Canon EF 1.4x III Extender review using Canon 7D Mark II and Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 Mark II

I was walking towards the jetty at Kumbhargaon near Bhigwan in India to photograph birds. It would be the day when I will use the 1.4 extender for the first time—It’s a Canon 1.4 extender Mark III on a Canon 100-400 Mark II lens. Now my 400 millimeter 5.6 lens is a 560 F8 lens, 1 stop down.

I will be able to autofocus at F8 on a Canon 7D Mark II body using the centre point and four assist points.

Now I know what you’re thinking—it’s a bad idea to use an extender on this lens—but I have a plan. I’m going to photograph birds in flight against the bright blue sky when the sun’s out. So that way I won’t need a ridiculously high ISO for a fast shutter speed.

I’ve never done this before so I’m looking forward to seeing the results; so let’s watch the video.

I have more wildlife vlogs on my Youtube Channel, The Open Image.

Learn photography with Girish Menon

I teach photography online via live video calls—not pre-recorded videos that you sit and watch by yourself. You can be based anywhere in the world, own any camera, and still learn photography from me—HOW COOL IS THAT!

Please see www.girishmenon.com to know about the courses that I offer.

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Bird photography | Bharatpur bird sanctuary

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is a man-made wetland, was owned by the Maharaja of Bharatpur. In the second half of the 1800s the Maharaja used to hunt birds here, now it’s a protected national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is one of the richest bird parks in the world.

In January, we see more species of birds than in any other month. One can easily spot over a hundred and fifty different species in just a few hours!

I like to visit Bharatpur in the third week of January. The park is less crowded at that time of the year because the holidays are over and people are back to work, school and college. In January we see more species of birds than in any other month. One can easily spot over a hundred and fifty different species in just a few hours!

One afternoon I was walking along a little mud trail along with my guide, Govind. We were looking at cormorants drying their wings. But Govind wanted me to see something else…there was something small and black sitting on the trail in front of us!

It looked at us and flinched. It was a nervous couple of minutes for all three of us but eventually we settled down. The creature felt at ease and started walking round without a care about our presence.

Govind identified the creature as a juvenile painted stork. Juvenile painted storks look so much different from adults.

It sat there with bent feet and feathers tightened inwards. It looked cold. Like a small child running a temperature with no adult supervision.

Many hundred painted storks had made nests on top of bare trees. Trees that grew out of the wetlands to our right. Each nest had at least three chics in it. 

So then why was this little bird separated from the rest? Was it injured? It could walk, but will it ever fly again?

Govind assured us that it would. He said that the bird must have fallen from its nest into the water. It will be able to fly once its wings dry up. The water had made its wings heavy.

Lots of people had come to see birds in Bharatpur that day. So Govind suggested that we hang out with this little stork to ensure that nobody touched it, picked it up or injured it. It seemed to feel safe around us.

I was fully kitted out in a winter jacket and hood, yet I was freezing. I wondered how long it would take for the bird to dry up. 

30 minutes later, nothing had changed. It would walk for a couple of minutes and rest then walk some more and rest again. We clicked some photos and filmed some videos.

And then suddenly without warning, it flapped its wings and started to fly. It did a lap of honour, circling above us two times, before taking off for the skies and back to the safety of its nest.

Govind and I had the brightest smile on our face.

The lesson I learnt from this is that it is best to leave an injured-looking bird or an animal alone if I don’t know what’s wrong with it. I could do more harm than good because I’m not an expert in this field. 

I often remember this juvenile painted stork whom I named Eric and wonder where he is right now. Painted storks don’t migrate very far. So perhaps I have seen him all grown up on my subsequent visits to Bharatpur, but I don’t recognise him. I’d like to think that Eric always recognises me and remembers our afternoon together. I don’t know if it’s a he. It could be a she, she could be Erika! 

Being out in nature  makes us feel better emotionally, contributes to our physical wellbeing, reduces blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.

Learn photography with Girish Menon

I teach photography online via live video calls—not pre-recorded videos that you sit and watch by yourself. You can be based anywhere in the world, own any camera, and still learn photography from me—HOW COOL IS THAT!

Please see www.girishmenon.com to know about the courses that I offer.

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Bird photogrphy | Spotted owlet at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

I had a Nikon D7200 camera with a 200-500 lens — and not a single photo was sharp. I had shutter speeds in excess of 1/1000th of a second, I tried holding the camera in different ways, using a monopod, adjusting my stance, pressing the camera harder against my cheek but the photos did not improve. The stabilisation on the lens couldn’t be faulty, could it?

