Don’t you love it when someone that shares your passion and dream joins you in pursuit of sharing knowledge with the rest of the world? Today we are happy to announce yet another amazing photographer join our ranks – John “Verm” Sherman. As you have already seen from his amazing and funny posts, John is truly passionate about photography, particularly wildlife photography. Please give a warm welcome to John! Below is his favorite photos, along with his bio.
Over the past week or so I’ve been out taking a lot of images to prepare for my upcoming review of the Tamron 150-600mm VC lens. At this point it looks like my review will be completed and up for Photography Life readers to see at the end of June.
In advance of the full review I thought another very short article with a few more sample images may be of interest. This article has some photos of cormorants taken at a large nesting colony that is located just off Eastport Drive adjacent to the Hamilton harbor in Ontario. This is a favorite photo site of many area bird photographers. In this area you can also find black-crowned night herons, a wide variety of gulls, the occasional swan, and if you scan for small, fast moving birds…you can also spot the odd kingfisher.
The following images were all taken this morning with the Tamron 160-600 VC with my Nikon D800. If you’re like me when I first started out trying to photograph birds it was a major accomplishment just to get a large bird like a cormorant centered in the frame with a decent exposure…as in the following image:
Despite all the recent photowalks shooting urban ephemera, my primary interest in photography was always wildlife and animal photography.
Forests of trees have been sacrificed to literature on this subject, and I accept with all humility that I may not have any earth-shattering technical insights to offer here. There have been plenty of excellent articles on this site alone about wildlife photography and the equipment one can use in its pursuit.
It has taken a little longer than I wanted, but I finally got around to writing this second article on photographing wildlife. The writer in me is still struggling to get out, wants to keep hiding and do more interesting stuff like taking photographs rather than write about it. Let’s get started and see where it leads. If you would like to read the previous part, please see this link.
1) Do you have what it takes?
Wildlife photography can be so rewarding and so frustrating at the same time. It can be a challenge of patience and persistence and all those wonderful photos you see from wildlife photographers around the world took time and effort to get. What a photographer usually shows you on their website or portfolio is the best of their work, a hundred or so photos, sometimes more. What you don’t see is the amount of time it took them to get those photos or what they had to go through or just how many attempts were involved before they got what they were happy with. The featured photo of this article is of a huge wet 500lb black bear taken in New Hampshire, where I live. Let’s talk about that photo for a bit as it relates to this topic of “do you have what it takes”. I have lived in northern NH for five years and it is a place known to have many black bears, yet they are the ghost of the woods, the animal that hardly ever shows itself to you and a male that got to be this big is very aware and cautious. So I have been trying and trying for years to get really good black bear stuff, success in Yellowstone but not at home. It was a little frustrating to say the least, but I kept plugging away, got some keepers but nothing spectacular. Then this year (2014), things fell in place and all of a sudden I got a couple of beauties, photos that make my heart pound faster and take my breath away, the kind of photos that drive me through this crazy passion of getting great wildlife photos. This black bear (photo above and below) is as big as they get for a black bear and a rare opportunity here in New Hampshire, so all my years of hoping and trying finally paid off.
Many Nikon owners have been chomping at the bit waiting for the F-Mount version of the new Tamron 150-600mm f/5.6-6.3 VC zoom lens to be available. I recently borrowed a review sample from Tamron’s Canadian distributor. In advance of my full review, I thought that Photography Life readers would like to see some sample images of birds in flight. My full review of this lens will appear later in June or early July.
If I was to be completely honest about encouraging people about setting out on a career in wildlife photography, I feel these days I could sum it up in two words. ‘Forget it!’ Having said that, I do not take rejection of article ideas well, I am poor at self-promotion and I am not brilliant at keeping my agents supplied with my latest images. Finally, I do not keep up to date with all of the latest camera bodies which produce superior image quality compared to the old Canon EOS 1D Mk2 I am still using for my wildlife pictures and the Canon EOS 5D Mk2 that I use for landscapes.
For whatever reason most of the wildlife photography I do ends up being in less than desirable conditions. Its rare that I get that perfect light, with the animal perfectly posed and the weather just right and me in the right place and time to capture it. A lot of times I am in the right place, but all the other elements needed seem like they are on the extreme limits of what is needed for quality photography. I recently had the opportunity to photograph black bears here in New Hampshire and one thing that a person not from NH must understand is that this is not like going to Yellowstone or some similar place where the bears are more receptive to humans. Here in NH they are the ghosts of the woods, the animal you never hear while hiking or rarely see unless its by accident and then its for seconds before they disappear. I was able to use both the D800 and D4s during this time and I found out some disappointing things about the D800 which has me regretting purchasing it.
For the past 8 months or so I have been shooting a lot of static and perched birds with a Nikon 1 V2, FT-1 adapter, my Nikkor 70-200 f/4 VR lens and TC-17E II teleconverter. This set-up gives me an equivalent field-of-view of 918mm @ a rather slow f/6.7. Even though the teleconverter does cause some loss of sharpness I’ve been happy with the results as you can see from the sample below.
While successful for perched birds, this set-up has been a different story for birds in flight. I’ve found that the auto focusing hunts a great deal at f/6.7 when trying to capture birds in flight, and the EFoV of 918mm makes it extremely difficult to keep a flying bird in the frame long enough to acquire focus. My skill set is such that other than getting the odd image of a cormorant flying in the distance at a 90-degree angle to me, I was unsuccessful in getting very many usable shots.
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: