Houston’s The Light Fest

We attended The Light Fest in Houston and it was amazing! The lanterns were so beautiful in the sky and the weather was perfect. We had a great time and it was just so picturesque. (Next event info is located at the bottom!)

I think one of the best things about this event was the people watching. Everyone had fun, no one was too rowdy and the kids had a blast. The organizers sold glow in the dark toys and bubble machines and the kids there had a lot of fun.

The hashtag for this event was #whatlightsyou and it really was fantastic.

The next event is October 19th, here:

Magnolia Garden Park
12044 Beach St
Houston, TX 77044

Tickets are available at www.waterlanternfestival.com

Beautiful day birding at Brazos Bend!

We had a fantastic day at Brazos Bend! We hiked Live Oak Trail, Pilant Sough Trail, Spillway Trail and part of 40 Acre Trail Lake. The weather was great, it was a little overcast and sprinkled rain for just a few minutes but the breezes were cool. Here’s a link to the trail map. The birds and gators did NOT disappoint. We even saw a snake which completely grosses me out.

Brazos Bend is located at 21901 FM 762 Rd, Needville, TX 77461 and adult admission is $7. I can tell you the admission fee was completely justified as soon as we photograped the owl and owlet. It was a dream come true! Brazos Bend State Park is a 4,897-acre state park along the Brazos River in Needville, Texas, run by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It has bathrooms, benches, water bottle fill station, playgrounds, fishing piers, camping and more.

I can’t stress this enough – please be so careful around the alligators. GIVE THEM ROOM! We have YET to make a trip without witnessing an overzealous parent pushing their child towards an alligator for a photo opportunity.

Check out our photos, we’d love to know what you think!

Telephoto showdown: $100 Big Mike’s 500/1000mm Vs $1000 Sigma 150-600mm

A few weeks ago we went out to Huntsville State Park to get a chance to take some shots with the Sigma 150-600mm. It was awesome and we got some great photos. I thought it would be a great opportunity to use the 500mm manual lens I bought from Amazon a while back for the lunar eclipse. The day started out a little rough getting used to a lack of autofocus but was much smoother toward the end. I really wanted to do a comparison of this lens against one that is ten times the cost, and see just how good can a person do with a $100 lens. Is it really the way everyone says and the key is not having the best equipment, but to be the best with the equipment you have?

Big Mike’s 500/1000mm f/8 Manual Telephoto Lens for Nikon

Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary for Nikon

2x Magnifier to take the Sigma to 1200mm (click here to read our review of the 2x Magnifier – IT IS A GAME CHANGER.) Also, those links are affiliate links but do NOT cost you anything to click.

Mike’s @ 500mm
Sigma @ 600mm

We started out in a bird blind and that gave me a great opportunity to put my camera on a tripod and get used to how the lens operates. I found it very difficult to get decent shots of the birds we were looking at. Perhaps the 2x magnifier will help? It really didn’t and just seemed to add edge blur to everything. It was always like you were right on the edge of getting a crystal clear photo but the lens just couldn’t do it.

Mike’s @ 1000mm
Mike’s @ 500mm
Sigma @ 600mm

We moved from the bird blind and drove to a trail head for a little hike. We had hoped to see some different birds that one wouldn’t necessarily find next to a body of water, but alas they were not to be found. Not to let a good photo opportunity go to waste we began to take photos of the trail, and each other taking photos of the trail, and that’s when I had an epiphany.

Mike’s @ 500mm
Sigma @ 600mm

At the bird blind the subjects were pretty far away, somewhere between 100-150 yards. The images were ok, but lack the detail you would really want from those types of photos. On the trail, subjects were much, much closer. I noticed my images suddenly had more detail and clarity. So naturally, I began to experiment. I found this particular lens, on my particular camera, it may be different from user to user, has a sweet spot around 75-100 ft. It does have an EXTREMELY shallow depth of field, even with the aperture stopped down.

Mike’s @ 500mm
Sigma @ 500mm

If you have the patience, or maybe you want to get better as a photographer, you can certainly get this lens dialed in for some great shots.

Mike’s @ 500mm
Sigma @ 600mm

I found the lens to be very easy to use handheld at 500mm because the lens weights almost nothing. With the 2x magnifier on you need a tripod, or at the very minimum a monopod. After a few hours using it I was actually pretty proficient with it and was able to get some birds in flight. It seemed to do better with more light, the day was somewhat cloudy at times, so it’s probably best on sunny days or with great lighting.

