I am curious as to what type of camera gear people are using. I first bought my camera over a year ago. I got a good deal on a Canon Rebel T1i. I have yet to read my instruction manual! Maybe I will do that on my winter break. The lens I bought was a 50-250mm IS Canon lens. It was the cheapest lens with IS and a decent zoom. I have a 18-55mm lens as well which came with the body of the camera. I find it works pretty good for landscape shots. I would love to improve my lens but that will have to wait.
I use a Nikon D90 with a Nikon 80-400mm zoom. My experience is that There is little difference in quality between the major brands (Nikon, Canon etc), and some of the generic lenses such as Tamron and Sigma can be as sharp as the main brands. The differences seem to be in the various options. The equipment you are using is capable of producing great images.
That being said, I find through 40 years of experience in other areas of photography, animals, flowers and landscapes, the sihgle most important factor that will result in the greatest improvement in your images is a not the choice of camera body, fastness of the lens or how powerful it can magnify, IS etc, is a good tripod. Although I am new to bird photography (started in ernest last July), I find the same statement applies here as well.
Why a tripod is so important will make a good discussion in this forum.
Don't let the lack of tripod make you leave your camera at home. Take it with you and take as many photos as you can. Have fun, that is the main thing. With digital cameras, we can delete the mistakes without a problem. The most important thing about birding with a camera is to enjoy yourself.
How true! While a tripod will make a difference in many situations, Joanne's comment is most important. Getting out there, getting in touch with nature, the health and mind benefits, sharing your experiences with someone are without any doubt, the most important factors here. Photography without the above leaves an empty void.
Bruce and Joanne are truly inspirational to me. Their photographs (taken without a tripod) are amazing, and yes - SHARP! But their enjoymant of taking walks together dominate all other factors. Absolutely, don't avoid taking pictures if you do not have a tripod ! That being said, we can still comment on the benefits of using a tripod, and tips for purchasing one - maybe someday. All of that discussion will not diminish in any way the choice not to use one, but merely present another option, just as the choice of camera or binoculars is just that - an option. Both are great!
Last Edit: Dec 15, 2010 14:37:15 GMT -8 by kenpossum
Ken; You are far too generous with your compliments, you should see the thousands of photos that we delete. Using a tripod has a definite advantage because you get more photos that are sharp than are not but we find the tripod constricting, especially when the bird isn't waiting for us to set one up. ;-) There is a way to modify your post if you make a typo, look to the right of your post at the top. :-)
Thanks Joanne, but no. Credit where it is due, and you just have too many fabulous images to downplay what you do and how you do it. My suggestion will always be to do what you are comfortable with. I will be addressing the cumbersome factors of uncooperative, hard to use tripods in the future. Some are just awful, and I am surprised that anyone uses them! Even birds in motion can be a breeze with the right equipment and technique.
Here'a a thought. Oct 4, I bought a new hunking lens. Not as hunking as some of you have, but it was a step-up for me. Well, today while preparing to photograph 5 eagles on a tree, I dropped it. Bust it up really good! Two hours later, I had a new replacement, made possible by the 90 day buyers insurance coverage on my Mastercard. I paid a little more for this feature, and have never used it, but ... that is what insurance is for, isn't it. I did call Mastercard and the insurance company that handles their policies and claims. All the paperwork is not yet complete, but they told me, "No problem, just complete all the forms." (I hope and trust that will be the case.) Anyone else out there been through this experience? Tonight - I sleep with my new baby next to me.
Here is a little tip to pass on, particularily before your family has bought all your Christmas presents, and you will be forced to buy it yourself. I always had a problem viewing the image on the back of my digital camera in outdoor bright light. It was easy to be off my exposures a little, and when photographing a bride's white dress, or a mallard's butt, a little 'off' is not good if the highlights have washed out leaving no detail. I have the hystogram, sure, but I wanted someting better, as hystograms can give a lot of 'false alarms'. The answer for me is the Hoodloupe 3.0 by Hoodman. Google it as it is easy to find. This little baby really works, and I use it so often that I bought a spare - just in case. Price - $79.99 on the net, but Lens and Shutter in Abby stock them as well. Say you are in this group, and that I sent you and they may bow to a 10% discount. When you get it, take a needle and thread and re-enforce all the areas where the strap may pull apart out of the metal cinch, as they do self-destruct if you don't fix the problem beforehand. (Bruce and Joanne - I guess you will just have to buy for each other lol)
(I had this in the wrong area of the forum. Sorry)
When I first started in photography, I had a tripod, but never used it. I thought my slides were sharp even when I viewed them on a screen. That is until, I accompanied one of Canada's formost nature photographers on an outing, and he insisted that I bring my tripod or don''t bother coming. Reluctantly, I did, and I cursed that darn hunk of metal all day. I hated that tripod!
Later, when I looked at the slides taken that day on the big screen, I was astounded by the sharpness! My older slides simply could not compare. Long story short, I threw out about 75% of my slide library and began shooting anew - with a tripod.