In spite of being kitted out in thermal innerwear, a warm jacket, two pairs of gloves on each hand and a faux fur aviator hat on my head, I was still cold. 

Bhupendar showed up outside my hotel on time, at 6 o’clock. It was still dark and we were the first people to roll into Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary that morning. There was a thick fog in the air, and we couldn’t see very far into the distance.

There was no bird activity anywhere around us. Birds start getting active once the sun is out—because that’s when insects start coming out of their burrows to feed and birds can prey on them!

The occasional creaking sounds of Bhupendra’s pedals disturbed the silence as we continued to roll along the thoroughfare waiting for the sun to come out. 

When it got brighter we saw a spotted owlet sitting inside a hollow branch of a bare tree.

It looked very comfortable sitting there, and seemed unlikely that it would come out on a morning like this. I stood there making a few photos hoping that it would hop out—even if it were for a few seconds. I stood there under the tree and turned in the opposite direction to look at some green pigeons. 

“LOOK…LOOK…” there was a buzz in the air!

Our little owlet had flown out and perched in the open on the adjacent tree. And I gathered my wits and started clicking some photos, it did a little jig, as if it were grooving to a dance number of the nineteen nineties.

Wonderful! However my photos were not!

I had a Nikon D7200 camera with a 200-500 lens—and not a single photo was sharp. I had shutter speeds in excess of 1/1000th of a second, I tried holding the camera in different ways, using a monopod, adjusting my stance, pressing the camera harder against my cheek but the photos did not improve. The stabilisation on the lens couldn’t be faulty, could it?

It was a beautiful day for photography but I couldn’t make a single decent photo—and I couldn’t understand why! All my photos were out of focus.

A few months later, I went to Bandhavgarh National Park to see tigers — and even there I couldn’t get the sharpness that I expected out of my lens—no matter what I tried.

It was only when I got back from this trip that I realised what the problem was—it was the poor quality ultraviolet filter! I cannot tell you enough how important it is to use a good quality UV filter—what’s the point in using cheap filters on good lenses? It’s like driving around in a Ferrari with flat tyres!

I have more wildlife vlogs on my Youtube Channel, The Open Image.

Learn photography with Girish Menon

I teach photography online via live video calls—not pre-recorded videos that you sit and watch by yourself. You can be based anywhere in the world, own any camera, and still learn photography from me—HOW COOL IS THAT!

Please see www.girishmenon.com to know about the courses that I offer.

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Bird photography | Canon 7D Mark II camera, 100-400 mm Mark II lens

Passeriformes contain about half the total number of living birds that’s almost 6,000 species! We see about a thousand species of Passeriformes in the Indian Empire. Some are residents, others are seasonal visitors.

Passeriformes contain about half the total number of living birds. That’s almost 6,000 species.

Over two hundred and fifty species of birds — in a five square kilometer radius!

That’s Kumbhargaon — a fishing village that sits on the banks of the backwaters of Ujjani Dam. Less than 2,000 people live in this village — they encourage avian tourism and take us on their little boats to get closer to the birds.

On one of my visits to Kumbhargaon I was walking through the woods in the evening when I saw a Yellow-eyed Babbler bouncing from one twig to another and finally perched and looked straight at me—like a cartoon character who was very happy to see me.

That brought a bright smile to my face. It seemed to like me. Did you ever think that a bird or a wild animal liked you? Did you have such an experience?

A week later when I got back home and looked at the photo, I noticed a string of small eggs sitting on the underside of one of the twigs. The eggs were of some insect—and that’s what delighted the babbler more than my presence!

Very often I know nothing about the birds I see and photograph. But everytime I come home and look at my pictures, I learn something about them. I found out that babblers are Passerines—of the order Passeriformes—also known as songbirds or perching birds. 

Passeriformes contain about half the total number of living birds that’s almost 6,000 species! We see about a thousand species of Passeriformes in the Indian Empire. Some are residents, others are seasonal visitors.

Passerines can perch in awkward positions because of well adapted feet (the first toe faces backwards and three other toes face forward). 

This kind of an adaptation helped this Yellow-eyed Babbler reach its supper that evening.

More wildlife photography vlogs on my youtube channel, The Open Image.

Learn photography with Girish Menon

I teach photography online via live video calls—not pre-recorded videos that you sit and watch by yourself. You can be based anywhere in the world, own any camera, and still learn photography from me—HOW COOL IS THAT!

Please see www.girishmenon.com to know about the courses that I offer.

Continue Reading