Bugs are Beautiful

Author:  Bruce Taubert

For whatever reason I have become obsessed with taking macro and micro photographs of bugs.  Beetles, files, wasps, bees, stink bugs, moths, butterflies, and whatever other bugs in Arizona and around the world.  Bugs are cool!  They have compound eyes, colorful exteriors, antennae, exoskeletons with sharp spines or hairs, scales like a fish, and many endearing body forms.

To take extreme macro/micro images of bugs I have purchased some types of photographic equipment that one would not normally find in a photographer’s bag.  All the cameras I own are adequate to take wonderful macro images, but it is the lenses that lack the magnification power to get the job done.  My first super macro lens purchase was the Canon MP-65 f/2.8 1X-5X zoom lens.  This unique lens does not zoom from wide to telephoto but zooms to different magnifications.  By moving the “non-focusing ring” the lens zooms from 1X to 5X without the need for extension tubes, teleconverters, diopter lenses, or the like.  Very easy to use when it comes to changing the level of magnification.

Cognisys “StackShot” attached to the automatic focusing rail. The camera is the Canon 7D Mark II with a Canon MP-E-65mm f/2.8 1-5X. The diffuser is a tapioca cut. In the set-up there would either be a LED light or two flashes.

When I want to go past the 5X world I must resort to purchasing equipment normally found in the research laboratory and, not in the camera bag.  For 10X magnification I have purchased a Mitutoyo microscope objective.  To allow me to use my digital camera and not a microscope I place a 70-200mm lens on the camera and use an adapter to place the microscope objective on the end of the camera lens. Not difficult to do and the cost of objective is less than the cost of a quality macro lens, and there are more inexpensive options than the Mitutoyo lens I have.

Mitutoyo 10X microscope objective mounted on a Canon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens attched to a Canon 7D Mark II camera. This set-up gives a 16X magnification.

From here the only other relatively costly item is a focusing rail.  When taking images at large magnifications, it is necessary to use focus stacking.  Focus stacking is a mechanism by which the computer puts several images taken at different focal distances together resulting in a final, single image that has more depth-of-field than possible by any other process.  For smaller magnifications I may only take 10 images for stacking but at higher magnifications I take 200 or more images.  The focusing rail allows me to move the camera in very small increments and makes it easy to take the multiple images necessary for stacking.  To make life easier I purchased an automated focusing rail.

The rest of the equipment is easy and cheap.  I use either an empty tapioca container, plastic cutting board, printing paper, or even a ping pong ball for diffusion.  Camera flashes or LED lights provide the illumination and the bugs are free.

This sinister looking portrait of a wasp face was focused stacked from 44 images taken with the Canon MP-65 lens.

Not only are the images, in my mind, beautiful they represent forms that are unimaginable without having a photograph to view.  With this level of magnification, we can better appreciate the natural patterns of even the most obscure creatures.  Small bugs that are completely unappreciated become things of beauty, hopefully allowing the viewer to better appreciate them.  Even with all the biological experience I have and my love for all things alive (yes Roberta, even Creepy, Crawly Critters) I am forever amazed to see the intricate details these images uncover.

With a little practice and some unique equipment, it is relatively easy to see the smaller things in life.  The learning curve is not steep and the equipment not as expensive or exotic as one might imagine.

used a Canon MP-65 to capture this image of the beautiful scales on a moths wing.

If this type of photography interests, you I teach macro photography workshops through Arizona Highways PhotoScape’s and I have just written a book with Amy Brooks Horn on The Art of Macro Photography.

Bruce Taubert is an Instructor with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

 

Photographing Wildlife in the Dark

As you will see Bruce has been taking nighttime images of wildlife for a long time and has worked out many of the problems and associated issues. Many of Bruce’s workshop participants have shown an interest in this type of photography but, as you can imagine, it is very difficult to give a workshop and guarantee great nighttime images of deer, coyote, kangaroo rats, and the like. What Bruce can do is teach participants all of the material and methods they can use in their own nighttime efforts. He can cut your learning curve to almost nothing and advise and assist in the purchase or making of all of the necessary equipment. If you are interested in learning the skills that will allow you to take the type of images that Bruce presents in this article, please contact the Arizona Highways Photo Workshops office at, 1-888-790-7042 or email to info@ahpw.org and let us know if you would be interested in a workshop such as this!

