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Old Dec 28, 2005, 9:44 AM   #1
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Shaun Geraghty's Avatar
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I've never managed to successfully photograph any small garden birds with my S2IS. I've tried inauto, manual, and shutter speed priority, but they always come out blurred. I know its difficult to take small birds as they are always moving, so try to set a fast shutter speed. However when I set a fast shutter speed I lose all my light.

For example, the lowest F No I can get is F3.5, and the fastest shutter speed I can achieve at ISO100 at that setting. while retaining enough light, is 1/30th.

Have any other S2 users any tips on what I should be doing differently?

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Old Dec 30, 2005, 5:36 AM   #2
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I've tried to take natural light images of birds at the Karori Bird Sanctuary ( http://www.sanctuary.org.nz/story/ ).

I set the maximum shutter speed in TV mode with Safety-Shift on, then set exposure compresation to underexpose by 1/3 or more steps, set the ISO to 100 or 200, set auto-focus to shoot-only, and set the camera to do multiple exposures at the highest rate. This is all saved as the C-mode. Recently I've begun to experiment with AV mode so when the light is good enough I can try for f/4.0 which seems to result in a better image. Underexposing introduces more noise - so I normally default to -1/3, but often change to 2/3 or even more if I need to push up the speed - what to set also depends on the colour of bird.

Because the camera is left to override the settings, many shots wind up at quite slow speeds - e.g. 1/8 sec. General I take 100 to 200 shots in a day and on a good day maybe 5 are worth having. Even these are likely to need some contrast/brightness and sharpening adjustments. Noise is also a big problem in low light - the only solution seems to be flash. Exposures are generally 1/20 sec to 1/125 sec under the canopy, and 1/160 sec and above in the open at full zoom - in sunlight, shutter speed isn't normally a problem.

Feeders/food-sources are probably the biggest factor for getting a shot. Birds often gather and sit still at feeders. The feeders often look unnatural - so I look for feeders that have surrounding natural looking perches. A feeder in the sun is the best prospect for a good exposure.

I tend to confine my photographic visits to the sanctuary to sunny days, preferably with no wind.

Some kinds of birds are easier to target - eg the New Zealand North Island Robin tends to follow after walkers because walkers disturb insects. The Robins often sit still watching for insects.

Flash helps - the birds here don't seem worried by it - but I prefer the look of natural light.

Other suggestions I've seen: setup a feeder in the back yard and put some natural looking perches to the side of the feeder; one guy fixed a walnut to a tree where he wanted a woodpecker to pose; our lawn is full of weeds - which brings in Redpolls.

Subject: North Island Robin under forest canopy
Exposure time: 1/8th of a second (hand held!)
Zoom: 376
Aperture: f/3.5
Size: 2592x1944 (reduced to 1/4 size here)

This image looks pretty good at half-size on a 1280x1024 screen - but its not so good at full size because the bird moved it's head a bit, applying an unsharp-mask helps with this a bit. In this 1/4 copy I just adjusted the brightness and contrast - so you're seeing it pretty much out of the camera. This exposure was exceptionally slow - I was very lucky - but it shows just how good the IS must be.

I've recently found out that dragonflies and lizards can be much easier than birds: both sit still for long periods; and the S2's zoom magnifies them well (without macro from about 0.5 metres).

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