Happy 1st Anniversary to Me

My wedding anniversary is not quite yet, but  a landmark day passed this week.  It’s exactly one year ago that I started this website.  The journey has been very rewarding despite the challenges along the way.  Every project takes twice (or more) as long as you expect, the learning curve was steep at the beginning and little glitches pop up now and again.  Through this my photography has matured as I now have an end goal in mind for my work and I am more motivated than ever to get out and photograph the splendour of nature.  The site has filled out with content and I continue to add more each month to the reviews and galleries sections.  Being Canada’s birthday (as my daughter calls it) and the anniversary of sheridanphoto.com I was out and about capturing some more great images this week.

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In the spirit of new beginnings I visited a new location for me this week on the recommendation from a fellow photographer.  Milligan’s Pond is located just outside of the downtown of Barrie and is an artificial wetland created many years ago and maintained by the city, volunteer groups and Ontario Nature.  I had herd that there were black crowned night herons nesting there and I was not disappointed.  Not only did I spot both adults and two juveniles, they generously co-operated allowing me to get amazing shots of them roosting and hunting.  There were also some sandpipers and muskrats that I captured as well.  All of these species were firsts for me to photograph, so I was through the roof!!

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Also I visited one rainy morning to the Bear Creek Wetlands and was rewarded for getting wet with some new images.  Between periods of rain I had the place all to myself and I managed to keep all my gear dry with some creativity.  I visited a new (to me) little offshoot from the main wetland and created some moody butterfly and flower images in the dim light.  While I was down on the ground with my tripod I heard a noise behind me in the grass.  It was a northern flicker family raiding a large ant hill.  The father was pulling out mouthfuls of ants and feeding them to the two juveniles with him.  He then flew up into a poplar and chirped at the babies encouraging them to feed on the ants as they had been shown.  This is not something I had ever seen before and I quietly watched for a while before delicately unzipping my photo pack to retrieve my second body with the 300mm f4.  I snapped a few shots through the grass but was mostly pleased to have witness another of natures wonders.

Both galleries are found here:   Odds & Ends 2014 and Bear Creek 2014

Looking through these images I’m sad to admit I AM a bird photographer.  Acknowledging you have a problem is the first step to recovery. :-)

A Good Start to Summer

Summer’s here and the time is right for macro and bird photography just down the street.  I was at the Bear Creek wetlands today for the first time in a few weeks.  It’s the first official day of summer so what better way to celebrate than to get out for some local nature photography.  The usual song birds were around for this time of year while the water foul has gone into hiding with their young families.

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There is a really nice showing of wildflowers this year and I was inspired to tryout my new macro lens, the Tamron 90mm USD VC.  It worked extremely well and I got a couple of shots that would have been very difficult with my old Canon 100mm macro that lacked image stabilization.  Most of the close-up images taken today were done so handheld, so having the new Tamron with VC (IS) was indispensable.  If I had any doubts about switching lenses they were dispelled today as the new lens worked well and produces super sharp images.  Not that the Canon macro was poor in this regard but this Tamron might just be a tad better.

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I was also out to see what birds I could scare up so once again I used my new Tamron 150-600mm USD VC.  I am very satisfied with the results from this lens.  Having a 600mm lens is opening up new territory for bird photography.  It does not match the macro in resolution (or my Canon L telephotos for that matter) but does produce very nice results at 600mm especially when you close down the aperture just 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop.  At focal lengths of 500mm or less it can be used at any aperture with excellent results.

I have put up another 10 images on top of the two shown here to my gallery:  Bear Creek 2014.

More Foxes & Other Spring Stuff

I have put up the last of my fox images into their gallery (Fox Family 2014).  All good things must come to an end and sadly the foxes have moved on to a safer location.  This is probably best for the foxes as well as the people who were watching.  No one has seen them at the den site in a week so hopefully the family has relocated to a more secluded area.  All I can say is WOW what an experience it was to visit the den site several times and see these gorgeous animals live out their lives.  These may just be the best wildlife photographs that I have ever produced.  Usually getting a well composed, in focus shot of wild animal looking at the camera is all that I am usually able to achieve (wildlife never usually sticks around long enough for much else).  With these foxes though you could wait and look for interactions between animals, feeding, interesting poses/behavior or other intimate moments.  What an amazing opportunity!!

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Despite my temporary fox fixation I have been out to do some of my more traditional spring shooting this year.  This time of year is magical when the leaves and flowers return colour to the landscape after months of monochromatic winter.  In the past month some of my visits included the local forests photographing trilliums and a day trip to the Tiny Marsh (for birds) with the Barrie Photography Club.  Joining this club in 2014 has been a nice compliment to my photography, giving me another outlet and new inspirations.  There is a new gallery up to show this work (Odds and Ends 2014).  I will continue to add to this page throughout the year when I end up with interesting pictures from here and there.

