I hope the idea I have in my head for this wildlife photography series of articles turns out on paper the way I imagined it and you find some useful tips that will help you on your photographic journeys. This first part comprised of a number of tips will briefly touch on light, weather and lens \ focal length selection. Like in my other articles, I will start with a simple disclaimer: what I present here is what works for me and you have to find your own way to what ultimately makes you happy.
My D7000, Nikkor 500mm and I have had some wonderful times together – the shots of a Peregrine chick jumping off the ledge for the first time, the yoga-stretching Osprey that made Audubon’s Top 100, and who can forget the Night Heron flying past with a baby alligator in it’s mouth. But like all relationships, it seemed the initial pizazz was fading. I began to notice how she had trouble staying focused and got noisy when I pushed an issue. Furthermore, with 190,000 clicks under her belt, well, let’s just say her shutter curtains were starting to droop a bit. It was time to move on, but don’t get me wrong, we’ll always be friends. Now I hate to admit it, but I’d been having an online affair with the new Nikkor 800mm for almost a year – I’d link over to her B&H page and run my finger gently around her buy now button. Oh how we teased each other… Then one day we went all the way.
Next week she was there in front of me, the ten pound, one ounce Nikkor 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR OMG BFF. However, when I unpacked my new lens, it was obviously lacking a proper rear lens cap. How inconsiderate of Nikon not to include a D4s to keep the rear element clean. Nothing a few years of crippling debt couldn’t solve. I dusted off my backup credit card and a few days later the D4$ showed up. So without further ado, my first 29 hours testing the 800mm/D4$ combo for reach, handholding, buffer, burst rate, high ISO ability and general BIFiness.
Let’s start at the end of the day and half of testing – 800mm of reach allowed me to maintain a non-threatening distance from this Common Black-hawk posing in front of the moon sneaking through the clouds. 1/1250, f/6.3, ISO 2500, 800mm, D4s. I cut loose with some artistic experimentation with this – embrace the post-processing noise – it’s pretty much the last you’ll see in the article:
Before everybody kills me about hand-holding, I just have to say this – I was doing some personal testing / photography and wanted to see what this combination could do for me. So please be kind to me :) Let me be clear, the Nikon D4 is a dream camera and I loved that camera to death. I got the D4s, because a friend wanted my D4, so this deal worked out for both of us. Upon purchase, I found it hard to believe the D4 could be improved upon and it’s still too early for me to make a conclusion on that, as I have only had the camera for 2 days. I feel there is an improvement in ISO noise at higher levels, however, the new focusing system got me interested in this camera and today’s trip to the coast to shoot some owls was all about giving me a feel for what was possible. I hand-held this combination a lot today, because I tend to do that when shooting and I wanted to know if I could do it with the 800mm and also get a feel for the D4s abilities. Anyway, here are some real world shots from me, good or bad, it was awesome fun and I got some shots I am very happy with.
I think the Nikon D4s and 800mm might be a marriage made in heaven for me. The Nikkor 800mm f/5.6E snapped into focus on everything I threw at it and I feel it did better than the D4, which I wouldn’t have believed possible.
The first photo sample was taken just after sunrise. The mink was a fast little critter and hard to shoot, only showing himself for seconds at a time – I was panning to get this shot.
I thought I would post this short and sweet article with my experiences so far with the new Nikon 800mm f5.6 Lens.
This lens is just an engineering marvel, but then that is not the purpose of this short article. I mainly just wanted to share my experience with it so far and a few sample photos taken with it in the field. I have actually hand held this lens in a couple instances where the action happened in such a manner there was no time to tripod it or the bird was moving way to erratically.
First, here is a photo of the 800mm attached to the Nikon D4, all dressed up and ready to go. I have many Lens Coat products and I must say they have done a marvelous job on the lens coat for the 800mm, almost every inch of this delicate baby is totally covered and protected, more so than the lens coat for my 600mm.
The Arca handle is a nice touch when dragging this thing around in the field. For those that are interested in side stories, I named the lens Conan which is a play on words as its the biggest lens Nikon has, but yet in Irish it means ‘little wolf’ or ‘little hound’, both of which I find appropriate.
I got a lot of feedback and questions from my last two posts and it seems like there is some interest in my articles, so I am yet again inspired to give this writing thing another shot. I just want to re-iterate that what I suggest or talk about here is what I do and what works for me – you will have to find your own way to your photography success.
1) Focus Point
I am going to start with focus point and where it should be, and that would be on the eye of the subject. There are many things that can be forgiven in photography, but a blurry eye is not one of them. All the power is in the eyes and your own eye will always be drawn there without you thinking about it. I am shooting with a Nikon D4 so this is Nikon terminology, I use Single Point AF Mode, because I am a control freak and don’t let the camera make the decisions for me. There is Dynamic Area AF Mode you might want to consider trying and see if it works for you, but don’t try it on a once-in-a-lifetime shot.
