Lens experiment and the heron saga

March 26, 2009

It began feeling repetitive heading to the arboretum so much, so I mixed it up yesterday and began with a photography experiment. If you don’t care about technical things, hop down a bit and the adventure continues.

Instead of using my 200mm 2.8 lens, I tried my hand at my 300mm lens with a doubler (a doubler multiplies the range of the lens, effectively making a 600mm lens). Combining that lens with a doubler AND the camera’s crop factor (which I believe is 1.4x)  makes it closer to 840mm. The range was fun, but the glass combination was a royal failure.

The doubler is made by Quantaray and I picked it up for about $70 a few years ago. The problem is that it is awful. I haven’t had luck with any lens with the device. Autofocus is nearly useless when it’s attached and even when it looks like a good image, a simple zoom will always show it can’t nail a focus if its life depended on it.

The lens I was playing with was a 70-300mm Quantaray lens with a variable aperture so that it becomes 5.6 on the far end of the zoom. Although the lens is simple and does what it should, it’s optically nowhere near nikon glass. Clarity and vividness are severely lacking with the lens.

The doubler and the lens together make a great telescope, but that’s about it.

Wednesday when I arrived in the arboretum, a light rain was falling, but I suited up in a rain jacket and took my camera with the experimental glass rig through its paces. If I had a solid nikon lens in that range it would be infinitely better and I soon put the failed experiment back in the car after realizing it wouldn’t work.

There’s something really peaceful about being in the arboretum in the rain. Birds are still as frequent as ever, but they seem subdued. Large numbers of cardinals gathered on the branches and I caught sight of one that was resting with its head tucked beneath its wing. For several minutes I crept closer and closer to the bird. At nearly 6 feet (my focal distance with that lens) I raised my camera and aimed at the little red puffball. After popping a few frames the cardinal shook to life and raised its head to look at me. I recorded his gaze with another great shot and then he relaxed for a few more minutes before taking off.

Elsewhere in the arboretum, it seems new woodchips were laid over several of the paths that morning.

As I wandered through the forest, I noticed a large figure swooping overhead that turned out to be another heron, beginning a long drawn out process. Initially, the creature landed in a tree and watched the pond below. Realizing that it wouldn’t come down if there was movement, I sat on a bench and remained motionless for about twenty minutes. Across the pond I could see the birdfeeder and a large crowd of blue jays surrounding it.


Deciding that the heron would likely remain in the tree, I approached the birdfeeder and made a few failed attempts at documenting the jays.

As I walked back toward the parking lot, I noticed that the great blue heron had landed beside the pond and made his way to the shallows. Creeping as slowly as I could, I made it back to the far side of the wooden bridge before a carload of children came screaming down the path and the bird flew off. I remained motionless and as the children left the immediate area, the bird returned. I leveled my camera and made some more images before yet again, the children came rushing back.

That’s it, I thought. That is all I’m going to get today of the heron.

Well, I’m glad it didn’t turn out that way. After the kids got sufficiently cold and wet, they left. Still believing it was over, I got back into my car and began to turn to leave, when I noticed the heron again in the shallows.

For several minutes I slowly closed the distance between myself and the heron, until I was 15 feet away. Although it was stoic and moved little, I seemed able to freely approach as long as I did so slowly. After making a few close images, a man and his dog wandered through the arboretum and the bird seemed to have a heightened awareness of his surroundings. Seconds later, it took to the sky again, and I wrapped up my great blue heron extravaganza three hours after getting to the arboretum.

Third time’s a charm.


3 Responses to “Lens experiment and the heron saga”

  1. Renee Says:


  2. Jonathan Says:

    i have a 70-300 quantaray canon lens.

    its kind of a piece of crap.

    i appreciate the technical discussion, though.

    nice heron shot!

  3. Evan Dyson Says:

    No argument there. Mine is a paperweight 99.9% of the time. If I had a 400 or 600 nikon lens I’d be happy (And in about a lifetime’s worth of debt)

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