The Blog: See what
Sigma is saying.

08.01.2018

The temperature has warmed, the passes are free of snow and the wildflowers are peaking. Summer in the Colorado Rockies is as stunning as it is brief. One of the best ways to experience the rustic beauty of the back country is to spend a few days backpacking through it with a camera and the Sigma 18-300mm F3.5-6.3 Contemporary Lens in hand.

© Liam Doran 2018 | Sigma 18-300mm F3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM | C Lens | 18mm | 1/25 sec, f/13, ISO 200

Read More >>

06.11.2018

Just a few weeks ago Sigma made a huge announcement. They would be making lenses natively compatible with Sony FE-mount in the very near future. At first it will be the Art prime line and later all the zoom Art and Sport lenses will be available too. This raised a lot of eyebrows, mine included.

It’s no secret that mirrorless cameras are growing in popularity and performance! Companies like Sony, Olympus and Panasonic have been putting out highly refined mirrorless cameras for some time now and Sigma has been offering prime DN lenses for either the APS-C or micro-four thirds image circle for several years now. But the introduction of the full-frame Sony E-mount system has been a major game-changer.

© Liam Doran 2018 | Arch and granary. Sigma 24-70 f2.8 A lens and MC-11 converter. Three shot HDR merged in LR 6.

Read More >>

12.28.2017

Whether it is taking one of the first US samples of the 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Art above 13,000 feet in the Andes, or hiking up the Rockies with the 100-400mm to stalk Mountain Goats, not only knowing what lenses to pack for the assignment, but also knowing that the gear is going to be up to the task is a critical part of my decision-making process. In my outdoor world, conditions are often extreme, and editors demand photos, not excuses. I’ve proudly used Sigma lenses for years and even in the harshest conditions, these lenses always deliver the results I, my editors and the publication readership demands. Here’s the sort of situations I regularly find myself and my Sigma gear facing.

When it’s snowing 2+ inches per hour its hard to get anything done. The Sigma 12-24 f4 A powered through and delivered the goods. This landed as a two page spread in Backcountry Magazines Photo Annual. Sigma 12-24 f4 A 1/1250 sec f/8 ISO 800 on Canon 1DX Skier: Sven Brunso © Liam Doran | 2017

Its Feb 28th of last year and I find myself sitting in my truck atop Coal Bank Pass in southwest Colorado. It is snowing so hard that the snowplows that keep the road open are having a hard time keeping up. I have a four-wheel drive truck with snow tires so I am well prepared for the worst driving conditions possible.

On days like this choosing the proper gear is critical and my photo gear, like my truck, must be able to handle these severe conditions. I was working with two professional skiers and we were there to make high level professional photos that would be strong enough to for publication in today’s top ski magazines.  These days “strong enough” is an incredibly high bar. Consider that today’s top 3 magazines have about 40-50 photo placements per year including cover, table of contents, gallery and assigned stories. That makes as few as 120 potential published photos out of tens of thousands submitted.

Ultra deep powder and blue skies. This is what skiers dream of.
Sigma 70-200 f2.8 1/1600 sec. f/9 ISO 400 on Canon 1DX Skier TJ David © Liam Doran | 2017

Three thousand feet above the highway we wait for sunset and drop in . Sigma 12-24 f4A 1/1250 sec f/8 ISO 400 Skier: TJ David © Liam Doran | 2017

Shooting beneath massive overhanging cornices like the one pictured above can be very dangerous. When you are taking risks to get shots you better be confident that your gear will deliver. This shot also landed as a two page spread in Backcountry Magazines Photo Annual. Sigma 70-200 f2.8 1/1600 sec. f/8 ISO 400 on Canon 1DX. Skier TJ David  © Liam Doran | 2017

For the moment, I will ignore the artistic and storytelling components necessary in a good shot and tell you that every shot must be tack sharp. And in conditions like the day on Coal Bank that is no easy task. So, which lenses were up to the task?  That day I had the Sigma 12-24 f4A, 24-105 F4 A and 70-200 f2.8 lenses coupled with the Canon 1DX. The result? Three images made the cut and made it into print.

