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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 Zoom  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 :) 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 :)

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Brown Booby (male) Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm ISO 400, f16 @ 1/125 second

Brown Booby (male)
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 400mm
ISO 400, f16 @ 1/125 sec.

During my visit to Cayman Brac in February 2014 I was able to photograph the Brown Booby colony on the island as they were incubating their eggs. I kept hoping that the eggs would hatch before I departed the island, but no such luck, so I planned my recent trip to be slightly later in to the nesting season to be assured of hatchlings at the nest.

Brown Booby pair at Nest Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 330mm ISO 800, f11 @ 1/250 second

Brown Booby pair at Nest
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 330mm
ISO 800, f11 @ 1/250 sec.

On Cayman Brac the Brown Booby nests at the very edge of the 144 foot bluff that dominates the east end of the tiny island (Cayman Brac is roughly 12 miles long and about 1 mile wide). My timing for my recent March 2015 visit was perfect as there were birds sitting on eggs, parents with chicks, and chicks that had began molting. Shortly before sunset I would make way to the trail that follows the edge of the bluff to photograph in the warm glow of the setting sun.

Brown Booby with Chick at the Nest Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 120mm ISO 200, f11 @ 1/500 second

Brown Booby with Chick at the Nest
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 120 mm
ISO 200, f11 @ 1/500 sec.

The experience of being able to sit and watch these majestic seabirds with their young at the very edge of the bluff is one I will not soon forget, nor is the sight of the fluffy, white chicks stretching their little wings that will one day enable them to glide over the ocean waves and plummet into the sea to catch their prey.

Brown Booby Chick Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 230mm ISO 100, f8 @1/250 second

Brown Booby Chick
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 230mm
ISO 100, f8 @1/250 sec.

During my two weeks on Cayman Brac I created several thousand photos of the Brown Booby. This post represents some of my most favorite images…hope you like them too :)

Do remember to click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Brown Booby Chick Molting Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm ISO 800, f8 @ 1/160 second

Brown Booby Chick Molting
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 400mm
ISO 800, f8 @ 1/160 sec.

Brown Booby Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 280mm ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/80 second

Brown Booby
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 280mm
ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/80 sec.

Brown Booby with Chick at the Nest Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 360mm ISO 200, f16 @ 1/250 second

Brown Booby with Chick at the Nest
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 360mm
ISO 200, f16 @ 1/250 sec.

Brown Booby with Chick at the Nest Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 330mm ISO 400, f11 @ 1/320 second

Brown Booby with Chick at the Nest
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 330mm
ISO 400, f11 @ 1/320 sec.

Brown Booby with Chick Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 400mm ISO 400, f16 @  1/250 sec.

Brown Booby with Chick
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 400mm
ISO 400, f16 @ 1/250 sec.

Brown Booby (female) Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 400mm ISO 200, f11 @ 1/500 sec.

Brown Booby (female)
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR @ 400mm
ISO 200, f11 @ 1/500 sec.

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Female Cardinal Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

Female Northern Cardinal
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

This morning when I awoke, I made my way into the kitchen to check the outside temperature on the thermometer by the kitchen window – it was reading -27 degrees Celsius. This temp would normally be fine with me but here in the land of the windchill factor the winds were making it feel more like -42 degrees Celsius. Now that’s getting a little chilly :) Nonetheless, I knew the cold and wind would make for some productive songbird photos from my heating blind that is set-up by the backyard birdfeeding station. After a quick protein shake for breakfast and a hot cup of coffee I made my way out to the blind. As predicted the birds were quite active as they filled up on the variety of feed that I put out for them to offer them a varied diet. The only problem that I encountered was that my aging portable heater that I use inside the blind was not able to contend with the brutally cold wind that was howling outside and my blind is by no means wind-proof. I last about two hours before I was forced to head back into the house to warm up. Here is a selection of my favorite songbird images from this morning’s time inside the blind.

Female Cardinal (vertical crop created from horizontal capture) Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Female Northern Cardinal
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

In the female Cardinal image above the vertical orientation was cropped from an original capture that was in the horizontal perspective. I felt that the vertical crop represented her better here. Doesn’t she look at tad chilly herself with the frosty build-up around the eye.

Blue Jay Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/400 sec.

Blue Jay
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/400 sec.

The Blue Jays never seem to disappoint at the feeding station, although this morning they did look a touch puffier as they tried to stay warm amid the frigid temperatures and windchill.

Male Redpoll Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 360mm (DX crop = 540mm 35mm equivalent) ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

Male Common Redpoll
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 360mm (DX crop = 540mm 35mm equivalent) ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

On the coldest winter days I often get visits from Redpolls that have ventured down south, from the treeline in the extreme northern regions of Ontario.

Female Redpoll Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

Female Common Redpoll
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec

And below are a couple of Black-capped Chickadee images. Like the Blue Jays, the chickadees are always present and entertaining to watch at the feeding station, and generally they become quite tame. They will often visit the feeders while I am changing the perches around and they will even take seed right out of my hand.

