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12-08-2012, 08:29 PM   #1
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Seeking input on wildlife setup


Hello, I am an environmental science student looking foryour expertise on outdoor wildlife photography. Trying to decide on if I canmake this set up work with what I have and what I would need to add paralleledto starting a totally different setup and upgrade. I have the bare minimumequipment so farů Pentax K-X with the following lenses, SMC 1:3.5-5.6 18-55mm ALand SMC 1:4-5.8 55-300mm ED. I am still new to photography and still have lots tolearn. If someone could give me ideas of a good starting bundle and explain someof the basics, I would be grateful.

Here are my criteria to help narrow down your suggestion andinput:

-Looking to take majority wildlife pictures including aves,landscape, and vegetation.

-My budget does not include tens of thousands to spend onone telescopic lens. So basically I am looking for an intermediate to hobbysetup.

-all contribution will be appreciated



Thank you,


D


12-08-2012, 09:18 PM   #2
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being a student suxz. All the energy and creativity in the world and no money to get you to where you want to be.

My suggestion is to look at the 20 year big picture. In 20 years one of your best lenses will be the pentax 35mm macro. While your average live insect may not like you getting that close, it is a great lens for other applications from flowers to landscapes. I would buy less but buy for the long term. My macros along with the 35mm include the pentax 100mm WR and the sigma 70mm also excellent lenses for a wide range of applications. I also have an ancient 100mm macro belows that I have used for 35 years. I would think a flexible macro.

Your 55-300 should be used to death. keep experimenting with it particularly for landscapes. You probably won't do much better in that focal range with a cheap lens. The more photos you take, the more of an idea you will have what you will want.

Also with environmental themes keep taking shots and build up your library of images. It's amazing how often you will go back to them for future jobs. Make sure you get photos of everything in your uni course and keep it well cataloged and backed up.

I wish I had digital when I did my uni - didn't even have computers LOL

All the best
12-08-2012, 09:33 PM   #3
hcc
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Your K-x + 2 kit lenses (18-55 & 55-300mm) already provide you the basic set up. Go and shoot. Enjoy it! You do no need more, really, to start.

I shoot a lot outdoor and my only comment would be that your setup is not WR. If you intend to shoot in foul weather, as I do, you may wish to consider in the future a WR camera body (K-30, K-5, K-5II).

My 5 cents....
12-08-2012, 10:04 PM   #4
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The most important thing about photographing wildlife is not the equipment, it is understanding something about the subject's behavior, and figuring out how to get close. The 55-300 is an excellent lens, so follow the above advice and just get out there and shoot!

12-08-2012, 10:33 PM - 1 Like   #5
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The setup you have should get you off to a good start. The best investment I can think of would be a portable blind...google for portable blinds, you'll see a great variety, and if you lopok around you can also get camo material and a couple of light poles to make one anywhere you can back up against a couple of bushes.

I wouldn't start trying to buy more lenses until you have a much better idea, from your shooting experience, what you actually need. For example, a couple of extension tubes might be an idea if you get into a lot of macro. Primes in the 100-135mm range can be found for Pentax at bargain prices, a 135 and a couple of extension tubes can get you some excellent macros. Most teleconverters degrade image quality too much for me, yank out he lenses and it's a useful macro tube. I have 2 now and maybe a third, have to check it out first as a teleconverter and see how it does. If it's as bad as the others I've tied, it will be another extension tube on no time. The advantage there is having the aperture control arm so it holds the aperture open while you shoot. When you don't have that, visibility gets worse as you close the aperture down, and with macro you usually want it small for depth of field. I use a M42 Lentar 135mm and extension tubes a lot, it has that problem. I have to focus before stopping down to the aperture I want or I can't see to focus.

So you might check into a couple of cheap teleconverters, and a mini blind.
12-09-2012, 05:30 AM   #6
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Your setup is a good start, I might suggest a flash also.
12-09-2012, 06:20 AM   #7
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Good call Lowell...I never even thought about flash, and it does really come in handy, especially for macro work. I avoid flash in general for birds and such, but do still use it now and then if necessary but for macro work, I usually shoot around f11 to f16 and almost always need flash for that.