My shooting days are not always this severe, but even then, it’s still cold and wet or hot and dusty most of the time. My cameras and lenses are constantly going in and out of the pack and I change lenses in the field often. On calm days, I will change lenses in typical fashion but when its nasty out I try to do it within the confines of my photo pack. I also backpack with my photo gear. I have lens and body wraps from Clik Elite that I protect my gear with when everything in inside my backpacking pack, but regardless this can be tough on gear.  Bottom line here is that my lens kit must stand up to some very serious use and abuse.  The incredible build quality of my Sigma lens kit has never let me down.

Shooting amazing places in the backcountry in is far more rewarding for me than shooting iconic locations just a few feet from the road. Sigma 24-105 f4 A 1/80 sec. f/10 ISO 800 on Canon 5DMKIII © Liam Doran | 2017

Jamming your gear into a backpacking pack and working in wet sandy conditions can wreak havoc on your lenses. But off the beaten path is where I like to shoot and this is where my Sigma glass excels. Self portrait. Sigma 24-105 f4 1/80 sec. f/9 ISO 400 on Canon 5DMKIII © Liam Doran | 2017

This summer I brought Sigma’s new 24-70 f2.8 A lens with me on a shoot in Chile and it performed very well. I am looking forward to having that lens in my pack for a variety of shoots. I also foresee bringing the 100-400 C lens with more this winter. There are a few shots I want to get that have me shooting skiers on distant ridges. The 100-400 combined with a crops sensor lens will really bring the action into reach. The 120-300 f2.8 S lens might be the sharpest lens I have ever shot with. Its not practical to bring this with me on a big day in the backcountry but whenever possible I’ll get this lens in the snow too.

The 24-70 f2.8 A lens performed well in Chile and I look forward to really putting it through the paces this winter. 1/1250 sec. f/8 ISO 200 on Canon 7DMKII Skier: Amie Engerbretson © Liam Doran | 2017

When it comes to gear I am not overly technical. I can’t tell you how many aperture blades a lens has or what kind of coatings are on the glass. What I know is what works and what does not. If a lens is not nailing focus time after time it will not be in my pack. I can’t afford to miss the shot, especially when the athletes and I often find ourselves in harm’s way.

What are the lenses Liam look to for big days outside?

12-24 f4A. Great for unique perspectives.

24-70 f2.8A Workhorse lens for all situations

24-105 f4 A another workhorse that I often use as a one lens solution.

70-200 F2.8 A must have lens for every ski and outdoor shooter.

100-400 4.5-5.6 C. Great when you need a compact powerful zoom.

For ski shooting Liam also includes, climbing skins, avalanche beacon, shovel, probe, extra layer, food, water, and more. All of this is packed into a Clik Elite Contrejour 40 2.0 pack.

Professional lenses are critical when shooting athletes at the edges of light. Here, I am shooting the 70-200 handheld wide open at f2.8 using the lenses OS in setting 2. 1/60 sec. f/2.8 ISO 800 on Canon 1DX Rider: Nate Hills © Liam Doran | 2017

I’m always happy to bring a tele-zoom no matter how far in the backcountry I find myself. Sigma 70-200 f2.8 1/1250 sec. f/6.3 ISO 800 on Canon 1DX Rider: Nate Hills © Liam Doran | 2017

Getting good shots can sometimes mean getiing down low in the dust and the dirt. My Sigma lenses always able to handle the elements and get the job done. Sigma 24-105 f4 A 1/1000 sec. f/6.3 ISO 800 on Canon 1DX Rider: Nate Hills © Liam Doran | 2017

My Sigma kit has served me incredibly well in some heinous conditions. I rely on it for every shoot I go on because the autofocus is spot on and the build quality is excellent. For outdoor photographers on the go the combination of quality and price makes choosing Sigma a no-brainer. Pick one up today and never look back.

