Sanderlings with the Canon R3

Galveston Featherfest 2022 began for me with a Birds in Flight workshop on East Beach. We found these little sanderlings feeding along the shore. Sanderlings are only 7-inches long and they are in constant motion. You can imagine the fun we had photographing them. Canon R3, 100-500mm RF lens, 1.4x extender, shutter speed in the 1/4000th to 1/8000th range.

Sanderling; Calidris alba; Galveston; Texas; East Beach; Spring
Sanderling; Calidris alba; Galveston; Texas; East Beach; Spring
Sanderling; Calidris alba; Galveston; Texas; East Beach; Spring
Sanderling; Calidris alba; Galveston; Texas; East Beach; Spring

Have you photographed Sanderlings? Are they a challenge?

Canon R3 — Hummingbird Photography

Rufous hummingbird with a damaged beak.

Continuing my test of the Canon R3, I turned to small birds in flight. There are two rufous hummingbirds in my yard so I figured they would be a good test.

FYI — below is an analysis of 516 pictures taken over 4-minutes with the camera on electronic shutter. The hummingbird left and I had more than enough photos to analyze.

There were bees around the feeder. In only one instance did the auto focus leave the bird and hook on to a bee.

The Whole Area Auto Focus left the hummer and locked on the feeder for five frames out of the 516.

Analysis of minute one: I captured 129 images during the first minute of shooting using the electronic shutter. Two or three images were out of focus when the hummer buzzed backwards but the rest were in tight focus. 1/3200th shutter speed with auto ISO. ISO was usually in the 5000 range.

Rufous hummingbird photographed with the Canon R3, Auto ISO, 1/3200th shutter, and whole area auto focus.
Image above cropped to 100%

Analysis of minute two: I captured 141 images with the electronic shutter. Shutter speed is 1/6400th with auto ISO in the 8000 range.

The autofocus lost the hummer for four frames as the bird hovered. Then the auto focus reaquired the hummer and locked on. The hummer was in motion as it flew in and out to feed at the feeder.

The hummer took a drink of sugar water from the feeder and then hovered to swallow for 21 frames. There’s tight focus on 16 of the hovering frames. The camera got a bit confused as it changed focus to the feeder and then back to the hummer.

In this instance, the R3 lost focus on the hummer when the bird was mostly obscured by the feeder. Focus locked back on the bird when the hummer moved more of its body toward the camera.

During this same minute, the hummer drank from the feeder again and the R3 never lost focus on the bird. There are 16 frames where the hummer is behind the feeder and the R3 is locked on the hummer. The hummer hovers for 11 frames with no loss of focus.

A GIF of some of the 141 images mentioned above.

Three to four frames per wing flap, if you’re curious.

An example where the Canon R3 auto focus attached to the wing and not the body of the hummingbird.

When birds are in flight, my Canon R5 and R6 would auto focus on bird-wing-bird-wing-bird-wing. I didn’t see the R3 get distracted by the wing more than once or twice in 141 frames.

What Happened During Minutes Three and Four? More of the same. Sharp, tight focus on a hummingbird in flight. I am so impressed with the auto focus on the Canon R3.

Rufous hummingbird photographed with the Canon R3, 1/6400th shutter, ISO 8000, Canon 100-500mm RF lens.
The second Rufous Hummingbird in my yard during this test. Photographed at 1/3200th shutter and ISO 25,600. Almost full frame. Slight crop to balance the frame.

Questions or comment? Please feel free to post below. Thanks for reading.

Canon R3 — Flying Birds

The Canon EOS-D1X was my workhorse camera for years. It focused fast, held focus, and never hesitated. That what I hoped from the new Canon R3.

So far, my hopes are reality.

I grabbed a couple of hours during sunny weather this weekend to photograph at the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. My goal was to photograph ducks and raptors in flight at high shutter speeds.

Blue-winged teal in flight. Canon R3, 100-500mm RF lens, 1.4x extender, shutter speed 1/8000th
Blue-winged teal flying low along the cattails. The Canon R3 kept focus on the bird and didn’t get distracted by the cattails. (100-500mm RF lens, 1.4x extender, 1/8000th shutter)
Blue-winged teal in flight. Same equipment and settings as above.

Below is a series of a black-bellied whistling-duck that I tracked across the marsh. The camera is set on large zone autofocus versus a small cluster of focus points.

When the bird flew behind the reeds, the Canon R3 didn’t lose focus. The camera stayed locked on the bird and didn’t get distracted by the brush.

Red-tailed hawk under similar circumstances. Tree limbs come between the bird and me. The Canon R3 doesn’t get distracted by the limbs. It stays focused on the bird.

During my time in the field, I aimed the camera at any bird that flew nearby. I aimed the camera at hawks and vultures in the distance. Not once did it fail to acquire focus on the bird.

One or two times the camera lost focus during a burst but it reaquired focus by the next click of the shutter. I used to see this same thing with the EOS-D1x.

I missed a couple of birds but those were “operator error” versus the Canon R3. The R3 is living up to the hype and I’m a happy photographer!

Female blue-winged teal comes in for a landing.

Please feel free to post questions below. Would you like me to test something during my next outing with the Canon R3?

Canon R3 — Flying Birds in Low Light

Someone recently asked me to test the Canon R3 in low light. Little did I know I’d find myself in overcast, dreary, drizzly, windy, and cold conditions all weekend. What a test!

All of the following photos were taken with the Canon R3 in Case 2 Auto Focus, High-Speed burst, and Whole Area Auto Focus. The camera is still set-up as it came out of the box otherwise.

Camera Settings: Shutter Priority, 1/6400th second, ISO Auto, f10, over-exposed by +1 because it was so overcast. (The exposure compensation was based on a test shot using the histogram and the exposure simulation in the viewfinder.)

All photos have been processed in Adobe Camera Raw. Settings: Texture +20, Vibrance +20, Saturation +20, Shadows +35-40, Noise Reduction 16. No other hocus-pocus or magic.

Merlin in Flight From a Boat

This is a screen capture of 18 frames I got of a merlin flying across the bow of a boat. The boat is in motion, I’m moving, and the merlin is flying, of course.
First image in the series at 100% crop. Process details above.
16th image in the series. at 100% crop

Notice that the R3 acquired focus on the merlin in flight and then held the focus until the bird was out of my sight. That’s exactly what I expect of a camera at this level. No hesitating and no delay.

All of the above are are ISO 16,000 with Adobe Camera Raw’s Noise Reduction at 16.

Northern Shoveler’s in Flight

Back on land but in the same weather conditions. Cold, overcast, drizzly, and windy. I wasn’t dressed for the weather so only stayed at this location for 10 minutes. Ducks were taking flight in front of me and flying to the right. I took 219 photos in that 10 minutes. Same settings and processing as above.

Screen capture of some of the images that follow unprocessed.

I realized at this point that the Canon R3 was going to acquire focus and not let go even on these flying ducks. For the next 10-minutes, I photographed any duck that flew by. Reminder that I am pivoting to the right on each duck that flies by.

ISO 8000 on this series. I captured 22 frames of this female as she flew by.

Female northern shoveler in flight. ISO 4000 and cropped to 100%
Northern shoveler coming right at me. The Canon R3 with the 100-500mm RF lens acquired focus.
Northern shoveler male in flight with ISO 5000.
Above is a tricky situation for some cameras. Single bird flying in front of a busy background. Another camera might focus on the background since the large zone auto focus is set.
The Canon R3 found the northern shoveler.
The image above enlarged to 100%.

I am totally impressed with the auto focus on the Canon R3. The camera never lost focus on a flying bird. I shot for a total of three hours on this day and never was I disappointed in the performance of the Canon R3.

For users of the Canon EOS 1-D x — The R3 is equal to and better. Canon has given us an amazing camera.

Questions or comments? What me to test something else on the R3? Post below.

Canon R3 — Birds in Flight

I always loved my Canon D1X for the way it locked on to birds in flight. The camera did its job and I had to make sure everything else was in sync to get the photo.

The Canon R3 appears to be meeting those same standards. My test today involved birds flying around a neighborhood lake so not the most dramatic species for photos. Good test subjects, though. Take a look.

Great egret in flight. 1/1600 shutter at ISO 800.
Double-crested cormorant at 1/1600 shutter speed and ISO 2000

In both instances, the R3 didn’t hesitate. It locked on to the bird and held focus while I tracked the subject with the camera. The focus confirmation stayed on the screen. The camera never lost focus or tried to hunt.

Very impressive so far. I’ll try smaller birds next.

Questions or comments please post below. Thanks for reading.

Canon R3 — Shutter Speed of 1/64,000

Day 2 with the Canon R3 and I went to a nearby lake to photograph birds in flight. Someone nearby was flying a drone so I took a picture of it. The drone flew over to me and hovered. Photo Opportunity!!

The Canon R3 locked on to the drone without much problem. This photo is 1/1600 shutter with ISO 400. Notice the propellers are blurred.
I changed the shutter speed to 1/12,800. Yes, there’s a shutter speed faster than 1/8000 now! Notice the propellers are nearly stopped. ISO 4000 for those interested.
I rotated the shutter speed dial to 1/64000. Yes, we have that now! ISO is 20,000 at this point. A bit of noise reduction was needed but not much. Notice that the propeller blades are frozen at this point.

Shutter speeds range from 1/64000 to 30″ seconds on the R3. Life just got a lot more interesting.

Canon R3 — First Look

Canon R3

After a long wait I finally got my Canon R3. I’ve used the Canon R5 and R6 for the past two years. Use the “search” feature here to read my reviews of those cameras.

The Canon R3 was advertised as a mirrorless equivalent to the Canon D1X. The D1 line and particularly the D1X have been my preferred camera for over 15 years.

