Tag Archives: birds

Gliding Over The Gulf

Gliding Over The Gulf

Pelicans are so very stately when flying (a little prehistoric, too). Thankfully, that gives me decent practice with my panning skills. It still helps to have a camera with a relatively fast fps (frames per second) count, and it also helps to remember to put your focus mode into AI Servo (or whatever mode your brand of camera calls the ability to track moving objects while keeping them in focus).

I’m all packed and ready for my trip back to this national seashore later this week. All I need to do is cook a few items to put in the cooler. I’m driving, which means I not only am able to keep my tripods fully extended in the back of the car, but I can, essentially, bring along the kitchen sink, coffee maker, and refrigerator

On behalf of the National Parks Traveler, I’m traveling back to this national seashore to photograph a release of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle hatchlings. Even though the hatchling schedule on the PAIS (Padre Island National Seashore) webpage gives a range of days during which there might be a release, that doesn’t always mean this will occur. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, though. And heck, I’ll be on vacation and the sunrises are amazing there, not to mention the seabird photography. I plan to stick around for a sunset or two, as well, and, on the 9th is the new moon, which means – unless there are storm clouds – I might see some stars.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under birds, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, nature, Padre Island National Seashore, Photography, Texas, Travel

It’s Almost Year End

It is.  It’s almost the end of 2015 and I, for one, am ready for it to be done with.  Except for my boob job in January, it’s been a pretty shitty year I’ll admit.

N6A0653_Becky and Her Baby

My 89-year old mother became ill in early February and subsequently died on the 19th, one day prior to my elder sister’s birthday.  We can’t thank our lucky stars enough that we were both there to care for Mom at the end of it all.   From then on, life and work went to hell in a handbasket.  I’d break into tears every time I thought of Mom or thought of (or heard or saw) something that reminded me of Mom, My sister and I constantly second-guessed ourselves concerning Mom (woulda, coulda, shoulda).  I found myself working for a horrible boss who made my work life miserable.  I was not in the least interested in photography.  And my entire life revolved around being Executrix of Mom’s estate.

Poor Mom.  She thought she was leaving my sister and me with a nice little nest egg of her savings.  As it was, my sister and I spent every single penny of that nest-egg savings getting Mom’s house up to snuff so we could finally put it on the market; fingers crossed that this sale goes through smoothly so we can be done with it.  These upgrades included a total re-grade and re-sod of the entire front, back and side yards around the house (including the addition of what they call “French drains” to get the standing water to drain into the ditches around the house thanks to the horrid spring thunderstorms Texas constantly experienced all April and May); installation of more foundation pillars in the hallway; patching and repainting the cracks in the walls caused by the foundation work as well as the house’s normal settling issues here in southeast Texas; re-carpeting the hallway, one bedroom and the large den; getting the electrical issues worked out; installing a new roof to replace the one damaged by a freak April hailstorm; fixing the garage door, removing all of the high-tech hurricane storm shutters; and a number of other smaller issues  – all required by the home inspector’s and the structural engineer’s report and the current realtor’s suggestions to make the house more – well – salable.  This work has all taken two months shy of a year since Mom’s death.  It’s been an albatross around my neck and I can’t thank my sister’s husband enough for all of his help – his 30 years in the construction business has enabled me to keep from going mad and throttling most of the people and businesses within this horrid little Podunk Texas town in which I currently reside.  My experience this year has lead me to believe that there is absolutely no business here in this town that is totally trustworthy.  At least, not when it comes to dealing with a divorced, middle-aged woman such as myself.  Fuck ‘em all, I say.

As you can probably tell by now, this entire experience has given birth to the New Me:  Angry White Woman.

I don’t take shit off of anybody anymore and I’m far more vocal about my feelings, opinions and beliefs (this includes my political and non-religious leanings, much to many of my Facebook friends’ annoyance).  I have discovered I am also far more willing to stick my neck out at work and push back to the dirty politics I experience on behalf of myself and my friends who either cannot or will not push back themselves (it’s easier for me to do it since I’m close to early retirement and I don’t have a family for whom I must provide – this allows me to follow the courage of my convictions).

It’s taken me 54 years, and I’m absolutely certain Mom’s death was the catalyst to make me realize what is truly important in my life.  Hint:  it aint work.  Work is not my life and never has been – it just pays the bills, pays for my camera equipment and allows me to travel.  No, what is really important – to me – is family and people who love me.

