Sigma 120-300 f2.8 OS Sport Lens Test and Review

Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Test and Review

pphoto_s_120_300_28_012_vertical

Today I was given the opportunity to try out the new Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Sport lens. On first opening the bag that is included with purchase, first impression is WOW. This lens is put together incredibly well. Focus and zoom rings are very smooth and easy to access. This lens is HEAVY. Very heavy. After 2 hours of hand holding I was definitely feeling it. Most people will want a monopod or tripod with this lens.

Sigma 120-300 test-11

I shoot a lot of dog agility so very fast moving small objects. I currently use the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS ii and I find I am usually putting an extender on to get that extra reach. The trouble is losing that stop of light can result in a lot of soft images due to the speed of the subjects. I wanted to put this lens through its paces as I can not afford both lenses in my kit, so I would be deciding between the two lenses. Going “offbrand” does make me a little nervous, but Sigma’s new quality control and manufacturing processes are well documented all over the internet.

Overall I was fairly impressed. My “hit ratio” was a little lower than normal, but I think that was due to me having to get used to the extra weight and reach. By the second hour I think I was back up to my normal success rate. I shoot mostly in AI Servo mode with single focus point so I need the lens to focus quickly and accurately. This lens was provided by my local Sigma rep to try so I have no idea if any of the settings were changed or not. With my own copy of this lens I would do a calibration test. This is a series of images fired off – the first shot is a little soft, but then the lens targeted right in and the rest of the sequence is very sharp. Shot at 300mm from about 100 feet away.

Sigma 120-300 test-1

The optional USB dock from Sigma is very affordable and allows several customizable features in the lens. This would be invaluable for what I shoot. Being able to customize things like focal ranges and focus “styles” are wonderful inventions from Sigma. Well played folks!!!

Here are more shots from today, please scroll through to the bottom for a special surprise!

After I left the dog park and said goodbye to my friends, I was driving along the highway and to my great surprise a small family of deer!!! I pulled over and grabbed the Sigma!! They were about 500 feet away so this shot was at 300mm, cropped to 100% to show the image sharpness – pretty impressive!!!

Sigma 120-300 test-1-3

These next shots I threw on a Canon 2x extender so this is shot at a WHOPPING 600mm and again cropped to 100%

Sigma 120-300 test-27 Sigma 120-300 test-28

Overall I am leaning towards selling my beloved 70-200 for this monster performer. I am very impressed. Now to go to the gym so I can lift this thing!!

 

10 Tips for Better Animal Rescue Shelter Photos

Good photos are instrumental in the animal rescue/shelter world. You only get one chance to have the animal make their first impression on a prospective adoptive pet parent. Poor photos can literally be the death of adoptable animals. In this article I will give my top 10 tips for for better animal rescue shelter photos, designed to melt the hearts of the potential adoptee. When at all possible, I highly recommend using a DSLR camera in order to produce the best results. In reality this is not always possible, so many of these tips can be used even if you are forced to use a cell phone or point and shoot camera.

tips-better-rescue-photos-kittens

1. Ignore the Animal

As much as you want to love them and play with them, for the purpose of getting good photos, you do not want the animal connected to you just yet. When you first meet the animal, resist the urge to pet or play with them. Especially with dogs, you want to allow them to be themselves. You do not know the history or personality of the animal. You do not want to induce unwanted behaviours (aggression, fear, excessive puppy kisses, etc). There will be time to play with them after the shoot.

2. Isolate your Subject

A rescue animal is already in the middle a very stressful and sometimes even traumatic situation. Removing distractions and noise before taking their photo will help calm the animal. Find or ask for a quiet space to shoot. Remove the animal from its crate or cage when it is possible. Be sure that it is safe to do so for yourself and the animal. I would much rather have a leash in a photo than a cage. You will find it much easier to capture the animals attention when you are its primary connection.

