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.
There’s a lot more to do here in Wanneroo than many people realise, if you’re lost for ideas then here are some great Natural Experiences you can find right here in Perth’s second largest City.
Disclaimer: I have to admit that a few of my recommendations are not literally in Wanneroo but they are literally on the border with Joondalup and too good to ignore 👍
Did you know it’s a proven fact that being out in nature is great for your mental and physical health, just a few hours a week can make a big difference to all our lives so why not get outdoors and start exploring 🐾📷
Here’s the list, click on one for more information or just read through the article …
10. A Swim in the Indian Ocean – Yanchep Lagoon / Quinns Rocks Beach
Most of us might want to take a rain check on this activity until the warmer weather returns but we really are spoiled for choice for places to swim in the Ocean here in Wanneroo.
From Mindarie up to Two Rocks there are 32 km’s of beach to choose from. Some areas are more accessible than others and some beaches are more appealing for swimmers, surfer’s, snorkelers or diver’s than others so depending on your swimming passion you might want to do a little research.
For your typical family day out at the beach stick to the one of the two beaches patrolled by our amazing Surf Lifesaving Organisations at Yanchep Lagoon & Quinns Beach. Yanchep Lagoon is a natural swimming pool built by nature and walled of from the rest of the Indian Ocean by a large reef while the waters at Quinns Beach are enclosed by a wildlife friendly artificial shark barrier.
By the way, if you are overly worried about shark attacks I suggest you read this National Geographic article The Facts About Shark Attacks and take a good look at the room freshener you’re using which apparently is 200 times more likely to injure you than a shark 🤣 Unless of course you’re a cool surfer dude that doesn’t use room fresheners!
9. Dog Friendly Walk Trail – Beenyup Swamp Boardwalk & Perrys Paddock
If you’re looking for a bush walk that’s not too long or demanding where you can take your dog then the Beenyup Swamp Boardwalk & the area around Perrys Paddock in Yellagonga Regional Park is a great spot.
Though dogs are permitted it’s important to remember to keep your dog on a leash as the area is also open to horse riders who may not appreciate dogs barking at their hoofs!
The boardwalk is a great spot to see & photograph some local bird-life and experience the wetlands environment on a short 2.4km loop.
8. Check Out the Biggest Rocks in Town – Two Rocks Beach
It’s not called “Two Rocks” for nothing, just south of the Townsite on Two Rocks Beach you’ll find 2 of the biggest rocks in Perth and they’re pretty damn big!
The first rock you’ll come across just as you enter the beach is just enormous. I nicknamed it “The Guardian” because all rocks need a name and it’s a great spot to see various seabirds flying around or sitting on the ledges.
Walk a little further south and you come across the second somewhat smaller rock that I called “The Sentry”, also a good place to spot some of the local birdlife 🦅
Both of these rocks are incredibly weathered and artistically so interesting. They both feature “windows” through which you can catch glimpses of the ocean and sky behind them and can only be described as gnarled & grungy.
The rocks make amazing photographic / artistic subject matter but make sure you bring your widest angle lens to fit them all in 😨
Two Rocks beach is also renowned for its seaweed that can cover this entire area of beach at certain times of the year, making it hard to walk on the beach and hard on the nose 😵
7. Casual Walk Trail – Wetlands Walk Trail, Yanchep National Park
Another relatively easy wetlands walk trail circumnavigates Wagardu Lake in Yanchep National Park. Dogs are not permitted here as domestic pets are not allowed in our National Parks but the trail is well worth the effort and very different to Beenyup Swamp.
Although the lake does not have the water levels it used to it is still teeming with bird life. You can expect to see any combination of wading birds, ducks, pelicans, black swans and many other species so be sure to bring your camera and telephoto lens.
Plus, if you’re here late afternoon you will almost definitely spot a few Kangaroo’s (or maybe a lot of them) 👍
Even better hang around for the sunset over the lake …
6. Get Up Close with the Wildlife – Visit the Koala Enclosure at Yanchep National Park
Whilst Koalas are no longer native to Western Australia they are still iconically Australian and incredible animals to see & photograph.
