Great Blue Heron - background problem

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Am I just making myself crazy or is there any hope for me taking bird photos with this lens? My longest lens is a Nikon 70-300 VR with my D300. I know it's not long enough, but for a bird this size, I thought it would be okay. My only problem is that I didn't get the nice bokeh, and all of the background shows up. I had the aperture open as far as it would go (5.6) with that lens. Is there anything else I should have done to make the heron stand out from the background? Or should I just make up my mind that I have to get a better/different lens. And if so, which one? My Ritz guy suggested the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR with a 1.7 teleconverter, but that's not going to give me much more reach than I have. Is there anything I could use that would give me reach (and decent quality) for about $2,000?

Thanks for any advice!

Jean

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That lens could/should work for wildlife. I've been using a 200mm almost exclusively for the last 4 years. The trick is to get close to the action. I prefer this much more than using heavy, slow long super teles. Might try a camo suit/blind or other means of camouflage to conceal yourself from the birds.

The Bokeh..or lack of probably has something to do with your distance from the subject and the focal length you are using. If you get far enough away from the subject and shoot wide open you can get more info (less bokeh) than you prefer. It also has to do with the fact that the tree is so close to the subject. If the BG is a greater distance from the subject ...you get better bokeh. You can always resort to blurring the background in photoshop if this works for your moral sensabilities. You may or may not know that some also use a background for their smaller bird shots, making a nice warm bokeh.

Sure a faster longer lens would be nice...but learn to use the gear you have before you drop thousands on fancy gear. Then you might consider a 300mm or 400mm prime. I'm not a fan of zooms..but they are versatile.
 
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Photo uploaded of heron

Sorry, hopefully this will work. See my post with questions above.

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Thanks, Mike!

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Thank you-- I had forgotten to use the icon.

Jean
 
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Mike,

Thanks for the info. Do you use teleconverters with the 200? I know I'm not close enough, but the spot where I'm shooting is nearly impenetrable. Fairly deep water, with who knows what on the bottom. Also, it's conservation land, and the town doesn't let us in even we wanted to. So I get up as close as I can.

As for Photoshop, I'm not against using that at all. In fact, I'm better at Photoshop than I am at photography. LOL

Thanks again,
 
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BirdManPhotographer hit the nail on the head:
The Bokeh..or lack of probably has something to do with your distance from the subject and the focal length you are using. If you get far enough away from the subject and shoot wide open you can get more info (less bokeh) than you prefer. It also has to do with the fact that the tree is so close to the subject. If the BG is a greater distance from the subject ...you get better bokeh.
The D300 and the 70-300mm VR are a fantastic "walkabout" combo.

I have had good luck with mine.

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Nice Bokeh:
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Jean the image is Quite sharp and clean, Might I suggest that you actually take the Image of the bird in it's Environment. Back up and fill about 1/4 of the Frame with the bird and close your Aperture to ~f8. I think sometimes we get hung-up on super close shots and Habitat shots can be made very Beautiful!!! Just My $.02.

See what you Think:
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Commodorefirst

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to get a notch more than your 70-300 for $2000 you will probably need to go to a used sigma 300 f2.8 with a 1.4 and 2x converter. This will give you the range you need (600mm with the 2x) and the speed to freeze the action with a 2.8 lens or 5.6 at 600mm.

I used one with the 2x until I purchased my 200-400 4 years ago. For the price point and AF abilities this combo can't be matched.

they are out there, and the sigma TC should be used on the sigma lenses. They work very well together and their TCs work much better than other Tcs on their higher end lenses. Don't know all the reasons why, but I experienced it a great deal.

In fact the Sigma 300 2.8 with a 2X TC focuses much faster and quicker than the 200-400 with a 1.7 because of the wide aperture of the lens. cons of the setup include VR (which was a big issue for me outdoors in high windy areas) and the lack of zoom, image quality was 96-97% of the Nikon on the lens samples I owned.

Hope this info helps.

Wade
 

Commodorefirst

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Another thought is also the superb 120-300 Sigma f2.8 zoom. One on the bay right now for a great price and it is just as good as the prime based upon the 20-30 shooters I know who have used one on the forums.

Cheers,

Wade
 
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Thanks to everyone who answered. What a great group this is!! Well, now I've got lots of food for thought. I'm starting to think that I shouldn't immediately jump into a lens until I get better at the actual shots I'm taking. I just get so frustrated that the birds are too far away to even fill half of my frame. I've cropped and Photoshopped to death some of them, and they're okay, but not what I really want. The idea of keeping some of the natural environment in is a good one, and I'll have to think of that when I can't get as close as I'd like. This is one I took the other night, and it was getting dark, so I had two handicaps to contend with.
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Thanks again, everyone!
 
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Jean,

If you want to isolate your subject from the background, and you don't mind using Photoshop...

You can open the image in photoshop as a jpeg or tiff, copy the image to a second layer, apply gaussian blurr on the background second layer (you can also desaturate the image to increase the separation even more), move back to your original top image and use the eraser on the background elements of the top layer to reveal the blurred second layer. You can then save what will now be a PSD file as a JPEG or TIFF.

You can save yourself this effort by shooting as open an aperture as is practical to give you the sharpness you require while blurring the background..

Hope this helps...
 
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Hi Paul,

Thanks for the info. Yes, I use Photoshop every day for retouching and editing, but I was hoping to be able to get the camera to do this part for me. As I mentioned in the first post here, (the one of the single great blue heron on page one of this thread) I have my aperture open as far as it will go, but unfortunately, I guess I was too far away from the subject for it to blur my background.

I'm just overwhelmed at the beautiful photos displayed here. I'm hoping to get some shots like that some day.

Thanks so much for replying. I really appreciate it!
 
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Sorry Jean, I like the shot. Here is my Tamron 200-500:
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Handheld Through the window BTW.
It seems to do better w/partial shade and a tripod. Sunny conditions for me not so well. Here is my baby blue with same lens and camera:
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.

I didn't have flash with me for fill so harsh shadows abound.
 
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Hi Steve,
Both very nice shots. Are you happy with the Tamron? I keep going round and round as to whether to get a longer lens or not.

Hey, that looks like the same visitor I had:

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Hi Steve,
Both very nice shots. Are you happy with the Tamron? I keep going round and round as to whether to get a longer lens or not.

Hey, that looks like the same visitor I had:

Thanks. Yes I'm happy with my Tamron...to a degree. I'm eventually going to get a Nikon 300 f4 or 2.8 with a 1.7 TC. What ever my budget allows. :biggrin: The Tamron has moving parts, (of course) and I've noticed that it is a little loose and if you don't prop it in the right place, (back on the barrel) it will be a bit blurry. That is the problem with non prime lenses though. So I just work around it. It's a tripod lens anyways so as long as I support it correctly. It's usually fine.

Either way you go, you are going to pay around 1000 for either a used f4 Nikon or a new Tamron. But it has been the best "investment" that I have bought. That and the D300 of course. :smile:

Yep, Red bellied woodpeckers...gotta love em'.:biggrin:
 
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Jean, check out some of Slingher's threads (Jessie) here on the Cafe. She's shooting with a 70-300 VR and doing fabulously.
 
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Oh, gracious! Some of her shots are amazing! I really think my biggest problem is that I can't get close enough to the birds. I need more practice, I guess.

Thanks for this info!
 
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