Saturday, December 31, 2011

Eagle Season

Late December through January is usually an awesome time to find many Bald Eagles along the northern portion of the Delaware River and along some of the reservoir inlets in southern New York State. This year is truly an anomaly.  The weather has been extremely warm for this time of year for the past two months and it has drastically impacted on the eagle behavior.  Normally by now the northern part of the Delaware River and the lakes and reservoirs north of there have frozen over forcing Bald Eagles to fly to areas of open water to feed.  Joan and I spent two days with friends in the upper Delaware area to find and photograph Bald Eagles.  We saw about 15 eagles on Thursday and a half dozen on Friday.  This is to be compared with normally seeing about 50 per day this time of year.  The other thing is that other years we have been able to see and photograph up close as they are forced to open water areas to feed.  This year they can be seen but are at greater distance from good viewing areas.  

As we were leaving the area to come home-one perched on a tree across the Lackawaxen River and I was able to get some good photos with good filtered light (lightly overcast skies).

Until next time!
Jim Borden

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Went out this day before Christmas to find owls, hawks, eagles and song birds.  Saw many birds, but most did not want to cooperate today.  This Northern Cardinal decided he liked me and gave me a number of poses all with a cluttered background and foreground. But,  alas he is the color of Christmas and he was so cooperative, I just had to use him for the blog to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

Until Next Time!

Jim Borden

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Snowy Owl

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 w2xtc @f9 1/1000 ISO 640 EC-.67

Joan and I had never seen a snowy owl and for the past few winters we have been watching bird lists for sightings that would be a reasonable drive.  To our surprise one had been sighted within two hours of us in November and it was still there.  We took the drive on Saturday December 3.  We walked about 1 1/2 miles to the area where the owl is staying and set up to take photos.  We had bright skies and it was cold with gusty winds.  The owl was about 150 yards from us and there was no way to close the distance without potentially disturbing the owl.  There were large rocks between us and the owl and with the sun beating on them it made for lots of mirage so getting decent images was very tough.  Compounding that, I found that I was not getting sharp images not explained by the mirage.  The lens/camera setup had been calibrated at about 70 degrees F and I had used at 50 with slight shift in focal plane.  Now at 40 F the lens was very badly back focusing.  So, I  kept adjusting the lens ma on the camera until I got sharp images and was able to get some decent shots. The following is an example-it has been severely cropped due to the distance away. I had to move the lens ma setting from a +2 to a -5!
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 w1.4xtc @f 1/800 ISO 1250 EC-.3

This morning (Sunday December 4) I left early so that I could be there at first light to reduce mirage. I had found an optional place to park last evening to cut the walk from 1 1/2 miles to about 1/2 mile and to also provide an opportunity to get closer to the owl without disturbing it.  When I parked, I found the remnants of a dead coot that was not there last night.  It appears the owl had duck for dinner after dark last night.  I was able to get in better position for her today and the air and ground temperatures were closer to being the same which kept the mirage under control.  I installed the 2X TC on the lens and calibrated it on the owl by taking a few shots. The image at the top of the page was done with that setup at about 50 to 60 yards. The following image was one of a series of bursts that I did when he was scratching the back of his head.  If you look closely at this image and the image at the top of the page, you can see blood in his feathers around the mouth-I am quite sure it is from his duck meal.  

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 w1.4xtc @f6.3 1/2000 ISO 640 EC-.67
This was a lifer for me!

Until next time

Jim Borden
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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Whitetail Bucks in Rut

Canon Mk IV 1D; canon 600 f4 @f6.3 1/1000 ISO250 63 yards

Joan and I traveled to Shenandoah National Park on Friday.  We arrived about noon and the top of the mountains along the Skyline Drive were socked in with fog.  We drove to one of our favorite spots and got our camera gear out and walked up into a meadow to be in the open thinking we may see more through the fog that way.  I was able to walk to within a few feet of a bedded buck and took pictures of him in the fog and in open moments between fog coverage.   After taking a number of shots of him, we wandered out into the major part of the meadow to wait for the fog to lift.  As it lifted we found ourselves surrounded by about 50 deer with three of them being bucks.  The cloudy conditions made for great filtered lighting and I was able to spend a considerable amount of time with a large 8 point buck that was working a doe. The shot posted above was one I got of him after he was finished with that doe.  he then chased off two other bucks and came running back to me and laid down in front of me. 

Canon Mk IV 1D; canon 600 f4 @f9 1/800 ISO400 35 yards
Canon Mk IV 1D; canon 600 f4 @f9 1/640 ISO400 EC-.33  25 yards

 I watched and photographed him in various light conditions and poses and thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon.  Even the Golden Light photos of him at the end of the day turned out well due to the contrast with the background. This is a buck that has been photographed by friends Willard and Coy Hill and you can read more about him and see more photos of him and other bucks I have posted in their blogs (Pa Wildlife and Country Captures). 

