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Old Apr 13, 2011, 10:56 PM   #1
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Default 835 and 867mm -- More Cooper's Hawks

Hi All,

I'm not very used to shooting birds at a distance, and I can' do much to get closer to the hawks, so I'm doing some experimenting with lens/TC combinations. I've got a MF Tokina 150-500 f5.6 SD AT-X that I got a while ago hoping that the K-7 might AF with it and the 1.7x AFA. The f9.5 max aperture was a little too much for SAFOX VIII.

The K-5 brings a new AF sensor to the game, so I gave it a try, and the Tokina focuses pretty well with the AFA, so I took this combo out to the hawk nest. I also dragged out the tripod, Manfrotto 468 MG ballhead, and Wimberley Sidekick since this lens is a handful.

To get an idea of how big this lens is:

http://forums.steves-digicams.com/pe...us-7-imgs.html

The result is a 255-835mm f9.5 constant aperture zoom. It's impressive that the AF system will focus with this combo, but this was in good light. I waited until later in the afternoon so the sunlight would be at a good angle for the nest.

The nest was empty, but this guy flew up and took up guard duty in a tree about 100 feet (@ 30m) away from the nest and about 50-60 feet (@ 15-18m) up.





These are 8x10 full height vertical crops from landscape frames. I used Topaz Denoise5 at a very light setting, then multiple light setting applications of Topaz InFocus, and downsized for the web.

I returned today to try a new lens combo -- Sigma EX 300 f2.8 APO AF + 2x P F 1.7x AFA stacked to get 867mm f8.1. Because the AFA has internal focusing elements, I needed to prefocus the AFA connected to the lens to infinity, then mount the second AFA and the camera.

The hawk was farther away so there's no way to compare the two combos directly from these, but I'd say this one is a bit softer and lower contrast, and the bokeh is busier. Focusing was about as fast and seemed positive, but it was not as accurate. I used the same processing and did some extra blurring of the background branches. These are smaller crops than the previous 2, so the images are technically not as good, but the poses are considerably better.





I've been told previously that it's unusual for hawks to fan their tails while perching, so I was happy to get #4. #3 looks like he's ready to take off, but he was just stretching and flexing his wings. Most birds I've observed jump off a branch with their wings totally folded, then only open them up after they're well clear of the tree. Makes a lot of sense, but it looks suicidal at first.

I'm assuming this is the male. Soon after this, he took off in the direction of the nest, but lower. He hovered near the the trunk and soon I heard a squeal and a squirrel raced from behind the trunk and down the tree to the ground. I don't think the hawk was trying to kill the squirrel, he just didn't want it to get any closer to the nest. He watched the squirrel run off, then flew of to a tree about 200 feet away from my location. Every day I've visited the nest, I've seen one of the hawks in one of 3 trees about 100 feet from the nest, so I'm assuming that this is a standard guarding post.

After about 5 minutes, he flew to the nest. I was totally unprepared, so didn't get any shots, and once I could see the nest in the VF, all I could see was the bird's back. After about 1/2 a minute, he popped up and flew off to the South East. I was trying to see if I could follow him, but then I noticed some movement in my peripheral vision, so I turned my head towards the nest and saw the mate take off from the nest -- she had apparently been hunkered down to the point where I couldn't see her from my vantage point. I guess I'll not assume that the nest is empty anymore. . .

I waited for another 1/2 hour, but they didn't return, so I packed up. On the way to the car, I passed the Nature Center and spotted 3 Jumping Spiders, so the next rainy day when I can't be shooting birds, I should have some shots of these guys.

All in all, a good day -- learned something new about shooting long distance, some lens/TC combos, and about Cooper's Hawk behavior. . . and discovered about when to start looking for Jumping Spiders. . .

Scott

Last edited by snostorm; Apr 13, 2011 at 11:00 PM.
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Old Apr 13, 2011, 11:13 PM   #2
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All I can say is WOW! The quality from all that glass is amazing. That first one is beautiful. But what a lens - and I thought the Bigma looked huge, I think your Tokina is bigger. But with results like that, it could be worth all the effort.
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Old Apr 14, 2011, 6:59 AM   #3
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Some great shots Scott - and superb when you consider the 835mmm / f9.5 !
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Old Apr 14, 2011, 7:36 AM   #4
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as usual scott--WOW
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Old Apr 14, 2011, 7:50 AM   #5
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I agree the first one is amazing, I didn't realize how lucky I was on the golf course in Florida to get shots of hawks while walking around using a 300mm. The birds down there seem to be used to people ignoring them.

