Many of the best subjects in Big Bend National Park require the use of a wide angle lens but some, like Mule Ears, require a good hike, a telephoto lens or both. Whichever you choose, the view is definitely worth the extra effort.
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with GP-E2 unit attached, set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 300mm, f/14 for 1/80th of a second at ISO 100 using Singh-Ray’s warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.
“Over 12,000 years ago these lands supported now-extinct mammoth and giant bison, as well as camel and horses in a damper, cooler climate. More recently, black bears and grey wolves made their home in the region, but by the 1950s, they were forced out due to predator control by humans. Now mule and white-tailed deer, coyotes and bobcats are common with a few pronghorn antelope roaming these canyonlands. The park is also home to the Texas State Bison Herd (the largest herd of buffalo in the state park system).
In September 2011, 80 descendants of the great southern plains bison herd were released to a larger habitat of 700 acres of grasslands in the park. Visitors can view these indigenous animals in their native habitat. Small mammals such as grey fox, raccoon and jackrabbits make their home here. There is also a great diversity of reptiles with 14 species of lizards including collared lizards and over 30 species of snakes including prairie rattlesnakes. The area hosts some 175 species of birds including roadrunners, red-tailed hawks and the rarely seen Golden Eagle.”
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with GP-E2 unit attached, set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lens. The exposure was taken at 300mm, f/8 for 1/80th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.
There’s quite a debate going on in Photographic circles about the new Canon EOS 50D and it’s high pixel density, noise potential and resolution capabilities. It seems like every other week someone will post a new review questioning the integrity of this camera. I haven’t seem anything like this since digital SLRs began taking market share away from traditional film cameras.
I’m no expert on lens optics, diffraction limitations or sensor design, but I will tell you one thing. This camera will allow photographers an unparalleled opportunity to capture great wildlife close-ups, even when their lens doesn’t have quite enough reach.
Take this image for example. I shot this with an EF 300mm f/4L IS USM using a 1.4X extender which gave me 420mm of “reach”. Unfortunately, the Black-Bellied Whistling Duck I was tracking was just too far away and what I really needed was a 600mm or 800mm super-telephoto. I took the shot anyway and imported it into Lightroom to see what I could salvage.
I rarely crop an image anywhere near 100%, but in this case it was my only option. As you can see by clicking on the cropped image below, the resolution and detail in this image is superb and its a direct result of the EOS 50D’s 15.1 MP sensor. In fact, this image turned out so well, I’ve printed it at 11″ x 17″ and it looks fabulous hanging on the wall of my study.
But what do you do if your not a working professional and can’t afford to spend thousands (or tens of thousands) for these really long lenses? How do you get close to your subject while not breaking the bank?
This is where the beauty of the Canon 40D’s ASP-C size sensor with it’s 1.6x FOVCF (field of view crop factor) really shines. Mount a Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lens ($1200 USD) on your 40D body and you have the equivalent “reach” of 480mm. Add a Canon EF 1.4x II Extender ($265) and now you have the equivalent “reach” of 672mm for a fraction of the cost of Canon’s EF 600mm f/4L IS USM lens ($7400 USD).
Better yet, you do what I do and can rent this lens (and the extender if needed) from LensRentals.com for about $25 (USD) per day!
Last weekend I attended the Wings Over Houston air show and used a Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lens for most of the day. Normally for an event like this I’d shoot with a telephoto zoom but in this case I wanted to try out Canon’s 300mm prime to see just how sharp this lens really is.
All I can say is Wow!
This lens is incredibly sharp as you can see in the image below. It’s also fairly light (2.6 lbs), relatively small (3.5″ x 8.7″) and very easy to hand hold for long periods of time. The ring-type USM drive is whisper quiet and fast. I used this on AI Servo mode for almost six hours and got some incredibly sharp images at the air show. One thing I didn’t like about this lens was the built-in lens hood which would not stay extended when I panned up to follow a plane in flight. However, that may have been due to the fact that this is a rental lens and has seen considerable use.
My only other gripe is that this lens uses Canon’s first generation “IS” (Image Stabilization) with Mode 1 (stationary) and Mode 2 (panning) operation and provides roughly a 2 stop gain. Newer lenses like the EF 200mm f/2L IS USM use Canon’s third generation “IS” technology and provide 4-5 stop gains. I’m a little surprised that Canon hasn’t updated this lens but I suspect it has to do with it’s very (VERY) reasonable street price of $1200 (USD).