Best of the Tetons, Great Photography Tours In Jackson, WY

Great Egret

Tamron 150-600mm Lens at Sanibel Island, FL

Shots taken with my versatile, lightweight lens on a Nikon D4 camera.

Morning Beachcombers

Morning Beachcombers: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 420 mm, 1/1000 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 125

Page Intro and Comments

I think of this page as a follow-up to the post I made right after buying my lens back in February. Here’s that page: Tamron 150-600mm F/5.6-F6/3 Lens:

  • If you are considering purchasing a Tamron 150-600mm F/5.6-F6/3 Lens:, this page of photos and text should help you decide.
  • If you already purchased this lens and are having trouble getting sharp photos, there tips here that should help.
  • If you just want to see a bunch of pretty pictures from beautiful Florida, you will probably enjoy this page.

You could call this page a review, but I think of it more of hands-on report with photos and comments. Engineers spend hours taking shots of charts in controlled conditions. I typically get more out of seeing real life images than a page of charts and graphs with circles and arrows. That’s what this page is all about!

It has been almost three months since UPS dropped off my package. Here in the Tetons, I’ve taken a lot of photos with it on both my Nikon D4 and Nikon D800. Images on this page were all taken with a Nikon D4 and the Tamron 150-600 mm lens over a period of five days on Sanibel Island on the Gulf side of southern Florida.

The top section of the page will contain some necessary comments about the lens and the bottom section will simply contain images with a short note about the subject. For the people capable of gleaning important information contained in the shooting data, I will include it with each photo. I present these images the same as I might have done if I had taken them with my Nikon 200-400mm lens. All were taken in raw format, so all of them received the normal Lightroom adjustments for contrast, hue and saturation, sharpness and so forth. Most of the edits on these images were completed in a couple of minutes each. Over the period of almost two years of posting to this blog, I have become a big fan of a 1:2 crop ratio. I initially cropped to that ratio to help save bandwidth and load times, but now I am beginning to “see” shots in that aspect ratio as I take them.

Reddish Herons

Reddish Egrets: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 220

Too Many Photos on a Blog Post?

It would be way too easy to pick half a dozen photos from the 13,000 images I took at Sanibel and post them in a text heavy blog post. “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while”. Right? I could simply get lucky six times out of 13,000, or possibly only show six images that dovetail with the lens’ best attributes. Instead, I loaded this page with around 40 images taken at all times of the day, of a variety of subjects, and at a variety of distances. I only kept 1400 out of the 13,000. Many of the ones I deleted were sharp and well captured, but were boring or less interesting when placed beside an image with action or showing behavior. Why keep them? Check out: The Secret to Becoming a Good Photographer:

The Sanibel Trip

Many people come to Jackson Hole in the summer to breath the cool mountain air, visit the two National Parks, and experience the many activities found here. Many people flock to Florida in the winter to escape the brutal winters up north and to walk the warm beaches.  Sanibel is a renowned destination for “birding” photographers. The Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a centerpiece for the activity—along with the many miles of public beaches on the island.

White Ibis in the Surf

White Ibis in the Surf: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 400 mm, 1/1000 at f/9, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV, (Auto) ISO 720

My wife and I took our kids to Sanibel Island around 20 years ago. I had different priorities back then—namely kids! This time, I took the camera gear since I didn’t need a stroller. We stayed in a friend’s beach side condo and we rented a car for the week. I could set the alarm and be on the beach well before sunrise. Just like here, some of the best photography happens in the first hour of light. Colors are rich, saturated and vibrant! My wife was content to sleep later and make her way to the beach and pool. She really likes the sun and heat if she is not on the mountain with her snowboard.

Reddish Heron Fishing

Reddish Egret Fishing: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 500 mm, 1/640 at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV, (Auto) ISO 1250

The Gear

For this trip, I took three lenses and one body—along with a travel tripod and a strobe. I chose the D4 over the D800 in anticipation of opportunities for “birds in flight”. The tripod was the one I purchased in Hawaii back in October. (Here Today, Gone to Maui!). Here’s a link to MeFoto GlobeTrotter Tripod.  I couldn’t get my Gitzo in the suitcase or I would have taken it. I also took one of my Wimberley “Sidekicks” to help with birds in flight. I mounted it on the Arca-Swiss Z1 ball head, which is a little bigger and heavier than the ball head that came with the MeFoto Tripod. The Tamron 150-600mm lens fit inside my smaller back pack, along with the strobe and Nikon 28-300mm lens (which I never used). I carried my Nikon D4 and 24-70mm lens on the plane as my carry-on item. The back pack went into the plane’s overhead storage compartment. The point here is the Tamron is small enough and light enough to fit in the small back pack.

