Kayaking with the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD

NJ Photography

Kayaking in NJ with the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD

I brought the new Tamron USA 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD all-in-one lens out on the water with me for kayaking this past weekend.

Outdoor Photography in NJ

Kayaking at Monksville Reservoir in NJ with the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD

All shots taken handheld along with the Canon Rebel SL2.

Mallards on Monksville Reservoir

Kayaking at Monksville Reservoir in NJ with the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD

The location is Monksville Reservoir which is an incredible natural resource situated in Northern New Jersey.

NJ Adventure Photography

Kayaking at Monksville Reservoir in NJ with the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD

The compact lens + camera combo fit easily into my dry bag.

Great Blue Heron at Monksville Reservoir

Kayaking at Monksville Reservoir in NJ with the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD

It is important to me to be able to photograph both scenery and wildlife when I am out on the water.

NJ Wildlife Photography

Kayaking at Monksville Reservoir in NJ with the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD

The 18-400mm is a great versatile tool for outdoor adventures.

NJ Adventure Photography

Kayaking at Monksville Reservoir in NJ with the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD

Purchase the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD all-in one now lens through my Amazon affiliate links and I get a small commission to fund future adventures.

Tamron 18-400mm for Canon

Tamron 18-400mm for Nikon

 

Have any questions on camera gear or settings?  Ask in the comments and I will do my best to answer.

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Florida Nature Photography: American Alligator

It is always a good idea to “work the scene” when out performing nature photography.  Our instincts may lead us to shoot a subject from a specific angle that has worked well for us in the past, or maybe even to mimic what we have seen in a magazine.  However, there are nearly infinite ways to image an animal, plant, or landscape when we factor in using different focal lengths, varied camera angles, and also begin to think abstractly.  One alternative type of shot is  to fill the frame with nothing but the texture of a live animal’s skin, fur, or feathers.  In this case we are looking at the “business side” of an American Alligator’s body.  Yes, the animal is both free and alive.

Alligator photo

An intimate view of the ridges atop an Alligator’s body. All other contextual clues are eliminated from the frame. #Photo taken with the #Tamron SP 70-300mm VC lens and the #Canon 6D.

New York Nature Photography: Common Porcupine

Yesterday Lisa and I took a drive to the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, an area best known to photographers for Bald Eagle viewing in the colder months.  I did see three Eagles, although none happened to be close enough for good photos.  The highlight for the trip of us, was a Porcupine busily gnawing away on Spruce needles not much more than 15 feet off the ground.  The only other live and wild Porcupine I’ve seen in North America was completely balled up in a sleeping position.

To take this photo, I mounted my Tamron SP 150-600mm VC lens onto my tripod and then dialed in the most appropriate exposure settings.  In Aperture Priority mode, I set the aperture to F/8.0 and with overcast skies no ISO short of 1600 would do.  My initial shots with an exposure compensation of ~ +1.0 stops light added were still very dark.  When I got to +2.7 stops I was happy with the tonality of the image.  The only thing left to do was to wail on the shutter button to try for sharp captures without motion blur.  Best resultant photo below:

NY Wildlife Photography

A photograph of a porcupine eating Spruce needles on a snow covered branch. Photo taken in Sullivan County, #NewYork with the #Tamron SP 150-600mm VC lens and the #Canon EOS 60D DSLR.

Common Porcupine, Sullivan County in New York. Exposure settings: 1/100 F/8.0 ISO 1600, 500mm

Image Optimization: An Eastern Chipmunk

I will precurse the photos with a disclaimer that I find it difficult to walk by the enumerated Eastern Chipmunk without taking a picture EVERY SINGLE TIME.  That being said, below is a peak at my RAW conversion workflow for a new wildlife photo.

nature photography photoshop workflow

Left side is with my saved Camera RAW defaults applied. Right side is my output image with contrast and further sharpening and noise reduction applied for web/general print.

The above composite is a megacrop created only for the purpose of showing my 2 minute plunderings in the “digital darkroom”.  Get the settings correct in-camera, expose to the right, and make sure the initial file is sharp.

New Jersey Wildlife Photographer

A small brown rodent takes a break from fattening up on acorns to ponder what the heck this human is doing.