 

12.04.2017

One of the great things about living in Colorado is that I am surrounded by the stunning rocky mountain ecosystem. There is easy access to the airy reaches of the alpine tundra and the subalpine with its rolling evergreen forests and jeweled lakes. Within these zones are a myriad of wildlife and great opportunities to photograph them in their native habitat. Two of my favorite animals to photograph here are the mountain goat and the moose.

After numerous days inside editing photos, writing, emailing, and creating presentations I had had enough. It was time to get outside and make some photos. Fall has fallen and winter has yet to arrive and this is a great time to photograph our local population of mountain goats. I only had one afternoon to find and photograph them so I wanted to travel light and fast. My go to lens for situations like this is the Sigma 100-400 C lens. This light sharp lens has really found its way into my pack and my heart recently.

For this adventure, I would start by scouring the southern flanks of 14,265′ Quandary Peak for signs of mountain goats. The portable and packable 100-400 C lens was the only lens I brought with me so I could get around the steep mountainside more easily. In November, the coats of the mountain goats are usually thick and full in preparation for winter. They are also typically bunched up in groups for the rut. But this day was different. I hiked all over—but found just a solo billy. He was up high and in a spot with a beautiful background. The zoom range of the 100-400 is incredibly useful as I could shoot at 100 for a shot of the goat in his environs and then zoom to 400 for a tighter portrait.

A tight portrait shot of a billy goat shot at 400mm. Sigma 100-400 C lens on Canon 7DMKII. 1/1000 sec. f/8 ISO 500. © Liam Doran | 2017

Shooting at 100mm puts the mountain goat in his environment. 1/1000 sec. f/8 ISO 500. © Liam Doran | 2017

As the goat trod up the mountain a new peak came into view in the background. Shot at 176mm 1/1600 sec. f/7.1 ISO 500. © Liam Doran | 2017

He finally settled in to his perch with yet another amazing backdrop. Shot at 251mm. 1/1600 sec. f/7.1 ISO 500. © Liam Doran | 2017

I was able to zoom into 400mm and catch him digging his bed. 1/1600 sec. f/7.1 ISO 500. © Liam Doran | 2017

A final backlit portrait of this mountain champion. 1/1250 sec. f/8 ISO 500. © Liam Doran | 2017

For photographers interested in making wildlife images I would highly suggest learning as much as you can about the animals you wish to photograph. Not that you need to be a wildlife biologist, but the basics about when and where to find animals is incredibly important. For example, if you head the National Elk Refuge outside of Jackson WY in June, guess what:you won’t find. Elk! That time of year they will be widely dispersed and headed up into the high country. Also, learn what habitats they are most likely to be encountered in. In Colorado moose love willow choked wetlands so that is always where I start.  Also, get to know your scat and track identification because, short of a sighting, that will be how you know they are in the area. Park Rangers, online nature photography groups, and even the locals at the coffee shop are great resources to learn what animals are in the area at a given season.

After my time with the mountain goat I hiked the 2000 or so vertical feet back to my truck. There was still light left in the day so I decided to continue my wildlife photo hunt. Right across the street from Quandary but lower on the pass in the subalpine zone is an area that I know holds moose. Again, I just had the 100-400 in my pack so I could hike fast in the waning light. When it rains it pours and as luck would have it I came across a large bull almost immediately. I saw his fresh tracks in the shallow snow and flanked him a bit knowing that he would come into an open area. He emerged from the woods right where I thought he would. He was backlit and beautiful with his breath ignited by the low-angle sun. Moose are aggressive and huge, weighing in at over 1000 pounds. Having the zoom capabilities of the 100-400 C was critical as I wanted to keep a safe space between us.

