Canon 1.4x and the Fox

Well my buddy gave me a little more time to play with the 1.4XL Canon lens extender and I finally got a decent day to take it out for some fun! Naturally Big Dog was ready to go at sunrise today so off we went into the early morning light. I scanned the open field for my intended subject, some sort of wild animal, a fox, coyote, hawk, eagle, deer… just about anything that a camera can focus on. As luck would have it I spotted a red fox frozen in the grass, intent upon some kind of prey, most likely a mouse I imagine. And just as I was ready to snap the picture he noticed me, turning a wary eye towards me and the big dog. Fortunately I was ready, zeroed in with focus right on his eye and I snapped the image. The lighting turned out to be amazing, the fox was facing the west and the sun was rising in the east right behind him. As he turned his head the light fell upon his face as if I was in a studio planning a portrait. Amazing 🙂

Fox in Grass

So the 1.4XL appears to pass the sharpness test, the fox’s eye from about thirty yards away is about as sharp as it can be. Of course with my 200 mm F4L Canon lens with a 1.4x attached is not going to give me much depth of field, so I can’t claim that anything other than the beautiful predator’s eyeball is going to be in sharp focus but the image is attractive enough for me to put up for sale on my stock site and gift item site. Also, the part of my totally unscientific testing that I was most interested in… Without the 1.4x, shooting the fox in the field at about the same range I only was able to render a 2×3 inch segment of the image, while with the 1.4x on this image, the final result was a 4×6 inch segment. While I am not going to be making any billboards with an image this size, it is at least a printable and saleable image. My website is showing that it is able to create a 7×10 inch unframed print of this image. I think I will redo it soon when I have more time so that it can be a more useful 8×10 print. Naturally if you are going to put it in a frame with matting any size frame can be used.

Well, hope you enjoy the image, and I hope that I can get out and shoot a few more with the 1.4x before I have to return it! Also I am hoping to be able to purchase the new Canon 100-400 Mark II before autumn 🙂 We will see ????

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Hard Ride

Well, that didn’t go as planned… in my mind was an enjoyable ride, maybe out to the overlook on 67 near Victor, some awesome pictures and a joyous ride back down the hill to town. The reality turned out otherwise 😦 Two years ago I was in great riding shape, but haven’t had a lot of time for myself or for exercise since then. I knew the hills in Cripple Creek are formidable, but in trying to ride them on my mountain bike, they went from formidable to simply wicked!

Fox and KitsThe morning started out fine… a nice ride down the hill to Bronco Billy’s for a cheese omelette. Breakfast was awesome :) Then I began the ride to Victor which lasted about three minutes before thinking better of that idea. It wasn’t so much the hill up there at that point as it was the gloom of the day. The main reason for riding to the overlook was to get pics of the Sangre, but it is just so dusty and gloomy that successful photography was just not going to happen.

So instead I decided on the dirt roads south of my house. Thought that might be a place to test out the old legs and see what is left after two years of much less beneficial physical struggle. The ride up the hill from Bronco Billy’s pretty much answered that question. I made it about halfway before I had to resort to standing on he pedals for more leverage… That is when I found that the old legs were already too tired to stand, nothing left to do but get off and walk.

But I was not about to give up until I at least did some riding on the dirt! I was encouraged by the first hill, steadily climbing the mountainside to another vista point I enjoy. Once there though, the hills once again became too steep for me to negotiate on wheels so I just turned around and headed for home. Very discouraging ride, but I think I’ll try to stick with it and see if the aging legs will bounce back and make it possible to do some pedaling around this area.

Didn’t get picture one today, but I did get one processed last night from the little fox family that I found a couple of weeks ago.  I don’t know, maybe I’ll head down the trail with Big Dog this evening and see if there might be a nice sunset to photograph. Other than that, it looks like the end of the road for picture exploring for a while 😦

Focus on Infinity

“Infinity: unlimited extent of time, space, or quantity : boundlessness”, according to Merriam Webster. A difficult concept under any circumstances, infinity in photography can be an even more elusive state. In photography, the definition of infinity includes “A distance between a subject and the camera so great that rays of light reflected from the subject may be regarded as parallel.”, and “A distance setting of the camera lens beyond which everything is in focus.”.

Fresh Snow on the Sangre de Cristo

Recent travails in shooting distant landscapes has me studying the issue in more depth, and today was the day for some cursory field testing. The plan was to conduct a scientific experiment to determine if the auto focus mechanism on my Canon 70D with my 70-200 lens was handling infinity properly. Today was supposed to start with a beautiful clear morning, following days of snow and fog and I was glad to finally be able to get out and do some shooting with Big Dog.

As usual though, my experiment didn’t turn out to be all that scientific or even informative, but I had fun and got some good usable shots 🙂 What I did find out though was gratifying in that I believe that my lens is performing exactly as it should. My method was to take two shots of every scene, one with the auto focus and the second identical shot with the lens set to manual and the focus set to or near the “infinity” mark focused on the distant Sangre de Cristo mountain range as sharply as possible. Then, in front of Photoshop a 100% view of the two images side by side was going to tell me which method is better. I had recently watched another photographer on Youtube who claimed that manual mode focused on infinity was the way to go.

Now the really confusing part of the experiment is that many professional lenses have the capability to focus “beyond infinity”… where nothing is actually in focus. Apparently the equipment can compensate for micro expansion and contraction of the metal due to temperature changes and may require that space slightly beyond the infinity line for that purpose.