3. De-clutter the Image

Along with Isolating your subject environmentally, the image should be of the animal, and nothing else whenever possible. Avoid shooting with a “busy” background. Fancy equipment is not necessary, a blank wall, or a patch of grass will do just fine. We want the animal to be the hero of the image. In the examples, the first image shows a typical shot we see all the time. All the household items distract the viewer. By simply moving down the stairs to be on the same level as the subject, and using the plain wall as a background, the dog becomes the hero of the image without even having to pick up after myself!!

tips-better-shelter-photos-declutter

4. Be Level Headed

Angles are very important. 90% of my pet portraits are done from my knees or even laying down. Get on the same level as the animal and shoot straight whenever possible.   This draws the viewer into the photo. I see many images taken from the angle in the first image below, a slight shift can result in a far better portrait.

tips-better-shelter-photos-declutter

5. Breathe

Yes you read that right. Animals are incredibly attuned to energy, mood, and temperament of those in their vicinity. Staying calm and projecting your positive energy will go a very long way to getting better images.

6. Windows to the Soul

The single most important part of any portrait are the eyes. Make sure you focus on the animal’s eyes. Take a quick moment to remove tear stains and eye gunk.  Eye contact in the images will draw the viewer in and make them instantly fall in love! If you are using a DSLR choose a single point for your auto focus system and compose so the point is directly on an eye. By default auto focus systems choose what is closer to the lens so you must override this for tack sharp eyes!

tips-better-shelter-photos-declutter

7. Be Stupid

When I shoot, I must look like a crazed fool. I make all kinds of wacky sounds and movements to grab the attention of my subjects. Practice your growl, chirp, bark, whine, whatever you can think of to get that “look”! Just don’t forget to click that shutter at the right time too.

tips-better-shelter-photos-stupid

The last three points are more on the technical side for those who have a DSLR and want to take your images up a notch. I will not get into very technical definitions (google it, or I give private lessons for those that might want more hands on learning).

8. Aperture and Depth of Field

One of the easiest ways to ensure the subject of the photograph is what the viewers’ eye goes to, is with proper use of depth of field. Depth of field refers to the parts of the image that are in focus. The setting on your camera that controls this is your aperture. You don’t have to be intimidated here. Your camera has a setting that allows you to tell the camera that you want a shallow depth of field, and the camera will figure out the shutter speed and ISO for you. You will want to switch your camera to Aperture Priority and then select the lowest number you can. Your lens will dictate this setting. The smaller the number the “shallower” the depth of field. See the example images below.

tips-better-shelter-photos-dof

tips-better-shelter-photos-dof2

 

9. Light!

Take a look around your environment. Try to find a well lit area to allow the subject to be well exposed. A window can be a great alternative to overhead fluorescents.  Don’t forget about going outside! It can be much easier to get great light outside. Find a shady spot to avoid the harsh shadows direct sunlight can produce.If you cannot find shade, try to put the sun behind your subjects and then blow out the surrounding background so the animal is the hero of the shot. Choose spot meter mode and focus on the eyes.

10. Tools and Gear

There are a few stand by items that I carry in my camera bag at all times:

  • Great sound makers to grab attention – empty water bottle, the squeaker out of a dog toy, and a small tupperware container of kibble to shake
  • Lens cleaning cloth for when puppy gives the camera a kiss
  • Paper towels and poop bags because sometimes “stuff” happen
  • One or two balls to reward toy driven dogs
  • Some treats to reward behaviour only given AFTER the shoot

A good portrait lens will make a huge difference in your images. A very affordable lens is a 50mm f/1.8. Nikon or Canon shooters can find this lens between $120-200 new at any camera store. The f/1.8 refers to the maximum aperture value of the lens. This will allow you to shoot in lower light conditions, and give the very shallow depth of field I mentioned earlier.

Taking these photos is so important. Adoption success can often be attributed directly to the images the adoptee saw. It is incredibly rewarding knowing that you are helping to save lives.

Above all please remember to have fun!!! Shooting animals requires patience but I have never had a shoot where I didn’t laugh.

I would love to hear your comments and see some images from you!

See more animal photos here!

