I’m pretty sure, all of us, who are really into photography and spend a lot of time with it, have this one photo, which required so much more work and patience than all the other ones. This one photo and the perfect vision of it stuck in your head for such a long time. Turning this vision into a photo is the ultimate goal. No matter how long it will take you, how many hours of trial and error, no matter how often you’ll be walking home at the end of a shoot, realizing that it still didn’t work.
Someone who worked for this ONE perfect picture for an estimated 6 years, one who took over half a million photos for this, who doesn’t regret a single second of it and one who, in the end, got rewarded with an incredible photo, is Alan McFadyen.
With over 20 degrees on Monday, to me, it didn’t feel like winter at all. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to take some great bird shots, so I took my SD1 Merrill and the 150-600mm C on a photo session.
After hours of making use of the heavy equipment, my hair and my undershirt were completely sweaty, but since it was calm outside, I thought nothing of it. Coming home, I felt great, but later on in the evening, I got the paycheck: chills, fever and a mean cough.
Ironically I didn’t catch a cold when it was minus 15 degrees Celsius outside in December.
So I spend the last few days in bed and on my couch. I totally forgot, how much fun it can be, to do absolutely nothing …or at least nothing exhausting ;). To snuggle in my warm, cozy blanket, drinking tea, watching TV and surfing the internet – total recreation!
I almost felt like on vacation …almost. While being sick and staying at home, I had enough time to follow the Sigma reports on the latest cameras and lenses, which sigma announced yesterday. I also watched some helpful GIMP- tutorials on YouTube and I had plenty of time to edit the photos, I took on Monday.
In the beginning I assumed that I have to stop down to f/7.1 to f/8, in order to capture images which are sharp enough. I didn’t even try to shoot wide open. But as it turned out during today’s photowalk the 150-600 Contemporary is already sharp enough at f/6.3. This allows me to use ISO100 or 200 under lighting conditions, under which I would have previously upped the sensitivity by one stop. Down below I have embedded a photo and the corresponding 100% crop, which was taken at f/6.3 and ISO200.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating because as you can see in the following image and in the 100% crop below, the lens turns out amazingly sharp for a super-tele-zoom. But only if you do everything the right way.
Today I went for another photo walk with the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary and the SD1 Merrill camera. In comparison to last time, the weather was sunny and nice this time, so I didn’t have to increase the sensitivity range to ISO400 in order to achieve a sufficiently short shutter speed. Despite the long focal length of 900mm (in full frame terms), even 1/250 s would be sufficiently short as the image stabilization does a good job. Unfortunately, birds move very quickly, so 1/500 s to 1/1000 s are still a must. You don’t even realize before taking their picture how quickly birds actually move their heads when they observe their surroundings in panic, watching out for a potential danger ahead. Only later you can see that their head is blurred. Unfortunately, image stabilization doesn’t help at all against motion blur.
You would think that such an extremely long focal length should be enough to take format-filling pictures of smaller birds as well. As I found out after three photo walks, this isn’t the case. You have to get very close to them. For me that’s the most difficult thing about bird photography. Continue reading →