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General photography questions and answers: Discuss Bird Photography .. some questions...Hello to all. I have been seriously trying to produce GOOD bird images for about one year now. My journey ...
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Old 16-11-2008, 17:13   #1 (permalink)
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Bird Photography .. some questions

Hello to all.

I have been seriously trying to produce GOOD bird images for about one year now.
My journey seems endless towards achieving satisfactory results and I must admit that it has been quite a learning experience. It has also caused me to spend much more than anticipated on "equipment", i.e.: better lenses.

That being said, I must say I have maybe 5% of all of my bird photos at the "satisfactory" level, and perhaps 1-2% at the "Good" level. None in the "Five Star" department" !
Yes, I use the fastest speed as possible, I use a tripod or monopod and shoot mostly in Av mode. I push ISO up to 800-1600 when the situation demands it. I use both AF and manual focusing, depending again on the situation.

Problem is: never have one single photo that is very sharp, without the slightlest blurr.

Ok, now for the questions:

1. Would the "Mirror Lock-Up" feature (which is available for most DSLR's these days) be the best way to go for avoiding the vibration caused by shutter release?
2. Would it be possible to use this feature even if the bird in question is moving?
3. What is "close enough" for bird photography? I.E.: I am at a full 300mm on a 100-300mm Sigma EX DG f4, and most of times, wide opened at f4 -- f4.5.
4. Realising that most tele's are softer at the longer end, would this be a prime cause for "softer" images. (read: lacking details at that focal length)?
5. Finally, would I be better off going for a prime 300mm F4 lens or simply wait until I can afford a faster prime?

Well, any help on the subject would be appreciated.

Cheers,

JP
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Old 16-11-2008, 18:41   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Bird Photography .. some questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pentaxbuff View Post
1. Would the "Mirror Lock-Up" feature (which is available for most DSLR's these days) be the best way to go for avoiding the vibration caused by shutter release?
2. Would it be possible to use this feature even if the bird in question is moving?
No. MLU is most effective at around the 1/30 which'll probably be too slow (dependant on your shot, I guess)

When MLU is activated you can't see through the viewfinder, so won't be able to track. I guess, in theory, if you had Live View (viewing on rear LCD) you could track but it'd be tricky, I reckon!

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Originally Posted by Pentaxbuff View Post

3. What is "close enough" for bird photography? I.E.: I am at a full 300mm on a 100-300mm Sigma EX DG f4, and most of times, wide opened at f4 -- f4.5.
Personally, close enough is said to be with little outside the bird in the shot! I hate to crop in, so by and large don't but will go get a closer shot if I need one! Having said that, I'm a photographer first and foremost and will position bird in the frame for best pic rather than a close, classic shot

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Originally Posted by Pentaxbuff View Post
4. Realising that most tele's are softer at the longer end, would this be a prime cause for "softer" images. (read: lacking details at that focal length)?
Possibly. Tho' a far more likely cause is camera shake or bird movement

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pentaxbuff View Post
5. Finally, would I be better off going for a prime 300mm F4 lens or simply wait until I can afford a faster prime?
Well, I use a 300mm f/4 and find I get bird shots. But having IS is a distinct advantage even if I usually try and ensure I mono/tripod the shot (usually just to rest the weight rather than to totally prevent shake). I also use a 1.4x TC to get a little closer without sacrificing too much quality

Here's one I got a couple of days agao @ Pennington Flash. Was in a hide, so rested on the window sill and was using 300mm and x1.4 TC - conditions were overcast but reasonably bright, so ISO100, f/5.6, 1/100

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Old 17-11-2008, 13:53   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Bird Photography .. some questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pentaxbuff View Post
3. What is "close enough" for bird photography? I.E.: I am at a full 300mm on a 100-300mm Sigma EX DG f4, and most of times, wide opened at f4 -- f4.5.

4. Realising that most tele's are softer at the longer end, would this be a prime cause for "softer" images. (read: lacking details at that focal length)?
f4 at 300mm is going to give you a very shallow depth of field to work with.

I've seen plenty of shots taken with the sigma 100-300 and they seem to be tack sharp throughout the focal range.

Say you are photographing a bird, even at f4.5, at 300mm that is 5 metres away. You will have 5 centimetres of acceptably sharp focus. Most birds are fatter than that!

It might be possible the lens is backfocusing a little - you can test that by taking a photo of something like a chickenwire fence, brick wall etc at maximum aperture. If it looks OK, try a narrower aperture or concentrating on the eye and beak and letting other features drift out of focus.
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Old 17-11-2008, 20:42   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Bird Photography .. some questions

Thanks Markulous and MB.
Your help is appreciated, as always!

So ... I went out today, trying to find some feathered friends out there ... to no avail! Windy, cold and very much overcast! Not even a seagull would dare showing up! Until ...!! A hawk hovering at a fair distance over the fields ... took my chance at 1600 ISO, 1/4000 sec, AV mode, spot metering and AF-C. Now, I had the right speed but no chance to stabilize the camera ... out of the car window. Bird is at least 50 to 60 yards away, perhaps more. Not a good way to start but at least I tested the higher ISO required for faster speed.
Well, it did Ok considering I was certainly not close enough, as you both mentioned earlier. No way to get that close to that hawk today.
Proved two points: speed, speed, speed! ... closer, closer ... just get closer, JP!
I'll "develop" from RAW to JPEG this afternoon and see the results, which I most likely post here for comments.

JP
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