Black-capped Chickadee Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 400, f8 @ 1/500 sec.

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American Goldfinch Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/125 sec.

American Goldfinch
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/125 sec.

Today I finally had time to get out into my insulated photo blind, complete with portable heater, for my winter songbird photography. A couple of days ago I found a tree that was adorned with berries, so I snipped off two small sections of branches that I could use as perches at my backyard set-up. Here are a few of the days best results. The activity today at the feeders was quite low due to the lack of snow on the ground. Once we get a good layer of snow on the ground the activity always increases dramatically. When there is very little snow on the ground the birds tend to ignore the feeder and forage around my property in search of other food sources, such as previously stored food caches or hibernating insects.

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

Hairy Woodpecker Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/320 sec.

Hairy Woodpecker
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/320 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/160 sec.

Black-capped Chickadee
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 400mm, ISO 1250, f8 @ 1/160 sec.

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The following is a series of images I created over a 5 minute time frame of a Common Loon on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. It was early morning as I paddled my canoe along shoreline of a quiet bay.  A large Snapping Turtle surfaced beside the canoe to check me out before slowly retreating back to the bottom of the lake. Next I saw a Common Loon was nearby, but I was not in a good position to photograph it, so I slowly paddled my way around for a better shooting angle. The loon had dove, but resurfaced nearby with a large rock bass in its bill. Over the next 5 minutes the loon appeared to play with the fish before swallowing it. I created countless images of the action and below are my favorite ones from the series.

Please do remember to click on each to see the larger, sharper version.

Common Loon with Rock Bass

Common Loon with Rock Bass

Common Loon Diving for Rock Bass After Dropping it

Common Loon diving for Rock Bass after dropping it

Common Loon Grabbing Rock Bass

Common Loon grabbing Rock Bass

Common Loon with a Firm Grasp of the Rock Bass

Common Loon with a firm grasp of the Rock Bass

Common Loon with the now dead Rock Bass

Common Loon with the now dead Rock Bass

Common Loon after swallowing the Rock Bass

Common Loon after swallowing the Rock Bass

Common Loon content after a hearty breakfast

Common Loon content after a hearty breakfast

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Brown Booby nesting on the bluff. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby nesting on the bluff. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Before leaving Ontario last month for the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac my research indicated that it would be nesting season for the Brown Booby on the island. The Brown Booby typically nests on the top most edge of the island’s bluff, which is at the most easterly point of the island. I made several trips up to the bluff during my stay, hoping to photograph some newly hatched boobies with their parents, as the eggs would be hatching any day. I had no luck with my hopes and only photographed the adult birds, but they were loads of fun to photograph nonetheless.

As I so often do when photographing any wildlife species I look for opportunities to create animate landscapes – that is to show the animal within their habitat. I found the best time of day to photograph these seabirds was at the end of the day as the male boobies would return and perch on the cliff top after spending the day at sea, diving for fishes. This was also a great time of day to create flight images of the boobies circling along the edge of the cliff, lit by the setting sun.

Here is an assortment of Brown Booby images that I created during my two week stay on Cayman Brac, in the Cayman Islands. Each of the photos was created using my Nikon D800 and Nikon 80-400mm VR lens. I used a variety of sensor crops, which are available on the Nikon D800. Often to extend the reach of my Nikon 80-400mm VR lens, when warranted, I will select the 1.5 sensor crop to effectively make the lens a 120-600mm lens – it is kind of like having a built-in teleconverter.

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby in flight. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby in flight. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby at the nest. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby at the nest. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby at the nest. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby at the nest. Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby in flight, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

Brown Booby in flight, Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

Before I left for my trip to the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac in the Cayman Islands I was aware of the Barn Owl population on the island. My research had informed me that these owls use the numerous caves found along the island’s bluff as roosting sites. On several nights while I was photographing treefrogs I could hear these owls calling nearby and did witness a couple of late night fly-bys too. My guide on the island had directed me to a couple of caves that would be productive, but the owls were to wary and would fly out when I would try to make my approach. Eventually my guide and I traveled to the eastern end of the island for an owl that was more tolerant of folks inside the cave. After climbing halfway up the bluff we made our way down into a large cavernous cave and sure enough a Barn Owl sat near the top of the cave, which was open to the sky, undisturbed by our presence. I quickly created numerous compositions of this owl, both wide views and tight crops. For the wider views I utilized the pop-up flash on my Nikon D800 to help illuminate the cave walls inside. Each of the images in this post were created with a handheld Nikon 80-400mm VR lens and to better describe how dark it was inside the cave I dialed in an ISO setting of 5000. Having previously tested my Nikon D800 at very high ISOs I did not hesitate to dial this setting in and fire away :)

Which of these photographs is your favorite?

Barn Owls are an extremely rare sight here in southern Ontario, so having the opportunity to photograph wild specimens on Cayman Brac was a real treat during this recent trip.

Please click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Barn Owl in Cave

Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

Barn Owl in Cave on Cayman Brac

 

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