Great Egret Landing

Great Egret Landing: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 450 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 110

Many of the 13,000 captures were of birds in flight—or birds doing something on the beach. That takes more clicks than if I were only there for the landscape shots. At 600mm, it is much more difficult to keep the bird in the center of the viewfinder. The bigger, slower birds were easier, but it is still easy to crop off wings or legs. If I did my part and let the lens focus on a bird before shooting, the camera’s predictive auto focus system and the lens’ speed did a great job.

Fort Meyers Beach

Fort Meyers Beach: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/200 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,   ISO 100

While I found the lens very capable for the birds in flight and the other animals of the island, I also had fun with it on landscapes and people shots. Telephoto lenses can compress a scene, if desired, or it can allow you to blur objects behind the main subject. With a telephoto lens, most people on the beaches never knew I was taking photos with them in it. Even when they do know, I’ve always found them to be more relaxed and natural when I am not right in their face with a lens.

First Light on the Beachcombers

First Light on the Beachcombers: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 550 mm, 1/1000 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 1250

Brown Pelican Diving

Brown Pelican Diving: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 160

Some of the locals at Sanibel probably have better shots of some of the subjects than I managed to take on my short trip. If I were there for a month or two, I’d feel good about improving on some of what I did manage to capture. The diving Brown Pelican is an example. I’d like to be 50% closer for that shot, and if I were there longer, I think I’d get them.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican in Flight: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 800

Lighthouse and Moon

Moon and Lighthouse: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 150 mm, 1/30 at f/9, Aperture priority Mode, -2 1/3 EV,  ISO 100

My comments (mainly for people considering buying this lens):

I could  just let the photos speak for themselves, but I’m probably obligated to talk some about the lens. After using it for two and a half months, I simply must say I am impressed! And, I can say that without regard for the fact the lens costs under $1100!

Before making my purchase, I read a lot of reviews and comments about this lens. To be honest, most of the reviews did me absolutely no good! Many of the people had posted photos they had taken with the lens they thought were “tack sharp”, but wouldn’t have made it through the first cut if I had been culling through my images. They were far from sharp! Still, mixed in with the blurry images, I kept seeing a few that were incredibly sharp. Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde? After a while, it became apparent the lens was extremely capable in the hands of someone with the appropriate skills. While still on the fence, I ran across a Flicker page by Kristofer Rowe. The page is LOADED with birds in flight.  His page, along with the many positive comments put me over the top:

Remember to check out my earlier post: Tamron 150-600mm F/5.6-F6/3 Lens:

In a nutshell, I am confident in saying this lens can, and should take sharp photos. You could look at it from the other perspective, too. IF, you take 25 shots and one of them is sharp, that probably means the lens and body “can” take sharp shots and “something else” caused the other 24 to not be sharp. And of course, “sharp” is a relative term for the pixel peepers. Many people consider the essence of action or emotion more important than the sharpness or crispness of an image.  I like to think I’ve done all I can to allow myself to get a sharp image “when I need it” and then be able to let the creative side take over when the situation calls for it. And remember, at 600mm any sloppiness in technique will be much more apparent or amplified than when shooting with a shorter lens! The list below contains a few suggestions and observations about this lens.

