The sun popped through about 8 AM so I decided to go out and break in my new 600mm lens. I didn’t have to venture very far for as I headed out of the park, there were brown pelicans diving for fish in one of the ponds on the park road. Being slightly disappointed with the sharpness of the couple of handheld shots I tried with the lens last night, I set up the tripod and commenced shooting pelicans.
As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version, and some of these are really worth doing so IIDSSM.
I am pretty pleased with how fast this lens focuses and I seem to be able to maintain focus on the moving birds a little better than with my standby 200-400mm lens. But what really impresses me is how much more light this lens takes in than the 200-400 does. Some of these pelican diving shots are shot at speeds as fast as 1/6000 sec. @ F6.7 with ISO only at 400 or even 240! Couldn’t even dream of speeds like that with the other lens. Images are much sharper than the few I took last night, mostly because of better technique (the tripod ) and also a little more light. Between the power of this 600mm lens and the 36 megapixels of the D800, technique does become very important now, won’t be hand holding this lens very often. Weighing in at 16 pounds, handholding this lens is somewhat problematic anyhow, not to mention very tiring.
I even tried using the lens for a distant landscape series of shots and really like how it performed there also. The above image is comprised of 5 separate images combined in Photoshop and at 240 pixels/inch could be printed about 8 feet long. Now I understand why everyone raves about this lens.
Well, here I am finally in Grand Isle State Park, and it is cold and dreary! I unpacked my new 600mm lens last night and glanced through the manual, I never read them until later when I realize I can’t figure something out. It is a bit of a monster, not a lens I will be hand holding a lot for sure. I am pretty impressed with how quickly it grabs focus and how much light it grabs, making it possible for some real fast shutter speeds, essential for the BIF ( birds in flight ) shots I like to take.
The overcast skies broke for about 20 minutes right around noon so I drove up to one of the ponds here in the campground and took some shots out the car window with a pillow in the window acting as my tripod. I was actually a little disappointed in the sharpness of these images and don’t know if it is my technique, as in not using a tripod, or if something is a little bit off with the lens, most likely me, not the lens.
I then drove north all the way back up to Point Fourchon to scout out birds but the skies quickly closed back in and, though I found lots of small waders in the ponds around the support buildings, it was way too dark and dreary to really test out the lens. Hopefully, it is just the cold gloomy weather, but I am a little concerned about how few ospreys, spoonbills and other waders I saw on this trip out. It is supposed to clear for the weekend, so we shall see.
Left Iowa headed east on I-10 at 5 AM in order to try and make it to Grand Isle State Park by 10 AM since I was notified by UPS that I have a package being delivered there today, about 3 days earlier than I expected. Temps are right around freezing and rain is forecast for later this morning so the early start will kill two birds with one stone.
Got off I-10 at Exit 103A and joined 167/90 heading south through Lafayette. Just a terrible , badly beaten concrete road that must have had a hundred traffic lights, though most were well timed. Lafayette sprawled on for what seemed like forever and I was hoping the road wouldn’t destroy the RV. After 15 miles of congestion and potholes, the road improved slightly and the traffic lightened as I made my way through Morgan City on Route 90.
At Raceland I joined up with Route 1 south that parallels a barge canal as you slowly drive through one small town after another until you finally make it out to the bayou at Golden Meadow
and then on to the “ Skyway ”, the elevated roadway that carries you across the marshlands and barge canals to Point Fourchon and on to the Island of Grand Isle.
Point Fourchon is the home to all the support facilities for the oil rigs out in this part of the Gulf of Mexico. It seems to grow larger each year I visit and the scale of operations here is something to behold. When I grouse about filling up the gas tank at three plus dollars a gallon, I never really consider what is entailed in getting that oil out of the ground ( plus turning it into fuel ) and seeing a facility like Point Fourchon really opens your eyes. When you see all the ships, huge airport hangar like buildings, cranes, helicopters to ferry workers out to the rigs, thousands of employee trucks stored in the parking lots, plus all the trucks hauling supplies, well, you almost start to wonder how that gas can ONLY cost three plus dollars a gallon. As a motorhome owner of a gas guzzler, I can’t believe I just said that, but you need to see something like this place to start to understand the economics of the oil industry. Being from the northeast, where we are not exposed to this industry, the first time you see something like this, it truly is quite impressive.
After several miles of elevated roadway, you come back down to earth at Point Fourchon where Route 1 makes a left hand turn down to Grand Isle on a two lane road that is surrounded by water on both sides for the remaining 18 miles to the end of the road. The top 10 miles or so of this 18 mile stretch is where, in the past, I have had quite a bit of luck with photographing all kinds of wading birds and ospreys, from just off the shoulder of the road. Imagine my dismay when I found this entire section of highway under construction with absolutely no way to get off onto the shoulder to park, a two foot high berm of crushed rock piled up just four feet from the fog line on both sides of the road for the entire 10 mile stretch. This “berm” is surely going to be graded out to extend the shoulder and make things a little safer sometime in the near future, but not likely to happen during my stay here this year. While there are other spots in the area to shoot birds, this stretch of road was, or is, the prime place to do so, surrounded as it is by canals and shallow waters on both sides of the highway.
I arrived at the state park right at 10 AM, signed in and was told UPS usually delivers around 4 PM. After setting up and doing a little housekeeping and cooking, I checked at the sign in station and picked up my package from UPS, a new Nikon 600mm camera lens from Adorama camera. This is a lens I have longed for for many years but have never before been able to convince myself it made sense to own one. I guess I finally talked myself into it. Hopefully the weather will break tomorrow and I get a chance to try it out.
This morning started to show some signs of the overcast skies breaking a little and the forecast called for it to warm up a little, so, seeing that my feeder setup was attracting some attention, I guess today would be a good day to start getting serious about getting some decent bird shots. For the first time on this trip, today I will set up the photo blind!
The blind allows me to get closer to these small birds than I otherwise could and also gets me closer to the ground resulting a in a better perspective than when shooting from a standing position, kind of getting down to their level.
As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.