These Silvereyes were darting & dashing through the bushes between the beach & the coastal walk at the end of Rosslare Promenade in Mindaire, Western Australia.
Along with the Welcome Swallows & Singing Honeyeaters, I was literally surrounded by swooping & fluttering birds, amazing experience 👍
The combination of my 45MP Canon EOS R5 & Sigma 150-600mm lens allowed me to get some amazing shots of these beautiful little birds. Although heavily cropped the detail in these images is amazing.
I’m currently using the R5 set to full manual with auto ISO & I believe this to be an ideal setup for bird/animal photography.
While my old 5D Mark II was fine for landscape photgraphy I’m really noticing the difference using the R5 for birds & wildlife. The animal Eye Tracking AF is a real game changer & the high ISO performance is also a big aid in getting the higher shutter speeds.
I know I’ve broken all the “rules” by shooting in the “harsh” midday light with the sun shining in all its glory but I’m afraid I don’t subscribe to the idea that early mornings & late afternoons are the only times to shoot birdlife. I like to see the colour pop and I believe the shadows give the images depth and a sense of reality over the flat and lifeless illustration type images that many bird photographers favour.
All of these images are processed solely in Adobe Lightroom Classic with some colour grading, minimal sharpening & no noise reduction.
My next step will be to select the best images which will be exported to Photoshop CC for some additional tweaking, noise reduction in Topaz Denoise AI, and possibly a touch of ON1 Photo RAW Effects to add the finishing touches.
If you’re looking to get some practice for your bird photography skills then Lake Monger Reserve is a great place to visit. Located in the heart of Perth’s northern suburbs you’ll be amazed at the variety & abundance of birdlife that you’ll find here.
Being relatively new to serious bird photography I still have many birds that I have not photographed and just one trip to Lake Monger Reserve gave me the opportunity to capture several new bird species which was very exciting.
The walk around the Lake is very a beautiful 3.5km trail with plenty of photo opportunities, several lookouts and a variety of habitats attracting a wide range of bird species from water birds to parrots, wrens & even Kookaburras.
Whilst Lake Monger is a great place for nature & birds don’t expect your experience to be entirely natural or peaceful as this lake is a very popular tourist & suburban walking spot. You will be surrounded by people walking the lake with their earbuds firmly inserted, taking their prams for a walk, or exercising their bikes on the dual-use paths. Much as the experience is not equal to a walk in a National Park up in the hills it is still great to see busy people getting some exposure to nature so I can happily accept the compromise 😃
It’s always great to see the Willie Wagtails out and chattering away as they do and there is no shortage of them around Lake Monger allowing for plenty of practice getting that perfect shot.
As spring was in the air there were also a few ducklings parading their cuteness around the lake, and it doesn’t get much cuter than a Pacific Black Duckling 🦆
Lake Monger is definitely a great place to visit for a walk and to get some amazing bird photos. The 3.5km walk around the lake would normally take easily under an hour but you might want to allow a bit longer and take a few spare memory cards if you plan on taking some bird photos as there really is so much to photograph here.
Did you know that Lake Monger along with Herdsman Lake was once part of a larger series of wetland lakes known as The Great Lakes District? Sadly many of the lakes were reclaimed for farmland, parks & housing in the mid-1800’s 😢 Luckily for us Lake Monger & Herdsman Lake were too large to be drained and so remain with us today as a reminder of the vast wetland lake system that once covered Central Perth.
These images were processed using a combination of Adobe Lightroom Classic CC, Adobe Photoshop CC, ON1 Photo RAW 2020 & Topaz Denoise AI.
Topaz DeNoise AI is a new addition to my workflow that simply works wonders with any unwanted noise present due to the use of higher ISO values.
I felt it was time to take my Wildlife Photography to another level so I bought a 600mm lens and WOW, what a difference!
Until recently I have focused more on Landscape than Wildlife Photography, I can’t exactly explain why as I have always loved animals but that’s just the way it happened. I have always had a 70-200mm lens which I would use to photograph wildlife when the opportunity presented itself but as a rule, I had my wide-angle zoom attached to my camera when I was out and about.