  • In the reviews I read, a few people commented “the lens is not great for early or late day photography”. I think this comment needs to be paired up with the blurry shots shown as examples of tack sharp by some of the reviewers. I am not sure of their skill level? Additionally, people need to be at least somewhat realistic! A $10,000 F/4 prime 600mm lens is not going to be much better at freezing a flying eagle at daybreak than this lens. The Nikon F/4 600mm is 1.3 stops faster than this lens at F6.3 when zoomed to 600mm, but at 6:30 in the morning, neither are going to stop a lot of action.
  • The “one over focal length” rule: That’s an old rule of thumb for establishing the minimum shutter speed for hand holding a lens. Establish the focal length for a lens and turn it into a fraction by putting a one over it. For example, a 400mm lens would be 1/400th second. A 600mm would be 1/600th second. Vibration reduction can help by a stop or so. Leaning against a tree or vehicle can help, vs standing and holding the lens. Some people are more “rock solid” when hand holding than others. I prefer a tripod. I like to have the lens in front of my face at all times instead of having to raise and hold it if I anticipate action. There are trade offs of course.
  • Shutter Speed for stopping action: When I can, I like to shoot this lens at 1/1250th second. That stops most action (assuming you want stopped action) and it helps with getting sharp shots with still objects. I’ve still been able to get sharp images when on a tripod at 1/80th second, but the success rate is considerably less. A few months ago, I started using Auto ISO when shooting with either my D4 or D800. I set the camera to Manual Mode. I set the Shutter Speed to roughly 1/1250th second, then set the Aperture to F/8 or so. With Auto ISO turned on, the other two variables are set and the ISO bounces around as needed. I watch the ISO results and am willing to drop the shutter speed to 1/640th second and can open up to F/5.6 to F/6.3. With a good camera, high ISO is much less of an issue than it might have been three or four years ago.
  • Stopped Down or Wide Open?: In my earlier post, I mentioned feeling better about the lens when it is “stopped down” some. I think the lens is sharper wide open than I initially gave it credit. Still, I feel good stopping down to F/8 to F/11 if I have enough light and especially at long distances. All lenses have a “sweet spot”. I think F/8 or F/9 is good on this lens. Stopping down for birds in flight can help keep more of the bird in focus, but shutter speed and ISO must be worked into the equation.
  • Vibration Reduction: When using my Nikon 200-400mm, I typically turn off the VR when on a tripod. I followed the same logic with this Tamron lens initially. Interestingly, I saw some of my hand held images that seemed to be sharper than similar shots taken on the tripod. Tamron’s vibration reduction (VC) appears to be very good, and it doesn’t appear to be negatively affected if on a tripod. I am sure people have tested this extensively using charts and graphs. When in Florida, I was shooting with a lightweight tripod. I’d hate to call it “flimsy” but it is nothing like the two I use daily here in the Tetons. I had the vibration reduction turned ON for all images on this page. If nothing else, I figured this light tripod is still superior to a monopod. When back at home in Jackson Hole, I’ve been very impressed with images taken out the window at 600mm with the lens resting over a bean bag. BUT, it is also important to keep the shutter speed up, and it is VERY IMPORTANT to turn the engine OFF.
  • Birds in Flight: I also read comments by people suggesting this lens is not fast enough to keep up with flying birds. Again, I question the background and skills of the person making the comments. All you have to do is click on Kristofer Rowe’s Flickr page to debunk those comments. I had plenty of chances to photograph birds in flight while in Florida and found it more than capable. I’ve had other people tell me the Group Focus feature in a Nikon D810 makes this lens even better. I don’t own that body, so I can’t comment on the statement.
  • Clear or UV Filter: When I ordered my lens, Perfect Light was out of clear protective filters. As soon as the lens arrived, I took it out for some test shots. I ordered an inexpensive filter from B&H and it came in three or four days later. I didn’t really notice it at the time, but after adding the filter, some shots had either vertical or horizontal bands—mainly in images with a lot of clutter and activity in the backgrounds. Once I took the clear filter off, all of the problems went away. Some of the other images looked generally sharper without the filter, too.  I’d suggest either not using an add-on filter, or at least buy a good one.
  • AF Fine Tune: I spent some time initially adjusting the AF Fine Tune settings with the Tamron 150-600mm lens on both of my bodies using a Lens-Align tool. I do that will all of my lenses and find each of them need just a little (sometimes a lot) of adjustment. Some people suggest that is not necessary, but you’ll never convince me that’s the case. Maybe they just got lucky and received lenses and bodies that didn’t need it? Zoom lenses are not necessarily easy to fine tune. On some lenses the optimum AF Fine tune settings might be one number at the short end and another number at the other end of the zoom. At least on my 150-600mm lens, the difference at either end is not enough to worry about. I optimized it for the 400-600mm range because I figured that would be when I grabbed this lens over my 200-400, but I am finding it amazingly sharp when shooting close subjects and at the shorter end of the range.
  • Exposure Value: I mentioned this in the earlier page, but this lens consistently needs more negative EV than similar shots I take with my Nikon 200-400 or Nikon 70-200 lenses. That’s actually a GOOD THING! It gives me “back” some of the loss of going from an F/4 to a F/5.6-F/6.3 lens. For example, on my 200-400, I might often shoot at -2/3 EV, but on a similar shot with this lens, I might need to set it at -1 1/3 EV. In the Manual Mode with Auto ISO, the final ISO is influenced by the EV settings.
  • Pilot Error: I had a LOT of failures in the 13,000 images. Again, you might enjoy this old post: The Secret to Becoming a Good Photographer: If you only saw the 1400 keepers or the 140 that might make up the 1% group, you might think I have photography “nailed”.  The question for this page is what happened on the other 11,600 images? Some were terribly blurry. I didn’t get the bird in the focus group initially. Sometimes, I shook the camera or didn’t let the camera get settled properly before beginning to press the shutter. I cropped off wings or legs in a lot of them. It happens! Birds in flight, just like running horses or walking moose, have perfectly “natural” positions the camera can capture that aren’t particularly appealing. I delete them right off. There were distractions in some…like a power line or merged birds stacked on top of each other. Many were sharp and well captured, but were “boring”.  Keep the good ones and throw away the bad ones! I don’t blame the lens or camera for the bad ones.
  • Lens Goes Brain Dead: I’ve read reports of people saying the lens refuses to focus—requiring the person to have to pull the battery and reinsert it to reboot the camera’s operating system. Yes, I have experienced this issue on several occasions. It did it to me twice yesterday while photographing Clark’s Nutcrackers in the back yard. At the time, my battery was getting low, so I attributed the problem to the charge of the battery. I’ve had occasions where my 200-400mm lens acted up with a low battery charge. I changed out the battery yesterday and still had it happen one more time. So, I guess this lens will need to go back to Tamron at some point. I’ve spoken with a couple of other people that sent theirs in for this issue and they said it didn’t happen again after the fix. As I write this post, I don’t recall having a single problem like this on any of the 13,000 images in Sanibel. I hate to be without the lens now, so I will keep an eye on it for a while.

