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Author Topic: External viewfinder with long lenses?  (Read 28786 times)
kjkahn
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« on: January 17, 2007, 02:34:39 PM »
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Sometimes, when shooting fast-moving objects (such as birds) with a long lens, the target disappears before I can acquire it in the viewfinder. Has anyone used an external finder, mounted in the hot shoe, with a wider FOV (or a non-optical finder) in such situations?  Perhaps something like the front sight on a bird gun would suffice, although alignment would be iffy without a rear sight. Any suggestions based on experience would be appreciated.
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alainbriot
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« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2007, 10:33:42 AM »
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Perhaps something like the front sight on a bird gun would suffice, although alignment would be iffy without a rear sight. Any suggestions based on experience would be appreciated.
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I don't think it would help because you need to be looking through the lens at all times to get the shot. This is why SLR's are so wonderful for animal photography.  What I recommend doing is follow the animal while looking through the lens, panning as needed, and shoot in burst mode so you get the best chances of having a "perfect" frame.   A gimball mount is one of the most useful accessories for this approach when shooting on a tripod, which is most often the case with very long lenses.

You have to frame the animal before you start shooting to get the shot.  If you see an animal moving fast and try to frame it, compose, get the focus right and so on you will most of the time miss the shot.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2007, 10:35:33 AM by alainbriot » Logged

Alain Briot
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kjkahn
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« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2007, 10:45:59 AM »
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Thanks for the reply. The problem is that in certain situations, I don't have time to even find the animal in the viewfinder.  e.g. I was trying to shoot a whale. It would surface for just a few seconds, each time in a different location. I never managed to see it in the viewfinder (looking through a 400mm lens with 1.3 crop factor).



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I don't think it would help because you need to be looking through the lens at all times to get the shot. This is why SLR's are so wonderful for animal photography.  What I recommend doing is follow the animal while looking through the lens, panning as needed, and shoot in burst mode so you get the best chances of having a "perfect" frame.   A gimball mount is one of the most useful accessories for this approach when shooting on a tripod, which is most often the case with very long lenses.

You have to frame the animal before you start shooting to get the shot.  If you see an animal moving fast and try to frame it, compose, get the focus right and so on you will most of the time miss the shot.
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alainbriot
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« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2007, 11:05:42 AM »
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Thanks for the reply. The problem is that in certain situations, I don't have time to even find the animal in the viewfinder.  e.g. I was trying to shoot a whale. It would surface for just a few seconds, each time in a different location. I never managed to see it in the viewfinder (looking through a 400mm lens with 1.3 crop factor).
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I know, it is a problem.  And then, if you manage to find the animal in your viewfinder, you either get only part of it, or the focus is off, or the image is blurred because the camera isn't steady.

What you could do is use a zoom lens and keep it zoomed wide until you see the animal, then zoom in for the shot. The canon 100-400 would work well for that for example.  Keep it around 100-200mm then zoom in all the way when you see something you want to photograph.
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Alain Briot
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kjkahn
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« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2007, 12:05:27 PM »
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Thanks again Alan,

I do use the 100-400 L IS.  Panning and zooming at the same time is one more task than my feeble brain seems to be able to handle. I fired off about 100 frames at a pair of Osprey, and only got a couple worth keeping. Even so, I still managed to over-zoom (to 275mm) and clip the bird. In this case, I probably would have been better off farther back where the panning rate would have been lower.

Osprey

Ken

p.s. Love your landscapes


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I know, it is a problem.  And then, if you manage to find the animal in your viewfinder, you either get only part of it, or the focus is off, or the image is blurred because the camera isn't steady.

What you could do is use a zoom lens and keep it zoomed wide until you see the animal, then zoom in for the shot. The canon 100-400 would work well for that for example.  Keep it around 100-200mm then zoom in all the way when you see something you want to photograph.
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alainbriot
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« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2007, 12:31:46 PM »
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Osprey
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I'd say that's pretty darn good if you are just starting!  Except for the top wing being clipped, its in fact excellent.  I say keep at it, practice, and zoom in a little less.  You can always crop the image down later but you can't reconstruct what isn't there in the first place.

Even though it seems low, getting a couple of good images out of 100 shots isn't uncommon for wildlife photographers.

I like your image. Very expressive.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2007, 12:32:25 PM by alainbriot » Logged

Alain Briot
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Richowens
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« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2007, 12:37:58 PM »
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Ken,

Shooting birds and other moving wildlife is something that requires practice, practice and more practice. If I get 1 or 2 percent I feel fortunate.

It can be quite frustrating at times and there are days when I get nothing usable at all. Non productive days happen more often than productive days.

Don't let me discourage you, just keep trying and trying. The more you shoot, the better you will get at tracking and anticipating the correct focus and framing.

Rich


Snowy Egret
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kjkahn
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« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2007, 01:00:51 PM »
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Thanks Rich,

I remember Michael once saying that he was happy if he considered a few percent of his photos from a given shoot to be keepers.

Great Egret shot!  I've tried to shoot them a few times. My biggest problem was keeping from blowing the highlights.  My best luck so far has been with rather easy shots, like this

Geat Black-Backed Gull.

Zooming properly as it flew toward me was the only tricky part.

Ken


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Ken,

Shooting birds and other moving wildlife is something that requires practice, practice and more practice. If I get 1 or 2 percent I feel fortunate.

It can be quite frustrating at times and there are days when I get nothing usable at all. Non productive days happen more often than productive days.

Don't let me discourage you, just keep trying and trying. The more you shoot, the better you will get at tracking and anticipating the correct focus and framing.

Rich
Snowy Egret
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larsrc
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« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2007, 08:08:39 AM »
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Thanks Rich,

I remember Michael once saying that he was happy if he considered a few percent of his photos from a given shoot to be keepers.

Great Egret shot!  I've tried to shoot them a few times. My biggest problem was keeping from blowing the highlights.  My best luck so far has been with rather easy shots, like this

Geat Black-Backed Gull.

Zooming properly as it flew toward me was the only tricky part.

Ken
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I think "pretty easy" is a good place to start -- find a place where birds flock and train on panning, zooming etc there.  The ferry from Oslo to Frederikshavn is one such place where I got the below picture -- I'm sure most harbours make good training grounds.  Don't feel ashamed to practice on simple subjects, but do learn from the shots you make.

[attachment=1576:attachment]

-Lars
« Last Edit: January 19, 2007, 08:10:05 AM by larsrc » Logged

Jay Kaplan
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« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2007, 08:17:03 AM »
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Ken -

Have you been to Arthur Morris' "Birds as Art" website?
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kjkahn
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« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2007, 10:55:41 AM »
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Jake,

I have seen Morris' web site, but good as it is, he doesn't do too much with single birds in flight. The consistently best site for photos of birds in flight (which I have seen) has been the Fred Miranda Wildlife & Nature Forum.

Ken



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Ken -

Have you been to Arthur Morris' "Birds as Art" website?
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Tim Gray
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« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2007, 11:24:46 AM »
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Never seen anything that would solve this problem in the still camera world, but this is exactly the problem folks need to sove in (of all things) competitive sky diving.  There's usually a 2 video camera set up with 2 lenses - one an extreme telephoto where the divers fill the screen, and a second, mid telephoto where the divers fill only about 25% of the screen.  The 2 units are basically welded together and the operator uses the moderate tele to track - when the divers start to drift out of the centre 25% (marked with a marking pen on the screen - at least the one I saw) it's a simple matter to bring them back in frame.  Trying to keep them framed just using the longer lens is practically impossible.
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