Tuesday, January 28, 2014
The Essential Zoom
Venerable. Indispensable. Classic. Timeless. For a nature photographer, there just isn’t one word that expresses the true value of a fast, constant-aperture 70-200mm lens.
The zoom range of the 70-200mm, and in many cases, the sheer lack of super-magnification, encourages you to explore some contextual compositions with wildlife. We were drawn to waterfowl set against the majesty of the High Sierra. Before the morning wind kicks up to spoil the reflecting pool, it's enjoyable to cruise the shoreline of Big Alkali Lake near Mammoth Lakes.
Between 70mm and 200mm, there's a lot of medium focal length that can serve up a lot of mediocre photos if you don't fill the frame with intent. Sometimes American avocets will punctuate your picture, here, with a film of ice on the water. At other times, it's common to find American white pelicans or trumpeter swans. We still had the 1.4X teleconverter attached, but had to zoom out to include more of the mountain, making the effective focal length only 302mm, so take that into consideration when judging the quality of the birds at a distance of 300 yards.
Approximation of human-eye view
At 30 minutes past sunset, mule deer come out to graze. Individually, either an ƒ/2.8 aperture or an ISO 1600 setting would be a potent solution for penetrating the last light of the day. But, in combination, the lens and camera sensor delivered the night vision of a nocturnal hunter. Near darkness to the human eye (6a) was opened up to dusk levels (6). Is this what a cougar would see? One caution: At this time of evening, your eye has difficulty judging focus, so it's helpful to rely on autofocus. Make sure the focus point is on the subject. We threw a lot of frames that missed the point and picked sage rather than antler.
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