Beach Dwellers

Beach Dwellers: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 190 mm, 1/2500 at f/13, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 640

Additional Photos and Info

River Otter

River Otter: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 500 mm, 1/800 at f/7.1, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 2200

We have River Otters here in Jackson Hole. This one was sunning along the road at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge early one morning.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseatte Spoonbill in Flight: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 380 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV (Auto ISO)

These birds were popular with all the photographers each morning. At low tide, they stood in the shallows until mid-morning and then flew off to some other area of the Refuge.

Sanibel Alligator

Sanibel Alligator: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/9, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 560

I kept hoping to see an Alligator. This one was in an open pool as I was driving out of Ding Darling Refuge on my last day. It was about 7 foot long. This is a shot that might have benefited by the use of a polarizing filter. There may be a polarizing filter large enough for the 95mm rings on the Tamron, but I have a feeling it would be an extremely expensive gadget—especially if buying from one of the top of the line manufacturers. Polarizing filters can also “cost” up to two stops of light.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 420 mm, 1/1250 at f/13, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 1600

The Brown Pelicans found old pier posts to preen and dry their wings. My inexpensive travel tripod has a center post—which I seldom use. In this case, I needed to extend it to eliminate some distracting sky above the trees. While I shot all of my Sanibel images with the Vibration Reduction (VC) turned on, this is one case where I think it came in extra handy. Looking at the settings right now, I could have dropped the shutter speed to 1/640th second and dropped the aperture to F/7.1 or F/8 to help reduce the ISO. That’s “Monday morning quarterbacking” and it can be a good thing. Still, while standing there that morning, I was also allowing for the possibility the Pelican might take off from the post. It didn’t, but at least I was ready!

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 280

I was set up hoping the Roseate Spoonbills would fly towards me as they left the area, but without notice, the entire area spooked. Ospreys flew over fairly often without spooking the birds, but they are apparently leery of a much larger eagle.

