Whonnock Lake Park on a Fall Day

The dock at Whonnock Lake Park in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada.

whonnock lake maple ridge swimming dock

Whonnock Lake Swimming Dock (Purchase)

Whonnock Lake Park in Maple Ridge is a location I haven’t visited all that much, especially considering how many times I’ve gone to the nearby Rolley Lake Provincial Park. There is a photo of me in the water at the beach of Whonnock Lake in the late 70’s, but I’m not sure I visited again until maybe 12 years ago or so. I pulled into the parking lot while doing a delivery almost next door and had a look. Compared to some locations I’ve photographed there isn’t much there – it is a lake surrounded by mostly trees and private property. So it wasn’t high on my photo list over the years. This year I did decide to stop by again during a fall foliage trip, and intended to make the above photograph of the swimming dock, if anything. My expectations were relatively low.

whonnock lake trees shoreline

Tall Snags around the shoreline of Whonnock Lake (Purchase)

Unlike Rolley lake, Whonnock doesn’t have a trail that allows travel around the lake. Much of the surrounding property is private, so the only point of view (without a boat) is from the beach which gives about 220 m (722 ft) of shoreline to walk. That said, I did find these dead snags (wildlife trees) on the north side of the lake interesting, and the wind was in the mood to allow for a good reflection. I’ve tried to find cotton-grass before in Pitt Meadows with limited success. I liked the view below of the shoreline, some cotton-grass, and the small Pines. The park is very busy during warmer days in the summer when the beach is full of people swimming and picnicking along the lake edge. On this fall day, however, I had the place to myself!

whonnock lake shoreline trees cotton grass

Cotton-grass and Pine trees on Whonnock Lake shoreline (Purchase)

You can view more photographs of Maple Ridge in my Maple Ridge Gallery.

My Top 10 Photographs of 2019

It is again time to post my favourite images from the past year. Choosing these images is always a good exercise, though I did something a bit different this year. Usually selecting my images for my yearly calendar is a good basis for my top 10 selections. This year I ignored the calendar images, and went through all the photos I have completed from 2019 from scratch. I also set aside this selection of approximately 25 images and then went through all the 2019 images again a few weeks later. Often I wonder if my selections in these lists are just my favourites from the 20 minutes it took to choose them. So this year I went through the list a few times over a longer period.

I like sharing this list each year, and viewing everyone else’s lists as well. I also make this post so I can participate in Jim Goldstein’s annual Your Best Photos project. His collection of these posts is a great place to find new photographers you may not have discovered before.

If you click on a photo you’ll be taken to my Image Archive. I’ve also linked to corresponding blog posts that contain these images (if available) to provide more information about the location or to see other photos from that area. These photos aren’t in any specific order though I think the first one from Silver Lake may be my favourite. In this moment I’m writing this at least.

I hope you enjoy this years selections and am curious to hear if you have any particular favourites.

My Favourite Photos of 2019:

bonsai tree at silver lake provincial park reflection fall
1. A Black Cottonwood (Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa) reflection at Silver Lake Provincial Park

(Hope, British Columbia)

ferry sailing in the salish sea at sunset
2. Queen of Oak Bay in the Salish Sea
(West Vancouver, British Columbia)
Blog post: Point Atkinson Lighthouse in Lighthouse Park

view of vancouver from burnaby mountain
3. View of the City of Vancouver, North Vancouver, and beyond from Burnaby Mountain
(Burnaby, British Columbia)
Blog post: View of Vancouver and North Vancouver from Burnaby Mountain

cedar waxwing at godwin farm biodiversity preserve
4. Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) at Godwin Farm
(Surrey, British Columbia)
Blog post: Godwin Farm Biodiversity Preserve in Surrey

plants growing in katzie marsh
5. Wetland plants (reeds or sedges) growing in Katzie Marsh
(Pitt Meadows, British Columbia)
Blog post: Katzie Marsh Loop in the Pitt-Addington Wildlife Management Area

mount maxwell and blackburn lake on salt spring island
6. Reflection of Mount Maxwell on a rainy day at Blackburn Lake
(Salt Spring Island, British Columbia)
Blog post: Fall Foliage on Salt Spring Island

