Photojournalist Sandy Wijaya chronicles Mongolian Eagle Hunters with the SEL70200GM
Never mind the nippy weather in the mountains of Mongolia.
Sandy Wijaya had a single goal in mind that brought him to this far-flung corner of the world: To document the dying tradition of Mongolian Kazakh eagle hunting, also called berkutchi.
Traced back as far as 4,000 years ago, this practice is helmed by eagle-hunters, burkitshi, who domesticate eagles to hunt. These winged creatures are loved like the hunters’ own children and will live with them. After roughly a decade, the eagles are released to live out their remaining years in the wild.
During a wintry photography expedition, Sandy deftly captured, in soul-stirring portraits, the incredible bond between hunter and bird with the FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS (SEL70200GM). He also shot impressive landscape shots of the duo in action, set against the country’s rugged peaks and expansive grasslands.
Meet the photojournalist
Sandy is someone who may be regarded as an autodidact. After all, his photography foray was self-taught and crafted wholly by commitment and focus.
His penchant for the visual arts, on the other hand, Sandy attributed to the childhood vacations he experienced within his homeland of Indonesia. These adventures opened his eyes to the natural wonders of the country – a splendour he can only relive when captured with a camera.
Picking up a camera in 2001 was also a life-changing decision for the creative, as it meant shelving his formal education in law.
Evidently, his gusty move paid off.
Now, Sandy plays key roles in several organisations, achieved various prestigious accolades, and deemed a revered figure in the photography realm.
Alpha 7R IV | FE 70-200 F2.8 GM OSS | 152mm | 1/400 sec | f/5 | ISO 50
Travelling with the SEL70200GM
Priding himself as travel photojournalist, the creative is constantly on the prowl to seek out nature’s bounty, where some of these haunts take him on the road less travelled such as the Himalayas, or found in plain sight in continents like Europe. And with excessive globetrotting comes the need of a reliable travel companion.
“Sony’s SEL70200GM has always been my travel companion,” he revealed. “It delivers state-of-the-art image quality from a beautifully designed package, making it one of the must-have lenses in the brand’s camera system.
Unprompted, the seasoned photographer gushed about the lens’ spectacular autofocus system: extremely fast, essentially silent and accurate. He swore missed focus is very well in the past when the lens is paired with his Sony Alpha 7R IV and its Real-time Eye Autofocus. Just a press on the shutter and his subject is unfailingly in-focus, allowing him more concentration on the surroundings.
Alpha 7R IV | FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS | 152mm | 1/400 sec | f/5 | ISO 50
Capturing beautiful portraits
Looking past the flexibility of the SEL70200GM’s focal length would be a mistake. In fact, Sandy insisted its 70-200mm range is one of the best focal length ranges available for both portrait and landscape shots.
At the wide end of the lens’ range, head-to-shoulder portraits are captured brilliantly, as with any portraits captured from a longer distance. Additionally, at 200mm, you can achieve a tighter headshot, which offers an alternative perspective with equally gorgeous results.
Alpha 7R IV | FE 70-200 F2.8 GM OSS | 96mm | 1/4000 sec | f/2.8 | ISO 100
Shooting awe-inspiring sceneries
Another testament to the telephoto lenses’ flexibility is shown in landscape photography. Focusing on close-ups, Sandy gains more control on composition to isolate details within the scenery, while still retaining the ideal amount of compression.
But a word of warning: using longer focal lengths may warrant less control over the background, such as festivals and performances shot from a distance.
“By virtue of the longer focal lengths and aided strongly by the wide F2.8 aperture, the background of 70-200mm images can be diffusely blurred,” Sandy explained.
Fortunately, this is a non-issue for the SEL70200GM. Sandy shared that its Extreme Aspherical XA Elements delivers the unprecedented combination of sharpness, high-resolution quality and unique bokeh.
Alpha 7R IV | FE 70-200 F2.8 GM OSS | 114mm | 1/8000 sec | f/2.8 | ISO 200
Durable for any adventure
Sony’s SEL70200GM goes beyond its excellent tech and functionality. It proved extremely resilient during Sandy’s epic adventures, from ice structures in the Siberian Arctic to sand dunes of the Sahara Desert. The weather-shield design and built of the lens earned its qualification for the G Master badge. In short, Sandy claimed the premium lens might be the answer to the need of most pro photographers.
Watch the video below to check out Sandy’s Mongolian experience with the SEL70200GM.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Sony Singapore.