Thursday, July 13, 2006

Newfoundland Trip Day 8

I finally found the place I mentioned yesterday. But it was towards the end of the day. The place was called “Dungeon”, it’s a provincial park and the name had something to do with a rock formation. Unfortunately I couldn’t go in – it was a dirt road. Actually it was up at Cape Bonavista, right at the tip. I did get a shot or two of the lighthouse there. But I found something better.

Just outside Elliston is a town called Maberly and there’s a bird sanctuary there with lots of Puffins. Took a bit of finding. Just as I pulled up, so did a pair of vans, and they started unloading the most incredible photo gear I’ve ever seen. Turns out there’s a photo expedition run by a professional photographer out of the US who specializes in wildlife – cougars in Montana, bears in Alaska, and birds. He had 5 customers with him and this was a birding trip. They weren’t there to shoot landscapes or anything else – just birds. And boy, were they equipped!

The name of the company is “Shoot the Light” and when I get back and have decent internet access, I’ll Google it. One of the photographers told me the trip cost $4000 for the week, all inclusive except for airfare. They were from all over – Colorado, California, South Dakota… and they all shot Canon equipment except for one girl who had Nikon stuff. Her name was Laura, she was from Custer, SD and I made friends. I convinced her to let me take a few shots with her lens on my camera.

So when they went out to the bird sanctuary, I did too. I underwhelmed them with my 70-200 f/2.8 although the pro said he loved that lens and was very impressed. I think the smallest lens in their group was the Nikon – a 200-400mm with a 1.7x teleconverter, yielding 625mm focal length. After a while, Laura let me shoot through it, and, well, I was NOT impressed. When I process the shots, I doubt that the picture quality will be much better than mine. Certainly not $10,000 better. What she did have that was great was the head and mount for the lens. And the heavy duty Gitzo tripod. That ball head was great, as was the side mount. Her camera was a D2X and the others carried Canon 5D’s. You should hear the 5D rattle off a string of photos at machine gun speeds!

Anyway, the Puffins were on a little island about 100 yards away. Even through the long lenses, they weren’t anywhere near full frame. When I get my pix up, you’ll see. The disadvantage to using such long lenses is that it was impossible to track these guys if they were flying – Puffins fly fast!

So I bided my time, taking pictures of the photographers and the scenery. At one point, someone said, “Chris, look behind you”. A Puffin had landed about 20 yards away on the edge of the cliff. Everyone swung around to shoot it, including me. I got some almost-full-frame shots with my 200mm, and they came out pretty good. Much better than the 100 yard shots with the 625mm.

The pro was talking to them about things like, “open up 1/3 stop to avoid blowing out the highlights.” He used a spot meter. He also positioned himself so the lighting was better. This guy knows what he’s doing. If the weather is inclement, I was told he holds seminars and sessions for his people, they all have laptops and compare pictures. Very cool.

I spent 2-3 hours there. For the first time, I actually filled a 1Gb memory card. Then I rode up to Cape Bonavista and back to Trinity Cabins. I stopped at the library to log on to my email and try to upload my Blog pages and some pix. It was really slow dialup, so I only got two pix up. I went back to the same restaurant as last night – the seafood salad was just as good, but I ordered scallops as the main dish. I told them, “salad instead of potatoes” which they did, but they didn’t give me the veggies, saying when they substitute a salad they don’t do the veggies. OK it was good, but I’m hungry. I had brekkie today here, but that’s all. I’d better be losing weight!

The weather was excellent most of the day. When I got back here, it started to sprinkle a bit. Hope tomorrow will be nice for my ride up to Twillingate.