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Posts Tagged ‘Loons’

Gadwall Drake Wing Flap, Humber Bay, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR lens
ISO 500, f8 @ 1/640 sec

I have been spending some of time over the last week traveling between the cities of Barrie and Toronto, Ontario to photograph migrating waterfowl. Kempenfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe in Barrie had a mix of Common Loons and Pacific Loons in full winter plumage, while Humber Bay on Lake Ontario in Toronto was productive for Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, and Mallards. An alternate location to Humber Bay and located nearby is High Park, it turned out be productive for Wood Ducks, which are still hanging around due to our warmer than usual start to winter. This slow start to winter has also led to some late season fall colour that adds a lovely pop of colour to some situations as it reflects in the water. Here are a few of the images I created last week during these outings.

Mallard Drake, High Park, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens
ISO 500, f8 @ 1/60 sec

 

Mallard Hen quacking, Humber Bay, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens
ISO 500, f8 @ 1640 sec

 

Common Loon (winter plumage), Kempenfelt Bay, Barrie, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens
ISO 800, f8 @ 1160 sec

 

Pacific Loon (winter plumage), Kemenfelt Bay, Barrie, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens
ISO 500, f8 1/250 sec

 

Northern Shoveler Drake, Humber Bay, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens
ISO 500, f8 1/2500 sec

 

Northern Shoveler Hen, Humber Bay, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens
ISO 500, f8 @1/500 sec

 

Wood Duck Drake, High Park, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500, Nikon 200-500mm VR Lens
ISO 500, f8 @ 1/500 sec

 

Wood Duck Drake Wing Flap, High Park, Toronto, Ontario
Nikon D500. Nikon 200-500mm VR lens
ISO 500, f8 @ 1/1000 sec

 

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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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I have just return from several days up near Parry Sound, Ontario at the family cottage on Horseshoe Lake where I spent much of time getting to know my new Nikon D800 and swimming in the lake with my daughter, who is now able, with floaties, to swim quite some distance out from the dock.

I will do a more in-depth look at the D800 in a future post, but first wanted to share these images of the Common Loon family that reside in our bay on the lake. They have two chicks and both seem to be doing very well, diving on their own and both have very healthy appetites. Last year one chick had perished but hopefully this year’s brood will survive. The first two images in this post were photographed from the canoe, using the handheld Nikon 80-400mm VR lens with an ISO setting of 800 and the last image was captured with an ISO setting of 1250. I did not need any additional focal length to create images of these loons on this particular day, but when I did need extra focal length I could easily select the 1.5 crop mode on the D800 and immediately convert the 80-400mm lens to a 120-600mm lens.

Please remember to click on each photo to view a much larger version.

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White Admiral Butterfly

Yesterday afternoon while I was out playing in the backyard with my daughter and our dog Koko I found a newly emerged White Admiral butterfly. Newly emerged butterflies make perfect subjects as their wings are in pristine condition and they are unable to fly. I gently nudged this one onto my finger and placed it on the rudbeckia blossom in the garden, grabbed my camera a shot many photos. After reviewing the images today, this one stood out as one of my favorites of the day. I also thought that this image would make a lovely base image for my favorite filter for creative effect – Fractalius. Below you will see the Fractalius version as well as a few other photographs that I have applied this filter too.

White Admiral Fractalius

Green Frog Fractalius

Great Horned Owl (captive) Fractalius

Common Loon Fractalius

Atlantic Phase Brown Pelican Fractalius (Cayo Largo, Cuba)

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While away last week I was able to get some time to photograph the family of Common Loons on Horseshoe lake. On one particular evening, about an hour or so before sunset they were feeding over a large weed-bed off a shore-fen that is a two minute canoe paddle from the cottage. I would get in position and then lay down in the canoe so that I would have the lowest shooting angle possible. Often the adults would surface, after a dive, beside the canoe to close for my lens to focus. When the chicks reach this size they are able to dive for themselves and there tends to be greater distance between the birds, however, once the adults surface the youngsters usually head straight over to see if they are going to be fed. I was quite happy to capture this image. The image above is the optimized version though. It required a ton of work to get it to this point. Below you will see the original capture. To optimize this image I evicted the out-of-focus adult in the background. If the birds head was visible I may have left it in the composition, but did not like it as it was. Next was to adjust the composition without cropping the file. As a result, I lower the birds in the frame and gave the image a slight clock-wise rotation. You will notice that the bill of the adult bird in the original capture contains a lot of bill-shine from the sun reflecting off the shiny surface of the bill. To correct this I zoomed to roughly 800% and slowly removed the bill-shine. Another thing that bothered me about the original file were the catch-lights in the eyes of the birds that was caused by the sun’s low angle reflecting across the water – again I worked on the image large to render more pleasing catch-lights. For me the final step, and the most interesting part, to perfecting this image was correcting the adult loon’s broken upper bill. The tip was broken presumably from hitting rocks on the bottom while chasing a fish. To correct this I simply selected the tip of the bottom bill and flipped it around to place on the top bill and then made the necessary adjustments to blend it in. After performing this extensive work on the image I believe that I have not changed the integrity of the image, but rather made it more pleasing and potentially more salable. However, I could never consider entering into a photography contest. To learn how to perform this type of clean-up and other various tips and techniques be sure to check out the link to Arthur Morris’ blog in the sidebar and while there check out the BAA Store for instructional tutorials / eBooks.

Why was the broken bill so interesting. Well, I remembered that I had photographed a Common Loon from the dock many years ago that had a broken upper bill. I searched through my Loon collection and found the image. I assume that this is the same bird as I have heard that Loons will return to the same lake year after year. This distinguishable feature proves it. I first photographed the Loon with the broken bill in May 2006 and again in July 2011.

Below you will see the original Common Loon with chick image and two large crops that clearly show the broken upper bill of the adult loon taken five years apart.

Common Loon with Chick – original capture

Common Loon – broken bill July 2011

Common Loon – broken bill May 2006

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Common Loon on man-made nesting raft

During last weekend’s outing with Common Loons I had hoped to photograph the pair that already have two chicks, but they weren’t to be found. They did show up, right off the cottage dock, the day after I had to head back home. There are a few man-made nesting rafts on the lake and I was surprised to see one loon still incubating eggs on one of these rafts. I decided to canoe over to the bay where this raft was early in the morning for a few images. I only planned to spend a brief amount of time at the raft and use a long lens so that my presence would not disturb the nesting loon. Above is the shot that illustrates the man-made raft and a couple of additional, more natural looking images below of the adult on the nest. I am already looking forward to my next trip up to the cottage as there will be two pairs of Loons with chicks on the lake.

Common Loon on nest

Common Loon

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I thought I would share an update on the Common Loons with two babies that I wrote about a few weeks earlier. I am very pleased to report that both chicks have survived. There are lots of snapping turtles in Horseshoe Lake, which is located near Parry Sound, Ontario, and I feared that one of the chicks would fall prey to them. They have not and are doing well. They are diving now to feed themselves, but like most babies still want mom and dad to feed them too. It is very difficult to try and get both parents and juveniles in the same photograph as they tend to spread out quite a bit when feeding. Below are two additional photos of one juvenile and one of the juveniles with one of the parents. Hope you like the photographs.

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