Each year around this time I review my top ten shots from the previous year, this year was no exception. 2020 was certainly a different year for everyone, In Australia it started off with the Bushfires which were truly devastating for so many, so many lives lost, properties destroyed people’s lively hoods taken from them, the devastation of wildlife and habitat will take years to recover, from the bush fires came the floods. The country certainly coped it all, then came COVID, Australia was far lucky than most countries and still is, being an island continent, it was a lot easier to control the border crossings here, Still we had two waves so far, only one real lockdown in Sydney. February saw my photography workshops be put on hold for the year with talk in late December of restating them in 2021 before the northern beaches out brake took off. That seems to be well controlled so hopefully things may start to get back to some sort of new normal soon. I did manage to give talks to a few of the local Camera clubs via Zoom meetings, so somethings were able to keep going and so far, this year I’ve already got three talks lined up with the first one being in January for one of the local Camera clubs here in south west Sydney. A few other things are planned for the year, so we’ll see things pan out this year.
The first image in my top ten of 2020 was taken in January before the lockdowns started and COVID got a foot hold in Australia. A Straw-necked Ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis), Take n with the Canon 5D mark 4 and the Sigma 150-600mm Sports lens at 600mm 1/320 sec F8 ISO 800. Like all the shots in this years top ten this shot was taken in the Australian Botanic Gardens, Mount Annan. This was taken in January the Drought was about to brake but not yet so water was getting scarce in the Gardens and only a few of the large lakes had water, the Wattle and Banksia gardens dams had both dried up by then, so water birds were all coming to the main three lakes of the gardens. There was a small flock of about eight Straw-necked Ibis here with a couple Australian White Ibis.
The second shot in my top ten is of one of the many fungi that I find in the gardens. This one shot with the Canon 60D I still you this old work horse for most of my fungi shots, This one two off camera speed lites used one with a brown gel which I've then white balanced corrected, this gives the blue tint in the shadows, you can go part way to that using slit toning in post processing but I find I get better results with gels and white balance corrections. As with nearly all my fun shots this one is focus stacked, which is why the ageing 60D works just as well on these. I've printed these up to A3 plus size and they stand up to close up inspection, my printer (Canon pro-1000) will print up to A2 but I've yet to print that size yet.
This next one is still my favourite shot of the year taken in March so has stood the test of time for the year, and still is my favourite, even thou it’s a relatively simple shot, I call this one “Simplicity”. The side lighting really brings out the texture again shot with eh Canon 60D and 100mm F2,8L macro lens and focus stacked. Shot in the Australian Botanic Gardens. Two off camera speedlites used again. All in manual both the exposure and speedlite setting always in manual. As usual taken in the gardens means taking in daylight, a lot of people think these are taken at night but most are taking in daylight if not full sun even.
OK this one was also shot in March in the gardens, before the weather turns and these guys go into hibernation, this one a Yellow Faced Whipsnake was making its way around the main gardens where most of the people visit the gardens, most of my shots are taken in the natural bushland areas of the gardens but I do venture up into the other areas at times to see what’s about this time I got lucky with this one. This time shot with the Canon 7dmkII and the Sigma 150-600 Sports lens at 600mm, so my usually birding set up will was, (More on that later). This means I wasn’t as close as it looks to this one. Settings were 1/1250 Sec F8 and ISO 1000. This one only the head and upper length of the snake was out of the leaves, I like the colour of the leaves against the snakes head and body. This is an area of the gardens families are often running around in be interesting if one of the younger members of a family ran across this one, this ones not so bad but there are often Brown snakes there as well, which are right up there in the more fatal snake bite categories.
