A wild barn owl, not referred to as or baited, in central California. Canon EOS-1D X, Canon EF 600mm ƒ/4L IS II USM, ƒ/8, 1/1600 sec., ISO 2500, Canon Extender EF 2X III teleconverter, Actually Proper Stuff TVC-33 tripod, Wimberley WH-200 II head.

I nonetheless keep in mind the primary time I attempted a 500mm ƒ/Four super-telephoto lens a number of years again, and it wasn’t fairly. Having rented the lens for the weekend, I used to be overwhelmed by its measurement, and I used to be a bit self-conscious to convey it out to a neighborhood park in Los Angeles close to the place I lived. As I used to be carrying the lens and strolling from the car parking zone to the river the place there was an egret rookery, I felt as if all people there was me. It took me half an hour to determine how you can match the heavy lens onto the tripod, and by then I used to be soaked in sweat. I noticed a fantastic egret preening within the rookery about 50 toes away, so I pointed the digital camera towards it. I couldn’t find the egret in any respect by transferring the lens. All I noticed was patches of inexperienced. Then the egret took flight, and, after all, I used to be removed from having the ability to concentrate on the fowl.

Inside a number of years, nevertheless, I used to be capable of create heaps and many photos that I like utilizing 500mm ƒ/Four and 600mm ƒ/Four lenses. I used to be lucky to turn into the grand prize recipient of the Nature’s Finest Images photograph contest, with pictures displayed on the Smithsonian’s Nationwide Museum of Pure Historical past in Washington, D.C., and most just lately held my first invited solo exhibit.

Telephoto technique: A part of the background turned a salmon color at the last rays of sunset in the Alaskan Arctic.
Part of the background turned a “salmon” shade on the final rays of sundown within the Alaskan Arctic. A 600mm telephoto lens and a 1.4x teleconverter made use of that background. The polar bear cub immediately wakened, sat in opposition to its mother and made this expression, whereas its mother and sibling have been in deep sleep. Canon EOS-1D X, Canon EF 600mm ƒ/4L IS II USM, ƒ/5.6, 1/800 sec., ISO 1600, Canon Extender EF 1.4X III teleconverter, handheld from a small boat.

So what occurred in these few years? How did I alter from somebody who couldn’t goal from the viewfinder to profitable awards utilizing a super-telephoto lens? The primary telephoto method to be taught is in regards to the lenses themselves.

Value
I’ve to confess that it took me years to chew the bullet and spend money on a 500mm ƒ/Four lens due to its worth. As an alternative, I rented it from lensrentals.com and borrowlenses.com a number of instances to verify the focal size of the lens was proper for what I wanted. (Each firms are dependable.) The rental price is sort of costly, however a minimum of it’s not as costly as shopping for the lens. I like to recommend that you just strive before you purchase—however beware—the price of a number of leases does add up. One advantage of investing in a super-telephoto lens is that it retains worth nicely. I bought my first 500mm ƒ/Four lens for $5,800 and offered it three years later for $5,500.

Weight
The second factor that turns most individuals off is the load of those lenses. Certainly, it’s true that not many individuals can handhold a super-telephoto lens for an prolonged time period. A sturdy tripod and head are important. I like to make use of the Gitzo 3542XLS or Actually Proper Stuff TVC-33 carbon-fiber tripod with the Wimberley WH-200 Head Model II for assist. The fluid movement of the Wimberley head permits motion of the lens with out the necessity to carry it. This setup is sweet for slow-moving wildlife or birds on a perch. When one wants to maneuver round lots, a monopod equivalent to an Induro monopod paired with the Actually Proper Stuff MH-01 Professional monopod head (designed for heavy telephotos) is an efficient combo.

Telephoto Wildlife Tip
I don’t put on camouflage clothes. I simply method wildlife slowly and observe their conduct carefully. If I sense they’re not snug, I again down.
Telephoto technique: The endangered San Joaquin kit fox.
The endangered San Joaquin equipment fox, which as soon as thrived within the San Joaquin Valley of central California, has needed to adapt to dwell secretly amid growth and barely comes out in daytime. With plenty of city buildings within the background, I crouched and stood, moved left and proper, to seek out solely this remaining a part of the background that didn’t embody man-made distractions, when the backlit equipment fox mother and pup had this interplay. Canon EOS-1D X, Canon EF 600mm ƒ/4L IS II USM, ƒ/5, 1/1600 sec., ISO 1600, Canon Extender EF 1.4X III teleconverter, Induro monopod, Actually Proper Stuff MH-01 Professional monopod head.

When the wildlife motion requires a much bigger vary of lens motion, handholding the lens is important. The important thing to handholding a heavy telephoto lens is to look at and anticipate the flight path of a fowl or the transferring path of an animal, and elevate up the lens solely when the second is correct. In case you can decrease the time between holding up the lens and when autofocus is acquired, you gained’t must handhold it for an prolonged time period. You possibly can relaxation your lens in your shoulder and even put it on the bottom to avoid wasting your power. As soon as motion occurs, all it is advisable do is swing the digital camera with the lens as much as your eye, focus and click on the shutter. As soon as the motion finishes, you may put the digital camera down. On a associated word, I at all times use a Don Zeck lens cap to guard the entrance aspect of the lens when not in use. I additionally substitute the usual lens foot with an aluminum foot to scale back weight.

Measurement
With the massive measurement of a telephoto lens, it’s simpler to get scratched once you carry it out within the discipline. (I at all times cowl it with a LensCoat to guard it.) I “upgraded” from a 500mm ƒ/Four lens that I used for 4 years to a 600mm ƒ/4, pondering that the additional 100mm would give me an edge. It turned out that I couldn’t even match the lens with a 1.4x teleconverter mounted to my digital camera on the passenger seat of my automobile.

