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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nikon AF-S Nikkor-70-200mm f/4 G ED VR

The addition of the Nikon AF-S G VR 70-200mm f/4 ED lens to the stable of f/4 constant aperture lenses is a godsend for those people who don't want to put out the princely sum of $2199.99 MSRP CDN to purchase larger aperture f/2.8 VRII. I already have the f/2.8 VRII in my hands so I won't be purchasing this lens. However when a production copy of it hits the market at Broadway Camera, I will try to get my hands on it for a bit of a test shoot.

At f/4 constant, the lens will be slower than the f/2.8 VRII, but to be able to shoot at a constant aperture not the typical variable aperture of most telephoto zoom lens (f/4-5.6), it will be a situation where you can shoot at f/4 at 200mm where most likely you will be shooting at f/5, being at least half an aperture stop faster with the constant aperture lens than you would normally be shooting at with a variable aperture lens. As I haven't had the opportunity to shoot this lens, I'm not going to be too certain as to how sharp this f/4 lens is wide open versus stopped down to f/5.6 for speed or f/8 for depth and sharpness. That review will have to wait for an edit to this post.

Most people would probably use this for wedding photography or portraiture since they are looking for sharpness rather than speed. However most professionals would prefer the f/2.8 VRII rather than the savings in the pocket from opting for the f/4. Only time will tell.

As you all know. I don't do a "technical" review. If you want technical reviews, you can go to or other sites that specialize in that sort of review. I don't get into the minutiae of the construction of the lens. I'm not a tech geek (I'm a wildlife/nature photographer) and I don't go for the "the 2 inch displacement of the ED glass between the next ED glass element will make this possible". I don't care how Nikon, Tamron or Sigma has designed their lenses or in what order they placed their lens elements to construct the lens. I don't break down my lens reviews like that. All I want to do is know that if I throw the lens into a certain shooting situation, that it will perform up to my expectations. So in this blog you will see whether or not the lens has the performance capability to shoot wildlife/nature or sports photography or whatever I put it to doing. So what you're getting when you look into my reviews is the nitty gritty. How the lens or camera performs in a certain situation and whether it meets up to my criteria for sharpness and speed. That's why my reviews are short and to the point. And when I get my hands on a lens, then you will see the lens review with photos indicating whether I thought it stood up to the test. Once I manage to get enough limit on a credit card, I will start renting lenses and taking them out for a field test. Until then you'll just have to bear with the in-store reviews.

Chris Corrals Puck - October 6, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bird Photography - My Kit

Bird Photography can be really fulfilling as well as a frustrating venture. I shoot at current with a 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII. Which means I am at minimum 200mm too short for a wildlife lens as most birds tend to stay out at minimum 400mm range. Depending on the birds, their interaction with humans is also a factor. How acclimated to humans are the birds that you intend to photograph? How do they react when approached? What are the birds' reactions when stressed? The experienced bird photographer has learned that distance is a must have if you don't want to stress the birds.

To give an idea of the distance, I have taken two photos: one at 150mm range, one at 500mm with a Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM APO (courtesy of Broadway Camera (Surrey). The 150 shows just about the range that I have with my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, the 500mm being the maximum range that I will have with a 50-500mm when I get it. The focus is on the fast food restaurant sign.


I have come to the conclusion that for bird photography, my kit will consist of the Sigma APO 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM for close in shots, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8GII ED VR Zoom for wide-angles on birds and eventually, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4 G IF ED VR. I'll get the TCs just so that I'll have something to throw on the 600mm when I get it. Of course if I do go for said 50-500 OS, I'll have to check to make sure the purchased lens does not fall in the recall serial number range. APO 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM: Serial numbers between 10633051 and 10972000 had a focusing problem where it would fail to focus properly at 200 thru 500 mm.

Sigma APO 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8GII ED VR Zoom

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4 G IF ED VR

Certain locales as conducive to close-in bird photography in the Lower Mainland. There are a multitude of parks in the Lower Mainland that offer opportunities to photograph and film wildlife in a natural setting. The well-known ones are George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary and Serpentine Fen. My favorite spot to photograph in is Green Timbers Regional Park which offers a lake and a pair of nesting bald eagles. They will be my opportunity to photograph raptors until such time as I can get out to a place where those type of birds are plentiful, such as Harrison Mills.

@ Iona Beach
@Iona Beach with 500mm equivalent crop
@ Green Timbers

Iona Beach (just by the Vancouver International Airport (YVR)) offers the opportunity at this time of the year to photograph snow geese (first photograph). These birds are not as tame as the mallard ducks at Green Timbers (in the following photograph). How acclimated to humans that the birds are will dictate not only your approach, but how close you can get to them before they take flight. Over at Green Timbers my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII is just fine without a teleconverter for photographing mallards. The snow geese at Iona Beach, on the other hand, will dictate the use of the Sigma 50-500mm at 450mm at least in order to get some decent images. As you can see in this image. The 200mm was not able to get me in very close at all.

All in all, bird photography is probably the most soul fulfilling type of photography I've ever done, however it is also the most frustrating at this present moment due to the lack of focal range that I have. But depending on the financial situation, the 50-500mm will fall into my hands in May 2013 and I will be able to get some of the shots that I know that I am capable of doing into my portfolio.

The reason why I am getting the lenses that I am getting is because I want to sell the wildlife photos. Otherwise it would be fine to shoot with just a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 basic zoom lens. But if you are looking for professional sales of wildlife photography, you have to outlay the cash for such professional grade lenses. But no matter what, wildlife/bird photography is done out of the love of doing it; not the economic aspect. I do it because I love photographing birds.