Eagle with Fish

Eagle with Fish: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV (Auto ISO)

The Eagle fed on this fish for a while, then left the area, but the rest of the birds stayed away.

Palm Trees

Palm Trees and Rising Sun: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 460 mm, 1/1000 at f/13, Manual Mode, -5 EV,  (Auto) ISO 100

This shot would not be the same with a normal landscape lens. I am always careful when composing sunrise and sunset shots so I don’t look at the sun itself through the lens.

Beach Flowers

Beach Flowers: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1000 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 10000

Check out the ISO on this image. There was a very slight wind, so I needed the fast shutter speed.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Yellow-crowned Night Heron: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 400 mm, 1/250 at f/7.1, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 360

I saw my first Yellow-crowned Night Heron on the first morning. Another photographer was taking photos of one in a tree. He told me it was unusual to see one in the daytime, so I felt extremely lucky to get a few shots. As it turned out, I found them each morning feeding on crabs at the edge of the water. I shot thousands of images of them with quite a few settings.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

Great Blue Heron: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 280

There were Great Blue Herons and Little Blue Herons at Ding Darling. I took quite a few images of both. I don’t think there were as many Tricolored Herons, but I could be wrong.

Moving Birds

Moving Birds: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 320 mm, 1/8 at f/5.6, Aperture priority Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 100

This is more of an “artsy” image. It was taken very early in the morning. The small birds ran out to feed, then ran back up as the next wave approached. They looked like little fleas on the beach. At 1/8th second, the small birds blurred beautifully.


Netter: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 420 mm, 1/2500 at f/13, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 720

This guy was set up with a couple of fishing rods, a lawn chair, umbrella and all the necessary tools of the local fishing trade. He was using a throw net to catch bait for his endeavors. Snowy Egrets were attracted to the nets and fishermen and were looking for a few handouts.

Snow Heron

Snowy Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 500 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 450

Some of the Egrets, especially the ones frequenting the beaches, were amazingly tame. I shot at least a thousand images of this particular Egret. Sanibel is a renowned area for collecting sea shells. Even though the bottom is a little “busy”, I chose this one to include here to document the shells and also show how beautifully the background can go out of focus with a telephoto lens.


Fishermen: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 240 mm, 1/800 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 2500

This was a popular location each afternoon. I didn’t witness a lot of people catching fish, but that didn’t stop them from trying.

The Girls

The Girls: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, Tamron 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 450 mm, 1/2500 at f/13, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 8000

On the short end, 150mm offers some nice flexibility. My wife (the one in the sunglasses) met one of our neighbors, her daughter and friend in Sanibel. I took this shot from the pier looking back to the trees. The Tamron 150-600mm lens focuses as close as about 8′. Even stopped down, the background blurred out nicely. As I look at my settings above, I could have easily dropped to 1/800th second and F/11 to help reduce the ISO, but the image was still fine for most purposes at ISO 8000. I took most of our “family” shots with my Nikon 24-70mm lens, however many photographers like a lens in the 105mm length for portraits (70-200mm or prime 105mm). At 150mm, this Tamron lens might be an overlooked asset.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 550 mm, 1/1250 at f/13, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 720

This was taken at the same location as the other Brown Pelican shown earlier. This one was on a post with clouds in the distance. The basic settings were the same, but this one dropped the ISO automatically from 1600 to 720.

Shore Birds

Shore Birds: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 360

These birds were gathered on a sand bar until an Osprey flew over. Most of my “birds in flight” shots were taken in continuous focus mode with 9 points active. These shots probably qualify as “spray and pray”. I just aimed at the flock and pressed the shutter button. Some worked better than others. I believe these are Willets.

Shore Bird in Ocean Foam

Willet: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 640

I bought a small bird guide while in Florida. Willets are described as “Sanibel’s largest common winter shorebird”.

Morning Spoonbill

Morning Spoonbill: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1000 at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 1250

This Roseate Spoonbill was taken at 7:24 am at 600mm, wide open at F/6.3.

Resting Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 500

These interesting birds are common in Florida. They catch their fish with a hooked bill while swimming under water.

Sunning Cormorant

Sunning Cormorant: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 400 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 220

After fishing, Cormorants are often seen drying their wings in the sun.

