Braving The Cold For An Idea

This was the first year in a long time that we spent New Year’s Eve at home. One of the kids was not feeling well at night so we decided to play it safe and stay home. Ever since I have known my wife we have spent the night just outside of Lafayette with friends. We went out to visit on New Year’s Day for a while, and while everyone else was playing a card game I decided to try and make a picture of the horses on the property. Of course it was below zero so I did not try for very long. I did get one curious horse who played along and let me have some fun for a couple of minutes though.

The Canon 85mm f/1.2 Lens

My time with the Canon 85mm f/1.2 lens is almost up. I have really enjoyed playing around with it in various situations over the last couple of weeks. A great deal by LensRentals let me have it for half of the time for free. I don’t know that with what I shoot that I would need such a lens, but it has been fun playing around with it.  I take it back Thursday, and I am sure that it will be a sad day for me.

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My 14 Favorite Animal Photos From the Past Year

This past year I did not get out to photograph animals as I have in the past. I only made a couple of trips to Wolf Park, and those seemed to be on days where the wolves were moved out of the main enclosure. With that in mind I still saw some really cool sites this past year. Assateague Island just outside of Ocean City, Maryland is a great place to see all kinds of wildlife. The horses are the main attraction, but I photographed many species while I was there. Last year I struck out seeing the bald eagles. The year before they were abundant in the area, but I think the extra cold winter drove them further south. Next year I hope that I can have at least one eagle shot on my countdown. Enough about the photos that are not here. Here are my favorite animal photos from 2014.

14. Starting off this countdown is Blue III the Butler Bulldog mascot. He was a very excited dog the day of the game where I made this photograph. He did seem very excited about the game though as he barked at the opposing players during the pregame introductions. After the run the bulldogs had a couple of years ago, Blue is almost as iconic as the field house is.

13. Here is the first of a few photos that I made over the course of a couple of days at Assateague Island just a few miles away from Ocean City, Maryland. I went out on this pier to see if any of the horses were crossing the water. I saw this great egret just perched on the rail, and knew that I had an image. I didn’t have any really long glass with me so I changed up my composition to make the image that you see above.

12. This past March I took my daughter to Indianapolis with a couple of ideas in mind. We went and saw the exhibit that was there showing some of the work of Ansel Adams. It really was great to see some of his best work all in one place. After that we went to the canal to see the water that had been dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day. I spotted these two geese swimming in the green water, and I thought that it was a photo that you don’t normally see.

11. As this summer was winding down I went on a photoshoot with Purdue photographer John Underwood. The shoot was a young woman with some of her smaller goats. It was an interesting photoshoot for sure. You can read about Emily and see the photo that John made here. In between setups I saw this goat. The goat came over to me, and made a face which I thought was a smile. for some reason I liked the image.

10. While showing my step-daughter Wolf Park this past summer was saw some of the new foxes that had been introduced to the park. Only one of them was out and about at first, but I made some interesting pictures of the fox. A simple yawn can look a little menacing especially when there is a dead mouse in front of the fox that it appears to be protecting. There will be more from Wolf Park later in the countdown.

9. This past spring we made a trip to Chicago. On a day when I had time to myself I went to the Shedd Aquarium to look around. It had been years since I had been inside of the building. The exhibit that I had the most fun with was jellyfish exhibit. I loved the lighting on the jellyfish. It was up to me to expose properly to get an interesting image. Continue reading “Top 14 Animal Photos of 2014”

Going Out Early in the Morning to See the Horses of Assateague Island

For the past couple of years part of my trips to Maryland have consisted of trying to see the elusive horses of Assateague Island. They really are beautiful creatures, but they also have a big island to roam. It seems though as if they congregate near the entrance early in the morning. I have had good luck going early to see the horses. This was a horse that I saw on my way into the park, but I was greedy. This horse was in a parking lot, and I wanted something that looked a little more wild. I struck out in my travels through the park so I hurried back to the parking lot hoping to see the horse again. He was there, and I found a good background that did not show the fact that I was shooting from my car across a parking lot. The beauty about the still image is the fact that you can trick the viewer a bit.

Selective Cropping

One reason that the horse was still there was a couple of female horses just off to the right of the camera. I had a nice shot framed up, and I made a couple exposures. The horse moved to a better background, and I made another exposure. What I didn’t notice was that the horse became a bit excited in between frames. I normally am not a fan of cropping anything other than sports photos, but this one needed cropped. Now that you know that part of the story you can imagine what the horse it thinking as he looks right at me.

#45 Adam Dressler

Trying Out the Tamron 200-500mm Lens

Early in the spring I tried out this long Tamron lens. I had not bought a long lens yet, and I just wanted to see what I could do with this lens. I knew that I had a baseball game coming up with some wildlife that I could shoot. This would be a good chance to rent the lens from Camera Outfitters to see what it could do. I was going to rent this lens to shoot the bald eagles that migrate into our area, but I did not see any this past year. Baseball players would have to be the first test.