 

By Bruce Taubert

I love photographing wildlife at night.  The light is mine to make, there is practically no competition with other photographers for time or space, and the degree of difficulty is relatively high!

My first nighttime photography endeavors began about 25 years ago with attempts to catch bats in flight.  Of course, this was before I had a digital camera so I was using Fuji slide film.  I remember leaving home at 3PM for a small water hole in the desert, arriving at the bat photography site at 5PM, setting up for a couple of hours, and then “attempting” to take photos of flying bats until dawn.  Then the long drive home, sending my slide film off, waiting for three days to see the rewards of my work, only to be disappointed at the results.  If I took one or two decent bat images each trip I was lucky.  There were not, and still are not, any training manuals for photographing flying bats.

Pallid bat drinking from a pond. Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, AZ

A few years later I bought my first digital camera.  I still left home early and got home late but I was able to immediately see my images and make corrections IN THE FIELD.  That first night I took home several excellent flying bat images.  Maybe my images, that night, did not rival the great Merlin Tuttle but I was on my way.

Lesser Long-nosed Bat feeding of Agave Blossom (Leptonycteris curasoae). SE, AZ

I can repeat almost the same story for flying elf owls, except my sites were closer to home and I did not have to leave home so early and I got home earlier.  I spent many years in the field locating owls, learning their habits so I could photograph their behaviors, and finding the appropriate gear to get the best results.  I cannot even begin to tell you how many bad butt shots I took of elf owls flying into their nest hole!  Once I had a digital camera in hand the learning curve for my nighttime endeavors became less steep.  I was able to make corrections in the field and my success rate soared.

Elf Owl bringing banded gecko into nest. North Phoenix, AZ

Pair of adult screech owls. Canon EOS 5D-Mark III, 70-200 mm with 2x teleconverter, ISO 500, f/ 10 @ 1/200 sec., flash

For the next several years I fought with equipment development, locating my specimens, and dealing with the many challenges of nighttime wildlife photography.  Luckily a few small companies were beginning to make equipment that was either geared towards nighttime photography or that could be adapted for its use.

I concentrated on fast moving subjects, such as flying owls, running kangaroo rats, striking Rattlesnakes, and the like.  The biggest challenge was to train myself to do a majority of my scouting during the day so that when I went out for the nighttime shooting I was familiar with the location and had a good idea about how I could/would set up my equipment.

Spinx Moth feeding from Datura Flower. Phoenix, AZ

Although I am still very interested in photographing fast moving subjects at night I am shifting a little to more sedentary beings.  I became very excited when looking at National Geographic Magazine images of African beasts going about their nocturnal lives and had hopes that, someday, I could take similar photographs.  Coyotes, deer, javalina, elk, fox, and many other species are either primarily nocturnal or become nocturnal for certain times of the years.  Given that I live in the Arizona desert almost all the mammals become nocturnal during the oppressive summer heat.

The challenges are a little different for slow moving subjects but the story is basically the same-scout during the day, find out from locals were the critters are, and have the right equipment.  Like most “interesting” photography, the most difficult part of photographing wildlife at night is getting over the idea that it is too difficult.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Given the right equipment, much of my nighttime imaging of these slower moving subjects is accomplished with remote cameras when I am happily sleeping (either in the back of my truck or at home).

Fortunately, there are a few blogs and You Tube videos that present some much-needed basics for the budding nighttime photographer but no one has yet to put together a training manual.  Unfortunately, there is insufficient information for those of you that want to “”hit the road running”.  The vagaries of lighting, equipment brands, battery life, finding the right location, field set-up, and the many other small tidbits of information that separate success from failure have not been adequately recorded.

During my attempts at nighttime wildlife photography I have purchased and tried almost every type of equipment there is.  I have frustrated myself experimenting with nonproductive implements and had the pleasure of finding the right tool that allows me to take an image that I can be proud of.  Today most of my old equipment lies fallow and dusty in the recesses of my camera room and by the process of elimination I now have lightweight and easy to use tools.

Over the next few months I plan on concentrating on my nighttime wildlife photography efforts and expand my species list.  I hope to improve my abilities to dramatically light my quarry and increase my success rates. Like most photography I enjoy the process of learning and improving and continue to strive for the “best” images I can take.

