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Old Apr 20, 2009, 1:36 PM   #1
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Hi Everyone,

I thought I would go back through some of my images in 2007, since I had some down time. Every now and then I find a little gem that I overlooked and/or dismissed. I came across 20 some odd hummingbird images that I took just after a heavy downpour late in the evening. The skies cleared approx. 40 minutes later, but only 5-10 minutes of decent light remained before sunset. With a tall task ahead of me, I quickly did a meter on the camera in AV mode. Then I changed the camera settings to M mode, and dialed in my changes for what I wanted.

So why even attempt this? Simply to prove that I could succeed. Of course, understanding light and solid technique is VERY important if you wish to come away with some success in this situation. The greater majority of people would have walked away from this situation when trying to use ISO 200 on a fast moving subject. Obviously the cameras that can shoot very high ISO's with minimal noise would have been the best choice. Faced with those conditions, most would forgo trying to shoot in this situation if higher ISO's were not an option.

What shocked me: in almost all instances, I broke one or even many rules taking these images. The most obvious is the shutter speeds that is almost universally recommended by experienced hummingbird photographers. Normally you would see 1/750 or 1/1000 sec. shutter speed as a minimum. Several people on a forum were in utter disbelief when I informed them (or they checked the EXIF) that I regularly photographed these aerial acrobats at 1/500 sec. I do this shutter speed in M mode for a specific reason: so that I control the image, not the camera.

Rules broken:

  1. Minimum shutter speeds recommended for a fast moving subject (in order to have a crisp image, not blurred artistic), as was the focal length used (300mm). It easily exceeded the reciprocal shutter speed. [/*]
  2. EV value at -2 (ie. not exposing to the right):shock: [/*]
  3. Kept ISO low during very low light conditions. [/*]
Images - taken with the K10D + FA* 300/2.8, cropping around 50% of image (1/90 sec.):


Link to EXIF: http://www.marclangille.com/photos/n...ImageKey=YhxWM

Taken at 1/60 sec.:



Link to EXIF: http://www.marclangille.com/photos/n...ImageKey=3VVQa


These are obviously not magazine material images, so please bear that in mind. Given the shutter speeds involved, I am very pleased with the clarity. I came away with nearly a 50% success rate - several were slightly soft (OOF) due to the aperture used and corresponding DOF. It can be done!!

Regards,
Marc
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Old Apr 20, 2009, 4:10 PM   #2
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Hi Marc,

Pretty amazing indeed. I'm primarily a birder, and shoot mostly perching birds. I've settled on 1/100 sec as about the lowest shutter speed I can get away with to get a reasonable possibility of some crisp shots. This is up to 500mm handheld with SR, or tripod mounted without SR up to 714mm. I have gotten some lucky shots as slow as 1/60, but the percentage goes way down when I have to go under 1/100.

I like seeing posts where people push the "rules" of photography. Digital is perfect for this kind of experimentation, as one can see almost immediately where one stands by chimping some of the first shots.

One ? tho -- did you purposely go to -2 Ev comp to get a little faster shutter speed on these shots, knowing that you could push the exposure in PP?

Thanks for posting these here with some explanation. It'll keep my mind open to more possibilities if I encounter some HBs in the future.

Scott
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Old Apr 20, 2009, 4:58 PM   #3
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Nonono, I don't need an FA* 300 2.8. For what should I use it, we don't have any hummers here anyway... So I don't need it, you hear me?

Marc, a good lens indeed, but there was a photographer involved, wasn't it?Can I quote "so that I control the image, not the camera"? Lovely way to put it.

Kjell
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Old Apr 20, 2009, 5:37 PM   #4
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snostorm wrote:
Quote:
Hi Marc,

Pretty amazing indeed. I'm primarily a birder, and shoot mostly perching birds. I've settled on 1/100 sec as about the lowest shutter speed I can get away with to get a reasonable possibility of some crisp shots. This is up to 500mm handheld with SR, or tripod mounted without SR up to 714mm. I have gotten some lucky shots as slow as 1/60, but the percentage goes way down when I have to go under 1/100.

I like seeing posts where people push the "rules" of photography. Digital is perfect for this kind of experimentation, as one can see almost immediately where one stands by chimping some of the first shots.

One ? tho -- did you purposely go to -2 Ev comp to get a little faster shutter speed on these shots, knowing that you could push the exposure in PP?

Thanks for posting these here with some explanation. It'll keep my mind open to more possibilities if I encounter some HBs in the future.

Scott
Hey Scott, to answer your question: the EV -2 was intentional in order to boost the shutter speed from "why even bother" to "perhaps I have a chance".

I was shooting RAW and knew that I had some leeway even with a small push in exposure. Normally I will try Levels adjustment first though. I find it retains the original capture tonality in a much better fashion, although an exposure boost with gamma adjustment will come close. Sometimes that's needed if the flash washes the blacks a bit when doing macro work.

This is also the learning curve I was given for the wildlife photo competition I did last year during the class presentation on print/pp expectations if your photos were selected to be published in the book.

Regards,
Marc


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Old Apr 20, 2009, 5:50 PM   #5
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bilybianca wrote:
Quote:
Nonono, I don't need an FA* 300 2.8. For what should I use it, we don't have any hummers here anyway... So I don't need it, you hear me?

Marc, a good lens indeed, but there was a photographer involved, wasn't it?Can I quote "so that I control the image, not the camera"? Lovely way to put it.

Kjell
Kjell, here is my answer for the first part of your sentence... you are so in trouble as to why you don't need one... :-)

First in "bling" mode:


Now the FA* 300/2.8 ready for a day's work:


You are correct about the photographer - I've seen mediocre images from a $4500 Nikon D3 and the $1700 70--200/2.8... it's skill, no question. When I shoot, it's almost on auto-pilot, since I really don't think about the settings after an initial shot to see what I get. Exposure has not been an issue for me for some time, but technical excellence is what I always strive for in the images I take. If I can mate high technical standards with artistic value, then I am satisfied (most of the time).

Regarding the quote request - not a problem! Actually my blog has my signature: "The camera is only a tool: the image is the product of your mind and vision." I even challenge my beginner class to try shooting in AV or M mode... it's amazing how their minds open up a lot with just a few exercises.

Regards,
Marc
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Old Apr 20, 2009, 5:57 PM   #6
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Here is a properly exposed shot in bright daylight, taken at 1/500 second. That is my favorite shutter speed for photographing them hovering.

Taken in M mode:



I believe the bokeh on this lens is nothing short of pleasing.

Regards,
Marc
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Old Apr 20, 2009, 7:14 PM   #7
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First off, Marc, your wildlife photography is always top notch. 2nd, I want that lens. Haha... I couldn't afford it, but I want it... Although my own use would be somewhat different as I rather would like it for autoracing photography but that's beside the point... Keep up the good work.
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Old Jun 10, 2009, 2:13 PM   #8
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First, GREAT Shots!

You didn't mention that you were using flash or some kind of lighting as the flash is showing in the birds eyes and wings are showing.

ONLY A SHORT FLASH DURATION CAN TRULY FREEZE A HUMMINGBIRD'S WINGS, NOT A FAST SHUTTER!

Now that I have that out of my system, let me explain the math. The wings on a rubythroated hummingbird beat at approximately 50-60 beats per second. With a wingspan that varies between birds from 3-4 inches or so, that means that the wingtips travel from front to back about 6-8 inches, more or less. This means that the wings travel between 300 and 500 inches per second. So a 1/1000 second shutter speed will catch a wing movement of about 1/2 inch or so, i.e., a complete blur. Of course, the 1/2 inch distance is not always true because the wings don't actually move at a constant speed. Instead, they move through one beat, stop (or slow down greatly) and then move in the opposite direction, but you get the idea. In order to see detail in the wings you would need a faster shutter speed than you will find on most any good SLR. Catching the wing near either end of a beat will help a lot too.

There are many hotshoe flash units out there that have flash durations as short as 1/20,000 second on their lowest power setting. There are few 35mm or digital SLR's with a shutterspeed as fast as 1/8000 second. Thus, using the flash to freeze the wings yields much better results. When a hummingbird is not in direct sunlight and a small aperture is used the flash becomes the only relevant light source and the flash duration makes the shutter speed meaningless. In fact, the shutter speed will be set at the flash sync speed which, on a 35mm or digital SLR, will likely be as low as 1/200 second.

Here is a shot of a hummer I took last winter using flash & 180th sec / f/6.3 / 100 ISO

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Old Jun 11, 2009, 12:50 AM   #9
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Amazing shots, what else is there to say, Amazing.
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Old Jun 11, 2009, 3:53 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Langille View Post


Taken at 1/60 sec.:

Marc
Wow great images.
Rules are meant to be broken and the one behind the camera and results count more than anything.
Even at 1/1000s you can hardly freeze the action if the bird was in full flight motion. But hummer flight pattern at time is almost stationery mid air and that was the time you got them. Good job.
One question: was your SR on?


Daniel
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