However, over the past few years, I have spent more & more time looking for and photographing wildlife. I guess the turning point was when we talked to Native Animal Rescue here in Perth about photographing some of their permanent residents with a view to helping promote the work that organisations such as NAR do to help protect & preserve our native wildlife.
I now have the Wildlife Photography bug, my wide-angle lens is on temporary leave & I have been doing my best to get wildlife photos using my trusty 70-200mm lens. Needless to say the more I did the more frustrated I became, getting close to wildlife is not easy and having to crop your images too heavily can cause quite a loss of quality, even for my incredibly sharp 70-200mm.
So I started looking at alternative lenses to give me that longer reach. Obviously the Canon 100-400mm L II was an option but I wasn’t convinced that 400mm would make enough of a difference so I started researching what long time pro Wildlife Photographers were using. Guess what, they were all using 600mm fixed length primes costing a tidy $18,000+ and weighing in at over 3kg 😲 I’m not quite brave enough to ask my wife to let me spend that sort of cash on a lens just yet 😱
After more research, I also discovered that Sigma & Tamron had started to introduce longer & longer zoom lenses culminating with their flagship 150-600mm models. What’s more these lenses were getting incredibly good reviews for image quality & being at a much more reasonable price point they were an ideal entry into the 600mm club.
Choosing the Right Lens
Both Sigma & Tamron have 2 lenses in the 150-600mm category with varying price points & features, although they all share a lot in common: f/5-6.3 / Stabilisation / Zoom Lock / Quiet AF Drive / Tripod Mount … Here they are in price order:
Weight: I want to be able to use the lens with or without a tripod and these lenses are not light so weight is very important.
Image Quality: Obviously I want the best image quality I can get.
Build Quality: I also want a lens that feels sturdy and well built.
Features: Lens functionality is an important factor especially regarding Stabilisation & Auto Focus.
Accessories: Not a big factor but something to throw into the mix.
Support: I prefer to buy a brand that is known for good customer service.
After much research, reading reviews, watching reviews on youtube & deliberation I decided to go with the SIGMA 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens. Here are my reasons based on my criteria above:
Weight: The Sigma Contemporary was one of the two lightest lenses at 1.95kg
Image Quality: The Tamron G1 (the other lightest lens) consistently came out at slightly lower quality while the other 3 all seemed very similar.
Build Quality: All 4 lenses seemed to have good build quality with the Sigma Contemporary lacking in the weather sealing.
Features: The Tamron G1 lacks a dedicated panning mode which is the biggest problem I could see.
Accessories: Both Sigma lenses come with carry cases & straps, the Tamrons have neither which I would have a problem with.
Support: From what I have read Sigma appears to come out top in the customer service area.
This is not intended to be a review of these lenses in any way, simply my subjective opinion based on the research I have done. There is a lot of information about these lenses on the internet, some of it very conflicting, but the one consistent opinion I came away with was that you would not regret buying any of them and the differences are minimal.
All 4 of these lenses are amazing at what they do, especially when considering the price point and the image quality they produce for lenses with a 600mm reach.
I decided early on that I would most likely get one of the Sigmas due to their better reputation for customer service & the fact that they came with a case & strap (a more important criteria than I initially realised). Nothing I read about the Tamron’s was enough to change my mind, which in no way says Tamron are bad Sigma just seemed to suit me better.
In the end, it was the weight that swayed me towards the Contemporary model over the Sport which is almost 1kg heavier and really not suitable for hand-holding for any period of time. I would have liked to have the weather sealing but you can’t have it all ways and I don’t plan on going out in thunderstorms or traveling through the desert just yet.
Overall I think the Sigma Contemporary model is the best value for money for anyone who wants to get into some serious Wildlife Photography on a budget.
Initial Thoughts on Using a 150-600mm Lens
I’ve had my new Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary Lens for a few weeks now and you can see some of the results I’ve been getting on this page.
Learning to get the best from a lens like this is a journey, you don’t simply buy a 2kg 600mm lens and get perfect results straight up. There’s a bit of a learning curve on how to use these monsters and I’m definitely still learning a lot.
