Sometimes you just have to improvise.
This week I had to give in and mail my beloved bird lens back to the manufacturer for repair. I considered renting one for a couple of weeks but decided that I should just try some close shooting, that this was the best time to mail it off. I could make due and try other things, at least it would be in good condition for springtime.
Wednesday we had a weather event, an ice storm. Someone online called it “slain” – a mix of sleet, hail, and freezing rain – it created about an inch of ice at my place infused with these marble sized beads.
I was prepared for the storm. I made room in the garage for the Jeep, I made chicken and noodles and I stacked about a rick of firewood inside the living room. I had my Carharts out and was ready for whatever came my way. By midnight there was thunder, lightning, sleet, and hail – all at once – the sound on my metal roof was unlike anything I have ever heard. I stoked the fire and planned on working from home the next day as long as I had power.
In the morning I let the dogs out and saw the crazy frozen hail soup on every horizontal surface and noticed that the bird population had soared. They came in waves, about 30 minutes before more ice and sleet. Lots of singing and calling and ravenous eating. Here was a bird bonanza and I was going to miss it – my bird lens was somewhere in Texas on a FedEx truck.
I ran outside with my macro lens and shot the hail shot above, but thought that I was just going to have to sit this bonanza out…until I remembered an old piece of glass sitting in a box in my studio. It was a Vivitar 90-230mm zoom – manual focus. I bought it from a friend who was clearing out some of his dad’s photo equipment. I bought some nice glass from him, but this was in the not-so-nice category. I had seen this same lens on eBay for as low as $29 – not much to write home about, but it was a zoom. I had never attempted to shoot any wildlife without any autofocus or image stabilization, but with those birds out there in those numbers I just had to try.
I found that the birds were having to do a bit of improvising of their own…
The verdict – focusing was challenging but not impossible. The lens is not as bright as a modern one, but not bad for 35 years old. It has haze inside the lens and that may account for the lack of brightness. The pictures are sharper than I thought they would be, but there is a grainy quality to them, they remind me of film. There is some chromatic aberration – I plan to try some shots in better light this weekend to see if I can get better results.
All shots were shot between f4.5-6 / 300-400 / ISO 2000 or lower.