The Great Journey in Photography

Coming Home

Ring Billed Gull immature first winter_

500mm f8.0 200iso 1/250sec

Last week I was able to shoot at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach CA, a home coming of sorts. Bolsa Chica is where I took my first serious bird image on New Years day not too many years ago. The hawk below is that image. No more than ten minutes after I started my day I met up with that bird. It was sitting on a fence and attracted the attention of several other photographers, became annoyed and flew to just a few feet away from me where I was alone. I had about 2 minutes with the star of the show before others invaded the area. What a great note to start such a journey on!

Bolsa Chica Eco-preserve7-Edit
f8.0 250iso 1/400sec

I was so proud of that photo, a great capture on my very first try I thought. Later, I foolishly submitted it to the Apeture Nature Workshop photo contest believing that I had a shot at winning a spot to attend. But I digress.

I remember telling a friend the next day that it was like being at Jurrasic Park with all the large birds seemingly whizzing by my head. I have photographed at Bolsa Chica many times since then, most of the year I show up about once a month. On my last trip I was expecting to see tons of trash washed in from our recent epic rain storms but was happy to note that it was not really the case. I was yet again disappointed to see that the wildlife was no where near those Jurrasic Park days of the past, just a couple of Brown Pelicans not many ducks and even my favorite Osprey had wandered away from it’s usual fishing hole .

This time I decided to use my Tamron 200-500mm lens. It was the first time since I bought the Nikon 300 f2.8 back in September that I had pulled this lens out of the bag. I knew the limitations were going to bug me some but I also wondered how well I could make it work. I dare say that I have picked up a lot, both experience and technique, since September and was curious to see how that translated to working with the Tamron. I often mention that the Nikon 300mm f2.8 is sharp everywhere, well the Tamron is not. The 200-500 can be as sharp as any other lens really but you need to be shooting between f7.1 and f9 and also have a pretty short focal distance, about 50′ I would say and there is a bit of CA working in that range. Not a problem in most cases but it really does not hold up to Nikon Pro standards. I can see a new 600 f4 or a Sigma 300-800 f5 in my future but even so I would keep the Tamron because it is great for some really specialized uses like zoo photography and other places where you need a lighter more compact lens. I will say that I think the Tamron is also the best long lens you can buy for around $1000.

The bottom line is that I had a great time working the Tamron in it’s zone. The top image is one of my better efforts from the day and as you can see the photo is sharp enough and has a really sweet bokeh. As promised I am also paying a  little more respect to the Gulls of the world. I am going to call this one as an immature Ring Billed Gull with first Winter plumage. If anyone knows otherwise I would be pleased to hear about it.

See more photos from the Bolsa Chica Wetlands at


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