This first review of the Canon R3 is with minimal set-up. I took the camera out of the box and set the following menu items: (1) date and time, (2) copyright, (3) Raw, (4) animal eye focus, (5) AF Servo AF Case 2, and (5) High speed release. That’s it! The bare minimum for this first test run.

There’s a northern mockingbird in this bush. The Canon R3 locked onto the eye and held focus despite all the tangle of brush in front of the bird. No coaxing on my part. The camera did all the work.
Ruby-crowned kinglet is a hyper-active little bird that never sits still. The Canon R3 found the eye and stayed with the bird as long as I could keep the bird in the frame.
Uncropped image of a white-throated sparrow in the brush. The Canon R3 found the eye and stayed with the bird. This is an easy one because the sparrow wasn’t very active. The Canon R3 didn’t get distracted by any of the round leaves nearby as we’ve seen with the R5 or R6.
There weren’t a lot of flying birds during my test run. The wind was blowing hard and erratic. A few black vultures flew across, though. I raised the Canon R3 and the camera immediately found the bird. No hunting or hesitation. The Canon R3 stayed with the bird as long as I could keep it in the frame.

The Canon R3 works like the Canon D1X! I feel that I finally have a D1X back in my hands but with all the bells-and-whistles of a mirrorless camera.

The Canon R3 is a big camera so it has a different feel in the hand. I’ll write about that in an upcoming post. Stay tuned.

I’ve been asked to compare noise between the R5 and R3. I’ll do that comparison in another post. Keep watch for that one.

The Canon R3 has Eye Control. This is a new feature where the camera uses my eye to determine where to focus in the frame. Can’t wait to explore that feature!

INITIAL IMPRESSION:

  • The Canon R3 looks and feels like a D1X
  • Minimal set-up is needed to get this camera up and running. Yea!!
  • Precise auto focus that allows us to photograph birds deep in the brush with Animal Eye activated.
  • Birds in flight are tracked on par with the D1X.
  • Exposure Simulation allows us to over or under exposure to get the picture right in the camera. This is expected in today’s mirrorless cameras.

Stay tuned as I work with the Canon R3.

Ask questions below or suggest items that you’d like to see tested. Thanks for reading!

Why Am I Playing With Lights?

Illustration of Additive Color

We learn when we play. We know that from childhood. Kids play and figure out new things. Kids play a game of kickball in the street and learn management skills, communication skills, dexterity, and lots more.

So as a nature photographer, why would I play with colored lights? It’s fun and I might learn something.

There’s this thing in the world called Additive Color. When you shine a colored light on something, the color of the object is altered. You’ve seen this in a stadium watching our favorite band. The different colored spotlights coming from different directions create interesting effects. You’ve seen the same thing at a stage play or opera. Gels are put on the spots to change a scene from dawn to sunset.

We’re taught in grade school that when all the colors are added together we get white. Well, I tried coloring with all the crayons and never got white. That’s because crayons or paint have pigments and subtractive color happens. Mix a lot of colors of paint together and you eventually get black or maybe “yulk.” Pigment doesn’t work the same as light.

Project a blue beam of light over a red beam of light and we get magenta where there’s overlap. Project green beam of light over a red beam of light and we get yellow where there’s overlap. Project that same green beam of light over blue and we get cyan.

Notice that my example uses Red, Green, and Blue. That’s RGB color — one of the choices of a photograph’s color space. You know RGB color from your computer or the back of your camera.

Additive Color is used in portrait photography but not often in nature photography.

Background (Skip ahead if you’re not interested)– I’m a “mentor” to a photography group with some really advanced photographers. There are four “mentors” and we give the photographers assignments at the beginning of the year. That’s 12 total assignments for the year. My January 2022 assignment was “Additive Color.” I didn’t give any explanation or help. Just two words. One of the photographers, James Woody, created a photograph for the assignment of red, green, and blue lights pointing at a crystal ball. You might know that I love crystal ball photography so I had to try my hand at recreating James’s photo.

This is the photo James Woody created.
My photo of a crystal ball with
red light from the left, green light in the middle, and blue light on the right.
Just the blue and green lights.
Notice the flaw from the crystal ball in the left shadow.
Different camera angle.
Another camera angle.

Thanks to James Woody for the inspiration for these photos. Visit James’ website to get some inspiration of your own. www.jrwoodyphotography.com

Camera Equipment Insurance

In Costa Rica, I think you mentioned something about “camera insurance”. Can you please let me know if I should and where I should get insurance for my camera gear?

Darla

I’m a member of North American Nature Photography Association.  That organization offers equipment insurance through Rand Insurance.  The people at Rand are super easy to work with.  I’ve really liked my dealings with them.  I filed a claim once and had my replacement money in a couple of days.  The folks at Rand knew exactly what lens I was talking about and no need to explain its value. 

NANPA also offers travel insurance and health insurance. Lots of other member benefits including vendor discounts, field trips, webinars, online meetings, and much more. Being part of the organization is well worth your investment.

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