I took the opportunity to give my latest acquisition another test; this time down at Marsworth Reservoir. The lens is the new long telephoto from Tamron, with a really useful zoom range of 150mm to 600mm, and it has taken some getting used to – the weak link was myself and my preconceptions – it has always been a belief that I should consider the size of maximum aperture to be useful only for giving me a bright image to focus, and to always stop down to achieve the best from the lens. Well, I was wrong!
I was wrong because I was also limiting myself to trying to use the lowest ISO setting to give me a clean end result. By so doing I was forcing myself to use too slow a shutterspeed, and simply not taking into account that at the far end of the zoom range, both my own movements and those of my subject were meaning that I needed a significantly faster shutterspeed to keep the image sharp. Also, I was ignoring the advances that have been made in the reduction of noise at slightly higher ISOs.
I did however know that travelling to my chosen location was a good distance and carrying a heavy tripod was burdensome, especially once I had the shots and was now cold and stiff, so I tried a different tack – I took my monopod instead, and added the comparatively light extra; a bungee. Once I reached my destination I extended the monopod, braced it against a branch and tied the bungee around both tightly. The end result was more stable than my tripod, with only a few inches from where the bungee was strapped, to the ballhead atop the monopod. If I really wanted to be clever I could likely replace the ballhead with my gimbal head, but that would mean extra weight to carry!
This morning the light was fairly good, so I was able to get a series of shots mostly taken at the full 600mm and wide open at the aperture of f/6.3, which allowed me at one stage to fire shots off at a momentarily hovering dragonfly.
Whilst waiting for a possible static kingfisher, I had no less than three flybys, two of which were of a pair of kingfishers, one of which landed on a branch to my left unfortunately almost completely obscured by intervening leaves. It remained there for the longest time I have ever seen a kingfisher at rest: a full five minutes, before it rejoined its mate when s/he next made a flyby!
It was a really satisfying time spent with the new zoom, and my purchase fully justified my buying decision and lived up to all the reports I had read about the quality of results expected. I am really pleased I travelled to Rutland to Birdwatch 2014 which made it possible to buy the lens at a good price.