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Author Topic: Birds in flight, advice wanted  (Read 5682 times)

PackLight

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2012, 06:47:41 PM »
Jackson_Bill....Very nice.... Sometimes what makes a picture the "best" has nothing to do with technical skills.
If someone feels they should critique this picture ask them to show you their picture of an eagle flying upside down fighting three other birds.  :)

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2012, 06:47:41 PM »

canon816

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2012, 07:18:49 PM »
If you are having problems stopping action at slower then 1/4000 sec then there may be an issue with the camera.

Assuming that you are using good technique and the lens is functioning (which it sounds like it is) you might have a loose shutter box.  I have known three cameras that this has happened with and it results in extra mirror slap causing blurring in the image. 

You can test this out by shooting a static subject with your camera/lens fixed on the tripod.  Just shoot your subject at various shutter speeds from say 1/500 to 1/4000.  If you are noticing blur then this could be the problem.

It is quite rare but does happen and canon should warranty it if it is a new camera.   Just thought I would mention this in the off chance you have something wrong with your gear.  1/1000 should be plenty fast enough.

good luck.

Lnguyen1203

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #17 on: November 29, 2012, 07:23:02 PM »
You have a 5D3, which is an awesome camera with excellent AF capabilities.  This is what I would do if I were you.

1. Flock of birds: 61-point AF in AI Servo, AV in f8 or f11, Evaluative Metering, add light by 1/3 to 1EV with exposure compensation depending on how early morning/soft light, check the histogram to ensure that you have some data in the most right hand box but be careful not to over-expose the highlights, adjust ISO to get shutter speed above 1/2000 sec (you can go lower but 1/2000 is a good start).  A properly exposed image on the 5D3 should have very little noise at ISO 1600.  Even at ISO 3200, noise can be reduced at post processing.

2. Individual bird, same as above but switch to AF center point or center point expand with 4 or 8 surround points.  My favorite is the center point expand with 8 surround points.  You may have to add 1 EV or more in the early morning or if you have a lot of bright sky in the frame.

attached is an example of an osprey taken with a 1DX, canon 500mmf4, 1.4X TC (total focal length = 700mm), f5.6, Evaluative metering, +2EV exposure compensation, ISO 1000, shutter speed 1/2000, AF AI Servo, center point expand with 8 surround point.  At this speed, you can stop most anything.

Good luck.

Loi
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miah

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #18 on: November 29, 2012, 08:08:19 PM »
East Wind Photography: I pretty much always shoot RAW and use Lightroom and Nik Define to control noise, if necessary. Of course we'd all prefer to limit noise in the first place, as noise-control can also reduce sharpness. With regards to DOF you appear to be saying that it's a personal choice, not unlike shooting landscape or portraits, and I should choose a look that suits the situation and my vision. Good advice. Thanks.

Packlight:  No worries. Thanks for your detailed reply. Your point about not wanting the AF jumping around is well taken, I was just wondering (having just moved up from the T3i's 9 points to the 5D3's 61 points) if using all points simultaneously--in a shotgun approach--might not be the likeliest way to find focus fast--at least with a flock. But it appears that you and others are arguing that smaller defined focus areas actually improve one's chances of achieving accurate focus. Is that fair to say?

"Framing a single BIF is hard to hold in center. Cropping the picture is the norm. You have to think blurred bokeh background or partially identifiable background and know which you want." OK. Got it. This came to mind while shooting the second photo (flock of snow geese), admittedly not an individual bird. The geese pretty much covered a very large pond. The pond had only one tree at it's edge. And although it's autumn color was exhausted, it was about the only interesting feature anywhere near this body of water. So, I set up across the pond with the tree nicely framed. I then waited. Finally, a coyote appeared on the far shore and sent the geese skyward. I nailed the shot at f/8 thinking the tree and background mountains would turn out softer than they did. Regardless, I think these background features help the scene, as the rest of the pond's perimeter was rather bland.

Your points about knowing the animal's behavior and setting up well in advance with prior knowledge of best light, etc. is well taken. All good points. Of course, this past weekend may have been a bad example. First, I was just too enamored with my new 5D and the quantity and quality of wildlife to be thinking very clearly. Second, it was brief. Too brief. And lastly, this NWR is very tightly controlled, so visitors are only allowed to get so close to the critters and only in certain places, so there's no free access to areas that might serve as better vantage points or offer better lighting conditions.

