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      03-31-2013, 09:18 PM   #1
M_Six
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Afternoon at the Lake

Got to the lake about 4PM and hung around waiting for the eagles to show. It was the first really nice day we've had this year, so the lake was busy with fisherman, including two couples near me with kids who screamed and cried the entire time I was there. But I digress.

The eagle showed up at about the same time as the last time I was at the lake, right around 5PM. I took other shots of loons and gulls and so on, but I wasn't happy with them at all. I have to say my technique with the 7D/400-5.6 combo needs work. I'm quite disappointed in my captures. The 7D does not lend itself to major cropping like the 6D does. And sadly, I was pretty far away from all the action, like 1/3 to 1/2 mile. I'm also not getting the hang of auto modes. I started with AV mode and set +1-1/3 EV, but when I was shooting the eagles landing in a tree, the shutter speed dropped to 1/150 and then down to 1/80 without my noticing it. Needless to say on a 400 5.6 with no IS, this didn't work out. Then I switched to TV mode and set the shutter at 1/1000. Many of my shots then were underexposed. None of my shots today were really crisp. Overall, a big letdown. I was using the tripod and gimbal head, so I can't blame hand-holding. I probably should have taken the time to switch to the 6D just for comparison.

Anyway, here are some shots. The big culprit in all of these was the lack of reach. Most are crops in the 80-90% range.







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      03-31-2013, 09:29 PM   #2
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The last one turned out good! I like the composition.
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      03-31-2013, 10:15 PM   #3
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Well unless you get a 500 or 600 (north of 10K as I am sure you are aware) , there is nothing you can do about the reach. I struggle with that all the time. One thing with my 7D though, and I don't know what you are using for metering, but with BIF I always switch to spot, as all that sky tends to make the meter want to underexpose the bird. Some people also use manual with auto ISO enabled, for example, f6.3 shutter 1/1000 and auto iso. I have done that with my 1D and been pretty successful , but I haven't tried it with my 7D.

Also, if you get the Nik plugins that are on sale, Nik Dfine does a GREAT job taking care of 7D noise.

At least you have Eagle to see! They don't get out this way very much, although they seem to be making a slow comeback.
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      03-31-2013, 10:41 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Itsed65 View Post
Well unless you get a 500 or 600 (north of 10K as I am sure you are aware) , there is nothing you can do about the reach. I struggle with that all the time. One thing with my 7D though, and I don't know what you are using for metering, but with BIF I always switch to spot, as all that sky tends to make the meter want to underexpose the bird. Some people also use manual with auto ISO enabled, for example, f6.3 shutter 1/1000 and auto iso. I have done that with my 1D and been pretty successful , but I haven't tried it with my 7D.

Also, if you get the Nik plugins that are on sale, Nik Dfine does a GREAT job taking care of 7D noise.

At least you have Eagle to see! They don't get out this way very much, although they seem to be making a slow comeback.
I'm really trying to figure out a way to get my hands on a 500mm f4 IS. The version II's are over 10k, but the version I's are closer to 7k, I think. Still a big, big bite out of the wallet. And the size difference is significant (read: Can't be hidden).

I saw where this guy went to fish. Same place he went last time. Only way there is a boat, I think. Probably the only way I'll get close enough to grab a shot of him fishing. I had to laugh at the two fishermen who were there with their families. They fished all day and caught nothing. Then this eagle cruises out and grabs a fish like it was a supermarket.
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      04-01-2013, 11:01 AM   #5
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1. If the light isn't changing much you can just use manual exposure mode for birds. Meter on some fixed object and dial up or down by as much as a stop if the bird is much lighter or darker than what you metered on.

2. The 400/5.6 is sharp wide open. Unless you're close enough to the bird that DOF becomes an issue that's the aperture you should shoot it at.

3. If you're tracking the bird on a loose gimbal head you can go to a somewhat slower shutter speed than pure handholding, but this depends on lots of factors (like how smooth you are in tracking). I wasn't great at this, but could usually get away with ~1/200s with the 400/5.6. (handholding without a tripod I wasn't happy with results below about 1/1000).

4. Don't be afraid to bump the ISO up. Yes noise is annoying, but it's a much more recoverable defect than motion blur or serious underexposure.

5. GET CLOSER. I know this isn't always possible, but nothing (not even focal length) compensates for being too far from your subject. All of my best bird shots are from less than 200 ft. - most from under 100 ft.

Anyway, Dave (dcstep) is a much more competent bird photographer than I am these days and maybe he'll have some even better pointers.
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      04-01-2013, 01:40 PM   #6
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1. If the light isn't changing much you can just use manual exposure mode for birds. Meter on some fixed object and dial up or down by as much as a stop if the bird is much lighter or darker than what you metered on.

Agreed. I used manual mode last time out and, aside from one or two slip-ups, had much better results.

2. The 400/5.6 is sharp wide open. Unless you're close enough to the bird that DOF becomes an issue that's the aperture you should shoot it at.

That was a miscalculation on my part this time. I was hoping that stopping down would be more forgiving of focus misses, but I think it only stole light and maybe added some diffusion.

3. If you're tracking the bird on a loose gimbal head you can go to a somewhat slower shutter speed than pure handholding, but this depends on lots of factors (like how smooth you are in tracking). I wasn't great at this, but could usually get away with ~1/200s with the 400/5.6. (handholding without a tripod I wasn't happy with results below about 1/1000).

I definitely need more practice with the gimbal head.


4. Don't be afraid to bump the ISO up. Yes noise is annoying, but it's a much more recoverable defect than motion blur or serious underexposure.

I find that higher ISOs on the 7D tend to be costly in terms of sharpness when doing major crops. Although that is more a symptom of distance than anything.

5. GET CLOSER. I know this isn't always possible, but nothing (not even focal length) compensates for being too far from your subject. All of my best bird shots are from less than 200 ft. - most from under 100 ft.

Exactly the issue here. The area where the eagles hang out is quite inaccessible, so I'm relegated to standing on the accessible part of the shoreline across the lake. I know the area where he likes to fish, too, but it is also quite inaccessible. Like many lakes formed by a dam across a river, this one has steep sides that go right down to the waterline. The area where I was standing is a man-made "beach" where there is a pumping station. Much of the rest of the lake has either the aforementioned steep sides or swamp around it. But as a general rule of birding, I agree. Closer is better.

Anyway, Dave (dcstep) is a much more competent bird photographer than I am these days and maybe he'll have some even better pointers.

Dave will chastise me for going to f8 or f11 on these shots, I'm sure.
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