October 2013

Gear : The Canon 7D, Our Wildlife Cameras

Readers of this blog know that I don’t write many gear reviews, nor do I boast about my own equipment or discuss my latest piece of kit. In general, I tend to fall into the category of “it’s the photographer, not the camera,” and when my shots fail to impress, I know it’s not because the cameras sucks. Despite this declaration, I am a bit of a photo geek, and do recognize that quality equipment increases the chance of producing quality images.

Migrating Cranes ( Grus canadensis  ) - Crex Meadows Wildlife Management Area, WI

Like many photographers who share their work on the web, in galleries and during presentations, I’m often asked about my camera. With a smug half-grin / half-grimace, I’ll say it’s the photographer, not the camera that took the picture. Yet, I do know that the camera matters.

With the endless release of new digital cameras packed with more megapixels, better video and faster autofocus, we continue to rely on the Canon 7D for 90% of our wildlife photography. While there are better high speed cameras than our 7D’s, these bodies remain the ultimate affordable package for wildlife enthusiasts. Available for as little as $950 for a factory refurbished body, I can not think of a camera that offers more value per dollar.

Sandhill Nuclear Family ( Grus canadensis  ) - Crex Meadows Wildlife Management Area, WI

The Canon 7D is an 18 megapixel body with a user customizable autofocus module that is more than adequate to photograph flying birds or running mammals. The pixel density is high, and when coupled with a 300mm lens, the camera produces a cropped image that looks as if it was shot with a 480mm optic. For those who don’t want to carry a bulky 500mm f4.0 lens or can’t afford the $7000 price tag, Canon 7D users with their 300 f4.0’s get to play like the “Big Boyz (Galz)” for less than $2500. 

Other compelling features of the Canon 7D includes a rapid 8 frames per second (fps) image capture with a deep buffer that stores as many as 25 raw images or 130 jpgs before the camera slows down. Combined with 1080p Full HD-Video, an in-body remote speedlight trigger, weather sealing, 100% image viewfinder and an ISO range from 100 to 12,800, this four year old piece of technology still rocks.

Flying to Roost ( Grus canadenis  ) - Crex Meadows Wildlife Management Area, WI  

While we might turn to a different camera when producing high resolution landscapes, our Canon 7D’s are the go to bodies for wildlife photography and will likely continue to fill this role for many years into the future. 

©2000-2013 BTLeventhal.com / Bruce & Tamy Leventhal. All rights reserved. No image on this site may be used without permission.



I am too busy grading papers to have fun.

I am tired and need to sleep.

I have two dogs and can’t be gone for long.

Gas is $3.40 a gallon!

I need a better camera.

The government is closed for business. 

The forecast says snow....

Before the Sun - North Shore of Lake Superior

What is is your excuse?

October is whine time. My month to cry about inclement weather and find a reason to play it safe. This October is no exception, but like every one before and those that lie ahead, I always manage to suppress the self doubt and find the time to shoot.

Reflection on Gooseberry River - Gooseberry Falls State Park, MN

I’ve finally come to the realization that the October excuses are more fabrication than reality. This amazing time of year should inspire creativity rather than suppress it. Could my paralysis be a fear of failure... a failure to maximize the opportunity... a failure to take an artistic risk?

Roots - Gooseberry Falls State Park, MN

These doubts never keep me home. While long weeks and rainy weekends might be a good excuse, the urge to create is greater than the desire for comfort. In the last two weeks I’ve been out in the rain, up at 4:00 a.m. and driven hundreds of miles in search of fall. My list of excuses is a mile wide, but the time to experience life is finite.  

Sunrise at Tamarack - Tamarack Nature Center, White Bear Lake

©2000-2013 BTLeventhal.com / Bruce & Tamy Leventhal. All rights reserved. No image on this site may be used without permission.


Simple Images - Simple Themes

To emphasize the point of last week’s discussion ( In Search of Simplicity  ), these pictures are a simplistic approach to wildlife photography. By excluding extraneous information and relying on monochrome shapes and shadows, the simple image implies more than is said.

Lioness Stares ( Panthera leo  )- Serengeti National Reserve, Tanzania 

Frog Feet ( Agalychnis callidryas  ) - Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

 ©2000-2013 BTLeventhal.com / Bruce & Tamy Leventhal. All Rights reserved.No image on this site may be used without permission.

In Search of Simplicity

It’s a funny thing how a style or pattern seems to creep into the subconscious of our art. I’m not certain if these things happen because of life’s circumstances, or in spite of world around us. Regardless of the cause, it appears that my photographs now seem to emphasize the simple over the complex.

Leaf and Rock - Interstate State Park, WI 

These days, I find that I am overwhelmed by the endless inputs that bombard my inner peace. I abhor warehouse-styled stores, walk away from lines and seek the solitude of a quiet nook. Could it be that my art is the antonym for my life? Purposeful or not, I am now drawn to the simple patterns that I see through my lens each day.

 Corkscrew - Pine Point County Park, MN

Photographically, my current work tends to emphasize the emptiness in a space rather than the complexity of a place. Strong compositional elements are supported by rich colors that lack much in the way of detail. While the subject may have been captured in sharp focus, the surroundings fall off into a soft glow. To produce these simple compositions, I will shoot at a wider aperture or position the background at a great distance from the subject. The end result is a shallow depth that draws attention to fewer points within the frame. For landscapes I will work with neutral density filters to force long exposures on windy days or around flowing water. The choice to filter a scene is more than a special effect; it is an attempt to focus on a singularity rather than world that supports it. This photography, its simplicity, is an antidote for a hurried life that leaves little time to cultivate an inner peace. 

©2000-2013 BTLeventhal.com / Bruce & Tamy Leventhal. All rights reserved. No image on this site may be used without permission.