A New Tool

Shelly, a high school junior, poses outdoor.

A couple of weeks ago I received the shipment of a new lens that I bought in order to round out my selection of lenses. I now have glass that ranges from a 16mm super wide angle to a 500mm super telephoto.

The lens, a Sigma 150mm to 500mm zoom is not one that a lot of pros would jump for, simply because it does not carry the name of their favorite camera maker. However, I did some research on-line and I found some very good reviews, and a large number of photographs that I found impressive. So I was willing to give the lens a try.

My first test was to use it on a senior session that was scheduled on location in a park in Marathon County. I wanted to be able to isolate the subject and to use the super focal length to compress scenes.

Next, I wanted to test the lens on some smaller subjects, namely birds and a small mammal or two. Since it was the Memorial Day weekend, a holiday on which we traditionally camp, I took the lens to the woods to see how it would do. Well, the results were very pleasing!

The first critter that came into focus was, of course, a chipmunk.

Nibbling chipmunk
A chipmunk knoshing
These little guys are always running around in the underbrush and they don’t care how much noise they make, which is probably why they are pretty close to the bottom of the food chain. This little specimen was shot at f/7.1 at 350mm and the results are very sharp. I was able to focus on the eye.

I have always wanted to photograph birds but never had the tools for the job. I spotted this colorful little bird, that turns out to be an American Redstart, a five inch long warbler, was flitting about in the trees nearby. He was about 30 feet away when I captured him singing to his mate.

The feathers are sharp, the contrast is good and the color is accurate. I think that the lens did a fine job. Another plus for this lens is the optical stabilization. I was hand holding the camera when I shot this image at 1/1500 second at f/8 and 500mm. Even at that shutter speed the magnification of the lens can display camera shake in hand held images. Other shots that were taken at slower shutter speeds, like 1/250, are also sharp.

Singing redstart
An American Redstart sings to his mate.

Then there was the hummingbird. A lucky shot. I set up the camera on a tripod and was going to wait for him to come by the flowering shrub where I had seen him before. I focused on the branch and there he was!

Hovering hummingbird
A Ruby Throated Hummingbird sips nectar from a flower.

Hummers are the smallest bird in Wisconsin and some of the fastest. They are usually only 3 to 3.5 inches long. This little guy was photographed at about 16 feet.

A new lens is always a big investment but they give us new ways of looking at the world and they are a way of boosting our creativity. It is always a blast to get a new tool!

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