Jackson Bill: Very cool shot! Regarding my "loose head," I only had an old Bogen tripod with a panning head, so after mounting my lens collar to it I left the various axes loose so I could move the camera around with the action. It was much steadier than hand-holding, but far from "locked in." This no doubt worked both for and against me, in what proportions I do not know. I also chose Evaluative Metering, but others here promote Spot Metering, hmm. I also exclusively used AI Servo, but mostly with zone AF, not point/expansion points. I'm still befuddled by the 1/4000 thing and appreciate you chiming in on your experience with far lower speeds being adequate with your 7D.
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natureshots

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #19 on: November 29, 2012, 08:15:06 PM »
1st take your camera off the tripod. This should make a massive difference in the motion blur. Most people have no problem shooting at 1/2000 if they are moving the camera fluidly with the birds. It is extremely hard to keep up with BIF with a ballhead. You are jerking the camera and that's what's causing the motion blur, not the birds. That's why the results are inconsistently blurry. Also, try pointing your shadow at the subject or shooting when it's cloudy. Backlit or side-lit subjects almost always come out crappy. I shoot shots like this but only for bird ID photos. The birds should be flying perpendicular and low for nice shots. I could keep on going for pages on how to shoot BIF but instead I would google Arthur Morris and there's another great website too that he moderates. I don't think I'm supposed to link to other sites. If I can I'll happily link the other sites but...

PackLight

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #20 on: November 29, 2012, 08:21:01 PM »
In the flock picture using all points would have focused on the closest birds only. If you use single point you could pick out a bird in center to track. But still with the rising flock picture you could have been stationary and focused on any area within the rise, even manually, as no single bird was the specific subject.

On single birds yes, a single point small focus area. I suggest reading the manual on AI servo mode as the response in this thread are only scratching the surface.

miah

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #21 on: November 29, 2012, 08:26:11 PM »
Thanks for the tip, canon816, it's a brand new camera, so I will check to see if there's an issue that might need warranty attention. That would be a real bummer if it did, but better to find out now.

Lnguyen1203: Your baseline information is extremely helpful and your osprey looks great at 1/2000. I have to figure out why slowly gliding sandhill cranes moving at a fraction of the speed of your hunting osprey required 2X the speed to stop...

natureshots: My tripod had a loose panning head--even worse--and I was jerking it around, trying as best I could to steady it, then fire when the birds flew into my FOV. Thanks for your input and references. The one comment I kept making to my wife as I got better and better at zeroing in on my settings was that my results were shockingly INCONSISTENT. This may have been, as you pointed out, due to the herky-jerky nature of that tripod!

Packlight: 10-4
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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #21 on: November 29, 2012, 08:26:11 PM »

natureshots

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #22 on: November 30, 2012, 02:54:19 PM »
Thanks for the tip, canon816, it's a brand new camera, so I will check to see if there's an issue that might need warranty attention. That would be a real bummer if it did, but better to find out now.

Lnguyen1203: Your baseline information is extremely helpful and your osprey looks great at 1/2000. I have to figure out why slowly gliding sandhill cranes moving at a fraction of the speed of your hunting osprey required 2X the speed to stop...

natureshots: My tripod had a loose panning head--even worse--and I was jerking it around, trying as best I could to steady it, then fire when the birds flew into my FOV. Thanks for your input and references. The one comment I kept making to my wife as I got better and better at zeroing in on my settings was that my results were shockingly INCONSISTENT. This may have been, as you pointed out, due to the herky-jerky nature of that tripod!

Packlight: 10-4
I can pretty much guarantee that's what's causing the problems. I am very happy handholding and generally this is the best technique for BIF. Some lenses are extremely heavy and hand holding is too difficult but your lens should not fall into that category. If it is definitely too heavy for you your best bet is getting a gimbal head (I recommend the wimberley WH-200). Most will prefer shooting by hand to a gimbal head if they can for BIF but gimbal heads are your second best bet. Gimbals still can be restrictive for birds too far over head or super fast movement but if you can pan more smoothly that will give you the best results. Natural handshake is invisible at 1/2000+ but that speed is still vulnerable to improper panning (i.e. from using a ball-head for BIF). People who pan well can generally get good shots at 1/1000, that is enough to freeze wing motion on larger birds and once your are accustomed to smooth panning you can experiment with slower shutter speeds. If you check those references you will get access to an incredible volume of advanced sharpness techniques. You could spend weeks reading on how to improve your photography. Also for correct exposure I recommend using evaluative metering and doing some experimenting with dialing in the right exposure compensation. This will definitely give you the most consistent and quickest results but has a slightly larger learning curve then other techniques. You will have to learn to evaluate sun position, bird highlights/shadows to get the right shot and this is what most pros use for BIF. If you shoot raw you will have the ability to adjust for the mistakes you make early on.

