Raven – The Last Image I’ll Take Using My 100-400mm Lens

Ravens are common in my area but I rarely get interesting quality images of them for a variety of reasons. For starters their deep black plumage makes them very difficult to photograph well. And around here they also tend to be shy and devilishly uncooperative. In some areas (certain National Parks for example) they’re so tame that you almost have to shoo them out of your way to avoid stepping on them but I find them to usually be difficult to approach and uncanny in their ability to ruin a potentially interesting image by insisting on a poor light angle or flying off just before I click my shutter. I swear these intelligent birds get some joy out of doing just that.

And as in some other corvids, having a big lens aimed at them often makes them nervous.


common raven 8837 ron dudley

 1/2500, f/8, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon 100-400 @ 400mm, 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed this Common Raven just after it took off yesterday morning as I was heading for home along the Antelope Island causeway. For me it’s unusual to get this much detail in those light-sucking blacks, especially in flight. The bird is slightly past me but I like the flight posture, fanned tail, tucked feet and even the slight hint of iridescence in the left wing.


During the past two weeks while I’ve been forced to shoot exclusively with my smaller zoom lens while my 500mm is in the shop I’ve learned an important lesson about my photography technique – in the past I’ve relied much too heavily on the big prime lens. The flexibility of the zoom and its significantly greater depth of field has allowed me to capture many images (particularly flight shots) that I know I’d have missed with the 500 – either because I’d have clipped body parts or because my depth of field was too limited. This image is just one example. The downside to using that lens is that its image quality isn’t quite up to par to that of the 500.

So yesterday I finally broke down and purchased the new version of the zoom – the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. The newer edition is improved in many ways so image quality should approach that of the 500 and I’ll still have the flexibility of the zoom. If all goes according to plan this raven image is the last bird photograph I’ll take with the older glass.

We’ll see how it goes.  Now I need to get busy and sell a used lens.



Two Harriers In Flight Within Minutes – Including The Gray Ghost

I often see groups of harriers off in the distance but it’s rare for me to be close enough to photograph two different birds in such a short time span. And this time one of them was an adult male – the elusive “gray ghost”.


northern harrier 7679 ron dudley

 1/4000, f/8, ISO 1000, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

I encountered the male five days ago along the Antelope Island causeway as I headed home from the island after a frustrating and mostly birdless morning. I was only able to get a blue sky background with him but I did catch him banking in the wind with good light and eye contact. My shutter speed and ISO were unnecessarily high but when he dropped below the horizon the darker mud flats dropped my SS so I didn’t dare fiddle much with my settings.

I wasn’t quite as close as I’d prefer to be with this lens but given that caveat I thought the images turned out reasonably well.



northern harrier 7680 ron dudley

  1/4000, f/8, ISO 1000, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

I found his flight posture in the next frame to be quite interesting because I don’t believe I’ve ever captured this much downward wing extension from a Northern Harrier in flight.  To my eye the left wing almost looks to be artificially stretched, as if we’re looking at the bird in one of those distorting carnival mirrors or through a software distortion filter on a computer.  Combined with the head position I find the image amusing.



northern harrier 7872 ron dudley

  1/2500, f/8, ISO 1000, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM +1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

Less than five minutes later I photographed an even more cooperative harrier along the causeway. This bird (an adult female I believe) and the previous male actually performed some sky dancing for a few moments – a sure sign of (early) spring.

I rarely (as in almost never) get this much detail on the white rump patch of a Northern Harrier so for me it’s a treat to see those individual feathers for a change. That patch is notoriously difficult to expose properly and usually it’s a struggle just to keep the whites from blowing out, much less get any detail in them (compare this image to the first two shots of the male).

I find it ironic that I was able to see this detail in an image taken with my older 100-400mm zoom lens rather than one taken with my new and expensive state-of-the art 500mm prime lens (which is still in the shop – my 8 year old zoom has never needed to be worked on).