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Cameras, Lenses and Accessories: Discuss Hand Holding big lenses...How the hell do you do it? I went to Formby yesterday to try and shoot some squirrels (not literally). ...
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Old 18-08-2005, 14:57   #1 (permalink)
Marcel
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Hand Holding big lenses

How the hell do you do it?

I went to Formby yesterday to try and shoot some squirrels (not literally).

I did try and use AV mode as I sometimes do (or manual), but the lighting wasn't forgiving, even though it was a nice sunny day.

I had to up the ISO to 800 to get some decent speeds.
Anyway, I was resting on the fence posts as best I could. So much so I didn't even notice shake myself.
Trying to take shots, some which were coming out at 1/15 etc (obviously too shakey), but some much faster, up to 250 +

Now either this lens is very very soft to the point of being rubbish, or I'm shaking too much.

I tried everything I've read...Legs at a good stance, breathing slowly and laboured and calm, elbows tucked in....*be* a tripod...and I was also resting on fenceposts too where I could.

Got most of the way round and had time to review some of my shots (was with the wife and kids to photography had to take a backseat all day ), and they were all rubbish.

Got home last night, and not one squirrel shot is pleasing. I've deleted loads, marked more for deletion, with a possible tinker with one or two, which will only be good enough for web display only.

I know there is a rule of thumb, that the shutter speed shouldn't be any slower than the focal lengthof the lens.
Now even though it's a minimum of 1/320 at 300mm...Will that also mean a minimum of 1/320 at 70mm (on my 70-300). Or is it just the current focal length of the lens that goes into the equation.

That said, even at 70mm some of my shots were quite poor.
I would have thought that resting the camera flat onto the posts would have let me go slower than the length of the lens.

Any thoughts and ideas? I may post some shots later.
I know it's alot to learn, and alot of it takes practise, but I was hoping for at least one or two half decent ones from yesterday.

Not one of my 300mm shots were good enough.
 
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Old 18-08-2005, 15:03   #2 (permalink)
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I tried everything I've read...Legs at a good stance, breathing slowly and laboured and calm, elbows tucked in....*be* a tripod.
All of that stuff is well and good but you need to find a stance that works for you and it might be worlds away from the "written" rules.

That said you should have got decent enough results with anything over a 100th with the lens at 70. Oh, hold on... scatch that. if you have a camera with 1.6 crop sensor then you need to take that into account when working out the speed over focal length thingy, so 160th would be a safer bet.

Or of course you could forget how you stand and get hold of an IS lens.
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Old 18-08-2005, 15:07   #3 (permalink)
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Have you tried using TV mode and setting a shutter speed and seeing if you can get a good aperture etc ?

Also do you have a monopod ?

Holding the camera against a fence should be fine, i used to do it with my 75-300 USM lens, and my brother was using it at the big cat day last week, and got some good results, although it was bright !

Perhaps if you post up some of the bad examples as they are people can see what you mean mate ?
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Old 18-08-2005, 15:51   #4 (permalink)
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I was thinking about a monopod, but with resting on a fence not doing the trick I was thinking what good a monopod would do?

I think I have just judged it wrong. I forgot about the 1.6x factor, which would mean @ 300mm I would need to be 1/500 or faster.
This lens @ 300mm is 5.6 max, which just wasn't enough yesterday.

I did use TV mode where I could, but shutter speeds is another learning curve that I have to work through. IE average speeds acceptable for certain moving things, eg if a squirrel is eating a nut, what is the minimum speed to catch it still? If its running it will need to be even faster so. It's these rough benchmarks that I just don't know and I suppose will come through learning and moreso experience. Same with catching birds in flight with static but clear wings.

When I used TV mode, there just wasn't enough light. I was underexposing by 1/3rd of a stop anyway, as I usually tend to, but still not enough, even with upping the ISO.
Last time I used 1600 the resulting images were quite grainy so I was reluctant to go that high.

I'll process a couple of the shots from raw to jpeg with minimal or no editing and full exif, when my wife gets home from work, see what you all think.

Im 100% certain it's down to me and my lack of knowledge and experience, but I suppose that just makes me more intent on learning. I'm not paying 120 quid for a lens that I am not going to be able to learn
 
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Old 18-08-2005, 16:03   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcel
Im 100% certain it's down to me and my lack of knowledge and experience, but I suppose that just makes me more intent on learning. I'm not paying 120 quid for a lens that I am not going to be able to learn
Thats the most important bit in that whole post !
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Old 18-08-2005, 16:06   #6 (permalink)
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I don't see that the 1.6X factor has any effect on shutter speed...does it?