miah

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #23 on: November 30, 2012, 03:28:19 PM »
Thanks again, natureshots, your advice is very helpful.

I just ordered a new tripod and much better ball head. Perhaps I'll order a gimbal head too, but only after I see how well I do/don't do with handheld panning.

Do you have a preferred method of handholding for BIF? Is standing better than sitting, for instance, or the other way around? And how about Image Stabilization. My EF 35-350 doesn't have it and some BIF shooters say it's essential. Others say "turn it off even if you have it." Then there are the lenses, like my 70-300 DO, that have two IS modes, including one for panning. Any advice there?

I really appreciate your input. Thanks.
T3i • 10-22 • 15-85 • 70-300DO *** 5D3 • 35 f/2 • 50 f/1.8 • 24-105L • 100L • 70-300L • 35-350L • 400L f/5.6

miah

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #24 on: December 02, 2012, 03:45:02 PM »
After applying a little bit of everyone's advice, I took my 5D out this morning for a second attempt to nab a bird in flight. This marsh hawk was shot at 1/2000, hand-held, f/5.6, EC +1-1/3, ISO 1000, Tv, Spot metering, 350mm, 11:30 AM, center AF with 4 expansion points. Some of the sky was cropped out. Minimal contrast correction and sharpening were applied.

It's not razor sharp or perfectly lit, but it's a whole lot better than what I was getting before. I can tell this BIF-thing is going to be a lot of fun. Thanks again for everyone's input.
T3i • 10-22 • 15-85 • 70-300DO *** 5D3 • 35 f/2 • 50 f/1.8 • 24-105L • 100L • 70-300L • 35-350L • 400L f/5.6

Lnguyen1203

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #25 on: December 02, 2012, 04:33:36 PM »
Miah,  I think this is a very decent shot.  You had the eye in focus and sharp.  Congrats.
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natureshots

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #26 on: December 03, 2012, 04:49:14 PM »
Thanks again, natureshots, your advice is very helpful.

I just ordered a new tripod and much better ball head. Perhaps I'll order a gimbal head too, but only after I see how well I do/don't do with handheld panning.

Do you have a preferred method of handholding for BIF? Is standing better than sitting, for instance, or the other way around? And how about Image Stabilization. My EF 35-350 doesn't have it and some BIF shooters say it's essential. Others say "turn it off even if you have it." Then there are the lenses, like my 70-300 DO, that have two IS modes, including one for panning. Any advice there?

I really appreciate your input. Thanks.
I've heard IS adds to sharpness but not for 350mm.  Once you are a good deal past 500mm then IS becomes useful, otherwise you have the chance of losing shots while the IS readjusts to your pan. Some IS systems are better or worse when it comes to high speed pans. Experimentation is usually a good idea but at 350mm on a full frame I wouldn't waste my time messing around because I'm nearly positive you will get better results without IS. That being said I usually leave my IS on because every time I turn it off I forget to turn it back on when I return to shooting stationary subjects and I rarely have problems. 
When shooting BIF the second image mode is rarely useful unless you are panning in a perfect plane which is highly unlikely in real life. 
I stand usually because it is easier to crane my head around and adjust to unusual flight patterns unless I am concealing myself from the birds in a low position. When crouched or sitting I tend to have many more problems keeping up a good pan but its better than scaring off all the wildlife I spent 15 minutes trying to get close to.

Nazareth

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #27 on: December 04, 2012, 12:26:56 AM »
haven't read al lthe posts, matybe someoen sai this al;ready- but prefocus by focussing on objects i nthe general distance as the birds are flying- just roughly gauge it- then swing lens to the birds in flight, and it will locate and lock focus much quicker and more accurate with less lens hunting-

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Re: Birds in flight, advice wanted
« Reply #27 on: December 04, 2012, 12:26:56 AM »