Eagles and otters(too lazy for two posts)

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I've been too busy to visit the site lately. But not too busy to get a few captures. Here are a few from last weekend. Didn't carry my Nikon lens on the trip but the old Sigma 100-300 HSM held its own. Low light/high ISO.

This eagle chased another and made it drop a fish them scooped it up. Missed the fight but captured the snatch and run.

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Really bad lighting on the otters. These taken with Sigma 100-300 f/4 w/1.4x TC.

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Mother and child...

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Lighting finally improved. Different bird, different day...

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Thanks for the comments, guys. Bill, there's always the chance you have a bad copy of either lens or TC. I know I read a lot about people claiming they've gotten bad copies of Sigma lenses.

All of these were shot handheld on a Bushhawk stock. What I have found with this combo is that IQ is poor at max aperture. I've achieved pretty decent results as long as I keep the lens stopped down to f/8 with the TC mounted. 5.6 with no TC. Also have to keep shutter speed up there. Shooting the birds, shutter speed is moot because it has to be up there anyway. I never drop below 1/1000 on eagles. On the otters I had to push shutter speed a bit due to low light. The shot of mom/baby was at 1/320. I fired a series of six or eight frames and this one came out good enough for web resolution. The other one was shot at 1/500 and two out of three shots were good and sharp. Another thing (at least with my copies) is that this combo doesn't focus real well either on my D200 or D300. It constantly hunts just a bit. So between hand shake/vibration and focus hunting continually, I always take a burst of three to five shots of whatever I'm shooting. One or two will typically be good and sharp. Obviously with a flying bird that means you sometimes miss the optimal moment. That's why I upgraded last year. But I still carry the Sigma when I'm travelling light or not on a serious mission...
 
Joined
Feb 14, 2009
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Southern Indiana
Dan, Thanks for your setup and settings info! I will try to duplicate them with my copy of the 100-300. In my case, it is likely "operator error"...lol! I haven't found the lens to hunt too much, just can't seem to get the IQ you have achieved. I have thought about trying to dial in the focus with the D300 focus calibration feature, but haven't found the time yet (my two young sons seem to monopolize most of my free time!).
Thanks for the reply!

-Bill
 
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Thanks, Jim. Lucked up on the first eagle. There were a couple of them fishing in the same little cove we spent one night anchored up in. After we'd been there a few hours they completely ignored us. Lighting was poor though. The last eagle is one of a nesting pair we've been watching all summer. They've got a chick in the nest.

The otter pups are diving on their own already. For the first few weeks the moms hug them to their chest when they go under.
 
Joined
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Louisiana
Nice shots Dan, especially the eagle shots.

As far as your other reply, did you shoot these with the D200 or D300? Do you use the AF-ON button for focus lock? It works a whole lot better than the shutter button.

Is there that much difference between the two bodies as far as focusing goes?

Thanks,
Ellis
 
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Joined
Jan 2, 2009
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Thanks for the comments. Ellis I don't shoot the D200 enough with that lens any more to have an objective comparison with the D300. I was not using the AF button. I was using a Bushhawk so us the trigger on it just like the shutter release half-way down to focus. I've never used the AF button.

To clarify when I say the AF "hunts", I don't mean running in and out from stop to stop. It just constantly makes minute changes even if the subject is static.
 
Joined
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Great set Dan. I love the enviromental backgrounds in your first Eagle shots. Around here...for the vast majority of the time, all we get in the background is either sky or open water.
 
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Thanks for the comments, Tim and Jason.

Regarding the background, the first two shots were taken in a little lagoon that's maybe a hundred yards or so across. There was a sheer rock wall and a little gravel beach behind the bird. There's a salmon creek dumping into the lagoon so there were three or four birds fishing it. If you look in the second image you can see the ripples on the water from the fish splashing down after another eagle dropped it. The chase bird couldn't catch it before it hit the water so had to circle around and make another pass which is what I caught. Got a couple of decent shots as it circled but they'll be pretty heavy crops as he was farther away. Haven't gotten into processing those yet.

The technique I've figured out for getting close to the birds fishing actually works best with a relatively enclosed body of water. After looking at a lot of eagle photos it dawned on me that with them getting more common down south now the one thing that is unique where I am is the scenery. So now I try to differentiate my eagle images with the fairly unique backgrounds provided by the shores around Prince William Sound. Obviously I missed the mark on the last shot but I'll take it!
 
W

Wileec

Guest
Great series of shots. I don't see too many of these kinds of birds, without hours of driving, but it's nice to see what others are capturing.
 
Joined
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Thanks for commenting, folks. The otters are always a favorite. There are a couple that hang around the marina that offer some real close-up opportunities. But they are so habituated to people that they just ignore you won't look at the camera :frown:
 
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