Great Basin Rattlesnake at Zion National Park

Great Basin Rattlesnake
Zion National Park in Utah

While hiking in the backcountry we unknowingly came within a few feet of this small to medium sized rattlesnake. It watched us intently and did not rattle its tail.

Yucatan Wildlife Photography with the Tamron 18-400mm 

I hope this post is helpful for others looking to photograph wildlife near Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum. I also want to thank Tamron USA for lending me the jacknife of all travel lenses, the new 18-400mm. The broad range of this ultra telephoto All-In-One helped me image everything that moved (and a few things like ruins which did not move). I would sincerely recommend this lens to anyone looking for a versatile travel lens especially for nature which is one of my niches (addictions?).

Yucatan birding

Tropical Mockingbird in Cozumel Mexico

Tropical Mockingbird
Cozumel, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority +2/3 exposure compensation
1/320th F/9 ISO 3200, 400mm

My first time observing this species. I could easily have mistaken this bird for the Northern Mockingbirds I often see at home. Body dimensions and wingtips do stand out to me as differing slightly between the two species.

Tamron 18-400mm bif

Turkey Vulture in flight and Caribbean Sea

Turkey Vulture in flight
Cozumel, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority +2/3 exposure compensation
1/4000th F/9 ISO 6400, 400mm

The same vulture species we commonly see cleaning the roads in New Jersey. I like the small breaking wave of the Caribbean Sea in the background. I also like sharpness of the flight feathers now suspended in the frame. The Tamron 18-400mm VC did a very good job at tracking the action and also resolving the fine detail. Kudos to the Canon SL2 Rebel also for a clean enough shot at ISO 6400.

Tulum Mexico Nature Photography

Partially Leucistic Yucatan Jay in Tulum Mexico

Yucatan Jay – partially leucistic
Tulum, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority +2/3 exposure compensation
1/1250th F/8 ISO 25600, 300mm

The genetic condition of leucism in birds will often cause a loss of pigment. I am not a scientist but I do know this condition varies from albininism as an albino animal should have discolored or pink eyes. Anyhow, this was quite a challenging photograph to capture as I was in the deep shade in a grove of trees, shooting almost vertically, and dealing with extreme heat. ISO 25600 is never a desirable as fine detail is sacrificed for a brighter exposure in low light.

Note that the shaded walk to the ruins of Tulum (approaching from the public beach side) has diverse trees including fruit trees making it a decent patch for birding.

Mexico Sandpiper Picture

Sanderling sandpiper in Tulum Mexico

Sanderling
Tulum, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority +1 2/3 exposure compensation
1/250th F/9 ISO 400

A raised natural rock perch, overcast light, and uncluttered background brought this scene together for me. Sunrise Beach in Tulum is a very pleasant yet small public area. Lisa and I both enjoyed taking photographs here and you can walk on the scenic exposed rocks at low tide. It would be hard to take a bad picture in such a place.

Mexico Amphibian

Gulf Coast Toad in Coba Mexico

Gulf Coast Toad
Coba, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority + 1/3 exposure compensation
1/25th F/10 ISO 1600, 100mm

An obliging subject at the base of a tree near ruins at Coba. Possibly my first time observing a Gulf Coast Toad, it’s dark lateral markings remind me a bit of a Wood Frog. An aperture of F/10 was selected to offer more depth of field than my typical walk-around setting of F/8. This is an uncropped image, the Tamron’s 1:2.9 (check this) macro ability is very useful for photographing small wildlife.

Yucatan Wildlife Photography

Striped Basilisk lizard at Coba Mexico

Striped Basilisk Lizard
Coba, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority + 1/3 exposure compensation
1/320th F/9 ISO 800, 400mm

I did crop in on this, I played hide and seek with this lizard for several minutes but it was not going to sit still for me. A male Basilisk would like similar but have a large angular crest atop its head. I would have preferred a cleaner setting for the shot but my goal when I travel is to document as much wildlife diversity as I can.

Macro Insect Photography

Carmine Skimmer dragonfly in Cancun Mexico

Carmine Skimmer Dragonfly
Cancun, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority + 0 exposure compensation
1/200th F/8 ISO 400, 400mm

I took this on a golf course during a morning walk from my resort. The Tamron 18-400mm looks like a good choice to me for dragonfly shooting. 400mm of telephoto reach, a short minimum focusing distance, and reputable Vibration Compensation (in lens anti-shake stabilization) are all very useful in the field.

