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Old Nov 19, 2012, 11:32 PM   #1
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Default Which Tern Is Right?

Looking for some bird ID - I assume these are some type of tern, but wasn't sure which one. They were in a flock of mostly sea gulls I saw Saturday at one of the state beaches near Santa Barbara. The pictures aren't the best, they were taken with my new photography "toy" and it seemed to front-focus with the A*300. It could have been me and my technique though.







It is more reliable with the DA*300. I decided that it would be better to switch the lens to manual focus (there's a switch on the lens itself for AF/MF) even though the lens has a clutch. While the TC doesn't have contacts to allow the SDM to operate, I wasn't sure whether the SDM motor was really out of the picture when it is mounted, though I suppose that wasn't strictly necessary.

Northern Flicker (I do know what this one is, they are either common around my area or else there's one that lives all the time on my block).

Half asleep?



Think he heard something



Checking me out



Decided he didn't trust me



And he flew off. As soon as he left, his place was taken by a somewhat smaller bird, I assume this is a Northern Mockingbird, but I'm not 100% positive. I thought the shape looked a little different (but then it was just above freezing when I took this picture).



All photos taken with the K5, 1.7 AFA and the DA*300 and hand-held.

A picture I took right before the picture of the flicker, taken with the AFA and the Viv S1 105 Macro:



And another picture taken with the Viv and the AFA, taken as I was walking toward the sea gulls. I thought this looked a bit like a volcano or something (not 1:1, I was standing up when I took this. I like being able to get closer without stooping down).



While I was very pleased with the results from the DA*300 and Viv, I was a bit disappointed with the results from the A*300. I really like the the small size of the A, and it fits in the Lowepro Slingshot 200, which the DA does not. But perhaps it is because of my mistakes, I constantly had to remind myself to use TAv mode, so I could keep the shutter speed fast enough and the lens stopped down a bit. Overall, I am very pleased I got the TC instead of the Sigma 150-500. The quality is very nice, and the combination of the DA*300 and AFA is still lighter than the Sigma 150-500. It might not be a zoom, but that's OK - I don't shoot much with zooms anyway.
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Old Nov 20, 2012, 1:19 PM   #2
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"they were taken with my new photography "toy" and it seemed to front-focus with the A*300."
Hmmm, new toy?
"taken with the AFA"
A hint?

Pictures top notch as usual. Can't comment on the bird species, since they are not in my book (European Birds, a field guide).
A sad story about an American bird was told on the radio today. An American Cliff Swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) was observed for the first time ever in Sweden. It was blewn here by winds somehow related to Sandy. Ornithologists from the whole country dashed into their cars and drove a thousand kilometres to see it... as it was caught and eaten by a Sparrowhawk today. Nature is cruel, also to ornithologists.

Kjell
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Old Nov 20, 2012, 1:30 PM   #3
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Hi Harriet,

Congrats on getting an AFA! I think you will find it very useful. As you probably know, it's a constant companion for me.

I believe that your terns are Elegant Terns, but I could be wrong -- the only Terns I've personally seen are Caspians in my neck of the woods. The distinctive feature is the black extending past the eye in this winter variation.

Did you shoot the macros using AF-C? If not, it's something to try IMO. You have to concentrate and closely watch the focus shifting in the VF, but the very short focusing range of the 1.7x AFA makes this an extreme focus limiter and turns AF into a very viable macro technique IMO, even at 1:1 (actually closer to 1.9:1 at MFD with a 1:1 dedicated macro). It also gives you a few inches more working distance at 1:1, and a bit of added DOF for a given aperture since the distance to the sensor plane is longer.

Some have apparently found that prefocusing from longer distance settings as opposed to from shorter works better with the AFA. Personally, I've had 4 different copies of the AFA, and have never found any difference in accuracy or speed with the two different approaches (or between copies for that matter).

I don't know if you noticed, but in the tern shots, FL is shown in exif as 180mm, so I'm thinking that you changed from the Viv to the A*300 and didn't change the FL for SR. Probably didn't make much of a difference, but it could be a factor in final IQ. . .

