Joe and Mary Ann McDonald's

Wildlife Photography

April 2004

Tip of the Month

Sighting in a Very, Very Long Lens

This is a short tip but a valuable one. If you use a 500mm or a 600mm lens, you might find that finding your subject is a problem. If you're using a digital camera with a built-in 1.5X or 1.6X magnification factor, and if you use a 1.4X or 2X tele-converter too, you may be talking about enormous magnifications. Consider, a 500mm lens mounted on a Canon 10D has a built-in 1.6X magnficiation factor, making the lens an 800mm. If you add a 2X tele-converter to this combination, that's 1600mm or 32X. That's a small telescope! How can you find a subject with such a tiny field of view?

Minolta addresses this problem with their 600mm by including a handle for carrying, that also is grooved so that you can look through the groove much as you would do if you were sighting down the barrel of a gun. Canon and Nikon lenses lack this feature (and I wish, at times, that the big lenses did have a carrying handle!), but if you rotate the lens hood so that the locking button that locks or connects the lens hood to the len is position on top, it's possible to look over your camera's top (at the pentaprism) and look just above where the flash hotshoe mount is placed. That's the center of the camera, right above the film, and if you position yourself so that you're looking almost through the mount (you'll really be skimming the top since you can't look through) and line up the hotshoe area with the knob of the lens hood, 'aiming' that as you would a rifle sight (so that it covers or points pretty much directly at the subject) you'll probably be right on or at the very least quite near where you need to be aiming.

With time, you'll find that aiming a big lens gets easier and easier, but until you get that 'feel,' finding a subject with a super amount of magnification can be a real headache. This should help.

Our Past Photo Tips of the Month:


  DIGITAL- Digital Birding

 DIGITAL -Shoot for the Future

DIGITAL-Shoot for the Future, Part II

 DIGITAL Photographing scenes with extreme exposure values

 NPN- Nature Photography Network - a digital forum for nature photography

 Digital Pro Image Management Software

 Watch Your Backgrounds
The potential of composites or shooting in RAW format

 Protecting your long lens from SAND, the pleasures of beach photography

 How do we protect our gear from dust, and carry our gear when on safari

 The Ultimate Flash Bracket
Padding Your Wimberley
Tripod Head

  Specular highlights and the flashing frog
 Using TTL flash with Hummingbirds  Testing your Flash's Aim
Maximum Depth of Field and Hyperfocal Distance - they're not the same thing!  If you see it, it's too late -- a lesson in anticipation  How do you shoot the Moon?
  Low level tripod work  A great depth of field guide  Wimberley 400 and 600mm IS plate

 Sigma's 120-300mm F2.8 APO HSM zoom lens

 Using The Wimberley Gimbal head with a camera body

 Sigma's 120-300 f2.8 APO
zoom telephoto lens

 Custom Function 4-1 for Nikon and Canon shooters
   The Nature Photography Network - a super website for images and information
  Take a Workshop First   Luck, what is it?  Don't take in baby wild animals

  Airline Carry-On Luggage -Let your concerns be heard!

 Disconnect -- travel precautions

Photograph America Newsletter
 Wildlife Portraiture

 Obey the Rules
The Ti Chi Stalk
Photographing Critically Endangered Sites Bushnell Night Vision Optics  Adobe Photoshop 7 for $300

 The Sibley Bird Guides

 Removing Cactus Spines

 Drying out boots with newspaper

Contact us by e-mail:

Or FAX us at: (717) 543-6423.

Return to Home Page.