I've always loved animals. I've always liked photographing animals but because of my lack of one key thing I've always shot them in Zoo's for the most part.
What is the thing that I'm lacking?
Nice camera? No - I've always had a pretty nice camera and right now I've got choice between the best in the world.
Long Glass? I've never had exotic long glass but I've had long enough.
Access? Maybe that is part of it but as the images I'm about to show will prove you can find amazing wildlife within the city and within minutes of it as you leave. Long Island, NJ, and the suburbs to the North of the city all have some amazing spots but then again there are some amazing spots for wildlife in the city.
So what is that thing that I don't have? Patience. I used to make a joke that if i wanted patience I'd be a doctor (a homonym/homophone joke - who knew that this blog would be all literate?) but today patience paid off as it often does. I was lucky to be invited by a couple of NPS members that wanted to check out the new D5 and 600 FL to see a spot that was only about a 40 minute drive from my home. There was a pretty good walk with long heavy glass and there was the threat of rain and it was chilly. There was me sitting in leaves and bugs and wet dirt for four hours while i waited. There were tree branches blocking views, there was the sway of the nest by at least 3 feet from side to side when the wind would show up which was often which would also bring the other branches into view. There was the fact that it did not rain and that suddenly the sun came out which meant that the striking difference between the Bald Eagles head feathers and his body became more difficult to shoot. The light would change as much as three stops in seconds as the sun came in and out of the clouds trying to figure out if it wanted to be February or April. Add to that that the Eagles went from leaving the babies alone in the nest to both being in the nest to tricking me with sticks rather than fish when I thought it was feeding time to the fact that they refused to play nice and fly into the nest straight at me so that I could capture their epic wing span.
You know what I learned? That sitting in the dirt with good people and great gear means that patience can pay off. Have I seen better Eagle pictures? Yes Have I ever taken better eagle pictures? No. Was this a time that I won't ever forget? YES!
Lets talk D5 for a second. It's priceless. I realize that I work for Nikon and so my opinion may be slanted. I also know that I have shot other gear during my life and have had the opportunity to shoot 95% of the high end DSLR's that are currently available. The camera is a game changer. ISO performance is just a part of it and since I never really had to go over 1600 during this shoot I'm not going to waste your time talking about the ISO. There are plenty of people raving about that all over the internet. For this shoot it was the speed and accuracy of focus even in continuous AF with some of the most difficult scenarios presented themselves. The branches and leaves that were between us would have been a problem for any other camera that I have ever shot. And because not everyone had a D5 when we were shooting it was awesome to hear the ooh's and "holy moly"'s (well it may have been more colorful than that but this is a family program) coming from the other guys that highlighted the fact that the camera would catch and hold focus at a speed we aren't used to. The other thing that I notice is that even while there is only 1 extra frame per second the camera just feels faster. Some of that might be the slightly quieter shutter. Some of that might be the decreased black out time (the time where the mirror is blocking your view while shooting at high speed) where I was able to clearly see my subject even though I was shooting at 12fps. Then there is the added feature of the 14 frames per second option when you lock up the mirror. I have customized my Function Button 1 to change the camera to 14FPS while I hold down the button. I used this at Mets Opening Day on April 8 and I used it for the Eagles when I knew that the adults were about to enter or leave the nest in order to get just a few more images. Once I set autofocus with the mirror up I then push the F1 button and the camera shoots a series of 14 frames per second with the mirror locked up meaning no more continuous focus for that time (it picks back up as soon as you let go of the function button) so I only use this when I have a certain plane of focus such as a batter in the box, a pitcher on the mound, or an Eagle coming into it's nest from right to left after I have already locked focus on the nest that it is going to land in. Third thing that relates to all that speed is the XQD cards that are now filling both slots on the D5. 200 raws in a burst before the buffer fills up. 200!!! Combine that with download speeds that are up to 4 times as fast as CF and the XQD is a no brainer for photographers shooting large GB jobs. I wish my D810 had it for those 1500 image timelapses.
The other thing that i was able to really use for the first time was the 4K video. Wow. Due to internet restrictions I downsized here to 1080 so you sort of have to trust me. WOW!
The 600mm F4 FL: What can i say? It's lighter, it's sharper, it works perfectly by itself as well as in combination with the 1.4 TC. Amazing piece of glass that balanced perfectly on my Oben Gimbal.