By John Lincourt
I’m a Rhode Island based photographer specializing in nautical photography. That means I get to capture a lot of the beauty that is the New England shoreline as well as a variety of uniquely Rhode Island events. It also means that I get to shoot some incredible sailboat racing, many times I’m standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the best photographers in the world. It can be intimidating shooting next to a photographer with the latest big full frame camera and an even bigger super expensive, super fast lens. I’ve been shooting digital with my crop sensor cameras since around 2005 and shooting sailboat races with my D7000, a D5100 and my trusty Sigma 150-500mm (and several other Sigma lenses) since 2012.
This spring when I was given the opportunity to shoot a great event called J Fest New England in Bristol, RI as their official photographer, I knew instantly that I’d be giving my gear a good workout. Knowing that if I did a good job for the event, I’d get great exposure and the possibilities of shooting more work for J Boats the makers of the very popular J22’s and J24’s among many other models. Then the wheels started turning. Nikon just came out with their new flagship Crop Sensor Camera, the D500, Sigma recently launched the 150-600mm Contemporary and Sport lenses and now the 50-100mm f/1.8. A few emails and a manageable credit card bill later I had what I hoped would be the ideal kit for shooting regattas on its way, a rented Nikon D500 and the 2 lenses on loan for the whole month of August from Sigma. The original plan was to shoot the regatta and then return all the equipment, write this blog for Sigma and that would be the end. Having the 2 lenses for the whole month though gave me a few more options to put the lenses through a good workout. The D500 went back the day after J Fest, but since I had the 2 lenses for an additional 3 weeks, I was able to shoot 2 other regattas and a really cool night event using the 2 lenses and my D7000 and the D5100 that I use as my 2nd camera when I shoot regattas.
I made sure I had all the equipment a week before J Fest so that I could set everything up and get used to all the new gear. I didn’t want to show up at the regatta and not be able to set up all my new equipment. To my delight, an opportunity presented itself, a friend’s Little League team made it to Northeast Regional tournament in Bristol, Ct. Shooting that event would certainly be a challenge though, the game would be under the lights, so I was dealing with low light and fast action. I set up the cameras the same way I’d be using them for the regatta the following weekend. The only real difference was that I was shooting at a much higher ISO. The 150-600 would be on the D500 and the 50-100 would be on my older D7000.
I expected the images to be sharper than what I could have gotten with my old well used 150-500mm and my 1st generation 50-150mm f2.8, I wasn’t expecting what I got. Both lenses produced what I considered unbelievably sharp images and tracked the action very well even with the relatively low light of being under the lights.
© John Lincourt | Nikon D500, Sigma 150-600 Contemporary, at 180mm, 1/1,250th sec, f5, ISO 12,800
© John Lincourt | Nikon D7000, Sigma 50-100 f1.8, at 92mm, 1/1,250th sec, f4, ISO 400
Based on just this practice outing, paring the 150-600mm with the D500 would be everything I’d hoped for. I was able to shoot a high enough ISO so that I could stop any action even late in the game with only the stadium lighting.
So let’s back up and talk about what it’s like to shoot a regatta for a second. If I’m shooting from a boat, I’m going to have my subjects moving in all different directions at the same time, couple that with the fact that I’m going to be bouncing around on a boat too while I’m chasing the fleet, making sure I stay out of their way and still get the boats from different angles, get close ups of individual boats, bows plowing through the chop, wider angle shots of the whole fleet, and while I’m at it, maybe even a few shots of the participants grinding a winch or driving the boat, or even being hoisted up the mast if I’m lucky. If I’m on shore, it’s easier to get full fleets, but I need as much reach as I can to get the activity on deck. The combination, of the two lenses I’ll be using gives me a 35mm equivalent range from 75 mm to a whopping 900 mm on my crop sensor Nikon cameras.
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