I manged to nip out for an extended lunch break today to take a walk along the Chelmer & Blackwater Navigation at Paper Mill Lock. It’s a location I’ve visited many times before, but there’s always something new to see – especially with the low winter light we had today.
I’ve had my Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens since mid-2007. I bought a second hand model from the London Camera Exchange, treating myself to this fantastic piece of gear out of a redundancy payment. They took my previous Sigma 135-400mm long zoom, and an old TTL Canon flash in part exchange. I think the final bill came to just under £1000 – which at the time was a bargain for this lens. It looks like you can still get one for about that now, so they’ve held their value extremely well.
At the time, I was attending lots of rugby matches, and taking photographs whenever I could.
During the winter, the matches would often finish under floodlights, so a lens with decent Image Stabilisation was essential. I was taking shots from the stands (not having access to the touchline), with the lens mounted on a small monopod, and supported on the edge of my seat. It worked reasonably well – the lens weighs in at a hefty 1.38Kg so holding that up by hand for 80 minutes would have been almost as brutal as playing a game of rugby myself!
By mid-2008, for various reasons, I was attending fewer rugby games and the lens was largely consigned to the back of a cupboard. Mainly due to its brutish weight. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with it ever since. I love the quality of images I get when I bother to use it. But I hate the bulk and weight of it and use it much less frequently than I should.
Fast-forward to mid-2010 and it had another outing, this time to photograph the wonderful lavender fields, mid-harvest, in Eynesford, Kent:
Having reacquainted myself with its image quality, I was reminded to take it out on a shoot to the Salute For Heroes event at Glemham Hall a few weeks later. It was perfect for the flypast of the B17 during the afternoon:
And perfect for getting up close and personal with the characters, whilst remaining safely at more than a pike’s distance from the action:
Such a long reach means you can capture images of twitchy nervous wildlife without getting close enough to upset them. Below is a Blue Tit in may parent’s garden (taken through the kitchen window):
As you can see, it gives brilliant differential focus, isolating the subject from its background. I also found the lens very useful in a butterfly house during an outing at Tropical Wings – the butterflies would flit away as soon as I tried getting close with my 60mm macro lens – but were blissfully unaware of me stalking them from a distance with the 100-400mm:
On my crop-sensor EOS 7D the lens’ longest focal length is equivalent to a whopping 640mm – that’s nearly a telescope! Which gave me an idea… One clear cold autumnal evening I decided to have a go at photographing the moon. This is a crop from approximately 1/4 of the frame, but I was astonished at the details I managed to record (it was mounted on a sturdy tripod, using a cable release and mirror lock-up to minimise vibrations):
And so we come full circle back to sport and action shots. Firstly, some Point-to-Point jump racing at Mark’s Tey in February:
And white-water action at the GB Olympic Canoe Trials in Waltham Cross in April:
It was at this event that the lens started playing up – something felt like it was snagging when you pulled the zoom ring back towards the wide end – it would “ping” and come back easily if you just exerted a little bit of pressure. Clearly it needed looking at. But sadly I didn’t have the time to get it sorted out until a couple of weeks ago – so it sat in the cupboard sulking for 7 months!
But having paid a sizeable sum to get it repaired at Colchester Camera Repair, I vowed (yet again) to take it out and use it more! Immediately after I collected it, I took it for a sunset shoot in Brightlingsea and got some great atmospheric results:
As you can see, the results from the lens speak for themselves. It’s a fabulous piece of equipment for wildlife, sports and action if you have the muscles to carry it about, and a strong enough tripod to set it up on. This time, I refuse to put it back in the cupboard, for it will be out of sight, out of mind – and it could then be months before I use it again!
Yesterday afternoon I had to go to Colchester to collect my lovely 100-400mm EF f/4.5-56 L IS USM lens which had been repaired. It cost me rather a packet, so I thought I would cheer myself up by going to the seaside to give it a run out.
Brightlingsea was close to hand, so I headed to the Promenade and Bateman’s Tower, where I manged to catch a brilliant sunset:
And I also did a bit of light painting just for good measure:
Here are the rest from my shoot:
Title: Brightlingsea Promenade
Location: Brightlingsea, Essex
Camera: Canon EOS 7D / 100-400mm EF f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM
Notes: This afternoon I picked up my 100-400mm lens from being repaired in Colchester, and decided to head to Brightlingsea to give it a workout. The sunset was spectacular along the Promenade and paddling pool near Bateman’s Tower. These two happened to walk across the frame with their little dog in tow.
I’ve just spent a lovely weekend on the North Kent coast, visiting a friend who’s just moved to Margate. Despite its shabby reputation, the town seems to be on the up once more, with various renovation schemes underway to revitalise the area.
The weather wasn’t too kind to us on Saturday, but nevertheless we enjoyed a great lunch out in Margate, followed by a trip to the tiny cinema in Broadstairs to watch the latest Bond movie in the evening.
Sunday dawned warm and sunny, so we went for a long constitutional walk along the beach from Broadstairs almost all the way to Ramsgate. The tide was out and we got to see plenty of interesting rocks and shells along the way.
We ate a splendid late lunch in a little café in Ramsgate and walked around the fine old harbour there – the afternoon light was fantastic and at times, it looked more like the south of France than dear old Blighty!
You can see the full set of pictures I took over the weekend here: