Photographing Vesper Sparrows
I came across what I thought was a song sparrow, foraging in the grass and cornfields in the Allegan State Game Area. It was early, and the sun was pleasingly low in the sky and at my back. Resting the camera on the car door window, I shot these photos using the 500 mm lens and 1.4 telephoto extender. Through this amplification, I could see that this was a new sparrow for me, chunky, with a very distinctive eye ring. Like most sparrows I’ve come across, the Vesper sparrow has a lovely song. Unlike most sparrow species, they hide their nests on the ground under clumps of grass.
In the second photo, the car’s shadow was included in the frame. To help eliminate that shadow, I rotated the lens from portrait to landscape using the tripod collar. I like how the out of focus corn stalks behind the Vesper Sparrow’s perch add color that matches his feathers. Overall, the colorful bokeh helps make a more pleasing frame.
What Is That Knob For?
Ever have something right in front of you and not associate it with a useful mechanical function? A simple question “What’s that knob on my lens for?” is all I would have needed to ask. Instead, for quite a long time, I was blind to a function on my lens that is basic, simple and easy to use.
The Simple and Elegant Tripod Collar
I assumed that the L shaped lens foot place precisely at the center of gravity on my long lenses was designed only as a carrying and mounting “handle”. I thought its purpose was to safely carry and manipulate a camera/long lens and secure it firmly to a tripod head.
It makes so much more sense now. The lens foot is attached to a rotational collar that allows the user to turn the lens without disrupting the focus or zoom functions. It’s simply a matter of loosening the collar (hence the obvious knob) and rotating the orientation of the lens from portrait to landscape, or any position in-between. For the longest time, when I was not using a tripod, I swiveled the camera body to achieve this function – a much more cumbersome process. At other times when using a tripod, I repositioned the joystick head on the tripod so the whole setup hung off to the side…a precarious and wobbly mess. Dumb!
There are dozens of sophisticated functions on modern, professional DSLR cameras that photographers struggle to master. The tripod collar is like flipping a switch….. basic, easy and essential.