Gear Skills Take the long view
Tom Welsh heads out into the wild to get to grips with super-telephoto lenses
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