The Blog: See what
Sigma is saying.

11.15.2012

Using the SIGMA 120 – 400mm LENS50 – 500mm LENS

My photos have been published in National Geographic magazine, graced the cover of Audubon magazine and been featured in many online blogs and publications. And when I tell photographers that my go-to wildlife and birding kit is a Sigma 120-400mm mounted on Rebel T2i, it often takes a second for that information to sink in. I highly recommend this lightweight, variable aperture zoom lens with great reach and range.

Take, for example, this image of a Common Tern chick named “Scooter.” I’ve been asked if this was made with an 800mm prime!  He is three days old and is running toward me anticipating his parent to land. Granted I had to wait for a couple of hours for him to come out of his safe haven, but the wait was worth it.

© 2012 Lisa Franceski | Lens: 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM | Shutter Speed: 1/1250 sec | Aperture: f/8 | ISO 400

Other evidence that Sigma lenses can offer you high quality and tack sharp images is that I have been published in three books, an international magazine (National Geographic), a national magazine (National Audubon Society), a local magazine (Long Island Sound Study), Getty Images and consistently have inquiries.

The 120-400mm gave me the opportunity to capture tender moments. Scooter’s parent is brooding, and because I was laying down without a tripod, both of them did not see me as a threat. A great moment for all of us. As days passed, Scooter was more independent and did not require the sense of security his parents offered.

© 2012 Lisa Franceski | Lens: 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM | Shutter speed: 1/1000 sec | Aperture: f/8 | ISO 400

Here is a photograph of an immature Peregrine Falcon. He is sitting on a crest of a sand dune waiting for smaller shorebirds (Sanderlings or sandpipers) to forage nearby. Again, even with this lens, I was able to walk around for miles without tiring and it was non-threatening enough to allow me to approach without scaring the juvenile off. Slowly, I lowered myself onto the ground and took this photograph.

© 2012 Lisa Franceski | Lens: 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM | Shutter speed: 1/1000 sec | Aperture: f/8 | ISO 400

I have found during the years of my photography of wildlife, especially with my focus of shorebirds, that this particular lens, allows me to walk for miles while carrying it in my hands without the bulk and tiring me out. It allows me to be in peculiar positions to photograph my subjects without the strain on my wrists or back. Finally, the small size and light weight feel brings me close enough to my subjects to get the great in-focused shots, without alienating their natural behavior. This is the utmost important factor – not to alienate my subjects. After all, I am an uninvited guest in their territory.

The photographs render tack sharp images and allows close proximity to my subjects. I think it is imperative to get close up shots of your subjects, but to keep in mind, the 120-400mm and 50-500mm lens allows you to do so. This gives you a great reach and I believe the final shots are pretty awesome. At least awesome enough to impress Getty images and a surplus of other well established magazines and publishers.

With the 50-500mm Sigma lens, I was able to lay down in the wet sand, hold the base within the palm of my left hand and shoot with my right index finger while the Semipalmated plover was foraging along the shoreline for crustaceans and invertebrae.

© 2012 Lisa Franceski | Lens: 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG OS HSM | Shutter speed: 1/1250 sec | Aperture: f/8 | ISO 400 +1/3 EV

A couple of weeks later, early in September, the Semipalmated Plover was foraging in the left over puddles of ocean water from the high tide. The puddles offered a nice reflection. Again, the size of the 50-500mm did not scare off the shorebird. The quiet OS and quick focus enabled me to repetitively photograph him in different positions.

© 2012 Lisa Franceski | Lens: 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG OS HSM | Shutter speed: 1/1000 sec | Aperture: f/9 | ISO 400 -1/3 EV

Here’s the dynamic duo of the Snowy Egrets. As wildlife photographers, I am sure you have been in the presence of them during your visits at the beach on the Long Island Sound. They definitely have personalities of their own. I find that if you slowly move toward them and crouch down, they will hunt and perform their antics right in front of you.

© 2012 Lisa Franceski | Lens: 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG OS HSM | Shutter speed: 1/1250 sec | Aperture: f/9 | ISO 200

Finally, one of my favorite shorebirds is the Piping Plovers. These are endangered species and they are prominent where I live on the North Shore and South Shore. Many efforts by trained conservationists, the DEC as well as photographers like myself attempt to educate the public of the fragility of this species. It is imperative as a photographer of Piping Plovers to be sensitive to their natural instinct to protect and to abandon their young if you approach too close to attempt to deter you from them. This leaves the baby chicks vulnerable to prey or to be stepped on. Please be careful where you step when it is breeding season and the chicks are hatched. When it is time to forage, they make a direct bee-line from their nesting site down to the water. As a photographer this is great information to know because you don’t have to invade their territory to get awesome shots, let them come to you because you are aware of their habits. They forage along the break of the water with their babies. Anticipate their path and place yourself there. They will eventually come to you.

© 2012 Lisa Franceski | Lens: 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG OS HSM | Shutter speed: 1/1600 sec | Aperture: f/8 | ISO 200

© 2012 Lisa Franceski | Lens: 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG OS HSM | Shutter speed: 1/800 sec | Aperture: f/9 | ISO 200


About Lisa: I grew up in Loudonville, New York, attended Shaker High School, Albany Business College and Maria College of Albany (Nursing).  I moved to Long Island in the year of 2001 working as a Registered Nurse.
While growing up, I was always interested in birds, mainly passerines, and I believe this interest as a child  inspired me to continue my interest once I received my first digital camera.  My interests of wildlife photography is specific to shorebirds of the North and South Shores of Long Island New York.  The two top favorites are the Piping Plovers and Least Terns, in which both species are endangered and protected by our Federal Government.  My next favorite of the most colorful of personalities, is the threatened species is the Common Terns.

I have learned a lot about the behaviors of these birds through long hours of observation and consider myself fortunate to be able to capture a special moment when it happens.

To see more of Lisa’s work, check out her website and Flickr page!

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  1. Hi Lisa, Nice shots! One of my favorite birds is the Piping Plover, but I have not as of yet had the opportunity to photographer them. I too used to use the Sigma 120-400mm, but I have found a better combination. The 120-300 f2.8 OS with a 1.4x tele-converter is more able in capturing birds in flight and operating in less light. Also, pictures are noticeably more sharp, thus I can make bigger prints and still retain absolute sharpness. If you have a Facebook page, friend me please as I would definitely like to follow your work. Take care.