It is time once again to post my favourite images from the past year. 2020 has not been a typical year by any means, but I can’t really complain overall. I stayed closer to home this year, and photographed more wildlife than usual. Part of this was the limited locations I had at times, avoiding crowds/people, and due to owning a longer lens now. As usual, I started working on this list when I collected images for my 2021 Nature Calendar, though the criteria for that is a bit more limited than a top 10 list (I generally avoid human elements). I let this selection of images sit for a while like I did last year, but only wound up rotating one image in/out this time.
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 photograph of the fledgling Barred Owls is my favourite. The blog post below the photo outlines some of my luck involved in making the owl image. That was a photo opportunity I never imagined having and can’t really expect to again! I didn’t anticipate photographing a comet this year either, so there are always surprises.
I hope you enjoy this years selections and am curious to hear if you have any particular favourites.
My 2021 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, wildlife, and nature scenes from British Columbia. As the purchase website no longer has a preview available, take a look at the index below for a small preview of the images contained in the calendar.
30% OFF! Use the code BFCM30 (case sensitive) for 30% OFF at checkout through November 30th.
Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) photographed in the skies above Burnaby, Abbotsford, and Langley, BC.
Comet NEOWISE in the evening sky above Burnaby Mountain (Purchase)
Comet NEOWISE was first discovered on March 27, 2020 and was visible in the night sky throughout much of July 2020. Since NEOWISE was going to be visible with the naked eye, and not long after sunset, I made a number of attempts to photograph it. I have never really done any photography of the sky at night, so I had do to some research as to how these sorts of photographs were accomplished. The first photograph above was made from the top of Burnaby Mountain at Simon Fraser University. I had thought that the nearby Burnaby Mountain Park would be a good location, but it was crowded. Not wanting to try to figure this all out while trying to socially distance from people, I moved up to SFU on the top of Burnaby Mountain. Seems this was a good call as the police showed up after sunset at the park to deal with some car rally people who were misbehaving in the parking lot. SFU was certainly a bit more serene – though it was weird being up there with every building closed (they are typically open 24/7). The photo above is a combination of 9 images made over a period of about 45 seconds. I thought the clouds that were rolling through would have been a big problem processing this one, but I rather like the outcome – it has a bit more going for it than just a comet in the sky. I had been trying to think of a good location where I could work something into the foreground for NEOWISE but never really came up with many promising ideas that weren’t likely around a lot of people. These clouds do make a foreground of sorts I guess!
Learning what sort of settings to make these photographs with, find a location, and get some decent weather was not my only obstacle in creating these images. I later had to learn how to “stack” the photographs using different software than I was used to. I tried several but by far had the best results from a program called Sequator. Stacking photographs like this together brightens up the dim stars (without creating the star trails of a long exposure) and also cancels out some of the noise that is created by the camera sensor.
Comet NEOWISE in the night sky above Burnaby Mountain (Purchase)
For the next opportunity to photograph Comet NEOWISE I went to a viewpoint in Abbotsford that looks over Glen Valley and the Fraser River. While on Burnaby Mountain the comet wasn’t all that easy to see with the naked eye which was probably a combination of light pollution and where NEOWISE was positioned in relation to the sun. On this second attempt the tail was very easy to see. There is less light pollution out there and it is also likely that the comet and tail was simply brighter at that point in its journey. I could easily spot it just glancing out the car window! I picked up quite a few mosquito bites making the above photo, but this night turned out to be the best conditions I had photographing NEOWISE.
Comet NEOWISE above Langley
The last photograph of Comet NEOWISE here is not very good, but it is interesting in that the comet’s core appeared quite green. The tail was quite faint, and I was actually never able to see the comet with my eyes – even through the camera lens. The green color was nice though. I photographed this at Glen Valley in Langley, amid the blueberry and cranberry fields. What was probably the more interesting even that evening was when I saw a few Coyotes on the side of the road. One was clearly this years crop and was considerably smaller than the others. A few kilometers from where I saw the pup is where I photographed, and there was a pack of Coyotes rather close by howling and singing away while I made my photographs. I clapped my hands a few times just to make my presence known, but they weren’t overly concerned with this and never seemed to cease the celebration over a rabbit hunt or whatever they had going on. Perhaps they were enjoying the comet.
This is an update (March 2020) of a post I wrote in 2014 as infringement search has changed since then.
If you share your photographs on the internet it is possible that people are using them online without your permission. No amount of transparent overlay images, right click disabling, watermarking, or other measures are going to stop this. Copyright infringements may be in the form of anything from display on personal blogs to commercial uses by large companies. Some may give you image credit, but most of the time I haven’t found this to be the case. Others may even take the credit for your image themselves! So how do you find these infringements?
How do you find your photographs being used without permission?
Search engines such as Google, Bing and Yandex have reverse image search capabilities you can use to find your photographs. Other websites such as Tineye do this exclusively, and other companies such as Infringement.report will do the searching for you (more on those kind of sites later). For most of these reverse search engines you can drag and drop an image from your computer to be searched, or copy and paste a URL instead. I find searching for individual images with the reverse search engines to be a tedious method when I have many many photos to search for. Luckily there is an easier way utilizing browser extensions.
Personally I use an extension for the Firefox browser called “Reverse Image Search” that allows me to search for infringements on all 4 services (Google, Tineye, Bing and Yandex) with just one right click. The search results open into new separate tabs. You can also download extensions that just use one of these sites for your reverse image search. Similar extensions exist for Google Chrome and other browsers as well. With most of my searches Google Images is the service that seems to find the most results. For more “popular” images I use all 4 services just to be thorough (they all have slightly different results). The extra time involved continually clicking results tabs with no results is easily paid for in the 1/50 times when Tineye or Yandex will yield a result other than my own websites. Frequently these are results that Google did not find. While TinEye is frequently mentioned by photographers looking for image uses, Google really is the best bet if you don’t have time to search all 4 services.
