Tim Boyer Photography

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Ring-billed Gull

San Diego January Workshop Images

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment
Black Skimmer coming in for a landing.

Black Skimmer coming in for a landing.

We had such a great workshop in San Diego County this year, that it's hard to know which images to show you.  Here's a sample, I hope you enjoy them.

We found some Black Skimmers this year and it was fun to spend time with them. They are such unusual birds!  The bill when viewed sideways looks so big, but if viewed straight on, it's actually very thin, for slicing through the water. I chose to shoot at f/8 because I was using the AF Selcetion Zone.  After I pushed the aperture to f/8 I opened up the ISO to 800 so I'd have enough shutter speed.

Little Blue Heron feeding.

Little Blue Heron feeding.

Little Blue Herons have to be one of my favorite birds of Southern California.  I think they've been found in Washington State a couple of times, and I saw them here once on an Eastside Audubon fieldtrip to Ellensburg.  This one if fishing late in the day with some creamy light. I chose f/8  because the  600 with the 1.4 Extender can be a little soft, so then had to increase the ISO to 640.

Snowy Egret feeding.

Snowy Egret feeding.

This Snowy Egret was fishing by the Little Blue Heron. It's starting to get dark, but the light still had some color.

Brown Pelican Head throw La Jolla.

Brown Pelican Head throw La Jolla.

I love how his right foot is off the ground.  Dancing or stretching the pouch? I could probably set this to music and post it on YouTube.

Belted Kingfisher, Santee Lakes.

Belted Kingfisher, Santee Lakes.

While I often curse the short battery life of the new Canon 7D Mark II, I got this shot because I had to walk back to the car and get a third battery for the day.  So, I guess thanks Canon?

Female Ring-necked Duck Santee Lakes.

Female Ring-necked Duck Santee Lakes.

She's beautiful! Low angle from using the 600 mm lens on the ground pod Skimmer II.  Shot this one pretty much wide open on the aperture so I could blur the background.

Wood Duck Santee Lakes.

Wood Duck Santee Lakes.

Get low and get eye level!  I love Wood Ducks but this look is killer.  Is he saying feed me or don't come any closer?  Nice blurred background with the  600 at f/4!

Wood Duck Santee Lakes.

Wood Duck Santee Lakes.

Okay he was saying feed me.  Toss a little corn, get an action shot. 1/320 of a second blurred the wing tips some, I like it when action and motion is implied by using a slower shutter speed.

Heermann's Gull Coronado.

Heermann's Gull Coronado.

Post breeding season the Heermann's Gull come up the Washington Coast in the summer, but it's great to see them in their year winter or year-around habitat. I  chose to use f/9 becasue I was using Zone AF Selction points.  In Zone mode the camera will pick up the closest part of the bird.  So if the camera focuses on the wing, I wanted more depth-of-field so the eye would be sharp.

Ring-billed Gull Coranado Island.

Ring-billed Gull Coranado Island.

Flight photography with the 7D Mark II and Zone AF Selection points.  It worked great.  Fast auto focusing, 10 frames per second, and a nice tight shot from the  1.6 crop factor.

Whimbrel at one of th e local estuaries.

Whimbrel at one of th e local estuaries.

One of my favorite shorebirds, I  like that bill. If shooting at a slow shutter speed, press your hand down on top of the lens to dampen any lens shake and vibrations.  This trick will make your images sharper.

Sunset Coronado.

Sunset Coronado.

In camera HDR on the 7D Mark II, then de-saturated some in post processing.  It was so red, so cool.  Even the RAW files  look too red. It was a nice ending to a great day of photography in San Diego.

Enjoy!   Thanks   Tim

How to Set up the Canon EOS 7D Mark II Part 3 -- Auto Focus and Flight Photography

The Canon 7D Mark IITim Boyer72 Comments
Ring-billed Gull, Coronado, CA. f/9, 1.1000 of a second, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II and the 70 to 200 f/2.9 zoom lens at 140mm. AF Zone AF slection.