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Old Apr 14, 2011, 8:50 AM   #6
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The pictures and narration are great!!!!! The images are wonderful, but with the background story included provides an excellent view of the trials and tribulations you go through in getting these in the first place.

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Old Apr 14, 2011, 1:00 PM   #7
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Great pics. The quality of the first combo is outstanding! I recently picked up a Tamron SP 200-500/5.6 adaptall but have had little good light to try it in let alone see if it will work well with a TC.

John
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Old Apr 14, 2011, 2:05 PM   #8
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Magnificent work as always, at least it motivated me to get my tripod back into action.

Cheers

Ronny
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Old Apr 14, 2011, 8:11 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtngal View Post
All I can say is WOW! The quality from all that glass is amazing. That first one is beautiful. But what a lens - and I thought the Bigma looked huge, I think your Tokina is bigger. But with results like that, it could be worth all the effort.
Thanks!

I'll probably be using the Tokina a lot more with the relatively mall area that I can shoot from with these hawks. The Zoom adds some flexibility for framing if one gets really close, and it gives me a little speed advantage as I can zoom out to find the bird and zoom in again to take the shot. One advantage of the push pull zoom is that balance doesn't change appreciably when mounted on a gimbal. The Bigma changes balance point significantly because it extends quite a bit to reach 500mm.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frogfish View Post
Some great shots Scott - and superb when you consider the 835mmm / f9.5 !
Thanks!

Out of the camera, the images are a bit soft, but I shoot jpegs with in-camera sharpening turned down to -4 to allow me to use higher ISO without worrying about noise much, so I need to sharpen in post to bring the detail back up. I don't consider this cheating too much since you can't produce details that weren't captured in the first place.

Ken Rockwell reviewed this lens (FWIW ), and commented that Tokina only made 1000 of these for all mounts. They were produced from 1987 to 2000. He rated the lens as one the ultra tele zooms with the lowest optical distortion tested, and overall said it was a very good performer. Other users have not rated it quite so well, but there was some speculation that Tokina lowered it's optical standards for this model sometime during it's production run. If this is true, then I probably have one of the early ones.

Quote:
Originally Posted by robar View Post
as usual scott--WOW
Hi Roy,

Thanks!

Very good to see you posting! I hope things are going well with you.


Quote:
Originally Posted by hnikesch View Post
I agree the first one is amazing, I didn't realize how lucky I was on the golf course in Florida to get shots of hawks while walking around using a 300mm. The birds down there seem to be used to people ignoring them.
Hi Hans,

I live in a very urban area, so opportunities to shoot hawks other than captives are few and far between. With the nest, I this will give me a pretty unique opportunity to observe and photograph them over a period of time instead of the hit and miss (mostly miss) chances I've had in the past.


Quote:
Originally Posted by interested_observer View Post
The pictures and narration are great!!!!! The images are wonderful, but with the background story included provides an excellent view of the trials and tribulations you go through in getting these in the first place.
Hi IO,

Thanks,

Sometimes I'm worried that I might bore most people with the narratives, but comments like this make it worthwhile. I've learned most of what I know about photography from this forum and others I participated in, and I like to think that I'm giving back a bit, as what I do is not the most common genre of photography, especially for Pentaxians. I'm also fascinated by animal behavior, as I've come to the conclusion that most animals do naturally what people would or should do if they really thought about it. . .


Quote:
Originally Posted by jelow1966 View Post
Great pics. The quality of the first combo is outstanding! I recently picked up a Tamron SP 200-500/5.6 adaptall but have had little good light to try it in let alone see if it will work well with a TC.
Hi John,

The Tamron was another consideration, but they're usually pricier than the Tokina I got (it was in like new condition for $420, and I couldn't pass it). From reports, the Tamron is a tad better, but the Tokina is (believe it or not) smaller and lighter, and these are important considerations for me.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the Tamron can do, so be sure to post some pics when you get some chance to use it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhermans View Post
Magnificent work as always, at least it motivated me to get my tripod back into action.
Hi Ronny,

Thanks!

I really enjoy pushing handholding as far as I can, but there are times where a tripod really makes a difference. This is one of those cases, huge lens needed to be held at an upward angle for long periods of time. . .

Actually, with the Sidekick, a small child could shoot this lens with ease, so it's really a no-brainer. . . and I've already spent the money for it. . .

Scott
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