The screen capture below shows the Firefox extension in action – performing a reverse image search on one of my blog photographs. Sometimes searches on thumbnails and full size images yield different results. It can be worth it with “popular” images to do a search on both your thumbnails and full size images.
When using a reverse image search plugin, you can right click to search for infringements of your images with multiple services at once.
What if I can’t right click on my images?
For some of you the majority of your images may be on a site that does not allow you to right click and search for the image. While many of my infringed photographs come from my blog, the bulk of my image library (2800+ images) is on Photoshelter. A right clicking isn’t possible for those images I simply batch upload downsized copies to my own website in a hidden folder. I then load each photo in a browser tab and do the right clicking from there. When I am finished I empty the folder (I don’t need search engines picking up on the contents). This is laborious but I do it slowly, and cycle through my images once every 2 months approximately. For those of you without a website – there are fewer options. You can right click on some social media sites if you have your images there.
The search results
The various sites show their search results in a similar fashion. Google, which seems to give the best results, keeps changing the layout but the content is the same. I usually scroll through the page(s) of results and am scanning the urls for sites that are not my own, or places I know I’ve uploaded the photograph (Flickr, social media, etc). From there I check out everything that is a potential infringement and determine what I want to do next.
Regardless of the reverse search engine used, I scan the results for sites that are not my own, or are social media posts that I did not make. One area to point out in the Google results is the area titled “Visually similar images”. Most of the time if the image I am searching shows up here, it is on one of my websites or social media profiles. However, I do think it is important that you hover over a photo in this area to verify its location. I have caught more than one infringement in the visually similar images area that did not show up in the main search results.
The above reverse image search methods may not be the only way to accomplish this kind of searching, but in the many methods I have tried it is currently the fastest and easiest (and free). People usually ask me how I pursue infringements but before they’ve found their own. There are a lot of options for searching for images but not everyone will find results, and if they do they may not be commercial in nature. I usually recommend you find some results on your own before using a service (paid) to find them or think too much about what to do with an infringement.
Sites that do the searching for you
There are many sites that will take a batch of your images and do reverse searches for you. While these sites have the advantage of being easy compared to searching yourself, there can be some major and costly drawbacks. Many require you to attempt any settlement for an infringements through them. In addition to this, and monthly/yearly subscriptions, they usually take far more of a percentage of any potential payments from infringers than lawyers would. If you are already part of a site like this, make sure you read the Terms of Service to see if you are contractually obligated to pursue infringements through them. I no longer use these sites for anything infringement related, with the exception of a few that can pursue things in Europe or Australia.
That said, there is one site I use for searching sets of images that is called Infringement.report. The search results are not as organized as some of the big sites, but they are higher quality. There are many instances of settlements I’ve had in the past where I missed it while searching on my own, but this site found the infringement. They also have zero interest in what you do with any infringements they may find for you, so what happens next is completely up to you. They are also not cheap, so as I said above, I’d search for images yourself first and verify you indeed have enough images being used to warrant the cost of this service or others like it.
I have found an infringement! So Now what?
My old blog post on this is going to be updated next, so I’ll link to it here when it is finished! Coming soon…
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.
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:
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 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 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.
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 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 (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 (Purchase)
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.
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)
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:
I thought I’d share another batch of photographs here that don’t have enough of a story involved justify their own blog post.
Baby Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)
Baby Eastern Cottontail (S. floridanus) Eating hawksbeard Flowers (Purchase)
I was testing out a new zoom lens in the backyard and had seen this baby Eastern Cottontail eating Hawkesbeard stems on the lawn. I sat down and waited for it to come back which it did after a few minutes. This was a rather small rabbit – the adults can be approximately 44 cm (17 in) long, but this little one was only about 15 cm (6 in)!
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at Blackie Spit Park
Blackie Spit Park (Surrey, BC) is a favourite photography location of mine, and now that I’ll be occasionally photographing more birds I suspect I’ll be there even more. In July I photographed this Heron wading in one of the small canals in the park while searching for small fish and invertebrates. It was looking around a lot, so I was able to make photos of it facing both ways. I also made the photo below with a longer exposure, to try to get it looking both ways at once. I didn’t expect it to work out quite this well, but I like the result. I was also unable to really come to a conclusion as to whether I liked the Heron facing right or left, so I ultimately just published all three photos.
Great Blue Heron (A. herodias) foraging at Blackie Spit Park
Look both ways before you cross the marsh (Purchase)
I also photographed this decorated rock sitting atop a fence post at Blackie Spit. I take it this sort of thing is not rare in the area, but it was the first time I’d seen one. The large yellow flowers next to the post are Fernleaf Yarrow (Achillea filipendulina).
Decorative Rock on a Crescent Beach Fence Post (Purchase)
Also at Blackie Spit I photographed this Hawksbeard (Crepis sp.) plant with some seed heads on it that were nicely backlit by late day sunlight. I’ve photographed a number of interesting small plant scenes in this particular meadow – which you can find in my Surrey gallery.
Hawksbeard (Crepis sp.) Seeds at Blackie Spit (Purchase)
Water Lily Reflection
I’ve photographed these pond lily (Nymphaeacea) plants in the backyard before, but this time I was attracted to the reflection from this particular flower. I like finding subjects that are only a few steps from the back door!
Water Lily (Nymphaeacea) Flower Reflection (Purchase)
More of my newer images can be found in my New Images Gallery.