learning to sail at crescent beach
7. Gable Roof Barn (1898) and Gambrel Roof Barn (1939) at Annand/Rowlatt Farmstead
(Langley, British Columbia)
Blog post: Annand Rowlatt Farmstead (1886) in Township of Langley

learning to sail at crescent beach
8. Learning to Sail at Crescent Beach
(Surrey, British Columbia)
Blog post: Crescent Beach Pier at Sunset

baby rabbit
9. Baby Eastern Cottontail (S. floridanus) Eating Hawksbeard Flowers
(Langley, British Columbia)
Blog post: Random Photos Volume II

baby rabbit
10. Blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata) growing in a field at Blackie Spit
(Surrey, British Columbia)
Blog post: Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II Lens Review

You can view my favourite photographs from 2018 here: My Top 10 Photos of 2018.

Snow Geese (Anser caerulescens) Migration at Fraser River Delta

A flock of Snow Geese (Anser caerulescens) take flight from a farmers field in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, Canada.

snow geese flock flying in delta bc

Snow Geese Taking Flight (Purchase)

Snow Geese (Anser caerulescens) were one species I was interested in photographing with my new Canon 100-400mm lens, and so I made 3 day trips to photograph them. The first one was to Ladner and Tsawwassen in Delta, BC. I didn’t really have a good idea as to where to find them, so I drove around Westham Island first, and saw zero Snow Geese. I then drove around Ladner looking at the various fields and saw zero Snow Geese. I decided to head to Tsawwassen, and when I was on my way down there I didn’t see Snow Geese – I heard them. I got out of the car and a large flock flew out of a field, likely stirred up by a passing bird of prey. They circled their field for a minute and then flew off. This was not a photo opportunity but at least I’d seen some at last! When I reached Tsawwassen I found another field with geese in it, and this time they stayed put for a moment. I made the second photo here at that time. The geese were feeding on the various roots and seeds of the cover crop in the field, and there were many comings and goings. Eventually a Hawk passed by and the entire flock took to the sky – and I made the first photograph above. It seems fairly clear that most of the opportunity to photograph these birds will be either a bunch of fairly relaxed birds in a field, or a bedlam of cacophony as they all vocalize their displeasure at having to leave the same field. They are not quiet when doing so!

snow geese landing in a farmers field

Snow Geese Landing in Farm Field (Purchase)

Snow Geese breed on the Arctic tundra – and many of these migrating down west coast of North America will have come from breeding grounds such as Wrangel Island in Russia. Over 100,000 pairs breed on that island alone – one indicator the Snow Goose population is doing very well. The Fraser River Delta and the farm fields in Delta and Richmond, as well as local wetlands, are a good source of food for the geese as they migrate south. They will also make a stop here on the way back north to breed in the spring.

snow geese flock resting at iona beach

A Flock Rests at Iona Beach (Purchase)

On my second trip to photograph Snow Geese I had little success and saw zero Snow Geese. I drove all around the south Delta area and what was really odd was I didn’t even spot a Great Blue Heron – a fairly common species to see in the farm fields and along the roadside ditches. Just not a good day for birding I guess! The next trip I made I headed to Richmond to visit Iona Beach Regional Park – a place I had never been. There were several hundred Snow Geese along the shoreline of Iona Beach, and they were not disturbed by a human nearby. The photograph above shows a flock of geese resting along the shore. Most of the geese were in a flock, a few looked to be broken off into small family groups of 3-6 geese (like the pair in the photo below), and there were a few that seemed to be relatively independent.

a pair of snow geese at iona beach

Pair of Snow Geese at Iona Beach (Purchase)

From Iona Beach Regional Park I drove south and visited Terra Nova Rural Park and walked along the West Dyke Trail – both places I had not been before. I’d heard there were a lot of geese here, and there were, but not really close enough to photograph. There was a lot of wildlife around though, so I think this will be another good spot to revisit in the future. When I last visited Steveston in Richmond I noticed these odd, wooden contraptions placed periodically along the shoreline. There were more near the north end of the dyke trail, and so I decided to look them up later. Turns out they are old radar reflectors – though I’m not sure if they have any use at this time, or were used by ships or aircraft. Richmond doesn’t really have much in the way of topography to bounce a radar signal off of, so I guess this was a method of getting around that. This one did add a bit of interest to the photograph below as a large flock of geese flew in from the fields nearby (I could hear them coming for many minutes) and landed in the water.

snow geese flying at the fraser river delta in richmond

The Fraser River Delta in Richmond (Purchase)

For more of my photographs of animals visit my Animals and Wildlife Gallery.

