Readers’ wildlife photos

July 28, 2014 • 3:58 am

You may or may not know that Steve Pinker is an avid photographer (where does he get the time?), and he’s proffered some of his photos for display on this site. They come in five categories: primates, reptiles, cats, birds, and herbivorous mammals. I’ll show one of each, but there are several in each category, so expect more in the future.

These are all photos he took on a recent trip to Uganda, and include his captions (I’ve added the links):

Colubus satanas aka black and white colobus:

black & white colobus staring down from tree-L

Agama atricollis: Blue-headed tree agama:

blue-headed tree agama staring at photographer-L

Leopard (Panthera pardus) descending from tree:

leopard descending from tree-L

Profile of a giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) against the Nile:

profile of giraffe against Nile-L

Merops oreobates (Cinnamon-chested bee-eater):

cinnamon-chested bee-eater Ndali-L

All of Steve’s photos from Uganda are here, and his complete gallery, meticulously catalogued, is here. He promises to send pictures from Tasmania, where I think he is now.

47 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. He’s in Tasmania? I had no idea. Great photos, especially the leopard and the bird/small dinosaur.

  2. I especially like the bee-eater. Love the bokeh from the lens as well – must be an f/2.8

    1. Maybe we need another meme. We have them for Chuck Norris and honey badgers, so why not a Pinkah meme?

        1. Maybe a unit of measure of excellence at multitasking. One Pinkah (Pkh) is the operational level of Steve. Everyone else on the planet is less than that. I might be 0.2 Pkh.

          1. Is it possible to be at negative values.

            I think that’s where I’m most of the time. Damn this lazy vessel!

    2. Maybe Pinker is the solution for the faithful who wonder where their loved ones go after death. He is able to store all of the data from all their souls in the history of the human race (past and future). Of course, Pinker’s response would be, “Um…Based on what I know…I don’t think so.”

    1. It almost doesn’t look real. It looks just like our local bearded dragons but they’re all shades of greay. Amazing colour.

  3. Spectacular photos. I wonder what his kit consists of.

    The blue lizard and leopard are my favorite from these 5. Both look to be sharpened digitally and perfectly. I once had a photo instructor who said “all digital photographs need sharpening.” What do other photographers think?

  4. Spectacular photos. I wonder what his kit consists of.

    Unless his photo-processing pipeline is lying (which is possible ; if I could be bothered, I might do it with EXIFtools and some scripting, if I saw a reason to do so), then he’s using a Canon EOS 5D mkIII ; the bee-eater photo was taken at 06:23 on 2014:01:13 (which I take as a Canonism for 13 Jan this year) but processed at 11:06:30 on 7th May this year ; a 600mm lens (i.e. pretty long ; I’d have to use a telephoto to get that long) was used at f/5.6 (to increase depth of field), and an exposure of 1/125 seconds (which is quite long, so I’m seeing a bird in a shadowy nook photographed at considerable range).
    There’s a lot of info in an image’s EXIF, unless it has been edited.

      1. That would be the way that I’d go too, but I don’t know how intelligent the lenses are (do teleconverters pass through the FL of the lens that’s attached to them?
        A couple of years ago I sprang for a dumb Russian 500mm Maksutov catadioptric lens, which works well, and has exposed the weakness of my tripod for astrophotography. I’m now looking for a reason (read: excuse) to get a good quality (probably Nikon, but I’m open to Nikon-alikes) teleconverter which will take that up to 1000mm, force me to get a decent tripod, and give me other lens combos from 36 to 600mm, as well as the native 500mm.
        I’ll quiz the people at the camera shop to see if there’s a teleconverter into which I can enter the FL of the dumb lens on the business end. Would be a differentiating point in my choices.
        actually, I’ve got camera shopping to do RSN anyway.

        1. I’ll quiz the people at the camera shop to see if there’s a teleconverter into which I can enter the FL of the dumb lens on the business end.

          There are generic teleconverters…but all teleconverters degrade image quality and the generics are notorious for further degrading quality. And for a 2X teleconverter? “Good luck with that,” as the saying goes.

