Thursday, June 23, 2022

Trying to capture photos of Puffin in a storm. Some of the most challenging photos I have ever taken!

Two weeks I was in Scotland teaching on another photo tour, and on our third day in the country we were scheduled to take a boat ride out to the Isle of Staffa. On this tiny island there is a large group of puffins. If you have not seen a puffin, you are missing out. These are awesome looking birds, which I have been wanting to photograph for years.

So...the good news was that the boat ride was booked and we were ready to go. The bad news was that the weather had turned from beautiful blue skies to high winds and rain. But that was not going to stop us. We were determined to get out to the island to see these little beauties. 

Little did I know what was ahead of us. This turned out to be one of the most challenging photo shoots of my life, all in the span of 15 minutes.

We took a 30 minute boat ride out to Staffa fighting the swells, and they pulled up against a small cement dock. The captain informed us that we should carefully climb up the steps and head to the far side of the island where there was a pink flag flying.  We had one hour on the island before they picked us up. I put a small red "x" in the photo above to show you where we had to walk to.  During a dry day this would be a 10 minute walk, but with the rain and high winds, this took at least 15 minutes.

We walked as fast as we could towards the flag, while also being careful not to slip on the wet rocks ground. By the time we got to the puffins, I lifted my camera to start shooting and realized that the camera and lens were soaked. This is not a problem for the weather sealed Canon R5 and Canon RF100-500mm lens, but the problem was that the front of my lens was so full of rain drops that my images looked terrible. See above.

I tried to dry off the front of the lens, but there was nothing dry on me, so I was out of luck there. Also, the winds were so high, that the rain was blowing sideways. I knew that I could not turn my lens too far to face the birds without a new layer of water being blown onto the lens. 

What to do now? We had made the trip out there. There had to be something I could do.

Then I realized that I had my Tiffen HT UV filter on the front of the lens and that I could just remove it to have a totally dry and clean lens, at least for a couple of minutes. This is something I never do, but felt that it was the only option I had. I yelled over the high winds to the others to tell them to try this as well (for those who had filters on their lenses).

I removed the UV filter and started shooting, trying my hardest not to point the camera in the direction of the wind. And voila - I was able to get some shots. I scooted down towards the edge of the cliff to get tight shots of the puffin. They were not fazed by us at all.

It was amazing to watch the puffin navigate the high winds as they came in for landing.

This was one of the first times that I have ever shot in this type of weather. I could barely see through my eyepiece, so I just pointed the Canon R5 at the birds and fired, hoping to get good images.

The muted light from the clouds did help to get nice images without any harsh light and shadows. 

I was amazed at how close we could get to the puffins. 

You can really see the direction of the rain in this shot. Totally sideways!

When I zoomed into the previous image, I saw that a drop of rain had landed on the head of this puffin and bounced off again. Because of the high resolution of the Canon R5, I was able to crop the image like this and still have a 5MB file. 

I think this puffin was checking out my camera gear. Or he was thinking "Why would you be out here in this weather?"

Once I had shot images of the birds on the island for a minute or two, I decided that it was time to risk getting the lens wet by trying to get photos of the birds in flight. 

I looked for birds that were flying in front of me, to avoid turning left and having the rain splash onto the front element of my lens.

That worked well for about one minute...

I was happy to get some shots of the puffin in flight. Well...I really didn't know if I got anything because it was too wet to see anything through the eyepiece, but I felt that I had something. This was my favorite shot, and one of the last photos I took before the lens was once again drenched.

I headed back to the other side of the island with the rest of the group to get picked up by the boat. I was able to dry the lens off enough to get this shot.  We were soaked, freezing, but also really happy. Well...most of us. :)

Once back on the boat, I whipped out my laptop and downloaded the images to see if I got anything useable. I was happy to see that myself and our guests got decent images from this highly challenging adventure. 

The rest of the afternoon, we toured around in soaked clothes. My only pair of shoes were so wet that I was not sure if they would ever dry. Thankfully, the hair dryer in the room worked really well for drying them out. Hey - I finally had a use for hair dryer!!!


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If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours. 


Monday, June 6, 2022

Another visit to the rain forest of Costa Rica!

It has been a while since I have written a blog. It is not for a lack of wanting to, it is just that things have just been a little crazy lately. In the last month I have spent 10 days in Costa Rica, then came home to photograph some large events and then back out on the road again. While in the rain forest for another photo tour, we saw some great wildlife, and I wanted to share some of those photos with all of you.

