New Zealand Day 17 – Milford Sound

Cynthia - Milford Sound

This was the day I really wanted sunshine, and New Zealand delivered! We woke up to clear skies and a bit of frost and the forecast indicated the sunshine would continue and it would get a bit warmer.

Our schedule was to drive the Milford Road for 2 hours to meet our ship to cruise around Milford Sound (actually it’s a fjord) for 2 1/2 hours.

We decided to allocate 3 hours drive time just to be on the safe side.

We got underway and as we climbed into the Southern Alps we were in great spirits as we marvelled at the scenery. We came to an overlook and decided to pull over because there was a great view. When I got out of the car I noticed a Kea Parrot on the railing.

Kea Parrot

I was really hoping to see these birds. The Kea is the only mountain parrot in the world and is only found in New Zealand.

Kea Parrot

Kea Parrots are known for their destructive nature and they frequently chew the rubber bits off of cars, causing extensive damage if left to their own devices. As we got back in the car and were getting ready to leave we heard something on the roof. The Kea and hopped on to the top of our car and was up to no good.

Kea Parrot

We shoo’d him off and got on our way before he could cost us our deposit on the rental.

We arrived at the terminal to catch our cruise and got checked in

Milford Sound

The weather continued to shine and we had an awesome time cruising around Milford Sound.

Stirling Falls - Milford Sound

Seals - Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Bowen Falls - Milford Sound

Fairy Falls - Milford Sound

We really enjoyed the cruise and we enjoyed taking a leisurely drive back to Te Anau.

Tomorrow we drive to Invercargill. This will be the furthest south we get before turning back to drive up the east coast of the North Island.

Backyard Birding Report – April 20th, 2011

We’ve not spotted a single hummingbird so far this spring. BUT, we’ve spotted two kinds of birds not previously seen in our yard. We’ve seen a few Indigo Buntings, but I’ve not managed to get any photos. We’ve also seen a few of these:

Carolina Chickadee - 3

Carolina Chickadee - 2

I knew it was a Chickadee the minute I spotted it. Cynthia said it can’t be a Black-capped Chickadee (though it looks EXACTLY like one to me) because they don’t come to Texas. We looked up the Black-capped Chickadee and sure enough, they’re indigenous to the norther regions of the U.S. and they don’t migrate. A little research and we determined them to be Carolina Chickadees.

Also, one of the birdhouses we have hanging on the side of the house looks to have been attacked by something with sharp claws. It has not, however, stopped a pair of sparrows from raising three babies in it

Baby Sparrows

And, although not spotted in my yard, this guy strikes me as interesting. A very ragged vulture that rides the drafts between my office building and the one next to us.

Ragged Vulture

Lens Lust

Size Matters

I popped in to my local crack camera dealer just to have a look around. I wasn’t really shopping all that hard. I mean, there are things I am keeping an eye out for, but mostly I like to browse and just be in and amongst the camera equipment and around other photographers. Almost always I leave empty handed. Which is good. I don’t have the budget to spend for every single piece of gear I might want.

While I was there I looked in the case where they keep the used Sony/Minolta gear. Typically, there is usually not much there. Of course there’s always plenty of second hand Nikon and Canon gear, but when it comes to high end of the Sony/Minolta equipment it is usually slim pickin’s.

But there in case was the legendary Sony 70-400mm G Lens. And not only that, it was being sold for a price that was dramatically lower than you can buy it new and significantly lower than what I’ve seen it go for used, when/if they even show up.

Initially, I dismissed it. I don’t tend to shoot in this focal range. I knew it was a good deal, I just couldn’t justify it for my type of shooting. I already had the Sony 70-300 G and the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 so really, what’s the point? So I left, empty handed.

As I was driving around, running some errands, I kept thinking about that lens. I had read the reviews and seen all the praise. The sony 70-400 G is not just a good lens, it is (by all accounts) one of the best lenses ever made in its class. As I mulled it over more and more I decided that I should buy the lens and, if nothing else, resell if for a profit or use it as trading fodder for another lens via the photography forums I belong to. With this brilliant justification in mind I made my way back to the camera store and bought the lens. They even reduced the price a little more so it was an even better deal.

Once I had it in hand and started playing with it I started falling in love. For a lens of that range it is surprisingly light. It’s beast, but it’s a manageable beast. And the image quality has a “WOW” factor that can only be described by using sample shots. Unlike so many long zoom lenses, the 70-400 G is sharp from 70mm all the way out to 400mm. It is simply wonderful.

These are from my first workout with the lens at The Houston Zoo. All shot using this lens attached to my A850. The entire gallery can be seen by clicking here. If you chase the links back to their respective Flickr pages you can view EXIF info and look at the full sized image files which REALLY give you a sense of the sharpness and quality.

Needless to say, I’m keeping the lens. I’ve been selling some of my unused glass on Ebay to recoup the expense.

Southern ground hornbill

Chimp

Poodle Duck

Ostrich

Yawning Tiger