Men love hunting. Give a dentist a gun, and he will happily take down the most popular lion in Africa. A dock worker with a carbon fiber rod and a tent goes hunting carp in the middle of the night. Give a photographer a telephoto lens, and he goes on safari. You get the picture, I think. For variety, or if you are bored with that, you can crank up the difficulty level by switching to sport fishing with a telephoto lens. Bring the world under the water into frame based on what the obliging birds turn up for you. They are happy to help out. Like the cat who lovingly takes the neighbor’s parakeet home with him, kingfishers, egrets, and grebes bring the Dutch underwater fauna to you. We collected a few important nature photography tips for you.
Sport fishing with a telephoto lens. It’s at least three times as much fun as with a rod.
Tip 1: Choose the right lens or camera.
For sport photography with a telephoto lens, it might sound strange ,but an inexpensive camera is a plus. Thanks to the crop factor of cameras with a smaller sensor, you bring the subject closer to you. A micro-43 camera or a camera with an APS-C or a DX sensor brings the subject closer. It goes without saying that you need a lens with a long focal length: the longer, the better. For sport fishing with a telephoto lens, you really do not need to start with an expensive professional SLR camera like the Canon 1Dx, equipped with even more expensive telephoto lenses like the Canon 200-400mm L. Of course you can take great pictures with that, as our test results show, but you will have to dig deep for it. In the past year, several extreme telephoto zoom lenses have been brought to market with a shop price over 1000 euros, with which you can make extremely sharp photos even in the longest telephoto mode. It used to be that telephoto zoom lenses were visibly less sharp at the longest focal length, but the manufacturers have been able to make enormous progress on this point, as we saw for example when testing the Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary. The first practice shots that we just made with the newest Nikon 200-500 mm show that this lens also offers extremely high image quality relative to its list price.
Tip 2: Choose the right bird.
As a beginning sport fisher with a telephoto lens, you increase the chance of success by focusing on a bird that catches a lot of fish. It will be obvious to most people that you mustn’t start as a sport fisher with a song bird or a sparrow. But a novice great crested grebe can spend a whole afternoon fishing in vain, blue herons have a touch of that as well, while a few meters away, a lesser known little grebe (in the above picture with a bass) pulls one fish after the other out of the water.
Tip 3: 4K video is an enormous plus.
When a bird catches a fish, you have very little time to get a good picture of it. With less expensive cameras, the number of shots that you can make per second is not that high. The buffer is also full in a couple of seconds, after which you can no longer take pictures with your camera for a while. Troublesome, if just at that moment a great egret starts chomping on a big tench (photo below). With video, you can capture 25 to 50 images (depending on the camera and the image quality chosen). With a good SD card, you can shoot continuously for up to a good half hour. Panasonic (Panasonic GH4. Panasonic GX8, Panasonic G7), Samsung (Samsung NX1, Samsung NX500) and Sony (Sony A7R MK2) offer cameras with which you can photograph outstandingly and that offer 4K video as an important bonus. Where you can film with most cameras in Full-HD (living room quality: 2 megapixels), with these cameras you film in theater quality (8 megapixels: Ultra HD). You can have a beautiful enlargement printed on A4 from an 8-megapixel shot; with 2 megapixels you can better think about a 10 x 15 cm print. The shot below is a stilil from a Panasonic GH4 video.
Tip 4: Fishing with a telephoto lens as a pleasant team sport.
Fishing with a telephoto lens is not difficult. Anyone who would rather not sit alone can also practice it as a team sport by searching for a bird-watching hut. Colleague sport fishers are always prepared to teach you the fine tricks of the trade. And if you shoot something and don’t know what it is, then there is always someone there who knows exactly what you caught.
Spoiler Alert: Not everything is purely natural.
The Netherlands is so small that we don’t have any completely unspoiled nature anywhere. Even in the Oostvaardersplassen you will hear the sound of cars and airplanes everywhere. Not long after I had placed a video on CameraStuffReview of a heron feeding a Koi or a goldfish to his or her offspring, I was back in the same bird-watching hut near Almere. “Do you know what these gray bitches live off of?” I heard someone behind me say to his neighbor in a heavy Amsterdam accent. “From the fish out of my pond. There are no goldfish left in it. I think I’ll head back to the garden center this afternoon.”