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DPChallenge Forums >> Photography Discussion >> Wildlife/bird shots and camera mode
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01/24/2008 05:31:31 PM · #1
I had the most amazing photo opportunity today and most of the shots aren't pin sharp because in my panic I decided that I wanted quality and RAWs and shot on Program, pushing the ISO to 500 to get 125th...and was it fast enough, even on a bright afternoon like today? Not even slightly. It was broken cloud and sunshine, and the birds were moving in and out of shadow constantly and so metering was a nightmare.

When the subject moved into the shade rather than mucking about I just moved straight to Sports mode in the vain hope that it would at least freeze the action...I'd be left with a JPG and possibly a grainy one at that...so I did.

On review the shots on Sports are liveable (read: probably salvageable in PS) but the P shots suck and aren't useable at all.

I was out shooting for birds - using a long 100-400 f4 lens. What do the seasoned wildlife photographers do under these circumstances? (unpredictable light and movement) I don't have the time to pick a focal point, meter, frame, focus and fire as well as manually setting shutter and aperture. Should I just be setting a nice high shutter speed in Tv? Or is sports the way to go?

Thanks

N
01/24/2008 05:42:11 PM · #2
I shot mine today too. The light was ok most of the time and I ended up with some decent shots. When I am shooting the birds I shoot in AV mode with the aperture at 4-5.6 (whatever the lens can handle at the varying lengths - I am using the Sigma 70-300) and let it choose the shutter speed. I adjust my exposure and ISO to get to the shutter speed I know I need. I get what I get. Hold the camera real still and hope it works out.

I personally never use the sports/portrait/other modes. I almost always shoot in AV mode unless indoors with my speedlights and then shift to manual. AV mode and adjusting my ISO to the conditions seems to work best for me.
01/24/2008 06:04:06 PM · #3
For things like birds with long lenses I do one of two things. If I'm using a tripod, I'll shoot Av wide open and just take the shutter speed it will give me. I'll jack up the ISO to get the rough speed I want and make sure to use spot metering. If I'm handheld, I'll switch over to Tv so I can keep the shutter speed up to where it needs to be with a long lens. If there isn't enough light then I still get the shot without motion blur, but underexposed (hopefully to be saved in RAW converter).
01/24/2008 06:07:50 PM · #4
I've been shooting animals with manual exposure a lot lately, as my camera and I seem to disagree about settings ;-) First I set it to aperture priority with an ISO of 200 or so and see what sort of speed it thinks is reasonable. Usually slower than what I want/need. If it's not by a lot I set the speed where I want it and check my histograms to make sure I'm not blowing anything out in the result. I'd rather underexpose than overexpose, since I can do some fixing of that in PP if I need to. If I'm expecting movement and I need to bump the ISO to get a decent speed I'll do it. Minimum speed on my 100-300 IMO is 1/500 handheld; 1/1000 if I expect someone to take off. Plus I set the focus to follow the subject if I'm specifically looking for flight shots, since it can aim and fire faster than I can (provided I get that first shot on target to give it a head start and pan with the subject's motion). Sometimes that means 20 almost perfectly identical shots of a bird shifting from one foot to another ::grin:: But I review and delete pretty often so I don't fill up the card with too many lookalike shots.

I also prefer to start zoomed out if I think takeoff is imminent and then zoom in while shooting. If I start zoomed in chances are about 50-50 the bird will move out of my lens view before I'm ready to follow the movement. Then I get nice, detailed shots of where the bird *used* to be!

It would be much easier if the birds just stayed when I told them to but they are stubbornly independent. And flighty, in most cases. But I am always quite proud when I get a good bird shot :-) They're one of my favorite subjects.
01/24/2008 06:29:47 PM · #5
I shoot a lot in Tv mode with the shutter speed set to 1/800, depending on the light the ISO might be pushed to 800 but I usually can shoot at 200 or 400.

ETA: This is with the 100-400 lens set at 400.

Message edited by author 2008-01-24 18:30:43.
01/24/2008 08:05:45 PM · #6
Thanks for all the help. Think I might have to go reshoot tomorrow unless I can salvage something from today. Birds aren't normally my thing so it's definitely good new stuff to learn.

Originally posted by DrAchoo:

If there isn't enough light then I still get the shot without motion blur, but underexposed (hopefully to be saved in RAW converter).