The focal length of the lens is still actually exactly the same. A 500mm lens on a 1.6X sensor is till the same focal length as on a 1:1 sensor (or 35mm film). Contrary to popular belief there is no magnification involved - the 1.6X isn't a magnification - it's a crop.

The often quoted 'gain' with tele lenses is just down to the fact that exactly the same size image hits the sensor as it would with film, but on a much smaller area, therefore giving the equivalent (much tighter) field of view as a lens 1.6X longer on a 1:1 sensor or 35mm film.

I know it makes your head hurt thinking about this stuff.
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Old 18-08-2005, 16:08   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CT
I know it makes your head hurt thinking about this stuff.
LOL There isnt a head exploding smilie but this is close
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Old 18-08-2005, 16:53   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CT
I don't see that the 1.6X factor has any effect on shutter speed...does it?

The focal length of the lens is still actually exactly the same. A 500mm lens on a 1.6X sensor is till the same focal length as on a 1:1 sensor (or 35mm film). Contrary to popular belief there is no magnification involved - the 1.6X isn't a magnification - it's a crop.

The often quoted 'gain' with tele lenses is just down to the fact that exactly the same size image hits the sensor as it would with film, but on a much smaller area, therefore giving the equivalent (much tighter) field of view as a lens 1.6X longer on a 1:1 sensor or 35mm film.

I know it makes your head hurt thinking about this stuff.

I may be wrong here but..........(thinks how to explain)

if you use a 300mm lens with a ccd crop factor of 1.5 that gives you an effective focal length of 450mm. it won't introduce anymore camera shake physically as the lens is still the same length. However, the shake will be more noticeable as the field of view will be smaller. a movement of 1 degree is a higher percentage of the total field of view as the magnification gets higher.


*bleeds from ears*
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Old 18-08-2005, 16:56   #9 (permalink)
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I don't see that the 1.6X factor has any effect on shutter speed...does it?
Nope not really but look at it this way.....

If you have a lens on a 35mm camera and the camera shake moves the image on the film to the left by 10% then the same amount of shake on a 1.6 crop sensor will move the image to the left by 16%. Hence a higher shutter speed is needed to compensate as less movement can be tollerated.

edit... damn my slow fingers. :lol:
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Old 18-08-2005, 17:40   #10 (permalink)
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Well it's interesting guys, and I concede you both may have a valid point. The equation of shutter speed = focal length though, as you both well know, is a recommended minimum safe speed - if you can go quicker you should do to be really safe. It's also true that with practice you can often go a little slower. Bod's disappointing day is more to do with crap technique (sorry mate :lol than the lack of factoring in what is at best a marginal factor in the overall scheme of things, and I'd argue is negligable anyway, once he's developed a decent technique with his new lens.

Now bleeding from every orifice and reaching for the Jack Daniels.
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Old 18-08-2005, 18:13   #11 (permalink)
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CT, no need to say sorry mate. I know it's largely down to crap technique, and I make no excuses for that
It's this technique that I want to learn, but not just through practise and practise until something looks right, I'm trying to learn specifically what part of my technique needs improving, if that makes sense.
 
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Old 18-08-2005, 18:39   #12 (permalink)
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Bod, like everything else, I'm sure Steve or Matt could sort you out in 5 minutes in person, rather than trying to do it over the 'net.

In the meantime, stick your camera on Shutter Priority (TV) set a shutter speed of at least 1/300th - let the camera set the aperture. Zoom out to 300mm. Don't be worried about increasing the ISO if you need to to get that shutter speed. Go and take a few practice shots and see how you get on. You can do it now if there's adequate light. Don't worry about ISO/noise - we're just interested in camera shake.
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Old 18-08-2005, 18:54   #13 (permalink)
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I guess it'll just be practice to an extent too. I've been practicing my panning shots for the last week or so on the pesky seagulls that fly over my garden. The results are significantly better now than when I started.
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Old 18-08-2005, 18:57   #14 (permalink)
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Even with IS on the 100-400L I can still cock up a fair percentage of shots if I get a bit too casual about it.
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Old 18-08-2005, 19:53   #15 (permalink)
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Well I've just been outside as per CT's suggestion, and just tried a few shots around the garden and what not.

1/320, apertures about 5.6/6.3, and I for some reason they're not bad.
Certainly not as sharp as what has been posted recently with this lens, but I suppose thats down to subject, light, and of course, post processing.

I'll get round to posting some of mine tonight for you all to laugh at, and hopefully you can tell me why they look pants
Rather than look sharp, alot of them just look out of focus or grainy, even at ISO200, and focusing spot on.
 
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Old 18-08-2005, 20:14   #16 (permalink)
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To get a sharp image your shutter speed should be at least the same as your focal length. So if you use a 300mm lens, your shutter speed should be at least 1/300th of a second.
If you have enough light you can get away with slower shuttr speeds.

