E.J. Peiker, Nature Photographer


Newsletter of E.J. Peiker, Nature Photographer and www.EJPhoto.com

All contents ©2006 E.J. Peiker


Spring 2006

(Vol  4 , Issue 2)


Welcome to the quarterly update from E.J. Peiker Nature Photography.  In this quarterly email publication, I will keep you all posted on upcoming workshops including the DuckShop Series as well as sharing some photos and experiences with you.  I will also give you brief impressions on any new equipment that I get the opportunity to use and any other general information in the world of digital nature photography.  Please feel free to forward this along to other photographers and interested parties.  If you would like to be added or deleted to the mailing list or if you would like copies of past issues, just send me an email message at ejpeiker@cox.net. 


The Plight of the Harp Seal

The Harp Seal is an annual visitor to the frigid waters and massive ice flows of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, located between Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island in Eastern Canada. Adult Harp Seals make an annual journey from Greenland to give birth to its young after being pregnant for all but two months of the year.  The ice flows that form in the gulf are an ideal birthing ground.  In late February and early March, several hundred thousand babies are born, primarily at night, on these flows.  The Harp Seal pup is incredibly beautiful, born with a light yellow coat due to the color of its amniotic fluid; it turns to white after a few days of rolling around on the ice and snow.  Iles de la Madeleine or the Magdelan Islands are a great staging ground for photographing these.  One can take helicopters out, land on the flows and then photograph the very photogenic babies, some during their first hours on this earth.  Many feel that the mostly white scenes are difficult to expose but in fact they are very easy using Canonís Evaluative metering.  If photographing the babies, its as simple as putting the camera in Aperture Priority (Av) mode and on a sunny day exposing at +1/3 and on a cloudy day exposing at +1.  Every exposure will be perfect.  If a darker adult is in the frame, an exposure compensation of zero will expose every frame correctly in most situations.

On the morning of March 29, 2006 the pristine white ice flows of the Gulf of St. Lawrence will suddenly be dotted with numerous ships. As the morning progresses, a thousand or more people with clubs and guns will emerge from these ships to dot the white landscape and turn it red. It will be the beginning of a week long of killing via clubbing and gunshots of one month old Harp Seals during Canadaís annual government sanctioned seal hunt.  Well over 300,000 of these one month old babies will lose their lives.  These creatures, who will have lost the yellow and white coats you see in the newborn pups pictured here, will be killed primarily for their skin for the fashion industry and secondarily for oil and meat products. Once dead, the majority of the seals will be skinned and the carcasses left to rot and eventually fall into the sea as the ice melts. Only those seals used for meat and oil products will be taken off of the ice.

Proponents of the hunt say that this is humane, it provides income to the fishing industry during the off season, and that it is highly regulated. It only takes a few seconds of watching footage of this, to see that this cannot be considered humane in any way, shape or form. This is not hunting in the classic sense where the animal has a fighting chance to survive based on his speed, cunningness and ability to flee. These Harp seals have nowhere to flee to. They are trapped on the ice, not yet able to swim and there is nowhere to hide. Proponents also ask how this is different from Chicken, Cows, etc raised for slaughter. I have no good argument against that although I do think there is a difference between food and fur coats.

I along with the vast majority of North Americanís hope that this hunt will soon be stopped and we as a human race become more enlightened on this and so many other environmental issues.  If you wish to help in stopping this practice, you can learn much more and donate at this link:


Additionally, here is a petition to the Prime Minister of Canada to help stop this practice:


These are my personal views on this matter and I realize they do not represent the general views of everyone.  To me this is an important enough issue to take up some space in my newsletter even though I typically make it a practice to keep politics out of this publication.  Thank you for your indulgence.


Dynamic Range in Canon DSLR Cameras

The digital age has brought us many innovations and given us new capabilities in photography that were previously much more difficult to achieve.  One benefit of the mass market move from film to digital, is a significant improvement in dynamic range compared to transparency film.  No longer do we always have to sacrifice dark detail to keep from blowing out the highlights or blow out the highlights to maintain some shadow detail.  While negative film still has some dynamic range advantages to digital, color negative film was not a medium that many publications or professional photographers dealt with due to difficulty in editing.  Dynamic range as we will use the term here, is the number of stops of light that the camera can record between rendering a solid white and a solid black.  The higher the dynamic range, the better the shadow detail will be and the better one can render subjects that range from solid white to solid black while retaining texture and fine detail.