I really liked this... smart fallback. Will try out both techniques tomorrow.

Is there any reason why sports mode is avoided so much? If it output in RAW would it be useful in 'action' situations?

N
01/24/2008 08:25:01 PM · #7
The most important rule for bird photography is to shoot wide open. Then use your ISO to get the shutter speed up. I shoot aperture priority and use either point focus or continuous focus depending on stationary or moving birds. Shutter speeds need to be 1/500 or better for a 100-400 zoom. You might be able to get away with less for stationary subjects when you have IS.

Forget manual mode. I make exposure comp adjustments in .5 stop increments using + for backlit and bright subjects (white birds) and - for the opposite. An example would be adult bald eagles where I would shoot -.5 or -1 to keep the white tail and head from blowing out when my spot meter sees the dark body

The nice thing about the D200 is that ISO and exposure comp are buttons that you can manipulate without taking your eye from the viewfinder.

Hope that helps.

Message edited by author 2008-01-24 20:26:03.
01/24/2008 08:37:18 PM · #8
I'm in the Av mode camp as well. I mostly set the aperture wide open when shooting birds or wildlife and keep my eye on the shutter speed. I'll bump up the ISO if necessary to keep a reasonably fast speed. I also lock my focus point on the center point and aim that at my subject. With wildlife shots I usually end up cropping for composition later. Having the center point locked in is especially useful for picking a small bird out of tree branches or underbrush. Sometimes I will use spot metering when shooting small birds against against a bright sky or water or add exposure compensation as necessary to make sure the main subject is properly exposed.
01/24/2008 10:47:07 PM · #9
the kind of bird you are shooting make a big difference too, and how fast they fly.
Herons, geese and eagles are easy to shoot in flight, they are big and slow moving also there heads have some contrast to them to help 'catch' the part you want sharp. Those little birds, are REALLY tough in flight, they are fast! And often more monotone (at least where I live)
Make sure the lens is on pan 2 mode. I find AI focus helps but sometimes gets the wing sharp vs. the head.

just a little tip... birds usually fly after they poop... so get ready if they poop, flight will soon follow.

01/24/2008 10:54:37 PM · #10
Originally posted by ellamay:



just a little tip... birds usually fly after they poop... so get ready if they poop, flight will soon follow.


Here's another tip... If you see a bunch of geese take off... don't look up.
01/24/2008 11:25:11 PM · #11
I use a 70-200mm f/28 w/o IS and a 1.4x or 2x extender.

Herons fly (not soar) at 1/640, eagles at 1/1000, hummingbirds, hell, 1/1600 (with wings blurred).
In good light, I prefer TV mode. If, however, I can't get the speed (shutter-) I need, manual mode often allows me to, without cranking the ISO to high, although I might shoot up to 800 ISO to get motion and decent contrast in poor light.

Be mindful of having enough light under the wings when shooting up against the sky.
Be mindful of distance and bouquet.
Be mindful of contrast against background.
Focus on the eye, if you can.

01/24/2008 11:29:58 PM · #12
if you have an IS lens you can shoot MUCH lower shutter speeds than Zeuszen suggests without IS
01/24/2008 11:44:48 PM · #13
I'll chime in as well on the AV camp. I shoot Wide open on my canon 100-400and usually shoot at between 400-1000 ISO letting the camera choose the shutter. I try to keep the shutter at a minimum of 1/800 sec but prefere about 1/1600 sec. This is b/c I shoot the usually perched but the shot I want is them launching off as I get close and I want them nice and blur free. I am usually shooting towards the sky so I will exposure compensate between +.5 to 1 2/3 stops, depending on how bright the sky is and what kind of bird I am shooting. I usually do a test shot from a distance and check my Histogram to make sure I'm as far right as I can get w/o blowing highlights. I meter with Evalutive even though I have spot metering b/c if the bird is moving on me(and I hope he does) it will throw the exposure off when I meter the sky on accident. Hope that helps, lots of great suggestions from the others as well. Be prepared for some trial and error and I emphasize error when you are working with unpredictable moving animals. It can be quite frustrating at times. Good luck.

edit: change shitter to shutter...lol/

Message edited by author 2008-01-24 23:45:34.
01/25/2008 12:02:33 AM · #14
Birds. they are so much fun to shoot, but as everyone else has noted, they are unpredictable as they refuse to pose nicely.