Happy Shooting

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Memory Cards

I use SD cards. I've used SD cards exclusively since I got my first Nikon point and shoot. I currently have three SD cards in my collection. One is a 2 GB which I have used previously in my Nikon D50. One is a SP Silicon Power 4 GB which my wife bought me since my Sandisk Extreme III 2GB cracked under the pressure of being the sole professional grade SD card that I owned. Now I recently purchased an 8GB Sandisk Extreme Pro (the brand that replaced the Sandisk Extreme III) 8 GB SDHC (my D300s can take SDHC cards).

My Current SD Cards (from smallest capacity to largest)

better photos to come when I get a 105mm VR Macro lens

My viewpoint on memory cards is that the more memory that you have in one card, the more likely it is that you will lose all your images if a memory card goes corrupt or heaven forbid, crack under pressure like my 2GB Sandisk Extreme III. Hence the reason why I shoot my wildlife images with 8GB. That way, if one of my cards goes corrupt, I will have only lost the average of about 382 images.

The way most professionals carry their memory cards around with them is with a memory card wallet. You can get various types ranging from tough nylon fabric to metal cases. I prefer to carry mine in an Optex "Secure Digital Case". Made from metal, it carries 6 SD cards though variants can be found for different type of cards from CF up to Sony Memory Sticks. These offer a mode of protection against impact, dirt and grime all of which can ruin a memory card very easily.

At some point in my career, I will do the professional thing and get enough SD cards to max out the carrying capacity of my Optex cardcase and will have to purchase another. I will probably attempt to go Pelican then. My hope is to have at least 6 8GB capacity SDHC cards in my cardcase. All Sandisk Extreme Pro cards. I like the reliability of the Sandisk brand. I started out with a Lexar when I had the E2200 point and shoot, however, I prefer Sandisk Extreme Pro over Lexar Pro cards.

My D300s has the capacity to take both SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) and CF (Compact Flash) cards so I could choose between either carrying SD cards or choosing to carry CF cards. I find that CF cards are a little more expensive by about $10.00. I'm cheap so I opted to go with the slightly more fragile, but still useful SDHC. Most people tend to go after CF cards. You can pretty much do anything to them short of running over them with a car and they tend to not be so fragile. But for me, I'm not that picky. I'll take the cost savings over the high-impact resistance of the CF card any day. Eventually, though I will probably cave in and get CF cards as I will be probably upgrading to the Nikon D4 or equivalent in the future. I have no use for Hi-Cap CF cards right now...other than to shoot video. Which I rarely do. I will eventually once I get my 600mm f/4 but until then, shooting bird videos for me with the Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII is just a waste of time.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Last Fire of Sunset - September 24, 2012

Two pictures from the September 24, 2012 run to YVR

Last fire of light in the darkening sky

Moon above YVR-Richmond Center waxing gibbous.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Great Blue Heron & Ducks - September 24, 2012

When I went out to Iona Beach on September 24, 2012, I had the opportunity to view a majestic Great Blue Heron standing in the shallows. There were at least five Great Blues there and it was amazing. Unfortunately, though I didn't have long enough reach on my lens and had to settle for shots like this, which isn't what I would expect of the quality of my keepers. It's OK for personal blog use though. I'm hoping that when I finally get my Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4 VR, I'll be able to produce images of much better range and quality than this. It's the "equipment" unfortunately as was stated beforehand.

From where I was standing (this reference shot would be at an 18mm range), my two choices were 1) to get closer I would have to leave the proximity of the car (with Storm in it) and move closer to the ducks and Great Blue Heron (quite possibly spooking in the process) or 2) stay by the car and get the image that I did. Hence the reason why I am looking at lenses with greater range or the addition of a 2x teleconverter ("extenders" for those of you reading this blog who are Canonites).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Various YVR Aircraft - October 9, 2012

Boeing 747-467 B-HOY, Cathay Pacific Airways departing Runway 08R.

A perspective shot from Runway 08L.

Philippines Airlines Airbus A340-313X departing Runway 08R

Fall Colors on E.19th, Vancouver - October 9, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Iona Beach Snow Geese - October 9, 2012

Since Heather (my wife) had to go to Kwantlen today and I didn't have enough gas to make a round trip twice (to drop her off and pick her up again, I opted to stay out in Richmond. So I went over to Iona Beach and hung out there for 5 hours (from 4:00PM till 9:00 PM). We (my daughter and I, that is) saw some very nice snow geese. But I was hunting for Great Blue Herons. Unfortunately we didn't see ANY of them today. They stayed away until the last minute. I parked at the end of Runway 08L (the opposite end of 26R) looking for a few airplanes to come in since I didn't see the GBH at any point in my stay at Iona Beach. Didn't see any aircraft coming in so I pulled out. Wouldn't you know it. Swinging low (fence-top level) was a damned Great Blue Heron. Since I was already driving I wasn't able to pull over and take a picture. So that was a lost opportunity. Learned an important lesson in birding today. Never leave a site until it's so darned dark that you can't see the nose in front of your face.

Two Photos from Green Timbers - September 20, 2012

Sometimes there aren't many keepers from a trip out. Whether you're in the shooting zone that day or not can dictate how many keepers you return from a trip with. The trick is mental focus. Just like athletes, or anyone else who has to have keen mental focus to perform well; so do visual artists. The best way to develop this is to shoot. And that's all that you can do. Work at it. Give it the best that you have. 100%...all the time.