As I mentioned in my first blog post of the top images of 2016, I had the opportunity to go on two new trips during 2016, with one being the Fishing Grizzlies and the other being Eagles of Alaska. Anyone that knows me, knows that I will choose photographing a grizzly bear, or large carnivore, over a bird any day…however I was pleasantly surprised by the Eagles of Alaska trip, and even happier with some of the images that I walked away with.

 

In this area of Alaska the river remains open even in late November (and one section of the river will remain open for the entire winter). Because the rivers are open and the salmon are still running this area can attract anywhere from 1000-3000 Bald Eagles during this time of year.

Top 10 of 2016: #6 – Quite the Haul

The thing that surprised me about the “fishing” that we watched was that instead of stopping down out of the sky (or from a tree) and snatching a fish from the water, all the Bald Eagles we saw just walked into the water, and then just walked out with a fish. It was very interesting and a different behaviour than I was used to. However, in the past whenever I have seen an eagle fish it has been smaller fish (like in the Falling Fish image).

 

This image is a Bald Eagle hauling away what was left of a salmon away from the other Bald Eagle (that was standing off the frame to its left) and trying to make sure that it gets as much of the fish as it can for himself. I was impressed by how effortlessly the Bald Eagles were able to haul around these fish, considering they only weigh up to 6kg.

 

Another thing I was surprised by was how much of a pest the Crows and Ravens could be, and how they weren’t chased off by the Bald Eagles. I watched this Bald Eagle have it’s tail feathers pulled by the Raven in order to distract him away from the fish. I also saw Ravens and Crows fly in and snatch a large portion of the fish and then fly off. The Bald Eagles would fight each other, but for some reason the Ravens and Crows got a free pass.

 

I’m just starting to process the images from this Bald Eagles Adventure, so stay tuned to my Recent Photos gallery so you can see the new images as they are posted.

As I mentioned in my first blog post of the top images of 2016, I had the opportunity to go on two new trips during 2016, with one being the Fishing Grizzlies and the other being Eagles of Alaska. Anyone that knows me, knows that I will choose photographing a grizzly bear, or large carnivore, over a bird any day…however I was pleasantly surprised by the Eagles of Alaska trip, and even happier with some of the images that I walked away with.

 

In this area of Alaska the river remains open even in late November (and one section of the river will remain open for the entire winter). Because the rivers are open and the salmon are still running this area can attract anywhere from 1000-3000 Bald Eagles during this time of year.

Top 10 of 2016: #6 – Quite the Haul

The thing that surprised me about the “fishing” that we watched was that instead of stopping down out of the sky (or from a tree) and snatching a fish from the water, all the Bald Eagles we saw just walked into the water, and then just walked out with a fish. It was very interesting and a different behaviour than I was used to. However, in the past whenever I have seen an eagle fish it has been smaller fish (like in the Falling Fish image).

 

This image is a Bald Eagle hauling away what was left of a salmon away from the other Bald Eagle (that was standing off the frame to its left) and trying to make sure that it gets as much of the fish as it can for himself. I was impressed by how effortlessly the Bald Eagles were able to haul around these fish, considering they only weigh up to 6kg.

 

Another thing I was surprised by was how much of a pest the Crows and Ravens could be, and how they weren’t chased off by the Bald Eagles. I watched this Bald Eagle have it’s tail feathers pulled by the Raven in order to distract him away from the fish. I also saw Ravens and Crows fly in and snatch a large portion of the fish and then fly off. The Bald Eagles would fight each other, but for some reason the Ravens and Crows got a free pass.

 

I’m just starting to process the images from this Bald Eagles Adventure, so stay tuned to my Recent Photos gallery so you can see the new images as they are posted.

The next image In my Top 10 of 2016 series is the image of a Great Gray Owl that I titled “At An Angle”, because of the angle of the tree that the owl is perched on. Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a bird fanatic, I’ve always loved photographing owls. Photographing owls early on is one of the main reasons I started upgrading my camera equipment because I got tired of seeing owls at dusk and never getting any photos to turn out (because it was too dark for my equipment).

 

The lack of camera/lens limitations is really apparent when you look at the technical specs of this image, my camera equipment really pulled through and proved it’s worth it to have the higher end equipment. It was quite dark outside when we spotted this Great Grey Owl, so much so that I almost didn’t even turn around to

Top 10 of 2016: #7 – At An Angle

shoot it, because I thought there was no point. But I did turn around and grabbed a few shots that were at extremely low shutter speeds, and I took my time (like a month) actually putting the images on the computer and looking at it, and when I finally did my jaw dropped. This image was taken at ISO 3200 (the max that I shoot the 5D Mark III with), and at 1/125 shutter speed basically hand-held with my arm braced against the car, my camera gear really pulled through and produced a sharp image at less than ideal shooting conditions.