The insert in this photo will show you what I mean about ideal focus point location. The longer the focal length of your lens is and the shorter the distance to the subject, it becomes that much more important to precisely place your focus point on the eye. In a multiple subject shot, your focal point should be on the animal that is the closest to you.
I recently wrote an article on hand-holding large and heavy lenses, which attracted quite a bit of attention and some nice comments and questions from PL readers. I am not really a writer, but a few people asked me about my technique for getting those shots. Let me start by saying that I am not an expert and there are many ways to skin a cat. So this is the way I get my shots and you will have to find your own way to achieving what you want. Let’s start with a “money shot”: what I would say is the shot of the day, the shot that made it all worth it.
I recently bought the Nikon 800mm f/5.6E VR (see Nasim’s review) and took it out for my first field test. It turned out to be extremely poor light and rough snowy weather, but sometimes that’s when you get some great photos. I have some samples to show here and even though they are not tack sharp because the conditions didn’t really allow that, they are moody and show nature in its true beauty. I also wanted to talk about gimbals on tripods versus hand-holding on large lenses to get flying or action shots. I hear so many times you cannot hand-hold that 600mm, but I do and some of my best shots are because I hand-held.
Since the snowy owls have moved to the Seacoast of New Hampshire and Massachusetts because of a shortage of food on the tundra, we have been travelling down to photograph them and here are some sample images taken with the new Nikon 800mm f/5.6E VR lens. This first photo is taken on a tripod with the Wimberley II gimbal, there was no real panning involved and the conditions for photography were pretty terrible. The light was low, the snow was in the way but I would try anyways because the Nikon D4 has shown me it can handle tough situations. It was captured at ISO 2000 @ f/5.6, resulting in 1/1000th second speed. I needed at least a thousandth of a second to stop motion as I was hoping for a landing pose:
This is an in-depth review of the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sport, a high-end super telephoto lens with a versatile zoom range and a wide constant aperture of f/2.8, designed for wildlife, sports and portrait photographers. This is the third iteration of the lens. Its predecessor, the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX DG OS APO HSM was released back in 2005 with identical optical design. What has changed, is the exterior make and appearance of the lens (along with the tripod collar and tripod foot), the new rigorous quality control that Sigma has implemented on its new lines of high quality lenses, and the ability to attach a USB dock for fine tuning the autofocus operation of the lens. In this review, I will go over the technical specifications of the lens, talk about its optical features and performance with and without teleconverters, and compare it to other super telephoto lenses like Nikon 200-400mm f/4G VR and Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II.
This is an in-depth review of the Nikon 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR, an exotic super telephoto lens designed for wildlife and sports photographers. Nikon first teased us with its plans to release an 800mm lens in July of 2012, with an official announcement that followed in January of 2013 (along with the Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED lens). Nikon has not updated its manual focus 800mm f/5.6 ED-IF lens for over 25 years, so it was about time to introduce an autofocus version of the lens to the market. The Nikon 800mm f/5.6 VR is a significant milestone for the Nikkor line, because this is the first lens to have the letters “FL” on the lens name, which indicate that fluorite elements are used in its optical design. Although Canon has been using fluorite elements in its exotic super telephoto lenses for a while now, Nikon historically has only used fluorite elements in its medical / microscope lenses. So in a way, this is the first lens of its kind for Nikon.
What do you do when you have an 800mm super telephoto lens with a 2x teleconverter? Well, if you were me, you would be spending a couple of weeks in a lab environment, testing the lens inside out and comparing it to the 300mm, 500mm, 600mm and the new Sigma 120-300mm. Otherwise, you would be out shooting fun stuff, like the full moon! A couple of nights ago, I got really tired from all the testing, so I got out to get some fresh air. When I looked at the sky, I noticed that the moon was in its full glory. The skies were partly cloudy, so I waited it out for a few minutes, then got out with the Nikon 800mm f/5.6 VR with the 2x attached to it and took a few shots of the moon. Although the whole setup was incredibly shaky (and that’s mounted on a full Gimbal head and the sturdiest of Gitzo tripods), I managed to get some shots that were sharp. Then I went back in and uploaded the photos to my computer. When I opened up the image and zoomed in to 100%, I was pretty shocked to see so much detail. By far, this is the sharpest and the most detailed photo of the moon I have taken! So I decided to share it with our readers in a wallpaper format for high resolution monitors (1920×1200). So here is the photo: