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Old May 13, 2009, 5:08 PM   #1
conor
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Default Question for the Birders

I'll be spending a good portion of this long weekend at a friends property about 70 miles outside the city, plenty of opportunity to shoot some wildlife.

Assuming my Sigma 70-200 f2.8 arrives in time, does anyone have any suggestions, tips, tricks, etc for getting quality wildlife shots?

I'll be shooting on a D50 with a fairly decent Manfrotto tripod.
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Old May 14, 2009, 11:09 PM   #2
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Keep your finger on the trigger, birds are real fast sometimes. Also if they are within the branches feel free to use manual focus or at least refocus after the camera picks a branch it likes better.
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Old May 15, 2009, 12:20 AM   #3
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does anyone have any suggestions, tips, tricks, etc for getting quality wildlife shots?
Baiting is unethical and illegal for hunting, but not too many people object to photographers being creative with a little bird seed etc to attract wildlife.

Seriously, learn the feeding etc habits of your targets. Animals are almost always the most active while they are feeding or searching for food. Early morning (6AM to 8-9AM) is usually the best time for a large variety of animals who will tend to hide in the shade during the heat of the day. Yet some cold blooded animals might be more active in the late afternoon during the Spring and early Summer.

Mating seasons are important. Males tend to exhibit their finest (feathers, fur, antlers) at the beginning of the mating season.

Migration patterns. I have Canadian Geese flying through twice a year. But they are only here for a couple days. Others are lucky to have Geese, ducks etc hang around for a week or even a month during their annual migration.

Watering holes, clearings etc are important. Shooting large animals (deer etc) as they exit the woods through a clearing often provide great shots. Of course if you are standing in the middle of the clearing seldom will you be successful.


Oh, and regardless of the actual hunting season, if you are traversing woods and wilds where somebody might be using a real weapon in the hunt of the animals, I strongly suggest wearing appropriate garments (hunter orange etc) to keep you from becoming a victim. And if bears are hanging around, take bear precautions.... shooting a bear is cool, running from a bear is not.
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Old May 15, 2009, 1:19 AM   #4
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I'm actually pretty lucky: we get a lot of plain birds here (I've already seen a few woodpeckers, sparrows, chickadees, etc) in my backyard (in the city). my neighbour and I have lots of trees and there are birdfeeders.

The place i'll be is the "target location" for most migratory water animals (ducks, geese, etc), and there should be a pretty big selection of forest birds around.

I'm mostly wondering if anyone has any tips for getting good frames once I see them.
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Old May 15, 2009, 8:05 AM   #5
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The key is going to be getting close. It's very difficult to shoot wildlife with only 200mm. You can't crop your way to quality. Stick to the larger birds (small birds you'd needto be within about 5 feet to get with 200mm). 400mm is usually a good starting point for birding and the smaller your subjects the more you need longer than 400mm. A good rule of thumb - if your subject isn't filling 1/3 of the frame you're too far away.
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Old May 15, 2009, 9:00 AM   #6
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JohnG has it right about getting close - unless you are shooting only for low resolution web where you can do some serious cropping. For that reason a city park is a better place to shoot than the countryside: the critters are used to people so it is much easier to get close.

If your aim is to sit in the woods as much as to get a photo, I'd suggest checking out a few hunting books from your local library. Many of the same points apply: steady hand, get close, learn about the critter, ...
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Old May 15, 2009, 12:19 PM   #7
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The key is going to be getting close. It's very difficult to shoot wildlife with only 200mm. You can't crop your way to quality. Stick to the larger birds (small birds you'd needto be within about 5 feet to get with 200mm). 400mm is usually a good starting point for birding and the smaller your subjects the more you need longer than 400mm. A good rule of thumb - if your subject isn't filling 1/3 of the frame you're too far away.
So, if I have f2.8 at 200mm, would it be a reasonable idea to at some point invest in a 2x TC (giving me 35mm equivalent of 600mm) at f5.6? or should i instead save my pennies for a longer telephoto?

Edit: Also, my deck is about 12 feet from my neighbour's bird feeder, the birds dont seem to mind me standing at the edge with a camera, so i'm pretty sure i can get some decent shots of them... they're just the same birds over and over though, so far, sparrows and chickadees. i might get lucky and see a finch on it this summer, i bought some really good mixed bird seed to see if i can bait them over.... I guess the only problem is the 5 pound squirrels that hang around (maybe not quite 5 pounds, but one of them does compete with one of my cats)

Last edited by conor; May 15, 2009 at 12:26 PM.
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Old May 15, 2009, 12:24 PM   #8
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So, if I have f2.8 at 200mm, would it be a reasonable idea to at some point invest in a 2x TC (giving me 35mm equivalent of 600mm) at f5.6? or should i instead save my pennies for a longer telephoto?
2xTC isn't a great solution. It's OK if you're not doing a lot of birding. But if you are going to, then a 400mm 5.6 prime will produce much better results than the 70-200 plus 2x TC.

The Canon 100-400L is the lens I use (I'm not a huge birder) and I like it because it's light and the zoom gives me flexibility. And it's one of the few lenses I see benefit to having IS on. The Bigma (sigma 50-500) is quite popular - gives you more reach but it's heavier. For BIF though, most Canon users that have used bot prefer the 400mm 5.6 prime over the 100-400 - seems to focus quicker.
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Old May 15, 2009, 12:34 PM   #9
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JohnG has it right about getting close - unless you are shooting only for low resolution web where you can do some serious cropping. For that reason a city park is a better place to shoot than the countryside: the critters are used to people so it is much easier to get close.
This is cottage country though, a lot of the wildlife will be reasonably used to people, to showing up for scraps, to being fed, to having human noise, etc. I doubt I'll get within 5 feet, but I'm relatively sure I'll get within 20 feet.

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2xTC isn't a great solution. It's OK if you're not doing a lot of birding. But if you are going to, then a 400mm 5.6 prime will produce much better results than the 70-200 plus 2x TC.
I don't expect to do much; and the 70-200 f2.8 was not chosen for its wildlife shooting ability, I simply wanted a longer lens for evening or high motion. My thought was I'd take the few opportunities I get to give it a go, and see if I can't get some reasonable results
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Old May 15, 2009, 8:46 PM   #10
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I guess the only problem is the 5 pound squirrels that hang around (maybe not quite 5 pounds, but one of them does compete with one of my cats)




Squirrels only fear natural predators. Wolf pee does fine job of discouraging squirrels. My local farm supply store sells a synthetic Tiger pee that drives away pretty much any 4 legged varmit.

Another source for squirrel solutions:


http://squirrel-x.com/index.htm

The squirrel x site is a good read for anybody that is trying to attract (bait) birds and needs help discouraging squirrels.
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