Isla Mujeres birds

Cormorant and Gulls silhouette in Isla Mujeres Mexico

Cormorant and Gulls silhouette
Tortugranja, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority + 0 exposure compensation
1/2000th F/8 ISO 200, 227mm

I chose not to use my lens at its furthest zoom for this image to show more context. Compositionally this is a pretty basic rule-of-thirds layout. The muted scene looks rather postcard to me which is neither good nor bad, “it is what it is”. This might print well for a dentist’s office.

Ctenosaur Iguana picture

Ctenosaur (spiny-tailed iguana) in Mexico

Ctenosaur
El Ray Ruins, Cancun, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority + 0 exposure compensation
1/250th F/10 ISO 400, 400mm

This large adult iguana is either surveying his territory, enjoying the breeze, or doing whatever else iguanas do. They are actually quite territorial and will confront other iguanas invading their turf. A good number of the iguanas we saw had tails in various stages of regeneration which is a nice evolutionary trick to have.

Fringe-toed Foamfrog

Sabinal Frog (aka Fringe-toed Foamfrog)

Sabinal Frog
El Ray Ruins, Cancun, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority + 1 exposure compensation
1/160th F/9 ISO 800, 400mm

A very diminutive frog and hard to locate at first. I chose to show its flooded grassy environment to provide context and scale.  A big thank you to Bill McGighan for identifying my photo for me.

Cancun Crocodile Picture

American Crocodile in Cancun

American Crocodile
Cancun, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Aperture Priority + 1 exposure compensation
1/500th F/10 ISO 400, 200mm

A small individual, this one was on the edge of the lagoon just behind a gift shop in Cancun. I had seen another tourist couple looking down in the lagoon and had a hunch of what they were looking at. After a couple of photographs and a quick conversation with the couple from Manchester UK we bid the reptile and the humans good day.

Mexico butterfly picture

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly in Cancun Mexico

Gulf Fritillary
Coral Beach, Cancun, Mexico
Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD lens + Canon SL2
Manual Exposure
1/100th F/8 ISO 1600, 227mm

The wildlife habitat at Coral Beach was less than overwhelming, however it did have more vegetation than most other parts of the tourist city. Coral Beach (also called Mirador) is a very pleasant place to walk around and a good way to avoid the crowds on the rest of the boulevard. Vibration Compensation saved the day on this shot, with a low handheld shutter speed of 1/100th at ISO 1600 I did not want to raise the ISO at the expense of fine detail.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about the photographs, locations, or lens/camera setup I will do my best to help.

 

Purchase the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD All-In-One Zoom through my affiliate link to help support my blog

Tamron 18-400mm for Canon APS-C

Tamron 18-400mm for Nikon

Canon EOS Canon EOS Rebel SL2 24 Megapixel Digital SLR Camera Body Only

Yucatan Birds + Tamron 18-400mm

Common birds of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Photographed handheld with the new Tamron USA 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 DI-II VC HLD All-In-One Zoom.

Tropical Kingbird photographed at El Rey Ruins in Cancun.
Species info on Tropical Kingbird – https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Tropical_Kingbird/id
1/320 F/9 ISO 1600, 400mm, handheld
Tamron 18-400mm + Canon SL2

Mexico birding

Tropical Kingbird in Cancun Mexico photographed with the Tamron 18-400mm VC lens.

White-winged Dove photographed at Coral Beach in Cancun.

1/200 F/9 ISO 3200, 400mm, handheld

Tamron 18-400mm + Canon SL2

Wildlife Photography Sample

White-winged Dove in Mexico photographed with the new Tamron 18-400mm VC All-In-One Lens.

 

Order this terrific lens and camera combination through my Amazon links will help support my blog.

Tamron 18-400mm for Canon

Tamron 18-400mm for Nikon

Canon EOS Canon EOS Rebel SL2 24 Megapixel Digital SLR Camera Body Only

 

Please let me know if you have any questions about the photographs, lens, or location.

Florida Travel Photography: Spanish Moss Detail

Below is a handheld capture of Spanish moss using the Tamron SP 90mm VC macro lens.  By getting in very tight on the subject, a large visual emphasis is placed on the individual curls of the plant itself.  We as viewers can also see a bit of surface detail on the moss, a characteristic I was previously unfamiliar with.  To balance out the composition of this macro frame, there is an intentional inclusion of negative space.  Negative space equates to a nice out of focus background here.  As always the photographer needs to make educated decisions about what to include and what not to include in the frame.