1/80 F/8 ISO 400.  Taken with the Tamron SP 150-600mm lens, the Canon EOS 7D, and a Manfrotto tripod with fluid head.

I got lucky that the chipmunk paused just behind a couple of vivid fallen leaves.  To me, they are the icing on the cake and a fortunate happenstance.

Selective Sharpening in Nature Photography: American Black Bear

My typical nature photo post-processing workflow is very short and sweet unless I have to remove sensor dust spots from shoot at a vary small aperture.  I do like to present my images as realistically and un-manipulated as possible.  My still image format is always camera RAW to get the best possible dynamic range and so that I can make my own decisions over noise reduction and sharpening.  I had the great fortune of finding a wild Black Bear descending a tree in Northern New Jersey today.

Here is my finalized and optimized image with my typical watermarks and downsized at 900px as I generally do for web usage:

ursus american

A wild Black Bear descending a tree in North NJ. Photographed with the Tamron SP 150-600mm VC, the Canon EOS 7D, and a Manfrotto tripod.

Taken with a tripod-mounted Tamron SP 150-600mm VC Lens and Canon EOS 7D.  I had no time to prepare for the shot or change my camera settings.  I had previously dialed in ISO 800 F/8.0 +2/3 Exposure Compensation in Aperture Priority Mode, so the shutter speed was to be determined by my camera’s meter.  In this particular shot my 7D did a good job of gauging the brightness and I was left with a shutter speed of 1/80th of a second and a good exposure.  In the world of wildlife though, this is a relatively slow setting and prime for blur of subject movement.

Below are 100% crops to reveal what is really going on behind the scenes in my “digital darkroom”

RAW versus JPEG

On the right is a very unflattering view of my unprocessed RAW at high magnification and on the left is a slightly more flattering view of my output JPEG at the same magnification.

As you can see the eye and fur definition is lacking on the SOOC file on the right.  The Tamron SP 150-600mm VC is very sharp near the 400mm focal length and at apertures like F/8.  Unfortunately AI Servo focus is often less accurate than One-Shot focus.  Other reasons for image softness may include: very slight subject movement, auto-focus sensor slightly off the bear’s eye, shooting in the shade (low contrast on subject), and perhaps the panning movement on my tripod head.

After my initial default global sharpening of the RAW file, I applied an additional low-intensity High-Pass Sharpening layer.  I still was not happy with the definition on the bear’s face.  I created an additional layer of global High-Pass sharpening, but this time I erased the effect off of the background to prevent introduction of widespread digital noise.  I also feathered the remaining sharpening a bit, by tracing the bear’s outline with an eraser tool set to 50% to maintain a natural transition from subject to foreground.  This is one method of performing selective sharpening to optimize images and get the best out of your photos.

Happy to answer any questions about my workflow if you leave them in the comments.

Photographing wildlife in harsh lighting: an Eastern Fence Lizard

Below we have a photo of a small, harmless, and downright cute Eastern Fence Lizard.  A native reptile of New Jersey that is widespread within its habitat, but generally not familiar to residents of Northern New Jersey.

Sceloporus undulatus

A closeup photograph of a wild New Jersey reptile taken with a Tamron macro lens and a Canon DSLR.

Photo taken with the Tamron SP 90mm VC F/2.8 Macro Lens and the Canon EOS 7D.  Camera settings: Shutter at 1/100 Aperture at F/3.2 and an ISO speed of 200.  One Shot focus mode, camera handheld, VC On, RAW image format, manual exposure mode, auto white balance.

F/3.2 is not the punchiest aperture of my lens, but it does yield acceptable sharpness.  Shallow depth of field was very important to me in the making of this photo.  My “go to aperture” for macro of F/5.6 brought a lot more detail in the foreground AND the background.  The impact of this photo is in its simplicity and having prominent background shapes and textures strongly detracts from this type of “mid-day silhouette capture”.

Clearly with the sun high in the sky and without cloud cover, the natural illumination of the subject is going to be uneven with a large contrast between the shadows and the highlights.  Many established photographers would call this “bad light” or “problematic light”.  This is not necessarily the easiest condition to create impactful photos in but by manually exposing for the subject’s mid-tones and shooting into an uncluttered background I’ve created a minimalistic photo that evokes thoughts of desert climates.