Mike’s @ 500mm
Mike’s @ 500mm

If you are looking for a telephoto lens that doesn’t break the bank, you have the patience to learn how to use this lens and plan out where you will be able to take the best photos for this lens, I would highly recommend it. Of course, I don’t expect to see any photos in National Geographic using this lens, but for social media, I think it will do just fine. All images provided are the RAW file and HAVE NOT been edited for proper comparison.

Mike’s @ 500mm
Sigma @ 600mm
Mike’s @ 500mm
Mike’s @ 500mm

We listed some affiliate links above – they do not cost YOU anything to click.

Sigma 150-600mm with a 2x Magnifier with the Nikon!

I was already in love with the 150-600mm lens, head over heels, couldn’t get enough – in love with it. Then, the 2x Magnifier that we ordered for the Sigma 150-600mm arrived and took my emotions to an entirely new level.

THESE ARE ALL SHOTS FROM OUR BACKYARD!

Nikon D3500 with 2x Magnifier and the Sigma 150-600mm, also a Cardinal

Two cons about the magnifier:

  1. When you’re out at 1200mm, it’s hard to find your subject. I think this is implied and probably strikes you as common sense BUT, the constant rotation of zooming in and zooming back out is a little cumbersome to find your target – it works though!
  2. I had trouble focusing on the birds. They are so incredibly fast as it is, but I missed more than a couple shots just trying to get them into focus. Lots of rotating the lens to try and get the picture how I wanted it and then increasing the zoom.
Nikon D3500 with 2x Magnifier and the Sigma 150-600mm, also Eastern Bluebird

The Eastern bluebird was shot from my backyard! I was so shocked that the lens got it at all, much less captured the colors.

Nikon D3500 with 2x Magnifier and the Sigma 150-600mm, also an American robin

The detail is incredible! You can see the fuzz on his beak! This magnifier is everything and I can’t wait to really get out and use it. Texas living is amazing! I am so incredibly happy with this magnifier. Purchase it here from Amazon. Here’s also the link to the Sigma 15-600mm. (It’s an affiliate link but that does NOT cost you anything.)

Nikon D3500 with 2x Magnifier and the Sigma 150-600mm, also a female Cardinal

Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern

For Valentine’s Day this year, we took a tour of the Buffalo Bayou Park Cisterns. I’m almost hesitant to share our experience because it was such an amazing time that I want to bottle it up and keep it as my little secret.. but alas. We reserved our tickets for the cistern (which is at 105 Sabine St, Houston, TX 77007) online here. We opted for the history tour which is FREE on Thursdays. I wish we could have done the art show too but tickets went too quickly. (SIDE NOTE: The white blocks in the photos are part of the art exhibit.)

Fun facts:

  • Unused for years, the 87,500-square-foot expanse includes 25-foot tall, slender concrete columns set row upon row, hovering over two inches of water on the reservoir’s floor.
  • Holds 15 million gallons of water when functioning at capacity.
  • The cistern was only accessible via small hatches that open to 14-foot ladders creating enormous logistical difficulties in viewing and navigating the area.
Yongnuo 35mm

I loved the Rokinon 14mm for this space. I think the wide angle worked really well and I was able to get a lot of the pillars. The water reflection was great, it was so perfectly still! I really am still loving the Yonguo line of lenses too, I used the 50mm. Dustin used the 35mm a lot and took some great images of the skate park that’s directly above the cisterns.

Rokinon 14mm
Rokinon 14mm
Nikon 18-55mm
Rokinon 14mm
Rokinon 14mm
Rokinon 14mm

We got some great pics of the city and the bayou after. The bathrooms are fantastic and there are a ton of prime picnic spots!

Rokinon 14mm
Yongnuo 35mm
Rokinon 14mm
Yongnuo 50mm
Nikon 18-55
Yongnuo 35mm

What are your favorite landscape/city lenses? Do you stick to a prime lens? Let us know!

Victory Cup Polo and Hot Air Balloon Festival

Saturday, we went to the Victory Cup Polo and Hot Air Balloon Festival. The weather was super cold and we primarily utilized the 70-300mm kit lens. It was a great day and very exciting! We really enjoyed the polo matches and stayed warm bundled in extra blankets, beanies and gloves. We wish it had been a little warmer as only one hot air balloon went up for a short time. The weather and the winds made the conditions too bad for much of anything but it was still a great day at the Brookshire Polo Club.

What’s your go to lens for sporting events?

Houston, Nikon 70-300mm lens
Houston, Nikon 70-300mm lens
Houston, Nikon 70-300mm lens
Houston, Nikon 70-300mm lens
Houston, Nikon 70-300mm lens
Houston, Nikon 70-300mm lens