I went to Northwest Trek near Eatonville, Washington. I’ve been there many times, but I got some great photos this time, for several reasons.
– First of all, it was raining off and on, which meant fewer people and the animals were more active in the cool weather. It also meant the deep shadows and blown highlights of a bright, sunny day were exchanged for nice, even and diffused light, even if it was a little dim.
– I had an EOS 7D body this time, which replaced the old 10D I’ve had since 2004. The new technology certainly counts for something, as I’ve seen in my photos.
– And then there’s the matter of me learning from my past mistakes. I was too afraid to shoot at faster speeds before, like ISO 800 or 1200, for fear of grainy/pixelated images. But I learned the hard way that shooting at ISO 100 all the time with my slower lenses gets me smooth, high quality images with blurred subjects. Better to have a little digital noise and keep my shutter speed high enough for sharp pictures. Most of these were shot at ISO 1200, or 1000 if that allowed fast enough shutter speeds.
I learned a rule which has worked out very well for me so far. The rule says your shutter speed should be at least your focal length. On this particular day, I was shooting with a 70-200mm f4L lens, so I was trying to keep my shutter speed higher than 1/200th of a second if possible. Didn’t always happen, and as long as the subject has paused or is not moving, that’s okay. If the subject is moving very fast (think sports photography), then this rule won’t guarantee you sharp images, and you probably need shutter speeds of 1/500 or higher.
The cougar is probably my favorite animal at Northwest Trek, but they are usually shy and lazy during the day, and because of the large enclosures (compared to a zoo) sometimes you never see them. These are the best pics I’ve ever taken of them. Again, they are more active in cooler weather, and overcast skies created much better lighting.
There is also a family of coyotes. They are fun to watch sometimes. A group of children started howling at them, and to my surprise, they actually responded by breaking out into their own yip-yapping howling.
One thing to note here: shooting at ISO 1200 seems to wash out the color a bit. At least it’s not as rich or vibrant as it is at ISO 100. I did not adjust the color balance (warmer/cooler) at all because I thought it was very true to what I saw at the time, but I did try to put some color back in.
Now here is a quick shot of an owl I grabbed while a staff member was feeding it. The shutter speed was a bit too slow and the owl’s head was a little soft from slight motion blur. I thought it was still a good picture, so I applied an oil painting effect to it in an attempt to salvage it.