Photojournalist Sandy Wijaya chronicles Mongolian Eagle Hunters with the SEL70200GM
Despite the chilly weather in the mountains of Mongolia,
a single goal brought Sandy Wijaya to this far-flung corner of the world: documenting the dying tradition of Mongolian Kazakh eagle hunting—also called berkutchi.
This practice, which can be traced back as far as 4,000 years ago, is led 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 winter photography expedition, Sandy deftly captured, in soul-stirring portraits, the incredible bond between hunter and bird with the FE 70–200 mm 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 could be regarded as an autodidact. After all, his foray into photography was self-taught and crafted wholly by commitment and focus.
On the other hand, Sandy has attributed his penchant for the visual arts to the childhood vacations he experienced in his homeland of Indonesia. These adventures opened his eyes to the natural wonders of the country—a splendor he can only relive when captured by a camera.
Picking up a camera in 2001 was also a life-changing decision for the creative, as it meant giving up his formal education in law.
Evidently, his bold move paid off.
Now, Sandy plays key roles in several organizations, has achieved various prestigious accolades, and is considered a revered figure in the world of photography.
Alpha 7R IV | FE 70-200 F2.8 GM OSS | 152mm | 1/400 sec | f/5 | ISO 50
Traveling with the SEL70200GM
Priding himself as travel photojournalist, the creative is constantly on the prowl to seek out nature’s bounty, and some of these quests take him on the road less traveled such as the Himalayas, or are hiding in plain sight in continents like Europe. And with excessive globetrotting comes the need for 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 range.
Unprompted, the seasoned photographer gushed about the lens’ spectacular autofocus system: extremely fast, essentially silent, and accurate. He swore that missed focus is very much a thing of the past when the lens is paired with his Sony Alpha 7R IV and its Real-time Eye Autofocus. All he needs to do is press the shutter and his subject will always be in-focus, allowing him to concentrate more on the surroundings.
Alpha 7R IV | FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS | 152mm | 1/400 sec | f/5 | ISO 50
Capturing beautiful portraits
Disregarding the flexibility of the SEL70200GM’s focal length would be a mistake. In fact, Sandy insisted that its 70–200 mm 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 are any portraits captured from a longer distance. Additionally, at 200 mm, 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 can be seen in landscape photography. Focusing on close-ups, Sandy has more control over composition to isolate details within the scenery, whilst still retaining the ideal amount of compression.
But a word of warning: using longer focal lengths may give less control over the background, such as in the case of festivals and performances shot from a distance.
“Because of the longer focal lengths, and the help of the wide F2.8 aperture, the background of 70–200 mm images can be diffused and blurred,” Sandy explained.
Fortunately, this is not an issue for the SEL70200GM. Sandy shared that its Extreme Aspherical XA elements deliver 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 in the Sahara Desert. The weather-shield design and build of the lens allowed it to qualify for the G Master badge. In short, Sandy claimed the premium lens might be the answer for the needs 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.