Bruce Taubert is an Instructor with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Exposing the Snow

Author: Bruce Taubert

I love photographing wildlife in the snow.  When it snows in Arizona I grab my gear and head to one of those places where the snow will stick for a few hours.  Even though I left the Midwest in part to escape the frigid winter weather I find myself drawn to Canada, Wisconsin, Yellowstone and the like when the snow fly’s.  Why, because wildlife images taken in the snow show a simplicity and drama that is difficult to achieve during the warmer months.  Imagine a red fox in the bright, fresh snow or a snowy owl flying through falling snow.  The subject stands out in stark contrast to the all-white background.

bruce-d-taubert_red-fox-11

Unfortunately, the photographer cannot just pick up their camera, point at the subject, focus, and shoot.  Well, they can but without preplanning the image will not be of their liking.  Why, because all light meters are designed to provide the photographer with a well exposed image of a “neutral gray” subject-one that reflects about 18% of the light that strikes it.  When taking images of lighter than neutral gray subjects the light meter directs the camera to underexposed rendering a darker than desired photograph.  The opposite happens when taking a photo of a dark subject-the light meter directs the camera to gather too much light and the result is an overexposed image.

d_bdt_gambels-quail-in-snow-22

Most photographers know that the way to correct for the light meters ill-advised settings is to use the cameras exposure compensation dial to add light to bright subjects and to subtract light from dark subjects.  Let’s say the photographer has their camera set on aperture priority.  The scene has a lot of snow with a red fox filling about 25% of the frame.   To obtain an appropriate exposure, the photographer adds 2 stops of light.  Snap, a perfectly exposed image.  Next the photographer sneaks closer to the fox to the point where it fills 50% of the scene.  Snap, oh crap the image is overexposed.  The cameras light meter reads an overall darker scene, sets the parameters for the darker scene (slower shutter speed), and then adds the 2 stops of light.

bruce-d-taubert_red-fox-8

The same problem arises when photographing a moving subject, for instance a flying snowy owl!  The photographer approaches the owl sitting on a mound of snow.  The photographer exposes perfectly for that particular scene-probably aperture priority at plus 2 1/2 stops of light.  Snow reflects more than 90% of the light so this is a good starting point.  The photographer snaps a practice frame, looks at histogram, and is very pleased with their image.  The snowy owl spots a prey item (food), takes off, fly’s in front of a dark barn, up to the blue sky, and eventually lands on the unsuspecting mouse.  From the time the snowy owl takes off the photographer maintains sharp focus (difficult at any time), and machine guns the camera at 10 frames per second. The smiling photographer looks through the images and finds several underexposed images, several overexposed images, and a few correctly exposed images.  The photographer believes the underexposed images can be saved in postprocessing but the overexposed ones are lost to the world of texture less pixels.

snowy-owl

The same phenomenon happened to the snowy owl photographer as the fox photographer.  The amount of light reflecting from the snowy owl never changed but the overall/average brightness of the scene did change as the owl flew through one background to the next.   During the process of making their images the changing light meter reading caused the camera settings to change.

bruce-d-taubert_snowy-owl-4

There are several methods the photographer can use to rectify the exposure issue.  Try setting the camera on spot metering.  That way the meter will do a better job of sending the correct directions to the camera.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult to keep the spot metering focus point/s on a moving subject.  Just keeping a flying bird focused and in the frame, is difficult enough.  The photographer might place the camera on P setting (this is for programmed not professional) and hope the camera can do a better job of estimating exposure.  P setting might help a little but most of the time the image will continue to suffer from a misguided exposure meter.

bruce-d-taubert_pine-martin-4

The only cure for the problem is to set the camera on M for manual operation and take control of your future.  On manual, the photographer sets the shutter speed and aperture.  The photographer can take as many images as they want in as many different situations as they want and the settings never change.  The light meter will continue to operate but it will have no effect on the settings.  Let’s go back to the fox and owl.  As long as the lighting conditions do not change the only challenge is to take a proper exposure of the SNOW.  Yes, the snow not the subject!  In snowy conditions, or any time there is white in the frame, if the photographer sets the manual settings to take a good exposure of the white ALL OTHER PARTS OF THE IMAGE WILL BE PROPERLY EXPOSED.

