While I would like to keep this blog primarily a birding blog with a few lines in a post about my landscape photography adventures, this week has not allowed it to be possible and the following post will contain mostly landscape photographs, but don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of attempted birding.
First of all, the big news is that I recently dedicated myself to upgrading my lens from my Sigma 50-500mm APO DG to a Canon 400mm 5.6 L. I should note that it was my original desire to start off with a Canon 400mm prime lens but didn’t have the funds, so eventually settled on the cheaper used Sigma 50-500mm, the Sigma 50-500mm was a huge step up for me at the time and I definitely found the lens a very good all-round wild life lens. But the fact remains that the Sigma 50-500mm is slightly soft, especially when used wide open. I always used my Sigma 50-500mm hand-held and upped the aperture to F9, where I found I got the sharpest results, but it seems that the quality of this lens differs quite a bit between copies. What eventually made me decide on the Canon 400mm 5.6 L vs Sigma 50-500mm was the fact that I almost always found myself using the lens between the 350mm to 500mm focal range, it’s also not a secret that the Sigma 50-500mm’s maximum focal distance is closer to around 460mm as opposed to the advertised 500mm. I will do a full review on the two lenses in a post in future, but for now… I got my new lens and was looking to go out and test it!
Unfortunately winter has already begun to descend on Cape Town and the amount of days suitable for birding since last week can be counted on the first half of a single hand. I have attempted to make the most out of the good days but the bird life in these conditions and at this time of the year is far less than positive. I’ve made several trips to the reserve this week and there was nothing of interest, and it’s not only me who is out of birding luck, the South African Rare Bird Report has been equally as quiet over the past couple of weeks.
Yesterday 22 May 2012, I decided I needed to get out and take some decent photos as I was starting to get some withdrawal. I rushed home after work as the sunset is now at 5:45 and getting closer and closer to syncing with the time I get off work. On my way home, in the road I live in I spot some bird out the corner of my wind-shield and is now habit, slow down a bit to ID, it dips down a bit and passes just over my car in front of me. A large adult Gymnogene, not a rare species by any means but a beautiful raptor that I haven’t been able to photograph properly yet, so I rush home and collect my camera, knowing that I still want to head to the beach for some landscape shots. I get to where the raptor was circling but it’s now gone, still in a rush I return home to fetch my camera bag which houses my lenses and tripod and then rush off again.
On my way to the beach which is about 10km away, I see the sunset starting to take shape and the cirrus start reflecting yellow on a blue background. I finally arrive in a position that I can take shots and open my bag… “Fuck!” I’ve forgotten my Sigma 10-20mm landscape lens in another bag and it’s now too late to return to fetch it. I am now only armed with my Canon 400mm and my Canon 18-55mm kit lens. I decide I may as well try with the kit lens and position myself near a small river that enters into the ocean. The sky begins to really light up and I move around the bridge to find the best position for the shot, and what do you know… Armed with just my kit lens I managed to get a couple of passable shots. So the day wasn’t completely ruined.