Brown Pelican Closeup - La Jolla, California
Nikon Z7, 180-400mm f/4.0e AF-S, at f/11, 1/800sec, ISO 1600
Kind of new to me is the 180-400mm f/4.0e lens. I’ve had it since going to Bosque Del Apache NWR just after Thanksgiving last year.
I’ve found it’s a lot more useful in the long-range department than I originally thought it would be. This lens with a cropped sensor ranges from 270-600mm, which is a very nice spread. Still, it’s far less than my 500mm f/4.0e AF-S when shot with a cropped sensor camera. That’s 25% more than the field of view with zoom. But, that’s not the only way to bring in your subjects closers. Sometimes the best answer is simply move your feet.
I’ve been using this lens a lot more often for flying birds than I thoughts I would, which is normally the domain of the longest lenses. In this case, I found the lens outstanding because its ability to change composition as a subject flew into land every useful.
Another useful feature of this lens its minimum focus distance—the closest you can focus something—is very close, almost half the distance as my 500mm f/4.0e AF-S. That means, really close subjects look extremely large. Overall, at minimum focus distance and maximum zoom, the 180-400mm f/4 lens has higher magnification than the 500mm f/4 at its minimum focus distance.
The last thing I’ll add about the lens is its built-in teleconverter. Unlike my 500mm lens where you have to add another optical lens between the long lens and the camera to use a teleconverter, the 180-400mm f/4 AF-S has a built-in teleconverter. That means, an extra 1.4x magnification is available with a flip of a switch. It’s extremely convenient to turn on the teleconverter when needed.
I’ve written before how I like to explore compositions you don’t normally see. This usually means frame filling portions of the subject’s body. In this case, it’s the extreme closeup of the bird’s eye area. I’ve found extreme closeups are very interesting for many reasons including it brings a new view to the subject that otherwise wouldn’t be seen.
La Jolla is famous for relatively approachable pelicans—keyword, “relatively.” You approach them, they fly away. They approach you, they can come quite close.
In this case, above the La Jolla cave, one after another bird landed near-by. I just stood there and let them, shooting when I could. This bird perched on a little knoll making him almost eye-height with me and he was just a few yards away. I scooted a little closer to totally close the distance, making sure I did it slowly, not looking at him, and trying not to appear threatening. I did this until I was almost to the lens’ closest focus distance. That’s when I shot this using my new Nikon Z7, 180–400mm f/4 with teleconverter, and cropped with the DX format.
Yes, I further cropped the full-framed capture to get this composition. Relatively, I made a small crop, about 2/3rd’s the size of the original file, which likely helped retain the image’s very deep detail even when viewed at 100% size.
One last thing. Since I knew I was going to shoot this image so close and I wanted a reasonable portion of the animal to be in focus, even at minimum focus distance, I set a smaller than normal f-stop—i.e. f/11 vice more typical f/5.6. Why set such a small aperture? That’s because the smaller the aperture, the more that’ll be in focus. It’s the physics of shooting through a very tiny hole. Even then, the depth of field (DOF) is less than 10 millimeters.
Why do I like this image? So much going on in the image. The skin texture is very detailed. The color is quite intense. And, the eye! The eye has so many unique characteristics. All told, it’s a very compelling image in my view.