Edmonton Pet Photographer Art Display at Local Veterinary Clinic

Crestwood Vet Clinic Uses Local Artist for Art Display

Prestigious Crestwood Veterinary Hospital  has changed all the artwork adorning the walls of the Clinic over to artwork from local artist Darcy Evans Photography. Images of the staff’s personal pets were taken of the course of a couple months in preparation for the huge project. “Darcy has been absolutely fabulous” says Penny one of the managers of the clinic. “Having photographs of our own babies up in the walls is such a morale booster, every day I get to see my fur monsters on the walls at work” says one of the several staff that were part of the project.

Having these images up provides a consistent look and feel throughout the clients experience during their visit to the clinic. I was thrilled to see the final images up and on the walls. Here are some images of the finished project:

Crestwood Display-26 Crestwood Display-25 Crestwood Display-23 Crestwood Display-22 Crestwood Display-20 Crestwood Display-17 Crestwood Display-16 Crestwood Display-15 Crestwood Display-14 Crestwood Display-11 Crestwood Display-9 Crestwood Display-7 Crestwood Display-5 Crestwood Display-4 Crestwood Display-3 Crestwood Display-1

Rescue Adoption Portrait Program

Announcing the Free Adoption Portrait Program!

We are thrilled to announce our adoption portrait program here at Darcy Evans Photography. Any animal rescue organization can arrange to bring an adoptable animal to the studio for a FREE mini session. The rescue will receive 2-3 watermarked digital images for use online anywhere they would like to advertise the animal. The rescue will also receive a $50 coupon to include in the adoption package of the animal!

Adoption Flyer

Here are examples of the first few animals to take advantage of this offer:

 

Meet Laverne. She is a beautiful older girl that would make a fantastic first pet for a family. She is wonderful around children and loves to cuddle. She is available through Duke and Duchess Animal Rescue.
Adoptable Laverne

 

 

Meet Brutus. He is around 2 years old and we do not know much about his history. I fell in love with this sweet gentle soul. In fact if I did not have 2 dogs already he would have stayed! Brutus is available through Duke and Duchess Animal Rescue.

 

Adoptable Brutus

 

 

This awesome little girl is Missy. She is an older dog who is just a sweet lovable pup. She needs to find a home where she is the only dog, as she does not like other canines, but LOVES humans. She is available through Rescue For Life.

 

Adoptable Missy

 

Click to see more of my pet portrait work.

Subscribe to my Blog to see weekly adoptable animal posts!!!

Darcy Evans Photography goes to CreativeLIVE

Darcy Evans Photography Goes to CreativeLIVE

 

Hi everyone, Meep-Mo here!  A little while ago Darcy found out that one of the BEST photography instructional resources around CreativeLIVE was hosting renowned pet photographer and owner of Pet’ographique Arica Dorff to do a 2 day workshop. He was over the moon, it was all he could talk about (so annoying). He got to work immediately on a submission video to try to get selected as a live audience member. Our friend Dave from Second Sight Studio did a fantastic job on the submission video.  A ouple weeks later the submission deadline passed and one day I was napping peacefully on the couch when I was awoken by what sounded like a 8 year old girl when she hears the ice cream truck. It was just Darcy’s reaction to getting a twitter message that he had be selected to attend!!!!

He is a big fan of CreativeLIVE, and obviously pet photography is the main focus of his business now,  so this was a huge deal for him, and for me because I knew I was also Seattle bound!

2013-05-25_0001

We arrived at the airport super early because Darcy was just too damned excited to sleep. Darcy of course watched Sue Bryce on CreativeLIVE, while I lounged in some funky furniture then watched the planes…

2013-05-25_0002

The plane ride was REALLY bumpy, pretty sure it was just the effects of the shrink ray wearing off.

2013-05-25_0003

We took the train into Settle from the airport – what a unique and beautiful city

2013-05-25_0004

 

Darcy can’t read a map to save his life so we ended up getting off the train way too early and had to walk quite a ways to the hotel. Camera was in hand (big surprise ;)) and the walk went by quite quickly. Seattle is a beautiful city with an eclectic mix of old and new. We made it to world famous Pikes place just as it was closing and had a delicious meal right on the wharf beside the ferris wheel.

