150-600: getting in there safely

It’s been a bit of an eye opener to try the  Tamron 150-600. For years now, I’ve made do with lenses of 200mm or shorter, and added a teleconverter when I had to.
This has always had an effect on subject choice though. I’ve never really given any serious effort to bird photography, since any attempts to do so would require ninja-level stealthiness that I just haven’t got (a few weeks ago I fell ten feet down a nettled embankment trying to get close to a damselfly).
And there are some things that you just can’t approach safely with a shorter lens. Today’s gallery is one such example.
One of my local wildlife reserves is home to a family of horses. Normally, they stay well away from people, but on this particular trip, they were all grouped together on the path, and seemed stressed. One of the stallions was galloping up and down, and was asserting a boundary.

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Looking closer, one of the foals appeared to have collapsed from the heat. Using the Tamron’s incredible reach, I was able to follow the action from a safe distance.

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Happily, the little one regrouped after a little nudge from its mother, and all moved on after a few minutes. It was delightful to watch the foal come round, and how the others reacted to it.

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The penultimate frame of the set really shows the advantage of the Tamron lens, and was taken from the same vantage point the others. The thing about this lens is that you don’t have to rack it out to get close. It breaks the all-important 400mm barrier, which seems to be the point at which serious efforts become possible. At 450mm, the results are very considerably sharper than at 600mm, and still magnify well enough to identify things when you can’t get close enough to see for yourself. Being honest, the quality of results at the more modest focal lengths would still be enough to justify the price of this lens.

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Yes, it’s a slower aperture than I’m used to, and it feels it. But when limiting the focus switch to the longer reaches (15m – infinity), the focus speed seems surprisingly snappy (I can’t quantify this, but when I tried the Canon fit earlier in the year, it seemed a little more responsive than the Nikon model I’m using now). But if you aren’t shooting crepuscular subjects or spending hours in a cramped hide on wet days, I’m not sure you’ll see the need to blow an extra two grand on the next alternative.

As an entry level, or “compact” telephoto for good light, the 150-600mm is an absolute godsend.

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24-70: Woodland exploration

One of the things which really appeals to me about woodland is how quickly the mood within them can change with the weather. My favourite of the local woodlands is Woolley Wood, which I visit frequently during two key periods in the year (the other being mushroom season).
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Woolley Wood has the designation of being a Local Nature Reserve, and lies astonishingly close to Meadowhall shopping centre. In spite of this, its existence comes as a bit of a surprise to many of the people living in the area (but not all)
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We’re currently nearing the end of the peak season for bluebells, and over the last three weeks I’ve collected a number of images. I love the contrast of colour at this time of year, and even the greenery seems to come in a huge range of tones.
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There is a real charm to English bluebells. Their drooping appearance seems to echo their status as the underdog of the bluebell family, in stark contrast to the bold and brassy posture of their Spanish counterparts. For roughly a month every year, they can transform even the smallest of woods into a dream-like landscape with the most magical appearance.
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The following shot taught me a little about how the Tamron 24-70 works. To get this effect, pioneered by Michael Orton in the eighties, I took two frames with the lens focused at different distances. One was in focus, and the other was intentionally over exposed and focused at the shortest possible distance. The blending was done in camera to produce a single RAW image. However, to get the two images to register perfectly, I also had to use two slightly different focal lengths.
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This is because when you use close focus distances, the angle of view gets wider. This is a typical trick of zoom lenses. As such, the  focused frame was shot at 55mm, and the out of focus frame was shot at 62mm. I used live view to make sure I had lined the images up correctly. This gave a very subtle glow which enhanced the colour of the bluebells.

Since the 24-70 is not a one-trick pony, it was possible to take photos with very different characteristics to them without changing lenses. This week I had a chat with a fellow Tamron user, and reassured her by pointing out that she already has quite a capable close-up lens, even though she has yet to buy a macro lens.
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Even six months on, I’m still surprised by the difference in how it feels to use a full frame camera rather than a cropped sensor. The closer working distances really give a more intimate feel to photographs, and the narrower depth field that results from working closer can used to isolate subjects very clearly, even with wide angles (and with a full frame field of view, 35mm feels pretty wide)
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The last couple of shots were taken at a different local wood, with straighter stands of trees. I wasn’t impressed with the current management practices in there, but at least I managed a couple of shots.
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70-200: I’m a shallow kind of guy…

The thing I’ve always loved about long, fast lenses is the way that everything that isn’t focused just seems to blend into an Impressionistic infusion of color. This week, the area around my home has been bursting into colour. To really make the most of this with the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD, I’ve been working on some panoramic stitches this week.

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Using a long lens in this way leaves the viewer in little doubt as to the main subject choice. As mad as it seems, there can be such a thing as having too much detail in a shot, and it can be distracting to look at. A narrow focus keeps things simple, and makes things a little different. With even the most basic camera phones being capable of 360° panoramas with front-to-back sharpness, picking a lens that goes against the grain keeps you photos looking fresh and unusual.

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This is a technique I’ve been using for quite some time, but it’s only recently that I’ve heard someone put a name to it. It’s recently come to the forefront of photography again as “the Brenizer method”, after a wedding photographer who began applying it to portraits, with some really impressive results. In essence, it’s multi-row panoramic stitching. Some images use upwards of fifty frames.  Mine aren’t anything like that size, as my computer would go into meltdown, but using a longer lens compensates to a degree by accentuating the narrow depth of field.

gypsy marsh_DSC0167Of course, it’s not just these that I’ve been photographing this week. I’ve used my teleconverter again to get this shot of a Four-spot Chaser dragonfly. My experience of Tamron’s lenses is that they all excel when it comes to close-range work, and I think that this shot demonstrates that.

I’ll finish up by sharing some more owl shots, and a few of my  cats for the animal lovers out there.

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