I have a new hobby – taking pictures. I feel compelled to call it my hobby, since it’s costing me an arm and a leg. It’s fun and addictive and frustrating. I’ve never been into photography before this journey with my family which is a shame since I’ve visited some beautiful places – including New Zealand, Australia, South Africa (I like rugby). Sure, I’ve taken plenty of snapshots and still have great memories of those places, but without photographs it’s difficult to share those memories with, say, my children (hmmm that may be a good thing!).
I think what really prompted me to get into using a DSLR (a proper camera) was our family trip to Costa Rica in December 2014/January 2015. On that trip I actually did have a DSLR at my disposal (a Canon 10D) which was loaned to me by my friend Jason. Unfortunately, though, I only took a stock 50mm lens with me since I had no idea what lenses I may need to photograph the beautiful scenery and wildlife of Costa Rica.
So, just prior to our RAD road trip, I invested in a DSLR – a Canon 70D - a hobbyist’s or enthusiast’s piece of equipment. I also bought a wide angle lens (EF-S 10-18 mm f4.5-5.6), a zoom lens (EF 70-300 mm f/4-5.6) and a quality “walk-about” (EF 24-105 mm f/4L) lens. All the lenses are Canon and I managed to buy them at discounted prices. I’ve been quite pleased with some of the photos. I don’t think National Geographic will be knocking at my door any time soon, but I’ve managed to capture some moments and scenes to create a nice photographic journal of the trip so far. When I bought that camera and the lenses I’ve mentioned, I honestly thought that I would never need (maybe want) another piece of kit. Alas, I was wrong.
Now, I’m sure Joel Sartore (award winning National Geographic photographer) could do more with a Kodak Instamatic than I can with all my Canon hardware. I’m also aware that a bad workman blames his tools. However, one thing I can’t get around is a lack of zoom. Now, call me a twitcher – my wife does – but to get good photographs of wildlife, especially birds, I think I need better than 300 mm zoom at my disposal. A few instances have arisen recently when I wished I could zoom in closer to a subject. Sometimes it’s just not possible to walk closer to the subject. Most recently, in the house we’re staying in Nine Mile Falls, WA, there was a bald eagle perched in a tree about 120 yards away. The eagle was there, on the same branch, for 5 hours – but I still couldn’t get a decent picture. Unfortunately, the tree (and hence, the bald eagle) was across the deep, fast flowing Spokane River, so getting closer just wasn’t an option. On the positive side, I took a nice picture of a mallard in flight whilst I was waiting for the bald eagle to take off. Ever seen a mallard before?
Now, it’s time to justify myself and pass the blame. After the bald eagle disappointment, I looked into some options for improving the reach of my photographic equipment. Firstly, I researched teleconvertors which mount in between the camera body and a lens to effectively magnify the zoom by a factor of x1.4 to x2.0. Sounds good, but there’s a catch – they only work with expensive lenses – the ones the professionals use. Next I looked at the Canon telephoto and zoom offerings over 300 mm. Forget it, I’d have to sell my car (and Nina’s road bike). So, then I looked at non-Canon lenses (I can sense the purists, including my friends, shuddering right now). Even the non-Canon offerings for lenses which provide noticeably more zoom than 300 mm cost more than any other piece of equipment I already have – including the camera. Hence, I decided I had to do without a new lens. After many days of research and deliberation that’s exactly what I told Nina – “I’m not spending that much money on a lens”. So, when Nina said to me “Don’t be silly, we’re going to Alaska. It’s a once in a lifetime trip. You’ll regret it”, the blame immediately shifted to her.
The new lens, a Tamron 150-600 mm f/5-6.3, arrived yesterday. Tomorrow we’re headed to Reardon Audubon Lake Wildlife Area. Hope the family have as much fun as I do. Tweet.