We are lucky enough to have had a Koala colony in Yanchep National Park since 1938 where we can view them in their natural habitat doing what they do best, eating eucalyptus leaves & sleeping. Mostly sleeping 🤣
The enclosure is well designed so that the Koalas have their own personal space but can be viewed & photographed from the elevated walkways. If you want to learn more about these incredibly cute marsupials there is also a daily “Koala Talk” at 3:15pm.
However if you want to hold or cuddle a Koala then that is not possible here and generally not considered a good idea for the wellbeing of the Koalas, so it’s best just to get some great photos 🙂
If you’re lucky then you might even catch one on the move or with a joey, or even both at the same time if you’re really really lucky …
5. A walk on the Beach with the Local Wildlife – Burns Beach
Our beaches are not always thought of as the best places to go to see wildlife but Burns Beach is definitely an exception. OK, I know Burns Beach is actually in Joondalup but who cares right? It’s right on the border just south of Mindarie and a great beach for wildlife. If you like a bit of scrambling over rocks, investigating rock pools and watching the ocean waves crash onto the shore then it’s great for that too.
Apart from the obvious Silver Gulls (Seagulls) you can regularly see Oystercatchers, a mating pair of Ospreys, Kestrels, Cormorants, Terns, small crabs crawling among the rocks and maybe even a seal or a dolphin if you get lucky.
Burns Beach has ample parking, and a cafe should you feel peckish after your walk. The beach extends to the North of the car park towards Claytons Beach in Mindarie. At some point one beach ends and the other starts but I have no idea where that point is 🤣
4. A walk on the Beach in the Middle of Nowhere – Yanchep Beach
I grew up in Bournemouth on the south coast of England so I’ve had my fill of grockles (the local tourists) and sharing beaches with anyone who didn’t arrive with me and is not a native animal 👍
So for those of you like me who prefer their beaches pristine & empty there are many less populated beaches along the Wanneroo coastline that you can generally have all to yourself and are are still safe to swim at if you’re sensible and know what you’re doing. One such place is Yanchep Beach.
I’m not sure that “Yanchep Beach” is an actual place or where it starts and ends but it’s a good description for the beach north of Yanchep Lagoon and south of Two Rocks which includes the popular surfing beach called “The Spot”.
There are not many access points to this stretch of beach, you can walk north from Yanchep Lagoon, South from Two Rocks or park at The Spot and walk north or south. Google maps also shows a few small paths through the dunes but I have no idea how accessible they are.
If you look closely at the image above you’ll see a dark shadow near the very centre of the image, that is actually a Manta Ray that was swimming around the this particular bay near the old Club Capricorn 👍
This stretch of beach is largely unpopulated due to the lack of access points and is the epitome of pristine. With mostly untouched sand and many near shore reefs it’s like a paradise just outside of suburbia ❤
If you do decide to take a dip in the ocean please be sensible, keep an eye out for those killer waves, the Megalodon’s (if sharks scare you then do not follow that link!) and their smaller shark descendants like Great White’s 😱
3. Amazing Bird Photography – Lake Joondalup Circuit
Another spot just on the border of Wanneroo, Lake Joondalup, is a bird photographer’s heaven. The walk trail around the Lake is a must for any bird lover it’s an easy walk on concrete paths so you can really concentrate on the birds & the views.
The whole walk is 16.7km so you would need at least a few hours to do the whole thing. However you can easily do shorter stretches of it, just walk as far as you like then turn around and walk back 👍
Neil Hawkins Park in Joondalup is our favourite starting point because it is always teeming with birdlife, has lots of parking and a great lookout jetty but you can start anywhere on the Wanneroo side too.
You can get some great photos just standing on the Jetty so make sure you take the time to enjoy the view, then just walk north or south and enjoy the journey. There are many side tracks that will give you extra views and photo opportunities (always be wary of snakes) and you’ll often come across “a mischief” of Magpies on the path. Seriously a group of Magpies is often called “a mischief ” among other things 😎
2. Serious Bush Walking – Ghost House Walk Trail, Yanchep National Park
If you’re into a more serious form of outdoor experience then there are quite a few longer walk trails in Wanneroo.