d_bdt_mourning-dove-in-snow-32

The process I use is to first set the aperture.  For most wildlife subjects, I only need a modicum of depth of field.  Normally, I set the value to around f/8.  Then I decide on the shutter speed I need.  For the relatively stationary fox anything more than 1/500 sec will work nicely.  For the flying owl, I need a higher value of say 1/2000 sec.  Next I set the ISO value within the constraints of my camera.  On my Canon 7D Mark II I try to stay as low as possible and below 800.  With my 5D Mark III I can go higher and with my 1DX Mark II I can go to 3200 and feel perfectly comfortable.  Next, I take an image of the snow.  If it is too dark I make the decision what to change.  For the fox, I can probably go down to a shutter speed is 1/125 and still hand hold the camera (with modern image stabilization).  Depending on what camera I am using I could increase the ISO or, maybe, take the aperture to f/5.6.  In dealing with the flying owl I want to make sure to keep the shutter speed high so I first change the ISO and aperture.  I keep taking images until I have just overexposed the snow.  My favorite tool for detecting an overexposed subject is the highlight alert-blinkies as I like to call them.  When I see the blinkies I know my snow is overexposed.  Then I change the settings until the snow no longer blinks and then, for safety purposes, take away 1/3 rd. more stops of light.  I know this is a lot to swallow but it is very easy to accomplish.

rock-ptarmigan

Now that my cameras settings are correct for the snow all my images will be properly exposed.  The darks will be dark, the mid tones correct, the whites bright, and my efforts rewarded.  Now, IF THE LIGHTING DOES NOT CHANGE life is good.  If the day is uniformly overcast, the sky cloudless, or any other scenario where the lighting stays the same these settings work better than anything I have tried.  But, nature being what it is, the lighting conditions will change and the photographer must react.  Either change the settings in Manual mode or try aperture priority and suffer through the pains of losing valuable images.  In my mind the small amount of time it takes to readjust the Manual settings is well worth the effort.

bruce-d-taubert_coyote2

Bruce is an instructor with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

 

Capture Your Moment: Macro-Photography

Bruce Taubert will be presenting two learning sessions at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops’ 30th Anniversary Symposium.  Here’s more about his “Macro- Photography” Session.

Macro Photography - Glass Frog

Bruce takes photographs of small things because they are beautiful, and he can only really appreciate how beautiful and unique they are by having an image to look at. It is almost impossible for him to see the scales that make up butterfly wings or the pollen on a bee’s legs without viewing a photograph.  He never really appreciated the intricacy of a dragonfly’s eyes or the interweaves of a bird’s feather, again until he saw a close-up photograph of them.  There is an incredible WOW factor when he looks at images that show the pieces of the natural world that he has never seen before. Even though many of his images of small things may never be published, it is through these images that he better appreciates the beauty of the small pieces of our world.

Macro Photography - Moth

Macro-photography is normally defined as “taking photographs of small items and making them larger than life size”.  This definition, for most photographers, is too limiting.  It can be defined more simply as “close-up” photography, allowing photos of less than life-size subjects to be included.

Macro-photography is unique from other forms of photography in that it requires the use of different types of equipment than landscape, portrait, and most wildlife photography.  It also requires some different skills than other forms of photography. The cameras are the same, but only through the use of specialized lenses and other equipment can the photographer take photographs at 0.5X and it is even more complicated as we attempt to photograph at magnifications greater than 1X.

Macro Photography - Gecko

In the “Macro-photography” learning session, you will learn all about the specialized equipment, techniques, and art of macro-photography.  Bruce’s hope is that after you digest all of that information, you will better understand how to use the cameras, lenses, and associated equipment to open up the special world of macro-photography.

To read the post on Bruce’s other learning session, “Hummingbird Photography,” visit our Capture Your Moment page.

Bruce Taubert is a photographer for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

For more information and to register for sessions like this, please visit the AHPW’s 30th Symposium website.

Capture Your Moment: Hummingbird Photography

Bruce Taubert will be presenting two learning sessions at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops’ 30th Anniversary Symposium.  Here’s more about his “Hummingbird Photography” session.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird male. Payson, AZ

How do you take a stop action photograph of a 2 inch long, fast flying hummingbird whose wings beat in excess of 60 times each second?  After you figure that out make sure that the background has a pleasing out of focus look and get the hummingbird to feed on a colorful flower.  Well, you cannot just sit next to a beautiful flower in hummingbird habitat and wait for the perfect moment; you need to set up an “outdoor hummingbird photo laboratory”.

The outdoor lab consists of three to five flashes set at a reduced power, an artificial backdrop, a few light stands, one hummingbird feeder, and normal camera gear.  The feeder attracts the hummingbird so that the photographer knows exactly where it is going to eventually fly.  Flashes set with reduced power go off at a faster rate (at 1/16 power the flash duration will be approximately 1/20,000 sec.) and stop the blur of the birds wings.  The artificial backdrop is set about 5 feet in back of the feeder so that the background does not turn our black.  After the hummingbird is accustomed having its portrait taken replace the feeder with a nice flower and when it feeds on the flower take a photo.  Keep the flower “salted” with sugar water to entice a returned visit.

The only issue with taking stop action, high-speed hummingbird images is getting over the very short learning curve.  In other words, just get out there and do it!  You will have the opportunity to at the “Hummingbird Photography” session!

Look for a future post about Bruce’s second learning session, “Macro Photography.”

Bruce Taubert is a photographer for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

For more information and to register for sessions like this visit the AHPW’s 30th Symposium website.

Frog Photography

Author: Bruce Taubert
All images copyrighted Bruce Taubert

Glass Frog Blog jpeg 2After over 20 years of photographing frogs both in the United States and the Tropics I have developed a few techniques and put together some equipment that give me the results I need.  Above and beyond having a basic understanding of frog biology these small denizens of the night offer several obstacles to the macro photographer.

To some extent or another all frogs “breath” through their skin.  To make this possible the frog’s skin is moist and as a result highly reflective.  Any attempt at using strobes without diffusion normally results in an image where the frog’s skin is dotted with unattractive, colorless white blotches.

red-eyed treefrog blog

Most frog photography is accomplished in the dark of the night so the photographer, unless they have a friendly assistant, needs to hold their camera and at the same time illuminate the subject in order to focus on it.  Headlamps are of little use since as soon as the camera is brought into shooting position your forehead and the headlamp are covered by the camera body and attached flash.

Finally, straight on light or using a flash on the hotshoe is very unattractive so the photographer needs some mechanism to place the flash/s off of the lens axis.  Otherwise red-eye, harsh shadows, flat colors, and other bad things result.

Hyla cinerascens jpeg for blog

Several years ago I purchased the Canon macro twin flash.  Even though they are overly expensive they are my go to method of lighting small subjects.  Off camera flash brackets can be purchased or homemade for considerably less expense and I recommend going that route if money is a concern or if you are unsure macro photography is for you.  Nikon also makes some very nice, and in some cases better than the Canon twin flash, macro flashes.  The main problem I have with any form of macro flash is the quality of the light.  If you go to You Tube there are several very informative videos that describe making inexpensive diffusers.  Not being terribly handy I purchased two (one for each of the twin flashes) “sock-like” flash diffusers off of Amazon.com.  The set costs about $8.  Because they are made for strobes I had to use a little Velcro to ensure they stayed on the flash heads while I walked around thick jungle vegetation or desert.  These small diffusers do an amazing job of reducing the specular highlights common to most flashed subjects.  Frog skin shine problem solved!

frog blog 2

Both the Canon twin flash and the Nikon macro flashes place the strobes very close to the cameras lens.  Although the strobes are far enough away from the lens axis to eliminate red-eye they are so close many images can be flat looking.  Some modeling light can be obtained by varying the light output from each strobe but normally the effect is not as dramatic as I want. After a brief search on Amazon.com I found a short (in the range or 3 inch long) shoe mounted swivel head.  I place the swivel head where the Canon strobe goes and then place the strobe on the end of it.  Now my flashes are around 5 inches instead of one inch from the lens.  Modeling flash is much more effective, the amount of skin reflection is even further reduced, and I have an easier time photographing larger specimens!

A long time ago my wife refused to go out with me late at night to hold a flash light on my nocturnal subjects so I could focus.  I can’t imagine why!  There are occasions when I can con a friend to wander around in the dark to assist me or another frog photographer to join me in my wanderings but, for the most part, I am alone with too few hands to get the job done.  While watching a video on frog photography I noted another photographer had developed a unique way of lighting their subject.    The photographer used the Canon twin macro flashes and had placed a small LED video light

frog  blog 1

between the lens and the strobe.  Two problems were solved at once. The strobes were placed further from the lens than normal and the video lights made it possible to illuminate the subject while focusing.  Since I had solved the flash extension problem I only needed to use one video light for focusing and one flash extender on the opposite side of the flash unit. Now I can accomplish most of my nighttime macro photography with the two hands I was born with.

