Just like with sports, if you don’t train then you won’t perform very well. Is this another article about keeping inspired during Covid-19? Not quite, but it is about keeping in practice.

Keep training

You need to keep your eye trained. You need to identify quality light, notice angles that work better and isolate your subject. These are all little things that make the difference between a snapshot and a photograph.

You need to know your gear. How does one camera behave that’s different from another one you have? Don’t forget the nuances. Your lenses have different characteristics so reacquaint yourself with them.

Long lens exercise

I used the word “train” with a purpose. You need to keep training if you want to run a marathon.

Training can involve jogging around the block. You have to keep your muscles moving and your mind engaged. By a fun coincidence, using this lens for long enough is also something of a weight training exercise.

Lens and Camera combination
Sigma 150-500mm on my Canon EOS RP

My part of the Santa Cruz Mountains can feel rather remote and the light can be very pretty. There is wildlife and towering redwood trees all around. The big, broad landscapes are a little harder for me to get to now because of the wildfires in 2020, but there are intimate subjects everywhere I turn.

I chose to walk a few miles with a long lens looking for deer and wild turkeys. As a result, I found myself lugging around my Sigma 150-500mm and using it handheld. I chose my Canon EOS RP to get more familiar with some of the features. The mental exercise involved composing my subject and most importantly with this beast, determining the appropriate shutter speed and ISO for a decent exposure.

Today’s exercise was all about creating engaging images while thinking on my feet and using only this gear. Light changes fast here — late in the day light goes from “good” to “dark” in minutes.

The Sigma super telephoto introduces some challenges while handheld. Its widest aperture is f/5 at 150mm and f/6.3 at 500mm. In order for my subject to be reasonably sharp, I need a shutter speed a little faster than the inverse of the focal length when using a full frame camera.

As you can imagine, it needs a lot of light or higher ISO for those shutter speeds. Sitting that still with a lens this heavy requires careful breathing and a moment of Zen.