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To view more images go to either of these galleries:  Fox Family 2014  or  Odds & Ends 2014

Holy Foxes Batman

I discovered last week (with the help of the local media) a den of foxes in a downtown park of my home city; Barrie.  They have created quite a stir in the community and even some conflict as some people approach to close, try to feed them or bring their dogs along to see the animals (all of which greatly disturb the fox’s behavior and puts their survival at risk).  I have even witnesses a couple of verbal confrontations that could have ended badly.  It is good to see people are so passionate about wildlife but you always collect more flies with honey than with vinegar.  If people could just think about others (including the foxes) a little more it would really help.

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This is not an everyday event to be able to document the development of a wild fox family, without leaving home.  I smile from ear to ear every time I visit the den site and catch the coming and goings in the life of a young fox.  The new Tamron 150-600 f/5-6.3 USD VC has been great to allow me to keep a respectful distance but still get detailed close-up shots.

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I have started a gallery just for these amazing animals as I can already see I am going to have too many to combine with another.  See what I captured here:  Fox Family 2014.

I’m on a roll

I’ve been a busy beaver the past week and have just completed my second lens review.  The Canon 70-200 f/4 L IS USM is without a doubt my best performing lens.  Optically it’s almost as good as it gets and functionally it’s top of the class.  Despite this I only use this fine lens in specific situations such as:  extractive landscapes, close range action and shots of animals in their environment.  Being a mid-telephoto leaves it too long for typical landscapes and short for most wildlife.  When I do reach for this glass the results always put a smile on my face.

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Catch the whole story here:  Canon 70-200 f/4 L IS USM   With less images to choose from with this specific lens I have just used some of the better work from my galleries (rather than original pictures like my other reviews).  There will be more reviews to follow in the coming weeks and months, so check back once in a while.  Up next I intend to write an opinion of my newest lens the Tamron 150-600mm f5-6.3 VC USD.

First Lens Review

After much delay I have finally put together my first lens review.  It was an easy choice on which lens to evaluate, the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS USM is my most used and valued lens.  Something close to half the photos taken on this site in the last 3 years have been with this one optic.  I own lenses that are as sharp or even a little better, but I always find myself reaching for the 300mm.  It has such a great combination of useful attributes making it a pleasure to use and looking at the images later at home is even better.  This package does have a few minor imperfections, but nothing that cannot be overcome.  The lens has produced much of my best work, as seen below in this image of a great blue heron when used with a 1.4x converter:

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What else can I say I really love this lens!  Read the whole review here:  Canon 300mm f/4 L ISAlso all the images shown for illustrative purposes are original to the review and not included in any of my galleries.

The Birds are Back in Town

Here are some images taken while out visiting my local wetland.  The birds have returned after the most brutally cold winter in my lifetime and were excited to get the new breeding season started.  I was excited to put to use my new lens, the Tamron 150-600mm f5/6.3 VC USD.  Wow, this lens is going to open up so many new possibilities for my wildlife photography.  It doubles the reach of my old long lens, the excellent Canon 300mm F4 L IS and the new Tamron is turning out to be really sharp!  I am getting shots that I would not have even bothered to take last year due to the increased magnification of 600mm!

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The past 2 weeks as I put together a print portfolio for each of the last 2 years (2012 & 2013) I was thinking about how my style and subjects have changed.  When did I become primarily a bird photographer?  I don’t know but the transformation seems complete as I now get excited when I capture a new bird species, like a breeding pair of common mergansers, a pair of bufflehead ducks or a downy woodpecker.  Just when you thought it can’t get any nerdier!!

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Take a look at the rest of the gallery where all (for now) of the wildlife was shot with the Tamron 150-600mm:  Bear Creek 2014.

Backyard Test: Tamron 150-600mm

I had an hour or so to test my new Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC USD in the backyard this morning.  We had a visitor to our white spruce trees who was particularly co-operative so I rushed back in the house to fetch the new lens and a body.  I hastily left my 50D in jpeg mode (which is not the camera strong suit) so the results are a little softer than if I had used RAW mode and converted the files.  It was very overcast and the red squirrel was shaded by the upper branches so I was using higher ISO then I would have liked (1250 & 1600).  Still the photos show a fair amount of promise with the lens even though conditions and the operator were not at their best!

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Canon 50D with Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC USD @ 600mm, f/6.3 (wide open), 1/500 s, ISO 1250, cropped about 65% of full frame.

