500mm Comes in Handy

October 05, 2015  •  4 Comments

Many photographers invest in one of the big super-telephoto lenses in order to capture photographs of birds and other small animals. Although I use my Nikon 500VR lens to photograph birds on occasion, I tend to use it more for the following purposes:

  • Events in which the action is reasonably far away
  • Compressing landscapes and removing unwanted elements from the frame
  • Portraits of larger animals, particularly at the zoo


My 500VR lens got a workout at the reenactment activities commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battles at Gettysburg. The lens enabled me to get a closer view of the action. It compressed the battlefield--helping to make the scene appear more congested. Finally, the narrow field of view helped to keep unwanted elements (e.g., spectators, cars, etc.) out of the frame.

Battle of the Wheatfield Ring of Fire Other events where the 500VR is beneficial include air shows.

Thunderbirds LANDSCAPES:

The 500VR helps to simplify and compress landscape images. The narrow field of view also enables me to select just a small portion of the landscape to feature in the photograph.

Dawn at Gettysburg battlefield

Foggy sunrise Falling water ANIMAL PORTRAITS:

The 500VR lens lets me fill the frame when photographing larger animals at the zoo. The extended reach of the lens means that little or no cropping of the frame is required during post processing, which yields higher image quality.

Orangutan Amur tiger Mexican gray wolf BIRDS:

And, let's not forget the birds. It's a great lens for photographing birds.

Screech Owl Great Horned Owl Burrowing owl Pair of herons

Personally, I think it makes it easier to create more interesting photographs when shooting at the extremes of the focal length scale. I find myself shooting at either the 14mm (my widest lens) or the 500mm (my narrowest lens) focal length for a high percentage of my shots.


Glenn Nagel Photography
Thanks Kevin...Glenn
Kevin Hellon(non-registered)
Wonderful photos Glenn. You illustrate very well just what is possible with such a lens,
Glenn Nagel Photography
Thanks Alec...I appreciate the kind words. As far as sharpness goes, I try to get that right in camera. I don't do anything special in post--I usually just apply some default sharpening setting in Lightroom. As you mentioned, I find that using a tripod is key. Also, it's important for me to watch my shutter speeds to be sure they are fast enough to keep the image sharp. For still shots, I always set the camera for Mirror Up and I always use a cable release. That way, I eliminate any potential for camera shake as I'm pressing the shutter. I hope this helps...Glenn
Alec Himwich(non-registered)
Really beautiful work Glenn.

The Civil War reenactment stuff is terrific. It truly has an authentic look.

How do you get your photos so sharp? I have resolved to make my tripod my friend, but I wonder if there is some special sauce you have in post.

Thank you so much for sharing your work.

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