The next morning we were in the meadow area prior to sunrise and took position in the meadow as the sun rose.  I was able to photograph three good bucks in the morning light-one being the above 8 point from Friday.  The second one that made opportunity came running after a doe into the meadow and came close to me as he was chasing her. This is also a Golden Light photo that has good contrast to bring out the detail in the deer and be distinctive from the background. 

Canon Mk IV 1D; canon 600 f4 @f5.6 1/1250 ISO1250 63 yards

We saw a number of other bucks through the day and photographed them in various light conditions.  the sky was blue and light streaked through the trees in the woods and most of my shots were very contrasty.  I had left the flash with better beamer in the vehicle and could have used it to tame the lighting.   Crowds from the city were moving in as the day progressed and i decided to move back into the woods at the rear of the meadow for evening.  That proved to be wise as I was able to photograph six other bucks and ended the day with the biggest of all.  Prior to seeing the biggest buck I had fun watching two bucks groom each other for about a half hour. 
Canon Mk IV 1D; canon 600 f4 @f5 1/800 ISO1250 60 yards

I did not switch to a smaller lens in time and had to "portrait" the big buck for a few shots.  In this following shot he was side lit-so I got some shadow across his face. 
Canon Mk IV 1D; canon 600 f4 @f5.6 1/1600 ISO640 35 yards

Usually the Golden Light is our friend.  I like the rich yellow/golden cast of the last hour of daylight.  Often it yields very pleasing photos.  This following shot has those characteristics-but the background dead grasses are also yellow so I lost contrast to make him really stand out. I will just have to force myself to find him another day and try again!

Until next time!
Jim Borden

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pennsylvania Elk Time

Canon 7D, Canon 300 f2.8 @f4 1/1600 ISO640

Joan and I spent last weekend looking for Elk and other wildlife in the benezett Pa area.  It is also a joy to go there and view elk.  This past weekend brought rain for part of Friday and most of saturday.  That did not hamper us as we have found that some of the best lighting for wildlife is during the rain or just after a rain.  It requires the use of fast lenses and sometimes elevated ISO, but the contrast and color saturation is superb.  We saw quite a few different mature bulls, but none as large as some previous years as most of them have been "harvested".   There was still some rut activity. We walked back away from the roads and viewing areas to find the bigger groups of elk and the larger bulls.  We were able to get a number of good images of the above bull who walked with a distinct limp.  Looks like his right front leg had been hurt.

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @ f9 1/400 ISO1250

Canon 7D; Canon 300 f2.8 @ f4 1/400 ISO320

Canon 7D; Canon 300 f2.8 @ f4.5 1/500 ISO320

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @ f6.3 1/1250 ISO1250

This next one was taken in the driving rain and hail-water was running off the camera rain cover and i could barely see-I am pleased with how the image turned out.
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @ f4 1/320 ISO2000

The next image was also taken in hard wind and driving rain.
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @ f4 1/250 ISO2000

I have been experimenting with a new mounting system for my 600 f4 lens on the wimberley.  I was previously disappointed with the number of keepers I would get at slower shutter speeds.  A friend and I analyzed the long lenses and believe they have too much cantilevered weight so we designed and built new feet for the lenses that support the lens in two places.  It has made a dramatic impact on keeper rate at low shutter speeds. 

Until next Time!!!
Jim Borden

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More Maine Moose and Maine Scenery

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 24-105 f4 @24mm f13 1/15 ISO 200 -1EC

Joan and I traveled to Northern Maine again on September 30 to spend a few days looking for Moose and enjoying the foliage with friends Bob Adamowicz and Rosamaria Rezende. Friday evening was wonderful weather-it was calm, some of the foliage had started to turn and the skies had cumulus clouds with a dark blue background.  We stopped at the Abol Bridge that crosses the West Penobscot River along the Golden Road.  The hour there before sunset was breathtaking. The image above accurately reflects what we saw before the sun started sinking behind the mountains behind us. The skies became more dramatic as the sun sank behind us and HDR images had to be taken to get the full range of light.

5 image HDR Composite taken with Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 24-105 f4 @24mm f13 

5 image HDR Composite taken with Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 24-105 f4 @24mm f13

Saturday morning brought the beginning of rain that lasted through Wednesday morning of our trip. The rain does not spoil picture taking-it just adds a challenge to the lighting. Friend and mentor Mark Picard ( says there is no such thing as a bad day photographing-a good photographer just has to figure out how to photograph it.  We walked to a very popular pond in Baxter Park to watch for moose, but only got to enjoy the beauty of lifting fog and some Golden Eye Ducks. 

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @f7.1 1/300  ISO320 and Better Beamer

The moose were involved in the rut and were not using the ponds very much and seemed to be deeper in the woods.  We heard some and called some in that stayed just out of the open.  We also had coyotes come to the moose calling.  We took a walk to a pond not frequented by many people and found a large bull laying in the brush across the pond.  His antlers were just protruding above the brush.

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @f6.3 1/2000 ISO2000

We watched quietly for about 2 hours until he decided to stand and we were then able to get a few images of him eating and got some of him looking our way. This is when knowing animal behavior and habits is helpful. getting a sharp image of him in the cloudy light with a low shutter speed required watching his movements and knowing when his head would come to a stop.

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @f8 1/320 ISO1250

We saw two more smaller bulls later that day as well as what I am quite sure was a wolf. I will probably be heavily discounted for that remark-but I have seen a number of coyotes and wolves in the wild and what I saw was definitely 50% larger than the largest coyote I have ever seen and certainly had wolf characteristics.  I will be looking for him or her again on another trip.

In contrast to the still waters of Friday evening we decided we would like to get some foggy images of the "Cribworks" which is a favorite white water spot along the Penobscot River.

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 24-105 f4 @24mm f13 1/8 ISO200

We had to get back to work so we cut our trip a few days short. We stopped at one of our favorite stopping place on the way home-Nubble light house and were able to get some seascapes. I was also photographing Eider ducks and decided to use the 600MM lens for seascape to focus on the detail of the crashing tide.

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @ f10 1/800 ISO200 -.67EC
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @f8 1/3200 ISO640

Until next time

Jim Borden

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Moose Time!

Maine Bull Moose Overlooking a pond
canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @f4 1/2000 ISO 640

I traveled to the Maine North woods this past week to spend a few days looking for moose. Saturday evening found me along a good spot near Millinockett Maine watching to see if moose would enter the pond to feed before dark. I spotted one cow across the pond and got some distant shots.  I met up with a friend from Vermont later in Millinockett and we decided to walk to one of our favorite spots the next morning before we departed for out trip farther north.  We had clear skies and nice golden light and the very nice bull pictured above came through apparently on his scrape trail and we were able to get some photos in the golden light. The next image is an example of how one moment we can have beautiful light and a few moments later, we have shadows and highlights. The bull apparently had recently lost his eye in a fight. 

Canon 1D MK IV; 600 f4 @f6.3 1/200 ISO 1000

Later in the day we traveled with three other friends over log roads to a cabin at a remote lake in the North Maine Woods.  The setting was absolutely beautiful. Most of our moose looking was going to be done by kayak with some walking logging lanes mixed in.  The weather was beautiful with clear blue skies scattered with puffy white clouds.

Canon 7D; Canon 24-105 f4 @24mm f13 1/400 ISO 320

Paddling the stream and lake was a joy. Bitterns, ring neck ducks, pie billed grebes, white throated sparrows, yellow throated warblers, bald eagles, ospreys Northern harriers, broad wing hawks and Common Loons entertained us through the week.

Canon 7D; Canon 24-105 f4 @24mm f11 1/400 ISO400
The water was high due to the recent storms and that  most likely effected the moose activity along the water.  We did however hear bulls and cows grunting and wailing in the woods and we had moose tracks right past the cabin.  We did spot a few moose.  It was good practice for shooting from a kayak.
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 300 f2.8 @f10 1/250 ISO400 -.33 EC

Canon 7D; Canon 24-105 f4 @58mm f10 1/320 ISO400 -.33EC

Since I had the longest distance to travel home (15 hours), I left early Thursday morning.  On the way down the log road I came upon a small bull in the mist.  I stopped, got out of jeep and photographed him for about an hour.  I practiced my bull grunts and cow wails with him and we had fun. 

Here are a few shots of him:
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 300 f2.8 f2.8 @f2.8 1/125 ISO 2000

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 300 f2.8 @f4 1/125 ISO2000

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 24-105 f4 @105mm f4 1/50 ISO800

One of the benefits of shooting with the Canon 1D MK IV is that it allows us to push the ISO and still get great quality pictures.

Until next Time

Jim Borden

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wildlife Photography and Light!