Voltage matters. Pentax cameras will not handle high flash voltage, I think around 25 volts is the usual cutoff recommendation. I prefer to keep it under 12V. It's not hard to check with a voltmeter, one probe on the middle contact, one on the side one. Both my Vivitar units test at around 5-7V. Vivitar 285HV is the one I normally use, the adjustable power is very useful, I use it most often at 1/16 to 1/4 power for macro. (That's output power, not trigger voltage, which is the one you need to check) Trigger voltage is very important, if it's too high it will damage the camera.

Depending on the working distance, I also find it helps to keep a white card or folded envelope handy to use as a reflector in very close situations, since the flash will shoot past the subject if you're closer than about a foot. A cash register reciept works well as a really cheap diffuser, but remember to hold the priunted side away from the flash, it's heat sensitive and will turn solid black after 4 or 5 flashes if the printed side faces the flash. Use the other side and it will work great all day.
12-09-2012, 03:24 PM - 1 Like   #8
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You will get a load of advice and it is worth giving it all a try. I have run around with a cheap pentax kits for 35 years. Its only in the past 3 years I have been able to purchase my serious lenses.

With my bird photography, it is only when I went digital that I had a greater reach than 200mm and that was on full frame. I always had my gear at the ready waiting for an opportunity. Up until I purchased some serious lenses I nearly always used a flash with my birds both film and digital. What worked for me with digital was to have the camera and flash on manual settings. I got enough material using this technique to publish a bird book.

Photography is an integral part of my environmental education business, so photography is my second skill. It has been a great way to pursue my photography. I assume you want to link photography with your future career

12-09-2012, 03:31 PM   #9
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Thank you everyone for your input, I plan to get both macro lens and a flash to start. I started looking for something with a little bit more zoom for the birds but 300mm is probably going to have to work for now. Not sure what the next step up is but the ones I found were over two grand. Where do all of you guys shop for lenses?

Also from my experience I have notice it is really hard to take a good sunset picture and low light landscape. I will post some pictures and show you what I mean... perhaps you can give some advice that will solve my problem.
Attached Images
View Picture EXIF
PENTAX K-x  Photo 
View Picture EXIF
COOLPIX L19  Photo 

Last edited by Galliformes; 12-09-2012 at 08:44 PM.
12-09-2012, 03:56 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob from Aus Quote
You will get a load of advice and it is worth giving it all a try. I have run around with a cheap pentax kits for 35 years. Its only in the past 3 years I have been able to purchase my serious lenses.

With my bird photography, it is only when I went digital that I had a greater reach than 200mm and that was on full frame. I always had my gear at the ready waiting for an opportunity. Up until I purchased some serious lenses I nearly always used a flash with my birds both film and digital. What worked for me with digital was to have the camera and flash on manual settings. I got enough material using this technique to publish a bird book.

Photography is an integral part of my environmental education business, so photography is my second skill. It has been a great way to pursue my photography. I assume you want to link photography with your future career

Yes, that would be a dream of mine. Unfortunately I am not far enough inschool yet but trying to transition into wildlife/aquatics side of it. Right now I am studying aves, what is your bird book if you don't mind me asking? This spring I plan to head off the trails and get some good shots in the mountain areas.

Last edited by Galliformes; 12-09-2012 at 08:43 PM.
12-09-2012, 10:00 PM   #11
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Sunsets - 1st issue is location. Nothing kills a good sunset like a boring location. Look for an interesting sunset too, some clouds makes for good colors.

Most people recommend a tripod, I've been shooting all of mine hand held so far. I try to never put the horizon in the middle of the shot. Rule of thirds...either 1/3 sky or 2/3 sky.

This was shot at the Mississippi River Bridge in Vicksburg MS. 28mm manual Pentax lens, ISO 200 1/350 and probably f8 but the camera does not record aperture in exif when using manual lenses. But f8 is my most common aperture, and this could be f11 but I doubt it.