Little things like changing how you carry your camera & transport it are all new. I’m so glad this lens came with a strap & case which allowed me to start using it practically straight away.
So far I’ve got some amazing images that I could never have taken with my 70-200mm but I’ve also got a lot of duds. Managing shutter speed, aperture & ISO create a whole new challenge with a 2kg 600mm lens so I’m now watching a whole new set of youtube videos on the best approach to handling & using these beasts.
I hope to be posting some more articles about my journey with this lens so keep an eye out and feel free to ask any questions you may have 👍
These images were processed using a combination of Adobe Lightroom Classic CC, Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 & ON1 Photo RAW 2019.
Silver Gulls, or as they are more commonly known here in Perth, just plain old Seagulls are an enigma!
Our Seagulls are renowned for their annoying & scavenging lifestyle swooping down on unfinished open-air restaurant dishes and foraging through rubbish bins in their dozens.
Yet they are incredibly beautiful creatures, so pristine & almost picture perfect. Because of this they make very good photographic subjects 📷
These particular Silver Gulls were photographed at Burns Beach a few days ago in their natural environment not being a nuisance to anyone 👍
Burns Beach in Perth’s Northern Suburbs is a great spot for a walk, there is usually plenty of bird life and lots of rocks & rock pools to explore.
In a world where native wildlife is struggling to survive, mainly due to the irresponsibility of the Human Race, these Silver Gulls are thriving , mainly due to the irresponsibility of the Human Race 😱
As natural scavengers they benefit enormously from our increasingly wasteful “throw-away” approach to life in general and more importantly food & refuse.
In the animal world food is hard to come by and generally very little is wasted, in the human world food is over-supplied in abundance (except where it isn’t, which is another sad reflection on Human Society) and much of what we purchase / produce is cast aside.
On the positive side, many people are now trying to live a waste free life by avoiding packaged food, growing their own herbs & veggies, reusing unused food scraps as compost and recycling wherever possible. That is certainly our approach to life, we keep our bins as empty as possible and our garden as healthy as possible 😃🍎
Bird photography can have it’s challenges but is also very rewarding when it pays off 🦅
Lots of patience & a fair bit of luck go a long way to getting some great images, but what I find most rewarding is seeing the individual character in each and every bird that I Photograph. Photography is as much about telling a story as it is the image itself.
Thinking of making some inspirational products soon, what do you think of my “I Love to Fly Like a Bird” Mug mockup❓
I Think I’ll get Maggie to print one for the Gallery.
Human shortcomings aside, what do people think of our scavenging but pretty little friends? Beauty or Beast ❓
These images were processed using a combination of Adobe Lightroom Classic CC, Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 & ON1 Photo RAW 2019.
Last weekend I attended my first Tour Day at the Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Conservation Centre and I must say it was amazing and worth every bit of the low $15 booking fee 😃
Located in the Banyowla Regional Park in the Perth Hills on a former tourism wildlife park site their purpose is to protect and rehabilitate our native wild black cockatoo species here in Western Australia.
As the tour begins we are given an introduction to the organisation, the work they do and how they are working to restore the site to it’s original native state along with several other revegetation projects in WA.
First stop is the Kangaroo enclosure containing a community of Red & Western Grey Kangaroos left over from the old wildlife park. Sadly these Kangaroos have been isolated for decades, they are suffering from inbreeding and cannot be released back into the wild so they are cared for as best as possible.
Next came the Emu enclosure, where we found that our Tour Guide had a strangely close relationship with the resident Emu’s. Personally I don’t think I’d trust getting up close & personal with an Emu!
Finally we arrived at the Dingo enclosure, something I was really looking forward to and I wasn’t disappointed.
On the way into the Dingo enclosure is an aviary full of beautiful Finches.
Apparently the Dingoes are walked around the site daily for exercise and also to help prevent / detect any rogue foxes attempting to enter.
