BiF Shooting Techniques

DXV_PhotoDXV_Photo Posts: 158Member
edited January 2013 in General Discussions
I haven't shot birds before and this Saturday I will being going to an event in East Texas (Emery Eaglefest) to shoot Eagles. The event will have trained birds you will be able to get close to as well as bus (75 people per bus) and boat (6 people per boat with 4 boats on water) tours. They have already said monopods are allowed on the boat and we can bring tripods on the bus tours. I don't see tripods being to helpful on the bus tour with 75 people getting off probably scarring away most of the birds so I am going to assume monopod is the best I am going to be able to do with probably going to have to shoot handheld some. I did some searching on the internet for techniques and of course I found sites that support anything you want to believe. Some say shoot full manual and single point focus to almost any mode except full auto. Some say to maintain focus throughout the birds flight while other say only adjust focus in steps throughout the birds flight to keep your focus from jumping to the background. So, I come to you'll on how to best start shooting birds.

Equipment will be D90 with Nikkor 24-120 F4, Nikkor 70-300 VR and Tamron 200-500. My initial thinking is shot spot meter, auto ISO in Shutter Priority to best control shutter speed for the bird I am shooting. AF I thought would be 3D tracking but read some recommend single point using the center cross hairs, thought??
Post edited by DXV_Photo on

Comments

  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    I shoot manual, auto ISO, spot meter, single point continuous servo, nine point focus area...with a D4. On my D90, the same, but making certain I do not exceed 1600 ISO.

    Your point about all the people giving the birds cause to flee sounds valid. The trained birds....I would be shooting from a boat in active VR, and at 1/500th at f/8-11 if lighting permits.
    Msmoto, mod
  • DXV_PhotoDXV_Photo Posts: 158Member
    edited January 2013
    Weather should be good. They are calling for Sunny and 60.

    So my goal is to maintain F8-11 as long as I can keep my shutter above 500?

    I'm still not certain on shooting from the boat and will have to see how I feel on that day. 15 years ago I suffered some damage to my middle ear that affects my equilibrium. For example I took a ferry to Atlantic City over calm waters and it just about killed me. I took some Dramamine which helped but I still felt horrible the entire trip. If I felt that bad being on a big boat I would hate to see what a small boat would do to me. That was a number of years ago and maybe things could be different now, not sure.
    Post edited by DXV_Photo on
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    edited January 2013
    Next time I would use a ferry instead of a fairy. Last time I flew on a fairy I got sick too... :-)

    Hey no fair, you edited it...

    Sometimes the slow motion of a big boat is worse for inner-ear stuff than the tossing of a small craft. Sometimes. Try to keep your eyes on the horizon and take the dramamine before getting on the boat.
    Post edited by Ironheart on
  • DXV_PhotoDXV_Photo Posts: 158Member
    edited January 2013
    Next time I would use a ferry instead of a fairy. Last time I flew on a fairy I got sick too... :-)
    :))

    damn auto correct. :-\"
    Post edited by DXV_Photo on
  • BlinkingeyeBlinkingeye Posts: 21Member
    My technique is a fast 300mm or 400mm lens on a monopod.

    If the idea is that the subject matter is the bird then I shoot almost always in Aperture Priority because to me it is more important to isolate the bird from the background than to let the camera choose an aperture that would be too small (a size) giving too much DOF. I also, monitor shutter speed to keep it above 1/1000 sec to stop all action. If I want a little motion then I will let the shutter speed drop to 1/640 sec. Another reason I do this is because I want to pick the ISO (to keep it as low as possible), not let the camera do it. I change ISO to keep the shutter speed where I want it.

    In other cases, I shoot Manual depending on location. The light in he swamps, here in south Florida is so variable (water reflection, dark vegetation behind a white Ibis for examples) that Manual is the way to go for the best exposure.

    For these cases, spot metering is the way to go.

    If the idea is more of an environmental portrait, where the critter is part of the greater composition, then I will shoot manual or shutter priority with more of a matrix focus protocol.

    One more point. I almost always EV bias -0.3 to -1.0 to hold feather detail because of ambient brightness. There is nothing worse than blown feather detail on a heron, ibis or egret so I hold back the highlights and fix in ACR at post, as I batch.

    I hope this helps. Good luck. Peace.
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    @Ironheart LoL! Don't worry buddy, while I'm around you have plenty of ammo to hit me up with. David has nothing on me. :P

    @David. Msmoto said it all. Try to limit yourself to just two lenses...take the 24-120 and the big 200-500.
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited January 2013
    remove this plz.
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 3,973Member
    edited January 2013
    Tripod with a gimbal head works best for BIF, as the gimbal keeps the camera steady, making it much easier to track the subject. Hand holding is extremely hard, with anything other than a consumer zooms.

