2013 Project 365

Project 365/216 – A Study in Focus

MM8aug13-2810Heading out in a humid morning, I was hoping to be able to find some birds to photograph at a local park name Patuxent Ponds Park.

Arriving, the small and quiet pond greeted me, but not a feather was to be seen or heard. Part of the objective this morning was not only to do some birding, but to also practice with my Canon 5D Mark III, the telephoto Canon 500mm L IS lens, and the newly added Canon 1.4X EF Extender III .

Watching many amazing bird and wildlife photographers, many use this setup of the 500mm Lens with the Canon 1.4x EF Extender. As it is new to me, I wondered how accurate it would be with focus and how it handles light.

My preferred F-stop when shooting birds is f/7.1. Although, in low light conditions, I may drop it to f/5 to help bring in some light. Although there were no birds, the butterflies were plentiful. Seems our area has been popping with butterflies the past two weeks.

About 99% of the time now, I keep my camera and lens on an old Gitzo tripod with a Wimberley Gimbal head. Here is the first shot to demonstrate the focus capabilities of this setup. With the new 700mm reach of this kit, I had to back up from the butterfly bush and nearly filled the frame with this swallowtail butterfly. I absolutely LOVE how the eyes and antennas are in focus, but with this close of a range, clearly f/7.1 is not enough to bring more of the butterfly into focus.




There are times when I’ll take my camera off of the tripod when my subject is hard to reach. Either too low, or too high in the trees. Couldn’t resist this frog sitting in the muddy water. Check out his nose – what wonderful focus! Not bad for handholding 14 pounds of equipment.


On my way out, I had already placed my big camera in the car when this butterfly captured my eye. Luckily I had my small point and shoot Canon G12 and grabbed it to try to capture a shot. It was quite hard as the butterfly kept flying away from me. I’m sure passersby wondered what this crazy woman was doing in a parking lot chasing what seemed to be nothing.



Life is short..see it like a child.

Bella Remy

39 replies »

  1. Interesting! The photos are great, it doesn’t look as if you lost much, if any, sharpness. That surprises me since you said that it was a hot, humid day. I’ve gotten to the point where I can tell how humid it was when I shot a photo, the more humid it is, the less sharp my photos turn out. Maybe it’s because you are using a full size sensor body.

    I was saving for the 500 mm lens and 1.4 EF Extender, but when my Nikon died this spring, I was forced to change my plans, which is how I ended up with the Sigma. After using the Sigma for a few months now, I decided that going longer or using an extender wasn’t the answer, at least not on a crop sensor body. And, at 14 pounds, the set up you’re using is more than I want to lug around for 5 or 6 miles as well. You must be tough to use that set up, even on a tripod!

    • Humid days, birds low on the ground midday with the heat rising from the ground. All equal muted focus/image. With these, I was pretty close to the butterflies and in the shade, so that helped.

      Big way to improve them is in post processing where you can adjust saturation, exposure, contrast and clarity to bring out the image. Helps tremendously now that I shoot in RAW.

      The 500mm and 1.4 EF is the price of a small car. Glad that my car has been paid off for a few years and is still going strong. Believe it or not, I’m good with carrying the kit for at least 3 miles, at a good pace. Add the Gitzo tripod though, and it’s about 20 pounds. That is a bit much for trekking. I do have a lighter tripod, but it isn’t as steady as the beast.

      the 100-400mm lens is a great walkabout lens, and you can add the 1.4EF to that one. I saw a lady at the Bald Eagles with that kit and she was talking great hand held images.

      Oh..I do work out twice a week, and ride the ponies 4-5 days a week. Keeps me strong.

    • Oh yes my dear ! Thanks to my personal trainer to keep me fit. She has me carry big heavy bags on stability balls to keep me photo ready. Love to share what I’ve learned, it makes me happy that you liked reading about it. 🙂

    • Hi Tom ! Tell you, while I’ve enjoyed this project 365, it’s become all encompassing daily. Takes away reading time. Miss visiting Italy with you. Hope all is well with you.

      Thank you so much for the visit and your kind words.

  2. I learned from the butterfly sanctuary that is the boy butterflies that hang out on the ground. Can’t remember why tho. Wonderful photos!

  3. Gorgeous shots. Your gear was a bit of overkill for butterflies, but should be perfect for birds. Still, it’s always fun to shoot what you see with what you have and the results can often be amazing.

    • I agree the thought is solid about the 500mm being an overkill with the butterflies. But I appreciate the closeness from a distance. Yesterday I had the 100mm macro on and was trying to capture another butterfly. Every time I got close enough to get an image, the butterfly felt threatened and moved off.

      With the long reach, I can get close in to the bug and not disturb their movements. Perhaps the 100-400mm would be a good medium compromise.

      • Thank you so much Emily – I still have a water lily pond on my list of paintings to do (great reference images too). Working up my courage to tackle such a subject. I have three paintings that I have to complete for the Oil Pastel Society’s annual competition that I only have conceptually so things will be a bit hectic for a while. I’ve been really good, just too busy. Once the paintings are done I’ll be taking a couple of weeks break from blog postings and other internet communities to re-organize my blog and get the website for selling up and running – I’m constantly fighting for this time to concentrate on these two areas and finally decided to bit the bullet and just do it.

        • I’m always amazed about how diligent and dedicated you are with your work. I agree, that spending more time in creating your art is more important than supporting your social media websites. You’ll be so happy that you did. Good luck!

  4. Absolutely beautiful shots of the butterflies!! One of my goals is to photograph some colorful butterflies. I like your last story about chasing the butterfly in the parking lot. Only photographers can appreciate that!!

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