Hve fun with your new "toy". I've always favored a 300/4 + AFA over any of the Sigma xx-500 zooms for my purposes -- the total kit weight and hand holdability factors make all the difference for me.

Scott

Last edited by snostorm; Nov 20, 2012 at 1:41 PM.
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Old Nov 20, 2012, 2:24 PM   #4
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Kjell - yes, the new toy is the Pentax 1.7 AFA. I can see why Scott loves it so much. Too bad about the Cliff Swallow, but not surprising that a non-native bird, blown miles away from where it should have been, to fall prey quickly. That is too bad, though.

Scott - hadn't thought about using AF-C, I had used AF-S for the macros, thanks for the suggestion. Makes sense though, especially if you are hand-holding, like I tend to do. The funny thing is that I've been playing around with a reversed 24mm lens in front of the Viv and really struggled with it on a tripod - that requires macro rails. And with its tiny dof, I don't get much for results hand-holding either. I did much better with the AFA, can focus wide-open rather than trying to get the focus right through a lens that's partly stopped down.

There's also something about the compression that I find really cool, especially with the A*300 which doesn't go to infinity until further away than most lenses.

And yes, I had a tough time trying to remember to re-set the focal length, I have pictures taken with the Viv that say 550 (should have been 500) as well as A/DA300 pictures that say 180. And if it says 100 it might or might not have had the AFA on. Sigh!
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Old Nov 20, 2012, 8:25 PM   #5
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Harriet - Your new "toy" sure seems to be working out well! Wonderful flicker shots and great photo of our Tennessee State Bird (Did not realize you had Mockingbirds out West). Very interesting and detailed macro photos as well.

Scott - Just wondering if they might be Royal Terns? We see neither species here in Tennessee, was just browsing at the Cornell Bird ID website:
http://allaboutbirds.org/guide/Royal_Tern/id

PS - You were concerned about your mockingbird's appearance - probably at least partly "fluffed up" against the cold, also at least in part due to the angle and the effect of the telephoto. Here's a recent Mocker shot from a lower angle, just to compare...
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Old Nov 20, 2012, 10:58 PM   #6
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Mockingbirds are fairly common in California, I've seen them both in the mountains and in the botanical gardens at UCLA. They are a nice looking bird, for one that's a dull grey mostly. I figured this one was just fluffed up, it was very frosty (as you can tell from the one macro) that morning.

I was hoping Penolta would be by to help with the tern - going by my field guide, I thought it might be either a Royal or an Elegant, this is the first time I've ever noticed them.
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Old Nov 21, 2012, 4:40 AM   #7
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I liked your title, and think that one could say that you made the right tern, or, a tern for the better, with your new purchase. Wonderful photos, in any event!
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Old Nov 21, 2012, 6:11 AM   #8
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Great photos, I think you made a good choice. The sigma is heavy but so far it has not bothered me. All new lenses have a learning curve. I am slowly getting used to the 150-500mm, When I first got it the keeper rate was low.

There is no question that the 300mm gives better sharpness and definition but for me the zoom lets me take shots that otherwise may have been misses with a FF lens.

Looking forward to many nice shots from you with this combo.

Lou
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Old Nov 21, 2012, 12:04 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtngal View Post
Mockingbirds are fairly common in California, I've seen them both in the mountains and in the botanical gardens at UCLA. They are a nice looking bird, for one that's a dull grey mostly. I figured this one was just fluffed up, it was very frosty (as you can tell from the one macro) that morning.

I was hoping Penolta would be by to help with the tern - going by my field guide, I thought it might be either a Royal or an Elegant, this is the first time I've ever noticed them.
Your first choice was right - they are Royal Terns - heavier build, thicker bill, and a black stripe from the crest not quite touching the eye distinguish them from the Elegants. Caspian Terns have a still heavier build and bill, and lack the long crest feathers of the other two. Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner, but I have been preoccupied with other things. Very good photos - they show all that is needed for the ID..
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Old Nov 23, 2012, 5:50 PM   #10
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Great photos. I rarely can identify birds that are native to my area, so I could be of no help at all with your question. I'm glad Pen confirmed your belief. I love the northern Flicker perched on the weathered electrical pole, contrasted against the deep blue sky.
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