2020 Nature Calendar Now Available!

cover for 2020 british columbia nature calendar - silver lake provincial park

2020 Nature Calendar Cover – Silver Lake Provincial Park


   My 2020 Nature Calendars are now available! I have put together some of my favourite recent photographs into a 11″x17″ (28cm x 43cm) calendar. Included are 12 photographs of landscape and nature scenes from British Columbia.

15% OFF! Use the code ONEFIVE (case sensitive) for 15% OFF at checkout through December 19.

You can view a full preview and purchase this calendar through the button below:

Katzie Marsh Loop in the Pitt-Addington Wildlife Management Area

Fall foliage along the edge of Katzie Marsh Loop Trail in the Pitt-Addington Wildlife Management Area – Pitt Meadows, British Columbia, Canada.

fall foliage along the katzie marsh loop trail in pitt meadows

Fall Foliage along the Katzie Marsh Loop Trail (Purchase)

The Pitt-Addington Wildlife Management Area is a 2,972 hectare nature reserve in the northern part of Pitt Meadows, British Columbia. Much of the reserve used to be known as Grant Narrows Regional Park, but that was dissolved in 2011 when the Katzie First Nation were given control of the area – now called the Pitt-Addington Recreation Area. I have photographed near Pitt Lake many times, but mostly from the easy to access roadside spots. There are great views of the Pitt River, Pitt Lake, and the surrounding mountains readily available without straying too far from the car. A few weeks ago, however, I wanted to see what views could be found on the trails along the various dikes that head from the roads out into the marsh. Despite the presumption that most of the fall foliage would be gone, and the fact the midday light was filtered through a lot of smoke, I wanted to see what the area had to offer regardless.

I decided to start with the Katzie Marsh Loop. From the main parking lot, past the boat launch, there is a gravel road called the Swan Dike Trail that heads straight towards the Golden Ears Mountains. The main view on this stretch of the trail is not of the Golden Ears, however, but of Pitt Lake, the mountains to the north, and the Katzie Marsh to the south. I expect I’ll be back to photograph these mountain views again when the snow blankets them in a month or so. Along this trail I saw a number of Great Blue Herons (as one would expect) but also had a few passing Osprey, Bald Eagles, and various duck and waterfowl species. Approximately 500 meters from the parking lot there is an observation tower to climb for a better view. I also photographed the marsh plants below (likely sedges or reeds – I was unable to accurately identify them from my photograph) in this stretch of the loop trail.

plants growing in katzie marsh in pitt meadows

Wetland plants (reeds or sedges) growing in Katzie Marsh (Purchase)

On the eastern edge of this part of the Katzie Marsh Loop the road continues to a (private) boat launch and dock. The loop trail itself turns south at this point, away from Pitt Lake (approximately 2.4km from the parking lot). While the trail is no longer a well maintained gravel road, the dike is easy to walk on, and quite flat. Heading south there is a long stretch of water on the left hand side, with Katzie Marsh area on the right. There are a lot of interesting trees and patterns in the rocks along this stretch, and I think it gave a better view of the waterfowl using the marsh as well. The first photograph above shows some remaining fall foliage in the Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera) trees at the base of the mountains to the east. Looking backwards to the north along this section of the loop trail also gives good views of the mountains to the north and some nice reflections.

After walking an additional 1.6km from Pitt Lake the trail turns a bit more to the southwest. This is where I found the pond below with a nice reflection of the trees behind it. There was a lot of waterfowl in this area, but many of them left as I approached (I hadn’t seen them until they flew away). There were a few cautious herons who remained, however. From this pond the trail turns even more westward and you come to another observation tower that gave a great view north towards the mountains, Pitt Lake, and gave a good overview of the Katzie Marsh itself. There were two large Kingfishers making a lot of noise in the area. They did not perch close enough to me to photograph, but they were continually on the move and if I’d had the time I likely could have made some good photographs from the cover of the tower.

