Brackendale Bald Eagle in Flight : Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR Lens

Squamish Bald Eagles

I was eager to try out my new Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 VR lens that I received for Christmas from my lovely wife.  I knew that Bald Eagles were likely still in Squamish as I had been there previously.  I ventured out one very old morning to see what I could capture.

The sun was rising as I pulled into Squamish and I noticed it was illuminating Mount Garibaldi.  I decided to see how the lens performs for a long distance landscape shot.  Nice detail despite the distance.

The rig

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Shot with iPhone

The shotSquamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Mount Garibaldi Sunrise

I then walked around one of my favorite spots in south Squamish and did encounter a few eagles.Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Flying High

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Eagle and Crow Buddies

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Squawk

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Eagle in Tree

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Eagle In Tree Black and White

One thing I realized is that I have a lot to learn about wildlife photography, especially birds. Learning how to use a telephoto lens has a fairly steep learning curve, and trying to capture birds in flight makes it even harder.  I took a lot of shots but only have a few keepers and even those I'm only mildly satisfied with.  Having said that, the combination certainly does help in comparison to shooting with my iPhone.

Eagle shot with iPhone

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : iPhone Eagle Shot

Same eagle with a Nikon D810 and Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR lens.  Anyone claiming "gear doesn't matter" hasn't tried to shoot wild eagles.Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Eagle Playing Rooster In Tree

I relocated several times but had a hard time finding eagles.  I found out later that there are much higher concentrations of eagles in early December and by January they have started to depart as most of the salmon that they are feeding on are gone.  It was still a beautiful day so I made the most of it by shooting some landscape shots.  Even some with my iPhone.

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : iPhone Landscape

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 14-24 : Sunrise in Squamish

My trusty Tacoma, it never disappoints.

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 14-24 : Toyota Tacoma Glory

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 14-24 : Frozen Landscape

This was actually a hand-held shot with the Nikkor 200-500 lens.  Shutter speed was relatively long but the VR system helped me get an acceptably sharp shot.

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Telephoto Landscape Long Exposure

After more driving around and looking in a few spots I have never visited before I did find a few more eagles.  Didn't get the focus or composition right in all of the photos, but I did get a lot of practice in tracking eagles in flight.

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : I See Something

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Surveying the Land

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Going Somewhere

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Just Missed Flight Shot

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Eye on Me

Finally, a comparison of iPhone vs Nikon.  See that moon in the top right?

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : iPhone Landscape

Now a little closer with the telephoto.

Squamish Bald Eagles : 2016-01-02 : Nikon D810 & Nikkor 200-500 : Moon Landscape


Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 500mm

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-500mm f/2.8-5.6E ED VR Lens

Ok, so the headline is a joke, but it would be nice to own such a lens :)  I recently got the Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 lens and was in Squamish looking for Bald Eagles.  With me I also had my Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 and Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lenses.  The 14-24 and 200-500 represent the two extremes of the focal lengths I'm able to shoot.  I thought it may be fun to do a test to see just how much difference there is between 14mm and 500mm.  I threw in a few intermediate focal lengths as well.  The scene is in Squamish, BC, Canada beside the BC SPCA and looking northwest to Mount Garibaldi.  All photos taken with the Nikon D810.

14mm

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 14mm
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 14mm

 

24mm (I noticed a slight difference at 24mm between the 14-24 and 24-70, discussed below.)

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 24mm
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 24mm

 

70mm (Sorry for the typo on the image text, obviously not the 14-24.)

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 70mm
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Lens Test : 70mm

 

200mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 200mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 200mm

 

300mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 300mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 300mm

 

400mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 400mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 400mm

 

500mm

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 500mm
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens Test : 500mm

 

Now an overlay between 14mm and 500mm, move mouse left/right to see both images.
[before_after border="true" border_width="2" border_color="#FFFFFF" direction="vertical" start=".50" angle="5" slide="hover" return_on_idle_interval="5000" return_on_idle_duration="1000" arrow_color="#FFFFFF" arrow_gap="5" arrow_offset="0" scrollbar_pos="top" scrollbar_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_thickness="8" scrollbar_button_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_button_thickness="30" before_image_id="5460" after_image_id="5467" arrows="true"]

 

When does 24mm not mean 24mm?
Finally, when reviewing images taken during the testing I saw a difference between the 24mm images shot with the 14-24mm and 24-70mm.  Here are the two images side by side.
[before_after border="true" border_width="2" border_color="#FFFFFF" direction="vertical" start=".50" angle="5" slide="hover" return_on_idle_interval="5000" return_on_idle_duration="1000" arrow_color="#FFFFFF" arrow_gap="5" arrow_offset="0" scrollbar_pos="top" scrollbar_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_thickness="8" scrollbar_button_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_button_thickness="30" before_image_id="5466" after_image_id="5465" arrows="true"]

 

I then applied Lightroom's lens correction to both 24mm images, to see if that would close the difference.  A greater change was made to the 24-70, but there is still a substantial difference between the two.  Here are the two corrected images.

[before_after border="true" border_width="2" border_color="#FFFFFF" direction="vertical" start=".50" angle="5" slide="hover" return_on_idle_interval="5000" return_on_idle_duration="1000" arrow_color="#FFFFFF" arrow_gap="5" arrow_offset="0" scrollbar_pos="top" scrollbar_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_thickness="8" scrollbar_button_color="#FFFFFF" scrollbar_button_thickness="30" before_image_id="5468" after_image_id="5469" arrows="true"]

 

If anyone is curious on how the 200-500mm performed when shooting eagles, I have yet to process most photos but here are a couple initial images.

Brackendale Bald Eagle in Flight : Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR Lens
Brackendale Bald Eagle in Flight : Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR Lens

 

Brackendale Bald Eagle in Tree : Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR Lens (500mm)
Brackendale Bald Eagle in Tree : Nikkor 200-500 f/5.6 VR Lens (500mm)