Don’t get too close to these huge beasts. Shot at 400mm so I could keep my distance. 1/800 sec. f/6.3 ISO 1000. Handheld using the Optical Stabilizer on the lens. © Liam Doran | 2017

Hiking through willow and wetlands was much easier with the small, light, powerful 100-400 lens. Shot at 400mm. 1/640 sec. f/6.3 ISO 1000 handheld. © Liam Doran | 2017

Image 8931. Again, shot at 400 to keep a big working distance between us. 1/1600 sec. f/6.3 ISO 1000. Hand held using the Optical Stabilizer on the lens. © Liam Doran | 2017

A final shot before he moves into thick willows at the very end of the day. 1/1600 sec. f/6.3 ISO 1000. Shot at 291mm. © Liam Doran | 2017

The Sigma 100-400 lens produced some great images this day. It was very light in my pack and that kept me moving fast through rugged terrain. It is super sharp with great detail coming though in both the mountain goat and moose images. I have printed shots of both at 17X22 and they look amazing. I love the flexibility of the zoom range and the ability to shoot handheld using the Optical Stabilizer. The Sigma 100-400 continues to impress me and is sure to be in my pack for many adventures to come.

 

 

Now through December 31st, 2017, The Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C is offered with $100 Instant Savings!

 

09.22.2017

Over the last week and half or so the aspens around my hometown of Breckenridge, CO have been morphing from summer’s emerald green to a variety of hues from light to deep yellow, orange, rust and even some red now and again.  The fleeting nature of fall makes it one of my favorites times of the year and certainly for nature photographers it can be a wildly productive season.

Aspen litter the ground in uniform color. When looking directly into the sun like this its best to remove your polarizing filter, if you’ve got one attached. Stopping down to F/14 gives the great starburst effect and limitless depth of field. Sigma 12-24 f4 on Canon 5DMKIII 1/30 sec. f/14 ISO 250

Fall in the Rockies is full swing with the highest elevations peaking over the next week.  But the annual color explosion is far from over so procrastinating photographers fear not! The lower elveations, and for landscape shooters better destiantions, of Crested Butte, Telluride, Durango and the like are still over a week away from peaking. And if you miss fall in the mountains, have no fear, as the color spills down the Colorado plateau and into the nearby deserts. And on the east coast, I hear the fall foliage party is just getting started in the northern and higher altitude zones. Whenever fall color peaks in your neck of the woods, the basics of composition and color remain the same.

Side light and backlight combine to make this stand of skinny aspens glow like a shimmering pot of gold. Sigma 100-400 C lens. 1/400 sec. f/7.1 ISO 250 at 400mm

To capture fall in its finest I have been using a kit consisting of my Sigma 12-24 f4 A, 24-70, f2.8 A and my 100-400 C and 70-200 f2.8 lenses..  I will also use a polarizing filter on my medium and telephoto lenses. While the 12-24 does not accept a polarizing filter I would probably not use one on it anyway, as they tend not to work well on super wide angle lenses due to the very wide field of view. For added depth of field I tend to shoot between f8 and f16 and to get the best out of my sensor I shoot at low ISO’s rarely going over 400. This means slow shutter speeds will be used and a tripod is a must.

Read More >>

08.25.2017

Sigma’s brand new 24-70 f2.8 A lens arrived at my doorstep, the morning before my departure to Portillo, Chile, to shoot southern hemisphere skiing for a variety of editorial and commercial clients at one of the premiere winter sports destinations in the Andes. For the past few years my go to “all around” lens had been the Sigma 24-105 F4 A. I was intrigued by the new 24-70 f2.8 A for its increased maximum aperture speed and also its weather sealing and wondered how it would compare.

 

There is a strong possibility that this is the first ski action photo ever captured by a Sigma 24-70 f2.8 lens. While I don’t think that could actually be verified it is the first image I made with the new lens! This is a lock-off shot where the athlete, Sven Brunso, and I agreed on an exact spot where the turn would be and then I prefocused, composed and he skied through the frame. 1/1250 sec. f/10 ISO 250 on Canon 7DMKII
© Liam Doran | 2017

It felt great in my hand with similar look and style to all of Sigma’s Global Vision line zooms. I was happy to see a rubber weather sealing gasket where the lens connects with the camera. The price is right and crushes the competition being nearly 1,100 LESS than Nikon’s version. That’s enough savings to fund a few weeks of trekking in Nepal, or even another Art lens!