Thanksgiving Dinner

I no longer have family here in Texas.  They all live out in the Pacific Northwest, and sooner rather than later, that is where I will move.  I am making my plans little by little.  I don’t want to grow old and spend my remaining days alone in a Texas nursing home, waiting to die, far away from people I love and who love me.  Besides that, I’ve never been a huge fan of Texas and am ready for the next adventure further west where the mountains and my family live.

I’m also trying to regain my photo mojo.  I’ve done a few small photo projects this year, including:

Storm Front On The Refuge

Portrait Of A Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night HeronAnoleSpiny Backed Orb Weaver

Using my new 11-24mm, 100mm macro, and 500mm prime lenses at Brazos Bend State Park, Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, and around my home and my mother’s home;

Jupiters Eye On The HelldiverWaiting For SunriseThe Rising Sun 2The Rising SunKnife Edge Fly ByAleutian P40K WarhawkGrumman TBF AvengerJapanese FighterTexas Raiders Taking Off

Spending a wonderful sunrise photo shoot as well as an entire day in the photo pit at the 2015 Wings Over Houston Airshow;

Pirate Spooks On Stage

Reaching Across The Stage For A Toast

Dessert At The Kings Feast

Preparing To Serve The Beef

Feast Staff 2015

Halloween Becky In The POW Pub

Pirate Spooks

A Witch And A Zombie

Performing my duties as staff photographer for The Merchant Prince and capturing images for his use out at the 2015 Texas Renaissance Festival;

A Crown For A Princess

Photographing my newest great niece whom I have never met until last year (for only 20 minutes before getting to the airport) and who is now almost 3 years old;

_83Q5951_83Q5973_83Q6720

And photographing my company’s annual gingerbread decorating event.

I haven’t really taken any photo holiday because almost all of my annual vacation days were spent caring for Mom and thereafter taking care of the estate.  I did take a short trip to visit my sister and her family in eastern Washington over Labor Day, spent a weekend in Santa Fe NM during the Memorial Day holiday, and visited my sister and her family, again, during Thanksgiving.

My main vacation is coming up and I hope it will be the jump start to much more photography in 2016:  I’m going to be spending 10 days in Europe (including Christmas and New Year):  8 days in London and 2 days in Paris.  Everything is paid for, I printed out all of my tickets, and I am all packed, including my camera backpack:

  • Canon 5DS body
  • Canon 5DS-R body
  • Canon 1DX body
  • Canon 11-24mm lens
  • Canon 24-105mm IS lens
  • Canon 24-70mm IS lens
  • Tripod, a gazillion memory cards, a small Canon flash, a couple of wireless shutter releases, and lots of extra, fully-charged batteries

I’m not taking my 70-200mm lens because it’s heavy and my backpack is already heavy enough (plus I’m taking two suitcases as well as my laptop bag with travel laptop, mouse, memory card readers, 2 external hard drives – 1 TB each, iPhone, iPad, book, and folder with all of my ticket information for the various venues I will attend).  I can only take so much – don’t even ask me what I’ve packed in the suitcases (grin).

I apologize for not publishing more blog posts.  I know one is supposed to do that to keep readership and to keep one’s writing skills in tip-top shape.  I’ll get back into the groove, I promise.  I’ll have free WiFi in my London and Paris hotels, so I know I’ll be editing photos and writing about my experiences, uploading to both my Facebook photography page as well as my Twitter account.  I may even publish a post while there.  For now, stay tuned to forthcoming imagery from my 2015 trip, as well as the trips I have planned for 2016.  I plan on making up for lost time.

N6A3701_Seahawks Becky Cap

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Filed under 1DX, 5DS, Attitude, Aviation, birds, Brazoria NWR, Brazos Bend State Park, Canon, Canon 11-24mm, Canon Lens, Equipment, Landscape, Life, macro, nature, Photography, Texas, wildlife, Wildlife Refuge

Morning At Brazos Bend State Park With A Canon 5DSR and 500mm Prime Lens

Portrait Of A Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

Portrait of a juvenile yellow-crowned night heron

I recently ordered (and finally received) a Canon 5DSR camera body.  The thought of 50mp to play around with, to crop away, to do with as I wish, was too great not to pass up for a landscape, birdlife/wildlife and portrait photographer such as myself.

To further break the budget, I purchased several lenses including a Canon 500mm f4L prime super-telephoto.  Can you say “photographer heaven”?

Even though the temps here in southeast TX are in the triple digits and extremely humid, I took this camera/lens combo out to Brazos Bend State Park one morning.  Actually, I’d gone the day before, as well, with a 1.4x extender attached to the 500mm to make it a 700mm.  On that day, I was not impressed, which was too bad since there was quite a bit of birdlife out there during the hottest part of the day (around 1PM).  I apparently didn’t do my microfocus adjustments that well with the extender on, because all but 6 photos (ok, not stellar photos), displayed some back-focus issues.