    As for metering, I use center weighted, if you miss the bird even slightly with spot metering it's going to be way off. Shutter speeds 1/640s or faster is ideal.
    Post edited by PB_PM on
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • DenverShooterDenverShooter Posts: 340Member
    Last time I was shooting BIF I was running 1/2000 F/5.6 ISO 280 with my D4 and the Nikon 70-200mm F/2.8 (180mm) inside an aviary at about 33 foot distance with a Harris Hawk.
  • DXV_PhotoDXV_Photo Posts: 158Member
    Thanks for the tips everybody. Now I just need to find some birds to get some practice in before this weekend.
  • cbgcbg Posts: 126Member
    I'm using a D7000, with a Sigma 150-500 for BIF and generally use shutter priority at 1/000, auto ISO, with -1/3 EV, continous focus. I also remapped the AE/AL button to Focus. I fond that separating the shutter and focus gives me more control and more keepers.
  • DXV_PhotoDXV_Photo Posts: 158Member
    Just wanted to thank everybody for the tips. Went out practicing today and bagged my first bird. Let me know what you think? It was very very far way and moving fast. :-)









    DSC_4881.jpg


    Ok, I posted the real pic on PAD. Had a hell of a lot of fun chasing birds.
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 0
    edited January 2013
    Anothersimple tip. Birds has a daily agenda, wake up early, eat always at the same time and always come back at the same spot. You can take advantage of that. Second, when you want to take seaguls, go to the beach when there is wind (and blue sky). Those days you get a lot of time, because they hoover in front of you. In short, learn there habbits.
    Post edited by [Deleted User] on
    Those who say it can't be done, should not interrupt those doing it!
  • DXV_PhotoDXV_Photo Posts: 158Member
    Anothersimple tip. Birds has a daily agenda, wake up early, eat always at the same time and always come back at the same spot. You can take advantage of that. Second, when you want to take seaguls, go to the beach when there is wind (and blue sky). Those days you get a lot of time, because they hoover in front of you. In short, learn there habbits.

    Thanks Ton. The seagulls where just a bird of opportunity so that I could understand the difficulties of tracking a bird in flight. Unfortunately, living in Dallas I am no where close to the beach. I need to find out what types of interesting birds live in my area and where I can find them.
  • Parke1953Parke1953 Posts: 455Member
    DXV_photo there are lakes, ponds in and around Dallas. Spend the day at one. Water = birds.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    edited January 2013
    @ DXV_Photo

    A note about the "Big" birds. If you shoot near an airport, contact airport security and let them know you are there. Even off the property, if you shoot incoming aircraft the pilot may report you to the tower. And in almost all cases if one has a long lens on a tripod, you will get a visit. They really cannot do anything, but if they have any suspicions about your intentions, the situation can escalate. By contacting security and providing full disclosure of who you are, this is eliminated.

    As in http://www.flickr.com/photos/fantinesfotos/8096472967/in/photostream/lightbox/
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • CoastalconnCoastalconn Posts: 527Member
    I know the Tammy 200-500 very well 30k shots with it in the past year.. Some on a d90, most on a d300. With faster moving birds 1/500th is not fast enough. I generally shoot in aperture with auto iso set to 1/2000 and max iso at 400 in good light, higher as needed, but knowing i wont be able to crop much once i his iso 800. I often shoot it wide open but will stop down to f8 if there is a lot if light. The Tammy is light enough to easily shoot without a pod, I do it all the time. Eagles are tough to get exposed properly because the big white head tends to blow highlights. I switch between spot and matrix especially dependent on the angle of the sun. If you look through my Flickr I think exif is all there including metering mode. I have many eagle shots lately, but I am still trying to get closer. http://www.flickr.com/photos/coastalconn
  • DXV_PhotoDXV_Photo Posts: 158Member
    @Parke1953, I got a lake close to me so will have stop by some evening and see what I can find. Can't do morning during the week since I have to be at work at 6AM. I got those pics of the seagulls yesterday between 4:30-5:30. Is that a good time to look for birds in the evening? The sun sets around here at 5:30 this time of year.

    @Msmoto, I thought about that after I took the picture but really didn't think that picture would come out. The plane was practically a speck in the sky and it's really amazing I was still able to get that much resolution on it. I was at a park 40 miles from the airport but was wondering if a cop would of said something if he saw me.

    @Coastalconn, Thanks for the tip. The duck where giving me hell yesterday. Those suckers are FAST.
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 3,973Member
    The smaller the bird the harder it will be the for the camera to track. Tracking ability is also greatly reduced when the subject is moving away or towards you. Subjects that are parallel to the camera seem to be the easiest for AF to keep up with.
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    @ DXV_Photo

    These aircraft are 40 miles from the camera...

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/fantinesfotos/7004879194/in/photostream/lightbox/
    Msmoto, mod
  • CoastalconnCoastalconn Posts: 527Member
    Don't forget to practice panning. Duck are wicked fast! I was really lucky to catch this one at 1/400th http://www.flickr.com/photos/coastalconn/8377308173/in/photostream/lightbox/ Remember a bird at 50 MPH travels about 73 feet per second so in 1/500 it is traveling 1 3/4 inches and the closer it is the more that movement is emphasized...
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