Fox with Prey

It was indeed a beautiful morning and we were awarded a couple of bonus shots for our effort 🙂 Along the way I spotted both a fox hunting and then later a coyote hunting in the beautiful fresh snow. The fox was already heading for home with a tasty morsel in his mouth and the coyote was still hunting but paused to cast a wary glance in our direction.

Coyote in Fresh Snow

Coyote in Fresh Snow

The mountains were magnificent as usual and the clear day was perfect for my little test. My scene is perfect with some nearby pine forest covered foothills backed up by the distant peaks of the Sangre. As I conducted my tests I noticed some curious behavior exhibited by the equipment. When focusing on the nearby mountains the camera on auto focus chose to focus exactly on the infinity mark, while the distant mountains resulted in a focus slightly beyond the infinity mark. I thought I was onto something there, a possible malfunction in the auto focus mechanism perhaps. But the follow up shots using manual focus proved the auto focus to be exactly correct based on what I was focusing on.

These findings were very good news for confidence my equipment, but also raised a new question that I have no definitive answer for. Why are the close mountains which are at infinity focused differently than the distant mountains which are also beyond infinity. I guess the simple answer to that is that the close mountains are at a sufficiently varied distance and angle to result in a slightly different infinity value from the vastly distant Sangre de Cristo range more than 60 miles away. In any case, the idea of just setting the camera to the infinity mark is out of the question, at least for a 200mm lens. This practice would probably work fine for a wide angle lens where the infinity point is only a few feet from the camera. Each scene is going to require evaluation to determine what exactly is the most important feature to render the most sharp in the image. If the entire image needs to be sharp, focus stacking in Photoshop might be required.

All in all, the day was a success, important knowledge acquired, some nice images to work with collected, and now in the last couple of hours some more great shots of the little fox family that I found the other day 🙂 Please be sure to visit my image website to see all the new pictures that have been made for sale as wall art, cool household items and royalty free stock!

Soul of a Bear

Yesterday I was profoundly saddened as I was listening to a conversation between some hunters as they discussed their excitement at the approaching hunting seasons. They spoke of being unable to sleep the night before a hunt from the opportunity to get out in the woods and enjoy nature and the feeling of freedom from standing on ground that may have never known man’s feet before.

Black Bear

I was thinking that I have those same feelings before a photo trip. I hike to the same places, see the same mountains, trees, lakes and wildlife. But then they spoke of the thrill of killing an elk or a bear and I was reminded of a picture of a bear that I was able to snap some time ago. I was excited to finally get a shot of a bear. What I was not prepared for was the feeling that came over me when I saw the animals eyes through Photoshop. They say the eyes are the window to the soul and the beautiful spirit showing through this bear’s eyes was truly moving.

This little family of bears was not threatening in any way. They were just meandering about their business of being bears. They stopped to look at me to make sure I wasn’t a threat and seemed to be a little curious as to what I was up to. This has been true of all the animals I have encountered in my adventures in the mountain wilderness. Some of the more timid animals have run at the sight of me, but many just stood there and looked at me, completely unaware that I could be any kind of threat to them. Just as the bear family, they all were just going about their business of being deer, elk, and coyotes.

When I encounter these animals and briefly become part of their lives, the peace and solitude I experience is hard to describe in words. I cannot imagine breaking the silence and peace with the sound of a gunshot and watching one of these beautiful souls drop into a lifeless heap. I wonder at the kind of spirit that enjoys the sudden disruption in the solitude of nature’s tranquility and the end of a life that was previously minding it’s own business unaware that it was a target in a game for someone’s entertainment.

I can only think that such people have not seen these animals the way that I have. They have not looked into their eyes and seen the spirit I have seen. They have not looked through the window to the soul in this beautiful part of God’s Creation.

Fox and Deer

Interesting how things work. For weeks I have been seeing deer in the little woods on the way to the coffee shop and the day I decide to start bringing the camera along the deer disappear. Undaunted, I have been taking the camera along faithfully as I push the wheelchair on our errands. It finally paid off on Sunday as I spotted a little family of red foxes, a mama and her cubs playing on the edge of the forest. It was a dark and gloomy day so I set my camera to ISO 400 and moved in as close as the mama fox would allow. At first the little family was too wary to get a good shot, but after a while they decided I wasn’t a threat and settled in for an afternoon nap. I braced my camera on a tree and carefully snapped the shutter until I was confident I had the shot.

Red-Fox-4-(cub) Red-Fox-3 Red-Fox-2 Red-Fox-1

Wildlife  by S. W. Krull Imaging

Fox family and deer enjoying Memorial Weekend in Colorado

Monday was another dark and gloomy day but a small herd of mule deer had stopped to enjoy an afternoon nap as well. The deer weren’t nearly as skittish as the fox family and allowed me to get fairly close for some fine shots of both buck and doe members of the resting family.

Pikes Peak looks different every time I look at it and is always prime subject matter for my landscape portfolio. The mountain was wearing a crown of clouds on Monday and stood by while I collected a few more images that are a bit different from all the others I have seen in my four years here.

The holiday weekend has caused a backlog in Tricia’s physical therapy schedule, so it doesn’t look like I will be getting out today. Perhaps I will use the time to process some of the images that have been accumulating on my compact flash chip.