Bird Photography in Cape May – American Goldfinch

I was recently down in Cape May to do some nature photography.  Since CM is the undisputed birding capital of New Jersey, it only makes sense to take a long telephoto lens along like the Tamron SP 150-600mm VC.  Below is one of my favorite captures from this excursion.

Bird Photography

A closeup view of a female American Goldfinch at rest on a Sunflower in Cape May, New Jersey.

Shutter speed: 1/500 Aperture: F/9.0 ISO: 200 in Aperture Priority Mode +2/3 Exposure Compensation.  The Focal Length is 500mm.  Other settings: VC On, Manfrotto tripod, Spot Metering, Manual White Balance on my Canon EOS 7D

There was a flock of at least 1 or 2 dozen Goldfinches busily feeding in this Sunflower Patch, but upon my approach they retreated to the trees which is the expected response from most songbirds.  Most wildlife is genetically imprinted to flee from humans, as they were historically a food source in the days when hunting was our only means of sustenance.  Experience and literature will tell us that individual bird species have their own expected “flush range”.  Meaning different birds will typically fly away faster than others.  In my personal experience, a very slow but direct approach on a feeding Goldfinch may occasionally get you as close as you want to get.

This particular female American Goldfinch did not fly when the rest of her flock retreated, instead it appeared to me that this bird was mostly basking in the warmth of the sunlight.  She was splitting her time between preening (tending to her feathers) and plucking seeds from the Sunflower head below her.  After years of bird observation, I could tell that this bird was relaxed because it showed no intention of flying away and also lacked the nervous head movements and body twitching that comes before the songbird flushes (flying away).  I got my tripod to the desired photographic height and slowly worked my way forward, one large deliberate by quiet footstep at a time.  The photo featured on this page is not cropped whatsoever and I would not have wanted to shoot it any tighter.  After I was done making my captures I exited the scene in the same slow and deliberate manner to not cause undue stress to the passerine (songbird).

American Rubyspot damsefly in NJ

This a recent macro insect photo I took in the region of New Jersey known as the Pinelands National Reserve, home to ecosystems and wildlife not often seen in other parts of our state.  Photography equipment utilized: Tamron SP 90mm VC F/2.8 1:1 Macro Lens and the Canon EOS 7D DSLR.  Damselflies are generally smaller than dragonflies, but fall under the same order known as odonata.  Pictured below is a male American Rubyspot damselfly, its Latin name is Hetaerina americana.

NJ insect photo

One of New Jersey’s most vivid damselflies.

I actually ended up wading in standing water that was thigh high to take this photograph.  I saw several Rubyspots perched on vegetation in this pond.  I wasn’t thrilled to get to my cargo shorts soaking wet, but I had to decide to either walk away from a photo opportunity or “dive right into the scene”.

The sunlight was fairly overcast when I snapped this shot so a fast shutter speed was not possible.  Dragging a good tripod into a pond didn’t seem like a good idea, and a tripod is not really an asset when making a still capture of an insect perched on a piece of grass with forces like water ripples and a breeze causing motion.  Handheld and fairly large aperture was the only way this shot was going to happen.

I’ve had a few people tell me that they find a 300mm lens sufficient for shooting small insects, but the reality is you are not going to get this type of highly magnified photo without a 1:1 macro lens.  In this case the fast autofocus and Vibration Compensation were also needed.  Camera settings:  1/125 F/5.0 ISO 400, VC on, Auto White Balance, RAW file format, One Shot focus in continuous drive mode.

American Goldfinch DSLR video; filmed in Cape May, New Jersey

It was a real treat to get some close footage of our vibrant state bird recently.  I knew that I would want footage from several different angles to create diversity… even in a short wildlife video.  Varying the focal lengths and my angle of view on the birds was how I tackled that challenge.

Footage shot in 1080p at 30fps on the Canon EOS 7D with the tripod mounted Tamron SP 150-600mm VC zoom lens.  DSLR was set to the desired shutter speed of 1/60th of a second and I adjusted the aperture and ISO value to get as good of an exposure as possible for each clip.  Unfortunately it was a windy day so I had to strip the audio of the birds interacting and feeding.  I don’t think anyone would have enjoyed listening to the hissing and popping caused by the wind hitting the microphone outdoors.