photographed in the pouring rain. I was extremely impressed with the detail on the face of the Grizzly Cub, along with the color that was still in the image.

 

More Frames per Second:
This heading speaks for itself, and I’ve discussed this on my blog previously. The 1D X Mark II boasts up to 16 frames per second (if using Live View) and 14 frames per second of continuous shooting. This is compared to the 12 frames per second of the 1D X. While it was easy to determine based on specs that the camera was faster, what was harder to determine was how this camera would buffer versus the predecessor.

 

With the increased megapixels, from 18 to 20, I expected to see an increased file size, so I was concerned how the increased file size would impact the buffer as well.  With the 1D X under my normal shooting conditions, and shooting RAW images,I could get approximately 35 shots before the camera started to buffer out. With the 1D X Mark II, Canon introduced the CFAST card slot (in addition to the standard CF slot), with this I am now able to get over 100 RAW images before the camera buffers. On my recents trips this has meant that I was able to catch a breaching whale, or a bubble-netting humpback whale, without being selective or having to worry (or even think) about the buffer of the camera. It certainly made photographing next to Nikon shooters less nauseating 😃.

 

Overall Better Dynamic & Tonal Range:
The improved dynamic range of this camera could have been was partially discussed in the ISO improvement section, however I think it is enough of an improvement that it requires a heading of its own. Tonal Range is defined as the range of tones in an image between black and whites. Whereas, the dynamic range is defined as the blacks and whites within the image, and the better the sensor, the better the camera’s ability to capture both the shadows and highlights within a single image, without blowing out the highlights or creating a black blob of the blacks in the images. While some graphs I have seen show that the 1D X Mark II is either in-line or slightly below the 1D X for the tonal range and dynamic range at high ISO, my findings have been different (maybe the dynamic range on my 1D X wasn’t what it should have been).

 

The Great Bear Rainforest was the perfect opportunity to assess the dynamic range of the 1D X Mark II, because we had the opportunity to photograph both black bears and sprit (white) bears on this years trip. I am finding that images require less white balance and color adjustments on the 1D X Mark II compared

Sidelong Glance

Sidelong Glance

to those images of the predecessor, and I also find that images are coming out looking more as “seen in the field” with the 1D X Mark II. While I don’t do the same systematic testing as done by some of the popular sites, my thoughts are based on images that I have produced with both cameras, while shooting in my “real world shooting conditions” and not tested in a studio with consistent light and off a tripod.

 

Conclusion:

I have purchased many pieces of equipment over the years, some of which I immediately regretted (for example the 5D Mark II), but this certainly isn’t one of those. I have been nothing but happy with the performance of the camera, and have noticed a significant improvement on the “in the field” use, and the image quality of the images I capture with the 1D X Mark II versus those I have captured with the 1D X (which is still an outstanding camera). Whether you decide to upgrade to the 1D X Mark II or the 1D X, I don’t think you will be disappointed in the performance of ether cameras.

I have had my Canon EOS 1D X Mark II for about 4 months now, and in that time I have been really busy travelling and really putting the camera to the test, under my “normal” shooting conditions. If it’s not obvious from my images, I focus mostly on wildlife photography, and am often shooting hand-held, sometimes from a zodiac, like on the Marine Mammals and Great Bear Rainforest trips. I often find myself shooting in low-light conditions, from the mid-day overcast in the Great Bear Rainforest, or shooting early morning before the sun is up in the Fishing Grizzlies of the Taku. Overall, I will say that I am extremely happy with the camera, and have not had one second of buyers remorse, even with he hefty price tag of the camera.

 

Being an owner of the Canon EOS 1D X, my main concern was whether it was enough of an upgrade over my current camera for the price, and I have heard other 1DX owners ask the same question (it’s not like we are talking a $500 upgrade).

 

So after four months of testing it under my shooting conditions, here are the main things I have noticed (compared to the 1D X):

– Auto-focus is improved
– ISO performance is better
– More frames per second
– Overall better dynamic & tonal range

 

Autofocus Improvement:
One of the reasons why you would choose to get a flagship camera, like the 1D X Mark II, over the other cameras in the line up is to get a “faster camera”. But fast to me isn’t just defined as the frames per second, it is also defined as the speed of the autofocus. But the question I had before owning this camera is how much faster is the autofocus over the 1D X, especially given that both cameras have a 61-point AF system.

 

According to the specifications that were available prior to the camera being released, even though both cameras have a 61-point AF system, you would expect that it would have improved autofocus over the 1D X, because Canon improved the RGB+IR sensor from 100,000 pixels to 360,000 pixels, which is a very

Breathtaking Breach

Breathtaking Breach

large improvement. This is the sensor which is used for autofocus, you would expect that it could focus over three times faster or better.

