I had the pleasure of spending Monday morning photographing with Judd Patterson at Matheson Hammock Park in South Miami. I’ve admired Judd’s photography for several years, but I hadn’t met him in person until the Biscayne National Park BioBlitz last month. Judd is a really nice person, and a terrific photographer too. In the words of a mutual friend (who shall remain anonymous), Judd’s images “make the rest of us look stupid.” Alas, I tend to agree! You should check out Judd’s photos at his personal website, as well as Birds In Focus, a kind of mini-stock-agency that he runs with fellow bird photographers Bob Gress and David Seibel.
We didn’t find anything spectacular at Matheson Hammock, but it was a pleasant morning nonetheless. And I got a chance to test the limits of my photographic equipment, which is always interesting. A few weeks earlier, I had noticed a nest hole high in a royal palm tree (probably an abandoned Pileated Woodpecker nest cavity) that was being frequented by Chestnut-fronted Macaws. These large parrots are native to Amazonia but established in Miami. With my Canon EOS 40D, 500mm lens, and 1.4x teleconverter, I just wasn’t getting enough magnification to create the image I wanted. So I looked in my camera bag and found that I had another 1.4x teleconverter (a Sigma). In order to mount the Sigma teleconverter between the Canon teleconverter and the camera body, I needed to add a 12mm extension tube between the two teleconverters. The resulting rig was unwieldy, but I was optimistic that I’d come away with some usable images nonetheless.
You can see the image I captured above, and I’ve also included a 100% crop (i.e. when you click on the image, 1 pixel in your browser window equals 1 pixel in the camera) so you can see how much detail this ridiculous setup actually captured. Sure, pixel-for-pixel, it’s not quite as sharp as the 500mm lens alone, or even the lens coupled to a single teleconverter. But the image is quite usable, and it’s a photo that I wouldn’t have gotten without trying this combination of equipment.