The 28km Yaberoo Budjara Heritage Trail is based on the movement of Yellagonga (the leader of the Whadjuk Noongar) and his people between Lake Joondalup and Yanchep.
Then there’s the 17.5km Cockatoo Walk Trail starting at Yanchep National Park. This is a great trail to see some flora & fauna including Wildflowers, Kangaroos, Black Gloved Wallaby’s, Quenda and Canaby’s Cockatoos.
One of our favourites is the 12.4km Ghost House Walk Trail in Yanchep National Park which takes you on a journey to discover the historic remains of the “Ghost House” itself and encounter the sights & sounds of the Park’s wetlands.
Officially known as the “Ghost House Ruin, Chauffeur’s Room and Garage” it was constructed in the 1930’s by L. E. Shapcott, Secretary of the Premier’s Office, as a holiday home and was only accessible via a 4WD track. It’s hard to believe that someone back then would not only have a holiday home in the middle of the forest but have a Chauffeur’s room and garage built there too!
However I’ve yet to find out why it is called the “Ghost House”?
The Ghost House Walk Trail takes you through the forest surrounding the wetland areas, it is a relatively easy walk with a camping ground around the halfway mark. At various points you will get glimpses of the vast wetland areas within the National Park, I never realised just how big Yanchep National Park is and how little is accessible to the public.
While you’re at the camp site don’t forget to leave it in the best state you can, also have a read of the visitor’s book and maybe leave your own message 👍
1. The Best Nature Has to Offer – Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos in Yanchep National Park
Finally to #1, the best natural experience you’ll find in Wanneroo is witnessing the grace, elegance and beauty of our highly endangered Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos in their own native environment.
Carnaby’s are one of only two species of White-Tailed Black Cockatoos. Both the Carnaby’s & their cousins the Baudin’s are listed as Endangered and are endemic to Southwest WA, that means you will only find them in this region, so when they are lost from Southwest WA that’s it, they’re gone forever 😨
The main reasons for their endangered status is loss of habitat & native food sources, a decreasing number of suitable nesting hollows, illegal poaching and increasing competition from introduced species like the Western Long-billed Corella. In other words, Humans are to blame 😨
Luckily there are several local organisations working tirelessly to help protect these Black Cockatoos. Although not generally open to the public organisations like Native Animal Rescue in Malaga & Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Conservation Centre in Gosnells host regular open days & private tours where you can see these magnificent birds up close and donate towards their protection at the same time. An experience not to be missed by any animal lover.
What you will notice when you enter an open aviary containing these birds is that they are big, very big. They are also very gentle & social birds, they will swoop above you, land on your shoulder or arm, snuggle into you and you will fall in love with them 💕
With a wingspan of over 1m they can be intimidating, but you quickly learn that these beautiful Cockatoos not only want attention but they all have their very own personalities.
Both Native Animal Rescue & Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Conservation Centre receive injured birds which are then released back into the wild after an extensive rehabilitation program making sure they have the best chance of survival. When visiting these centres you will only get close to birds that are unable to be released back into the wild and are trained for educational purposes.
So what’s all this got to do with Wanneroo? Well, we are blessed to have large flocks of Carnaby’s in our very own Yanchep National Park.
Finding these gentle giants of the bird world is not usually too hard, there are generally some flying around the main visitor area of Yanchep National Park doing their own thing in their small social groups. You’ll know when you find them, they have incredibly loud voices 👍
But what is really special and not always easy to find is when you see (& hear) large flocks of Black Cockatoos in the Park. I don’t know haw many Canaby’s reside in the Park area but on several occasions we have been lucky enough to witness flocks of 1000+, and that’s when they get very noisy!
But you just can’t beat being surrounded by these amazing birds, seeing their intricate social behaviour up close, and the experience of several hundred taking flight at the same all around you is simply breathtaking 😃
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.