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!

Baby Fox

I was greeted with a rare clear warm sunny morning today following a week of absolutely wretched freezing cold windy days. I could see from a glance out the window that the view of the Sangre de Cristo was already obscured from heavy haze and there were no interesting clouds either. Just a perfect Colorado mountain morning for me and Big Dog to go out walking in.

Mama and baby fox

I figured it was still early enough that there would be a good chance of seeing some deer or elk on the mountainsides so I grabbed the camera. I have plenty of shots of the Sangre in early morning sunshine so I didn’t bother to bring the polarizer. Sure enough on the trip out we spotted some mule deer grazing high on the mountainside, way too far away to get any kind of a reasonable picture. Looks like the prairie dogs are starting to come out of hibernation, or whatever the heck they do in the winter. Saw a few of them in the distance sticking their heads up to keep an eye on the dog I suppose. Haven’t done my studies on prairie dog behavior regarding hibernating and such, except that I did read that although cute from a distance they can be a bit violent and cannibalistic towards each other!

Looked like except for some good exercise for me and the dog, the day was going to be a photographic bust. But just about then I thought I could see a couple of ears sticking up above the mountain grass… Then after a closer inspection through the glass, I discovered that it was a red fox near her den so I took up a position to see if fortune would be in my photographic favor. As I steadied the camera I was delighted to see that mama was out sunning with some new babies. I thought there might be at least two but apparently by the time I got my lens focused only one was brave enough to stay above ground and pose for the camera. Unfortunately I could not get close enough to avoid having a few blades of the mountain grass obscuring part of my scene, but I was able to get a few cute ones nevertheless 🙂

Little one finally scampered into the den but mama fox didn’t seem to mind me standing at a distance photographing while she continued to bask in the sun drenched mountain morning. Looks like I’m going to have to do some significant cropping on these so I don’t think I’m going to be able to make any large prints, but the wildlife sighting was a rare treat and I do a have a few nice ones to keep a record of the day 🙂