This one shot in June, a small time of lock down in Sydney so I kept out of the gardens for a few months, then I got out and found these in flower in the gardens the Sturts Desert Pea, this time shot with the Canon 5Dmk4 and the 24-105mm f4 lens. 1/250 sec F11 ISO 320 two off camera speed lites and focus stacked, The amount of detail in this shot is incredible you can see each hair on the stems and flower buds, the depth of colours and the contrast between the red flowers and the green buds with the red soil in the background. This area of the garden has the red soil of the outback. Between these, Waratahs and the Kangaroo paw all iconic Australian Flowers I can decide which is my favourite. I had a few Waratah flowers that only just missed out on this years top ten, but they made it into last years top ten and my favour shot of last years work. These are a ground cover plant, I've seen them in the wild over in Western Australia just over 30 years ago now, I didn't see them a couple of years ago when I was last over WA.
This shot was taken in November and these were out a little early, these are called Christmas bells and usually come out mid December in time for Christmas. This one shot with the Canon 5Dmk4 and the Canon 24/105mm F4 at 70mm 1/2000 Sec F9 ISO 100 and one off camera speedlite. Happy with how the processing turned out on this one another one that has that painting like an old world masters feel to it. The last two years Waratahs shot has the same feel to them.
This year Canon bought out a new toy and I was waiting to see what the new 1DX was going to be, when it came out I was really disappointed and it just didn't appeal to me for what it was and I'd already seen a few leaked specs of the R5 which to me seemed an amazing body if the rumours were true. When it finally came out all the rumours were true. I had mine on the third day of release, so was one of the first to get one in the country a big thank you to Macarthur Camera house my local camera store. Getting the early one meant I also got the free extra battery and the sext limited edition strap, which is much wider and more comfortable than the standard straps they come with. I also got the new 800mm f11 lens, this lens coped a fair bit of criticism when it came out mainly by people who had never shot with it or people that aren’t use to shooting with long glass, I was a little sceptical about the lens, but thought it was so light and compact when closed down I thought it would make a great travel long lens and the price was so good for a lens that’s that long. Having used the lens now for near on six months now, I must say I’m really impressed, the sharpness of the lens is great it’s so light, the Aperture is fixed f11 not a minimum but fixed f11 so you can have any aperture you like as long as its f11. That hasn’t been a problem on the R5 as the ISO can be used much higher, without an issue when I first mentioned it I got comments such as its great if you want to shoot in full sun but you’d never use it in any situation under cover of the canopy or an over cast day. Well all that has been since disproven. I’m really impressed with the image quality I get out of this lens every weekend. I’ve shot it in really low light, been able to hand hold an 800 mm lens at 1/50 sec with the inbuilt stabilisation in the body and lens. The body has allowed me to shoot at 10,000 ISO with little noise. I know a lot of people won’t like it and won’t give it a fair go, but that’s OK, I’m happy with it and I’m not into trying to sell them. I will at some stage get the 100-500 as it has the better weather sealing and the only issue I’ve really came across with eh 800f11 is the minimum focus distance is 6m so at times I’ve had to back up to get a shot in focus which is a nice change, I’ve got some great hand held shots of the moon with it and the only time I have put it on a tripod is when I shot Saturn, and Jupiter. Its amazing to realise you can actually see the rings of Saturn with a camera and lens without the aid of a telescope.
So this and all the remaining shots for the years top ten were all shot with the Canon R5 thou I still take out the other bodies will all but the 7DmkII which I haven’t picked up since. This ones with R5 and 800mm F11 1/400 sec ISO 2500. Hand held. When I used the 7dmkII and the sigma 150-600 sports it was always on a tripod and Gimbal head now days I’ve been shooting hand help and enjoying the extra freedom it’s given me. Especially the last month or so due to a slight incident with my foot which resulted in a few fractures in my right foot and as a result a moon boot is my new best friend for the last 8 weeks and last weekends check up and review of the latest X-rays were not looking promising for a fast recovery so another 4 weeks in the moon boot, so caring a lightweight body and lens and no tripod has certainly been appreciated.
Another shot with the R5 this time using the 100mm f2,8 EF lens with the RF adaptor, as there's no glass in the adaptor and its just a spacer there's no loss of image quality, a question I get asked a lot about. This shot using my typical two light set up, this time the camera was on a tripod so I could hand hold the two lights either side of the Banksia flower head, this one was taken in daylight on a slight overcast day. 1/100 sec f9 ISO 200. Again that old world masters feel to it with the lighting and processing.
