Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Blue Oak Trail II Millerton Lake

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Englarge

Well, the eagles are beginning to show up at Millerton Lake again. Some are returning to Millerton Lake for the winter from their home at Great Slave Lake in Canada. These eagles set up “housekeeping nests” but do not breed here. There are resident pairs also but less plentiful or evident.
A few days ago, a bald eagle flew by late in the day, while I was taking some ultra-wide shots of the historic Millerton Courthouse area. The eagle is visible in the photo but very small. Of course, where is the big lens when you need it?

Cropped- Bald Eagle More Evident

Yesterday I was walking along the Blue Oak Trail which leads to the marina area of Winchell Cove and had a good opportunity to photograph a Red-Tailed Hawk soon after leaving the parking area. The hawk finally flew away and I headed down the trail hoping to see the hawk again.

Red-Tailed Hawk

 I could see a large bird in the top of a tree and when I got closer it turned out not to be the hawk but a 2nd year Bald Eagle. They look similar to a Golden Eagle and I always hope it will be a Golden Eagle. We do have a nesting pair at Millerton but I have not seen either bird yet no matter how much I have hiked around the lake the past two years.
I got some photographs and video. It seems like no matter how many shots I take, there is always a branch covering a part of the bird. Often, they are turned away or the light highlights their feathers but their eyes are in the shadow. Crow feathers in their beaks don’t make them too attractive either. I think crows are an inexhaustible food source for them.
I look at classic eagle photographs and they are mostly head shots that fill the frame. Many are at the 200mm range. I say to myself, “Was this a captive bird?” My lens is 400mm with a 1.4X extender (560mm) and even a cropped 42-megapixel photo is the entire bird NOT filling the frame. It is extremely difficult to get sharp photographs of birds in flight (BIF). I use a Sony A7R3 and 100-400 GM lens. When the camera is on “auto” the default shutter speed is 1/500. This is not fast enough for hand holding or BIF. I use “S” (shutter priority) and dial it to 1/640
The eagle flew but in the direction of my travel on the trail and I watched him land in a tree about one 3rd of a mile away along the trail. It is nice that the trail weaves in and out and I was able to approach the new location unobserved by the eagle. There is a certain proximity they allow and that is it. Away they go again. So, every time out is a learning experience. I hope I haven’t missed any Bobcats, or Mountain Lions as I walk along looking up in the trees.

I picked him up again and got more photographs including an in-flight shot.

 Uncropped Aproach Photo

The eagle video is here:

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Sony A7R3 And Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8 Lens

Dale Matson

Click On Photographs To Enlarge

A7R3 With Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8

I’ve had the new Sony A7R3 for a week and have been impressed with the focus speed compared to the A7R2. This is not a camera review but I seem to do all right finding my way around the A7R3 because of my familiarity with the A7R2. I have used the camera mostly with the Sony FE 100-400mm GM lens with the 1.4X teleconverter. I have been satisfied with the sharpness but have not had an opportunity to photograph much wildlife which is why I bought the lens and teleconverter in the first place. The A7R3 autofocus is faster than the A7R2 but in low light I don’t find that it can autofocus on distant objects, like the far shore of a lake, any better than the A7R2. But…It simply is not a low- light lens especially with the 1.4X teleconverter added.
Today I wanted to see how sharp, front to back, my photographs would be using my Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8 lens. I have found this lens to be very dependable, fast and sharp. I would add that it seems to me the Batis lens has improved color on the A7R3 from the A7R2. I’m not sure why the 85mm lens always seemed to have subdued color compared to the other Zeiss lenses I have used.
The BIF shots were sharply focused but small since this is really not a wildlife lens. The day was hazy and the air was bad. The bird shots were cropped. All but one outside photograph was taken at Millerton Lake near my home. It is a half million acre foot reservoir. The Eagles are yet to arrive from their home at Great Slave Lake in Canada. Many overwinter at Millerton Lake.

Indoor Shot
1/160 2.8 1,600
 Photographed On The Way To Millerton Lake
 Historic Millerton Courhouse


 Pincushion Mountain

 Lava Table-Original Level Of The San Joaquin River
Winchell Cove Marina

 Red Tailed Hawk


I Took This Shot The Following Day With The 16-35 2.8 GM Lens
And This Shot Of A Juvenile Bald Eagle Today With The 100-400 GM.