Hello from the west. Trying to find an inexpensive telephoto lens today is tough — of course it isn’t like the days of old when a telephoto lens for a 35mm film camera would cost about a dollar a millimeter! Well, perhaps I don’t remember that far back as well, although I did buy a Nikkor 500mm/f8 mirror lens, in Japan, for less than $125.00 once! To begin this story, once I acquired a lens that I could afford, in this case a 400mm f5.6 I had to set about finding suitable subjects for a test. NO VR, NO IS, NOT VERY “FAST”, but in the digital age, perhaps well worth its price.
Remember, VR and IS are great, but much more useful for stationary subjects, like landscapes, where my landscape camera’s IN-BODY IS sometimes performs miracles, especially when things are happing too fast for a tripod. The 400mm/f5.6 is light and smaller than any of the other “super teles”, like the 300mm f2.8, 400mm 2.8 and on up the scale, and costing about 1/6th as much to boot. So what’s not to like? Well, nothing, especially if the lens is as sharp as this one appears. Important to remember here of course, I greatly cropped the 13mp original and didn’t even load the images into PhotoShop, which I’d normally think would give me the very best RAW development. I’m certain these are oversharpened, but since I didn’t use PS, I’ll excuse their look and say “pretty good for extreme distance and “record” type shots.
My first “find” was a not too cooperative snowy owl at Crescent Lake NWR, he’d stay about 300 to 400 yards out there, something I didn’t expect from our northerly visitor that may not have seen photographers in the past.
The second subject, a Cooper’s Hawk enjoying the fruits of his catch in my backyard. This one began with flying feathers in my backyard here in Alliance. Looking out the kitchen window confirmed that the fur was flying and a aerial bird of prey was beginning to feed. The camera with the 400mm/f5.6 still mounted was on the living room couch and I hoped no one would see me sneaking past our neighbor’s bedroom windows, trying to stay under their roof line, as I tip toed to the pine tree and the hawk’s perch. So much for caution, the hawk barely slowed his task to see what might be approaching and then it turned completely towards me to continue feeding and keep an eye on the photographer as well.
This past Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I attended the Photograph Nebraska 2012 in Hastings, a great turnout and some very good presenters, including Joel Satore with the Nat. Geographic, a great program on camera care by the Camera Doc and the usual suspects, including myself. Nebraska and the midwest has a strong source of photographers and the level of everyone’s enthusiasm and creativity was rewarding. Everyone was able to spend a very enjoyable evening as well at photographer Jorn Olsen’s gallery, absolutely great images and I’d be remiss to not mention an equally good wine tasting conducted by the young owner of a local wine shop. But enough of that. On the way home on Sat., I enjoyed seeing breeding pairs as well as small groups of swans in the Sandhills along Highway 2 west to the western edge of the Sandhills west of Hyannis. These three, from a group of six or seven apparently were ready to move, as I hope my approach, in a vehicle and on the road, normally wouldn’t be enough to push the birds off their small pond. I hope that it was more likely the swans taking flight wanted to be somewhere else, and other swans did remain on the small pond as I continued on to Alliance. Anyway, these birds were also several hundred yards distant, requiring a very tight crop even with a 400mm telephoto, but I think it will serve me well in the future, without the requirement to refinance a house or vehicle just to buy a lens.
I may have glossed over the tech jargon in this blog, IS and VR are vibration reduction modes on camera’s and lenses, I “cropped” the original images very tight to greatly increase their magnification, and otherwise, its the photographer with birds on the brain.