The flowering gums flowers again lite with a speedlite and using the R5 and 100mm F2,8 Macro. 1/40 sec f11 ISO 400 hand held as by now I was in my moon boot and not to keen on carrying to much gear all over the gardens especially all the stairs to get to these.
The final shot that made my top ten was this shot of a willy Wagtail feeding its young in the nest. normally I wouldn't go near a nest for a shot but this one managed to build its nest fought beside the main board walk and beside a wooden seat where a lot of people stop for their lunch most not even aware that dirtily behind them if they turned around what this activity going on, with the 800mm lens I was actually a lot further back than the people continually walking past. Still its important to make sure you are not interfering with the birds normal behaviour when shooting birds or any wildlife for that matter. shooting in the botanic gardens there is a lot of paths and boardwalks which are fairly heavily used and occasionally you find something like this right beside the path. This shot with the R5 and 800mm f11 1/800 sec ISO 3200 this one was in one of those areas under the forest canopy where people said you’d never be able to use that lens it will be to dark, the back ground in this case wasn’t completely creamy like you can get with a F4 lens but then for the cost of a 600mm F4 I can buy 10 of these F11 lenses. Still it’s not to bad and I’ve certainly got shots where the back ground is pure cream. So I’m very happy with my new set up and loving the R5 with everything I’ve shot with it so far, Birding, Fungi, flowers, some event work. The only thing I would like it to have and maybe a fix in an upcoming firmware is for the focus bracketing to enable the use of speedlites, the Nikon mirror less bodies allow focus bracketing with speedlites the R5 and R6 does not, it has focus bracketing but not with speedlites due to issues with recycle time of the speedlite, Nikon has overcome this so I’m sure Canon can and hope to have it fixed in a firmware upgrade one day, other than that I have had no issues and loving the combination.
This year for something different I also put together a collage of my top ten shot for the year which fit on an A4 page, having seen how this turned out I plan on going back over the last six years top tens and doing the same so I can easily see my progression over the years, I’ll add in the year to the page as well, These will then go into a display book and any time I question my journey thought photography I’ll be able to flick thought the pages and see where I was at a few years back.
Lastly the last image is my instagram top nine based on Instagram likes, interesting that none of the images in the two collections match up. Between instagram like and my personal choice of my work. There were a couple there than made my top twenty but when seen large they didn’t quite make the cut for one reason or other. I note that the Waratahs feature a good amount in the Instagram feed likes. Both my top ten and the Instgram top nine shots were all taken in my local Botanic gardens. I do occasionally shot elsewhere but its only ten minutes from home, 190 different Bird species and 414 hectares of land to explore. It consists of natural bushlands, waterways, plus actual gardens and water features, so plenty for everyone to cover there Photography wants. There are 12km of roadways in the gardens so I don’t have to walk the whole garden thou it’s been known to happen. For the last few years I’ve ran the photography workshops for the gardens usually one a month but that came to a halt in February last year, hopefully in the coming months I’ll be able to start these back up again, Plus a few other projects coming up with the gardens which I’ll speak more of in a future blog post as things develop.
So that wraps up my 2020 top ten shots for the year and a little of the back story and settings behind the shots. Feel free to follow me on instagram where I post a shot each weekday, less so on Facebook, but I'll try and be a bit more active there, as again I'll try and get these blog post s a bit more regular the original aim was for one a week, so I’ll see how I go this year, I’ll do a post showing the Canon 800mm f11 lens and just what I can get out of it. For those that are interested, plus the normal weekly walk thought of the shots for the week.
Below is the links to the last few years top ten blog posts for those that are new here.
The idea original came from Martin Baily and his regular pod cast which you can find the links form his site here,
Martin has been doing his top ten for my years than I have now, so always interesting to see how other people go about there work and what they come up with.
Stay safe out there everyone, have fun and happy shooting.
Thanks for dropping by my Blog this week.