Presently, I use a 100-400 IS lens and ISO 200 and handhold. I always use continuous shooting mode as at least one of the burst may come out well.

Good luck in your next shoot. After your previous practice, it will undoubtedly go well.
01/25/2008 12:47:16 AM · #15
Originally posted by ellamay:

if you have an IS lens you can shoot MUCH lower shutter speeds than Zeuszen suggests without IS


I'm not so sure about this Lynn. Unless the bird is stationary it is tough to get even an eagle in focus unless you can get the shutter speed up to 1/1000 although I have lucked out and gotten them in (acceptable but not perfect) focus as low as 1/500 when shooting a burst and panning with VR.
01/25/2008 07:07:49 AM · #16
has anyone with a 20 d had problems with it focusing on birds? it seems like myne does well if i focus on a branch or something like that but on the bird itself ? not always so good
01/25/2008 01:01:14 PM · #17
Rider - depends on the colour/textures on the focal point I find...if it's really flat one colour without any textural or lighting difference the lens goes hunting...

I'm back from day 2 of trying to shoot birds. It was a much less sunny day today and so my long lens at 400mm is f5.6, so I had to goto 1000 and 1600 ISO to get anywhere close to 1/500th. Most of my shots are in focus but the grain is horrible..noise ninja does something but not enough.

I'd only ever used my long lens in sunny shots in America...not really in grey old London where it's just not fast enough for what I want. Might try to rent something tomorrow.

N
01/25/2008 01:21:49 PM · #18
kind of subject but reminded me of what I read about John Audubon. The Audubon Society is kinda known for bird conservation but the man who it is named after the guy that did all the bird pictures killed all his birds that he painted. The rarer the bird the harder he tried to kill one. I wonder if he had the option to shoot with a camera if he would take it...But dead birds are also easier to take pictures of .
01/25/2008 01:35:38 PM · #19
Bloody hell - I checked to see the price of a prime 400mm 2.8.... was ready for it to be expensive but SIX GRAND?! Yow. Blurry pigeons it is then!

N
01/25/2008 05:20:44 PM · #20
Originally posted by Quasimojo:

Bloody hell - I checked to see the price of a prime 400mm 2.8.... was ready for it to be expensive but SIX GRAND?! Yow. Blurry pigeons it is then!

N
lmao!!!!!---i don't know whats up with mine--i went out today and had to throw away more than i kept--am using allfocus up to 1/1000 shutter and its hit and miss even in sequence with it lighting red! just went outside a shot a bald guy walking 1/8 mi away and perfect focus at 1/80 sec? this is with 100-400-L

Message edited by author 2008-01-25 17:21:20.
01/25/2008 07:51:32 PM · #21
I don't think the lens is particularly great at the long end of things for image clarity, especially when the lighting isn't brilliant sunshine. It's still way better than the 70-300 I used to have though...

N
01/25/2008 09:05:38 PM · #22
Originally posted by jbsmithana:

Originally posted by ellamay:

if you have an IS lens you can shoot MUCH lower shutter speeds than Zeuszen suggests without IS


I'm not so sure about this Lynn. Unless the bird is stationary it is tough to get even an eagle in focus unless you can get the shutter speed up to 1/1000 although I have lucked out and gotten them in (acceptable but not perfect) focus as low as 1/500 when shooting a burst and panning with VR.


all images are cropped some
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' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/5000-9999/7969/120/637950.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_portfolio/5000-9999/7969/120/637950.jpg', '/') + 1) . ' shot at 250
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ok maybe not MUCH lower, but lower, I think the IS system may help... not to start a canon/nikon debate... but my sense is maybe the canon is a bit better?

Message edited by author 2008-01-25 23:45:38.
01/25/2008 10:09:05 PM · #23
Originally posted by ellamay:

all images are crapped some


OK, I know that's a typo, but it still made me giggle! Really just a generic statement of fact ;-)

ETA: I can't type, either ::grin::

Message edited by author 2008-01-25 22:10:42.
01/25/2008 11:45:24 PM · #24
LOL... i will edit that, that'll teach me to proof read!
01/26/2008 12:10:18 AM · #25
Originally posted by ellamay:

LOL... i will edit that, that'll teach me to proof read!


Shame, I preferred the unedited version...
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