 

I love the greys/blues that dominate this image, along with all the strong lines of the angled tree trunk that the Great Gray Owl is perched on, and the tress in the background. Other than the vibrant eyes and a few spots of orange on the tree, this image is pretty much naturally gray scale, which I think is pretty neat. One of the most captivating part of photographs of owls are their eyes, there eyes are just so bright, even “eye-catching” (pun intended).

 

The Great Gray Owl is the largest owl that we have in Alberta, but despite its size (can measure around 30 inches long) they are surprisingly light, weighing less than 4 pounds. Despite being the largest owl by length, it actually feasts on relatively small prey compared to some other owls, with a diet consisting mostly of voles, but can also eat other small rodents. They hunt by sitting on a perch, like the one in this image, and listening and watching for prey before swooping down to catch the prey. They are also very effective in hunting in the snow, and can hear rodents that are more than one foot below the surface of the snow.

 

This image is part of my Birds portfolio which showcases bird images that were taken on some of my random trips that are not part of my journeys gallery.

The next image In my Top 10 of 2016 series is the image of a Great Gray Owl that I titled “At An Angle”, because of the angle of the tree that the owl is perched on. Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a bird fanatic, I’ve always loved photographing owls. Photographing owls early on is one of the main reasons I started upgrading my camera equipment because I got tired of seeing owls at dusk and never getting any photos to turn out (because it was too dark for my equipment).

 

The lack of camera/lens limitations is really apparent when you look at the technical specs of this image, my camera equipment really pulled through and proved it’s worth it to have the higher end equipment. It was quite dark outside when we spotted this Great Grey Owl, so much so that I almost didn’t even turn around to

Top 10 of 2016: #7 – At An Angle

shoot it, because I thought there was no point. But I did turn around and grabbed a few shots that were at extremely low shutter speeds, and I took my time (like a month) actually putting the images on the computer and looking at it, and when I finally did my jaw dropped. This image was taken at ISO 3200 (the max that I shoot the 5D Mark III with), and at 1/125 shutter speed basically hand-held with my arm braced against the car, my camera gear really pulled through and produced a sharp image at less than ideal shooting conditions.

 

I love the greys/blues that dominate this image, along with all the strong lines of the angled tree trunk that the Great Gray Owl is perched on, and the tress in the background. Other than the vibrant eyes and a few spots of orange on the tree, this image is pretty much naturally gray scale, which I think is pretty neat. One of the most captivating part of photographs of owls are their eyes, there eyes are just so bright, even “eye-catching” (pun intended).

 

The Great Gray Owl is the largest owl that we have in Alberta, but despite its size (can measure around 30 inches long) they are surprisingly light, weighing less than 4 pounds. Despite being the largest owl by length, it actually feasts on relatively small prey compared to some other owls, with a diet consisting mostly of voles, but can also eat other small rodents. They hunt by sitting on a perch, like the one in this image, and listening and watching for prey before swooping down to catch the prey. They are also very effective in hunting in the snow, and can hear rodents that are more than one foot below the surface of the snow.

 

This image is part of my Birds portfolio which showcases bird images that were taken on some of my random trips that are not part of my journeys gallery.

I think of all the trips I went on in 2016 the Marine Mammals trip might have been my favourite. We spent 7 days aboard a sailboat cruising along the coast of British Columbia from the Johnstone Strait to the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The main species that we focus on are the Killer Whales, Humpback Whales, and the other marine life that call the coastal waters home. But to me, in the last two years, the Sea Otters have stolen the show.

 

Even though this is an adult Sea Otter, it evokes the “awww” reaction that baby animals normally create, they are just so darn cute. This one in particular looks like

Top 10 of 2016: #8 – Loving Life

he is Loving Life, with his arms behind his head, wrapped in kelp and a smile on his face, life just couldn’t be much better.

 

What’s even more spectacular about getting images of Sea Otters on the British Columbia coast, is that at one time they were extinct from this area. Between 1969 and 1972, there were 89 otters released on BC Coast with the hope of getting the species back in the waters in these areas. Estimates of the current population are around 5,000 Sea Otters on the BC Coast, which seems to be a stabilized number, as in recent years the numbers have not been growing as rapidly. Given that this animal was once extinct, it makes getting a great photo of one even more remarkable.

 

Another highlight of this image is that it was taken using the Canon 1dx Mark II and the 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens with the 2x extender, which was one of the first times that I shot with this combination. Although this is not a lens combination that I would use all the time, as it does have a limited use, I am impressed with the sharpness and quality of this image. It just goes to show how far the equipment has come, especially now with the camera bodies having autofocus on all AF points as opposed to just centre point (or manual focus).

 

If you want to see more images from my Marine Mammals trip visit my journeys gallery here.

I think of all the trips I went on in 2016 the Marine Mammals trip might have been my favourite. We spent 7 days aboard a sailboat cruising along the coast of British Columbia from the Johnstone Strait to the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The main species that we focus on are the Killer Whales, Humpback Whales, and the other marine life that call the coastal waters home. But to me, in the last two years, the Sea Otters have stolen the show.

