Tag Archives: wildlife

Pushing the envelope

Testing the Olympus 100-400mm with a teleconverter

The Olympus 100-400mm f/5.0-6.3 lens is a surprisingly good performer, especially considering its sub-$1500 price point. It’s not a lens that I’d even consider using with a teleconverter, because you lose quite a bit of light in that scenario. Nevertheless, I figured I’d try it out when I was in San Diego last week leading my birds in flight photo workshop.

I put the Olympus MC-14 1.4x teleconverter on the 100-400mm and happened to encounter a song sparrow at relatively close range. So I gave it a shot. At these extreme magnifications, the lack of a good optical image stabilizer was noticeable (IBIS gives better results with this lens), but I kept the shutter speed high, and hoped for the best. I surprisingly got a couple of keepers, but autofocus accuracy was reduced somewhat (not unexpected).

song sparrow
Song sparrow at 1122mm effective, f/9.0 ISO 20,000 (click for full-size image).

In the past, I might have tossed these images out… ISOs 20,000? But by using DXO Pure Raw 3 to de-noise the raw files and a little Topaz Photo AI sharpening, the results were quite usable!

The Image Doctors #197

The Best Lenses for Zoo Photography

Your local zoo can be a great place for honing your wildlife photography skills. From exposure to autofocus, zoos are loaded with great animal subjects. This week, we offer our tips on the best walk-around lenses for zoo photography, including affordable options for most of the major camera brands.

Wildlife photography on Panama’s Isla Bastimentos

Photographing sloths, birds, and more at an upscale eco lodge

I’m flying home to Colorado after my third visit to Isla Bastimentos on Panama’s northwest Caribbean coast, and it was a fantastic visit. My journey started out in Panama City, where I checked in to a modern hotel downtown. As a side trip, I took a short Uber ride to the Metropolitan Nature Park in Panama City. I figured it would be an easy place to explore, and where I could check all the settings on my camera gear. 

On this trip my primary camera was the Nikon Z9 paired with the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 Nikkor Z lens, and the Nikon 1.4x Z teleconverter. This camera and lens combination provides a focal length range from 140-560mm and a maximum aperture of f/8. I was also able to use the Nikon Z9’s DX crop mode, which narrowed the angle of view to effectively 840mm. Because the Nikon Z9 is a mirrorless camera, using DX crop mode magnifies the viewfinder image and improves autofocus accuracy. This comes at the expense of resolution, which drops from 45 to 19 megapixels in DX crop mode.

At the Nature Park, I photographed several bird species, including kingbirds, tanagers, and a squirrel cuckoo. I also encountered red-eared sliders (turtles), basilisk lizards (the fabled “Jesus Christ” lizard), and even a three-toed sloth. Of course, this particular sloth was basically just a ball of fur hunkered down at the top of a tall tree; hardly photogenic (more on this in a moment).

The next day, I greeted my photography clients as they checked in to our downtown hotel. After a brief welcome session, we enjoyed dinner and drinks at the hotel restaurant before retiring for the evening; we had a full day planned for tomorrow and needed to be ready for our morning tour to Monkey Island and the Gamboa Sloth Sanctuary.

Wildlife of Panama Photo Safari

Discover the diverse rainforest birds, mammals and insects in Panama!

Photograph the biodiversity of Central America as we photograph the wildlife of western Panama. On this unique photo safari, you’ll photograph rainforest birds, mammals, insects and more. Observe colorful birds from a 65′ high observation tower, tour the rainforest with experienced naturalist guides, and enjoy home-cooked meals at our airconditioned eco lodge retreat.

When: April 5-11, 2020 from Panama City, Panama
Experience Level: Intermediate to advanced photographers
Maximum Group Size: 8 photographers

POTD: Hanging Tough

three-toed sloth, Panama
Three-toed sloth in Bocas del Toro, Panama

I photographed this wonderfully active three-toed sloth (Bradypus spp.) last May at the Tranquilo Bay Eco Lodge in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Panama is host to a myriad of rainforest species, including the two and three-toed sloths. Unlike Costa Rican sloths, which have large predators and stay hidden most of the day, their Panamanian cousins are often active and in the open during broad daylight.

Tech Specs

Nikon D850 with 500mm f/5.6E PF VR Nikkor lens
1/800s f/5.6 ISO 400

Want to photograph sloths with me in 2020? Join my Panamanian Wildlife Photo Safari!