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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

How close? (1 Viewer)

willie45

Well-known member
Hi Guys

I'm a fairly old hand at photography ( weddings portraits etc ) but only recently trying to photograph birds. I'm struggling. I'm trying to adjust my expectations to coincide with reality and I'd appreciate some help.

I have recently got my hands on a Canon 400f5.6 and also have a Tamron 100-400 on trial. I'm using these with a 7dmk2. I'm finding that I get decent results testing these lenses on static objects near my home while messing about but when it comes to birds these are a bit further away.

I went to the local lakes today and was pretty disappointed with my efforts. I was shooting some coots at around 5000 ISO and at around 50-70 yards or so. When I view the shots at 100% they look pretty dire.

How close with my set up would you realistically expect me to have to be for a coot-sized bird?

Thank you for your patience.
 

nikonmike

Well-known member
My first thoughts are, reduce the distance by at least 50%, you need to drop the iso if you want to crop or view at 100%.
The iso 5000 would indicate not too good light so that is against you, I never consider long lenses for working at a distance, they work better to give you a larger image fairly close, at longer distances there will be a lot of degradation from crap in the atmosphere.
It would have been better if you posted some results full image and what you cropped to.
 

willie45

Well-known member
Hi nikonmike, thanks for that. I will post some images later in the week when I get back to my desktop. I know the ISO was pretty high. Yes the light wasn't great. The lens was already wide open and I was trying to keep my shutter speed up to at least 1/800 if I could. I had ISO on auto using shutter priority to help with this.

I suspect my expectations of 400mm are too high. I have recently read somewhere ( can't remember where ) some pro saying his useable shots are from less than 30m distance shooting like this. I now understand what he meant.
 
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johnf3f

johnf3f
It all depends on your subjects, but the general rule is the closer the better!

For small birds I don't like to go beyond 10 meters or so with my Canon 800mm, on larger species naturally the range increases. Inevitably there is a limit which is often down to atmospheric conditions rather than the length of you lens, as detail is lost. Sorry but you need to "get up close and personal" if you want those really detailed shots.

You are in a great part of the UK for birding, keep at it, you will get there!
 

willie45

Well-known member
Thanks, John. Looks like my 50-70yrds with the 400mm was way too ambitious. It explains why the lens seemed to perform well at home but not in the field!

I also appreciate your encouragement.

I'm envious of the US light mind you. We don't seem to be that well illuminated here in the UK for a lot of the time :)
 

johnf3f

johnf3f
Thanks, John. Looks like my 50-70yrds with the 400mm was way too ambitious. It explains why the lens seemed to perform well at home but not in the field!

I also appreciate your encouragement.

I'm envious of the US light mind you. We don't seem to be that well illuminated here in the UK for a lot of the time :)

You are jealous - I live in South Wales! Normally good light is when it's not raining:-O

Although I don't have the 400 F5.6, I have used them a few times and they are very impressive especially for the money. Just work on getting a bit closer and the images will come. Also try some more shots showing the subject in it's environment - great wildlife shots are not just about feather/fur detail.

Happy snapping.
 

willie45

Well-known member
Yes, you're probably a bit worse off than me that way, and being orginally from Glasgow, so it seems comparatively tropical here in the South East. |;|

We're hardly like Colorado in Kent, mind you.

I've bought a hide for the garden and a bit of camouflage netting for other places so will be trying a stealthy approach to get nearer.
 

nikonmike

Well-known member
Yes, you're probably a bit worse off than me that way, and being orginally from Glasgow, so it seems comparatively tropical here in the South East. |;|

We're hardly like Colorado in Kent, mind you.

I've bought a hide for the garden and a bit of camouflage netting for other places so will be trying a stealthy approach to get nearer.

If you in bushy areas its surprising how close you can get just using stealth, move slowly and avoid eye contact.
 

poledark

Well-known member
Willie,I put up a hide in my garden very close to the pond and feeder, Front is camo netting and quite often a bird will settle on it :) and even had a goldfinch come inside. That should get you close enough!

Den
 

StephenHampshire

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Well I'm planning on setting something up this weekend and will await results.

Willie, just a thought, are you shooting RAW or Jpeg? as mentioned earlier in the thread, fur and feather details are very unforgiving, s the ISO goes up and your camera's NR kicks in, it is a real detail killer. Shooting RAW and using your own choice of processing software can give an improvement in detail, or at least enables you to choose your own balance in the noise vs detail scale
 

Zackiedawg

Well-known member
I think if your goal is to get documentation of a bird, a rare sighting, etc, then do whatever you have to - crop a lot and try to keep the focus good and shutter speed high enough to avoid blur. I've shot birds from 200+ yards away with a 600mm lens on crop body, and then cropped the shot as much as 100-150%, just so I could document something incredibly rare, like this least grebe that showed up in a local park near my house - he was extremely shy and stayed at the opposite end of the pond to me, about 400 feet away. But least grebes aren't even supposed to be in Florida and it was the first I'd ever heard of, so even if it wasn't great and I needed ISO 1,000, I could still ID it:
http://www.pbase.com/zackiedawg/image/165300506/original.jpg

But if you want the types of shots that have good feather detail, crisp eye detail, and frame-filling, you probably need to keep a bird within 50 feet with a 400mm lens and a crop sensor...and preferably with good light, slightly behind you.

Here's a very small bird, about 1/3 the size of a coot, about 45 feet away, at 400mm (600mm equivalent):
http://www.pbase.com/zackiedawg/image/167866747/original.jpg

You could crop tighter if desired - but I wouldn't want to be too much further away, if you still want to retain feather detail, water drops, etc.
 

willie45

Well-known member
Hi Stephen. Yes I shoot RAW so all good there

Justin, thanks for these examples. They are really useful illustrations of the type of distance I need to deal with for the results I want. I now realise that my distance was far too far away from the coots for an effective photograph. I will work on my fieldcraft and also use the hide in my garden.

This has been a really informative thread on managing my expectations. Thank you all for your great advice and tips.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
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