Anchors Away

Today's photo comes from a photowalk with a group headed by Alanna St.Laurent in downtown Detroit.  We visited a few locations on a chilly winter evening to get some great night photographs of the Motor City.

The Princess riverboat cruises are generally 2-3 hours long, traveling from Hart Plaza to Belle Isle, and back. The boat hosts dinner cruises, fall color cruises, moonlight cruises and dinner cruises. The boat is available to book for private parties when you want to take it to the next level. This is something to consider during the dog days of summer for some great sunset shots of Detroit or when you are looking to make a serious splash for a special occasion .


While dabbling in bird photography the past few years, the one common complaint I share with the majority of photographers is that one can never get close enough to these amazing creatures. As an adopter of Canon equipment, I naturally gravitated to the Canon 100-400 USM Telephoto Lens.  This lens provided me countless images I was proud to share, however it was not without its limitations. The one major gripe I had was that the 400mm focal length was simply not enough to compose and photography birds with the intent to fill the frame and avoid unnecessary cropping. The other minor limitation was that the lens tended to produce soft images when racked out to 400mm.  While this is not surprising for a non-prime lens, I simply found it to be little too soft for my taste. After recently selling off this lens, I set out to find a satisfactory alternative which led me to test out the newly released Tamron 150-600mm Telephoto Lens. The additional 200mm of reach may just be the solution I am looking for as there are countless positive reviews of this lens online. Having said that this is not meant to be an in-depth scientific review but rather a simple and easy to understand review which can benefit the average weekend shooter looking for a similar solution. 

I recently headed off the the Detroit Zoo to capture images of wildlife while putting this lens through its paces.

Male Drill

In the photo above of a Male Drill, the lens was able to focus rather quickly with the abundance of sunlight present in the scene without signs of hunting. Having shot this racked out to 600mm and wide open at aperture of 6.3, I was able to blur the background relatively well while isolating the subject. Minor tweaks were made such as contrast and minimal noise reduction since this was shot on a 1st generation Canon 7D. The level of detail in the drill's feathers was quite surprising to me having shot this on a monopod and not a tripod.

Ring-Tailed Lemur

In this shot of the ring-tailed lemur, the lens did a nice job in the shaded conditions to capture color and detail of lunch being consumed. This image was shot through a cage which presented another challenge for the Tamron which it passed with flying colors. Small adjustments were made to contrast, vibrance, white and black points with a bit of high pass sharpening for the final effect. This was shot at 309mm with an aperture of f5.6.

American Bald Eagle

This Bald Eagle was captured at the maximum focal distance of 600mm wide open at f6.3. Although the tree behind the eagle was quite close the longer focal distance managed to create some separation while providing moderate bokeh. The colors rendered nicely with minor adjustments made to contrast, vibrance and sharpening. Again, the overcast conditions did not present any significant autofocus issues on the eagle.

Prairie dog

As the Prairie Dog surfaces, I locked on and grabbed this image. This was shot at a focal length of 500mm at f6.3. Once again shooting at ground level, blurring the background was a cinch thereby isolating the subject. While a monopod is great for portability, a tripod would be the ideal choice to steady the lens due to its significant weight which becomes noticeable after a while.

Male Peacock

The iridescent shade of bright blue on this male peacock was simply captivating. The focusing mechanism grabbed onto the subject without any hiccups. This was shot at 500mm at f6.3. The background separation was quite easy to achieve in this case since I was at ground level removing most background objects. The one issue I did notice was the lens was slow to grab focus on the eye in particular while preferring the larger surface area of the body. Had the peacock been moving at a faster rate, this lens would have some trouble keeping up - this is where a stronger focusing system such as that on the Canon 1D-x might help overcome the limitations of this lens. Having said that, for a minimal investment of $1069, one cannot go wrong as a weekend warrior looking to photograph wildlife and sports in abundant lighting. 


A few weeks back I headed downtown with Thomas Nighswander and some members of Michigan Photo Adventures to ride along the Detroit People Mover in order to search out future photographic opportunities. One of the main stops of the day was the landmark Guardian Building located within the Financial district of downtown Detroit. Built in 1929, the building served as a great example of bold Art Deco Architecture while being designated in 1989 as a National Historic Landmark. 

The lavish interior of the Guardian building is clothed in mosaic, Pewabic and Rookwood tile. It has been nicknamed the Cathedral of Finance due to the building's exterior resemblance to a cathedral as well as the existing interior archway.

The overwhelming Native American Themes are evident both inside and outside the building. The architect Wirt C. Rowland worked closely with the Muralist Ezra Winter to ensure the exterior architecture and interior furnishings presented a consistent theme throughout.

The skyscraper extends 36 stories into the sky  while housing numerous offices for large corporations. In 2007, Wayne County Executive, Robert Ficano signed an agreement with the current owners  to purchase the Guardian building in order to relocate its offices from the Wayne County Building.


The Detroit Opera House is an ornate building located in downtown Detroit within the Grand Circus Park Historic District. This building serves as home to the Michigan Opera Theatre as well as numerous other events. The theatre was originally designed by C. Howard Crane who also designed the Fox Theatre, The Fillmore Detroit as well as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Hall. The original construction was completed in 1922 with an extensive renovation completed in 1996 to bring the building up to today's standards.

The building was originally known as the Capital Theater which at the time was the fifth largest of its kind in the entire world. The theater was constructed with outstanding acoustics while assuming the style of the Grand European Opera houses. The Capital theater was decorated in the Italian Renaissance style with lavish crystal chandeliers, frescoes, marble staircases ,and brass fixtures. Rich rose-red Italian damask was used for the mainstage curtain as well as draperies throughout the house. The majority of these features are still present in the renovated version of the Detroit Opera House.

The Capitol Theater was renamed the Paramount Theater in 1934 and went on to host such luminaries as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Will Rogers as well as volumes of rock stars of the 1950's. 

After decaying for several years, the theater was repaired and renamed the Grand Circus Theater in 1960 while transforming itself into a movie house. The theater provided a plethora of musical acts such as Ray Charles and Roy Orbison.  The palace closed in 1985 after a small fire.

After being neglected and abandoned for years, the Detroit Opera House was successfully restored in 1996 while assuming the current name with the oversight of the Michigan Opera Theater. While being home to the Michigan Opera Theater, the Opera House also plays host to  some of the world's greatest dance companies.

A special Thanks goes out to Alanna St. Laurent for arranging the private tour to make this experience possible.