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:
Capturing a more interesting wing position can add a bit of drama to an image.
Photographing a bird carrying something, in this case nesting material, can help an image tell a bit of a story.
Combining an interesting wing position with nesting material can give a shot a bit more appeal.
Remember to watch bird nests to see if anything is happening…or if a feeling is being generated…like the sense of anticipation in this image.
When we are out photographing nature…life happens before our eyes.
To see more images taken with the Tamron 150-600mm VC lens click on this YouTube video image/link:
YouTube link here
Here’s a few shooting tips that you may find useful if you visit the cormorant colony on Eastport Drive by Hamilton harbour…or when photographing birds/cormorants in general.
- Try to plan your visit so you are not shooting into the sun. This is a killer, especially when shooting dark coloured birds like cormorants. A visit to the Hamilton cormorant colony is best done in the morning.
- Birds are creatures of habit and they will typically use the same approach to their nests. This will help you determine a good shooting position and pick out individual flying birds that are likely to land on the tree on which you are focusing.
- Cormorants will often fly low to the surface of the water…then swoop up to their nests pumping their wings very hard. Near vertical positions are often achieved and can make for very interesting images…especially if the bird is carrying nesting material.
- Setting your camera with a single focus point can be helpful when using a long telephoto lens as it can help to keep your subject bird in focus as it is approaching the area where you are planning to take your AF-C bursts.
- Be patient and don’t fire your burst too early. Wait until the bird is filling about 35-40% of the frame then fire.
- If you are in tight quarters where birds appear quickly, it can be helpful to pre-focus on the approximate area where you are planning to take an AF-C burst. This will often help your camera acquire focus faster and lead to more successful bursts.
Watch Photography Life at the end of June for my full review of the Tamron 150-600mm VC lens.
Article and all images Copyright 2014, Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, reproduction or duplication including electronic is allowed without written consent.
Thank you very much for your answer Tom. It is useful for me. I have only one more question. I have the D700, and normally when I’m shooting moving people I use AF-C and a single focus point, that I’m moving manually using the cursor. Is there a way to automatically have your single autofocus point following your target while you are shooting ? Greetings.
I am not familiar with the D700 and unfortunately I can’t comment on this issue you raised. Perhaps other Photography Life readers who also shoot with a D700 could comment….?
I usually use a single point auto focus when I shoot birds and try my best to get it on the head…and preferably the eye…of the bird. I have not had any issues shooting with the D800 and don’t find it that much different than shooting with a D7000. Since I was shooting in good light all of the birds in flight shots were at fast shutter speeds.
The D600’s that I used to own were a bit more forgiving than the D800 since the pixel density of the sensor was lower. I have shot the D800 at fairly low shutter speeds and as long as the lens that I’m using has good VR (like the 70-200 f/4) I’ve never found that I was restricted to using fast shutter speeds. With some of my prime lenses like the 85mm f/1.8 G I regularly shoot it hand-held at 1/80 and get excellent results. Other than when I’m using a neutral density filter and doing a long exposure, or if I’m shooting in poor light for a client and need to keep my ISO low, I seldom use a tripod. The vast majority of my D800 shots are hand held.
I have no idea what the experience has been with other photographers who use the D800. Who knows…perhaps the D800E is tougher to shoot with than the D800.
I’m not much of a ‘pixel peeper’ though…
The D800 it is not supposed to be a good camera for action or hand held shooting, due to its 36 mega pixels, that make difficult to achieve perfect focus on less than ideal conditions. I did read that with the D800 you must employ very high shutter speeds and use a tripod to expect good results at pixel level. However your photos look really nice. Could you tell me wich settings did you used to do your birds in fly photos with the D800 ?
Also I would like to know in wich part of the bird are you putting your autofocus point. Best regards.
Great shots! Any plans to do a comparison against the new Nikon 80-400mm AFS lens?
My review is going to focus on the Tamron 150-600 VC only. Given everything else that is on my plate right now I have no plans to do any comparison with the Nikkor 80-400 VR. One of the other team members at Photography Life may do that in the future.
Hello Thomas! I photograph a lot of birds but mainly reptiles such as snakes and lizards. Most of the lizards around here (socal) are very skittish and u can’t really get within 40 feet of them. I currently have a 7100 nikon. Would u recommend using this lens with my camera?
PS. If it makes any distance we usually shhot between f7.1 and f16
I did take a few frames with a D7100 and the Tamron 150-600….focus seems fast and accurate. I imagine that the efov of 900mm would be helpful with subjects 40 feet away.
hi great article.. was waiting eagerly to see one in your website… thanks a ton.. i vouch your view.. you definitely get what you pay for..
