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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Bird Talk 
Thread started 29 Apr 2012 (Sunday) 13:50
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What Am I Doing Wrong

 
jbrackjr
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Apr 29, 2012 13:50 |  #1

I am new to DSLRs as of Dec 2011. I have a 60D w/100-400 lens that I primarily handhold (I do have a tripod available). I have been taking pictures of the birds in my backyard but find that the results are not the best. My deck faces south with open grass until it meets the forest at about 75 feet away. Even in full sun, the background of the forest makes it difficult for using smaller apertures to obtain a better depth of field.

I have included a few samples (jpeg straight out of the camera) and would appreciate any feedback on what I am doing wrong and or anyway to improve my results.

I have lightroom 3, but rarely use it. I shoot in both RAW and JPEG as I have plenty of SD cards. Generally, I do not do any touchups to my photos (maybe when I have something worthy of keeping!)

For the moment, I am trying to stop the action and also have the bird remain in focus. Would a flash help? Distance to birdhouse is 60 ft. Focus is set using the AF-ON button on back.
Data:
F5.6
1/2000 sec.
Shutter Priority
400mm
Metering mode: Pattern

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2slo
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Apr 29, 2012 16:40 |  #2

There are certainly more knowlegeable people on here than me but, FWIW, I'll make a few comments which may help you.
Firstly your shutter speed. From your EXIF data, your 1st shot is taken at 1/1000th sec, not 1/2000th (your 2nd shot is). If you want to freeze motion of small birds in flight you need a faster speed: 1/2500th sec or even with some birds 1/3200 sec.
Your ISO: 3200 is too high for what you have here, i.e. small birds shot from a distance of 60'. you need to get that down to < 1000. Now believe me I know that may not always be possible on dark days as you need to keep the shutter speed high.You need to compromise a bit though and see what works best between the two settings.
Your aperture of 5.6 is ok to focus the birds at the distance you are at but, one of the issues here is that you are just too far away. You need to be as close as possible to get the best detail which will involve getting under cover or being somewhere that the bird isn't bothered by you.
Not an exhaustive list here by any means and, as I said, I'm no expert. Hope that helps a bit though :)




  
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Duane ­ N
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Apr 29, 2012 18:14 as a reply to  @ 2slo's post |  #3

You are shooting in some tough conditions...shade. Also, tracking a small bird coming at you is going to be difficult (the 100-400mm isn't the quickest focusing lens)...if you aren't using a tripod you need to unless you're as steady as a rock...the slighest movement will cause the focus to be elsewhere. Maintain the highest shutter speed possible obviously....the more light the better.

In both shots it looks as if the focus was on the birdhouse....

What mode are you shooting in? AI Servo? I hope so.....


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jbrackjr
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Apr 29, 2012 20:27 |  #4

Thanks for the feedback.

I agree that I need a faster shutter speed although I thought 1/2000 would have been enough. Obviously, I was wrong. But, when shooting towards the forest (even in full sun) I have to raise the ISO to 1600-3200 to get a high shutter speed. I am able to shoot them stationary (no problem) but for in flight shots, I guess I will have to move to a different location that is closer and with more light.

Yes, I am using AI Servo. In this case, I was focusing on the door of the birdhouse and then shooting as soon as the bird took flight. They are so small and quick at that distance, there is no way I can track and maintain focus on them.

I just picked up a Mongoose gimbal head (the small one) which I will try out with my tripod. Should make for a better picture but I don't think it will solve my problem.


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Evan
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Apr 29, 2012 21:18 |  #5

Is there any way of moving so that the background is lighter? Like the sky, but still keep the bird at eye level? You also will need to get closer to take away some of the dark BG that the camera is metering off of.

For focusing I noticed that you missed the focus on the bird. Try pre-focusing on the box, and then using manual focus bring the focus plane about 4 inches in front of the box. This should give you sufficient reflex time to get the bird in focus while firing the shutter as fast as the camera will let it.

With these dark conditions the tripod WILL help you get sharper images.

Good luck


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jbrackjr
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Apr 29, 2012 22:52 |  #6

BirdBoy, the tree line is about 45-50 ft tall. I have to look up for the sky. My deck is about 12 ft off the ground and about level with the bird house. I think I will have to get off the deck and shoot parallel with the tree line for more light. But will be at ground level

I will try to focus (as you suggest) in front of the box. I should have thought of that...simple enough I think. Thank you.


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tonylong
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Apr 29, 2012 22:59 |  #7

I'd say your shutter speed was reasonable. Of course faster is better. But, as was said, it looks like your focus was on the tree house, and at f/5.6 that can make the difference between a subject that is in focus and one that is out-of-focus!

Bird photography is tough and takes a lot of practice!


Tony
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Evan
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Apr 30, 2012 00:12 |  #8

jbrackjr wrote in post #14350994 (external link)
I think I will have to get off the deck and shoot parallel with the tree line for more light. But will be at ground level.

I have several Bushtit nests that I am shooting atm that are 10 ft off the ground. All I do is bring an 8 ft ladder and have a camo drape that I shoot from under. Shooting from 14ft away at 8ft high with a 400mm, the lens makes up for the remaining 2ft of height so that I am shooting at roughly a 14 degree angle. This angle is not significant to the eye level of the bird so it appears to look nearly straight on to the nest.

An easier method would be to move the box to around 8 feet next year after the birds have left. This will give you a short enough height to work from a ladder and enough height to keep away predators.

Hope this helps,
Evan


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jbrackjr
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Apr 30, 2012 08:09 |  #9

Thanks for the tips, I like the idea of setting up a blind. I got a 12 ft stepladder that I can use. But, need to get a ladder seat (for comfort) and some of that camo material. The wife will think I have lost my mind!


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Jim ­ Neiger
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Apr 30, 2012 20:42 |  #10

Here are a few tips.

1. Shoot from an angle that allows you to capture the bird coming and going, but does not have the bird house in the bg. You should also get closer so that the bird with spread wings fills about half the frame.

2. Put more space between the bird house and the trees in the bg.

3. Shoot at 1/2000 or faster

4. Try to pre-focus on the spot the bird will fly thru and then try to time your shot. If you have exceptional skills you can also try to track the bird as it comes and goes. This is extremely difficult, particularly with the varied bg.

You will likely have to change your location and the location of the bird house to accomplish the above.

Good luck!


Jim Neiger - Kissimmee, Florida
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jbrackjr
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May 01, 2012 11:54 |  #11

Thanks Jim!


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What Am I Doing Wrong
FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Bird Talk 
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