Breaking in the New [Tern] Lens

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Breaking in the New [Tern] Lens

2012-05-07T15:02:54+00:00May 7th, 2012|Birds, Uncategorized|11 Comments

So little time … and so little sun … but I grabbed some moments during Seattle’s first crystal days to break in the new lens. It’s four years in coming — four years of anticipating — four years of honing my skills on my trusty and tough 70-300mm (f4.0-5.6).

Now, my E-3 and I venture into the wild with a bit more heft and a bit more sharpness, thanks to the Zuiko 50-200mm. It’s a Zuiko mid-range — not quite the 300mm f2.8, but a lovely piece of glass. On my Olympus four-thirds system, the crop factor is 2x. That means the effective range of this lens is 100mm-400mm. I added a 1.4 teleconverter, almost matching the reach of my 70-300mm (140-600mm).

First impressions indicate I will now be able to:

  1. Have a sharp image without filling the frame
  2. Capture a moving bird against a busy background
  3. Keep 80 percent of my BIFs instead of 50
  4. Not wake up every bird in the tree with the sound of the lens motor drive, hunting for focus

This is obviously not news to anyone who shoots with nice bird glass. But, I’m glad I have a frame of reference for comparison — and some experience toiling in the lens trenches. (A friend recently linked me to a blog post: Gear Doesn’t Matter — Except When it Does.)

Seattle Caspian Tern Photos

So, anyway, I initiated the lens with the speed demons down the street — the Caspian Terns who take up residence each spring on a warehouse roof just a mile from our place. They buzz over a channel into Elliott Bay, sometimes returning with smolts, sometimes just skimming the tides on their way out, as pictured here. I haven’t yet worked the tripod with this lens, so these are all handheld.

Shot, for the most part, at 1/1250, f7.1 or f8, ISO320 to 500 — variable blue sky, clouds, partial overcast, full sun. Images cropped to about 1/6 to 1/8 of original size.

Caspian Tern in Flight in Seattle

Caspian Tern Over Seattle – ©ingridtaylar

The terns often announce their arrival home with smolt in bill … and the exiting terns vocalize in response. Hugh likes to say they’re yelling, “I’ve got a fish! Look at me, I’ve got a fish!” Of course, I have no idea what the terns are saying. I wish I did because the announcements are clearly nuanced, based on tern response.

Sterna Caspia with Salmon Smolt in Seattle

click for larger image – ©ingridtaylar

Caspian Tern Skimming Elliott Bay

Skimming Elliott Bay – ©ingridtaylar

Sterna Caspia at Smith Cove

Skimming on the Way Back – ©ingridtaylar

Sterna Caspia Dipping into Puget Sound

Submerge – ©ingridtaylar

Caspian Tern Diving in Puget Sound

Diving Puget Sound – ©ingridtaylar

Caspian shaking off the salt water over Port of Seattle backdrop:

Caspian Tern Flying Over Port of Seattle

Shaking it Off – ©ingridtaylar

And, a different kind of bird … Coast Guard chopper emerging from cloud bank and into the blue.

Coast Guard Chopper in Clouds

click for larger image – ©ingridtaylar

Related Posts on Terns: There is a Season … Terns | More Alameda Terns | Anthropomorphizing a Caspian-Peregrine Tussle | The Turns of Terns


  1. Mia McPherson May 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Congrats on the new lens Ingrid, I hope you have a great time with it.

    I had to take my D300 to a repair shop today, the shutter might be dying. Argh!

    • ingrid May 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm - Reply

      Oh no. Do you think you’ll go for a shutter replacement if that’s the case? Or put the money toward a new body?

      Question: What are the symptoms of a dying shutter? I’m approaching 100K clicks soon. Does it just stop firing?

      • Mia McPherson May 8, 2012 at 4:37 pm - Reply

        Ingrid, my shutter had 101,000 acctuations and it was rated for 150,000. I still haven’t heard what is wrong with the camera but it was acting very weird. In the midst of bursts (and you don’t shoot birds without using bursts) the shutter button would sort of freeze and the images that happened then were complete white outs. The shutter speed would drop from say 1/2500 to 1/4! It happened one time on the one day out but yesterday it happened over 25 times while in the field and at least another 10 -15 times when I toook it out in the backyard for test shots.

        I’m hoping it is a lose screw in the shutter box or a loose connection. I don’t know how much it will be to replace the shutter yet.

  2. Glenn Nevill May 7, 2012 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    Are you finding it faster in response than the other lens? Sharper?

    • ingrid May 7, 2012 at 7:27 pm - Reply

      Yes, so cool. Faster and much more quiet, as well. It still hunts a bit in tougher situations, but the E-3 does have some of its own AF issues. The two differences for me so far are being able to shoot at lower ISOs, which is particularly important with my camera model — and the sharpness of the resulting shot. With my older lens, I can focus precisely the same way, at the same distance, all other specs identical, but my cull rate is higher, just because of the IQ. That’s such a bonus for me.

  3. Glenn Nevill May 7, 2012 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    Nice images of the terns BTW

    • ingrid May 7, 2012 at 7:29 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Glenn. Watching them is addictive for me, for some reason. I have to force myself to get to work instead of stopping at the Tern Station.

  4. Glenn Nevill May 7, 2012 at 11:16 pm - Reply

    Easy to do, they are quite the lookers.

  5. Ron Dudley May 8, 2012 at 4:26 am - Reply

    I’m very happy to hear of your excitement over your new glass Ingrid – an excitement I know full well. I expect you’ll be even more frustrated than usual by cloudy days for a while – wanting to spend as much time as possible in the field with your new “friend”. Enjoyed your tern shots too – a difficult subject in many ways and you did very well with them. I’m especially impressed by the performance of your new lens (in combination with the camera and operator, of course) in “Shaking it Off” – with that background, locking on to the bird wouldn’t be an easy task and the tern is sharp. Big congrats!

  6. Grampy July 31, 2012 at 4:51 am - Reply

    Wonderful shots of these striking birds. A joy to watch. Best of luck with the new lens although it looks as if luck will not be a factor.

    • ingrid August 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm - Reply

      Thanks very much for the nice comment.

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