 

I will say that it is definitely faster, is it three times faster, I don’t really think so, but still faster. It’s hard to quantify how it’s “faster” because it’s not like if is something that you can really measure. However, when you are faced with the quick action of a Humpback Whale breaching, or a bird flying sporadically, it feels like the 1D X Mark II acquires focus quicker. This “feeling” that it was better was re-enforced as I have reviewed images from my recent trips, and having less culling to do, especially with action shots.

 

Another benefit of the improved sensor is the ability to focus in lower light with a one-stop improvement on AF to EV -3 over the 1D X. While this is an improvement over the predecessor, the question is whether you are going to be in the scenario where you will actually notice the difference and get a useable image (given ISO and shutter speed restrictions). It should be noted that the EV -3 is only on single shot mode and centre point focusing, which isn’t often a scenario I find myself in. However, even when not shooting at EV -3, I have found that shooting while it is darker, I am able to get focused on the subject quite a bit quicker than I am with the 1DX.

 

Another feature that is now available on the 1D X Mark II is that all AF points are f/8 compatible. This means that I was able to add a 1.4x III extender to my 100-400 or a 2x extender to my 500mm lens and not be limited to the centre AF point, and I was actually pretty surprised by the results. The Lunge Feeding

Lunge Feeding

Lunge Feeding

image that was photographed during the Marine Mammals trip was actually photographed using the Canon EF 100-400 f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM + 1.4x III extender taken at a focal length of 560mm f/9 ISO 2000. I am waiting to get a loan of the 200-400 from Canon in order to compare the image quality of these two lenses, especially when the extenders are used.  Also the Loving Life image of a sea otter was photographed at 1000mm using the 500mm with the 2x extender. While I can’t say that I will always be using these f/8 extender options, I think in certain scenarios it will increase my focal range options, especially when travelling and limited by weight and the number of lenses that can be brought on the trip.

 

Overall, I am extremely impressed with the speed and consistency of the auto focus, and the ability to add extenders, takes the camera up a notch from its predecessor.

 

Look for my future blog post that address all things Canon Auto-focus, not just specific to the 1D X Mark II, but across the camera bodies from 7D Mark II and up.

 

ISO Performance Improved:
With the Canon 1D X, I often hesitated to take it much over ISO 6400, and it wasn’t just because the noise, but I often found that the loss of color

Rooting in the Rain

Rooting in the Rain

and the loss of details was often so much that it made processing the image quite difficult.

 

On my first day in the Great Bear Rainforest, I stuck with ISO 6400 with the 1D X Mark II. When reviewing the images I noticed quite quickly how much detail and color was in the images, and how manageable the noise in the images were. I immediately bumped my auto ISO limit up to ISO 12800 on the 1D X Mark II, and I was not sorry by that decision. Looking at images from the Great Bear Rainforest at ISO 12800 using the 1D X Mark II are very useable images, and I think in some scenes they are even better detail and color as what was available on 1D X images at ISO 6400.

 

Not only was this Rooting in the Rain shot at ISO 12,800 with the 1D X Mark II, it was photographed in the pouring rain. I was extremely impressed with the detail on the face of the Grizzly Cub, along with the color that was still in the image.

 

More Frames per Second:
This heading speaks for itself, and I’ve discussed this on my blog previously. The 1D X Mark II boasts up to 16 frames per second (if using Live View) and 14 frames per second of continuous shooting. This is compared to the 12 frames per second of the 1D X. While it was easy to determine based on specs that the camera was faster, what was harder to determine was how this camera would buffer versus the predecessor.

 

With the increased megapixels, from 18 to 20, I expected to see an increased file size, so I was concerned how the increased file size would impact the buffer as well.  With the 1D X under my normal shooting conditions, and shooting RAW images,I could get approximately 35 shots before the camera started to buffer out. With the 1D X Mark II, Canon introduced the CFAST card slot (in addition to the standard CF slot), with this I am now able to get over 100 RAW images before the camera buffers. On my recents trips this has meant that I was able to catch a breaching whale, or a bubble-netting humpback whale, without being selective or having to worry (or even think) about the buffer of the camera. It certainly made photographing next to Nikon shooters less nauseating 😃.

 

Overall Better Dynamic & Tonal Range:
The improved dynamic range of this camera could have been was partially discussed in the ISO improvement section, however I think it is enough of an improvement that it requires a heading of its own. Tonal Range is defined as the range of tones in an image between black and whites. Whereas, the dynamic range is defined as the blacks and whites within the image, and the better the sensor, the better the camera’s ability to capture both the shadows and highlights within a single image, without blowing out the highlights or creating a black blob of the blacks in the images. While some graphs I have seen show that the 1D X Mark II is either in-line or slightly below the 1D X for the tonal range and dynamic range at high ISO, my findings have been different (maybe the dynamic range on my 1D X wasn’t what it should have been).

 

The Great Bear Rainforest was the perfect opportunity to assess the dynamic range of the 1D X Mark II, because we had the opportunity to photograph both black bears and sprit (white) bears on this years trip. I am finding that images require less white balance and color adjustments on the 1D X Mark II compared

Sidelong Glance

Sidelong Glance

to those images of the predecessor, and I also find that images are coming out looking more as “seen in the field” with the 1D X Mark II. While I don’t do the same systematic testing as done by some of the popular sites, my thoughts are based on images that I have produced with both cameras, while shooting in my “real world shooting conditions” and not tested in a studio with consistent light and off a tripod.

 

Conclusion:

I have purchased many pieces of equipment over the years, some of which I immediately regretted (for example the 5D Mark II), but this certainly isn’t one of those. I have been nothing but happy with the performance of the camera, and have noticed a significant improvement on the “in the field” use, and the image quality of the images I capture with the 1D X Mark II versus those I have captured with the 1D X (which is still an outstanding camera). Whether you decide to upgrade to the 1D X Mark II or the 1D X, I don’t think you will be disappointed in the performance of ether cameras.

I got back last week from the Great Bear Rainforest, and as I have mentioned in other posts, the thing I like the most about visiting the Great Bear Rainforest is that the trips are never the same, and 2016 was no exception.

 

Each day of the trip seemed to have a different highlight, from Humpback Whales, Black Bears, Spirit Bears, Grizzly Bears, and Bald Eagles, this year’s trip did not disappoint with the amount of diversity, and great photographic opportunities. We had a Humpback Whale bubble-netting by himself, and even created one of his bubble nets right under the bow of the boat, luckily the skipper moved the boat so the whale was still able to come up, and it came up right next to the boat.

 

On the trip we usually visit land twice to areas where Spirit Bears will frequent to feast upon the salmon that come during the fall. The first location did not provide us a Spirit Bear, however we had the opportunity to photograph a few different Black Bears, and I got some of the best Black Bear photos that I have taken so far.

Spirit & Salmon

Spirit & Salmon

The second time we visited land we were able to get a few more Black Bear shots, along with the rare Spirit (or White) Bear.

 

Having the opportunity to visit the Great Bear Rainforest for the last three years, I have had the opportunity to see some of the same bears each year. The Spirit Bear we saw was the same Spirit Bear that I saw on my first trip two years ago. Also the Grizzly Bears that we saw, I also saw the last two years that I went to the Great Bear Rainforest. It’s nice to see the little cubs from two years ago, grow, and to still see the different personalities with one always sticking closer to mom, and the other wandering further away.

 

This trip was also a great opportunity to test my new gear including my 1DX Mark II and 5D Mark IV. Both require a bit more stringent testing before I post too much more on their performance, however there were a couple things that I noticed on this trip. The 1DX Mark II performs well at ISO 12,800, which with the 1DX I was always hesitant to take any higher than 6400. I also found that the 5D Mark IV performs quite well at ISO 6400, however one downside is that you need the shutter speeds to be higher than ether the 1DX or 1DX Mark II, this is due to the smaller pixel size packed into the same sensor, so therefore any shake tends to be a bit more noticeable.

 

Look for my images as I continue to add them to my Recent Photos, and Great Bear Rainforest Gallery, but I am already looking forward to my trip next year.

I got back last week from the Great Bear Rainforest, and as I have mentioned in other posts, the thing I like the most about visiting the Great Bear Rainforest is that the trips are never the same, and 2016 was no exception.

 

Each day of the trip seemed to have a different highlight, from Humpback Whales, Black Bears, Spirit Bears, Grizzly Bears, and Bald Eagles, this year’s trip did not disappoint with the amount of diversity, and great photographic opportunities. We had a Humpback Whale bubble-netting by himself, and even created one of his bubble nets right under the bow of the boat, luckily the skipper moved the boat so the whale was still able to come up, and it came up right next to the boat.

 

On the trip we usually visit land twice to areas where Spirit Bears will frequent to feast upon the salmon that come during the fall. The first location did not provide us a Spirit Bear, however we had the opportunity to photograph a few different Black Bears, and I got some of the best Black Bear photos that I have taken so far.

Spirit & Salmon

Spirit & Salmon

The second time we visited land we were able to get a few more Black Bear shots, along with the rare Spirit (or White) Bear.

