Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Lens (and help with bird id)

My friend, Jock, is considering buying the same lens I purchased on Sunday (Sigma DG 150-500 mm). Ever since an e-mail change, I've had problems sending photos, so am posting today's pics to help Jock make his decision. (Click on the pictures to enlarge them.) They are all taken at Vanier Park, using autofocus, taken without tripod, and with a shaky hand. Those things considered, I feel the lens is doing its job the best it can. If anyone has thoughts about that lens, it would be great to hear them.

This first pic is probably the best one to judge by. It was taken from a very, very tall tree, and has been cropped drastically. Also, can anyone identify this bird? I've looked and looked in my book, and have searched on line, but nothing seems to match up. My best guess is some type of grackle, but it seems to have a sort of black beard. An artifact, perhaps?
Not a perfect shot, but it was my favourite one of the day. It's been cropped quite a bit.
Taken from the top of the steps, and maybe about 50 feet back.
Someone either had very poor throwing technic, or this Kong toy was placed high up in the tree by pranksters.
A beautiful branch.
This Barrow's Goldeneye was taken from near the top of the steps. It didn't work out very well.
I thought this robin worked out better. It was at the top of a medium-sized tree.
Taken at close range.
From a bit further back.
Another medium-size tree. I liked the branches, but the crow didn't show up that well.
This cat walked across the street with us as we left the park. Isn't it beautiful? It was almost dark, and the flash was used.

When Black Jack wants to see over a fence or other barrier, she asks Bill to pick her up, and he always obliges. Here, she is looking over a fence and into a pond that has goldfish. I love this shot of her, sitting confidently in Bill's hands. If she has ever asked me to lift her up, I've missed the cue. Bill is something else, but you know that. Again, an after dark shot.
This was the last one before we got into the truck. Then we were off to pick up my beautifully repaired bike. My appreciation for Ride on Again just grows stronger and stronger.
Hope this helps, Jock. I know you'll enjoy your visit with Henry Wong at Broadway Camera. Check out that link. It was written back in 1992, and I just found it by googling Henry's name. He's clearly been well thought of for quite some time.


  1. Hi, Carol
    I see you are up and around, exercising wrist, ankle, black-eye, etc.

    Sigma lenses are very good lenses, and the 500mm telephoto. Soon, most of us won't be able to keep up with you. But for the moment, you realize you have to get quite familiar with the lens, and probably still some features about the camera.

    It is very difficult to use a long lens carefully enough without a tripod or monopod. The lack of sharpness in first picture of the European Starling illustrates this - slight movement of the camera is multiplied by the multiplication factor of the lens. The sail boat picture is sharp.

    One thing I've learned, just this year, was from Ed, and that is about taking action shots, such as birds that are almost always in motion - You have to use a very high shutter speed (never less than 1/500sec with a 500mm lens) and the trick is to force the camera's automatic features to ensure it uses the fastest available shutter speed. How to do this?

    Set the camera mode to Aperture Priority! Then set the aperture to wide-open for the particular lens (F 5.6 in my case,). This forces the automatic camera to use the fastest shutter speed, given the circumstances.

    Also, try to get by with ISO 400 or so, increasing it only because of poor light.

    Given still-life subject matter, like the sail boat - the reverse of all the above! Use Shutter Priority, and select a low shutter speed (but around 1/500sec in your case without tripod), and this then forces the automatic camera to use the smallest aperture possible. This then ensures maximum depth-of-field in still lifes.

    Exposure Compensation is another topic for another time. I have been working with it, trying to get maximum details and/or contrasts from both white and black areas in a single subject (ie, Bufflehead) by using camera settings, rather than the image processing softwares.

    Cheers, and congratulations on the fine lens. Shiprock

  2. Very, very helpful suggestions, Shiprock. Thanks so much! I have a new monopod (thanks to Bill) and will be trying it for the first time when we go to do the eagle count in Squamish on Saturday and Sunday morning. THere is supposed to be great light, and I will try to set up as you so kindly recommended. Can't wait!

  3. I cannot tell you how many kong-on-a-ropes David and I have lost in trees in and around Vancouver. Given that we are not poor kong-throwers, I can only assume that it happens to all kong-on-a-rope users from time to time. They sometimes don't fly the way you expect them to.

  4. Hi Carol:
    Interesting shots and a good variety ... thanks for posting them. Your new lens seems to do the trick.
    I second all Shiprock's comments ... they are all spot-on.
    Your new Monopod will certainly help, but a tripod is unbeatable for still subjects, and a remote shutter release is helpful too. Sorry if I sound like a stuck record! Try mine on Saturday in Squamish.
    Very happy to hear you are on the mend

  5. Thanks, dp. Makes sense, now that I think about it.

    Yes, Jock, I believe I will have to invest in a tripod soon. The monopod has some great advantages, but I bought a remote on the weekend, and no way to use it without the tripod. Now I have to convince the AF to function in the cold.

  6. Hi Carol, nice lens, I am sure it will do the job. Just make sure you always have lots of light, and you will be happy with your photograph. The bird on top of the tree is a starling. It was probably hard to id because you probably got him signing away, as they do that their throats and feather puff up. Anna :)

  7. Thanks, Jock. Not a stuck record at all. I'm convinced that you and Shiprock are spot on. Just have to get it together for a new approach. Portable is the way I like things, but I seem to gone a touch past that option.

    Thanks, Anna. Just checked out your Canada Goose postcard shot. Beautiful as always! Thank you for taking time to check out my slow, but hopefully, sure, learning process.