Bird Photography at Merritt Island with a Canon 2x Extender
Feb10

Bird Photography at Merritt Island with a Canon 2x Extender

For over 2 years I’ve been packing around a Canon 2x extender. I bought it in New York City before heading to Africa in hopes that it would give me more distance on my wildlife images using a 200mm f/2.8 prime lens I had back then. But, when I used it nothing came out really sharp. I attributed the un-sharp images to the fact that I was using my 60D crop sensor body. I figured I just wasn’t able to get clean enough images with no grain on the crop sensor. I packed the $300 item around for years because I was planning on upgrading to a full frame as soon as I could afford it. Of course, I upgraded my body to a Canon 6D a couple months ago. With my new full frame camera I had been dying to test out the 2x extender with the belief that I’d be able to get some good, clean images. In Orlando, I finally got the chance to take some images with a trip to the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge which was about an hour’s drive from our city. So how were the results? What is a Extender? Essentially, an extender is a small “lens” that you attach between your main lens and your camera’s body. extenders will only work with certain lenses like the 70-200mm or 300mm. You couldn’t just toss one on an 18-55mm lens and get it to work. Then, basically, what an extender does is adds magnification to your lens allowing you to get more reach. Extenders usually come in 1.4x, 1.6x and 2x, although other variations do exist as well. When you use a extender, you lose aperture to your lens. If you us a 1.4x you will lose 1 stop, and if you use a 2x then you lose 2 stops. Thus, when you use a 2x extender, like I did at Merritt Island, your f/2.8 lens becomes an f/5.6 lens. The Results Honestly, the results were rubbish. I was expecting there to be some issues with sharpness and I’d have fewer keepers than usual, but after inspection most images were just really, well, shit. As you’ll see from this example below, the image looks “OK” from a distance. But, when you zoom in to a 100% crop of the photo you see the problem. It’s not that the focus is off, it’s not that it’s grainy, it’s just not sharp. There seems to be a layer of “no-contrast” that makes it looks completely dull and un-sharp. Some of this can be corrected in post-processing, but not really. From a professional standpoint, I can’t use this extender....

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How to Take Silky Smooth Waterfall Photos in Iceland or Anywhere
Sep22

How to Take Silky Smooth Waterfall Photos in Iceland or Anywhere

If you’re fairly new to photography, you’re likely curious about how the pros do certain things; the “tricks” of the trade, if you will. When I started out, I was constantly looking at images and then asking the question “how did they do that?”. I’m sure that the first thing I searched when I first started was either “how to make smooth waterfall photos” or “how to create light trails”. Of course, the answer to both of those questions is a long exposure. On our 1 week in Iceland, I had plenty of opportunities to take photos of waterfalls. It seemed like every 5 meters there was another one more spectacular than the last. Thus, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to walk you through the process of taking silky smooth waterfall photos. The video, which is filmed at the impressive Skogafoss in South Iceland, takes you through the process. If you prefer to read about how it’s done, there’s info below. How to Make the Smooth Waterfalls It’s actually much more simple than you might imagine. All you really need is to lengthen your shutter speed. In fact, you don’t even need a big pro camera to make smooth waterfall photos, you can do it on anything that allows you to open the shutter for a second or more. Of course, you can’t just set up your camera for 1 second and expect the proper results, you still need to create a properly exposed image. How do I Slow Down my Shutter Speed? As you might know, there are three ways in which your camera gathers light. Aperture is the size of the “hole” in your lens that allows light to pass through to the camera’s sensor. ISO is the sensitivity in which the sensor is reading the light. And then, shutter speed, of course, is the amount of time the shutter is open allowing light to hit the sensor. Thus, if you want the shutter to be open longer, you need to reduce the light received to the sensor via the other aspects. You can set your aperture to a higher number like f/11 or f/16 to reduce the amount of light hitting your sensor. And, of course, you can drop you ISO to it’s lowest setting. But then, you might still find yourself with too bright an image. So then, you have two options. You can shooting when the sunlight is lower (around sunrise and sunset), which, to be honest, you should be doing anyways for the softer light and more colourful sky. Secondly, you can also add an Neutral Density filter which basically works dark sunglasses for...

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Video: Banff National Park
Dec28

Video: Banff National Park

Look at me, look at me! I’ve nearly caught up on my videos! Well, sort of. This video from Banff National Park, Canada was taken in September which means I’m still a fair bit behind. I have to say, though, there was a time I seriously though about trashing all my travel footage and starting fresh. I’m glad I didn’t. These videos have always been about storing a bit of my life so that I can look back on it someday and laugh. In this episode, I returned home to the province I was born and raised: Alberta. I filmed this episode entirely in Banff National Park and hit up some of the most famous places in the park. The video explores Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Johnston Canyon, and many of the other highlights of the Banff, Alberta area. I even managed to spot a bear on the chairlift at Lake Louse. Moreover, I shot this video of Banff in a slightly different format. Rather than using almost all GoPro footage like I have in the past, this video is shot about 95% on my Canon 60D using my Sigma 10-20mm lens. I’m hoping that in this second year of the YouTube channel I’ll be able to show off more of the places I’ve been and the things I’ve done rather than me talking in the camera, something I did far too much of last season. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed the video from Banff, next up is Jasper National Park, another one of the Canadian...

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Video: Visiting Swaziland
Dec17

Video: Visiting Swaziland

With only a couple weeks left in Africa, I pulled out a map in Johannesburg and tried to attempt to decide where I should go.  What I saw was Swaziland sticking out like a sore thumb.  I had to go.  Since I really only had 3 or 4 days in Swaziland, I focused all my energy on a place called Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary right in the heart of the country.  Not only is Mlilwane one of the best national parks in Swaziland, but it’s also one of the cheapest.  I stayed in a hostel right in the park, and basically just drove around at will.  The best part of Mlilwane is that though there are not any big game animals, like lions or elephants, their absence means that you can actually hike and cycle through the park.  Unfortunately for me, they were doing some controlled burning in the park when I was there so most of the trails were closed. Still, on my three days in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, I managed to take in quite a bit of the wildlife via my car.  It’s not exactly your typical African safari in Swaziland.  You’ll see lots of “smaller” animals like antelope and warthogs, but the big game don’t really hang around.  Moreover, well the park is fairly touristy, there’s not the same type of crowds you might see somewhere like Kruger National Park. Overall, a pretty solid time in Swaziland.  There’s still one video left from Africa, so stay...

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Video: Kruger National Park
Dec14

Video: Kruger National Park

About 10 minutes after posting this video from Kruger National Park to YouTube I realized that I actually had way more wildlife footage from my 5 days in the park.  On somewhat slow internet, I was completely unwilling to re-do this video to get them in, so I’m sorry if there isn’t as much wildlife footage as I’d like in this video of the safari through Kruger.  I also have to say, filming wildlife as a photographer is a chore.  Basically, I’m more concerned about getting photos so I’ll take as many shots as I can, and if the animal doesn’t disappear, then I’ll take some video. Anyways, this video is shot in its entirety inside Kruger National Park which is obviously South Africa’s biggest draw card for tourists.  Maybe seasoned safari travellers will claim Kruger to be too crowded and developed. And on weekends, I can see that being the case for sure. For me, however, I thought it was fine.  Of all the other big African safaris I took part in, this one had the most diverse wildlife as well as the most diverse geography.  In fact, in one day I managed to see the entire big five in Kruger, I don’t think there’s another park nearby where that would be likely. Kruger National Park wildlife is not only high quality but very accessible. I had a bit of an adventure in Kruger National Park too.  I spend nearly an entire day fighting to get my keys out of my car at one of the campsites since I somehow managed to lock them in.  Still despite my own stupidity, I managed to have an incredible time in the park.  I covered basically the entire Kruger National Park map from bottom all the way to the top and spent nearly all of the daylight hours out searching for wildlife.  It really was intense.  I loved it so much, there was a point I seriously considered just moving into the park permanently to become a full-time wildlife photographer. Ok, so that’s it from Kruger.  I have a couple more videos from South Africa still to come, so stay...

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