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Author Topic: Bird Photography  (Read 1820 times)
ned.ward
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Ned Ward - Eternal Apprentice, I'm keen to learn.


« on: October 27, 2013, 05:56:12 AM »
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My focus for a long time was landscape photography (and the search goes on for good one!) and I have ventured into other genres of late.

Using my garden I have pushed my understanding and machinery to the limit. I'd be grateful for thoughts on these 2 images. The background on one is distracting I feel but I'm looking for assessment of everything. Composition, noise, focus, colour. The variable light encountered and the nature of the garden bird means they are skittish and fast moving in and out of the variable light. Its a good challenge in my view.

Any advice on tools,technique and equipment will be well received. These were shot with a Nikon D200, 300mm f4 prime fitted with a 1.4x teleconverter (I'm aware this reduces light flow and can cause softness problems but I need the reach?)

Leaning towards auto ISO I seldom go below f7 and 1/200 sec.

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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2013, 06:10:54 AM »
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If you're interested in bird photography and want to see some amazing work to learn,
I suggest you pay a visit to Glenn Bartleys website, he's a LuLa member too.
http://www.glennbartley.com/

On the images above I'd like to have more light on the first bird and the background with the nice Bokeh of the first image for the second one.

Cheers
~Chris


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ned.ward
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« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2013, 06:18:45 AM »
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Wow fabulous work from Glenn. Thanks for the link and advice. Perhaps I should take up fly fishing! Smiley

Cheers
Ned
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Floyd Davidson
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« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2013, 07:38:00 AM »
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Using my garden I have pushed my understanding and machinery to the limit. I'd be grateful for thoughts on these 2 images. The background on one is distracting I feel but I'm looking for assessment of everything. Composition, noise, focus, colour.

Both images are pretty nice as such.  Both could benefit from a bit of post processing.  The bird needs to have the colors brightened up a bit and some well done local sharpening (of the bird and not of anything else).   The top one does have a nice, but rather distracting, background and that can be changed by masking it off and reducing it's brightness compared to the bird.  I downloaded it and did some editing to see how it looked, and given the very small size of the original it didn't turn out bad at all

So the question is, do you enjoy editing images?.

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The variable light encountered and the nature of the garden bird means they are skittish and fast moving in and out of the variable light. Its a good challenge in my view.

This is something you might be able adjust in order to get better out of the camera image data.  The garden environment might be changed in ways to make it more bird friendly (I've no comprehension of how that works, but you can no doubt research it with Google) and it might also be changed to make it more photography friendly too.  These two images demonstrate interesting background variations.  The problem with varying light might be worked on by finding ways to make the backgrounds behind the most likely places for birds to land be more suited to your needs.  Or put things that are attractive to birds in places where the background is nice.  And you might even be able to build fabric, canvas, or whatever materieal works into devices that provide shade in the right places or reflect light into the right places.  Otherwise, look for places where that happens naturally and set up the camera there to wait for birds to sit where you need them.  Feeders etc might help that too.

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Any advice on tools,technique and equipment will be well received. These were shot with a Nikon D200, 300mm f4 prime fitted with a 1.4x teleconverter (I'm aware this reduces light flow and can cause softness problems but I need the reach?)

The 300mm f/4, even with a 1.4 TC, is a great lens for what you want.  You just aren't going to do better without serious budget problems!

But the D200 could easily be improved upon these days.  The D200's old sensor just does not do well at ISO's higher than 400 to 1200, depending on how much noise you will tolerate.  Compared to a D200 any of the more recent camera bodies will produce mind boggling high ISO benefits.  You probably want to stick with a DX body because "reach" is the big thing.  Look at a new or used D7000 or D7100.

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Leaning towards auto ISO I seldom go below f7 and 1/200 sec.

When I used a D2X, which had basically the same sensor as the D200, I didn't find Auto ISO very useful.  The range it can cover is just too narrow with that old sensor.  Since the D3 came out, and much more so since the D3S, Auto ISO has become very useful.  I typically use Manual Exposure Mode and set Auto ISO with a high limit at ISO 12,800.  I'm using FX bodies, so it could be that you'd want to limit the maximum ISO to a stop or so less with an APC sized sensor.
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ned.ward
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« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2013, 04:29:10 AM »
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Floyd,
Firstly can I thank you for your detailed and informative reply.

The editing question is not easy to answer. If I'm goal oriented (say the images are for competition or adjudication for membership criteria) then yes I don't mind detailed editing if required. We'd all like to get as much "perfect" in camera and have no PP wouldn't we? I'm taking heart that you were able to get a "result" using the methods you describe from one of my images. I can think of other techniques that may help using selective methods. With the D200 as you say the noise is a problem, so selective blur tool on the background can fool the eye into levels of noise, although the birds are "speckled" whether nature intended or not. I'd like to do a small personalised photo book on birds for the grandkids, something like "The Birds in Grandad's Garden" I've counted around 15 different species so far. If I can get some good images and a paragraph of basic text?

Its a good point about the "stage" as well. Currently I have a feeding station in front of an indigenous tree (Hawthorn) which seemed fitting as we are talking native birds, In reality its impossible to tell the tree in most bokeh results. There are odd shots I have where the tree is identifiable but they are not conventional bird shots as they blend well with the environment. Others have described same methods you advise, Camouflaged Military Poncho's work well as backgrounds I'm assured.

The variable light and overall darkness is not as big an issue on nature reserves or more open wilder spaces, but this is Lancashire UK the climate means we are part amphibian with eyes like out house rats by necessity.  Smiley

The big one is upgrades of my "historic" equipment. Bodies I'm thinking D7100 for birding (DX 2x crop factor, big resolution and better noise handling) and D600 (FX and resolution, noise handling and all round improvement) I know there are oil/dust issues with the D600 but the D610 seems a rip off with additional couple of hundred quid to fix the D600 issues.

Its either these 2 or the D800E. I can get both for about the same price and I have been advised the 800 is not fast enough for wildlife. I'm not convinced but the advantages of 2 rigs seems appealing. Its just a matter of saving up the money! If I can accrue enough quickly then I'll go D610 and D7100.

I'll stick with Nikon gear as I have a few bits of glass.

Manual exposure in my preference for anything normally, but my experience in this garden is that auto ISO helps. Its limited to 1600 so to be able to go any where near ISO 12,800 would change my approach considerably. I could expose to the right easily.

My strategy here in the forum is to gain as much knowledge as I can whilst not being a pain so I'm grateful for your help.

Regards
Ned


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Floyd Davidson
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« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2013, 05:40:05 AM »
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We'd all like to get as much "perfect" in camera and have no PP wouldn't we?

Yes, but...  (ain't there always a catch?)  Different people have different ideas of what "perfect in camera" means.  I personally configure the camera with the absolute certainty that I will post process all images.  A perfect in the camera image is one that allows me to best manipulate it in post processing.  For me there is no such thing as using a Straight Out Of Camera image.  I shudder at the thought... :-)

Other people work differently, and do what works best for their needs.

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I'd like to do a small personalised photo book on birds for the grandkids, something like "The Birds in Grandad's Garden" I've counted around 15 different species so far. If I can get some good images and a paragraph of basic text?

That is an astounding project.

I've just taken delivery, and don't have it operational yet (but occasionally used such a device 15-20 years ago at work), of a "binding machine".  This thing will do spiral bound one off books, and the one I bought can do dozens too without too much stress.  Books for individual kids is one distinct possibility!  And with the spiral binding the books can lay flat and they can easily read the text on one page and examine a photo on the opposite page.

My purpose wasn't one off books like that, but now that you mention it my mind is churning with ideas!   I'm a great-grandparent, so there is a huge range of potential.   Thanks for the ideas!

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The big one is upgrades of my "historic" equipment. Bodies I'm thinking D7100 for birding (DX 2x crop factor, big resolution and better noise handling) and D600 (FX and resolution, noise handling and all round improvement) I know there are oil/dust issues with the D600 but the D610 seems a rip off with additional couple of hundred quid to fix the D600 issues.

Its either these 2 or the D800E. I can get both for about the same price and I have been advised the 800 is not fast enough for wildlife. I'm not convinced but the advantages of 2 rigs seems appealing. Its just a matter of saving up the money! If I can accrue enough quickly then I'll go D610 and D7100.

I use a D4 and a D800.  The D800 gets the call about 75% of the time, but if I were allowed only one camera it would be the D4.

Personally I have no need for a D800E.  I could go into lengthy technical reasons (the only real difference is ease of post processing with the D800 and an unmeasureable much less noticeable difference in Signal to Noise Ratio at spatial frequencies close to the Nyquist Limit), but basically the D800E doesn't do anything of value for me.

I agree that if you need a high frame rate, and for your style of bird photography it is useful, the D800 is slow.  However, it is faster than the D600 or the D7100 (I haven't looked at the D610 manual yet).  Only the D4 is faster, and it is blazingly faster.

The issue isn't actually frame rate though.  All of those cameras have frame rates from 5 to 7, but the problem is how many images will fit into the buffer and how long it takes to dump the buffer to the memory card.  The D7100 appears to have a smaller buffer by maybe half than the D600, which is only slightly smaller than the D800.  The numbers for compressed NEF files are hard to evaluate, and I expect that the most useful number for comparison regardless of how you actually shoot is the number for JPEG Fine Large images.  The D7100 can buffer 33, the D800 56, and the D600 57.  Why the D600 is more I don't know, but it must have a faster JPEG engine as the number of NEF compressed 14 bit files is 20 for the D800 and 16 for the D600.

Regardless, the point is that unless you spring for a D4 there just really isn't much variation with the FF models, but they are faster to operate than the D7100.

However, there is a much bigger issue with the full frame models.   Only the D800 has enough pixels to make using it in DX mode valid. And using the D800 or any of the others in FX mode means your 300mm lens is petty short.  You'll need to look for at least a 400mm or even longer lens.  So in addition to the price of the camera there is the price of more glass.  The older 80-400mm AF-D is now relatively lower in cost on the used market, but it is just barely suitable too.  It isn't as sharp as you'd like at 400mm, and the AF is very old and slow.  The newer 80-400mm is more expensive (I haven't tried one yet, so can't really speak to it).  And older 400mm, 500mm or 600mm lenses are very nice, but still very expensive too.  Perhaps a D600 and the new 80-400mm AFS lens are the most cost effective with high quality.  I'd rather spend a little more and get the highest quality, with a D800 and the 80-400mm AFS lens.  You could use the D800 in DX mode with the 300mm lens until the piggy bank is ready for the 80-400mm AFS lens.  You don't suffer too bad even to start with, and in the end have an exceedingly nice set of equipment.

I use a 400mm f/2.8, often with a 1.4 or 2.0 TC.  It's too big to just carry around though, at least for an old guy that can't walk far anyway.  I shoot a lot from a 4-wheel ATV and bounce around on the Arctic tundra for hours.  A camera/lens combination that I can grab and shoot is nice, and the 400mm f/2.8 does not fit that description at all.  I end up running around with the old 80-400mm lens more often by far.

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Manual exposure in my preference for anything normally, but my experience in this garden is that auto ISO helps. Its limited to 1600 so to be able to go any where near ISO 12,800 would change my approach considerably. I could expose to the right easily.

With any of the newer models you will really love using Manual Exposure mode with Auto ISO turned on!
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ned.ward
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« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2013, 11:00:41 AM »
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Floyd you are a gem. I've had a quick look at your site too which looks fantastic, and will be viewing some more.

You've set the cat amongst the pigeons with your D800 plus better lens ideas. Sounds pucker to me. The frame rate or buffer capabilities are really not crucial to my level, its not as if I'll be chasing rare wildlife and need to get that shot. I have encountered deer etc. and missed shots but mainly due to me rather than the machines capabilities. Some times the one that got away can act as a motivator to go back. The 800E was a thought because of alleged sharper images, but you can always add sharpness. Also a couple of reviews claim there isn't much difference? I'll factor in your thoughts when its time to decide. You know....." Its Floyds fault"..... Smiley

The "in camera" debate is a mind boggling fog for me. Photography is an art form and so anything that adds to the creative process is good. Its just those niggling voices you occasionally encounter, sometimes from capable photographers, that talk of over processing through software like PS taking photography to graphic design or "unreality". I don't suppose it matters. I don't have a reputation, customers or anyone else to please only myself.  However T'other thing more practical is I'm lazy, but I agree, I have never taken a shot without the intention of further developing it. Its always gone on. The end product is key, if it tastes good who cares how it was cooked?

You have my admiration and envy shooting in the Arctic. Those buffer capabilities would be useful there as the wildlife is precious and opportunities probably rare. You wouldn't want to miss a shot. To think I was moaning about the extremities of weather here!

Do the books, its a good project and a keepsake for the Grandkids. You'll enjoy it and guarantee a labour of love.

Regards
Ned


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