My name is Abe Curland and, for me, while landscape and street photography are fun, after my first taste of the action and rewards of wild bird photography, I was hooked! Birding is by far my greatest passion. At first, I was using an APS-C camera with good tracking and a high burst rate with a 150-600 lens and I was happy. I work in the photo business (I’ve been at B&H Photo for 13 years), so I stay up on the latest cameras and lenses when I wanted to add a full-frame camera to my gear for landscapes, portraits and he like, I decided on the Sony α7R III. Then, on a landscape excursion in the Nevada desert with the α7R III, I was suddenly treated to a verdin fluttering around in the brush. The incredible detail of that photo spelled retirement for my APS-C camera and I started using my α7R III full time. For my photography, the focus tracking was good, but it wasn’t designed for the fast action of birds. So I tried the Sony α9 and BINGO! The α9 is the best camera I have ever used for birding and the image quality for landscapes, street and portraits is fabulous! It’s now my only camera body. I use the Sony 100-400mm GM and by the end of the year I hope to own the new Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G to give me additional focal length that’s helpful with bird photography. Rounding out my lens array is the 85mm f/1.8, 24-70mm f/2.8 and 16-35mm f/4. Here’s more about my kit.
“Best focus tracking ever, great in low light, lighting fast focus acquisition, sharp image quality, 20 fps…a dream camera!”
Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master: Used for birding and great for compressed landscape shots. This is a lovely lens with an amazingly close focus. The majesty of the Bald eagle is breathtaking. The α9 got a tack sharp focus as I tracked him across my view. Because I am using only the 100-400mm lens, the bird was not filling much of my frame. Even at the heavy crop, sharp focus was maintained.
Sony α9. Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master. 1/4000-sec., f/6.3, ISO 800
Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master: This is a standard for any camera bag. I use this for landscapes and for the rare occasion I photograph an event. In the photo below, the 24-70mm f/2.8 GM captured all the color and was wide enough to get all three bridges. I have been taking this shot for many years and there has always been an issue. This was the best year so far and I will be there again next year!
Sony α9. Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master. 1/250-sec., f/3.5, ISO 100
Sony 16-35mm f/4: I use this lens often for street photography, landscapes (although I tend to use the 24-70mm more for landscapes) and any other time I just want to take a camera and lens along. It is lightweight and versatile. In the first photo below I was using the 16-35mm and only ambient light, and the α9 did a fabulous job with the stabilization. In the second photo I was at 14,000 ft and was having a difficult time breathing and getting around. The 16-35mm captured the lines and contours of this spot beautifully.
Sony α9. Sony 16-35mm f/4. 1/40-sec., f/4, ISO 1600
Sony α9. Sony 16-35mm f/4. 1/200-sec., f/8, ISO 200
Sony 85mm f/1.8: In my opinion, the 85mm f/1.8 is the Best value in the Sony lineup so I had to include it here even though I use it almost exclusively for portraits. Sharp as a tack.
Sony α9: Best focus tracking ever, great in low light, lighting fast focus acquisition, sharp image quality, 20 fps. What can I say? A bird photographer’s dream camera! I also use this camera for landscape photography, head shots, and to be able to afford more gear – I do real estate photography in my “free” time.
Sony α9. Sony 16-35mm f/4. 1/200-sec., f/9, ISO 400
Vello Shutter Release & Vello Interval Timer: A must for landscape and real estate photography.
Oben Tripod & Head: Essential for both landscape and real estate photography.
Sony α9. Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G Master. 1/2000-sec., f/5.6, ISO 1000
Oben Gimbal: Although I like to shoot handheld, many times I am standing outside for many hours. That is the nature is birding…wait and wait some more. The gimbal gives me the relief of holding a large lens and the versatility to follow birds.
Godox AD200 TTL Pocket Flash Kit & Godox TT685S Thinklite TTL Flash: I hope to incorporate these into my birding/wildlife photography. In the meantime, they are very helpful for photos of Homo sapiens.
Sony α9. Sony 16-35mm f/4. 1/200-sec., f/11, ISO 80
Lowepro Backpack: This large backpack can hold all my gear, a computer, a tripod and it fits in the airline overhead bin. It’s super comfortable to carry.
See more of Abe Curland’s work on Instagram @birdsongimages.