Using this combination of equipment modifications my frog photography efforts have become much easier and more rewarding.  With the exception of the twin flashes I spent less than $60.  The set-up is light weight, easy to pack on long trips, and fast to assemble.  Getting the flash off camera and diffusing the light and having hands free focusing capabilities all at the same time makes life much easier and allows me to take more and, hopefully, better images.

red-eyed treefrog blog

Bruce Taubert is a biologist and Wildlife Photographer and instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

 

 

The New Canon 100-400 mm f/5.6 IS II Lens

Author: Bruce Taubert

Butterfly -- © Bruce Taubert

Butterfly — © Bruce Taubert

I know that equipment reviews are booooring but I have not been so excited about a new lens in, well forever. Canon just released the 100-400 mm f/5.6 IS II lens and I want to let you know about my experience with it. The older 100-400 mm f/5.6 IS lens was built in the late 1990’s and was, at best OK. For decent images it has to be stopped down to f/8, the close focus is 6 feet, the push-pull zoom mechanism is a dust magnate, and the Image Stabilizer old school. It was a great lens for high-speed hummingbird photography and, because of its utility, I did take it on plenty of trips. The results were just fair! I ended up purchasing the new (at that time) 70-200 mm f/2.8 IS II and using it with a 2X teleconverter. The results were MUCH better but the autofocus was rather slow-too slow for much of the flying bird photography I do.

Snail Kite -- © Bruce Taubert

Snail Kite — © Bruce Taubert

When Nikon came out with the new 80-400 f/5.6 lens I contemplated purchasing a Nikon camera just so I could get the advantages of the new telephoto zoom. My mother would have turned over in her grave? Then Canon offered the 200-400 f/4 with built in 1.4 teleconverter. The test results were wonderful. The lens was touted as being as sharp as prime lenses throughout its range and it only lost a little quality when the teleconverter was injected. I really wanted that lens until I saw the price tag-an amazing $11,000. Again, I thought about the Nikon!!!!

Ptarmigan -- Bruce Taubert

Ptarmigan — Bruce Taubert

Finally, Canon, without hardly any fanfare announced the new 100-400 mm f/5.6 IS II lens. I found out via an email announcement from B&H. I pre-ordered the lens that same day. And, amazingly, Canon met their production date and soon the man in the brown vehicle delivered it to my door.

Was my $2200 well spent?

Great Blue Heron -- © Bruce Taubert

Great Blue Heron — © Bruce Taubert

My first opportunity to give the new lens a trial was an April trip to Florida where I was going to take images of osprey at Blue Cypress Lake and then lead an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop in the Everglades. Since I would be photographing the osprey from a boat I needed a lens that I could handhold but would give me a decent telephoto reach and on the workshop I was assisting and training participants so I was forced to catch images when there was a break in my other duties (it was impractical to carry a tripod and 500 mm lens).

Osprey -- © Bruce Taubert

Osprey — © Bruce Taubert

The light was great, I was shooting fast shutter speeds at f/7.1 and the resultant images were fantastic. Ninety percent of my shots were tack sharp, the lenses autofocus was amazingly fast, and the zoom mechanism quite easy to use. But, I was not always able to work in great lighting conditions so I was still wondering how the new lens would operate in my “normal” bad or variable lighting.

The following month a few of my friends and I went to Colorado to photograph sage grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, and greater prairie chickens at their leks. A lek is a place where all of the male birds gather to attract the females to their beds. The action is hectic, fast moving, and about half of the ritual begins one half hour before sunrise in really bad light. Because we never knew how close the grouse would be to our blinds I needed a telephoto zoom, and a good tripod, to take maximum advantage of these conditions. We had great lighting conditions on the second, third, and fourth days. The first and fifth days were dismal. Predawn I was shooting at f/5.6, around 1/200 sec., and high ISO. After sunrise life was better.

Greater Prairie Chicken -- © Bruce Taubert

Greater Prairie Chicken — © Bruce Taubert

Wide open, low light, and slow shutter speeds did not did not phase this wonderful little lens. My images were sharp, the autofocus handled the low light great, and, again, the zoom was easy to use. Depending on the camera body I am using I now have a lens that operates from 100-640 mm, can be shot wide open when necessary, is sharp at all focal ranges, and has an image stabilization that is beyond my dreams.

Give this one an A+++

 

Bruce Taubert is a biologist and Wildlife Photographer and instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.