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Here is about a 100% (1:1) crop of the above image.

I think the detail is decent and was fairly impressed with the lens performance.  If I had had any sense I would have used RAW and the results would have been little better or grabbed a tripod and used lower ISO also.  I did find that using lower ISO handheld was surprisingly worse.  For example moving to ISO 500 and using 1/200 s produced shots that were actually slightly softer due to the camera/lens movement.  Increasing the shutter speed/ISO always produced better results up to about 1/400 s before there was no noticeable improvement.  The VC helps but is no silver bullet.

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Canon 50D with Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC USD @ 600mm, f/6.3 (wide open), 1/640 s, ISO 1600, cropped about 50% of full frame.

I will continue to test the lens and post my thoughts here as there seems to be so much interest out there for feedback on this new Tamron.

New gear In the house!!

Please excuse the poorly executed photography below as they were just meant for illustrative purposes :-)

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I have purchased a couple of new telephoto lenses this winter and wanted to just quickly share what I thought so far about them. I picked up the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro VC USD a few months ago and just this week took possession of the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC USD.  Both these lenses are shown above sandwiching my other telephotos: the Canon 300mm f4 L IS and the Canon 70-200mm f4 L IS.  I know what some people will say Tamron, really don’t they make second rate lenses.  Well that may have been the case a few years ago but not recently.  Both these lenses feature the latest technology in lens construction with fast/silent USD (UltraSonic Motor identical to Canon’s USM), VC (Vibration Compensation similar to Canon’s IS) and dust/moisture resistant construction (similar to Canon L series).

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I upgraded from a Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro (not the L version) and am very pleased.  Going from 100mm to 90mm makes no difference. The new Tamron has the same minimum focus distance at 1:1 magnification as the Canon and gives the same working distance.  The Tamron is just as sharp (possibly even more) but image quality was not why I switched, the Canon macro was already a stellar lens.  I switched for the VC and the moisture resistance of the Tamron.  The build on the new Tamron is just as solid as my old Canon but now I will feel more comfortable using it on misty and drizzly mornings.  IS/VC is the main feature that I felt was lacking from the Canon and hand holding was very difficult at macro distances.  I will still use a tripod whenever possible but bugs and other subjects often do not sit still long enough to set one up.  I can not say enough about the VC on the Tamron, it works very well and easily gives 3 stops of increased handhold-ability (even into macro ranges).

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The real star of the show though is the new Tamron 150-600mm.  According to the computer system at my local Henrys, I was the first one to take delivery of this lens in their whole chain of 30 stores!  What an honour (kidding).  I have been looking forward to a lens like this for several years, so I was over the moon when this lens was announced back in the Fall of 2013.  Finally an affordable ultra telephoto lens for the masses.  It Checked all the feature boxes (600mm, USD, VC, moisture resistance) so I was a little concerned about the image quality when I saw the retail price ($1300 CAD).  Canon would charge 2-3 times this IF they would ever make such a lens.  Then the reviews started to trickle in at the beginning of 2014 and I was stunned at how good they were.  They indicated that it just about matched the very good Canon 100-400mm L IS lens so I got myself on the pre-order list of my local retailer immediately.

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After having spent most of today testing to see if this lens is as good as I was hoping, I am pleasantly surprised.  Wide open the lens sharpness is great in the 150-400mm range, good at 500mm and decent at 600mm.  It is not as good as my amazing Canon 70-200 f/4 L IS in overlapping focal lengths, almost as good as my Canon 300mm f/4 L IS both wide open at 300m and is just as good as the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS + 1.4x converter at 420mm.  At 600mm the Tamron is a little soft wide open (f/6.3) but sharpens nicely when stopped down a little to f/7.1 or even more so at f/8. The auto focus is great and is fast and accurate.  My copy needed a +4 auto focus adjustment on one of my 50D bodies to make it sing.  The VC works well and changes handholding an almost 1000mm equivalent lens (on my 50D) from impossible to usually doable.  Tamron’s USD and VC and even quieter than the Canon equivalents and the USD is surprisingly fast and accurate.  I have not tested the AI servo focus tracking and this is the one area that some people have found the lens lacking.  In the coming weeks I will test for the usability of this feature, but even if it does not work well I would still keep the lens for static subjects.

A friend not forgotten

Our family lost our gentle and loving dog Sydney last week to cancer.  I put together a page with some of our best memories of her and some thoughts on her life and death.  It is hard to imagine there’s been a better dog than her and also that she is gone.  Sydney loved and was loved equally by her family: Steph and I as well as our daughters Jillian and Madeline.  We miss her dearly.

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Our fond memories can be found here:  Sydney Sheridan

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