So, I removed the extender that evening, re-adjusted the microfocus, and returned to the park the next morning with just the 500mm focal length.  I was pleased and proud with the images that resulted, and even happier with the resolution of the images after much cropping, such as the image above, which is about a 33% crop.

Who You Lookin At

Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron

Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

Portrait of a juvenile yellow-crowned night heron; a 33% crop

Hazy Morning On The Lake

A hazy morning on 40-Acre Lake; yes, you can get nice landscapes with a 500mm prime

On Gossamer Wings

On gossamer wings; a 100% crop

Bejeweled2

Bejeweled; a 50% crop

Out On A Limb

Out on a limb

Blue and Green

Blue and green; a 33% crop

I’m blown away with that this camera and lens can do and can’t wait to get back out for more photographic fun.

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Filed under birds, Brazos Bend State Park, Canon, Canon Lens, Equipment, Photography, Texas

A Short (and Unscientific) Review of Tamron’s New 150-600mm Lens for Canon Mount

Canon 1DX and Tamron 150-600

The Canon 1DX  and Tamron 150-600mm lens

Because this Tamron 150-600mm lens is so new, Lensrentals didn’t have it in stock for my original reservation date. So, I told them to send it when they could. One week later, it was in my hot little hands. Here’s my take on this brand new lens.

The Tamron 150-600mm  lens retails for $1069 at BH Photo and at Adorama and is available for Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts.  Right now (well, as of Feb 15), you can only pre-order the lens here in the USA.

Out of the box:

  • It weighs .03 lbs less than the Sigma 50-500mm, so both are equal in terms of heft.
  • When I first received the lens, I discovered that the lock switch did not work at the 600mm focal length. A Lensrentals tech told me that the lock switch was there only to work at the 150mm focal length to make sure the lens didn’t accidentally move out to a longer length while one was carrying the lens on their shoulder.  Really?   I should think the lock switch is supposed to work at any focal length, and not just the 150mm focal length. I may hate the locking mechanism on my Canon 100-400 but at least it works at all of the focal lengths.
  • If you have microfocus adjustment on your camera, test the lens to make sure the focus is hitting like it should. On my 1DX, it was spot-on. On my Canon 5D Mk III, it was front-focusing.

A Day at the Park

I took my Canon 1DX and this lens out for a morning spin at Brazos Bend State Park, located about halfway between my home and Houston. Btw, mornings are the best time to go out there for birdlife and for few-to-no crowds. I made a return trip later in the day and the place was packed. I got out of the car, looked at all the people and then at the full parking lot at one of my favorite stops, got back in the car and came home.   As I was exiting the park, I looked over to the entrance and saw a long line of cars waiting to get in.  No thank you.

How did this lens do?

As far as image resolution – and this is my opinion only, based upon my own photographic results – I believe this lens is as good as or better than the Sigma 50-500.  I kept the f-stop between 8 – 10 because I’d read other reviews indicating sharpness was better achieved at these apertures (same as with the reviews I’d read about the Sigma lens).   Had it been an overcast day rather than the gorgeous, sunny day that it was, my ISO would have moved from 500 up to probably 1000 – 2000.  As it was, I kept my ISO between 250-500 depending upon the light at any one spot.  My shutter speeds ranged between 200 – 800.

After reviewing the magnified images on my camera’s LCD screen, I was ready to throw in the towel concerning this lens.  Then, when I got the photos downloaded to my computer and I could get a better look at them, I was blown away at the sharpness. Yet another lesson to me that I should never quite trust what I see magnified on my camera’s LCD screen in terms of resolution clarity.

(Note:  To see high-res versions of these low-res uploads, click on each image)

Ibis

The original, cropped a little to get rid of extraneous stuff.  Only adjustments were my normal curves and sharpening – things I apply to all of my images so nothing else special was done

Ibis

65% crop of the original

BUT…. while this lens produces very nice images, it still has some quirks.

Focusing…..Oy Vey

I’d read other reviews about this lens having an issue with tracking and focusing. Yup. I had problems myself, but I don’t think to quite the extent that some reviewers experienced. Tamron didn’t do such a great job with the focus tracking, and I had a difficult time trying to get the lens to focus on anything in motion. Out of all of the photos I took while tracking movements of the birds, maybe 2 or 3 were in-focus. And I was using a Wimberley gimbal tripod head to keep things steady. I highly doubt I would have gotten those 2 or 3 decent shots had I tried to hand-hold the lens even with image stabilization engaged.  The Sigma 50-500 was much,  much better at tracking action images like birds in flight.

