The Big Boy Lens

The Big Boy Lens

Those of you who read my blog instead of just look at the photos (and I know who you are!) might have noticed my fave photographer Bill Maroldo recently got a new Nikon camera and 600 mm lens. We both have been less than impressed with Sony's ability to handle higher ISOs with the A77II, although the EVF and ability to replay of images in the viewfinder is an awesome feature. He felt the Nikon D810's higher ISO capability coupled with a great auto-focus ability would be a good addition to his gear. 

With him using his new Nikon rig most of the time, that freed up his Sony 500 mm  f/4.0 lens for me to experiment with. It is a monster lens, weighing in at 7.63 lb (3.46 kg). I can carry it, and mount it on the tripod. Or prop it on the vehicle window. I have taken a few hand-held shots but that really isn't an option unless I am sitting down and can rest my elbow on my knee. 

It is a lot of fun, and the images are fantastic. Works best if we find some birds that are feeding or content to stay in the general area so I can sit on my crate and use the tripod. With the 1.4x teleconverter on my A77II (cropped not full frame camera) I have an effective focal length of 1050mm. Woot!

(Note: the above mentioned teleconverter will not work on my Sony 70-400 G2 without losing the autofocus and a couple of stops)

Tri-colored Heron at Surfside (no crop) Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G f/6.3  1/2000 ISO 500

Tri-colored Heron at Surfside (no crop)

Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G f/6.3  1/2000 ISO 500

This is one of the first shots I took. A little Tri-colored Heron was in the ditch just off the road. I took this from the passenger side of the truck; he was so close I could only do head shots. The 500 f/4 has a minimum focus distance of 13.12' (4.0 m).  It is a fixed focal length or prime lens, not a zoom so you have to know how much of the bird you can get in the frame and position yourself accordingly. I am still learning; even with this shot I instinctively reached out thinking I could change the zoom. 

Female Long-billed Curlew high-stepping next to a big puddle Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G  f/7.1 1/1600 ISO 800

Female Long-billed Curlew high-stepping next to a big puddle

Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G  f/7.1 1/1600 ISO 800

Another shot from the truck with the lens balanced on the window frame. The Long-billed Curlews are just now showing up along the coast. This one wandered around the edge of the pond probing for crabs and other tasty treats. The light was so harsh, I had to wait until there were no shadows on her body to take a shot. The background in this is too busy; it would have been better if I had been out of the vehicle and shooting lower. 

But, if I had gotten out, she would have probably flown off.

Sandhill Cranes along 8 mile Road in Galveston Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G  f/7.1  1/1600 ISO 800

Sandhill Cranes along 8 mile Road in Galveston

Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G  f/7.1  1/1600 ISO 800

The Sandhill Cranes are coming back for the winter as well. We saw this group of three in some fields on the western part of Galveston Island. You just have to have a long lens for these guys. They never come close to the road, and have some sixth-sense that tells them to move slowly away whenever a car stops on the road.

Good survival tactic, I suppose.

Brown Pelican free-for-all Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G  f/6.3 /1600 ISO 800

Brown Pelican free-for-all

Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G  f/6.3 /1600 ISO 800

At Texas City Dike, there are several places for fishermen to clean their catch, and the birds hang around for the left overs. This Brown Pelican looks to have some shrimp bait and is leaving the scene before he is challenged. I had to take the teleconverter off for this shot, they were so close. And it is hard trying to fit a whole bird in the frame. 

Tri-colored Heron preening  Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G  f/6.3 /2000 ISO 800

Tri-colored Heron preening 

Sony A77II with Sony 500 f/4.0 G  f/6.3 /2000 ISO 800

This was taken standing beside the truck with the lens draped across the hood supported by a folded towel. And the camera turned vertical. And it was a difficult position for me to hold. I think I should have had a lot more DOF (maybe f/7.1 or 8.0) to have a better focus on the whole bird.

I just have a Learner Permit with this big boy lens. Stay tuned.

Have you tried something new lately? Some new challenge you are struggling with? Tell me about it in the comments below.

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