Thursday, May 14, 2015

More May Wildlife Encounters

May is a month of transition as the leaves seem to come out more each day and wildlife activity patterns change.  It is still possible to see Eastern Wild Turkey Gobblers strutting and performing the courtship display for hens, but this is not as commonly seen as a few weeks ago.

Mature Gobblers Display For Hens

Mature Gobblers Strut On Distant Hillside
On May 2nd, while waiting for gobblers to appear I had a special encounter with a Pileated Woodpecker.  I have seen these birds frequently throughout the years and have a modest amount of good video of them, but I had never gotten good still photos of them until this encounter.  The bird was very close and I had the 7D MK II with 600mm sitting on the tripod in front of me so I took several vertical photos with it, the best of which is posted here today.

Pileated Woodpecker-7D MK II-600mm F 4.0
 After taking several photos with this rig I switched to the 5D MK III and the new Canon 100-400mm.  The combination of the full frame sensor and 200mm less in focal length combined to make the bird much less frame filling so I cropped the image  to a 4:5 aspect ratio at 300 dpi in Adobe Camera Raw. This gives a 4.6 megapixel  image which is sized to approximately 6x8 inches at 300 dpi or 240 dpi at the more standard 8x10 size.

Pileated Woodpecker- 5D MK III1600-400mm L IS II
I have seen many other species of birds as well, but usually they do not linger long enough to photograph them or the distance is too great, but I did have a good photo session with a  Great Crested Flycatcher on the evening of May 10th.

Great Crested Flycathcer-7D MK II-600mm F 4.0
Great Crested Flycathcer-7D MK II-600mm F 4.0
Perhaps the most memorable experience of the month so far was a Tuesday morning encounter with an immature Bald Eagle.  I was crossing a stream with the old Ford Bronco when the eagle flew from a tree along the edge of the stream and lit in another tree that had branches extending to the center of the stream. It was too far for using the 100-400mm on a still camera with any hopes of success so I decided to try for some video.  This involved slowly opening the door and then setting the tripod up on the stream bed, using the partially opened door as a shield.  I then took quite a bit of video with the Panasonic GH4 with the old 100-400mm attached by means of the speedbooster.  Without going into too much detail the combination of the 2x crop factor of a GH4 sensor combined with additional crop factor from shooting 4K video some of the time or 1080P video with the ETC mode engaged gave very usable video.  After I had quite a bit of video I then switched to an old Canon 500mm f4.5 FD lens which works very well when fitted to the GH4 with a Novoflex FD adapter.  This gives the camera quite a bit more additional reach and I took quite a bit of video with this rig as well as taking a few still photos with it.

Immature Bald Eagle-Panasonic-GH4-Cano 500mm f 4.5 FD Lens-150 Yards

While the video is very good, the stills are usable but they are not in the same league quality wise as stills taken with either a full frame sensor camera or a 1.6 crop sensor such as the 7D, etc., but one must bear in mind the distance involved as the bird was around 150 yards away according to my rangefinder. When one is shooting stills with this camera they do have the advantage of the 2x crop factor of the sensor, but you do not have the extra boost that 4K video gives you or using ETC mode with 1080p so the above image was cropped substantially also and is a 2.4 Megapisel 4.5 x5.7  image at 300 dpi, which works quite well for internet posting when sized to 8x10 at 72 dpi.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Late April And Early May-A Wonderful Time To Be Afield

Late April and early-May.  The meadows and woodlands explode with beauty and wildlife sightings abound as the Eastern Wild Turkey mating season continues.  Gobblers are often seen strutting in the meadows--especially in the mornings and evenings. It is one of my favorite times of year to be afield.

Mature Gobbler Struts: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 600mm F4.0-ISO 200-1/250 sec.-F 5.0
Even though turkeys are often seen in meadows they are also woodland birds and one often thinks of the lonely, high mountain ridges when they think of them.  It is a special thrill to lie in wait and capture a mature gobbler in full strut in a woodland setting.

Mature Gobbler Struts: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 600mm F4.0-ISO 400-1/000 sec.-F 5.0
Many times one also gets other excellent photographic opportunities while waiting for the turkey s to appear, and this encounter with an Eastern Towhee was especially rewarding.

Eastern Towhee: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 100-400mm IS L II@400mm -ISO 800-1/700 sec.-F 5.6

The whitetail bucks are growing the new racks and it is always exciting to encounter a mature buck.

Antlers Developing : Canon 5D MK III-Canon 100-400mm IS L II&300mm -ISO 400-1/250 sec.-F 8.0
Antler growth is very slow through March and early April--at least in this area, but it accelerates greatly during May and within two weeks many of the mature bucks will have developed the beginnings of points.

Buck In Velvet: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 600mm F4.0-ISO 400-1/640 sec.-F 5.0
This is the third year this  buck  has grown antlers.  Last year he had a thin-narrow 8-point rack.  It will be interesting to see what he grows this year, but I can predict that the rack will be relatively narrow, although he should gain a lot of mass and perhaps grow more points. 