Great Egret

Great Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 190 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 280

In most cases, the camera can do a pretty good job of adjusting for varying exposures. The white birds were a bit more of a challenge for me—knowing they might be flying against light blue skies and white clouds in part of a sequence and then fly into darker waters only a few seconds later. The bigger, slower birds were easier to track than some of the speedy ducks and other waterfowl.

Great Egret

Great Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 200

This shot gives a better idea of the size of a Great Egret. The booklet says it is 39″ tall compared to the White Ibis at 25″.

White Ibis

Young White Ibis: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1000 at f/6.3, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 720

White Ibis start out brown before turning white. Little Blue Herons, on the other hand, start out white and turn blue.

White Ibis in Flight

White Ibis in Flight: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 250

Adult White Ibis. There were additional White Ibis in the Gulf’s surf near the top of the page. I took lots of similar images of the various species of birds at Sanibel. The first day I was there gave me a feel of what the birds might do. Other photographers also helped with identifying the birds. Over a period of a couple of days, I started seeing patterns to their feeding. For example, the Ibis and some of the Herons would stay on the sandbar for the first half hour of light, then fly towards the edge of the water in front of me. By the third day, I was set up in the right place to get them flying right to my feet. Some of the images I had to delete were caused by the birds flying into my frame, then filling it and sometimes inside my minimum focus zone. Too much fun! I also learned, by watching out the balcony window, the Brown Pelicans gathered and fed near the shore at around 3:00 pm to 3:30 pm. A few more days there, and I would have probably seen more patterns and have been more successful. Animals in Grand Teton National Park often have patterns—not immediately apparent to a visitor or photographer.

Reddish Heron

Reddish Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 450

Reddish Egrets were my favorite birds in Sanibel. In fact, I shot a lot of them and I kept more of their images than any other subject. They were the most animated and active. Reddish Egretss spot fish and then run to the location, dancing sometimes to get there, and then spread their wings to influence the direction of the small fish below.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 380 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 500

Another shot of an approaching Spoonbill.

Great Egret

Great Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/8, Manual Mode, -1 2/3 EV,  (Auto) ISO 12800

I shot quite a few of this Egret as it slowly waded against the mangroves. In context of “shoot a lot, keep the good ones, and delete the bad ones”, I would have deleted the ones where the bird’s head was in front of the cluttered trees and roots. The “keeper” was the one with his head isolated against the less cluttered portion of the background. There’s always a chance the bird will fly off, so I tend to go ahead and shoot some of the less desirable images, just in case it does before it gets to an optimal spot. I could have still toned down the bright branches in post production. In this case, I didn’t have to do much work at all.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/9, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 500

This bird was not in the pamphlet. A Ding Darling volunteer identified it for me, saying they occasionally walk across one of the main roads and cause a huge traffic jam.

Snowy Egret

Snowy Egret: Shooting Data: NIKON D4, 150.0-600.0 mm f/5.0-6.3 at 600 mm, 1/1250 at f/10, Manual Mode, -1 EV,  (Auto) ISO 500

This was taken with evening light at close range.

Sunset over Sanibel

Sunset over Sanibel:

Each evening, tourists and locals make their way to the beach to witness the setting sun. On clear evenings, the sun kisses the water just before touching it.

A Few Final Comments

I got five days of photography in Florida. That was plenty! I had to buy an extra external hard drive to hold all the images. I’ve always wanted to get shots of Cardinals and Pileated Woodpeckers, found on the islands, but I only managed to “see” them on this trip. Still, I had ample opportunities to photograph birds I had never seen, and I got a chance to fine tune some of my “birds in flight” skills. A few days after I made it home, I found myself itching from being bitten by the “no-see-ums” that attack tourists in the mornings and evenings when the wind is low. We were in Florida towards the tail end of their Winter season—yet is was already getting “hot” by Jackson Hole standards. We flew home, passing over the rugged snow covered Wind River Mountains just before a winter storm entered our valley. Getting back to the emphasis of this post, the Tamron 150-600 performed beautifully for me. It has an amazing vibration feature which lets people hand hold it far past what I ever considered. I am positive I will be carrying it around with me in the fall when I photograph Moose, Deer and Elk.

