Geese and Fog

Birds in flight

Canada Geese and fog, Montana.

You never know when an image is going to happen, that’s one of the great things I love about photography, the unexpected. Yesterday morning after dropping my son off at school I spotted some patchy fog nearby and decided to investigate. Turns out some geese were getting ready to head out against some great backlight. I usually try to travel with a body and 100-400mm on my seat, just for these sort of occasions and glad I had it with me this time!

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Barns and Fences

Montana Barn Photography

Barn and Fence, Montana

During my search for more fall colors yesterday, I stumbled across this great barn and white fence just after sunrise. I really liked the way the fence was able to add a prominent foreground element, but also add some very strong lines and contrast to the image.

Canon 1DX 24-70mm 2.8L  II  f16 1/20  ISO100

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Montana’s Bitterroot Valley

Bitterroot Valley Photography

Fall colors Bitterroot Valley, Montana

On my way home tonight through Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.

Canon 5D markIII 100-400 4.5-5.6L IS  f8  1/500  ISO400

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Mission Mountains

Montana Fall Photography

Snow-capped Peaks of the Mission Mountains, Montana

I’m still traveling in western Montana this week, chasing elk, bison and fall colors before winter arrives. Peaks are now snow-capped and it’s looking spectacular out here! Here’s one from last night as the last light of day was touching the massive peaks of the Mission Mountains near St. Ignatius. Rising abruptly from the valley floor, the Missions make an impressive backdrop with McDonald Peak, the highest peak in the range, topping out at almost 10,000 feet.

Canon 5D markIII 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS  f8  1/750  ISO800

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Montana Bison

Montana Bison Photography

Bison at the National Bison Range, Montana.

After spending an amazing week exploring locations around western Montana, I’m finally getting a chance to get caught up on some of the images here this morning.  I had the opportunity to spend some time at the National Bison Range last week and had a couple days of just outstanding light and activity with many different animals. The Bison were still exhibiting a little bit of their rutting behavior and were doing some great dusting and much more active. Sometimes it’s being in the right place at the right time, but I was hoping for some of these guys to wander into the great backlighting we were having at first light and managed to get a few that came in front of the camera. Hope to spend some more time this next week capturing fall colors across Montana and making another visit to the range.

Canon 1DX  500mm f4L IS II  f4.5  1/8000  ISO800

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Canon 16-35mm f4L IS Review

Canon Lenses

Now that I’ve had the opportunity to spend a couple months thoroughly testing out the 16-35mm in the field, I thought I’d post my final opinion on this new wide angle that was released in June from Canon.

So far this lens has traveled with me to numerous workshops, many miles on Glacier National Park’s trails and around the awesome landscapes of Washington’s Palouse.

I’ve put this one through many storms, dust, rain and everything else in between. It’s pretty much been glued to my 1DX since I received it in June.

To start out, I first will say I’ve had plenty of experience with just about all of Canon’s wide angles and wide angle zooms. For a number of years I shot with the 17-40mm f4L and after that the 16-35mm 2.8L II. I’ve also used a number of primes including one of my favorites the 24mm 3.5L ts II.

Going into this, like many others, I had a little grumbling here and there with the 16-35mm 2.8L II’s corner sharpness and performance on the long end, particularly when shooting landscapes. I also had some reservations about a few of the changes on the new F4 version, including the 9 aperture blades vs. 7 on the 2.8 version for sunburst shots. And the f4 vs. the f2.8 was a bit of concern as well in regards to night photography.

First off, the previous corner sharpness and other issues with the 16-35mm 2.8II have been greatly improved providing edge to edge sharpness. All around the image quality is getting right up there with the 24-70mk 2.8L II and the other improved optic updates Canon has released. I’ve done some pretty extensive testing in the field and I am completely impressed, no grumblings here!

The new 16-35mm f4L IS also comes with IS, which at first I was kind of scratching my head as I was with a few of Canon’s other wide angles that include it. But in real world use I do like it, and found that down to 1/10 when holding steady I was getting some sharp images. I probably would have been just fine without it, but I feel it’s a nice addition and it’s coaxing me off my tripod a little more often in difficult shooting situations and providing a little more assurance.

Canon at Glacier National Park

And for me, the whole issue with aperture blades really wasn’t a big deal. For those unfamiliar, the 7 aperture blade lenses will give you 14 point sunstars, whereas the 9 blade ones will give you 18 points. It’s just a personal preference thing, and I find both appealing.

For night photography, the f4 is a serious concern and really f2.8 or faster is ideal. However as others have tested, the f4 does perform well, but it does force you to go with a little longer exposure or use a higher ISO which can result in more noise. So not my preference, but acceptable and something I think I can live with.

As far as construction goes, this one uses the new build that is present in the 24-70mm 2.8 L II and 100mm 2.8L macro, utilizing a professional grade plastic build and latest optical coatings. One thing this accomplishes is lower weight and very good durability, there doesn’t appear to be any problems here.

That’s it for the pros. As far as the cons, I really can’t find anything to pull apart with this lens other than it would have been nice to have a f2.8 for night photography. Oh and also another for the pros, cost. Coming in at $1200 most will find this tolerable to very reasonable as far as current Canon glass prices go.

So to finish, I will say without a doubt that this is in my opinion one of Canon’s best wide angle zooms they have ever made and they have really knocked it out of the park on this one. I sold my 16-35mm 2.8L II and have absolutely no regrets.

If you’re concerned about image quality of previous wide angle zooms from Canon, want the best build quality and can live without f2.8, I would say this one would be a great choice and a nice addition to any Canon shooters bag.

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Montana Elk Photography

Montana Elk Photography

Elk rut, western Montana

Here’s a shot from last week while I was out photographing fall colors and the elk rut in western Montana. I’ve had some of the most wild and intense elk photography over the last couple days I think I’ve ever had out here. The weather has been great and there’s been a ton of activity going on with the elk. I was fortunate enough on this morning to get some great backlighting to work with, allowing me to create some really nice landscape shots with the elk.

Canon 1DX 500mm f4L IS II , 2Xtc  f8  1/1000  ISO800


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Glacier National Park Bears

Montana Glacier National Park Bears

Black Bear, Glacier National Park

Just returned from an amazing trip up north photographing fall colors in western Montana and Glacier National Park. Here’s a shot from the trip of a beautiful black bear I encountered on Glacier’s west side.

Canon 5D markIII 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS  f5.6  1/180  ISO3200

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Daly Mansion


Fall Photography Montana

Daly Mansion, Hamilton Montana

I was out last night checking on some of the fall colors where we live and decided to see how things were progressing with the trees around the Daly Mansion in Hamilton, Montana. The Daly Mansion is the historic home of 19th century industrialist, Marcus Daly, and located in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. Daly made his fortune in copper back in the late 1800’s, built the town of Anaconda, and settled here in the valley. The Mansion is an amazing glimpse back into Montana’s past here and worth visiting. This time of year the grounds can be spectacular to photograph as well with all of the fall colors emerging around the main road.

Canon 5D markIII 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS  f8  1/180  ISO800

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Montana Fall Photography Workshop

Montana Photo Workshops

Swan Mountain Range, Montana

Looking forward to scenes like this coming up on my Seeley-Swan Valley photography workshop in western Montana! During mid October, the larch or “Tamaracks” depending on where you’re from, turn brilliant gold and orange hues illuminating the valley floor and providing awesome backdrops like the one you see here. The valley sits nestled between both the Swan Mountain Range and the Mission Mountains, both equally dramatic and usually snow capped this time of year. If you find yourself in western Montana this October and looking for a little solitude, the Seeley-Swan won’t dissapoint!


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