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Long Lens Technique, assistance needed

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by TedB, Jul 21, 2008.

  1. I have two questions, but here is the scenario:

    I have a Nikon 500mm f4, AFS I lens that I'm struggling with, trying to get sharp photos of birds. I'm using it on a Gitzo 5540, with a Wimberley II head, and a D2X. I took about 90 photos of both relatively still birds and quite a few of bif, and not one was perfectly crisp when viewed at a 100% crop.

    First, I believe I need to go back to square one and validate if the above will take a sharp photo in a static environment.
    My question is how best to do that?
    My thought is in my small back yard to put up something like newsprint on a wall a take a few snaps.....but is there a better way??

    Second, when taking photos of both birds in flight and on the ground...is auto focus the preferred method or do you use manual focus?

    Thanks for any direction you may send me in,

  2. Ted, this thread from three years ago has an excellent discussion of long lens technique.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  3. Use AF. And you have the correct equipment. Keep the shutter speed high. Practice, it will come.
  4. Dave,

    I remember reading that link.....but couldn't find it. Thank you. It will be printed and studied.

    Allan, appreciate the advice. What shutter speed is adequate....1/1000?

    Thank you both.

  5. 1/1000 is good enough, particularly for birds that are static. It's also helpful to shoot around f/8 for increased dof and sharpness. And as has been said... practice! Good luck!
  6. Also, it helps to practice on slower moving birds as opposed to quick movers like blue jays.

    If you can study the birds to anticipate movement so ma=uch the better.
  7. Hi Ted, why dont you post some of the images so we can study them and the EXIF's and give you some advise based on what we see?
  8. Dave beat us all to the punch with that link. My guess is that he has the link embroidered on his forehead or something :wink:

    You asked about shutter speed, always keep the 1/Focal Length "rule" in mind, and don't forget the 1.5 factor as well. And even at those shutter speeds, expect that you are going to cause issues on occasion, a fact of life I'm afraid, at least for myself and the folks I shoot with. Best thing to help this is to practice. Then go practice some more :wink:

    That having been said, it is not uncommon for us in Washington to not be able to maintaing the shutter speed at the level we want, especially early in the AM and late in the evening. Yet we are able to shoot down to 1/250th at times, and wide open, with good results. Yes, the keeper rate is lower without a doubt, but with practice, including your panning technique, it is quite possible. And after you practice, go practice some more.

    Allan makes a great point in his comment about learning the behavior of what you are trying to shoot. Birds are often creatures of habit, and anytime you are not playing "catch up" is a great help. And then, go practice some more, and don't stop :wink:

    If you see a pattern in the "practice" comments, well :wink:, I sure find myself ignoring my own advice far too often, and this is the single thing that has made the biggest difference for me.
  9. Thanks all. In looking at the EXIF it appears I've shot many at F4-too narrow DOF, and all were shot with manual focus.....I need to change that.

    Here are a couple representative sample of my poor technique (Yes, I'll be working on practicing with this lens....I'm clearly way out of my capabilities with this one).

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Thanks again,

  10. OK here goes:
    The first two images are:
    1. Taken at the wrong time of day, shadows get very harsch and one tends to overexpose the whites. You cant win taking them at this time of day. Shoot before 9-10 am in the morning and 1,5 hourse to sunset. At those times the white rays of ther sun are beding around the earth lettingthorugh less harsch whitness and more of the reddish light, creating the famous golden hour...
    2. Overexposed. You would have to go go down to at least -1.7 EV to not blow the whites, at this time of day. At 1 hour before sunset this would be say -0.3 to -0.7 EV, at sunset no EV at all....
    3. Shutter speed at 1/640th. is certainly fine for "sitting ducks", flying at least 1/1000th, if you want to stop wings properly at least 1/1600....
    4. ISO settings on the D2X. The D2X is extremely senisitve to high ISO. ISO 200 is getting up there. If you want perfect detail you have to shoot at less then 200 peferrably 100. On sitting ducks thats is not a problem, if you are on a well balanced Wimberley you can shoot down to less then 1/100 of a second with a lot of practise. Put your whole arm lightly on the barrel to soften your motion on flying birds and your face against the viewfinder and squeeze gently off the trigger.
    5. Put the focus on the AF-ON button ONLY and practise using it. Focus with the button, let go and squeeze. Use Continous AF and only use the center focus recticle on the D2X (the bottom one)
    6. Get closer. You have very little chance getting sharp shots when you are that far away, Practise on Seagulls, when you get shapr shots of them you know you are getting sharp shots period... There are two ways to get closer, one is to move closer other one is to use a TC14EII, I suggest you do both....

