Gear Skills Take the long view

Tom Welsh heads out into the wild to get to grips with su­per-tele­photo lenses

NPhoto - - Nikon Skills -

Su­per-tele­photo lenses are won­der­ful pieces of kit for get­ting in close to a sub­ject. You fre­quently see them used on wildlife shoots (see page 8), and you’ll spot pros with them at sport­ing events, but what makes tele­photo lenses so ef­fec­tive? And how do you use such a mon­u­men­tal bit of kit?

The rea­son wildlife pho­tog­ra­phers need such long lenses is that wild an­i­mals have far bet­ter senses than us, and are very eas­ily star­tled. Rather than at­tempt to sneak up on a graz­ing deer with a 50mm lens, you can get your­self a tele­photo and sim­ply sit back to pho­to­graph it from a dis­tance that both you and your sub­ject are com­fort­able with.

In re­gard to fo­cal length, a 300mm lens will of­ten do the job, but ideally you want one in the re­gion of 400mm to 600mm to really get the most out of wildlife shoots. You don’t need to shell out £10,000/$15,000 on a huge prime lens, ei­ther: tele­con­vert­ers are a great al­ter­na­tive, and a 2x con­verter will bring your av­er­age 70-200mm lens up to a more use­ful 140-400mm. They will re­duce the di­am­e­ter of your max­i­mum aper­ture, but for the price they are well worth con­sid­er­ing.

There are some chal­lenges to us­ing su­per-tele­photo lenses, the main one be­ing that they’re in­cred­i­bly long and heavy. For our shoot we bor­rowed a Nikon 600mm f/4, which mea­sures 61cm long with the hood at­tached, and weighs in at a shoul­der-pop­ping 3.8 ki­los. As such, it was hard enough just to pick up, let alone shoot with.

An­other chal­lenge that you ‘ll need to get to grips with be­fore you even put your eye to the viewfinder is at­tach­ing the lens to the cam­era in the first place. They’re so big and heavy that they’re al­most im­pos­si­ble to lift into place with­out the risk of dam­ag­ing the lens mount or mir­ror. The so­lu­tion is to at­tach the cam­era to the lens, rather than the other way round. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to start shoot­ing...

For our shoot we bor­rowed a Nikon 600mm f/4, which mea­sures 61cm long with the hood at­tached, and weighs in at a shoul­der-pop­ping 3.8 ki­los

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