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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lillian's Camera gear & tips

American Redstart, adult male

Here I am at our recent trip to Magee Marsh/Crane Creek, on the boardwalk photographing warblers. People often ask me what camera gear I use to get the photos. I am using my Canon 1D Mark II camera, my Canon 300 mm image stabilized lens with a 1.4 teleconverter, and the Canon 550 EX Flash with Flash extender. (There are newer models of some of this available.) This is the gear I prefer on the boardwalk because it is crowded with birders, thus harder to manuever with my other gear, the big Canon 500 mm lens and Gitzo tripod with the Whimberly head. With the 300 mm I can quickly move about and find and track the warblers.
I like the Canon Mark II camera because of it's super fast focusing abilities. I think the Canon 300 mm is the sharpest of the 'smaller' lenses. I own the Canon 100-400mm IS lens and the 400mm f 5.6 lens, so I have it compared those.

I saw many, many birders with cameras. Sometimes I think there were more cameras than binoculars. Many were using Canon cameras such as the 30D, 40D and Rebel models and often the 1-400 lens. All good equiptment and less pricey than the Mark II.
Here are some tips for getting photos of fast-moving warblers in foliage.

1. If you are using the Canon 300 mm IS lens, move the setting on the lens from 1.5 m-infinity to the 3 m-infinity setting. This will enable you to focus faster, in several seconds. Seconds count big-time when you are trying to capture warblers.

2. Use the high-speed, AI Servo setting on the camera.

3. Watch for the birds with your eyes, then, keeping your eyes on the bird, bring the camera up to your eyes. This will help you locate and focus on the bird faster. This similar to the way you spot birds using binoculars.

4. Depress the shutter button half way, activating the autofocus, and track the bird with the shutter button depressed half way as the bird moves through the foliage. This saves time.
Yes, there will be moments when the autofocus is blurry and focusing on a leaf, not the bird. But there will be moments when the autofocus locks on the bird. When it locks on the bird and the bird is sharp, take the photo. Don't be afraid to take multiple shots in a row by keeping the shutter button down. It increases your chance of getting a good photo. Plus, its digital, those usless shots, are not costing you the price of film and can be deleted.

5. Move your body Quickly! to get in the best position to photograph the bird and keep doing this as the bird moves. If the bird is hidden behind a branch, tree trunk, in the wrong light, etc. you can improve the photo just by moving your body. Many people do not do this. Photography of moving birds is like a constant dance, with you moving your body in relation to your partner, the bird.

Practice and Have fun!


Don and Sher said...

Great info, thanks

Anonymous said...

Good tips. Now to save up for that 500mm f/4...

Mary C said...

Thanks for the tips - now I need to practice them.

Suzanne said...

Thank you for this wonderful information.