If you get what my T-Shirt references, we're instant friends for life. You've been warned. 😊
We had a wedding to attend near the quaint town of Poulsbo, WA. I'm not quite sure why but I convinced myself this would be a great opportunity to try out this lens I was looking at purchasing. The goal of the rental was to make sure beyond a shadow-of-a-doubt that I wanted this lens over the Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 to own and take on Safari to Africa this November. The choice was made. I now own this lens.
The first section with what appear to be farm animal shots were pretty much just that. We scored a stay at an awesome Air B-n-B that had plenty of animals on hand to test with. My lovely lady @trailerparkgirltravelstheworld and I love animals in general so when we have a chance to see some up close, yeah, we're gonna say hello.
Then we hit the town. By that I mean we drove ten minutes, parked, and meandered through Poulsbo's Scandi-style sleepy store-front-strewn main street where my love and I parted ways for a few hours. She headed to support the local economy and I towards the waterfront in search of visual intrigue.
The longest lens I owned previously was the Nikkon 300mm f/4 AF-D. I loved that lens but it was already close to 10 years old when I bought it and used it fairly heavily for about five more. It was my go-to long lens. Sure the AF was really slow and it missed a bunch but when it was on it was tack. You could tell the optics were aged though. I traded it in for what would become the first member in the Tamron Trifecta (if no one has coined that yet...DIBBS!) the first gen Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 VC lens. The first thing you really notice is how drastically different your compositions can be with 600mm of reach, let alone that entire zoom range of 150-600. It's rad.
Ok, so you can get closer to things...now what? What about image quality, what about shooting in crappy low-light overcast ambience?!? This was the perfect day to find out what my options are shooting the lens on my beloved and recently refurbished Nikon D4. The majority of the time I was at about 400-600mm 600-1600th/sec, either f/6.3 or f/8, at ISO1600.
This lens makes you find the light. It's kind of cool actually, and you will be rewarded when you do. If the light is total crap, and you're not shooting to over-expose for whatever reason, the images can end up looking really bland and washed out, even after my usual LR import edit settings that typically punch things up a bit. This only seems to be when you are facing a certain direction compared to where the light is coming from. Maybe that's just a super-telephoto thing. However, when there's great light at the same or similar settings this lens really, really shines.
The same goes for AF accuracy and IQ/Sharpness. When it's on it's [expletive of choice] sharp! It rivals anything in my kit and I have a few sharpies (Tamron 15-30 f/2.8, Nikon 85 f/1.8, Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 VC). If the light is dull it's going to miss especially in low-contrast scenarios. I feel that's part of learning the feel of a new lens anyway though some let's chalk some of those misses up to user error as well. This also could be my slightly dated AF on my camera. The newer bodies may focus this same lens a bit better in general but I cannot speak to that personally. It may be the first lens I try my hand at some AF-Fine Tune and see if the hit rate in crappy light increases at all. If it's got plenty of light prepare to edit a bunch of keepers and have to knit-pick which ones to keep/share. Not a bad problem to have for this much lens and $1400.
So waterfront wandering with my 5+ pounds of kit and a monopod to help with the weight: Buildings, Flags, Boats, shoreline, and Birds. I was not getting my hopes up because on any given area where you are supposed to be able to see a handful of different animals take flight you may only see a few, or one, if any. This day I lucked out and got more than Gulls for my real-life walkabout tests. I ventured down the raised board walk carefully scanning for Osprey, Eagles, and then the stealthy shoreline assassin morphed into focus from it's one-legged perch in the shallows - a Great Blue Heron - one of my guilty-pleasure faves of all time.
I stalked it for a while as if no one else was watching, testing different exposure settings from different angles to see what worked and how close it would let me get. If I had to guess I was about 100-150 feet away on average, any closer and the bird would spook a bit. I purposely left in a few images on some of the series where you can see how badly it misses, I seem to miss long more than anything. Because of the distance though it really messes with your eyes you really have to look at where the DOF limts are.
On the way back to the car I ended up discovering more Blue Heron there than I've seen anywhere else...ever. They almost outnumbered the Gulls which seemed really unusual. It made me think of the few other Pacific Northwest USA areas where I've heard have so many Bald Eagles, they're over populated and a complete nuisance. It's an odd thought there they are not the rare adrenaline-inducing bird-nerd moments when you happen to see one at a distance or randomly have one swoop close overhead.
The lady and I next headed north to Kitsap Memorial State park where we tied the knot in 2009. She's pretty used to being in front of the camera and has a gracious limit that I've been known to push from time-to-time. It's really helpful that she's not shy and quite naturally photogenic. I'm a lucky guy and I know it.