I got the bird again!
Last Sunday I returned to the Hofma Nature Preserve in an attempt to get photos of the sedge wrens that are nesting in the marsh there, and this time, I got the bird!
However, before I get to the photos, I’m going to go off on a short rant about some of the online reviews of photographic gear that I viewed over the last weekend. If you remember, I spent some time last weekend looking at some reviews of the cameras and lenses that I already own in order to learn more about them, and one review I viewed was a comparison of the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) and the Nikon 80-400 mm lens.
The reviewer spent the first 45 seconds to a minute fumbling around trying to do a size comparison between the two lenses while repeatedly stating the Sigma was just over one-third the cost of the Nikon. If they mentioned the weight of the two lenses, it was only in passing, and I feel that weight is more important than the actual physical size of a lens, but that’s just my opinion.
Anyway, at about one minute into a five-minute “review” the reviewer summed it all up, since the Sigma is only one-third the cost of the Nikon, it can’t be a professional grade lens, besides, the Nikon lens has five switches on the side of it, and the Sigma only has three. They never explained what the five switches on the Nikon Lens were for, just that there were five of them which made the Nikon the superior lens.
Image quality? Oh yeah, the reviewer stated that they could not get a good photo with the Sigma lens no matter what they tried, the lens was junk. That was the end of the comparison, the rest of the review was the reviewer alternately praising and bashing the Nikon lens. Never once did they show images shot with either of the lenses.
I’ve never used the Nikon 80-400 mm lens, and I’m not going to try to tell you that the Beast is a superior lens, because I’m sure it’s not, but I will tell you that it isn’t junk, and that it is well worth what you pay for it. And, I can prove it with photos.
On this day, I started out with the Canon EF 300 mm f/4 L series lens on my camera, along with a 1.4 tele-converter. It’s a great set-up, if I can get close to my subjects. At distances past 20 to 25 feet, the quality of the images I get drops off considerably.
I staked out a spot where I was between two male sedge wrens singing, waiting for them to pop up out of the vegetation, where I could get a photo of them. Here are two that I shot with the 300 mm prime lens and extender.
The quality of those images isn’t great, and trying to shoot them was very frustrating. The wren would only stay out in the open for a second or two, and I had to manually focus the 300 mm prime lens to pick the wren out of the vegetation. I decided to return to my Forester and swap lenses to the Beast.
The two images of the wren taken with the Beast are not professional quality, but they are superior to the images that I was able to get under the conditions that day using a professional grade lens. I can use the images that I shot using the Beast for the My Photo Life List project that I’m doing, I wouldn’t be able to use the images from the 300 mm prime lens.
My point is this, every piece of photo equipment has strengths and weaknesses, and if you want to get the best out of your equipment, you have to learn what those strengths and weaknesses are, and play to the strengths.
As bad as the Nikon 70-300 mm lens was that I used to use, it still had some strengths, which allowed me to get this shot.
As good as my new gear is, I doubt if I’ll ever be able to match that photo.
The Beast’s strengths are the extra 80 mm of focal length, and its amazing ability to auto-focus on birds. It’s as if the engineers at Sigma programmed the algorithms in the lens to find and focus on birds. It was extremely windy that day, so even when the wrens were perched above the vegetation, they were swaying wildly in the wind. That’s one of the reasons that the 300 mm prime lens missed the wrens, but the Beast had no trouble dealing with the moving birds.
Anyway, take any review of photo equipment with a grain (or two) of salt, especially those that don’t show actual photos taken with the equipment reviewed. You’re much better off reading a number of reviews to see if there is a “pattern” to them. A great example is the 300 mm L series lens I own, the reviews run from “It’s the greatest lens ever” to “It’s junk, I couldn’t get a sharp photo with it”, while the truth is somewhere in the middle. It usually is.
You have to see if a lens’ strengths fill a need for you.
That reminds me, I wonder who the intended audience was for that review that I bashed? I would assume that professional wildlife photographer would already have a professional grade telephoto lens, and, that they would know that the Beast was more of an advanced amateur lens.
If the review was intended for advanced amateurs, then the reviewer did the intended audience a huge disservice.
I wish that I could afford Canon’s 500 mm f/4 prime telephoto lens, and couple it with a 1.4 X tele-converter to have gotten even better photos of the wren, but I don’t have $11,000 in spare change lying around to make such a purchase.
Anyway, I shot a couple of other birds while I was there at the Hofma Preserve, this common yellowthroat…
…and a bonus lifer, a least flycatcher!
The flycatcher was very nice, it even struck a pose to help me get this photo to aid in my identification of it.
Either that, or the little bugger was mooning me! 😉
I had planned on stopping in Grand Haven to try for photos of purple martins, but it had turned out to be a cloudy day, so I skipped that stop and went to Lost Lake in Muskegon State Park to photograph flowers instead.
I shot these photos on the hike back to the lake using the 300 mm prime lens and extender. By then, the sun had come out.
At the lake itself, I used the Tokina macro lens for these.
At one point, I had one of my feet right on the edge of the water, or in the water, and I heard a splash and saw movement out of the corner of my eye. It was this gal. (Thanks to Jomegat who corrected me!)
I didn’t think that the frog would stick around for a close-up, but I was wrong.
The frog was helping itself to a few of the insects that became trapped in the sundew that grows right to the water’s edge, you can see a little of the sundew in the bottom left of the images. I was hoping to catch the frog picking the insects out of the sundew, but I guess she was full by then.
Sundew plants lure, capture, and digest insects using stalked mucilaginous glands covering their leaf surfaces. The insects are used to supplement the poor mineral nutrition of the soil in which they grow.
You have to give the frog credit, it had learned to “belly up to the bar” and help itself to some easy pickings.
Here’s two of the plants that grow near Lost Lake that aren’t carnivorous.
These bladderwort are a carnivorous plant. They have small chambers under water that have trap doors. When prey enters the chamber, the trap door slams shut, providing food for the plant.
These orchids aren’t carnivorous as far as I know.
I had a difficult time getting those photos. The orchids are growing right on the edge of the water this year, because Lost Lake is almost a foot higher than it was last year. Of course all the orchids were open towards the water. I had to hold the camera out over the water and use the live view by flipping the LCD display around to shoot the photos. They may not be great, but at least I was able to salvage two images.
And to wrap this up, I used the new 10-18 mm and its depth of field for this image of ferns.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!