fall leaves reflection in katzie marsh pond

Fall foliage reflected in a Pitt Marsh Pond (Purchase)

Near the observation tower the trail narrows and is no longer a wide dike trail. The trail for the remainder of the Katzie Loop not only was narrow with blackberries reaching out to grab all my clothing, but offered very little in terms of views of much of anything. This section of the trail is also right next to the water, and eroded in a few spots, so I had to pay attention to avoid a wet mishap. This made for a relatively uninteresting 2km trudge back to the parking lot.

autumn leaves trees foliage katzie marsh pitt meadows

A Row of tree on the edge of Katzie Marsh (Purchase)

I think if I had the time and were to walk the Katzie Loop Trail again soon, I’d turn back at the southern observation tower and go back up to Pitt Lake and then to the parking lot rather than do the whole loop. The last stretch is not interesting, maybe slightly dangerous if you aren’t paying attention, and doesn’t have much in the way of any opportunity for photography or views. All in all I walked 6.8km in completing the loop. Skipping the last stretch to the parking lot would make the “loop” a bit longer at around 9km total distance. This is likely what I will do next time I visit when the snow has arrived. Some of the trip back will be facing the mountains too which will be a great view.

For more photographs of the Pitt River and Pitt Lake area visit my Pitt Meadows Gallery.

Fall Foliage on Salt Spring Island

Reflections of autumn foliage and Mount Maxwell on a rainy day along the shore of Blackburn Lake on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada.

reflections on blackburn lake on salt spring island in the fall

Mount Maxwell reflected in Blackburn Lake on Salt Spring Island (Purchase)

I recently made a return trip to Salt Spring Island in British Columbia to visit friends and photograph some fall foliage on the island. I’d not been to Salt Spring in the fall before, and I was hopeful about the fall leaves I might find there. The leaf colour in the Fraser Valley had been decent this year, and I’d found previously that even when it was quite bad here, it was very nice on Vancouver Island. I was hoping for the same on Salt Spring and it turned out it was very nice there as well, but it did come with a healthy dose of rain.

Like many rainy days here though, I was able to find gaps in the showers and photograph scenes like the reflection on Blackburn Lake above. The main fall foliage around the lake was the one pictured Black Cottonwood (Populus balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa) tree that provided a nice yellow/orange color along the shoreline. The clouds often hid Mount Maxwell in the background but alternated often enough I could make this photograph while it was mostly visible. The dock I was photographing from is often a “clothing optional” area but there was nobody there this time as it was about +5°C!

sunlight on fall foliage at st mary lake salt spring island

The sun emerges at Saint Mary Lake on Salt Spring Island (Purchase)

During my second day on Salt Spring Island I went for a 6km hike to a small lake in Ruckle Provincial Park. I mostly wanted to scout the lake and this route also provided more shelter during a hike in the rain than the ocean side trails. This turned out to be a long trudge to a lake surrounded by dead trees and zero inspirational scenery at the time. It was also a chance to give a failing grade to my new rain jacket which didn’t measure up to the task. After lunch, however, the weather started clearing and I spotted the above scene at Saint Mary Lake. The sun only found its way through the clouds for a few minutes but while it did – this stand of Black Cottonwood (P. balsamifera ssp. trichocarpa) trees lit up rather nicely. There are some subject I tend to prefer to photograph in the shade (waterfalls/streams creeks), others in direct sun, but for fall foliage it really depends on the scene. Some fall subjects like these trees look great lit by direct sunlight, while others can look a bit washed out in full sun.

Driving further south from St. Mary Lake I visited Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park. Burgoyne Bay lies just south of Mount Maxwell and often has good views of the mountain. When I arrived, however, there were still a lot of clouds, spotty showers, and I couldn’t see the mountain. As I was interested in checking out a few subjects that did not require a friendly sky, I hiked out into the retired farm fields anyway. There are a lot of old rows of trees and shrubs on the edge of the trails I wanted to potentially photograph. It wasn’t 10 minutes after I left the car that the majority of the cloud had disappeared, and there were again great views of Mount Maxwell from the park trails. It is rare I see conditions change on me so quickly but I welcomed it this time! The photograph below is from one of the Burgoyne Bay trails looking towards Mount Maxwell (complete with a dog walker further down the path). Most of the fall foliage color in this photograph comes from the numerous Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) trees in the area.

