Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Big Boy Lens

I decided that what I really wanted to do is take really good photos of birds. But you need a really big telephoto lens to do that. So after a lot of research, I ordered the 400mm Canon DO lens plus the 1.4 Extender. Diffractive optics (DO) lenses are lighter than the L series lenses that Canon makes, but this one still weighs 4.3 pounds. That's better than the 8.5 or 11.8 pounds for their 500mm and 600mm lenses but you do need to use a tripod or at least a monopod with it. It works on my Rebel XSi, but to do it justice I plan to upgrade to the Canon 7D when it becomes available.

The new lens arrived on Friday, so on Saturday I was off to the San Joaquin Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary Reserve in Irvine, CA for a photo session. The sanctuary is the home of Sea & Sage, the Orange County chapter of the Audubon Society. I hadn't been there for years, but I knew it to be a pretty reliable place to find water birds at this time of year and also for being quite large. I wanted to go someplace where I could pretty much be alone and learn to use my new equipment without attracting attention. And water birds are relatively easy to photograph as opposed to the small and skittish warblers and sparrows. The sanctuary consists of ponds separated by berms so most of the birds are pretty far away. You can't make out any detail without a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope. Many times my husband and I wished that we had a camera lens as good as the spotting scope. This lens comes close.

I was very far away from the Osprey when I took this shot. Click on the photo to see a larger version and check out the expression on his face. He's a fish eater. One look from him would have the fish jumping out of the water in fright.

The Cassin's Kingbird on the right didn't budge while I took several photos of him. I was far enough away that I didn't disturb him. But I still need some practice getting set up quickly and changing settings quickly as I move from place to place. The lens magnifies almost as much as my binoculars (I'm still working on calculating the exact number) but doesn't have the same wide field of view. My one try at capturing some Green Herons in flight was fruitless. I couldn't even find them in the viewfinder.

Up top is a classic shot of a Black-necked Stilt with his reflection in the water. The stilt is such a regular visitor to the sanctuary that they use a similar pose for their logo.

No, this picture isn't upside down. That's a reflection of these Black-crowned Night-Herons in the water. The one in front is a juvenile and the one in the back is an adult. Here they are right-side up, hiding in the reeds, on the right.

I thought the lens might work for taking pictures of the moon as well and was pleasantly surprised with this shot taken last night after I got home. You can compare the detail I got here with this shot taken during the lunar eclipse of Feb. 2008 using my old lens—an amazing difference.

Now I'm dreaming about all the places I can go to take photos. But I will have to get more computer storage space for them. I'm filling up my hard drives!