 

Even though this is an adult Sea Otter, it evokes the “awww” reaction that baby animals normally create, they are just so darn cute. This one in particular looks like

Top 10 of 2016: #8 – Loving Life

he is Loving Life, with his arms behind his head, wrapped in kelp and a smile on his face, life just couldn’t be much better.

 

What’s even more spectacular about getting images of Sea Otters on the British Columbia coast, is that at one time they were extinct from this area. Between 1969 and 1972, there were 89 otters released on BC Coast with the hope of getting the species back in the waters in these areas. Estimates of the current population are around 5,000 Sea Otters on the BC Coast, which seems to be a stabilized number, as in recent years the numbers have not been growing as rapidly. Given that this animal was once extinct, it makes getting a great photo of one even more remarkable.

 

Another highlight of this image is that it was taken using the Canon 1dx Mark II and the 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens with the 2x extender, which was one of the first times that I shot with this combination. Although this is not a lens combination that I would use all the time, as it does have a limited use, I am impressed with the sharpness and quality of this image. It just goes to show how far the equipment has come, especially now with the camera bodies having autofocus on all AF points as opposed to just centre point (or manual focus).

 

If you want to see more images from my Marine Mammals trip visit my journeys gallery here.

In 2016 I visited the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary for the second year in a row, and this time I ended up staying for 9 days. I came away from the trip with a lot of different images, and couldn’t be happier with the result. So happy that you will notice that there will be other images in my top 10 from the Khutzeymateen.

 

The Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary or the “Khutz” is located on the Coast of British Columbia and encompasses over 44,000 hectares of land and is home to many Grizzly Bears (I say many because there isn’t enough research to say for sure, but I have heard a number of around 300). In the spring in the Khutz the diets of the Grizzly Bears consists mainly of sedge grasses, but they will eat whatever they can find in order to make sure that they put back on the weight that they lost over the long hibernation.

 

Two of a Kind is an image of a mother Grizzly Bear and her yearling cub (the only cub that I saw during the nine days). You typically won’t see cubs of the year in the Khutzeymateen because there are so many bears, particularly large males, that it makes it risky for these new cubs and their mothers to survive.

Top 10 of 2016: #9 – Two of a Kind

 

This image cracks me up because the cub is already showing the baldness that is common among the Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen, even though that she is only a yearling. If I put Khutzeymateen Grizzlies in a bear lineup with bears from other locations, you will be able to tell which one is from the Khutzeymateen versus other locations because of the distinguishing baldness down the centre of the forehead, and it just seems to get more distinct as the bears age. I’m really curious to see this cub in 10 years if the baldness is already so defined.

 

Usually when you see a mom and cub the thing a photographer looks for is the interaction among the bears. Well the joke was on us with this mom and cub, they had very little interaction, and even less affection shown by the mom towards the cub. It seemed like every time that the cub got too close, the mom would wonder a little further away to avoid contact. In terms of interaction, having the two bears looking at us at the same time was about as much as we got. In this image the cub is an exact mini me of the mother.

 

If you are interested in seeing more of my images from the Khutzeymateen click here.

In 2016 I visited the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary for the second year in a row, and this time I ended up staying for 9 days. I came away from the trip with a lot of different images, and couldn’t be happier with the result. So happy that you will notice that there will be other images in my top 10 from the Khutzeymateen.

 

The Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary or the “Khutz” is located on the Coast of British Columbia and encompasses over 44,000 hectares of land and is home to many Grizzly Bears (I say many because there isn’t enough research to say for sure, but I have heard a number of around 300). In the spring in the Khutz the diets of the Grizzly Bears consists mainly of sedge grasses, but they will eat whatever they can find in order to make sure that they put back on the weight that they lost over the long hibernation.

 

Two of a Kind is an image of a mother Grizzly Bear and her yearling cub (the only cub that I saw during the nine days). You typically won’t see cubs of the year in the Khutzeymateen because there are so many bears, particularly large males, that it makes it risky for these new cubs and their mothers to survive.

Top 10 of 2016: #9 – Two of a Kind

 

This image cracks me up because the cub is already showing the baldness that is common among the Grizzlies of the Khutzeymateen, even though that she is only a yearling. If I put Khutzeymateen Grizzlies in a bear lineup with bears from other locations, you will be able to tell which one is from the Khutzeymateen versus other locations because of the distinguishing baldness down the centre of the forehead, and it just seems to get more distinct as the bears age. I’m really curious to see this cub in 10 years if the baldness is already so defined.

 

Usually when you see a mom and cub the thing a photographer looks for is the interaction among the bears. Well the joke was on us with this mom and cub, they had very little interaction, and even less affection shown by the mom towards the cub. It seemed like every time that the cub got too close, the mom would wonder a little further away to avoid contact. In terms of interaction, having the two bears looking at us at the same time was about as much as we got. In this image the cub is an exact mini me of the mother.

 

If you are interested in seeing more of my images from the Khutzeymateen click here.

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.