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Early April In Elk Country With The 7D MK II And The New 100-400mm IS II Lens

Herd Grazing In Saddle In Early April
 Most of the new information I have written about in the last two posts was acquired during an early April trip to Pennsylvania Elk Country that ran from Friday afternoon April 3rd until the following Tuesday.  This was one of the least enjoyable trips to Benezette that I can recall.  Thoughts of the coming changes kept running through my mind and I truly felt like an old man as I thought of the changes that have occurred since I first filmed the elk in 1995 and found that I could no longer look to the future of wildlife filming and photography with optimism in either Pennsylvania Elk Country or the National Parks.  It didn't help that elk, especially the bulls, were less visible than usual, but yet by the time the trip was over I found I had captured a few decent images so perhaps things were better than I thought.

The highlight of the trip was an early Easter Sunday morning drive to Hicks Run Viewing Area where  I found two bulls feeding along Dent's Run that were growing new antlers.

Bull Pauses From Feeding: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 100-400mm L IS II@176mm- ISO 400-1/80 sec. f 5.6
I filmed them for a time with the Panasonic GH4, but had shifted to taking stills with the 7D MK II and the new Canon 100-400mmL IS  II when the bulls suddenly crossed the run. The bull shown above and in the photo immediately below was the first to cross and his antlers were already forking into points, while the second bull had not yet started to develop points.

Bull Crossing Dents Run: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 100-400mm L IS II@135mm- ISO 400-1/125 sec. f 5.6

No Points Yet: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 100-400mm L IS II@400mm- ISO 640-1/250 sec. f 5.6
With this encounter, the morning was already one to remember, but there was even more to come as I had only started to drive back to Winslow Hill when I spied a bald eagle sitting in a tree by the side of Bennetts Branch, so I pulled to the side of the road and photographed it from the vehicle  as I am sure getting out would have caused it to fly.

Bald Eagle: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 100-400mm L IS II@400mm- ISO 400-1/250 sec. f 5.6

A cow elk  feeding by the roadside made another excellent photo opportunity  to try the 7D MK II and 100-400mm combo.

Cow Elk: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 100-400mm L IS II@104mm- ISO 400-1/250 sec. f 5.6
While the primary mission of the trip was to learn more about the coming changes it also turned into a test of the new Canon 100-400mm IS II lens and I used this lens almost exclusively except for scenic shots requiring a wider angle and usually I used it on the 7D MK II.  While I like the 7D MK II, I am even more impressed with the new 100-400mm as it seems to be very sharp even a the 400mm setting, which many complained about with the old model.  In addition the image stabilization works extremely well and  I got a high percentage of sharp shots even shooting hand-held and this is checking the sharpness at 100% in Photoshop.  It is not as sharp as primes such as the 300mm f2.8, 500mmF4, or 600mm F4.0, but it is excellent and the primes of course limit you to the extent that you have to back off  if you need to get more in the picture.

I am a firm believer in tripod, tripod, tripod as Ron "Buckwheat" Saffer always says in reference to what is needed to get sharp photos, but this lens does make it more possible than ever for Canon users to get acceptable images with a big telephoto in situations where it is difficult or impossible to use a tripod or when one wants to walk long distances without the hassle of carrying a tripod.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Major Changes To Winslow Hill Viewing Areas Part 2

In the last post I discussed the changes coming to the Dewy Road area.  Today we will deal a bit more with that before dealing with some information about the new PGC viewing area located on the Maynard Woodring Farm and now often referred to  as "The Woodring"

First off- it seems I created some confusion with  the photo below, which has the placard for designated routes for horse and bicycle riders super-imposed over a scene of elk grazing in the Saddle in what will now be a restricted zone from approximately the beginning of June until the end of September.  Since a silhouette of a person on foot is not included in this sign, some have taken this to indicate that hiking, photography,etc. will still be allowed as usual, but that is not the case. 


The key point is that the Saddle will be a restricted area and as such will likely  be plainly marked with the same type of  signs that are found at the Gilbert Farm Viewing Area and are seen attached to the fence in the photo below. I would expect these signs to be placed along both sides of each designated trail in the Saddle.  The downside to this is that it further detracts from the natural look of the area. It is possible they will add a silhouette of a person walking  to the placard shown above, but it may simply go with separate signage stating that all must remain in the designated routes where they pass through a restricted area.  If an area is not designated and posted as a restricted area, then it may be accessed on foot, while horse and bicycle riders must remain on designated routes anywhere on State Game Lands, which is what the sign above is primarily intended to address.

Restricted Area Signs-Porcupine Run/Winslow Hill Viewing Area-Gilbert Farm
I also have a bit of information on the new PGC Viewing Area at the Woodring Farm along Winslow Hill Road.   At present it seems that the meadow directly across Winslow Hill Road from the Woodring house is to be a restricted area.

New Restricted Area
Woodring House

It is not clear if the meadow directly to the right of the house and shown in the photo below, will be a restricted area or not, but I would expect it to be one.

This Meadow Will Likely Be A Restricted Area
A viewing platform is to be built at a scenic overlook on the property, with access by a hiking trail. I have been told that at this point the entire property will not be restricted to the extent the Saddle will be, but that can change at any time.

Woodring Overlook

It is hoped that this viewing area will draw some of the pressure from the Winslow Hill-Porcupine Run Viewing Areas and it should help to a certain extent, but with steadily increasing elk related tourism it seems likely that there will also be more restrictions as time passes.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.