Read More >>

07.08.2017

In the past, getting large telephoto lenses deep into the back-country was akin to strapping a dumbbell to your back and hauling it around all day or even multiple days. I would often turn my athletes into pack mules or even bring an assistant along to help with the load. But last month that all changed. I recently received Sigma’s new 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM C lens and immediately put it to the test on three separate shoots covering landscape, mountain biking and finally wildlife.

On my first outing with the 100-400 I took it for a shoot in Utah’s canyon country. The weather was stormy with snow, rain, wind and fog all on the menu. The lens handled the weather great and was an absolute joy to use. I was out all day for three days straight and its lighter weight was a great relief to my shoulders. The sharpness of the lens was evident even on the back of my camera. When I got home and made some 17X22 in. prints I was blown away.

© Liam Doran 2017 | Breaking storm on the La Sal Mountains outside of Moab, UT. 1/15 sec. f/8 ISO 200 at 361mm. Shot on Canon 5DMKIII

Read More >>

02.22.2017

Sigma Pro Liam Doran gives a first-look account at the new Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM | Art lens for on-mountain winter sports photography. Check out the video to hear his thoughts and to see a sampling of his first shots with this great new ultrawide full-frame constant-aperture Art zoom lens!

 

Photo © Liam Doran Photography. Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM | Art lens at 13mm 1/1250 F16 ISO 400 paired with a Canon 1DX

Photo © Liam Doran Photography. Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM | Art lens at 13mm 1/1250 F16 ISO 400 paired with a Canon 1DX

1224Liam

11.15.2016

Negative space…no its not the place in your head where you second guess your photographic composition and/or lens choice and/or exposure settings and/or enter general anxiety here. The simplest explanation of negative space that I can think of is that it is any space in your photograph that is not the intended subject. Or as Wiki puts it “is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image.” For editorial photographers the negative space of an image can be incredibly important and can make or break an image for publication.

When you are sent out on assignment or are asked for a stock submission you may get some request like, “mind the gutter”, or “right read two page opener” or better yet “cover please!” All of these requests are basically code for negative space and how they want that space to be organized. When you are out shooting, you should keep these negative spaces in mind. Below are a few example of how negative space is used in editorial photography.

Mind the Gutter- Just like it sounds, the gutter is where the left and right pages meet in the middle of the magazine and art directors generally will not want to place the subject of the image within the gutter. If the subject is centered then they may make the image a ¾ spread and put text in the left or right column depending which way the image was placed

© Liam Doran 2016 | Classic two page spread opener with the action on the left and copy on the right.

© Liam Doran 2016 | Classic two page spread opener with the action on the left and copy on the right.. Taken on Canon 1DX with Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 lens. ISO 640 f/11 1/1600 sec.

Right (or left) read two page opener- Be prepared to keep you subject and the action confined to one side of an image. Often you will find that a story opens as a two-page spread photograph with the copy on the right side and the action/subject on the left and sometimes the other way around.

Read More >>

11.08.2016
© 2016 Liam Doran | 24-105mm F4 DG OS Art on Canon 1DX.  Climbing high on a hill gave me a great view of the  race and surrounding mountains.

© 2016 Liam Doran | 24-105mm F4 DG OS Art on Canon 1DX.  Climbing high on a hill gave me a great view of the  race and surrounding mountains.

I spent the better part of last week chasing some of the best mountain bikers in the country all around my hometown trails of Breckenridge Colorado for the Breck Epic 6 Day bike race.

The Breck Epic is a six day mountain bike stage race held every August in Breckenridge, CO. Its open to all levels and abilities from big name pros to those just entering the sport.  It is incredibly challenging(courses are 35-50 miles with 4,800-7,200 vert) but rewards racers with some of the most scenic single track riding in the U.S.

I don’t shoot much race coverage, in fact this is the only race I have covered this year.  My assignment was twofold: get great back-country action shots and also capture behind the scenes images of two of the racers.  These images were used to promote the race, town, athletes and brands involved.

Read More >>