    BIF IMage:
    you are underexposed by at least a stop and way to far away..... Everything else is fine:) 
  11. Andreas,

    Thanks for the pointers.

    I'll be working on them all!

  12. Carole


    Jun 15, 2008
    Bellingham, WA
    I shot this at 1/250, F5.6, 300mm. He was just sitting there waiting to be photographed :) 


  13. Naw, I have a custom folder under "My Subscriptions" for especially noteworthy posts that I think I'll want to reference in the future. Needless to say, every post you make goes there automatically :smile:.
  14. I agree with David, his comment is as fundamental as you can get in regards to technique. I noticed you live in Huntington Beach! Light is great there, you can even stop-down to F/11-/F13 and keep high shutter speeds. You'll be good!

  15. Yes...I really blew it on the aperture...silly mistake. ("F4 no more" is my new mantra:wink:) 

    ....then there is "everything" else that needs work!........
  16. Here is a BIF at 1/800, ISO 1250, f5.6. Shot with a 400mm f2.8 plus a 1.7 TC, so f5.6 is just one stop from wide open with this combination. The equivalent focal length is 400*1.7*1.5=1020mm, so my "nominal" shutter speed should be at least 1/1000. I could have pushed the SS up by raising the ISO.


    And here is an example of mid-day bright California sun at the Salton Sea, with -2/3 EV comp.


    With the nice light and subject, high SS, 1/2500, and good aperture, 7.1 worked well. But as you get more familiar, start pushing the limits. There is nothing wrong with blurred wings and wing-tips when you have the head and eye nice and sharp. It can often be a different, yet pleasing, look as well as "sharp all over".

    All that being said, there certainly is nothing nicer than early morning, late afternoon/evening light, without a doubt.
  17. Outstanding Bill--great captures.....I have a loooong way to go.


  18. Thank you very much. Actually, you do not have that far to go. I look back just a few years ago at what I was doing, along with others I know here :wink:, and I am flabbergasted at the difference, mostly in a good way. And, as noted below, I owe a lot of that to help and encouragement I have gotten from folks here, I am just passing along what those folks have passed to me.

    The references in this thread are all spot-on, I have leaned a ton from these folks as well as others. You are in a "target rich" environment, spend as much time as you can at Bolsa Chica, and the drive around Newport Back Bay, especially the SW portion, can be quite good as well. Practice on Seagulls, while they might not be "exotic" they move quickly, and the white can be a challenge. If you want to have some fun, spend a day at Child's Pool north to the Cove in La Jolla and shoot the Pelicans flying in during morning hours, stay for lunch and wander the galleries, and then go back to the Cove and shoot the fly-out at Sunset. Not only a great environment to practice, but some very sweet light as well, and just a semi-short jaunt down the road from your place, a bit farther to go for me :smile:

    And along with everything else, one thing no one has yet mentioned, is don't get discouraged. When I moved to the D200 from my D2H everything suddenly sucked, I couldn't get anything in focus. Simply sloppy technique that I could get away with on the "less dense" sensor, but folks around here helped me figure that out as well.

    Do what you are doing, ask questions, and don't be afraid to post something you think is a "stinker", heck I do it all the time in an attempt to get help ... and sympathy :wink:
  19. Great suggestions Bill.

    I really had a hard time initially (and clearly still do on the long glass) when I moved to the D2X...it is (for me) a real taskmaster on getting clean shots with good technique. Appreciate all the suggestions and the time you all took in giving them. This has been the 3rd shoot for me with the 500mm and I've never been quite so overwhelmed in trying to shoot a subject....I guess humbling experiences are good.....apparantly this would be in the "great" category of humiliating!:frown:

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