I took this lens to the Purdue baseball game at Butler. This was my first baseball game of the season so I would be using my normal gear for most of the game. During warm ups though I needed some close up shots of the players for baseball cards that would be released later in the season. This lens really got me right in where I needed to be, and where my 70-200mm lens could not take me. I shot this lens with my Canon 60D giving me a bit longer reach as well. I found that I could focus easily on a stationary player, but the lens would not track them very well. I broke it out during the game, and I started missing shots that I knew that I could get. Something just did not feel right with the lens.

Before taking this lens back to Camera Outfitters I took it out to the Wabash River as well as Fort Ouiatenon to see what I could do with it. While at the Wabash River I spotted a Heron walking along the shore. The lens did very well once I found focus with it, and I tracked the bird as it moved down the shore. In the air I had the auto focus right on the bird, but the images seemed soft. It seemed as if I was just a bit behind in focus. At the fort I saw a woodpecker as well as some horses just down the road. With plenty of light in both situations I was able to make pictures that I liked. The horse and heron pictures from this day even made it to this blog as pictures of the day.

I only tested the lens for parts of two days, but I quickly found out that it was not for me. I really need something a little easier to use to shoot sports. On an overcast day for baseball it was borderline to use. I couldn’t imagine shooting this lens at a night game. As for wildlife you get some of the reach that you want, but you really sacrifice a lot with the slow autofocus. If you have a subject that is not moving you are good. If the subject moves then you are risking the lens not being able to keep up.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Great reach for the price (200mm-500m)
  • Lens is very light compared to a Canon fixed focal length
  • With no wind can handhold easily at 500mm
  • Did I mention the price?

Cons

  • Slow autofocus
  • Length of lens at 500mm
  • The light has to be very good
  • Canon 1.4x tele has to be put on when lens is at 500mm as it will hit the element at 200mm
  • 86mm filter diameter
  • With lens hood in the wind it feels like a huge sail
  • Awkward zoom
  • f/6.3 at 500mm makes it hard to use in low light
  • Tripod mount does not click-in at horizontal and vertical positions

Final Verdict

This lens is not for everyone. If you are just getting into photography and/or you have fairly stationary subjects then this lens could be for you. When fully extended it is a beast to keep still in the wind. Tracking moving objects with the long lens combined with a slow autofocus is not easy either. Tamron has recently released a 150-600mm lens that would make this lens obsolete. The 150-600mm is about $500 more, but at $1,500 it is still a steal for the focal length. I think that for the right price I would buy this lens. That eagle perched in a tree would be an easy target with it. It would have to be a very low price though as my Sigma 300mm with the 2.0x tele can reach farther with about the same results.

Sample Images

Here are a few sample images that I made with the camera.Click on any of them to view a larger version of the image.




#17 Sean McHugh
#14 Kyle Wood

Photo of the Day

While out and about earlier in the week I came across these horses eating. I have made some pictures here before, but this was my first time with a really big lens. I will have more on the lens later on in the technical section. Two of the horses in the photo have actually been on the blog in the past. They are beautiful animals so I am sure that it isn’t the last time that they will be on here either. I will be shooting the NCAA Tournament here in West Lafayette this weekend so this might be the last non sports photo to make the website for a while.

Technical Data

First of all I used the light HDR Look preset in Lightroom 5 created by Matt Kloskowski to edit this photo. That is the extent of the post processing of it. I want to talk about the lens that I used for a bit. In the future I will have a post describing what I thought of the lens, but for now here are a couple of thoughts. I rented a 200-500mm Tamron lens from the local camera shop for a day. I thought that I would give it a try at the baseball game on Wednesday to see what shooting up close and personal looks like. It worked fine, but for sports I need something much faster than the f/6.3 that it gave me when zoomed in to 500mm. Of course as a test it went fine. For this photo I was not zoomed in at all as 200mm on a crop sensor is actually quite long. I used equipment on both ends here that I don’t consider professional, but in the end I came up with an interesting shot.

Photo of the Day

A couple of days ago I went out looking for bald eagles again. This has been a bad year for them around here as far as I am concerned. I have my go to location to see them, but it has been frozen over since January. I did watch one from afar a few weeks ago with my step-daughter. We watched it diving down in the Wabash and feeding. Wednesday I went out for the first time really looking for the eagles to photograph them. My location is still frozen over so I went to a couple of other spots that aren’t as friendly for making pictures. On the way to one of my locations I saw this horse farm. After getting shut out I started to drive back home. I pulled over on my way back by to photograph the horses. There were two horses that were apart from the group that I thought would look okay. This photo worked out very well.

Technical Data

For this photo I dipped into the well once again, and I used the HDR Look preset by Matt Kloskowski to start here. A few tweaks took me to the final result here. I did add to the vignette, and crop in a bit.

Over the course of the past year I have made a few animal photos that I really like. I think that this countdown could have been filled with all wolf and eagle pictures. I also was lucky enough to see some beautiful horses along the way. Here are my thirteen favorite animal shots from the year.

13.) The first photo in the countdown was taken at the place that we took my brother’s U-Haul back to in Martinsville, Indiana. Of course they rent camels and goats as well as U-Hauls. Why wouldn’t they?

