WGNSS Natural History Photo Group Field Trip – January, 2019

Bald Eagle subadult “3rd year”

The WGNSS Natural History Photo Group had a fun field trip in January, when we headed north up the Mississippi to the riverside town of Clarksville. Here at lock and dam #24, we were fortunate to be alongside ~75 eagles of various ages that took turns in catching the stunned shad that is their primary winter food source along the great river. We arrived early in the morning and made a day of it, experiencing wide shifts in weather from grey and snowy to partly sunny skies. I’m not an expert in aging these eagles, but I believe the bird picture above is a subadult II, which means it is 2.5 – 3 years old. In this photo you can see several retained juvenile secondaries on each wing.

Bald Eagle subadult “2nd year”

The long and pointed secondaries make me think this bird is probably a year younger than the bird in the previous photo. I would guess this bird is 1.5 – 2 years old. The temperatures on this day were cold, but not too severe. We arrived with the car’s thermometer reading 16°F. There was a light wind most of the day, but not nearly as bad as there could have been.

Bald Eagle Adult

With patience, there were some opportunities to capture a bird’s profile as it came to pick up a poor stunned fish.

The successful fisher

The majority of prey captured in this way is small enough to be eaten immediately on the wing in a single “bite”. Sometimes, however, the bird is forced to retreat with its groceries and eat in seclusion.

Bald Eagle subadult “4th year”

The bird pictured above is much closer to looking like an adult bird, showing the mostly white head and tail. I estimate this bird as being 3.5 to 4 years old.

Bald Eagle – juvenile fishing

I noticed this in previous years, that it seems like the juveniles spend more time fishing than the adults. In the photo above, you can see a juvenile with an already full crop is pulling another fish from the river.

This is just a few I have processed so far. We have something in the works that may produce something much more in terms of eagle photography. Until next time.




Comparing Canon’s Newest Teleconverters

Short-eared Owl
Image made with Canon 7d mkii, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens and Canon Extender EF 2X III

I don’t usually like to discuss gear on this blog, but once in a while I think there are some things new or interesting enough to talk about, particularly when I think they may be critical for producing the best possible results. I have been wanting to test and compare the 2 latest Canon teleconverters (Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, Canon Extender EF 2X III) in a head to head test for sometime and this past weekend found me with an opportunity to do so. To be clear, this was not the optimal situation to make this test. The light was poor and the subject was probably too far away and not covering enough pixels to make a relevant comparison. But, I thought I’d give it a try.

These tests were setup as equally, but not scientifically, as possible. For these first two images, I processed as normal and tried my best to be equal in all capture and processing steps. I cropped to make the bird approximately the same size in both images, so obviously, the photo made with the 1.4X tc was enlarged more than the one made with the 2X tc. I then resized each to make them 1000 pixels on the horizontal. The purpose here was to see if there is a discernible difference in sharpness and image quality between the two. The 2X tc often gets poor reviews, but just as often gets raves by those who claim to know what they’re doing. Many claim that the better results are made by using a 1.4X tc, or native lens and cropping in post to obtain better results than those obtained by using the 2X tc for an optical zoom.

Short-eared Owl Image made with Canon 7d mkii, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM Lens and Canon Extender EF 1.4X III

Open the two images above in separate tabs to see a roughly equal comparison. In my opinion, I was pretty pleased with the results of the 2X tc in sub-optimal conditions. Both photos are fine for sharing on the web, although the IQ would limit print size. Like I said, the conditions were poor and the bird at a great distance. However, I think I would give a slight edge to the photo made with the 2X converter. This edge might just as well be due to differences in how I processed or with changing conditions within the few minutes between captured images.

Let’s look next at the “100% crops” of both photos. This simply means that these photos were both cropped at the same dimensions (4″ x 6″) and not resized. These examples were NOT sharpened.

Focal length equivalent = 500 x 1.6 x 2.0 = 1,600mm


Focal length equivalent = 500 x 1.6 x 1.4 = 1,120mm

Again, with this comparison, I find the two very close. Either one would work well enough, but if your goal was to maximize print/display size, I would probably go with the 2X tc. I guess this has surprised me a bit. I was expecting that, under these sub-optimal conditions, the 2x tc would fall behind the supposedly sharper combination of the 500mm + 1.4X tc.

What do you think? Did I make any major blunders in my comparison or analysis? Please let me know. I do hope to make this comparison again under perfect light and optimally placed subject sometime in the future.

Thanks for stopping by and reading this far!