 

2013-05-25_0005

We headed back the airport and had a pretty good sleep. Darcy wanted to be well rested for his big opportunity. In the morning we woke up bright and early  and headed down the street for a nice breakfast. When we got to the creativeLIVE studio the Line Producer Lacee was right there to greet us and make us feel welcomed and at home. Arica’s delivery of the workshop was nothing short of astounding. I sat the whole time with my eyes just wide open watching her (perhaps my lack of functioning eyelids did not help).

2013-05-25_0006

The first day we spent covering pet psychology, how to shoot pets, marketing, the value of doing a consultation, and we observed Arica shoot 7 real life live pet sessions! I was blown away by not only her ability to project her calmness to the animals, but to the human clients as well. Her ability to direct and shoot with a  specific purpose in mind was inspirational. Darcy could not stop hogging the microphone and tormenting Arica with questions and comments. Pretty sure she is gonna file a restraining order.

The second day blew the first day out of the water. If you own any business at all you really should consider purchasing the download of her entire 2 day workshop, I guarantee you will not regret it. Is started with FRUITY PEBBLES! Darcy won’t shut up about it “this has changed my life” “I know what I want to do with my life” “I need to be here in one yea, five years etc” “blah blah blah” … I just tuned him out and went and got a banana, and then a bapple.

We were both a little star struck. Meeting Arica, then hosts Kathy Jakielski and Susan Roderick) who we watch all the time and love! They of course recognized me from such films as Despicable Me, Bannnnnaaannnnnna, and Meep-Mo rules the Universe – later re-titled Despicable Me 2. They all begged me for photos and autographs….

2013-05-25_00082013-05-25_0007

And then this really crazy lady with a funny accent wanted to take a photo with me. I got Darcy to turn around and he almost dropped his camera. Apparently Sue Bryce is some sort of big deal!

2013-05-25_0009

Ok Meep-Mo that is quite enough out of you..  sorry folks Darcy here again.

All kidding aside. I can not express how truly grateful I am to have had this experience. CreativeLIVE is such an amazing tool for photographers on its own, but the fact that I was able to attend such a specific workshop on what I want my business to be is just mind boggling. I am so inspired and feel invigorated and now driven to succeed. I can not thank my lovely better half Melissa, all my friends and fans that support me, the team at CreativeLIVe and Arica Dorff for the entire experience.

Darcy.

 

 

German Pinscher Photo Session at Edmonton Dog Park

German Pinscher Photo Session at Jackie Parker Dog Park

Gwyn and her German Pinscher Mason answered my casting call for a volunteer client to meet me at the dog park to do a dog portrait session. The goal was to have my friend Dave Wilson from Second Sight Studios video the session for a submission to be considered for a huge opportunity to attend a 2 day pet photography seminar in Seattle. I will also be using the video for a behind the scenes commercial for my pet photography services! I could not be more thrilled with the images we got:

2013-04-29_0007 2013-04-29_0006 2013-04-29_0005 2013-04-29_0004 2013-04-29_0003 2013-04-29_0002

Sign up to follow my blog to get updates and to see the final video when it is finished! Here is a few behind the scenes images shot by my good friend Shauna Jackson!
2013-04-29_0009

 

View more of my Dog Park Photography

Edmonton Doggy Daycare Dog Mini Sessions

See Spot Run Doggy Daycare Mini Photo Sessions

We had the pleasure of setting up two full lighting and backdrop scenarios for our mini photo sessions today at See Spot Run Doggy Daycare. The owner Anelli Hilton is truly amazing with canines. If you are looking for a daycare for your dog, I highly recommend them , our Shepherd Samantha attends twice a week and loves it.

2013-04-14_0007 2013-04-14_0006 2013-04-14_0005 2013-04-14_0004

Photos for Sophie

Photos for Sophie

Edmonton Dog Photography-23

I am writing today to bring to your attention the story of our sweet puppy Sophie. My girlfriend Melissa and I rescued Sophie through an amazing animal rescue Paws in Need back in April of 2012. She had been found with a number of her brothers and sisters in the dump. We fell in love with her instantly and she was a perfect match to our little family of Melissa, myself, and our 2 year old German Shepherd Samantha. The two girls got along from day one and are inseparable.