Imp: the link you have provided at the end of the article does not take you directly to the product.. kindly check and correct it.. i am ordering one from your page..
No I HAVNT I HAVE HAD THE LENS FOR ABOUT 2 MONTHS
I have used a tamron 150 – 600 on a canon 7d and a 6d and found the results not very great
When blown up by 100 % very soft around the edges, so i tried a Sigma 500mm lens on
The 6d and the results were to me very very good,Im only a 73 year old hobbies and i
Used tripod with both lens. I think I shall give the tamron back.
Sorry to hear that you were not happy with the Tamron. It is always a ‘downer’ when a new piece of gear doesn’t meet expectations. I have read that some Canon owners had copies of this lens with back-focus issues, which were later corrected by the factory. Have you had your copy checked out by Tamron to make sure there is nothing wrong with it?
Wonderful images. The lens is really a good piece of glass for the price. Did you use the VC on the lens because from the shutter speeds used it seems VC would not have made a difference and how did the lens perform at 600mm were there any visible softening. Again thank you for the wonderful images
Thanks very much for your positive comments…greatly appreciated.
I would normally turn off the VC when shooting at high shutter speeds…but I was also doing some still images of birds in the trees at much slower shutter speeds during the same photo shoot…I guess my brain is getting old….I don’t remember if I turned the VC off before the fast shutter images or not.
In terms of sharpness at 600mm I think there is a bit of softening at this focal length. I will have some samples in my full review. For people who have realistic expectations of this lens (i.e. they are not expecting it to perform like a $10,000 600mm pro lens) I think the majority of folks would be happy.
Thank you for the reply and information. Yes one must not forget that it is budget friendly telephoto zoom lens and not a premium prime lens. I had seen some softening at 600mm in some sample shots but still it is a decent piece of glass and at shutter speeds of 1/2500 VC will not make any difference. The images are really beautiful and particularly the second image
Wonderful images. I got the Exif info directly on line using the FxIF plugin for Firefox. They’re fast exposures at high ISO, but very noise-free. Did you use noise reduction in post or is that just the great D800 sensor? And were these shots hand-held or tripod + gimbal?
Also, for Wings42, I too have orthopedic problems and have a mirrorless (OM-D E-M5) and Panny 100-300 lens. Unfortunately though it’s no substitute for a dSLR unless the bird is close enough for minimal crop, and certainly hopeless (a very low keeper rate) for BIF – although a few people on line seem to have better success than I do. I’m currently having much better success with the D7000 and 300 f4 AF-S+TCE14II. I’m about to upgrade to a D7100 or D800, and to get the Tamron 150-600 when it becomes available.The extra weight is worth it to me for more consistent and better image quality.
Richard, I also have a D7000 and love it. Nikon seems to be making its cameras and lenses lighter and lighter. I’m not going to switch until I have to. We’ll see what the D7200 looks like and new lenses coming out. Right now my longest lens is the Nikkor 70-300 which does pretty good with birds closer than about 100 feet. Lens and camera weigh about 3.5 pounds which is doable (barely) for all day use hand held.
If you are looking to reduce weight…you may want to try and Nikon 1 with an FT-1 adapter with your 70-300. It will give you an equivalent field of view of 810mm on the long end with no loss of light. This should work very well for static birds. Birds in flight are also possible…it takes some practice and patience though.
I’ll check it out Thomas. Thanks.
Looked carefully for about an hour, including on a couple of photo forums I’m active on. The Nikon 1 seems nowhere near as capable as my D7000 or even my D5100. I get the impression of great potential but not yet ready for something as demanding as bird photography. At my skill level, I need all the help possible from my camera! But, thanks for your reply and suggestion… and this thread.
The overall image quality will be better with a DX DSLR…especially in terms of dynamic range and colour depth.
The Nikon 1 V2 can be used to good effect if a person is looking for speed and lightweight. I thought you were looking for additional reach and a lightweight body…sorry if I misunderstood.
It is good to remember that the vast majority of people that criticize the Nikon 1 have never shot with it…or even held it. Many just mimic the negative comments that they have read from others because of the Nikon 1’s small CX sensor. Have a look at the bird images in my latest article on Photography Life:
The sensor in the D800 is simply superb. I regularly shoot up to ISO-1600 and never have to apply any noise reduction at all. Depending on how images are going to be used I’ve shot the D800 as high as ISO-5000 without any noise reduction…obviously that would be for web-type use where the monster 36mp D800 images are being significantly reduced.
All of the shots in this article were done hand-held.