Ring-billed Gull, Coronado, CA. f/9, 1.1000 of a second, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II and the 70 to 200 f/2.9 zoom lens at 140mm. AF Zone AF slection.

There are several things to like right off the bat with the new Canon 7D Mark II; the fast frames per second as mentioned earlier, and the fast acquiring of the subject. I also like the 65 Auto Focus Points and the almost full frame coverage they offer. There are a lot of options with Auto Focus from area points selected to how AI Servo works. I’ll try to explain all of this, and let you know what I do. After 3-months I still like this camera.  There are a few things I wish were better, but it's a great improvement over the old Canon 7D.  I can live  with the other issues because the Auto Focus, Frames per Second, and other features are so useful, and I haven't even started in on the Time Lapse or the Multiple Exposure features!

Let’s tackle the easy part of the auto focus first, the seven, yes seven, I know the Canon literature says six, but we’ll go through all seven AF Area Selection Modes.

AF Area Selection Modes

Single-point Spot AF – for pinpoint focusing.

This is for that pinpoint accuracy you might want on a stationary shot. The small dot in the middle of square focus point represented in the view finder means the focus point is smaller then the size of a single Auto Focus point. So, if a bird is stationary, perching or if I’m doing some landscape photography with or without birds, I might use this, but I doubt if I will very much. Since it reads such a small area, it will be effective only when there’s plenty of time for the shot. I did use this trying to focus on the eye of a Long-eared Owl last month. It worked well for that, I could have used manual focus, which I would normally do to find the eye through the branches, but tried this new AF point and it worked great.

Single-point Spot AF area selection mode

Single-point Spot AF area selection mode

Single-point AF- one AF Point is active

Just one Auto Focus Point is activated, but you can activate any of the 65 points, move the active point around to get just the eye of the bird or the precise point of interest in the frame. This is what I use most of the time for pinpoint accuracy in focusing, and will occasionally use the one above (Spot AF) when it’s a really tight focusing situation.  Mostly I see using this one and the next for portraits of birds.

Single-point AF area selection mode

Single-point AF area selection mode

AF Point Expansion(4)

One active point and the surrounding four points one top one bottom one to the right and then one to the left assist in focusing. This gives a little more precise control for flight photography and moving birds, for advanced flight photographers. If the birds are moving unpredictably, like Swallows I’d start with AF Point Expansion 8, but probably use the AF Zone. I use this as my default setting for all my bird photography. The main thing to remember is there is one main Auto Focus Point active with four surrounding Auto Focus Points to assist the main active point. When I leave the car my camera will either be setup with this or the next AF Mode.

AF point expansion area selection mode (4)

AF point expansion area selection mode (4)

AF Point Expansion (8)

When I first started using this new camera I thought of this as a “small” AF Zone setting, but it works like the AF Point Expansion -- the eight surround points only assist in auto focus they don’t search for the next three cases. I think using this will allow some people to acquire the birds in light a little faster since it offers more assistance points. My go to Mode for fasting moving, unpredictably fight photography and wildlife. I had good results with this mode in San Diego earlier this month when doing birds-in-flight photogpraphy. When using this AF mode, I also try to shoot at f/8 or a little higher to make sure the  eye of th e bird is sharp!

AF point expansion area selection mode (8)

AF point expansion area selection mode (8)

Zone AF

The fifteen active Auto Focus Points will automatically acquire the closest subject. The AF Expansion 4 and 8 won’t do this. All 15 Auto Focus Points are active. I like this for flight photography when I can also use f/8 or f/11 and when I’m photographing a flock of birds and I want the closest bird to be in focus. The active Zone can be moved around the 65 AF Pont for composition purposes. I used this for birds-in-flight in San Diego earlier this month and with a slightly the smaller aperture of f/9 it worked great!

Zone AF area selection mode

Zone AF area selection mode

Large Zone AF

This is three very broad zones, the left, right or center zones to capture moving subjects. I like this again because it will focus on the closest subject. I’m really going to like this the next time I have a blastoff of Snow Geese or Swans. Consider using this for a large flock of birds, or in the case of some very erratic but fast moving subjects. The closest part of the flocks or subject once it reaches the zone will remain in focus. This might work very well with Case 5 or 6 for Swallows and  very fast small birds in flight.

Large Zone AF area selection mode

Large Zone AF area selection mode

65-point automatic selection

All 65 Auto Focus points are active, and the camera will pick up the closest subject. The AF system recognizes the initial subject and follows it even more precisely as it moves around the AF point array. But, it works differently for One Shot Mode and AI Servo Mode. In One Shot Mode, the camera will select the nearest subject and move around and activate points. In AI Servo Mode the camera starts with the photographer selected AF Point then moves around.

65-point automatic selection AF area selection mode

65-point automatic selection AF area selection mode

How to change the Auto Focus Selection Mode

The default method is press the AF Point Selection button on the upper right side of the back of the camera with your thumb and then press the M-Fn (Auto Focus Area Selection) Button on top of the camera with your index finger. Cycle through the seven modes until you get to the one you want. There are many options for setting this up, but I like this one, I’ve used it enough so I don’t think about where the buttons are, I just change focusing modes as quickly as I need to. This is a good time to mention that it’s not as important which method you use to get the AF Mode you want - what matters is you need to practice so you can change AF Selection Modes quickly in the field while still looking at the subject through the viewfinder!

Ring-billed Gull in flight at Coronado, CA. Canon 7 D Mark II and the 70 to 200 f/2.8 zoom lens. 1/1000 of a second, f/9, and ISO 640 at 145 mm.

Ring-billed Gull in flight at Coronado, CA. Canon 7 D Mark II and the 70 to 200 f/2.8 zoom lens. 1/1000 of a second, f/9, and ISO 640 at 145 mm.

The Six AI Servo AF Cases

Chose different Cases to enhance the AI Servo Mode for different shooting situations and different types of moving subjects.

Each case consists of three variables; Tracking Sensitivity, Acceleration/Deceleration Tracking and AF Point Switching.

  • Tracking Sensitivity deals with what the AF sensor does when it’s tracking and then “sees” another, new subject.

  • Accel./Decel. Tracking deals with the speed and character of the movement of the subject, is the subject moving steadily or is the subject stopping and starting.

  • AF Point Switching deals with how quickly we want the camera to move to the next AF Point.

Case 1 -- This is the default multi-purpose setting if you don’t want to change anything. This works well for steady continuous speed and movement. It’s also the recommended starting place for people starting to shoot moving or action subjects. Try this first, then move on to the other Cases. All three variables are set to the “0” or neutral position of their scale or parameter.

Case 2 -- Chose this if you want to track a subject while ignoring possible obstacles. If the bird flies behind a tree, keep tracking and then when the bird reappears you should still be on it. This is also helpful if you lose the subject when trying to track it. Tracking Sensitivity is set to -1, so by decreasing the Tracking Sensitivity the camera should remain on target. Accel./Decel. is set to “0” and so is AF Point Switching. If the subject is hidden for longer interval consider changing the Tracking Sensitivity parameter to -2.   (This is how I set up my camera -2, 0, 0). I used this recently in San Diego for birds-in-flight and it works wonderfully.   See how to change this below.)

Case 3 – This case will instantly focus on subjects suddenly entering the AF Points. If might work well for a cycling race when the action shot requires switching from one rider to another, but I don’t think it works very well for bird photography. Tracking Sensitivity is set to +1, Accel./Decel. is set to +1 and AF Point Switching is set to “0”.  Canon literature on this Case says “When set to Case 3, if the subject moves away form the AF points, the camera will usually quickly refocus on a different subject or background …  So, most birds fly away from us, and then the camera will focus on the background? I don’t think many bird photographers will be using this Case.

Case 4 -- This Case is for accelerating or decelerating subjects. Tracking Sensitivity is set to neutral “0”, Accel./Decel. is set to +1 and AF Point Switching is set to “0” as well. The camera will respond to changes in speed, including sudden stops and acceleration.

Case 5 – This Case helps with erratic subjects moving in any direction, especially side-to-side. The Tracking Sensitivity is set to neutral “0”, Accel./Decel. is set to neutral and AF Point Switching is set to +1, this modifies the speed in which the AF Points change, so they acquire fast erratic moving subjects. Use AF Point Expansion or Zone AF with this, and I think it will work well for Swallows and other quick small birds.

Case 6 – Chose Case 6 for subjects that change speed and move erratically. This is like Case 5 except the Accel./Decel. is +1 instead of neutral at “0”. Again this might work very well for Swallows and fast moving birds.

How to modify the Cases

Go to the AF Menu, and select the first sub-menu. The Quick Control Dial can be used to move between Cases. I scrolled down to Case 2, pressed the Rate Button on the left side of the LCD screen, selected the Tracking Sensitivity Parameter with the Quick Control Dial then pressed the Set Button and with the Dial moved the sensitivity to -2. Then press Set again to finish making the selection and save it.

Which Case you use or what modifications you make may very well depend on your shooting style.  Start with Case 1 to see if that works for you if that doesn't then proceed to how I set up Case 2 with the change to the Tracking Sensitivity to -2.  If that doesn't work, try changing Case 3 to Tracking Sensitivity -2, Accel./Decel. to +1 and AF Point Switching to +1.  Then if that doesn't work try -2, +2, +2 and see if that works for you. There will be some trial and error to this process. Everyone is different and how we each use our equipment is different.

So, I'm using Case 1 as the default, Case 2 with the modification of the Tracking Sensitivity to -2 for my default flight settings, and Cases 5 and 6 for Swallows and other fast moving birds.

California Gull, Coronado, CA. 1/800 of a second, f/9, ISO 640 With the Canon 7D Mark II and the 70 to 200 f/2.8 zoom lens.

California Gull, Coronado, CA. 1/800 of a second, f/9, ISO 640 With the Canon 7D Mark II and the 70 to 200 f/2.8 zoom lens.

Other changes to the camera setup for Auto Focus

On the fourth AF sub-menu, I changed “Orientation Linked AF Point” Press the Set button and scroll down to “Separate AF Pts: Area+pts. Press set to chose this.

This allows the AF Points to be separate when in horizontal or vertical modes. Which means the active AF Point could be at the top of the frame for vertical shots and the active AF Points in the center of the frame for horizontal shots.

Also, this means I can have different AF Areas Selection Modes active. I could be shooting Snow Geese in a horizontal orientation and have the camera on Zone AF, then switch to vertical, have the active point at the top of the frame and be in AF Point Expansion (4).

On the fifth AF sub-menu, I change the “Manual AF Pt. select. Pattern”. There are two options Stop at AF Area edges or Continuous. I changed my camera to Continuous. This means if I’m moving the AF Points around I can scroll off the right edge of the frame and the active point will show up on the left side of the frame. This allows for quicker movement of AF points around the frame.

Heermann's gull, Coronado CA. 1/640 of a second, f/9 and ISO 640. Canon 7D Mark Ii and the 70 to 200 mm f/2.8 zoom lens at 200mm. Zone AF area selected.

Heermann's gull, Coronado CA. 1/640 of a second, f/9 and ISO 640. Canon 7D Mark Ii and the 70 to 200 mm f/2.8 zoom lens at 200mm. Zone AF area selected.

Enjoy!

Thanks

Tim

How to set up your Canon 7D Mark II For Bird Photography Part 1

The Canon 7D Mark IITim Boyer19 Comments
Female Mallard ISO 800
Female Mallard ISO 800

This is part one of at least a three part series. This is the basic menu settings and which ones to turn on, off or how to set them. Part 2 will cover all the remaining camera settings, and then Part 3 will cover Auto Focusing.

Part 1 Menu Settings

We’ll go through the menu functions of the camera, so you're set up for bird photography. I'm assuming that you've followed the Quick Reference Guide and you've charged up your battery, and you're ready to go.

Turing the camera on and Press the Menu button.

SHOOTING MENU

(The Red Menu or the Camera Icon on the left side of the menu bar on the LCD.) There are six sub-menus we’ll talk about each one and changes we need to make.

Image Quality

Select Image Quality by pressing the Set button, located in the center of the Quick Dial on the back of the camera. This will bring up RAW and JPEG settings. Use the Main Dial with your index finger, and move it to the right until the RAW is highlighted in the red box then press Set. Adobe does not support the camera RAW format of the new Canon 7D Mark II yet. So to see your images you’ll have to use the Canon Utilities and software that came with your camera.

Image Review

Press the Set button and with a Quick Dial scroll down to four seconds. The reason I use four seconds is that the image will flash up on the screen and allows me to quickly check the exposure and the composition without using too much battery life. Choose 8 seconds if you’d like more time.

Beep

Push the Set button and scroll down to disable. If you leave this Enabled, when you’re in One Shot Mode, the camera will beep when it acquires focus. I find that this noise often scares birds, or makes them go into an unnatural looking alert posture.

Release shutter without card

Disable, you don’t want to take pictures unless there’s a card in your camera.

There are no other changes on this menu, use the Main Dial with the index finger moved to the right to go to the second Shooting Menu screen.

Common Merganser female, ISO 2000, 1/640 of a second, f/8 Canon 7D Mark II, 100 to 400 mm zoom lens, 1.4 Extender.
Common Merganser female, ISO 2000, 1/640 of a second, f/8 Canon 7D Mark II, 100 to 400 mm zoom lens, 1.4 Extender.

ISO Setting

Select White Balance by pushing the Set Button in the middle of the Quick Dial. Scroll down to ISO Settings hit the Set button. Then scroll down to ISO speed range and set it to 100 to 16,000. Hit Set, scroll through and then hit OK. Then push the Menu button to get back to Shooting Menu, screen 2.

White Balance

Press the Set button in the middle of the Quick Dial, then use the Quick Dial to scroll over to the Cloudy setting and then press Set. I set my camera to Cloudy White Balance so that my images appear a little warmer. I do this because I used to shoot Kodak VS and Fuji Velvia slide films – these were very warm films, and I liked the way these films looked, and I still like my pictures that way. If you don’t like the warm tones, then leave White Balance to Auto. It’s a personal preference.

Color Space

Press the Set button scroll down with the quick dial to Adobe RGB press set the Menu button to go back to the Shooting Menu, screen two.

Use the Main Dial to go to the third Shooting Menu screen. It starts with Picture Style. We aren’t making any changes here so use the Main Dial one more time to go to the Shooting Menu, screen four.

Red-eye reduction

Push the Set button; scroll down to Enable, and then push the Set button again. Scroll down to Enable and press the Set button again.

There are no other changes on this fourth screen, so use the Main Dial to move to the Shooting Menu, the fifth screen that starts with Live View Shooting.

There’s only two change on this screen, scroll down to go Continuous Autofocusing, press the Set button, then scroll down to Enable, press Set again to select this option.

Grid Display

I chose to leave this off; I don’t use the grid as much as I use the Focusing Points in the viewfinder to keep things level etc. I like a clear, uncluttered viewfinder.

With the main dial button Main Dial wheel scroll to the sixth menu, we make no changes there. With the Main Dial move it to the right to get to the next Menu.

Autofocus (AF) Menu

The AF Menu is fuchsia colored and, well it says “AF”.

Autofocus menu, for now, we’ll leave this on Case 1. In part 3 of this How To Set Up Your Canon 7D Mark II For Bird Photography, I’ll spend a lot of time on the Auto Focus Modes and these Case Options.

Main Dial click to move past the second and third AF Menu screens there are no changes to these two now.

Scroll to the fourth AF Menu screen, it should be the Lens Drive when AF impossible. Leave this ON.

Scroll down to Selectable AF point I have all 65 points selected as the default.

Use the Main Dial to go to the fifth screen for the AF Menu; there are no changes at this point. There are no other changes on this menu, leave the defaults activated.

Use the Main Dial to move to the next menu, the Playback Menu

Commom Merganser, male. ISO 2000, f/8, 1640 of a second, Canon 7D Mark II, 100 to 400 mm zoom, 1.4 Extender. Auto focus with central sensor only.
Commom Merganser, male. ISO 2000, f/8, 1640 of a second, Canon 7D Mark II, 100 to 400 mm zoom, 1.4 Extender. Auto focus with central sensor only.

Playback Menu

The Playback Menu which is the arrow pointing left to the right it's the blue menu system. We don't make any changes on those until we get to the third screen and it says Highlight Alert.

Highlight Alert We want to Enable Highlight Alert. This gives us the “blinkies” on the LCD when part of the image is over exposed.   Press set scroll down to enable press that again you want that enabled autofocus point that's the only change their click the Main Dial over to the right which is the Setup Menus.

Ring-billed Gull. ISO 1250, 1/1600 at f/8. Canon 7D Mark II with the 100 to 400 mm zoom,
Ring-billed Gull. ISO 1250, 1/1600 at f/8. Canon 7D Mark II with the 100 to 400 mm zoom,

Setup Menu

These are the Wrench icon and are in gold.

On the first screen scroll down and change the File numbering, set it to Continuous.

Auto Rotate This should be set to ON for both the camera and the computer, you should see both icons.

Move to the next Setup Menu screen number 2, by using the Main Dial wheel.

Auto Power Off

Set the Auto Power Off to 30 minutes. This leaves the camera on, for 30 minutes, so you’re ready for any action and don’t have to power up just as the birds fly by.

LCD Brightness leave on auto

Date/Time/Zone press Set you can scroll through and choose the month, the day, the year and then the time. Scroll through and then you can pick your time zone. Which you should also change if you travel to a different one so your camera records the correct times the image was made.

Language I guess the default English works.

Viewfinder Display I don’t make any changes here, I like an uncluttered viewfinder, so I keep things to a minimum.

Use the Main Dial to scroll to the third Setup Menu. Third setup menu starts with video system I don't make any changes on this screen.

Use the Main Dial to get to the fourth screen, scroll down to Copyright Information.

Press the Set button scroll down one more time you can enter your name in the Author's Name area. The “Q” button allows you to move between the letter selection box and the entering box to came corrections etc. Once you have entered your name press the Menu button, then use the Quick Dial to move to “OK,” then press the Set button.

Scroll down to Enter Copyright Details

Enter data the same way as above, if you want to. I prefer to have Lightroom 5 put in my copyright information when I import the images, rather then have my camera do this.

Mallard ISO 800
Mallard ISO 800

Custom Function Menu

Use the Main Dial and scroll over to the Custom FunctionsMenu with the orange set of menus and that's a little camera with that looks like exposure bracketing symbols underneath of it.

No changes on any of these five screens.

You’ve finished setting up the Menu selections on the Canon 7D Mark II. I’ll have Part 2 the remaining camera setting out soon. Then I’ll do Part 3 the Auto Focusing options with the Canon 7D Mark II.

Enjoy!

Thanks

Tim

Bird Quest 2014

Bird PhotographyTim BoyerComment

Last year I wanted to photograph 500 species of birds.  Well that was an audacious goal, and I didn't even come close.  So, this year I want to chronicle how many species I see and try to do better than last year.  But I have some catching up to do for January and February.   The next few posts will catch me up on my quest for birds in 2014. On Janaury 5th, I was in the San Diego area, here are the bird images I like from that day. I arrived mid-day, the light wan't the greatest, but it was adequate and I liked the soft texture behind the  plover in the first image.

Winter plumage Black-bellied Plover on Silver Strands Beach, Coronado, CA
Winter plumage Black-bellied Plover on Silver Strands Beach, Coronado, CA

There were several Black-bellied Plovers on Silver Strands Beach, but no Snowy Plovers that I could find this year.

I was surprised to get this close to the Ring-billed Gull, the sand was wet behind it, so the background was darker and didn't have the imapct for me as the first image.

Ring-billed Gull-9925
Ring-billed Gull-9925

Okay, so that's the first two.