When your taking piccies of the squirrels at ormby you need to be on your belly, don't be afraid to get dirty. You also need to take plenty of hazel nuts with you, these will keep the squirrels coming to you so you won't have to chase round after them.
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Old 18-08-2005, 20:36   #17 (permalink)
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Thanks for that Matt, I knew you've got form in this game (No pun intended)

I didn't think about getting dirty. I was (stupidly) more concerned about just getting some shots in before the things buggered off.

We must have seen about 15 in total yesterday, that's with a good 2 hours walking round(or thereabouts). They disappeared as quickly as they came.
Usually due to some scally obese kid witha big mac in one hand shouting "look dad, a squirrel!!!!!", then chucking some big mac at it.

My daughter is 6 and managed to keep quiet completely yesterday, even my 1 year old did. Why can't parents keep their kids under control? Anyway I'm digressing.

The squirrels were fast little buggers, they were near you then they just ran off (unstartled). I took peanuts (fully shells...not kp roasted ) and tried to throw them inbetween me and the squirrels just enough to either get them forward a bit or at least get them facing me and to get their interest, but they were having none of it.

If I didn't know better I would have started calling them like a dog or a cat...lol...it was quite frustrating.

As for the belly thing, I didn't think about that, as there wasn't really an open areas where i could capture them. They were pretty much in the woods, and I was on one side of a fence, with a load of woodland inbetween.
Next time I go I'll keep that in mind and look for suitable positions down low.
 
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Old 18-08-2005, 21:13   #18 (permalink)
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First of all at Formby you have no chance of photographing the squirrels properly without setting out your area, baiting the squirrels and getting into position, low down on your belly and wait patiently.

You have to be ready long before they come to collect the nuts, the less movement you make the less likely they are to dash in pick up the nuts and run out again. Also the key to this is to watch and learn how to predict where they come from, what they do and where they go after they have grabbed the bait. This all helps with your position and lessening your movements. The less you need to frame them the better, they are fast enough without you introducing extra movement to track them.

If you follow the advice above you can get them to come to within about 10-15 feet of your position and hang around for a good 30 secs at a time, this will allow shorter focal distances, less movement and lost of time to get those one or two perfectly timed and framed shots.


Getting two or three perfect shots of each squirrel per 30 sec appearance would be a excellent rate to boast about. Don't get excited and fire of many shots hoping that one is ok.
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Old 18-08-2005, 21:15   #19 (permalink)
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Also..the best place to photograph them is just as you go through the barrier onto the lead up carpark, head left into the woods and folow the footpath to the bottom left corner.

Make your home there and happy shooting will be the result
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Old 18-08-2005, 21:41   #20 (permalink)
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Ah, the last of the great squirrel hunters speaketh!
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Old 18-08-2005, 21:43   #21 (permalink)
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Thanks for that mate, some excellent advice.

I think the place you refer to is part of the squirrel walk, but down in the left bottom corner (at the 8 o clock position, as you're looking towards the beach from the entrance).

Unfortunately with it being the summer holidays, and very good weather, the place was quite busy. Not to mention me being a big clutzy oaf of course Which didn't help.
That and the fact I couldn't go with photography at the top of my mind as I was out with the family and I was more hopeful of catching a few good shots while there.

We took a walk round the opposite side (on the right as you go up the road), and the squirrels there seemed to be much much braver. At one point one came up within a foot or so of Harvey in his buggy.

I never expected them to be as fast as they are. I expected them to be more 'docile' for want of a better word. I expected them to be quick, but not like cheetahs on crack.

If I had the talent, the patience and the preparation required, there were some brilliant shots to be had. At one point there were two squirrels running around chasing each other, up and down trees, but never venturing too far for us to miss.
 
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Old 19-08-2005, 00:30   #22 (permalink)
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You have to spread your self about aswell, if you leave any open space you'll have Steve's mate from southport squeezing up next to you.
Take extra clothing and throw it over the floor to lie on, this will also help keep the camera of the floor.
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Old 19-08-2005, 08:29   #23 (permalink)
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Dont know if anyone id from or near Maidenhead but if you head down to the small park at the Thames near the weir the squirrels will come up and sit on you if you have some nuts (oooer) for them. Great place cant wait to visit my sister down there again coz this time I'll have my camera.
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Old 19-08-2005, 14:12   #24 (permalink)
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I found this Bod. Some excellent photos which show how to hold the camera.

http://www.camerahobby.com/EBook-Hol...hapter5Sub.htm
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Old 19-08-2005, 14:20   #25 (permalink)
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Nice one
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