I have devised a rig for testing the useable dynamic range in digital SLR cameras and will share my findings of the current crop of Canon cameras below.   Here are my findings where 0 Ev (Exposure Value) is 18% gray using each camera at ISO 200.  All 4 cameras were able to render the same dynamic range at ISO 100 and 400 as their ISO 200 values.


- Ev

+ Ev



-3 2/3

+2 2/3

6 1/3


- 4 1/3

+3 1/3

7 2/3

EOS 1D Mark IIn




EOS 1Ds Mark II

-4 1/3

+2 2/3


Ev= Exposure Value,  Dmax = Maximum Dynamic Range

Conclusions:  There is definitely a loose correlation between pixel size and headroom above a 0 exposure value.  The smallest pixel sizes are found on the 16 megapixel EOS 1Ds Mark II and the 8 megapixel EOS 20D and they both top out with a completely white signal at just 2 1/3 stops above 18% gray while the significantly larger pixels in the EOS 5D and EOS 1D Mark IIn can still record data and +3 Ev and slightly beyond.  One sees no correlation to pixel size on the negative (black) side of the exposure envelope.  Much has been written in various internet forums about the EOS 5Dís amazing dynamic range, this test bears this out with the 5D topping even its big brother, the 1Ds Mark II, by 2/3 of a stop.  This is significant as the sensor will allow you to record a significantly wider dynamic range scene since it also is the best performer on the dark tonality side.  It is no surprise that the consumer grade 1.6x sensor, and its 6.3 micron pixels (compared to 8.3 in the 5D and 1D Mark II) has the lowest overall dynamic range.  Great care must be taken with this camera to not blow out highlights.


Panorama Software Solution Found

Two issues ago I wrote about my quest for my Panorama Stitching program of choice.  After evaluating 6 different products between freeware and a package costing $600,  I have settled on one that provides me everything I need.  I wanted a program that first and foremost is capable of stitching 16 bit TIFF files and rendering a 16 bit per color output file.  Most can take 16 bit input but generate an 8 bit output.  This did not leave me the file flexibility that I was looking for.  Second I was looking for a program that does an extraordinary job of automatic stitching including exposure and color correction of each frame and automatic vignetting correction in each frame to insure smooth sky gradients.  Finally I was looking for a program that in addition to an excellent automatic stitching capability, it also allowed fully manual selection of stitch points.

I was successful in my quest and have selected the very economical but powerful Panorama Factory 4.2 from Smoky City Design.  I am elated with its stitch quality with minimal to no fuss.  It performs as well on every level as much more expensive programs and also has a much easier to use interface than some of the powerful shareware products.  Overall I am very satisfied.  If interested you can learn more and purchase here:  www.panoramafactory.com


DuckShop 2006 Draws to a Close

Another successful DuckShop season drew to a close in late February with our first ever Exotic DuckShop where we photographed a combination of captive and free flying ducks from around the world.  We were once again blessed with great weather on each and every DuckShop this year.  In the 5 years of doing this we have only had one rainy day (knock on wood) and that was the very first DuckShop.  Some special moments of this year included seeing a true Mexican Mallard, a Cinnamon Teal which is very rare at this location, and the very cooperative Ruddy Duck pictured above that posed for us for about a half hour in great light and water.  I am working on some alternate DuckShop ideas for 2007 so stay tuned.  Again my sincere thanks to all of those that participated and especially those that come back year after year Ė it is truly appreciated.  The improvement seen in the photography from my repeat customers is staggering year on year and in some cases even from one month to the next.


E.J to Speak At Boyce Thompson Arboretum

I will again this year be speaking on bird photography at Boyce Thompson Arboretum just west of Superior Arizona.  I will have an all new program this year designed to interest and educate people in bird photography.  This yearís program will be held on Migratory Bird Day which is May 13, 2006 and it starts at 9:00AM.  For those of you in the area, I hope to see you there.  You can visit the Arboretum online at:  http://arboretum.ag.arizona.edu/

© 2006 - E.J. Peiker, Nature Photographer. 

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