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @f4 1/1600 ISO3200

I have touched on the need for fast lenses and high ISO in my posts before-this time I am going to elaborate a little on the topic and share experiences with the noise performance of various bodies.  The above photos was taken on a very cloudy, rainy, dark day.  Turkeys are normally out in weather such as that and they are almost always on the move.  Their heads are continuously bobbing up and down.  So fast shutter speeds are needed to get crisp shots. In film camera days one would have to wait for a well lighted day and hide and call and wait for them to get close and then time the shots for a still shot.  Digital technology has helped us immensely with the ability to take shots in poorer light conditions. However, even though many camera bodies boast about ability to run ISO to 3200 or 6400, they have lots of digital noise which ruins color saturation and edge detail.  I have found that camera bodies with full frame sensors and less megapixels to out perform heavily cropped sensors with lots of megapixels.  For Instance, the Nikon D3s is probably without argument the best perfomring Camera body on teh market for lack of digital noise.  It has a full frame sensor with only 12 megapixels-but the pixels are large and thereby can be pushed to higher ISO rating without noise.  We hav etaken photos at ISO 6400 that have required no post processing for noise control. One of the worse performers in recent past is the Canon 7D with 18 megapixels on a 1.6 crop sensor.  It handles ISO up through 500 to 640 okay as long as the histogram is kept to the right.  Even then post processing is required.  Does this mean the Canon 7D is not a good body?  Absolutely not-It takes very good images at the lower ISO ratings and it can be used at ISO 640 or so with post processing.  here is an image my daughter Andrea took with my 7D and Canon 300 f2.8 lens at ISO 640.

Canon 7D; Canon 300 f2.8 @f5 1/200 ISO640
She timed the shot so that she did the capture as the bear raised its head and stopped to look. 

For comparison, here is an image of the same bear taken with the Canon 1D MK IV at 1600 ISO.   Looking closely at the green ferns in the background, one can see the noise performance difference of the two camera bodies.
Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @F7.1 1/500s ISO1600

Here is a shot with the Canon 1D MK IV at dark one evening this week.  It is also taken at ISO 3200 as the turkey shot was taken-however, the shutter speed was 1/25.  It is an ok image and as one can see, the sharpness and "pop" is less and that is most likely due to the very slow shutter speed on a large lens (600mm).  In my film days this would have been a blurry picture!!!  The image has good color and contrast, but detail is missing in the hair and eyes.

Canon 1D MK IV; Canon 600 f4 @f6.3 1/25 ISO3200

From my experience with camera bodies, here is a list of best to worse performing on noise:
Nikon D3s; Canon 1D MK IV; Nikon D700, Nikon D300/D300s;  Canon 7D/Nikon D80

Until next time

Jim Borden

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hills Creek State Park

View of Lake from Picnic Area next to Beach

Hurricane Irene left us without power for the machine shop and the skies the day after the storm were beautiful so I decided to take a short trip to Hills Creek State Park and the Pa Grand Canyon.  Hills Creek park is very special place to me as my grandfather was one of the ones that pushed for the lake to be made and a park to be formed.  I fondly remember family picnics there when I was a youngster and it is where I was taught how to use a canoe. I wanted to take the opportunity to see if I could get an exposure with a single image as compared to what I could do with HDR.  The objective was to most closely match what I saw with my eyes.   The wind was blowing steadily and the skies were dark blue with white, puffy clouds.  I used the Canon 1D MK IV with Canon 24-105 f4 lens with a circular polarizer mounted for all shots. I found that once again the HDR compilatrions of three to five images delivered the most realistic looking images of the scenery.

View of lake from breast of dam

View from Fishing pier at lower boat access

The swamp behind the Cabins

Road across the dam.

The view at Harrison Lookout at the Canyon was great with the puffy clouds-but the lighting was harsh. A graduated density filter would have come in handy to take good images there. 

Until next time

Jim Borden

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Maine Lighthouses and Coast

Nubble Lighthouse at Cape Neddick

A friend and I traveled to Maine last week to compete in a National Rifle Match in Augusta.  We left three days early to spend some time along the coast viewing and photographing lighthouses and coastal birds.  My planning was not perfect as we hit Lobster Festival weekend and the coastal highways were packed with traffic.  As a result we did not get to see as many lighthouses as desired-but still had a great time.  I love the rugged Maine Coast.  Once again, I applied the use of HDR to some images to produce an image that was what I saw with my own eyes. I had intended to pass by Nubble lighthouse as I have taken so many images of it, but the skies were full of puffy and stormy clouds and I had to stop and see what different effects I could see.  Ended up capturing a partial rainbow with the lighthouse and stormy skies.

Portland headlight is close to being my favorite lighthouse along with Nubble. We also were able to observe it with stormy skies.  There were more people there this time than any time I had previously visited it. So I stayed away from doing any closeups as I did not want people to become a focal point in the images.

This was my first visit to owl's Head light and the scenery from there is absolutely gorgeous.

This was also my first visit to Marshall Point and we enjoyed a good share of the day there as traffic on US1 was bumper to bumper and the coast and crashing waves offered peace and relaxation.

The following gulls were taken in harsh lighting with a better beamer to tame the shadows and harsh light.

Until next time

Jim Borden