fall foliage and mount maxwell from burgoyne bay provincial park

Mount Maxwell from Burgoyne Bay Provincial Park (Purchase)

From Burgoyne Bay I headed further down the road to the Fulford Harbour area and the Saint Paul’s Catholic Church. In a previous post I’ve written a bit about the history of St. Paul’s Catholic Church (1885) so I won’t get into that again here. The blue sky and the fall leaves (mostly Bigleaf Maples again) combine in the photograph below to make my favourite shot so far of this particular spot.

st pauls church and cemetery at fulford harbour on salt spring island

St. Paul’s Church and Cemetery at Fulford Harbour (Purchase)

Duck Creek Park is a small park in the northern part of Salt Spring where many people seem to enjoy walking their dogs. There is a small stream, Duck Creek, which winds through one end of the park which has yielded a few photographs for me in the past. In the area of the park with open fields, I concentrated on one large Bigleaf Maple tree with my longer telephoto zoom lens. The idea here was to show what these trees generally offer in the fall – yellow foliage colour with their characteristic mossy trunks. Fall leaves on the Bigleaf Maples can be tricky – some years they go mostly brown and others they can be spectacular. This particular tree showed a lot of variation – in this photo you can still see some green on some leaves and orange, yellow, and brown colours on others.

fall foliage of bigleaf maple on salt spring island

Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) in Duck Creek Park (Purchase)

For more of my photographs of this trip to the island visit my Salt Spring Island Gallery.

Point Atkinson Lighthouse in Lighthouse Park

The Point Atkinson Lighthouse after sunset at Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

point atkinson lighthouse in lighthouse park after sunset

The Point Atkinson Lighthouse (1912) in Lighthouse Park at Sunset (Purchase)

Recently I posted a photograph of the Point Atkinson Lighthouse in Lighthouse Park to Twitter and realized it had been probably 8 years since I’d been there. A few days later I drove out to the park on an initially clear day that was later infiltrated by a lot of high cloud. The glare from this kind of light is one of my least favourite light conditions, but I decided I was going to explore a number of trails I was unfamiliar with in the park regardless.

First I went to Juniper Point. From there I followed the Shore Pine Trail to Shore Pine Point. The Beacon Lane Trail is a direct route to Lighthouse from the parking lot but it is wide and easy to walk compared to some other trails in the park. Those familiar only with the Beacon Lane Trail would be well advised to pick better footwear and clothing for the Juniper Point and Shore Pine trails as they often resemble walking down a steep creek bed. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. It isn’t difficult, but it isn’t something to attempt in sandals either. Both Juniper Point and Shore Pine Point offer nice views to the south and west of Lighthouse Park. Views of Bowen Island, the Salish Sea, and even to Vancouver Island can be found here. The trails on this side of the park can be narrow, but also offer nice views of old grown Douglas Fir trees, and there are plenty of Salal (Gaultheria shallon) and various fern species to give the location that temperate rain forest feeling.

point atkinson lighthouse in lighthouse park after sunset

Point Atkinson Lighthouse (1912) in Lighthouse Park after sunset (Purchase)

From Shore Pine Point I went down to the main viewpoint for the Point Atkinson Lighthouse – which is rather overgrown now and shows mostly the top of the Lighthouse. This wasn’t the view I was looking for so I went to West Beach via the West Beach Trail. This is one of the classic views of the lighthouse, but it also gives good views of passing boats and any sunset that may occur. I was fortunate that the high cloud I disliked earlier in the day stuck around, but the sky opened up a bit to the west creating a nice sunset. I tend to photograph most sunsets while facing east as I prefer the subtle colors in the eastern sky to the bombast of the sunset to the west. The light from the sunset itself is great for objects found to the east – with a nice warm glow often contrasting with a more purple/blue tint to the clouds in that direction. The first photograph in this post shows a nice glow on the rocks and a still orange light in the clouds to the east. The second photograph above shows the light as it was only 12 minutes later. A much more subtle glow on the rocks and the lighthouse with a very blue/purple tint to the clouds. A third version of this lighthouse at sunset shows both the warm glow on the rocks and purple hues in the sky.

