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Archive for August, 2015

The Milky Way Over Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm ISO 6400, f3.5 @ 30 seconds

The Milky Way Over Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm
ISO 6400, f3.5 @ 30 seconds

I have just returned from another week up on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. During the past seven days I spent a lot of time exploring the night sky. Photographing the starry night sky is quite addictive and each night, roughly two hours after sunset I would head down to the dock and create images of the Milky Way above the lake. Fortunately, the Milky Way can easily be seen from the dock, however, there is some noticeable light pollution from the town of Parry Sound, visible on the right side of the images. In the above photo I was quite surprised by the subtle green and pink hues present when I viewed the images on the computer the next morning. I did not see any of these colors in the sky as I created the images. In addition, I was also quite surprised at how each of the night scenes photographed considering that each was created at roughly the same time each night. Isn’t nature amazing πŸ™‚

Here are a couple of additional photos of the starry sky above Horseshoe Lake. In an upcoming post I will cover the learning curve to creating and the special processing techniques to these addictive images. I found on my Nikon D800 that I was getting the best pin-point stars at 20 second exposures. In the opening image the 30 second exposure the stars are not all quite pin-points, some have tiny trails starting.

Please remember to click on each of the images to view the larger, sharper versions.

 

Milky Way Above Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 20mm ISO 6400, f3.8 @ 20 seconds

Milky Way Above Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 20mm
ISO 6400, f3.8 @ 20 seconds

Milky Way Above Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm ISO 6400, f3.5 @ 20 seconds

Milky Way Above Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm
ISO 6400, f3.5 @ 20 seconds

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Pre-Dawn Light on Lake Travers in Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm ISO 100, f16 @ 8 seconds Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

Pre-Dawn Light on Lake Travers in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park
Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm
ISO 100, f16 @ 8 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

Towards the end of last week I spent several days up on the shore of Lake Travers in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park. The first morning of my stay in the area provided the best conditions for daybreak imagery. The nights turned rather cool after this day and subsequently the heavy mist rising from the lake made visibility very poor, until the sun had rose high enough in the sky to burn off the misty conditions. The above scene was created at approximately 5:30 a.m. on the first morning. No less than half an hour later the sun still hidden by the horizon began to light the clouds hovering above the lake – as seen below.

Sunrise on Lake ravers in Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 19mm ISO 100, f16 @ 1.3 seconds Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

Sunrise on Lake Travers in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park
Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 19mm
ISO 100, f16 @ 1.3 seconds
Singh Ray 3-Stop Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

After the sun had risen and the colors faded from the sky I jumped into the canoe and paddled out across the lake. After about an hour paddling about the perimeter of Lake Travers I turned to look over my shoulder (photographer’s must remember to do this – sometimes what is behind you is more interesting than the scene before you) and was more than impressed by the cloud formations. Using my Nikon 18-35mm lens with a Nikon Polarizing filter attached I composed the scene and created several varying handheld compositions. Each and every time that I create a handheld image, before clicking the shutter, I take a breath and hold it as this will often eliminate the risk of breathing from causing movement that may contribute to un-sharp images.

Cloud Formations Above Lake Travers in Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm ISO 200, f8 @ 1/25 second Nikon Polarizing Filter Hand-Held Capture

Cloud Formations on Lake Travers in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park
Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm
ISO 200, f8 @ 1/25 second
Nikon Polarizing Filter
Hand-Held Capture

On my very last night in the park the skies were so unbelievably clear I could not resist the temptation to experiment with photographing the starry night sky. I think night photography will become a bit of an addiction πŸ™‚ I can’t wait to give it another go!

The Milky Way Above the Algonquin Wilderness Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm ISO 6400, f4.5 @ 30 seconds

The Milky Way Above the Algonquin Wilderness
Nikon D800, Nikon 18-35mm lens @ 18mm
ISO 6400, f4.5 @ 30 seconds

Please do remember to click on each of the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

I am on the road photographing again next week, but promise to return with lots of images to share and tips too πŸ™‚

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Common Loon Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom ISO 800, f8 @ 1/200 sec Handheld capture from canoe on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario

Common Loon
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/200 sec
Handheld capture with OS function turned on from canoe on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario

During the week of July 19th, Gentec International, the Canadian distributor for Sigma lenses, kindly loaned me the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Telephoto ZoomΒ  for review. The first thing I noticed about this lens upon arrival was the impressive, professional build quality; all metal construction, sturdy metal lens hood, silky smooth rotating tripod collar with click stops, and a beautifully smooth zooming action. This lens weighs in at 6.3 lbs, roughly 5 lbs lighter than a Nikon 600mm prime lens – a light-weight when compared to a hefty prime lens and at a fraction of the purchase price too. Another noteworthy point is that this lens’ minimum focusing distance is a mere 8.5 feet compared to Nikon’s 600mm prime lens which has a minimum focusing distance of 15.7 feet. This will allow this lens to very functional in creating imagery of smaller subjects such as Chipmunks, Chickadees, and Frogs. When reviewing lenses I do not pay attention to lens charts and such or other on-line reviews of the product. I prefer to take the lens out into the real world and judge its performance capabilities based on my preferred locations, subjects, and shooting style.