Florida Macro Photography

An intimate view of a strand of Spanish Moss exposes naturally formed spirals. #Florida #travel photo taken handheld with the #Tamron SP 90mm VC macro lens and the Canon EOS T5 DSLR.

A Florida butterfly and some words in photo image quality

A friend on Facebook asked for details of the shot so I wrote out a bit of my technique and criteria for detail photos of butterflies.  Note that for an abstract capture, these ideas can go right out the window!

Florida butterfly photograph

#Florida nature #photo of a Zebra Heliconian butterfly. Taken with the tripod-mounted #Tamron SP 150-600mm VC lens and the Canon EOS 60D DSLR.

Question I was posed:

“Was this shot using a tripod?? so clear.. somehow i need to work on that. mine are almost never this sharp..”

My response(s), hopefully helpful:

Dave BlinderYep, 1/200th F/8 ISO 400, Vibration Compensation (IS), carbon fiber tripod. Sharp butterfly shots not possible near 600mm without tripod. When I shoot butterflies with my 90mm macro lens I do 75% handheld. Average time I spend photographing an individual butterfly is anywhere between 5mins and 1.5hrs. I don’t leave until I verify I have the eye perfectly in focus on the LCD.”

If the butterfly’s eye is not in sharp focus I do not post the photo online.

Same technique for dragonflies. Nearly identical for birds, but if the bird is distant and I don’t think I can fill 20% or more of the frame I skip the shot. My definition of a sharp eye is viewing the texture on the surface of the subject’s eye nearest the camera.

Florida Nature Travel Photography: Roseate Spoonbill

My recent trip to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida yielded my first views of the radiant Roseate Spoonbill.  Spoonbills are fairly large wading birds (similar in habit to Herons) with varying degrees of pink on their plumage.  Their easily recognizable color and shape make them a favorite for bird photography.  For this creative flight blur capture I set my exposure in manual mode to have complete control over the outcome of the photo.

Exposure settings: 1/25s F/16 ISO 100, 483mm handheld.

BIF photography

A creative motion capture of Roseate Spoonbill at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Bird #photo taken with the #Tamron SP 150-600mm VC lens and the #Canon EOS 60D DSLR.

Telephotos for Landscape Photography

I typically shoot landscape/scenic photos with pretty wide lenses (somewhere between 10mm and 40mm), but in this case the stand of trees I wanted to isolate was a bit too far away for lenses of that category.  Having a lens arsenal that includes a medium telephoto helped eliminate most of the distracting foreground foliage, and halted the need for walking through mud and swampy areas.

Trees in the Fog

Morning Fog at Big Cypress

This particular shot was taken with a tripod mounted Tamron 70-300mm VC lens, zoomed to 200mm.

Nature Photography in “bad light”

I think there really is no such thing as “bad light” in nature photography, as long as you are able to think outside of the box.  This recent photograph of an Airplant in Florida was taken while the sun was fairly high, and also a bit behind the subject.  Typically, this is an undesirable ambient light angle as the illumination of a subject is very uneven and will cause high variations in dynamic range, which in turn will probably blow out some of the highlights and block up the shadows.

Florida Airplant

Manatee River Airplant at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

I find this lighting angle difficult to utilize, and implausible in some scenarios.  However, it can yield some nice dramatic photos with a little experimentation.  In this instance, the sunlight has “kissed” or highlighted mainly only my target subject but caused most of the frame to fall into shadow.  Perfect for an isolating effect.

Sunset over Wetlands, Loxahatchee NWR

I just flew back home to NJ from Florida yesterday morning and I have lots of files (hopefully good ones to sift through.  I will be uploading new images from the trip regularly to http://flickr.com.com/davidraymond but I hope to provide some commentary and technique on individual photos on here as well.

Here’s one sample landscape image from the trip to take a look at it, meanwhile I’ve got to get back to the RAW file processing!

Florida Landscape Photograph

Sunset over Wetlands

Tamron Lens Arsenal for Upcoming Florida Trip

Weather permitting, I will be flying out of New Jersey to South Florida on Saturday morning in an attempt to capture as many aspects of nature as possible.

Tamron Lenses

Tamron 70-300 VC, Tamron 90mm VC Macro, and Tamron 10-24mm

 

Utilizing Tamron’s line of professional grade lenses (SP), I should be ready to tackle scenery, details, and wildlife.  All I need now is mother nature to cooperate!