For our first day, the rain forest showed why it is called that. It rained just about all day. This is unusual, since we usually do not get the heavy rains until the late afternoons. But nonetheless, we had some really nice photo opportunities.

Almost all of these photos were taken with the Canon R3 and the Canon RF100-500mm lens. I did also use the Canon R6 and Canon 100-400mm EF lens with the Canon EF-RF adaptor.

We usually see monkeys on the first day, but due to the rains and chance, we ended up seeing more birds on this day trip along the coast. But we were all good with that, knowing that we would likely see all four species of monkeys throughout the week. 

We watched this roadside hawk move from one perch to another.

Dennis, our guide, spotted this toucan in its nest.  As you can see from the photos, the overcast skies provided good light for photos.

After many trips to this area I finally got a decent photo of a macaw in flight with a dark background as opposed to blue skies. And we saw this one flying with a nut in its mouth.

Our second day was our macro day, photographing the frogs, lizards and snakes.

While our guides were setting up our shooting locations, myself and my guests looked for other photos. I saw this bee repeatedly flying to these flowers and happened to get it tack sharp in a couple of frames. 

Then it was time to photograph the frogs from the area.

I never get tired of photographing the red-eyed tree frogs.

This is a dart frog, which is really tiny. These things are less than an inch long and they move pretty fast. This little guy provided a real challenge to my students.

The red-eyed tree frogs tend to stay put for a longer time, making them much easier to photograph.

This lizard has great features and made for a perfect vertical shot.

Our guide, Eduardo, placed this eye-lash viper on this plant for us to photograph. For the snake photos, we used our longer zoom lenses!

We always eat lunch at Eduardo's place. While we were eating lunch, we watched the birds in the bushes around us, and had fun photographing them as well.

This one caught a small moth and was bringing it to the nest. One of my guests saw my photo and said "the fact that you got that shot shows that you are a professional photographer", only to look in his own viewfinder to see that he got the same shot! I love that.

The next day was a free day to explore the property. We started with some of us photographing the butterflies. They were all over the plants in front of our resort.

We also had a visit from these howler monkeys, who were on the fringes of the resort.

Then we were back to the butterflies...

...and awesome hummingbirds.

These egrets were mating, hence the enhanced color in their heads.

The following day, we headed across the bay to the sanctuary to see more wildlife. For this shot, I set the camera's ISO to 50, the aperture to f/29, and the shutter speed at 1/20 sec to motion pan our second boat going next to us.

The spider monkeys never disappoint!

This time around, we had a rare chance to photograph a 3 week old sloth that had been found without its mother. We all loved taking photos of this little sloth only to find out that it passed away on the following day. Very sad.

On our boat ride back to the resort, we were super excited to see a large pod of dolphin. A couple of us were able to grab shots of them jumping and spinning.

Another boat was following along as well. I think we saw a total of 150 dolphins on all sides of us.

On our second "day off" I decided to walk the property of the resort to see what good photo could be found. I really did not see much until I got back to my room and saw these howler monkeys from my balcony. It was a rare chance to photograph down on these animals as opposed to pointing up into the trees. I saw this one rubbing it's back on the tree branch. This made me laugh.

I sent a WhatsApp message to all the guests to come to my room (where I would do our critiques and lessons) to shoot with me from the 4th floor balcony.

Here is some fun interaction between the howlers.

Again, I loved photographing these monkeys from their level.

A couple of years ago, I added a sloth day to the trip, and this has been a highlight. We visit the La Perica Sloth Garden and this time we were lucky to get great shots of sloths and even this one with a youngster. I love the interaction between the mother and child.

On our final full day on the Osa Peninsula, we did the boat tour on the Sierpe river. We came across a large group of grasshoppers and had fun shooting images of them up close and personal.

Our boat captain brought us in close to this birds nest. We were taking photos of this young chick, when it briefly opened its mouth. Bam! Got the shot. 

We always see lots of iguana on the Sierpe river. It was fun to get in close to this one using the Canon 100-400mm lens all the way at 400mm. 

For only the second time on this river tour, we got to see a snake in one of the trees.

This is a crop of another image, but still looks pretty nice.

This last shot was also taken from the river boat. Just before we turned around to go have lunch, we saw this white face monkey grabbing some lunch for itself.

The next Costa Rica photo tour is already sold out, but I have added two more trips in 2023. Please contact me if you would like to join me on this awesome trip.


Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Cuba, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.