One time whereas I used to be driving on a backroad, I noticed a bobcat. After I tried to level my newly acquired 600mm lens towards the bobcat, I might barely stick the entrance aspect of the lens out the window resulting from its a lot greater diameter. Maneuvering the lens to comply with the bobcat was additionally tougher. I ended up lacking extra pictures with the 600mm than I did with the 500mm lens, so that is one thing to contemplate.

Telephoto technique: A brown bear pouncing for salmon in Katmai, Alaska.
A brown bear pouncing for salmon in Katmai, Alaska. By no means try to get near animals which might be apex predators, equivalent to this brown bear; use a super-telephoto lens to {photograph} them from a secure distance. Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, Canon EF 500mm ƒ/4L IS USM, ƒ/5, 1/1600 sec., ISO 800, Actually Proper Stuff TVC-33 tripod, Wimberley WH-200 II head.

The large measurement of those super-telephoto lenses additionally creates a problem for business air journey. I at all times put the lens in my Gura Gear Bataflae 32L digital camera backpack. For some cause, airline personnel are inclined to ask you to gate-check your bag if it has wheels, so I keep away from curler baggage for carry-on. I generally pack a Kinesis Lengthy Lens Case (L522 or L622) in my check-in baggage. These match my digital camera, teleconverter and 600mm ƒ/Four all connected, with simply the lens hood inverted, so I can shortly take it out with out assembling the items.

Slender Subject of View
Discovering a topic by means of a super-telephoto lens is like wanting by means of a straw. One wants quite a lot of apply to shortly discover and lock the topic within the viewfinder. For a quick-moving topic, it’s far more troublesome. I recommend going to a neighborhood park the place there are waterfowl to apply monitoring them with the lens.

Teleconverters
I nearly at all times have my 1.4x teleconverter on my 600mm ƒ/Four lens, as I don’t see any degradation of picture high quality. For a 2x teleconverter, conventional perception is that it degrades picture high quality considerably, however in recent times, I’ve seen in a number of on-line boards the place skilled photographers and fans posted their critiques of the efficiency of 2x teleconverters. The outcomes blew me away, particularly for Canon teleconverters.

Telephoto technique: American bison grazing toward a brown-headed cowbird
Topics of various sizes can create rigidity and unexpectedness, as when this American bison was grazing nearer and nearer towards a brown-headed cowbird at Yellowstone Nationwide Park, Wyoming. Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, Canon EF 500mm ƒ/4L IS USM, ƒ/6.3, 1/1250 sec., ISO 800, handheld.

Basically, to the bare eye, the picture high quality was wonderful when a 2x teleconverter was connected to a first-rate super-tele. The key is to “cease down” the aperture. For instance, with a 500mm ƒ/Four lens, when connected to a 2x, it turns into 1000mm ƒ/8. If one shoots broad open at ƒ/8, the standard degrades a bit, however when you set the aperture at ƒ/11 or smaller, the picture high quality is spectacular. This opens up an entire new world, as most wild animals are elusive and like to remain far-off from us. So as to seize interplay, a super-close-up perspective at all times helps tremendously.

Shutter Pace and Picture Stabilization
We’ve been taught that, with a view to get a pointy photograph, the rule of thumb is to have a shutter velocity of 1/focal size of the lens. So, for a 600mm lens, one ought to have a shutter velocity of a minimum of 1/600. Nevertheless, so long as the topic isn’t transferring shortly, one can get hold of a pointy image with a decrease shutter velocity.

The standard method is to place the digital camera on a tripod and use a shutter launch, however as I discussed, a tripod slows you down, and sometimes it’s not appropriate relying on the terrain, equivalent to on a ship or in tall grass and twigs. We are able to, as an alternative, use two benefits that know-how supplies: excessive body charges and picture stabilization. These days, many lenses supply 4 stops of stabilization. I’ve produced sharp photos with a shutter velocity of 1/30 handheld.

Artistic Telephoto Approach: Isolation & Interplay

Isolation. The slender discipline of view of super-telephoto lenses permits us to isolate wildlife and creates delicate, surreal backgrounds. Typically, much less is extra in wildlife pictures. The flexibility to take away distraction is a energy of telephoto lenses. When utilizing a super-telephoto, we at all times ought to have our eyes open to the best way these lenses “see,” which means we should always stay conscious of the small portion of background behind the wildlife and perceive how the background that’s captured will get compressed, magnified and blurred due to the telephoto impact to create one thing surreal. At all times transfer round to search for that background. Only a step to your left or proper, or crouching down, will create a very completely different—and higher—background.

Interplay. The way in which super-telephoto lenses isolate the topic from the background permits us to indicate split-second actions and the intimate interactions with up-close particulars that aren’t straightforward to see with the bare eye. These split-second actions require quickness to concentrate on the wild animal. In my expertise, most of the attention-grabbing moments occur inside a number of seconds from after we see the animals or after we least anticipate it. The flexibility to not miss the second requires us to reduce the time from after we purchase focus to the second the motion occurs. Handholding the lens, or utilizing a monopod as an alternative of tripod, generally helps.

Know-how has helped advance super-telephoto pictures considerably. The load of many lengthy lenses is extra manageable and picture stabilization has drastically improved to permit a a lot slower shutter velocity to create sharp photos handheld. Additionally, the excessive ISO efficiency of many cameras opens up an entire new world for wildlife pictures, as most wildlife and birds are lively in early morning and late night when mild is inadequate for decrease ISOs. By pushing the restrict of the telephoto lens and your digital camera, you may create creative photos with views unseen by the bare eye!

bioTin Man Lee has had a deep love for wildlife since childhood. His dream is to seize emotion by means of wildlife pictures and to awaken empathy amongst us. See extra of his pictures at tinmanlee.com.

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