Beaver eating lily pad leaves Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sports Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/160 sec. Handheld from the canoe with OS turned on and the 1.5 DX sensor crop activated for an effective focal length of 900mm

Beaver eating lily pad leaves
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sports Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/160 sec.
Handheld from the canoe with OS turned on and the 1.5 DX sensor crop activated for an effective focal length of 900mm

When designing this new Global Vision lens Sigma clearly had professional use in mind. The lens is weather sealed to protect it from dusty environments and it is splash proof as well. In addition, the front and rear elements of the lens have been treated with a new oil and water repellent coating. This lens is sure to withstand the demands of the professional photographer.

Great Blue Heron on fallen tree Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 370mm ISO 1600, f6.3 @ 1/320 sec Tripod mounted from canoe with OS turned on and loosened ballhead for additional support. The 1.5 DX sensor crop was activated for an effective focal length of 555mm

Great Blue Heron on fallen tree
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 370mm
ISO 1600, f6.3 @ 1/320 sec
Tripod mounted from canoe with OS turned on and loosened ballhead for additional support. The 1.5 DX sensor crop was activated for an effective focal length of 555mm

Another noteworthy point; the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Telephoto Zoom is compatible with the optional Sigma USB Dock and Sigma software allowing the user to apply custom settings and autofocus calibration settings. I did not use the Sigma USB Dock to set any custom settings prior to conducting this review.

Common Loon Nikon D800, SIgma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm ISO 400, f8 @ 1/250 sec Handheld from canoe with OS turned on. This loon was photographed at the minimum focusing distance of the SIgma lens which is 8.5 feet.

Common Loon
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm
ISO 400, f8 @ 1/250 sec
Handheld from canoe with OS turned on. This loon was photographed at the minimum focusing distance of the Sigma lens which is 8.5 feet.

In the photos below you can see the zoom lock switch conveniently located just behind the zoom ring which locks the lens at 150mm and all other controls are nicely arranged vertically on the side of the lens barrel. First is the Focus switch, followed by the AF distance limiter switch, Optical Stabilizer switch, and lastly the Custom settings switch. For the purposes of my review I used the autofocus position, the AF distance limiter switch in Full, Optical Stabilizer in Position 1 (for static subjects – Position 2 is for panning action), and the Custom switch OFF as I did not program any custom settings. Each of the photographers accompanying this review were either handheld or tripod mounted. This will be noted in the image captions for each photo.

The Sigma 150-600mm Sports lens barrel showing the layout of the controls on the left side of the lens

The Sigma 150-600mm Sports lens barrel showing the layout of the controls on the left side of the lens

The vertical arrangement of the Focus, AF Limiter, OS, and Custom switches

The vertical arrangement of the Focus, AF Limiter, OS, and Custom switches

IN THE FIELD PERFORMANCE & IMAGE QUALITY
To review the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Telephoto Zoom was mounted on my Nikon D800. I was excited to try this combination due to the selectable sensor crop features of the Nikon D800. As a result I would often switch between the FX (full frame) sensor and the DX 1.5 crop sensor. The latter is like having a built-in teleconverter at your disposal, ready and waiting. When using this lens with the DX 1.5 sensor crop activated the lens has a 35mm equivalency of 225mm to 900mm (folks using DSLRs with APS-C size sensors will particularly enjoy this long reach). This extended reach proved to be most beneficial in capturing flighty subjects such as Great Blue Herons, Beavers, and for close-ups of Bullfrogs too. At the lens’ minimum focusing distance of 8.5 feet and an effective 35mm focal length of 900mm this lens was quite deadly for Bullfrogs πŸ™‚ Be sure to read the captions for each of the images below as I have indicated which sensor crop was selected to create each image.

Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sports Telephoto Zoom ISO 800, f8 @ 1/80 sec Handheld from canoe in overcast light

Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sports Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/80 sec
Handheld from canoe in overcast light with OS function turned on

Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom ISO 800, f8 @ 1/80 sec. DX 1.5 sensor crop selected for an effective focal length of 900mm. A lifejacket over the side of the canoe provided the needed support while handholding this capture

Bullfrog in wetland on Horseshoe Lake
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/80 sec.
DX 1.5 sensor crop selected for an effective focal length of 900mm. A lifejacket over the side of the canoe provided the needed cushioning and support while handholding this capture with the OS function turned on

To zoom the lens in and out the zoom ring is turned in the same direction as Canon zoom lenses – the opposite direction to Nikon zooms. This took some getting used to on my part but by the end of the week the correct zooming direction had become second nature. My chosen location to put this lens through its paces was the wetland on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario, in the Muskoka District and a short excursion down the Seguin Trail in Parry Sound. I used the lens both handheld and tripod mounted with the latter mode utilizing a loosened ballhead for additional support with the Optical Stabilizer (position1) activated. Once again do note the captions for each image for greater description on capture information.

