Having picked up the Fuji 100-400 lens a few weeks ago I managed to have a first outing with it over the North West 200 week here in Portrush.
Apart from a brief session outside the flat last week I'd not taken the lens out as part of my landscape bag, however checking the forecast last night it looked as though things could be rather atmospheric, with early morning mist and fog forecast before the sun broke through.
Time to head to the forest armed with the XE2 (10-24) and the XT1 (18-135) ... oh and of course the 100-400. All packed into the Mindshift Rotation 180 Pro (some thoughts on that bag to come soon)
Despite a promising start on the drive over, the atmospheric conditions started to subside until, as I pulled into my parking space at Downhill Forest, the mist had all but disappeared. Added to this a heavy blanket of cloud covered where the sun was due to rise. Still armed with my kit and a freshly brewed cup of coffee (well it was 4.30am) I made my way up to Mussenden Temple to see what could be made.
Initially not a lot and I simply stood there listening to the dawn chorus which was now in full swing, enjoying my coffee. I love to slow down in landscape photography and when conditions are perhaps not living up to the hope it's good to simply soak up the environment. Given the sunrise was, at that stage anyway, going to be a no-show, it was time to look for smaller details in the landscape. And that called for the 100-400. I attached to the XT1.
Almost immediately the sun began to break through the clouds and within 5 minutes the far coastline was starting to be bathed in beautiful warm light. Did someone mention Crepuscular??
One of the reasons I love a zoom lens in landscape work is your ability to pick up tiny details in your surroundings. It really does help me to look beyond the obvious. With this in mind my eyes were drawn to the dew drops on the grass, especially as the rising sun was now creating little jewel drops all around me. All was needed was a focal point within the frame and I found that with a pair of Dandy Lions. Once again the pull out screen on the XT1 was invaluable as my tripod was almost flat on the ground allowing me to fill the frame behind with the out of focus dew drops glistening in the sun.
Next stop into the forest where, understandably, the light levels dropped. I was tempted to put the 100-400 away and choose something faster but thought I would play a little with the much lauded OIS. The forest, at this time of year, is full of both bluebells (their last hurrah by the look of things) and Wild Garlic (which made me crave Chicken Kiev).
Hang on ... did I get something wrong above. Didn't I mean 1/800th second and not 1/80th ?? Handheld? Really? You better believe it. I was blown away. Here I am shooting at an equivalent focal length on a full frame of around 600mm and not a tripod in sight.
Now it could have been the overwhelming smell of garlic (still thinking about Chicken Kiev) mixed with the euphoric dawn chorus, which by now had reached its peak, but I felt rather giddy. The possibilities in low light with such a focal length, handheld. Oh my.
Onward deeper into the jungle (okay forest but building on the drama).
I wasn't planning on shooting wildlife this morning but noticed a little Yellow Wagtail hopping around on the rocks in the river. Light levels were again very low so OIS flicked into the enabled position. I waited behind a tree for the Wagtail to move past me and was fortunate to catch it with some food in its bill. I think it's perhaps wondering could it fit me in its mouth as well, or perhaps it too is a Fuji fan.
600mm focal length in a forest really does help you look beyond the area just in front of you. As I looked around I was searching for pockets of light piercing through the shadows. The sun had continued to rise and would deliver piercing slivers of golden tones throughout. Just beautiful.
Downhill forest is full of birds, especially it would seem one of the nations favourites, the Robin. This one was hopping around on the branches above me. I think it was hungry but sadly I didn't have any goodies for it. Still it posed just long enough for me to grab a shot.
My time in the forest was drawing to a close. I have my mother in law staying this week so I needed to get back and play taxi driver (simply transport not the Robert Di Niro character you understand). Just before heading for home there was just enough time to discover that the forest may be home to a large beast which may or may not feed on photographers out at dawn.
Funny, I made it back to the car in double quick time.