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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Spring Wildlife Opportunities

In this addition I want to talk about the season that is fast approaching us.. Spring! This is my favorite of seasons, partly because, the snow goes bye bye, and mostly it brings so many migratory bird visitors through our region here in the Quinte area, which makes it the best time for photographing them.

The early spring always brings lots of different waterfowl, and they can be found and best photographed in areas of open water. Small areas that open up early, before the larger sections of ice go out. It's these early areas of open water that really can attract some interesting water birds. Some of my favorites are the Bufflehead Ducks (Top Right Photo), a diving species that is readily seen here in the spring, but others that include non Migratory species, such as the Common Golden Eye, Lesser Scaups and two species of Mergansers, the Common and the hooded, the later Drake is a spectacular looking bird (Middle Right Photo). Remember when I talk about early areas of open water? These Hooded Mergansers were photographed at the Belleville Reid's Dairy pond out back!! Any early open water has the potential to bring in waterfowl, even in the heart of a busy city.
Next I am going to talk about setting up around these open areas. Wild ducks and other waterfowl are extremely skittish where people are concerned, so an approach to limiting the human form is required, because to get great shots, you have to be able to get close in their environment. Yes, you can get lucky, as I did with the above shots, but the whole time I was there, they seen me, and my presents inevitably caused them to fly away!!
This year I am going to be trying out a product from the U.S (doesn't everything have to come from there!) called the Kwik Camo (Bottom Right Photo). As you can see from the picture on the bottom, this great product allows you to set up in an area you want and cover yourself, camera, and tripod with a zippered up camouflaged material! With this type of set up, you should be able to get extremely close to your intended targets. I say should here, because I have not used it yet, but it stands to reason that with most any wild creatures, if you can eliminate the human form from an animals view, you should be successful. My thinking is to set up in the early morning hours, and wait... Ducks that fly in, will be completely unaware of my presents, and those that had seen me, should lose interest rather quickly of my hidden self. Time will tell, but I certainly look forward to trying out his new technique come spring, and a complete review of this piece of gear will be posted as soon as I have given it a full go, right here on my blog... Until next time, happy shooting!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cleaning Lenses

The one thing I use to always hate to do was cleaning the front of my lenses! No matter how hard I tried to get the front element clean, it would always looked smudged after I was done!

I am going to explain how I clean my front lens elements, and what I use to give you the brand new, streak and smudge free look.

Before I get into this any further, it has always been said that cleaning less is better! The front element is a delicate surface on a lens, and you can damage the lens coating if you don't do it right. Remember dust on the lens element has to be extremely severe to show up in your pictures!! I have actually seen shots from a lens that was badly cracked, and you could not easily see from the pictures it took that there was anything wrong with it!! So my word of advice is don't obsess about dust that collects on it. The only time you really need to clean a lens, is when you say get a fingerprint on it, or perhaps water spots or other organic things coming in contact with your lens and leaving something behind, that could damage the lenses coating.

Firstly, before any cleaning takes place a good rocket blower is needed to blow away any dirt, dust and debris. The rocket blower for the most part is the only regular cleaning anyone really should be doing to their lenses. For finger prints and other contaminates that happen to get on a lens, I use a disposable Pec Pad and Regular Eclipse Fluid that is made for cleaning optics. This fluid evaporates very quickly, and really helps to leave a nice streak free cleaning. This combination will remove fingerprints and other contaminates very well. Another excellent product I use on occasion after the above, is a Lens Pen. This is a carbon based dry cleaner, that absolutely works wonders at cleaning the front glass. It has a soft front tip that you simply rotate around the lens to remove smudges and even finger prints. One of the cheapest tools to put in your kit, and an absolutely must have item for cleaning lenses. Most times it is unnecessary to clean the entire front element. I commonly only do a spot clean, if say a water drop, or perhaps bug excrement hits my lens(Being a Wildlife Photographer, this happens a lot). On a large lens element such as what you find on the big Canon Telephotos, cleaning the entire thing is a bit more tricky. What I do for my 500mm is stand it up on end, and with some Eclipse Fluid, and a soft cotton Q-Tip, I carefully remove the spot from the glass. I usually polish it up after with the Lens Pen, and everything is as good as new!!

That pretty much does it for cleaning lenses, and is what I have learned from my own personal experience. I hope that this will help all of you that want to keep their glass clean, and in great shape!