At $1069, this lens gives me some extra range I never had, and it will give some of my One-On-One Photography Excursion clients a chance to try out a longer lens while on their trip.

If you want to see even more photos taken with this lens, check out my Daily Updates and Photos page for April. It has a LOT of images taken here in Jackson Hole during the month. April 2015 Daily Updates & Photos for Grand Teton National Park & JH:

Okay…I lied. A couple of people asked to see an image at 100%. Yesterday, I took a shot at around 150 yards of a guy climbing a shear face here in the Tetons. If you click the link, it will take you to a full-sized hi-resolution image captured with a Nikon D800 and a Tamron 150-600mm. . If the guy had a t-shirt with lettering, I am sure we’d be able to read it! If you want to view this in your browser, use your zoom commands : Control + to zoom in or Control – to zoom out. Or, feel free to download this particular image to your hard drive and view it in Photoshop. I left the shooting data in the file. This is a Raw capture, converted to a JPG in Photomechanic with no additional adjustments.

If you like this page, please help me out by sharing the page link on the social media pages like Facebook and post links on your favorite photography forums. MJ

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Comments (9)

  1. Great work, Mike. Thanks for sharing the info. I’ll definitely have to consider that if I ever upgrade my Nikon 80-400 Ver 1.

  2. Hi Aaron, I’ve never been able to afford a 500mm or 600mm lens, though it is all too easy to contract a case of “lens envy” when set up beside a line of them. This lens nullifies much of that issue now. At some point, I suspect some of the same people will be adding one of these light and compact lenses to their line-up. See you out in the field someday! MJ

  3. Thanks for the follow-up post. I’ve not been able to get out very much to practice with mine over the last month but I can tell that I’m really going to like it. In a couple of weeks, I plan to be out with it almost daily. After viewing your images, I know I have some work to do to improve my skills with it. You’ve given me some things to try and thank you for sharing the shooting data. It’s very helpful. Your “Beach Flowers” shot is amazing. Whenever I approach 10000 ISO, even on my D4, I see quite a bit of noise but I don’t see any in that shot. Mike not only did you bail me out a few years ago, but your posts and photos have been a real inspiration. Thank You!

  4. Hi Mike, It was very nice to meet you at Ding Darling Refuge in Sanibel. You were able to capture some amazing images, and I would never have known you were trying out a new lens! I particularly appreciate the variety of images you took to represent Sanibel, an absolutely wonderful island to explore and photograph. I have many favorites of your images, but “reddish heron fishing”, “morning spoonbill” and “reddish herons” in particular are outstanding! I hope my husband and I will be able to travel to the Tetons again in the future and will definitely contact you in advance for a “one on one excursion”. Thank you for the very helpful information you provide in your blog!

  5. Hi Sharon, It was my pleasure to meet you and shoot beside you that morning at Sanibel. Each morning was different, and each morning was rewarding on many levels. I met a lot of friendly and helpful photographers while there. I’d love to make a page of just the Reddish Herons. They are so entertaining…but this is primarily a blog about the Tetons and I’d hate to run people off if that’s why they come here. I feel good about this post because this lens might be the perfect alternative for people coming to the Tetons. I never had a chance to capture an Osprey taking a fish like the one you show me. Envious! Thanks for the note. MJ

  6. Hi Bill, For someone as skeptical as I was when I first heard about this lens (or any non Nikon or Canon lens), I have been converted! As far as the 10,000 ISO goes, I learned a lot from doing the night photography and reading the tutorials by the experts on post processing. They are shooting at ISO 3,500 to ISO 6,400 often. Try kicking up the “sharpening” and “radius” all the way up, then bring up the luminance (noise reduction) considerably. Masking can be increased a little, but the balance happens between the detail slider and the luminance slider.

  7. Thanks for the tip Mike. I’ll give that a try.

  8. Lowell Schechter

    Hi Mike
    wonderful bird images in Florida. Looks like that Tamron is a keeper. I know many people who have that lens but even though its pretty inexpensive for this type of lens, I still could not afford it. Maybe one day. The images from this lens is amazing.

  9. Yes, I understand. A Nikon F/4 600mm lens is $9,799 right now and way out of my budget. I like the weight, size, and zoom flexibility of this lens.

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