Today we have a small series that was taken casually on our trip to Iceland. I am very happy about some of these pictures, because with this series also an idea worked, which I carried in my head since our last summer trip, I'll elaborate a bit:
In Iceland you can do excellent wildlife photography, especially for bird photography the country is a dream in my view. There are some places that are perfect for it. Here it is absolutely worth taking a heavy telephoto lens with you. However, these spots are (of course) not on the agenda of our 8-day landscape photography workshops.
Last year, however, I noticed that in Iceland, especially in summer, there are always interesting opportunities for bird photography - briefly and spontaneously - even in the classic places with landscape highlights. Between Vik i Myrdal and Höfn alone, you can see countless breeding colonies of terns, redshanks, Odins' grouse, black-tailed godwits, snipe, whooper swans and much more at the roadside. And to capture these, I needed a solution.
If you don't need the following technical excursus, scroll down to the pictures 😉
When I'm not travelling privately, 95% of my focus is on landscapes, so it's completely impractical to pack a real super-tele with me and carry it around all the time. At most, the Nikon Z800/6.3 would come into question, but even that would be too big and heavy for me.
In recent years I have always had a Z 70-200/2.8 at 280mm with converter or a Z 100-400 at f/5.6 available for such occasions.
But when the 400/4.5 came on the market I thought: great, for the loss of just a third of an aperture compared to the 100-400 I gain an additional 160mm focal length! And 560mm is a focal length with which I could spontaneously take advantage of good opportunities with smaller birds. And by the way, it complements my Nikon Z600/4 very well at 400mm.
The only question remained, do I miss the medium focal length range too much when I swap the 100-400 for the 400/4.5? Fortunately, an evaluation of focal length ranges can be done in a few minutes nowadays:
The result confirmed my feeling that I am using the extreme focal lengths more and more (wide angle or super telephoto) and especially my 70-200/100-400 are mostly dragged unused in my backpack. The evaluation shows the last 2.5 years, last year I hardly used this range at all. And I used the 100-400 almost exclusively at 400 anyway.
Thought done. I sold the heavy 24-70/2.8, 70-200/2.8 and the 100-400/5.6.
I bought the small but very fine 24-120/4 as well as a 400/4.5 and have to say: this tactic worked out very well on Iceland! Despite the significantly lower total weight in the backpack, I significantly extended my focal length range for such trips. I didn't miss the 130-280 range at all. In the long run, I might buy a lightweight version one day, as soon as something like that is available. The announced lightweight 70-180/2.8 with TK could be interesting here, let's see.
On location it worked quite simply: I always had my second Nikon Z8 "ready to shoot" on the 400/4.5, preset for wildlife photography. In the first few days it was usually in my backpack, in the last few days it was simply strapped to the Peakdesign belt. The Z8 combo with the 400 is so light for 560mm that you hardly feel it (if you're used to a 600 telephoto 😅) and can casually strap it on during landscape photography:
So I was able to react very spontaneously to the small opportunities that arose in the fauna and flora. For all the animal pictures in this series, I invested a total of maybe 2-3 hours gross, with a few minutes here and there. I think this also shows how beautiful Iceland is from an ornithological point of view.
Finally I was able to capture pictures of singing snow buntings at the Jökulsarlon glacier lagoon. Other highlights, apart from fulmars and red-throated divers, were the golden plovers in their magnificent plumage. What beautiful animals! I had seen these many times before on Iceland, but they were always brief chance observations that I couldn't react to quickly.
By the way, the Z 180-600, which will be released in the next few days, is not very interesting for me because of the characteristics described above: when I compare the 560mm of the 400 on paper with the 600mm of the zoom, it becomes clear: with adapter ring, the 180-600 weighs 46% more than the small 400 with teleconverter! Secondly, the open aperture performance of the 400 seems to be clearly ahead, see also here. And thirdly, I would miss a fast addition to my 600 at 400mm, because the bokeh of the small 400 is really great at f/4.5, see also my hoopoe pictures.
So, enough chatter! Now I wish you a lot of fun with this series from the realm of Icelandic birdlife, which I was able to capture during my workshop.
I hope you enjoyed the series!