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Old Jan 25, 2005, 6:31 AM   #1
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Hi



I am going to Alaska in June on my Honeymoon (I live in Scotland so I am used to cold weather) and we are renting an RV and spending 2 weeks touring. Although my Bride to be loves scenery I am very keen on wildlife.

I have a Konica Minolta Z3 & a Casio Ex-Z55 but not much experience in shooting wildlife andI would like to get the best images possible, any advice, tips or tricks would be great.

ps I am still relatively new at photgraphy and still learning whatshutter speeds& ISO etc... actually do and how to use them efficiently



Cheers
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Old Jan 25, 2005, 7:55 AM   #2
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I have found shooting wildlife requires shooting many times at full zoom. If you are going to be shooting without a tripod, I recommend using a shutter speed of at least 1/200 if you have image stabilization. If not, then you want to have it 1/what ever focul length you are using (ie. 1/300 at 300mm equivalent). Depending on how bright it is outside, this may require you to set your iso to 100 or 200. If you get some noise, software can remove it pretty well.

One other thing I am finding helpful, is to us the smallest aperature possible (higher aperature number ie. F8) in order to get the most depth of field possible to ensure the desired object is in complete focus. Some times at F2.8, depending on how close you are, you only get part of what you are shooting in focus. Of course, this too, is limited by how much light is available.

I guess it is a good idea to pray for sunny to partly sunny days as having enough light can make all the difference in the world how the shots come out (especially when you have very limited iso options).

Have fun.
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Old Jan 25, 2005, 8:47 AM   #3
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Oh, my. This is could be a very long answer.
First, see if you library has any books by John Shaw. He is one of the best general nature photographers out there. Read them. If they don't (and most don't) do some research in some big local bookstores and buy one. He writes some on the business of photography, others on the doing. You wouldn't go wrong just buying some mail order, but it might be better to learn a bit about the books first.

Don't worry that most nature photography books talk about film cameras. Apertures and shutter speeds are exactly the same, technique is the same… it all basically applies. The only few differences are that most digital cameras are less forgiving than film with bright spots. You blow them out faster & easier. So you have to be more careful than with film. Also, with film you pick a film speed and you're done (including pushing it) but with digital ISO is a tool that you can use to your advantage.

Learn your camera. Often, when the wild animal presents its self you'll have very little time to get the shot. Know where every button and knob is and how to use it without looking. Keep your camera with you all the time so you're ready.

Your vehicle is a very good place to hide and take pictures from. Be aware of blocking traffic and such, but use your RV to your advantage. If you were renting a car (which you're not) I'd say get something with a sunroof. I photograph out of them on occasion and they work well. Often leaving your car will instantly drive away the animal. On the other hand, the shake of the RV motor will ruin pictures. Where possible, turn off the motor.

Your Z3 has a good long telephoto (35mm equivalent to 420mm) so take advantage of this. Unfortunately it has a max shutter speed of 1/1000. You really would like more than that. The max aperture is f4.5 at the long end. That isn't bad at all, actually. I successfully shot wild animals at 400mm f5.6 for almost a year. (I used a higher ISO that you will be able too, though.)

Speaking of ISO, take some pictures at every ISO setting the camera has (50 / 100 / 200 / 400) and look at the results. Decide what has acceptable quality and what is too noisy. That will directly effect what shutter speed you'll get. If ISO400 is too noisy for you (I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised) that will limit you some. That is one of the things you get with more expensive cameras… higher ISO values with less noise.

Learn to brace your self against things. Trees, the window, a wall. Anything. Also, practice taking pictures without anything to lean on. Yes, doing it properly take practice. Keep your arms in against your torso, spread your feet slightly apart, one hand under the camera the other on the side, press the camera slightly against your face. You might want to invest in a monopod (a tripod is even better, but they are slower.) Yes, you have anti-shake technology in the camera. Don't depend on it! Let it save you when you make a mistake. It can either be a tool or a crutch… use it as a tool.

Learn to watch the animal and detect their mood. Are they ignoring you? Are they alert but ok? Are they scared or disturbed? This will help you know if you can get close, should stop, or just leave. This is different for every animal, so I can't really give you tips... but it's often just common sense.

I hope that helps.

Eric
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Old Jan 26, 2005, 4:42 AM   #4
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Thanks for the advise guys

I think for the next cuople of monthsI am going to go out and practice as advised, and take all different shots to find out what works best trying the setting you advised.



Cheers

And thanks again
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Old Jan 26, 2005, 6:47 AM   #5
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eric s wrote:
Quote:
...
Learn to brace your self against things. Trees, the window, a wall. Anything. Also, practice taking pictures without anything to lean on. Yes, doing it properly take practice. Keep your arms in against your torso, spread your feet slightly apart, one hand under the camera the other on the side, press the camera slightly against your face. ....
All good points. In addition, I'd suggest doing some reading on archery/shooting. The basic techniques for holding still while shooting with a camera are much the same for a bow and a gun. And there is more stuff on those. Also a good topic for pub conversation.
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Old Jan 26, 2005, 7:52 AM   #6
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I noticed that you didn't comment on things like power and disk space. Even though you'll be in the RV, you will still want an extra battery to carry around in the field. And extra memory cards.

I assume you are bringing a laptop computer or something that you can download your images to.

Eric
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Old Jan 27, 2005, 2:51 AM   #7
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With regard to power I have rechargeable batterys & spares thatI can charge up (I presume the RV will have power sockets), as for disk space i have plenty memory cards also a 40gig Ipod with a card reader so I can store all my pics on there and sort out back home.


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Old Jan 27, 2005, 8:12 AM   #8
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Yes, the IPod should do well for that.
The thing you have to watch out for filling it up with music for the trip as well.

Just make sure you're comfortable with using it that way. I've never even held one, so I'm talking from ignorance... just be sure you know how to get the images in and out when you need too.

Eric
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Old Jan 27, 2005, 6:13 PM   #9
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Yes, most RV have power sockets, but they will be either the US/Canada standard 3-prong 120Volt sockets or 12V jacks. Some have one, the other or both.

Since you are coming from Scotland, don't forget to bring the appropriate power converters / adapters for your equipment to work on North American power.:!:

Peter.
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Old Jan 28, 2005, 3:02 PM   #10
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Scotty,

The website below is of a photographer in Carcross, Yukon Territory, not far from Skagway. He is extremely helpful on the cruisecritic.com Alaska board. He has a great milepost guide for that area for photo and scenic viewing.

http://www.explorenorth.com/


Another site with more of his photos is http://carcross,yukon.com


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