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In November 2020, I was out trying to photograph the full moon and unfortunately, clouds had a different idea. The moon was completely covered and I was just standing in the cold with my camera and 70-200mm on a tripod. I could have gone the next night when the sky would have been clear but I just was feeling so discouraged that I didn’t want to. This had been my 3rd month in a row where I wasn’t able to capture the moon. So I wanted to do something that would keep me motivated to go out and shoot.

Right then and there I came up with an idea that I should rent the biggest lens I can find. LOL.

So after discussing this idea with a few friends, I finally decided that I’d rent a 200-600mm lens. This would bring a whole new view to the city that I couldn’t even imagine. I rented it from lensrentals.com and I could not have been more excited that it actually came 3 days earlier than I had expected. So I had 10 days with the lens and I was pumped!

My first real test came on an afternoon at the Washington Monument. It is actually the same exact place where I came up with the idea to rent the lens so it’s funny that this was the first place that I want to go to test it out.

I was blown away!

The compression on the lens is CRAZY. These people were at least 20 feet away from me. The US Capitol is about a mile away from the Washington Monument. But if you asked me, it seriously looks like you could just reach out and touch the people.

It was on!

The next morning I woke up to a beautiful sunrise by the Lincoln Memorial and met up with my friend Zack. There has been a lot of construction going on the Arlington Memorial Bridge for the past few years and thankfully it has all come down. With the bridge finally ours, I wanted to spend my first sunrise with the lens creating images of the street lights and the leading lines towards the Lincoln.

376mm ISO 160 F6.3 1/160 on a tripod

Keep in mind that I had the lens from December 24th to January 4th. So there were not a lot of people on the road at this time but I love having that car in the image for scale.

To capture this image, I was standing on the little grassy area at the end of the Arlington Memorial Bridge, in front of Arlington National Cemetery. Zoomed in at 600mm, the street lights look flared and leads you straight to the back of the Lincoln Memorial.

One image that I’ve ALWAYS wanted to capture but could never get right is of the National Gallery of Art from 8th street. I always thought that it’s really cool how the museum is sort of the dead-end to the street. It’s so beautiful and I love the dome from this view.

But this photo shoot was by far the hardest one to coordinate. I met up with my friend Albert specifically so I could try to photograph him crossing the street. But we were so far apart from each other, I actually had to call him so we could coordinate when he should cross the street and for me to get in the middle of the street to set up. It was difficult, to say the least, but I got something to work with!

Now for the real reason why I rented the lens, the full moon! And so grateful for clear skies! Finally no cloudy moonrises. The way that the moon was lining up with the city, it looked like my best viewpoint would be to go back to the Arlington Memorial Bridge and capture the scene at night.

A last-minute game-time decision, Zack, Birch, and I ended up going across the street and down the hill to be on the Mount Vernon Trail. We figured that if we were at a lower angle, we could see the moon sooner and eventually make our way back up to the end of the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

448mm ISO 2000 F8 1/1250 on a tripod

200mm ISO 250 F22 5 sec on a tripod

This was one of the last images I captured at night. We made our way back up to the end of the Arlington Memorial Bridge and I was trying to think of ways on how to make this image a little different than the previous day’s image. The long exposure looks crazy cool with all the car trails.

70mm ISO 4000 F7.1 1/250 handheld

I was up again the next morning. Luckily, with winter hours, waking up for sunrise isn’t as bad as you would think. So I made my way down to the US Capitol. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. The forecast called for cloudy skies and I just wanted to see what the lens would look like if I were standing on the Capitol grounds.

This was the only instance where I felt like the 200-600mm zoom lens was too much. It was difficult to capture the building with the sky, or in a way that made sense with the 200-600mm while I was standing at the US Capitol Reflecting Pool. Unfortunately, I had to switch lenses. Fortunately, I had my 70-200mm with me and that gave me a bit more to work with, but wide-angle is definitely best when you’re at this location.

70mm ISO 4000 F7.1 1/640 handheld

524mm ISO 6400 F7.1 1/8000 on a tripod

After the firey sky faded, I noticed the sunlight hitting the American flag on the US Capitol. It was beautiful and inspiring. I switched back to the 200-600mm to capture this. It would have been so cool to see someone walking in those windows but regardless I love the way that this turned out.

At this point, I was starting to wear down. The lens is so big and bulky that it required a separate bag all on itself. So for all of these photoshoots, I had 3 different bags hanging off of me, my regular camera bag, a bag for my tripod, and then one for the 200-600mm. I also was about to start a completely different project I was really excited about so I brought the lens out one more time for an evening adventure in Arlington, VA.

600mm ISO 4000 F13 1/640 handheld

582mm ISO 4000 F13 1/1000 handheld

I was so happy to hear that the Arlington Memorial Cemetery open back up for visitors. This is one place where I love the repetition and knew I could get some great images showing off the compression. To my surprise, the Christmas wreaths were still laid on the tombstones. I knew that this was going to be special.

The downfall: Besides being really heavy, it’s only a 5.6-6.3 so it’s not a very fast lens. Arlington National Cemetery doesn’t allow tripods on the grounds so when night time came, I had to bump my iso way up. A little too much for me since it was difficult to get rid of all the noise in these low light images.

200mm ISO 6400 F13 1/1000 handheld

Zack getting the shot from the very top of the hill while I was below.

Right after sunset, I left Arlington National Cemetery and went straight to Netherlands Carillon. Besides photographing the moon, this location was a priority for me to go photograph. I’ve done it so many times with my 70-200mm and I knew it was going to look significantly different with the 200-600mm lens.

For example, here’s an image I photographed in Septemeber 2016 with my 70-200 lens.

netherlands carillon, arlington, virginia, va, lincoln memorial, washington monument, capitol, us capitol, iwo jima, arlington, nps, national park service, tower, world war ii, arlington national cemetery, netherlands, bell tower

200mm ISO 400 F11 1/3 sec

And this is what the same exact location looks like with the 200-600mm!

600mm ISO 250 F6.3 0.4 sec on a tripod

600mm ISO 320 F10 0.6 sec on a tripod

I just love the way that the landmarks look like they’re touching and they are so close to each other. Also, that little person standing at the back of the Lincoln Memorial. It really puts into perspective how huge these memorials are!

Overall, renting the lens was great practice to get me out of my comfort zone and try something new. It motivated me to go to familiar places but try to see them in a new way. If you asked me if I would purchase this lens, my first reaction would be no. It’s just so heavy and impractical that I don’t know how often I would actually use it if I owned it. But that’s not to say that it wouldn’t be on my list. I’ve had my eye on a few other lens before I’d get this one but I’d definitely rent it again.

It also makes me curious about the 100-400mm. The lens is in between the two zooms but I’m hoping not as bulky.

If you have any questions about the lens, please let me know. I’ll try my best to help answer them.

Also, let me know in the comments what your favorite lens is! I may want to rent it next!