          Except perhaps for the latest version of the Canon 2X teleconverter ($500) on the latest generation of Canon supertelephotos ($8000 – $15,000), you’re generally better off cropping. And that’s according to objective tests I’ve seen, not merely subjective interpretation.

          And, for astrophotography…ditch the mirror lens in favor of an actual astronomical telescope. Dollar for dollar a telescope outperforms a camera lens for astrophotography. A $300 telescope is going to mop the floor with a $500 camera lens (assuming both pointed up). Indeed, you have to go for one of those small-car-priced supertelephotos to get into the same kind of image quality for astrophotography as you would from a $1000 telescope…and, even then, the camera lenses are really only good for wide-field deep sky stuff and require all sorts of crazy technique to put to their full potential.


          1. I made a strategic decision about 6 years ago (when the baggage handlers baggage-handled our previous mini-camera and smashed the screen) to go for a Nikon system. All in all, they’re pretty comparable with Canon and somewhat ahead of Olympus. (OTOH, if money were no object, for a microscope, I’d go Olympus.) A choice had to be made, and that’s the way I jumped.
            So, between dropping bodies and breaking lenses, I’m still running two wide range zooms and the 500mm fixed focus. I’m considering a new body (with GPS built in, for technical field photography ; well, that’s my excuse) and a different mid-range zoom. I’d be expecting to spend a further £180 or so on a decent quality telephoto to spread the range somewhat.
            I do actually own an astronomical telescope. It’s useless within 20 miles of town due to light pollution, so it is staying at my sisters who lives out in the country. (It’s also useless from mid-May to about this time of year because the sky is too bright, but that’s a separate issue.) I get to use it once a year, if that.

          2. Nikon makes good gear, too. At least for this round, they’re seriously lagging Canon with the big glass; Canon supertelephotos weigh half as much as the Nikon equivalents and have better optics, stabilization, and autofocus — but the Nikons are still excellent and a lot less expensive. But all of this applies to $6000+ lenses that most people generally only ever see on TV at the sidelines of major professional field sporting events.

            In the $300 price range…um. If you’re looking to photograph stars, no question but that any astronomical telescope will eat the camera lens for lunch. There’re different compromises to be made in designing a lens for photography and astronomy, and those compromises really stand out at the lower range. Any photographic lens in that range is going to have significant coma, and any stars not in the center of the image are going to be smeared into weird shapes. And any astronomical telescope in that range is going to have the ugliest imaginable patterning in out-of-focus areas — plus, no way to change aperture.

            Also, key in photography is the aperture ratio, but astronomy is all about the physical aperture size. A 300mm f/5.6 lens (the sort of thing you’re going to be limited to with your budget) is going to have a 53mm / 2″ physical aperture. You can get a 130mm / 5″ telescope on an equatorial mount for that same price. You’ll be able to clearly see / image things with the telescope that you wouldn’t even be able to find with the camera lens.


          3. I’m well acquainted with the optics. Which is why I do have a telescope. And with the light pollution round here, it’s at my sister’s house, 5 hours drive away.

          4. What is the aperture on your Mak? I have an 8″ SCT that I’ve had for ~17 years. I’ve upgraded it gradually so it now has a tougher (and heavier sadly) mount and tracking system. I have no fancy GPS on it so I have to polar align it manually (which can suck).

          5. It’s got a 72mm skylight filter on it (for protection ; £20 instead of £150), but at 500mm FL and f/8 it should be 62.5mm actual aperture. I got it for eclipse photography so I made solar filters from the stock Baader mylar-Al sheeting. (I modified up a couple of pairs of welders goggles at the same time, then passed the remainder of the batch to a friend. Good investment.)
            My ‘scope is a bog-standard Newt. My original plan was to set some paving slabs into the back corner of a friend’s garden about 20 miles out of town, but after I’d brought the scope, the friend changed his mind leaving me with nowhere to plant it. Hence it went down to the sister, where they trundle it out onto the decking from time to time.
            It doesn’t move much in latitude, so I found that polar alignment didn’t take too long – about 10 minutes while you’re getting your eyes dark-adapted. Getting the latitude setting right was a bit of a PITA though.

