Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Migration Begins

    Another spring is upon us, starting just a few short days ago. What can we say about spring? Spring is a time of change in nature, and one of the biggest of those changes comes in the form of bird migration.

Lesser Snow Geese, A Decent
Nikon D300, 300mm F4 AF-S w/Tc14e (AF-I), ISO400, 1/1600s, @F5.6

    The first sign of migration is the return of Lesser Snow Geese to the Greater Vancouver area, they were staying down in the Skagit Valley during the later stages of winter. I was able to do some close up shooting of the Geese on my way home from a trip of the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary on Saturday. Every time I get close to these birds I feel like I've been handed a million bucks, they are fun to shoot. Since there are so many of them, the flocks range in numbers from 5,000-20,000, so you get a lot of practice when shooting them.

    I also got to test out the Nikon AF-I TC14E, which is a 1.4x TC, I bought used last week. So far I am very impressed with the teleconverter, which is something I have been wanting to purchase for almost a year now. When I found a cheap used TC14E, I snapped it up without hesitation, because it is in good shape, and is optically identical to the current AF-S TC14E II. With the TC14E attached the 300mm F4 AF-S effectively becomes a 420mm F5.6 lens, and if you add the 1.5x crop of the D300, that gives a similar field of view of a 630mm lens! Which helps me to capture photos, like the one below.

Lesser Snow Goose, Not Much Parking Space Left
Nikon D300, 300mm F4 AF-S w/Tc14e (AF-I), ISO400, 1/2000, @F5.6

    So far I am very impressed with the performance of the 300mm F4 AF-S with the TC-14E attached. I must have received a very sharp copy of this TC, because I can see no noticeable difference so far between images capture with or without the TC. I did some controlled testing in doors from a tripod before I went out, and that appears to be the case. Auto focus is a little slower, so I do need to start tracking birds in flight much sooner than when using the lens without the TC. In lower light conditions I find that I have to bump up the ISO much sooner, often having to shoot at ISO500+ to get the shutter speeds that I wanted, due to the loss of one stop of light, which is normal with 1.4x TCs. I'll have more to say about the TC after using it more in the field, along with comments about the rest of my shoot from last Saturday later this week.