HP #8: Hello Telephoto
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Hi all, happy February.
In my 2021 roundup post, I talked a lot about my Fujifilm X100V, a camera I bought for myself as a rugged better-than-iPhone daily driver. And it is very much that! But something it is not (and this is a very specific something) is a birding camera.
Its 35mm equivalent prime lens is great for a wide range of subjects, but not for anything particularly small and far away (both of which birds tend to be - I learned this in my ‘Intro to Birding’ Zoom seminar in April 2020).
Having given up on using my X100V for birds, I tried the ‘iPhone through the binocs’ approach, to rare and fleeting success. I could produce (maybe, and even then not very reliably) photographic proof of sighting a bird, and even then who was actually challenging me on having seen a northern waterthrush? (Answer: no one.)
So, I gave up on the prospect of any serious bird photography and stuck to my binoculars. That was, until I got an email from my grandfather, who was offering up a lightly used (but recently obsoleted) Sony full-frame digital - an A7 Mark III. He, a retired hobbyist photographer who has sold black-and-white prints at regional art shows, still maintains a home studio and travels with serious gear. Needless to say, I jumped at his offer.
The camera didn’t come with a lens, so I bought an inexpensive 50mm prime (a ‘nifty fifty’) and started researching telephotos. After reading dozens of online reviews and a handful of comparison videos on YouTube, I finally settled on the middle-of-the-road but fully capable Sigma 100-400mm. I found a ‘like new’ open box listing on eBay and pulled the trigger.
The weekend after I received the lens, a nor’easter hit NYC and much of New England. I layered up and trudged over to a freshly blanketed Prospect Park to see what I would see. Here are a few of my favorite shots with my new telephoto:
After spending hours at the park, I decided I wanted to see more, so I jumped on the Q heading towards Coney Island. I got off at Brighton Beach and, after picking up Turkish coffee and baklava, walked along the shore to Coney Island.
I have lots to learn, between the new Sony camera, its hulking telephoto appendage, and the rest (composition, editing, etc.). Framing photos is a challenge even when your subject is staying put, let alone flitting from branch to branch in the canopy 40 feet above.
Initially, I was on the fence about keeping the lens - its price was a hefty amount to spend on something I have no intention of using in any sense professionally. But after spending just a few hours peeking through the viewfinder, and now looking over these shots (there are more!), I’m incredibly excited about shooting (and sharing) more.