And speaking of focus, I discovered that it’s practically non-existent if using any of the focus points other than the ones in the middle of the screen. My 1DX has multi-focus points, and I sometimes use different points whenever I am in Servo Mode because the part on which I want to focus (like the eyes) may be in the far left, far right, upper or lower portion of the image;  to have moved the focus smack dab in the middle of the composition would have cut out a part of the subject.

Aside from the items above, focus – as long as I used the middle focal points – worked just fine and was relatively quick.

Image Stabilization (VC)

Because I kept the camera and lens on a tripod, I didn’t really use image stabilization except a couple of times. It’s just different from what I am used to with my Canon lenses.  At least the image stabilization with Tamron is not so jumpy and unpredictable as with the Sigma 50-500.

A Couple of Questions:

  1. Do I think this a good lens to use for sports (or any other type of fast action like birds in flight or bears battling for a prime spot at Brooks Falls)? No, not at this point in time. Won’t be until Tamron gets their focus tracking issues fixed – if they ever do  (Tamron, I hope you are reading this post).
  2. Would I purchase this lens for my own uses? Hell yeah! I’m gonna get one….AFTER waiting awhile in the hope that Tamron gets all that focus stuff fixed. It’s a fantastic lens for getting stationary or reeeeaallllly slow-moving shots, but not so much for the faster action.

Ibis In The Tree

Little Blue Heron

Soakin Up The Rays

Gator

This lens doesn’t quite match the resolution output of a Canon prime, but like the Sigma 50-500, it’s an affordable option. Since my credit scores are not quite to the point that I could attempt to take out a loan for the Canon 600mm, this Tamron 150-600 (when the focus problems hopefully get ironed out) will be a great alternative.

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Filed under birds, Brazos Bend State Park, Canon, Equipment, nature, Parks, Photography, Tamron 150-600

More Sigma 50-500mm Loveliness

Soooo, in my last post, where I describe my weekend trying out a rental Sigma 50-500mm on my Canon 1DX, I mentioned my next bit of fun would be with the brand spankin’ new Tamron 150-600mm lens.  Unfortunately, Lensrentals doesn’t have them in stock yet, so my reservation had to be moved further back for a time when the lens *is* in stock.

Therefore, I thought I would publish a post with more photos taken using the Sigma and my 1DX.  Apertures were set between f8 – f10 and the ISO ranged anywhere from 250 to 2000.  This setup was either anchored to a Wimberely gimbal head and tripod, or it was steadied atop a pillow as I photographed from my car window (I now own a Grizzly bean bag as this taught me a lesson about big lenses and shooting from car windows)

Coming In For A Landing

Migratory Snow Geese

Ibis and Geese

Ibis and Geese Amicably Breakfasting Together

Ready For Battle

Ready to Do Battle (Crayfish aka Crawfish aka Crawdad)

Coming In For A Landing

The Runway is Clear for Landing…..?

Poetry In Motion

Poetry in Motion

This coming week, I will be receiving from Lensrentals the Canon 600mm L II lens.  I want to see if it fits into my new Tamrac backpack that I ordered specifically to fit this lens during my 2-week stay in Alaska this August.  Plus, I just couldn’t stand it and wanted to play with another big honkin’ lens on my 1DX and Wimberley.

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Filed under Brazoria NWR, Canon, Equipment, Photography, Sigma lens, Texas, Wildlife Refuge

A (Unscientific) Review of the Sigma 50-500mm at the 500mm Focal Length

Blue-Winged Teal

Blue-winged teal (I think) at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

As of late, I’ve been suffering a little cabin fever on the weekends. I want to do something photographically (other than edit archived images), but don’t know what. My part of southeast Texas is not the most photogenic for landscape imagery, but it is definitely a treasure trove for bird photography; Brazos Bend State Park, a number of wildlife refuges including Brazoria and Aransas NWRs, the wetlands parallel to the Gulf Coast and Padre Island National Seashore are all within a 30-minute to 4-hour drive away.

I go out to the nearby state park and Brazoria NWR often, but the birds tend to be skittish and are generally too distant for the reach of my Canon 100-400mm lens, thus requiring some degree of image cropping during the editing stage. After seeing others with their big honkin’ primes out at these places, I always suffer a little angst over the fact that I don’t own a super-telephoto, myself. So for yucks and giggles, I reserved a number of super-telephoto lenses with Lensrentals.com to try out over the next couple of months: The Sigma 50-500mm, Tamron’s new 150-600mm lens, Canon’s 800mm prime and I even decided to try out (for the fun of it) the Nikon D800 camera and Nikkor 600mm lens.

This particular post is about my thoughts (with samples) of the Sigma 50-500mm lens at its longest focal length (because I only want the long length for birds – I’m not interested in any of the shorter focal lengths since I already own that aforementioned Canon 100-400mm which I love…well, except for that damned push-pull zoom mechanism).

This is a TOTALLY unscientific review. Everything written here is my opinion only. I’m going to try not to be much of a “pixel-peeper”, either, but I do have high standards that I expect from my full-frame Canons and a good lens.

The photos in this post are relatively low-res;  if you want to see a higher-res shot, just click on the photo and it will take you to that image that I’ve uploaded to my photography website.

My thoughts:

A Canon 1DX and this lens are a little bit heavier for my small hands than my 1DX and 100-400. But then I had no intention of hand-holding this lens as I planned on attaching it to the Wimberley gimbal tripod head I recently won off of eBay (saved myself $200 and it works like a charm).

Canon and Sigma

The Sigma 50-500 at it’s 500mm length, attached to my Canon 1DX on a Wimberley gimbal head and Induro tripod legs

I like Sigma’s focus ring (unlike that stupid push-pull of the Canon 100-400 – what the hell was this company thinking at the time it did that??).

I also like the easy lock switch (My Canon 100-400 has a ring that you have to turn to get the lens to lock at a certain focal length – to get it to stay locked, you need to make sure that ring is turned clockwise as tight as possible).

I’d read in other reviews of this lens that one needed to set the f-stop to at least 8 for optimal sharpness. So all of my images taken at Brazos Bend State Park and the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge were between f8 and f10. Because the weekend has been warm but cloudy and overcast with some rain (and a little bit of sun here and there), and to offset the small amount of light getting in through the aperture because of the f-stop settings, the ISO ranged between 400 to 2000 depending upon the outdoor lighting conditions at any particular moment.

Goldfinch

A goldfinch (I think) at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

Sigma’s OS (analogous to Canon’s IS and Nikon’s VR – image stabilization) is really odd and I don’t like it at all. It was as if the lens took on a life of its own whenever I switched from non-OS to OS. I’d look through the viewfinder and try to focus on a subject only to have the lens actually jump to a slightly different point in the composition. I had to keep moving the lens back to where I wanted the center focal point to be and then quickly snapping the shutter button. I don’t have that issue with my Canon 100-400 or 70-200. As a result, I only snapped a few shots with the OS turned on.

I captured a few images from my car window (cars make good blinds). I did this because had I gotten out of the car (heck, had I even opened the car door), my subject would have flown away. With my 100-400 lens, I don’t need a bean bag for stabilization and it’s easy to hand-hold. With this Sigma lens, I wished I had a bean bag. I’d anticipated this issue, though, so I used a pillow I’d brought from home on which I rested the camera and Sigma lens for stabilization. The bean bag is going to be a near-future purchase.

Hawk

A hawk on a fencepost at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Texas – taken from my car window

I had pretty much figured this lens just wasn’t going to cut it for me. I’d read too many reviews about Sigma’s inconsistent QC issues, but I figured Lensrentals would have tested the lenses before putting them out for rent (and this lens was inexpensive to rent for a few days).  Nonetheless, I would magnify the view of an image on my camera LCD and what I saw caused me some consternation. So imagine my total (and very pleasant) surprise when I got home and saw the day’s photos after they’d been downloaded to my computer. Ok, some of the shots were a little grainy because of the high ISO, but at an f-stop of at least 8, and on a tripod, my images turned out quite nice! Moral of this story: don’t base your judgment solely by what you see on your camera’s magnified LCD screen.

Conclusion:

I know I only had this Sigma 50-500mm for a couple of days.  So, this review is not in-depth.  That being said, I totally agree with the comment of  one of my Facebook Fans:

This lens will never take the place of a Canon or Nikon prime, but it’s definitely an affordable substitute.

Migrating Geese

Migrating geese making a stopover at Cross Trails Pond, Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Next weekend (hopefully), I’ll see how the newly-released Tamron 150-600mm measures up.

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Filed under Brazoria NWR, Brazos Bend State Park, Canon, Equipment, Parks, Photography, Sigma lens, Texas, Wildlife Refuge

Aw C’mon Baby, Just One More Kiss

Cmon Baby Just One Little Kiss

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under birds, Brazos Bend State Park, nature, Parks, Photography