Nikon Z9 camera + Nikkor AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens: a capable combo

Nikon Z9 camera + Nikkor AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens – a capable combo by Umashanker Narayanaswamy (Flickr | Substack):

Finally a weekend without rain! Even though it was just a few weeks of rain, it felt like eternity. Especially given the lack of rain in the past couple of years in Northern California. We are not used to or at least forgotten about winter rains altogether. But we are glad to have had so much rain this year nevertheless. My weekend mornings before sunrise and a little after sunrise are spent chasing birds and other wildlife in one of my favorite trails in the San Francisco South Bay Area. Home to several species of birds and other wildlife. Early last year when I decided to take my photography more seriously, I made a pact that I would visit one single spot for an entire year and I will only spend the golden hour (preferably mornings) photographing wildlife. A couple of reasons, one, going back to the same place over and over again increases your familiarity with the place and that in turn increases the likelihood that you get better pictures. Two, golden hours make for incredible pictures.

This weekend was no different. I have been alternating between the 800 PF and 600mm FL ED VR on my Z9 and I keep going back to the 600mm for early morning work. The extra reach of the 800 PF is great but it is relatively slow to focus during early morning hours.

I reached the spot at 6:45am and right away spotted a coyote foraging for food. Coyotes are common here but somewhat elusive. You don’t see them once humans start showing up on the trails. This one looked healthy, maybe the abundance of rain has created surplus for all beings here. Based on the size I assumed that it’s a male. I saw him on one side of the trail and managed to capture a few decent pictures before he decided to cross the road to get to the other side of the preserve.

As I finished the red tail loop and was heading into the other side of the preserve, the sun has started rising on the horizon and there he was again. Somewhat hidden behind thick grass with sparkling dew, backlit by the sun, his fur was glowing bright.

The scene was challenging because of the backlit conditions which can be frustrating when it comes to acquiring focus. Except for a few shots where I had to manually focus because of the grass in the foreground, the Z9 – 600mm FL ED VR combo performed flawlessly. I could be wrong, but the 800 PF in my opinion would not have performed as well as the 600mm did in this situation.

He was very well aware of my presence, which didn’t seem to bother him much. On my part, I always make sure that I don’t interfere with the businesses of whatever wildlife I come across. I use a 600mm lens, which puts a comfortable distance between me and my subjects. Like I mentioned, the coyote was neither bothered nor threatened by my presence, he did give me a stare as he was foraging for food.

Once both of us had established that we are not in each others’ way we went about our business. I was clicking away and he managed to catch what looked like a vole.

With the vole in his mouth, he gave me another stare, maybe he was showing off or maybe he wanted me to stay the hell away from his catch. I have heard that, just like cats, coyotes like to toy with their prey but have never witnessed this behavior. And that’s exactly what he did for the next two minutes. Tossing and catching the vole repeatedly.

Animal AF combined with 20 fps on Z9 nailed the action perfectly with a near 100% keeper rate.

Once he had his fun, he just swallowed the vole whole! It was an incredible couple of minutes and it was fun to watch him enjoy his early morning snack!

This is not the first time I was glad that I had the 600mm FL ED VR on instead of the 800 PF. In spite of the additional weight and reduced reach, the 600mm seems to perform better with low light and backlit conditions.

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