Sony Camera Club on Flickr houses nearly 150 thousand photos of everything from vast landscapes to wild animals all captured on Sony gear. This group of talented photographers (Cyber-shot and Alpha users alike) are regular contributors to our monthly photo challenges and are passionate about creating quality works of art for the community. It was tough to choose just one member to highlight this month but today, we celebrate Jamie Felton and her love for wildlife photography. Take a look at a few of her images from the Sony pool and you’ll see why we wanted to learn more about her skill.
Kevin Barrett, one of our knowledgeable Flickr group moderators, conducted an interview with Jamie to get the scoop and here’s what he was able to find.
Q: Can you tell us how long you’ve been a photographer and how you got started?
A: I had just turned six when I received my first camera. It was a Kodak Instamatic. I remember being so excited to get the prints back and then being so disappointed in the results. I knew then that I needed to improve my photography skills and maybe get a better camera. I have been working on both those things,on and off, ever since.
When I was 15 my father bought my sisters and I each an SLR camera. A Pentax K1000. Everything was manual on that camera. Focus, exposure, even the flash power had to be calculated. But that camera helped me to learn the basics of photography. Around the year 2000 I got my first digital camera and fell in love with photography like never before.
Q: If you were that critical of your own photography at such a young age, it is no wonder you make such fantastic images today. Now, I’m sure it’s apparent to anyone reading this that your passion is wildlife photography, but has that always been the case? What drew you to wildlife photography, and of what are you most proud?
A: Thanks Kevin. It is true, we have to be able to see the flaws in our photos in order to know what skills to work on. But that’s the fun of it, always trying to improve.
I have always loved animals and being outdoors, so wildlife photography was a natural place for me to migrate But before I had the necessary gear for wildlife photography, I took whatever kind of pictures I could. My wildlife photography began with macro photography. As my gear improved, I was able shoot other types of wildlife.
I was drawn to wildlife photography because it’s all about animals, art, technology, and the freedom of the outdoors. So many of the things that I love most, all rolled into one activity. I can’t imagine anything much better.
Q: One of the things we appreciate about your wildlife photography is your consistent respect for the animals, especially where sensitive subjects are concerned, such as poaching and conservation.
Now, you’ve mentioned you use Sony gear, but let’s step outside of the box and look into it. What can you tell us about the gear you use and what made you choose Sony?
A: I use a Sony A77 DSLR and I own a collection of lenses, so I’ll just mention my favorites. My Sony 70-400G is on my camera about 95% of the time. I also have an old Minolta 50mm f2.8 macro and a Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro that I really like. I use my Sigma 24-70mm D f2.8 for wide angle shots. It does fine, but if I’d ever start to do more in that focal range, I’d upgrade to a good Sony lens. I have a Minolta 70-210 f4 beercan thats nice, and an old Tamron 300 f2.8 that is fast and sharp. But nothing beats my Sony 70-400mm for wildlife. It’s sharp, versatile and it focuses fast and quiet.
I ended up with Sony because I simply want the best tool for the job. I do lots of research before I buy. When I get new gear, I test it out really well. If it’s not what I want, I don’t keep it. My first digital camera was a 3MP Nikon 885. In those days I did macro photography and it was the best camera for me. I loved it. When Sony came out with the f707, I bought it and loved it even more than the Nikon. It was great for macro photography. That camera could actually focus in the DARK with hologram laser focus assist ! I accidently left that f707 out in a tropical rain storm once, dried it out and it still worked. After that camera I was sold on Sony. So when I was ready to upgrade to a DSLR, I would have researched the Sonys first. But Sony did not make a DSLR at that time. I bought a Nikon D70 and was disappointed in the photos. I returned it and bought a Minolta 5D and a Sigma 50-500mm lens and was satisfied. When Sony bought Minolta I was ecstatic. I could not believe my luck and bought the A100 as soon as it was released. Through the years I also bought a couple of A700’s and an A550 to get me through until the release of the A77.
I never considered a full frame camera because I wanted the extended reach and better DOF of a crop sensor. I do not use a tripod or a monopod because they slow me down and prevent me from getting down low or climbing up high, for a better angle. I don’t use a neck strap. Instead I use a thin strong wrist strap. It does not bog me down. I own a Sony external flash and beamer but rarely, if ever, take them with me. They are not only extra bulk to carry, I usually l don’t like the look of flash photos and I don’t like to flash animals eyes.
So my regular wildlife gear is my Sony A77 with 70-400mm lens, a few extra batteries and flash cards in a belt pack and that is it. I’m set for the day.
Q: It seems you were an early adopter of the Sony Alpha system, with a lot of rigorous demands for your investments. Sony has introduced a lot of new technologies in the mean time, in virtually every part of the system, including the basic architecture of the camera itself. How do the modern SLTs compare to your traditional DSLRs in use, and are you pleased with the changes?
A: That’s true I have invested heavily in the Sony Alpha system. But I’ve earned some money back on my investment. So I’m okay.
As for the new technologies. While waiting for the release of the A77, there was a lot of negative talk about it being an SLT. Especially since that meant it would have an electronic viewfinder. And strangely enough, being an SLT is what makes that camera great. In my opinion, the critics could not have been more wrong. There are many advantages of owning an SLT. The smooth, quiet shutter with no mirror slapping up and down. Having 8 or even 12 fps when I need it. Phase Detection AF in all shooting modes, even video mode. But most of all, I love the electronic viewfinder. I could never go back to an optical viewfinder. I’ve used manual exposure mode for years. With an optical viewfinder, it took a lot of thought. With an EVF it’s easy. I am spoiled by the ability to see my exposure in the viewfinder on my A77. In fact , not long ago, I thought I’d use my old A550 for a bit. But I could not deal with the optical viewfinder. For me its like giving up my DVR for regular TV or my cell phone for a land line. It’s just too hard to go backwards.
And if you want to see more of Jamie’s photos, make sure to check out her Flickr page or just head to Sony Camera Club on Flickr.