This one was shot at a local lake. Not the most interesting sunset, but not bad. Same 28mm lens, ISO 200 1/45, probably f11 or possibly f16 if shutter speed is that slow.



Most of my better sunsets are not on flickr now, this is a coupe of the decent ones, the bridge is about the only thing that makes the first one worth showing off, otherwise it's just another sunset. Second one is a really mundane ho hum sunset, nothing all that interesting but wrong time of year for my favorite spot so just the lake and far away treeline.

With digital you can experiment, I actually like my 50mm better, and sometimes try the 135mm too. I always keep my ISO on the low side to minimize noise. Tinker with apertures and shutter speeds, you can get highly various results just by changing exposure. A quick change to a larger aperture would have made the second shot look like mid day.

Went ahead and uploaded one, to show what I mean by more interesting location, this is my favorite spot. SMC Pentax A 50mm, ISO 200, 1/90 I'd have to guess at aperture I didn't have it on A setting.



Clouds really colored up, treeline gives it something better than just a distant horizon, calm water gave me a decent reflection. Not much of the water in view, but enough to get a good look at the reflection, plenty sky to show off the cloud cover and colors there.

I always tinker with different exposures, but try to keep the aperture fairly small for lots of depth of field, usually I try not to get larger than f4 and it's uncommon I go that large. Usually more like f8 and adjust shutter speed. With a long distance horizon sometimes I'll also focus just in front of it to get more of the foreground in focus.
12-10-2012, 01:45 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Galliformes Quote
Yes, that would be a dream of mine. Unfortunately I am not far enough inschool yet but trying to transition into wildlife/aquatics side of it. Right now I am studying aves, what is your bird book if you don't mind me asking? This spring I plan to head off the trails and get some good shots in the mountain areas.
My bird book is Australian Guide to Birds. I am the Author and over half the photos are mine. You won't find it outside Australia. To give you an idea where I use my photos look at this project in which I was the writer and supplied 90% of the photos. Discovering Wetlands: Home

You will need to work through the obscure menu system (go to outreach resources) for find most of the goodies, but the slide library can be accessed through the first page.

Last edited by Bob from Aus; 12-10-2012 at 01:57 AM.
12-10-2012, 05:15 AM   #13
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One other thing I guess I should mention. Try to go with prime lenses rather than zooms no matter what the purpose. Better image quality.
12-10-2012, 05:01 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob from Aus Quote
You will get a load of advice and it is worth giving it all a try. I have run around with a cheap pentax kits for 35 years. Its only in the past 3 years I have been able to purchase my serious lenses.

With my bird photography, it is only when I went digital that I had a greater reach than 200mm and that was on full frame. I always had my gear at the ready waiting for an opportunity. Up until I purchased some serious lenses I nearly always used a flash with my birds both film and digital. What worked for me with digital was to have the camera and flash on manual settings. I got enough material using this technique to publish a bird book.

Photography is an integral part of my environmental education business, so photography is my second skill. It has been a great way to pursue my photography. I assume you want to link photography with your future career
ever considered joing our "social group"

Birding group - PentaxForums.com
12-10-2012, 05:14 PM   #15
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When it comes to wildlife and general outdoor photography, I chase the light first. I like early and late direct sunlight. My prime times are 1/2 to 1 1/2 hours after sunrise and 3 hours before sunset until the camera can't keep up with the light anymore. I like to have the sun behind me as a rule but there are no absolutes in photography. Try not to look your subjects in the eye to much as many bird subjects will think you are a predator if you do. Take two steps and stop then shoot and repeat. Know your birds and read their body language.

I do slow my camera down sometimes to 1/160th of a second in shady areas and 800 to 1250 ISO with my K-5 if I want to capture details in dim light.

Lenses are more important than the camera for image quality. If you stick to Pentax there is the Sigma 500mm F/4.5. It is a good lens for the price and in combo with a K-5 it really gives some of the best more expensive camera combos a run for the money.

As far as your landscapes, play with your center weighted metering and try to meter it in different areas and definitely use a tripod with a remote.

Last edited by traderdrew; 12-10-2012 at 05:26 PM.
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