Great Blue Heron in Spruce Tree Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom ISO 1250, f6.3 @ 1/200 sec I found this heron roosting in the spruce tree late in the day. Dialing in an ISO of 1250 and using a wide open aperture of f6.3 and the tripod with a loosened ballhead for additional support and the OS function on the lens yielded excellent sharpness for this image

Great Blue Heron in Spruce Tree
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 550mm
ISO 1250, f6.3 @ 1/200 sec
I found this heron roosting in the spruce tree late in the day. Dialing in an ISO of 1250 and using a wide open aperture of f6.3 and the tripod with a loosened ballhead for additional support and the OS function on the lens yielded excellent sharpness for this image. The 1.5 DX sensor crop was selected for an effective focal length of 825mm

NOT JUST FOR WILDLIFE
The Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Telephoto Zoom is not just a lens for wildlife it is also a serious performer for landscapes too. I often utilize longer focal lengths to extract intimate scenes from the grand vistas before me. When doing so the lens was tripod mounted with the Optical Stabilizer turned off and the ballhead controls firmly locked. The mirror lock feature on the Nikon D800 was also utilized to eliminate any vibrations resulting from mirror-slap from degrading image sharpness. For landscape use I would highly recommend the use of a polarizing filter – this lens would require a 105mm filter size.

Intimiate view of Horseshoe Lake shoreline details Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 150mm ISO 800, f8 @ 1/80 sec Handheld from canoe

Intimiate view of Horseshoe Lake shoreline details
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 150mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/80 sec
Handheld from canoe with OS function turned on

Nameless Lake on the Seguin Trail near Parry Sound, Ontario Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 150mm ISO 100, f16 @ 13 sec Tripod mounted with OS function turned off.

Nameless Lake on the Seguin Trail near Parry Sound, Ontario
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 150mm
ISO 100, f16 @ 13 sec
Tripod mounted with OS function turned off. I do like the way the 13 second exposure rendered the falling rain drops in the water

Wetland, Rosseau, Ontario Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 200mm ISO 200, f16 @ 1/20 sec Tripod mounted with the OS function turned off

Wetland, Rosseau, Ontario
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 200mm
ISO 200, f16 @ 1/20 sec
Tripod mounted with the OS function turned off

BACK AT THE COMPUTER
After a week-long shooting spree with the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Telephoto Zoom I arrived home to upload several thousand images to the computer. As I began editing and optimizing these image files I did note that aside from chromatic aberration being very well controlled, the resulting image quality surpassed my expectations with excellent fine details present. Any images that were not sharp was the result of me pushing the Optical Stabilization passed its limits. It is important to push new gear to its limits to know what you can accomplish in the field. Know your gear and know its limits.

Juvenile Raccoon Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm ISO 800, f8 @ 1/160 sec Handheld in a crouched position using knee for additional support

Juvenile Raccoon
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/160 sec
Handheld in a crouched position using left knee for additional support with the OS function turned on

Juvenile Raccon Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm  ISO 800, f8 @ 1/160 sec Although the lens was set to 600mm I had activated the 1.5 DX sensor crop on the Nikon D800 for an effective focal length of 900mm

Juvenile Raccon
Nikon D800, Sigma 150-600mm Sport Telephoto Zoom @ 600mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/160 sec
Although the lens was set to 600mm I had activated the 1.5 DX sensor crop on the Nikon D800 for an effective focal length of 900mm. Again this photo was created handheld in a crouched position using my left knee for additional support with the OS function turned on. Cropping the sensor, in camera, was the best approach to prevent any undue stress on this young raccoon due to a closer approach

CONCLUSION

If you are ready for the extended reach of a 600mm lens the http://www.sigmacanada.ca/product/sigma-sport-150-600mm-f5-6-3-dg-os-hsm-lens–sos1506dgs/ is highly recommended – professional quality images, in a weather sealed design, at an affordable price. The 150mm to 600mm zoom range is very versatile, allowing for tight portraits as well as scenes that take in the surrounding environment too, without the need to change lenses. This saves time that in-turn may yield more results when the action heats up. The light weight design yet solid build makes this lens a joy to handhold when photographing birds in flight or when working from a canoe, as I did, which is something folks that already own heavy weight prime lenses may be interested in if they are looking for a lighter alternative. The Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Telephoto Zoom is my new favorite lens and be my go to lens for all of my long lens work. The Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Telephoto Zoom surpassed my expectations!!!

Please do remember to click on each of the images to view the larger, sharper version πŸ™‚

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