The same applies today to digital images. What may appear sharp on your 72 dpi computer screen often falls apart when your image is printed or appears on a big screen. As a photography competition judge, I see this all the time.
Getting back to the tripod I was using - that hunk of junk. If your tripod is user unfriendly, you will not use it. 100% guaranteed. The trick is to find a tripod that is light, sturdy, easy to use, and affordable.
Most of the professionals and serious amateurs I know use the Manfrotto line of tripods. They are not cheap, but not the most expensive either. (They do make great Christmas, anniversary and birthday presents, hint, hint.)
The 055 legs can be extended independently and quickly. Screw leg extentions are very slow, and the threads can be easily stripped. (What eventually happened to my old clunker). Most of the tripods whose legs are held together by a triangular brace are video and studio tripods, never designed or meant for still photography in the field.
Most important, the Manfrotto has a series of heads that can be ordered independently. For my equipment, I use a heavy duty ball head of with a hexigonal design quick release. Be careful to always check to make sure the lens or camear body is securely attached ti the quick release before taking your hands away. I made that mistake last week and the lens fell to the ground, smashing it up. (Ouch)
Tighten the ball head so that you can just move it, and when you take your hands away, your camera and lens stays put. The ease of using a ball head comes with practice, but is quickly mastered. Adjusting from horizontal to vertical becomes a breeze. Even panning birds in flight can be done quickly, and usually with better results than with IS. IS corrects for motion in one direction only ie up and down but can not handle other directions at the same time.
I use a Nikon D60 with two lenses, an 18-135 and a Sigma 150-500 F5-6.3 These lenses aren’t cheap, but not super expensive either. The Sigma is by far the best lens for the money. Canon or Nikon would easily be double the price.
I often use the 500 without a tripod, the image stabilization is amazing. But for birdfeeder shots, I always use a tripod and a small mirror. The mirror is used to reflect the beam from my wireless trigger. I think it's ridiculous that Nikon made the wireless trigger in a way that only works when the beam comes in from the front.
One of my favorite pieces of equipment is Photoshop. This program allows me to shoot using RAW images. This is a huge bonus. RAW images have an amazing ability to enhance poor photos. What it primarily does, is to greatly increase the range of exposure captured in the file. This means that you can bring out all the shades of blue in a snowman and all the shades of black in that dark suit you wore to the Christmas party. Photoshop and RAW double the usable range of colors and contrast in your photography.
I've heard that the 150-500mm Sigma lens is very sharp as well, and the price is a plus. I also use a Sigma 10-20mm for landscapes, and it is one of my favourite lenses. Very sharp and reasonable price.
I shoot in jpg/RAW combo but had difficulty getting Photoshop 7 to work with my RAW images. My main use is to pack more pixels into my reframed / enlarged images for later printing.
My camera has the capability to shoot in raw and jpeg simultaneously also but I can't figure out a reason to do it. I can understand that I don't have to convert to jpeg if I want to compress a raw image and maybe save a step in post processing but doesn't downloading 2 files put a burden on the computer storage and download times? Why do you use both formats?
I just read your topic on credit card insurance (a little late). I purchased a 50mm Canon lens on Visa last August and dropped it. The camera store said to look up Canon on line and get an okay to repair which probably would have been over the $135 purchase price. I was talking to my wife as I was online and she suggested the Visa insurance. Within the day I had the okay to return it to Canon for a repair quote and an authorization from Visa to get the quote. Three weeks later I had my money and Canon returned the lens. They couldn't repair it but sent it back all in one piece and believe it or not it is still usable for manual focusing.
Yes, I shoot in the RAW/ JPeg format. If all factors are perfect, a high res jpeg image is just fine. Anything over 3 megs will equal an 8x10 print made from film, so there is often a mpix overkill . I am aware that in RAW, a number of sins (over/ under exposure, colour cast etc) can be improved using post production. For these problems I find very good results with a high res jpeg and photoshop as well, but for regaining detail in the highlights, and reducing noise, RAW is better. Years ago, Ansel Adams told me to strive for the best possible negative rather than striving to fix a poor one in the darkroom. Good advice. If you use proper shooting technique, the need for photoshopping a RAW image is reduced. Old school, I know.
RAW is also a memory sucker and twice in the last two weeks, I have completely filled my hard drive to capacity. (Thank God for external terrabit drives). Most photography applications do not require RAW to achieve quality results. Grizzlies and birds are my two main exceptions, and the reason that I shoot RAW. I often have to digitally zoom my bird as I reframe and the problems of not enough pixels and noise come into play. RAW helps to solve this problem.
So, RAW is there when I need it, otherwise a high res jpeg will be just fine. For my nature work, I often don't know in advance which option I will need, so it's good insurance to have both. With mo other photographic activities, I average taking 2,000 - 6,000 images a month so taking everything on RAW just isn't practical - storage and post-processing time-wise.
Last Edit: Dec 16, 2010 13:16:26 GMT -8 by kenpossum