New lens, new perspective on birding photography

As my birding activity ramped up over the past two years, I became increasingly aware of the shortcomings of my camera equipment. I’d been using a refurbished Canon 75-300 mm lens, and it has served me well shooting out the windows at our backyard feeders and shooting in the field at birds at close range.

But as I watched other birders with cubit-length zooms lined up to capture images from long distances, I was increasingly consumed by lens envy.

A work colleague had purchased a Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary zoom a couple of years back, and I set my sights on getting one of my own. We’re fortunate to still have a camera shop in my neighborhood, and several months ago I stopped by to see if a Canon mount for the big Sigma was in stock. It was, and I said I’d be saving up and would return.

A few weekends ago, I was with a cluster of birders at the Pole Farm and we were checking out a merlin on a treetop. The best I could muster was a wide, distant shot that wouldn’t be worth printing. I decided then that it was time to head back to the camera shop, credit card in hand.

The shop had one of the Sigmas, and as it was in the same spot as when I’d been in earlier. I suspect it was the same lens. The dealer quoted me a price that matched that offered by the big New York photo houses, and I said “I’ll take it.”

The lens is great. I’m not going to turn this post into a review, so I will only note that the Sigma has stabilization features that help me get sharp images while holding the camera and lens in my hands. After a few weeks, I’m still learning how best to use it.

The best image I’ve taken so far is that of the white-throated sparrow that I’ve included with this post. For that one, I had the lens mounted atop my monopod. The bird parked on the branch long enough for me to get off a handful of frames, and I’m thrilled with the result.

White-throated sparrow at the Mercer Meadows Pole Farm, Oct. 22, 2021.

Depending on conditions, I may or may not take the monopod (it has three collapsible tripod-like feet) into the field. As chance would have it, shooting hand-held I was able to get some nice images of a merlin perched even higher atop a tree than the one I shot previously with my shorter zoom.

I’ve been taking my upgraded kit into the field frequently, and that’s a good part of the reason why I have not posted in several weeks. More to come!

A merlin perches atop a tree at the Pole Farm, Oct. 22, 2021.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

One thought on “New lens, new perspective on birding photography

  1. Dan, as you can see, I am catching up on my blog reading. Merlin … WOW!! That’s a beauty! I see you are having great fun with your cool, new gear. The white-throated sparrow is dear. I love it for the white-beardlike throat and yellow eye patches, but especially for its song, which delights me in winter here. Keep the photos coming!


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