After having Sophie for a few months we notice her rear right leg turning in and she was not putting much weight on it. We were referred a Veterinary Clinic by the rescue, so we made and appointment and made the 2 hour drive from Edmonton to have her looked at.

After X-rays and 2 visits they determined she had a luxating patella and a partial torn ACL which would require surgery. We are not medical experts, and the doctor seemed confident in the procedure. We booked the surgery for Sept 15, 2012.

Sophie came home after the surgery and we followed all rehab instructions to the letter. Our two dogs were kept apart unless we were home with them. Sophie had to wear the cone of shame, was confined to no exercise, no walks, was on metacam, vitamins, and calcium supplements for quite sometime.

_Q0C0894

 

3 months after surgery, we brought Sophie back to the vet for her scheduled post surgery check. He examined Sophie and informed us the surgery had not worked and she would require another surgery. Again we are not experts and relying one the professional opinions of a certified doctor.

Her second surgery was on Feb 4, 2013. When I went to pick Sophie up on Feb 8, I spoke with the surgeon and he said that the patella had indeed broke loose again, and that the ACL used was too long and had flipped over the front of the kneecap. He re-grooved the patella and shortened the ACL. Once again cone of shame, sedation meds, metacam, no walks, no exercise for another 8 weeks. They sold us a neoprene brace that Sophie HATED, but we made her wear it.

A couple of weeks go by and I notice a 5-6 inch diameter growth/rash under her fur right behind her front right shoulder, and her leg looks to be turned even worse. We called the doctor and made an appointment to get Sophie checked. The vet proceeded to roughly attack the scab area with clippers and ripped right through the very large scab, causing a lot of blood. Turns out it was a large contact BURN from the heating pads they used during surgery recovery.

This week we finally have had enough and brought Sophie to the Granada Veterinary Clinic to see doctor Kim Robertson who was referred to us by several people after hearing Sophie’s story so far. They did a full exam, X-rays and then referred us to doctor Dave Fowler at Guardian Veterinary Centre. Sophie saw him today and he has given us two options:

Option #1
Two more surgeries. The first involves cutting the femur above the knee and rotating below the cut. Allowing that to heal and set, then the second surgery cuts the tibia and another rotation. The surgeon can not give a percentage of success, or a real definitive answer as to the functionality of the leg when finished. Cost to us around $7000

Option #2
Take the leg. Recovery 3-4 weeks and we hope her other back leg holds out. Cost around $3000 at the specialist.

We are so disheartened and sad over the entire ordeal. Sophie is just over 1 year old and has not had any kind of life whatsoever yet. She does not play, can’t go on walks, has been on pain medication on and off for over 6 months straight. She breaks my heart.

We have decided to have her leg amputated. In order to help cover the medical expenses, I have decided to use my photography to raise funds for her. If you are interested in donating, please visit our official Photos for Sophie fundraiser page for details!

Edmonton Cafe Features Darcy Evans Photography

Local Edmonton Cafe Features Darcy Evans Photography

Today is the official launch day of the first official showing of some of my photography. Popular Edmonton coffee and snack shop Fresh Cafe & Espresso Bar has graciously allowed me to display 8 of my images of the city of Champions!

Edmonton Art Show

The images will be for sale via an auction format. Each image has a sheet that patrons can place their bids on throughout the run of the show. At the end of the show, the highest bidder for each image will be contacted, and the images will be made available to anyone who wishes to purchase at the winning price.

Any of these images may be ordered directly through me in a variety of formats, sizes, or mediums!

Fresh Cafe Darcy Evans Photography

 

On Saturday April 20th we are celebrating Fresh Cafe’s 1 year Anniversary with a Gala event. Martinis, fresh snacks, live music by super talented local songstress Samantha King! It is an open house event with tickets only $15 or 2 for $25. Tickets are available through my Store or at Fresh Cafe in person. A Door prize of a 16×20 canvas print of any photo in my portfolio is up for grabs!!!

893800_357965537646255_987446326_o