12.) Here is the first of two photos from the butterfly exhibit at the Indianapolis Zoo this past spring. For some reason I have always loved the way that this butterfly sat in the middle of the flower.

11.) During my Colorado trip I was waiting for one of these two horses to move so that I could make a good image of just one of them. Of course they decided to do something that would force me to make a picture of both of them. This photo was better than anything that I could have gotten separately.

10.) This is the first of two photos of Mila. I guess if you are a puppy during the year you get a couple of photos that I like.

9.) At number nine we have the first photo from Wolf Park which is located just outside of Lafayette in Battleground. This is a great place to view wolves and to just relax.

8.)  Of course I have to include a photo of my dog Bingo here. Bingo is getting on in age, but that doesn’t mean that he still doesn’t have fun outside. Here I caught him in the middle of something that he probably shouldn’t have been doing.

7.) This past spring we visited the Indianapolis Zoo to see the butterflies that they have there. It really is a great time for kids especially one who loves butterflies. I also had a great time making pictures of them. Some of the colors and patterns really make for good images.

6.) One of my favorite places to visit in this area is Wolf Park. I am a member that loves to just watch the wolves. Of course I also make some pictures of them as well. Sometimes they even pose for me as you can see above.

5.) Early in the year my brother and sister in law got a new puppy. While shooting a West Side baseball game I stopped to make some pictures of Mila the new puppy. She was trying to talk her grandfather and my step daughter into giving her some more food. Could you turn this face down?

4.) When I was helping my brother move in August we took our U-Haul back. Imagine our surprise when we saw that they also rented camels and goats. Of course the goats were hams that wanted to be photographed.

3.) Later on in the landscape countdown you will see some sunrise photos from Ocean City, Maryland. As I said in that post I had one morning where the sunrise was not what I had hoped it would be. An overcast sky skunked me. I didn’t let that stop me though as I went to Assateague Island to see the wild horses there. It was luck that they posed for me in a beautiful layered format with the diffused light from the clouds. I loved this photo when I took it.

2.) This past February a large group of bald eagles came to the area. I had a blast shooting them from afar. If I had a longer lens at my disposal I am sure that this photo would have been number one. I know that this year I will be prepared when they arrive.

1.) Early in the year after a fresh snowfall I was driving around West Lafayette. I came across this beautiful white horse. I love the way that the snow on the hill behind him make it appear as if I had this horse in the studio with a white background. For this reason this is my favorite animal picture of 2013.

Photo of the Day

While in Colorado I was taken around by some locals to find some interesting locations. One of those was near the cabin we stayed in. Just down the road is a place called the Hahn’s Peak Roadhouse. They have a lot of the items that you need as well as a restaurant. They have these beautiful horses as well for the sleigh rides that they offer at night. The rides are well worth it. If you are ever in the area give them a try. I saw this white horse up against the white snow, and I knew that I had a picture here. I had to wait a bit for the horse to look at me, but I was glad that he did. While we were in Colorado the area was pounded by snow giving this photo a nice background. 

Technical Data

The shot was nearly black and white to begin with so I just converted it the rest of the way using Silver Efex Pro. One of my favorite filters in the program is one called fine are process. This really gives me a look that I love. I brought the photo back into Lightroom for a couple of tweaks, but it was really an easy edit. Nik software being bought by Google really was great because the price of this program went down allowing me to buy it. It is really a valuable tool to have if you like to create black and white images. 

Photo of the Day

Last week I had a great time in Maryland. One day after making some sunrise pictures at the pier of Ocean City I made my way over to Assateague Island to see if I could spot any of the feral horses there. I have heard that they are hard to spot, but since it was the first light of the day I hoped that I would catch some of them out and about. I was excited to see that a few where indeed out when I came upon one of the beaches. The horses were eating near the access roads so it was hard to get a shot that didn’t look like it was taken on the road. I made a couple of loops around the parking lot before decided to leave with a couple of decent shots in my camera. Then for some reason one of the horses decided to saunter in front of my rental car. The horse moved to the passenger side and started eating after taking forever to get out from in front of my car. When I looked out the passenger window I knew that I had a shot as the horse started eating. I love the layering here, and after making this shot I knew that I had one for the blog. These horses are beautiful, and I would love to see them again. They will go down to the beach to cool off, and a shot of them running through the surf would be amazing. For now though I was just happy to see these wild horses in person.

Technical Data

This shot was pretty much where I wanted it when I took it. That being said you always have to tweak a RAW file. I used a Matt Kloskowski preset that seems to be my go to called light sports gameday to get me close to where I wanted to be. I lessoned the vignette, and after a couple more minor tweaks this photo was ready to go. Once again I love the shots that don’t take long to process.

This was also shot with my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. This really was my go to lens on the trip. A couple of times I used something else, but for the most part this was the lens of choice for me. I usually use the new lens way too much on a trip after I bought it, but this is the third trip now since I bought the lens, and it is still the lens I pull out when I need a shot. I would bet that 90% of the pictures on the trip were taken with this lens. I think that in the near future it will be hard to knock this one of the top of my list.