Can you use a lens too much? I have been told in the past that I am over-reliant on my Noctilux when using the Leica M9. The exact comment was: its a very limiting lens in most respects and actually hinders progress by the fascination with wide open apertures, although I agree it does look cool! I am beginning to think the same about my 800mm F5.6 birding lens but the limitation factor is weight not aperture. Recently I have simply balked at the idea of carrying it around with me. It travels with me in the car in case I find something that genuinely demands it. Mostly though recent photos have been taken with either a 400mm F5.6 or F4 lens. I can add 1.4x or 2x extenders if I need them.
I may finally have kicked the Noctilux habit only to acquire a similar penchant for the 35mm Summilux 1.4 ASPH. Whether I have kicked the 800 habit will be tested when I go somewhere like Long Valley. The wide-open spaces and lack of cover make close approach difficult. It demands a different thought process and visualization of the frame you want. That is in itself a positive outcome. It moves me away from ‘how big in the frame can I make this?’ as a starting point.
I have enjoyed working with less weight to carry around. In some respects I feel I am losing my fascination with long lens portrait photography. It dampens the enjoyment and limits the aesthetic side. Yes, you can find the perfect background and it will look stunning but its not exactly creative. It is demanding only to the extent of stamina and endurance. Maybe I lack the technique but I struggle to do birds in flight with an 800mm lens.
Now with the philosophical musings behind me I discovered today a new bird recording app. Facebook Friend Tom Tarrant (with whom I have birded in the real world… or is FB the real world nowadays) posted about a new Android app called Bird Sounds. This derives from the amazing Xeno Canto collection. Of course I don’t have an Android phone but immediately someone said there is an iPhone equivalent (produced by Max Allan and also Xeno Canto based). It is called Aves Vox. It is free. The pro version is a whopping HK$38 (about US$5) and I may give that a go if someone can convince me it is worth the outlay. These apps allow you to listen to the call of a bird and check whether it matches with what you have heard in the field. I tested it on Red-flanked Bluetail. There. Asian Stubtail. There. Grey Treepie. There. So 3/3 so far. Brilliant. I am a very happy bunny. There is only one downside I have discovered so far. I tested it in the dining room rather than in the field and Lulu clearly was not impressed. She barked at each bird. There is no pleasing some dogs. I’m sure if I played a Pheasant call to a gun dog it would wag its tail and ask which direction. Not Lulu. She clearly sees a potential threat to her biscuit supply. And in the absence of a bird today, I think I should offer Lulu’s groupies a picture from her past.