 

Having the opportunity to visit the Great Bear Rainforest for the last three years, I have had the opportunity to see some of the same bears each year. The Spirit Bear we saw was the same Spirit Bear that I saw on my first trip two years ago. Also the Grizzly Bears that we saw, I also saw the last two years that I went to the Great Bear Rainforest. It’s nice to see the little cubs from two years ago, grow, and to still see the different personalities with one always sticking closer to mom, and the other wandering further away.

 

This trip was also a great opportunity to test my new gear including my 1DX Mark II and 5D Mark IV. Both require a bit more stringent testing before I post too much more on their performance, however there were a couple things that I noticed on this trip. The 1DX Mark II performs well at ISO 12,800, which with the 1DX I was always hesitant to take any higher than 6400. I also found that the 5D Mark IV performs quite well at ISO 6400, however one downside is that you need the shutter speeds to be higher than ether the 1DX or 1DX Mark II, this is due to the smaller pixel size packed into the same sensor, so therefore any shake tends to be a bit more noticeable.

 

Look for my images as I continue to add them to my Recent Photos, and Great Bear Rainforest Gallery, but I am already looking forward to my trip next year.

I’m headed back to one of my favourite places, and really the place that got me addicted to travelling to the coast of British Columbia, the Great Bear Rainforest. I often get asked after all the trips I have done which is my favourite, and although I really like the Marine Mammals trip, the Great Bear Rainforest still holds the top spot due to the diversity that it has to offer. Not only can you get the opportunity to photograph marine mammals like the Humpback Whale, but this location is also home to the rare and majestic Spirit Bear (or White Bear). There is nowhere else on earth that you can see these black bears with white colouring in the wild.

 

Besides the rare Spirit Bear, the Great Bear Rainforest is also home to Grizzly Bears, and Coastal Wolves, and a variety of birds including Bald Eagles that you can often see perching on some of the most beautiful stumps and fallen trees.

Nature's Bridge

Nature’s Bridge

 

It’s not just the species that puts this location the top of my list, it’s also the amazing backdrop that this location provides. With the large trees, and the vidid greens, it makes this very different then what I am used to seeing in Alberta. Nature’s Bridge was photographed on my first trip to the Great Bear Rainforest, and maybe it will highlight why I have been back every year since. We were probably the only 7 people to ever photograph these three bears crossing this log. By the time the people on the trip after us went back to this location, the tree had already been washed away by rising waters.

 

I’m also going into the trip with two new cameras that I’m excited to try out, especially for ISO performance in some of the low-light conditions that I will be faced with when under the dense cover of the rainforest. This includes the new Canon 1DX Mark II, and the 5D Mark IV. So look forward to my posts related specifically to the performance of those two cameras.

 

In the last two years this trip has provided me some amazing, and unique images, which can be found in my Great Bear Gallery, and I’m hoping I have some great stuff to add from this year.

I’m headed back to one of my favourite places, and really the place that got me addicted to travelling to the coast of British Columbia, the Great Bear Rainforest. I often get asked after all the trips I have done which is my favourite, and although I really like the Marine Mammals trip, the Great Bear Rainforest still holds the top spot due to the diversity that it has to offer. Not only can you get the opportunity to photograph marine mammals like the Humpback Whale, but this location is also home to the rare and majestic Spirit Bear (or White Bear). There is nowhere else on earth that you can see these black bears with white colouring in the wild.

 

Besides the rare Spirit Bear, the Great Bear Rainforest is also home to Grizzly Bears, and Coastal Wolves, and a variety of birds including Bald Eagles that you can often see perching on some of the most beautiful stumps and fallen trees.

Nature's Bridge

Nature’s Bridge

 

It’s not just the species that puts this location the top of my list, it’s also the amazing backdrop that this location provides. With the large trees, and the vidid greens, it makes this very different then what I am used to seeing in Alberta. Nature’s Bridge was photographed on my first trip to the Great Bear Rainforest, and maybe it will highlight why I have been back every year since. We were probably the only 7 people to ever photograph these three bears crossing this log. By the time the people on the trip after us went back to this location, the tree had already been washed away by rising waters.

 

I’m also going into the trip with two new cameras that I’m excited to try out, especially for ISO performance in some of the low-light conditions that I will be faced with when under the dense cover of the rainforest. This includes the new Canon 1DX Mark II, and the 5D Mark IV. So look forward to my posts related specifically to the performance of those two cameras.

 

In the last two years this trip has provided me some amazing, and unique images, which can be found in my Great Bear Gallery, and I’m hoping I have some great stuff to add from this year.

Adobe Lightroom CC has now added support for the 5D Mark IV raw files, so it is now possible to catalogue, review, and process images using Adobe Lightroom CC that were taken with the 5D Mark IV. This means I will now get the opportunity to do a more complete comparison, especially on ISO performance, of the 5D Mark IV compared to the 5D Mark III.