Hi all! I’m excited to be back with another installment of my photo shoots at Ridgefield NWR. Today (11/2) was my first opportunity to get out and shoot with my new Canon 5D Mark III body. It’s amazing how much this camera feels like a 7D although it may be a little thicker from front to back. Many buttons on the back of the camera are in the same locations on both cameras. So I felt right at home with it.
After today’s shoot, I realized just how much better the Mark III’s AF works. Most in focus shots are just sharper than most shots with the 7D and once I figured out what AF setting NOT to use for birds in flight (BIF), the camera locked onto BIF’s very consistently.
Today’s weather wasn’t as bright as I had hoped it would be but at least it didn’t rain until I got in about 6 hours of shooting. So, like the week prior with the 5D Mark II camera I borrowed, today’s shoot tested the higher ISO range of the Mark III that I could expect a usable image from. I will list the ISO setting used with each image so you can get a sense of the camera performance at different settings.
[Please click on images to see a larger, more detailed view].
First off, a Red-winged Blackbird poses for me near a cattail. ISO1600 (8:29)
Here, the same bird as above, for some reason, rearranges the spider web that hangs from a cattail–and about every other object on the refuge, including my truck mirrors and windows. Small spiders usually accompany the webs. ISO1600 (8:29)
A Red-tailed Hawk relaxing on one foot. ISO1600 (8:50)
And another Red-tailed Hawk perched about 15 feet almost directly above me near the three-tree area. ISO1600 (9:04)
An American Robin. ISO1600 (9:20)
Near the three-tree area a Red-tailed Hawk scopes out the area for potential prey. ISO1250 (9:54)
A Northern Harrier hen on the ground. ISO2000 (10:01)
A couple of times during the day, I hung out near a small tree covered in berries where a bunch (technical term!) of robins were feasting. These next two shots were from my first visit there. Both shots at ISO2000 (11:05)
Here’s a Song Sparrow on a post near marker #11. ISO800 (11:35)
A few minutes later this juvenile White-crowned Sparrow lights on the wire that connects the wooden posts. ISO800 on both shots and fill flash on the top shot.
Here’s a 23-second video of this little bird. Best viewed full screen after changing the settings to 1080p HD resolution.
Near marker #12, I spot several coyotes way out in the field to my right. The closest one was actively hunting. I watched the coyote make a couple of pounces from over 200 feet away. While these shots aren’t tack sharp and they are heavily cropped, I was still impressed by the Mark III’s ability to focus on this animal so far away. I don’t think I would have gotten these shots with the 7D. All coyote shots were taken at 1/1250 shutter speed.
ISO1250 (12:10 p.m.)
The coyote came up with a Cackling Goose on that last pounce. The last two images are two frames of the same pounce. Notice how its mouth opened up in mid-air on that last pounce. ISO2000 (12:15)
Another juvenile White-crowned Sparrow in the stickers. ISO2000 (12:28)
Near marker #2, in Long Lake on the left, I spot two male Belted Kingfishers making a lot of racket and commotion way out on the crags. I normally wouldn’t have attempted this shot due to the distance but the fact that there were two birds was a rarity for me. So the quality of these two shots suffers but the subjects are awesome! ISO2000 (12:39)
I returned to the berry tree to grab some more shots of the feeding Robins.
ISO 2000 (12:45)
These next three images are a series showing the berry swallow. ISO1600 (12:56)
Here’s where I found out that my initial “birds in flight” (BIF) settings on the Mark III were not where I wanted them and it cost me. I was parked just past the three trees when these two Northern Harriers decided to perform a ritual in the air right in front of me. I track the birds with the camera as they come together and fly straight upwards while I am hitting the burst button. Out of about a dozen frames, only two were recognizable as birds. All the others were complete blurs. I felt like I did a decent job tracking the action and I expected more frames in focus. For this shot, I had my Mark III’s AF setting to Case 6. I immediately changed the AF to Case #1 and have found the keeper rate rise markedly.
Regardless, I’m thankful I got a couple of frames in focus of the two Harriers and here is one of them. The white streaks behind the top bird are those floating spider webs that I mentioned earlier. ISO3200 (1:43)
Here’s another ISO3200 shot of a Harrier in flight. (1:56)
And, to round out this day of shooting, a Red-tailed Hawk shot at ISO3200. (2:06)
All in all, I’m very pleased with the acquisition of the 5D Mark III for bird photography. Even though the weather today was not optimal for bird photography, I was quite happy with the camera’s performance. I also took the camera out on Nov. 7 after making a few tweaks to the AF settings based on the opinions of some other bird photographers I found online. I was blown away by the number (and percentage) of in-flight keepers I was able to get using this camera. I’m looking forward to sharing some of these with you on the next entry of The Blog.