I was back at the local wildlife reserve a couple of weeks ago. There wasn’t much to see, so as I sat in one of the hides, I got chatting to a fellow photographer. He was clearly serious about his hobby as he showed me his 500mm lens with 1.4 converter. It made my 300mm look tiny and it became obvious the lens I had purchased last year would never be enough for wild birds. It will always be my favourite for butterflies and dragonflies – not a true macro lens, but good if you are close to your subject and you want that lovely shallow depth of field only a lens of this length can provide. No good for birds though, as the vast majority at the reserve will always be too far away.
The gentleman was very helpful and told me where a pair of parakeets were nesting. He had seen them that morning and reckoned I would be fine, so I wished him luck and made the trek up to the very end of the lake. His description was perfect and I spotted one of the birds immediately. Rattling off a few shots, I was thrilled to bits, until I got home and realised I would still need to make a fairly large crop and there was no detail on the parakeet at all. I was gutted.
Then my lovely husband stepped in and offered the John Lewis vouchers we had put away from a couple of years worth of Christmas presents, plus the extra it would need for one of the cheaper superzoom bridge cameras. We trawled through some of the recent reviews and opted for the Canon Powershot SX60 HS. With a 65x zoom and the ability to shoot RAW, it seemed ideal. It arrived a few days later and I quickly put it to the test with yet another visit to the reserve.
It’s not perfect, with a very slight shutter delay that I’m not used to with a DSLR, but I soon learned to adapt. Exposure is fiddly as I don’t want to use the Auto settings and yet I’m limited to just three apertures. I have to keep testing the exposure for any subtle change of light. I did try the sports setting to see if that would give me a useful shutter speed, but instead it ramped it up to 1/2000th and hiked up the ISO to match. I soon found out that the downside of a small sensor is noise in abundance and you really don’t want to use anything over ISO 400.
I still had a lot of fun though and managed to photograph many birds that would previously have been out of my range. The young heron in the featured image above was sitting on a nest on a small island in the middle of a lake. The reed bunting below would also have been impossible before and yet now I can sit in a hide with a chance of getting lucky.
Back to my favourite hide and with a bird expert by my side, he pointed out the Egyptian goose in the image below. As I packed up for the day, I knew I would be making many more visits over the coming months. Not only to this reserve either, as the lovely man from the previous week had told me where to find a pair of kingfishers. Watch this space!