          6. Well…NASA and ESA do most of their astrophotography by remote control — and I daresay your sister’s house is a bit more accessible initially than their gear….


          7. If they’d got a reliable internet connection, maybe. as is, they get better off their mobiles than they do off broadband.
            TBH, I’m thinking of the telescope as a sunk cost. I’d probably do better getting an account on a robotic telescope. I’ve been looking at several over the last year or two.

          8. I hear this one ain’t so bad. Have you thought about checking with them for some time on the ‘scope?

            But, more seriously, I really love the idea of amateurs pooling resources for these sorts of projects. You might not be able to afford a $13K setup…but find a dozen others to go in on it with you and that’s only $1K a pop, and you’d each get a month’s worth of observation time every year all to yourself. Find somebody else on the team interested in the same objects…and can you imagine what two months of time spent imaging a single deep-sky object could get you? Perhaps not quite up to Hubble’s standards, but damned close.

            …of course, you might not want to put the gear in Scotland. I know y’all don’t quite believe it, but the sky really is more than just 50 shades of grey, at least elsewhere on the planet….


          9. I get 50 shades of grey in Equatorial Africa too – well, about 50-60% of the time. which is an improvement on 70% in Scotland.
            I know there are good days in Scotland. The wife knows it too – but they’re only on days when she has to go to work in the office. Cruel clouds!

        2. I agree with Ben on this 100% and depending on the type of astrophotography you are doing, you will likely get off cheaper as the optics don’t have all the electronics in them like photo lenses do. The canon teleconverters are superb and do have smarts built in so you simply use them without thinking but you really want a nice fast lens for a 2x teleconverter.

          1. I’m at a loss to think of a lens that retails for less than $1,000 which would be improved by a 2x teleconverter. Not many under $1000 are going to be any good with a 1.4x teleconverter, for that matter, either.

            Remember, the teleconverter magnifies everything. Not just what you’re trying to photograph, but all the lens’s flaws as well. Most consumer lenses are designed to just barely be good enough. The $10,000 lenses for which the teleconverters are designed were themselves designed to be so awesome without a teleconverter that the degradation from the teleconverter would be so minimal as to be unobjectionable. Plus, they’re often designed so their distortions at least reverse each other, or at least don’t exacerbate each other.

            (All lenses have some level of barrel, pincushion, or mustache distortion. Most supertelephotos have minimal barrel distortion, and teleconverters tend to have minimal pincushion distortion. But put a teleconverter on a lens with pincushion distortion and you’re in serious trouble.)



          2. No nothing under $1000 but I wouldn’t even consider using the teleconverter with anything other than an L-series. The 300 2.8L would be good with the 2x I think.

          3. That’s one of the few lenses that a 2X makes sense…but, even then, only if you’re mostly going to be shooting at 300 and only occasionally at 420 or 600. If you’re mostly shooting at 600, the 300 with a 2x isn’t anywhere near as good as the 600 f/4 — and the 400 f/2.8 with the 1.4x will definitely outperform the 300 f/2.8 with the 2x.

            It’s also questionable as to whether you’re going to get better results with a 2x or with a cropped shot with a 1.4x…and, if you need the pixels and can’t afford to crop, you need the native focal length in the first place….


          4. It’s cheaper than buying the 600 lens and a lot lighter though plus you get the 300 option without the 2x telextender.

      1. For me, it was [save image to HDD] [open in Image Viewer 3.8.2] [look at the image’s properties (Alt+enter)].
        The wife is on Windows, and I have no hesitation in pointing the EXIF-interested Windows sufferer at Irfan Skeljan’s “IrfanView” ; Freeware, but so good that I’ve paid money for my copy, and install WINE (WINE Is Not an Emulator) in order to use it. Excellent bulk-processing pipeline too.
        Sorry Mac people ; I’m sure there are appropriate tools, but I don’t know names.

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