Fox & Turtle – Not a Pub

Fox & Turtle

No, this is not some raucous British pub with warm beer and a nice toad in the hole, but a different kind of wildlife.  This is a red fox kit hanging out and playing with its sibling along with a redbelly turtle laying eggs in a New Jersey salt marsh.  This was a busy day at the marsh.

Red Fox

I came upon two kits playing like puppies as I was driving along a salt marsh.  They immediately darted off the road into the high grass.  So, I drove a bit closer, then angled my car across the narrow gravel road, lowered my window, placed a bean-filled neck-pillow over my door sill, and there I sat with my Canon 500mm lens sticking out and waited.

About 5 minutes later, out came this guy by himself.  I snapped away and mostly, I am disappointed with these pictures.  They are not good for three reasons: 1) I had the ISO too high at 400, 2) aperture too open at f/4, and, 3) the focus was off and they are not sharp as they could have been.

I was in my standard configuration of Aperture Priority Mode, and had AI Servo focus tracking turned on and focus triggered by the shutter button.  This allows my camera to track focus of a moving object.  However, my Canon 5D Mk II does not track that well in low contrast situations and goes completely to hell if I have image stabilization (IS) turned on, which I did.  I was worried that if the fox was moving toward me I would not be able to grab its face in good focus and thought AI Servo was required here.

The sun was setting and the fox was in shadow so I left ISO at 400 and opened my aperture all the way to f/4.  ISO 400 gave me more shutter speed but lowered my picture quality.  f/4 also gave me more shutter speed but requires perfect focus given its narrow depth of field and with the lousy focusing of AI Servo with IS turned on…. I was doomed.

In post processing using LightRoom 4, I really worked on these pictures to improve contrast and sharpness.  When you do a lot of post tweaking in software, problems with imperfect exposures start showing themselves and noisy grainy nasties start popping out with ISO 400 or above.   

Oh well, I am hoping subject cuteness trumps lousy exposures.

Fox Equipment:

  • Canon 5D Mk II
  • Canon 500mm f/4.0 L IS
  • Beanbag
  • Bad judgment for camera configuration

Redbellied Turtle

When I saw this gal on the side of the road, I switched from my Canon 500mm to my brilliant Canon 70-200mm L 2.8 IS II lens.  Then I got down on my knees and sat the camera right down on the gavel for some of these shots.  I was so concentrated on my equipment and setting up that I didn’t  realize she was laying eggs!! WOW!  Unfortunately, she was done and in the process of covering them up, but still cool nonetheless. 

Since turtles don’t move very fast, and this one was pretty busy doing something important, I shot a ton with many different settings.  I like comparing various ISOs and apertures to understand focus and picture quality.  I even shot some with my Canon Speedlight 430EX flash attached for some fill light.

I don’t use flash that much because it is too hard for me to get correct exposures.  I am super lousy at flash photography.  But a friend gave me a tip and said just put your 5D Mk II into “P” Program Mode and shoot.  It works.  I hate using anything automatic but for these rare times when I use a flash, “P” works for me.  I don’t know why it does, but it does….. Green/Automatic mode when using a flash results in crappy, underexposed messes.  Again, I have no idea why and while learning flash photography is on my “must learn” list…. I am no good at it and I hate it.

Turtle Equipment:

  • Canon 5D Mk II
  • Canon Speedlight 430EX
  • Canon 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS II
  • No respect for privacy

Location Types: Nature Reserve. Galleries: Fox, Nature, and Turtle. Tags: 500mm, 5D Mk II, and 70-200mm 2.8.

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