queen of oak bay sailing on the salish sea at sunset

Queen of Oak Bay (1981) on the Salish Sea (Purchase)

As with my last trip to Lighthouse Park where I visited Juniper Point, I had a goal of what to photograph but my favourite from the day is probably not one of the expected subjects. At Juniper Point I photographed this sailboat while waiting for the right light for other subjects. On this latest trip to Lighthouse Park I liked the shape of the clouds with some not overly brash sunset colours but likely wouldn’t have made the image without the ferry being present. The Queen of Oak Bay (built in 1981) was kind enough to sail into the scene returning to West Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. While these are interesting clouds – without the ferry (or something else) present this wouldn’t be a photo that I’d share.

For more of my photographs of Lighthouse Park visit my West Vancouver Gallery in the Image Library.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II Lens Review

Earlier this year I purchased the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens and I’ve been quite happy with the results. In this fairly non-technical review I’ll discuss some of my thought process while considering buying this lens, a few relevant specifications, and provide a few example photographs.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II on side

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens

Why should I buy a long zoom lens?

Before I’ve purchased a new lenses I really try to determine what I am missing from my current lenses and balance that with the cost of filling that particular gap. For about 8 years I didn’t really have much need for anything new. This changed a few years ago when I upgraded to my first full frame camera, the Canon 5D Mark IV. The transition was expensive as I had to replace several EF-S mount lenses. After my upgrades I missed the “reach” given by the crop sensor on my old camera, and this made my 70-200mm seem a lot shorter than it had before.

While I assume most photographers purchase this lens for wildlife and perhaps sports related photography, I had to justify this expense by thinking about its application to landscapes. I’ve noticed in the past few years that more and more I’ve been choosing select details from a scene rather than shooting a wider view. Many locations give an opportunity to do both quite successfully, but without a longer lens sometimes those details just aren’t within reach. Likewise I’d like to shoot a bit more wildlife than I have which made this sort of lens appealing as well.

Having established a “need” in my photography for a longer focal length lens, I still waited quite some time before making the purchase. The cost of this lens is not insignificant at around $3000 CDN (I found one on sale for $2200). While editing a wildlife photograph this summer I decided to look at the price of the 100-400mm again and found that the lens was on sale for about $800 cheaper than regular price. I decided to finally fully research this lens and buy it soon as it was on sale. If new equipment isn’t an emergency then you can usually wait for a sale and get something at a discount – Canon seems to do these sales/rebates quite often. After research and a waiting period to make sure I really wanted to do this – I bought the lens one a week later. I then waited another 2 weeks for a new lens foot (not pictured above) to attach it to my RRS ballhead.

Some Specifications and Details

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II is the second version of their 100-400mm lens. The first (released in 1998) was popular with photographers for many years, and had a push/pull mechanism for zooming. This initial version was replaced in late 2014 with version II which is the model I purchased. The mark II lens uses the more familiar rotating ring for zooming like most Canon lenses. Along with the lens Canon includes an ET-83D Lens hood (with small window for adjusting filters), the Canon LZ1326 Lens Case, and a built in tripod mount ring. I replaced the Canon lens foot with a Really Right Stuff LCF-54 foot which works well with my RRS ballhead without the need for a separate plate. The Canon foot easily unscrews from the base of the collar making replacement pretty simple.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II vertical

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens

Shooting with the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II

My first tests found the lens to be sharp through all focal lengths, and adding my 1.4X extender didn’t seem to change that noticeably. I’d previously had the Canon EF 1.4X Extender II (review) attached to my 70-200mm much of the time, and that has usually been the way I’ve used the 100-400mm too. I don’t find much (if any) image degradation with the extender, but the autofocus is apparently slower (this may not be as much of an issue with the newer mark III version of the extender). I rarely shoot needing to track a fast subject, so I have yet to see how it compares to the same setup with my 70-200mm, which worked great at an airshow tracking planes with the 5D IV even with the extender attached. By all reports the focus with the 100-400mm (without an extender) is also very fast. The main drawback using with the extender with this lens is that at 400mm I’m shooting at f/8, which is why the Cedar Waxing photo below is shot at 6400 ISO. The 4 stop IS did help a lot with this photograph as I was shooting handheld. Generally speaking I am shooting landscapes at apertures smaller than f/8 anyway, so this isn’t usually as much of a concern for most of my subjects.