Dingoes have had a bit of a bad rap over the years, including being threatened with removal from the protected native wildlife list (thankfully overturned) but these guys are seriously cute …
Finally we arrived at the Black Cockatoos and were taught about all the different aviaries designed for different purposes and how injured Cockies are prepared and returned to the wild whenever possible 🐾👍
Having been told how we had to respect the Black Cockatoos space and be respectful, we were then told that they had no intention of doing the same (being wild animals) 🤣
We then had our feet sprayed, removed jewelry and entered the Aviary to play with the Cockatoos, or maybe for them to play with us 😎
If you’ve never been up close and personal with a group of Black Cockatoos then I highly recommend an experience like this.
They will swoop over you make loud raucous noises and randomly land on shoulders (or heads), and they are a lot bigger than most people would imagine.
Black Cockatoos are, however, incredible social and gentle birds. They will not harm you and you will fall in love straight away ❤
Unlike cuddling Koalas, which should never be allowed as it is stressful and dangerous for the animal, interacting with Black Cockatoos is a two way relationship.
It is also worth pointing out that these “educational” Cockatoos are very familiar with humans and can not be released back into the wild for health reasons. You will never get near a Cockatoo that is being prepared for release as they need to maintain their natural caution of humans.
Please remember that these magnificent Black Cockatoos are highly endangered, if you want to help protect WA’s Black Cockatoo population then support the local organisations that are working hard to keep these amazing birds alive:
I got some great Black Cockatoo images from the recent open day at Native Animal Rescue here in Perth but I wasn’t expecting this!
This particular trio of images feature Obama, one of their resident Red-Tailed Black Cockatoos chewing on a gum nut. It wasn’t until I got home and checked out the images that I realised that his nut had exploded with perfect timing.
The trio of images looked so good that I decided to experiment with a short Timelapse video showing just how seriously these guys take their gum nuts 😎 I just love how his claws open up in the second shot as the nut explodes.
I’ve been meaning to make some video’s for a while now and initially thought I should just do it in Photoshop. While I did successfully create a video very similar to the above in Photoshop I found it somewhat inefficient, especially when I just wanted to make small changes.
Eventually I remade the video in much less time using Premier Pro, and that included reminding myself exactly how Premier Pro worked. However, if Photoshop is all you have access to then it will work fine for simple videos like this one 👍
Here are the individual images …
These 3 images are available now as Fine Art Prints or on any of our Photo Products. I’m thinking a Triptych of square canvases or Aluminium Prints would look amazing 😃
Please remember that these magnificent Black Cockatoos Cockatoos are highly endangered, if you want to help protect WA’s Black Cockatoo population then support the local organisations that are working hard to keep these amazing birds alive:
The Carnaby Black Cockatoos were out in Yanchep National Park last week when we turned up there for a walk. Noisy as ever they paraded around the treetops with their usual majesty and charm allowing me to get some great photos.
Black Cockatoos truly are magnificent, you really have to see one up close to realise just how big and beautiful they are. They each have a unique character and are very friendly & gentle creatures.
But the sad thing is Black Cockatoos are highly endangered!
A survey in April last year known as the “Great Cocky Count”, held here in South Western Australia, reported that Carnaby Black Cockatoo numbers had fallen by 35% over the last year. Carnaby’s are only found here in Western Australia and their numbers are dropping due to increasing decimation of their habitat and food sources due to urban and industrial development.
Perth Zoo is an amazing place to visit and experience some of the incredible wildlife from Australia & around the world. To be honest we haven’t been to the Zoo for many years, must be time for another visit, I’m sure there have been many changes over the past few years.
African Lion, Perth Zoo, South Perth,Western Australia
Baby Giraffe, Perth Zoo, South Perth,Western Australia
Bonzai the Numbat, Perth Zoo, South Perth,Western Australia
These gorgeous creatures were captured during our visits between 2003 & 2010 when we were working with the Zoo on their website and I decided to have a play around with them to create some Perth Zoo Photo Art.
Sadly Bonzai the Numbat has since passed away but we were proud to have our images used on the signage around his enclosure for a few years before he died.
Perth Zoo and many other zoo’s around Australia and the World do an amazing job help protect & preserve our wildlife, we owe it it to them to do what we can to support these efforts.
All images were processed in Adobe Lightroom, ON1 Photo RAW 2018 & Adobe Photoshop.
Did you know it’s a proven fact that being out in nature is great for your mental and physical health! While you won’t get the full health benefit from our range of prints and photo gifts they are always a great reminder of where you’d rather be. So be sure to check out our range of Fine Art Prints here in our online gallery and our unique photo gifts (scarves, wall tapestries, beach towels, tote bags and much more) at madaboutwa.com.au.
Note: Our Perth Zoo images are not for sale currently though we would dearly love to create more amazing images and products that could help support the Zoo.
Southern Boobook Owl Triptych, Mindarie, Western Australia
Bird photography can be a time consuming process but rewards can pay of at the least expected times. a few days a go I got a call from my mum to say she had spotted a small owl in her back garden. As an avid owl lover mum has owl ornaments and images all around her house & garden so maybe this little guy just felt at home in her garden …
Southern Boobook Owl Triptych, Mindarie, Western Australia
Anyway, we headed off to mum’s to check out this visitor of hers hoping that he would still be there … and he was. We found him nestled in the foliage of a small tree in the garden. Luckily for us the tree’s foliage was dense enough to keep him protected but with enough gaps that we could get a good view of him, it’s not often you get so lucky 🙂 Ironically the only reason mum spotted him was because the local birds were going crazy about his presence, fluttering around the tree and and making a rawkus noise. But then it is spring and no doubt they were a little concerned about their nests becoming potential dinner plates!
Southern Boobook Owl, Mindarie, Western Australia
Maggie began looking into what type of owl he was while I started snapping away with my 70-200mm. The late afternoon sun was behind him making the light interesting and challenging. I knew the bright blue glimpses of sky would be blown out but the important thing was getting the owl exposed perfectly and retaining the brilliant green of the backlit foliage. The little guy was barely moving so shutter speed wasn’t so important but I still needed to keep it up high enough to prevent any camera shake. It was pretty dark inside that tree and after a bit of experimentation I compromised at manually setting my exposure to 1/160th, f7.1 & ISO 1000 and I was very happy with how that worked out. Noise levels were very low even with the shadows brightened up in Lightroom and the level of detail around his eyes was astounding as you can see from the exploded view below.
Lightroom Close Up of Southern Boobook Owl, Mindarie, Western Australia
Although the owl was not moving all that much it was a windy day and the leaves were blowing around all over the place making it tricky to frame the owl and causing the sunlight to randomly blow out parts of the owls body.
Blown Out Patches – Southern Boobook Owl, Mindarie, Western Australia
All up we were there for around 40 mins, I took 213 photos and got some crackers. Turns out he was a Southern Boobook Owl, quite common around here though not so much in backyards! One good tip for photographing animals is to always focus on the eyes. At 200mm in low light depth of field is often sacrificed for shutter speed and if the eyes are not pin sharp then the whole image can be ruined.
Focus on the Eyes – Southern Boobook Owl, Mindarie, Western Australia
As usual my initial processing was done in Lightroom followed by adding effects in the new ON1 Photo Raw 2018 with some final tweaking in Photoshop, the Master File is then imported back into Lightroom from where I can export it in any format as required. All 3 tools have their benefits and work well together to produce a final image that is extremely high quality and suitable for any purpose.
Southern Boobook Owl, Mindarie, Western Australia – Tabletop Print Suggestion
I haven’t really looked at the new version of ON1 Photo RAW 2018 short of using the effects module to create & apply presets. Keep an eye out for my upcoming review of this very interesting photo processing software package that is becoming serious competition for Lightroom.
Location: Mindarie Backyard, Western Australia Date: 26th December 2017 Time: 3pm – 3:40pm Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mk11 Lens: EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Camera Mode: Manual Exposure: 1/160 sec, f7.1 at ISO 1000
It’s a proven fact that being out in nature is great for your mental and physical health. While you won’t get the full health benefit from our range of prints and photo gifts they are always a great reminder of where you’d rather be. So be sure to check out the rest of our range of Fine Art Prints at madcat.com.au and our unique photo gifts (scarves, wall tapestries, beach towels, tote bags and much more) at madaboutwa.com.au.