cedar waxwing bombycilla cedrorum at godwin farm

Adult Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) (Purchase)

The 100-400mm weighs in at 1380g (48.7 oz) which is not insignificant when hand holding. The 70-200mm f/4 IS lens weighs 760g (26.8 oz). As a consequence, the addition of the 100-400mm to my bag has increased the weight, even when the 70-200mm doesn’t come along. That said, I have found walking around with the 100-400mm on my 5D IV to not be overly cumbersome or heavy. Generally I’m carrying lenses/cameras in the bag until I find a subject of interest. The extra capabilities of this lens more than make up for a bit of extra weight in my opinion. While I mostly use a tripod, I have made many photographs with this lens while hand holding. The 4 stop Image Stabilization system has worked very well so far for me when I have used it. Those shooting sports or wildlife subjects will no doubt be very happy with how the system works for them.

One unexpected characteristic of the Canon 100-400mm is a minimum focus distance of only 98cm (3.2 feet)! This lets me get 22cm (8.6 inches) closer than my 70-200mm would and gives a magnification of 0.31x. I am betting there are going to be many examples of wildflowers, mushrooms, and other subjects in the future that I can photograph “close ups” of when I wouldn’t have been able to approach them closely enough with other lenses. This was not a feature I’d researched ahead of time – I had simply presumed that the minimum focus distance would be much longer than a 70-200mm. So this was a nice surprise!

One of the first (non wildlife) subjects I photographed where this lens came in really handy was at Blackie Spit near Crescent Beach (Surrey, BC). This Blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata) was growing in a meadow well off of the trail. I wanted to pick it out from the rest of the scene, and the 100-400mm + 1.4x extender worked well for this. As I’m not going to trample a meadow for a photo, the longer lens allowed me to make this photo when I otherwise would not have been able to. The Blanketflower photograph was shot at an equivalent of 560mm (the full zoom capability of the 100-400mm and 1.4x together) and allowed me to get the photograph that I wanted. If I didn’t have the extender attached this still would have been a photo much more possible with the 100-400mm than without it. This sort of scenario was the main reason I was able to justify purchasing this lens. Wildlife photography is great, and I intend to do much more of it, but this kind of photograph will be much more frequent and important to me.

blanketflower blooming at blackie spit

Blanketflower Plant (Gaillardia aristata) growing in a field at Blackie Spit (Purchase)

Summer is not a peak time for my photography but in testing and experimenting with this lens I did get out and found that it may be a good time to photograph wildlife in certain locations. The Blackie Spit part of Crescent Park is not a long trip to make and has some good opportunities in the evening. I photographed the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) below while it looked for food in one of the marsh areas. I suspect I’ll be photographing more in the summer due to the wildlife capabilities this lens allows.

great blue heron wading at blackie spit

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at Blackie Spit (Purchase)

Also at Blackie Spit I made this photograph of a Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) while it sang in a bush along side the trail I was on. This photograph may have been possible with my old lens setup, but I would have had to approach the Sparrow’s location in order to do so. Maybe the Sparrow would be comfortable with that, maybe not. On that evening I didn’t have to move, however, as the bird landed near me and all I had to do was zoom in.

song sparrow melospiza melodia singing at blackie spit

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) singing at Blackie Spit (Purchase)

Summary

Despite the relatively significant cost (~$3000 CDN) I justified this lens purchase for the new photography opportunities that would be available and the high quality reported by those who already owned it. I’ve been able to make landscape and wildlife photographs that would not have been possible with my previous equipment. I’d would recommend the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II as a great lens to consider for photographers who want to shoot more wildlife/sports subjects or the smaller details found in landscape scenes.

Pros:

  • Sharp!
  • Versatile compared to a prime telephoto
  • 77mm filter diameter matches many other popular Canon lenses
  • 4 stop Image Stabilization
  • Comes with ET-83D Lens Hood, tripod ring, LZ1326 case
  • Close focusing distance (98cm / 3.2 feet)

Cons:

  • Relatively heavy (1380g / 48.7 oz)
  • More expensive than many lenses (~$3000 CDN)

I don’t do a lot of product reviews but here are two more that might be of interest: