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09-02-2013, 12:53 AM   #16
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QuoteOriginally posted by snostorm Quote
Hi Reptilezz,

I've been primarily a Pentax DSLR birder for about 8 years, and I have to disagree with the statement that tripods are essentially useless for this. I shoot opportunistically and never from blinds or using camo, but I prefer to shoot close, and having the camera/lens mounted on a tripod + gimbal keeps it at eye level and ready to go which minimizes my movement (and the birds' reaction to this motion). It also demands much less from me physically, especially when I'm using my biggest glass (300mm f2.8 lenses with single or stacked TCs). I can take my eye from the VF to chimp or check something else without losing my subject in the VF -- target reacquisition with long glass is frustrating and time wasting. I often use a Red Dot scope mounted on my flash shoe as a spotting scope to cut down on acquisition time. Having a stable support base makes this even easier.

My favorite camera lens combo is a K-5IIs with an FA* 300/4.5 + F 1.7x Autofocusing Adapter (510mm f7.7), and I usually shoot this handheld. I used to regularly go out with two bodies, the second with a 300/2.8 + the AFA (510mm f4.8) or with the AFA stacked on a 1.4x TC (714mm f6.7) mounted on a tripod with a Wimberley Sidekick. Lately, my two camera kit is same handheld combo and I have added a Q with probably an adapted DA 55-300 (307mm - 1674mm 135mm EQ) on a lightweight tripod with the Sidekick. On occasion I'll shoot the Q combo handheld and tripod mount the K-5 kit, and this has worked out well also. I'm capable of getting good results with handholding, but get a significantly higher percentage from a tripod.

Bottom line -- adding the tripod/gimbal has made it easier to increase my percentage and consistency in getting the high feather detail shots that I want. Shooting long glass always means slower max apertures for most, and this causes slower shutter speeds. SR is nice, but it's really no substitute for solid support for IQ consistency at slower shutter speeds or with extreme FL EQs with wild subjects. There's less movement involved, and once the birds get used to my presence, they act more natural and give me more and better opportunities to shoot them at close range. This might not be for everyone, but it's far from useless.

Thank you for your reply, you helped me heaps

09-02-2013, 03:27 AM   #17
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I use a monopod for sports, works great. It's much easier to run up and down a soccer field holding a monopod than a tripod (even folded). A decent monopod can be had for under $20.

I use a tripod for all other times I need to put the camera on something to hold it still, mostly macro and stills.
09-02-2013, 07:22 AM   #18
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What do you bird photographers think? Toss those tripods?
Nope, I leave mine in my Jeep, one of them anyway, in case it's needed. But for birds, I shoot hand held. Usually a 200mm Vivitar, f8, ISO200, whatever shutter speed I need to get a good shot, and I get good shots as slow as 1/180 with it. I prefer to get 1/250 or faster, but I'll take what I can get...fortunately at 58 my hands still seem to be steady enough to handle slower shutter speeds, I even shoot most of my macro shots hand held.

Here's an example. f8, ISO200, 1/180 hand held, Vivitar 200mm M42 lens, K30.

If I can do that good hand held at just below the focal length/shutter speed ratio usually recommended, I'll take it. Like I said I prefer to get 1/250 or higher, I love it when I can get 1/750 or better, but if I have to settle for a slower shutter speed and be able to stay at a lower ISO for minimum noise, so be it... That woodpecker was sitting still but he didn't say there anywhere near long enough to set up with a tripod, and on top of a utility pole I couldn't have leaned a monopod backward far enough to get the shot either.

For bird photography, to me it's a no brainer. Tripod or monopod means a lot of missed shots. I leave it in the Jeep.
09-02-2013, 12:20 PM   #19

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QuoteOriginally posted by jon404 Quote
As a total-neophyte bird photographer, why not skip the tripod and monopod and just shoot on TAv at 1/1000 sec and f/11 ... with the ISO left floating to wherever it wants to go? With a K-30 and 55-300mm lens at 300mm, I've found that this works with airplanes in daylight, using the C Continuous Focus switch setting.

I'd bet that -- theoretically -- there is absolutely zero need for a tripod at 1/1500 second or faster. So then image quality becomes a trade-off between the DOF you want, and ISO. On the K-30, ISO 400 is always acceptable ... and 800 quite often, depending on the picture.

What do you bird photographers think? Toss those tripods?
Hi jon404,

There are different levels of results that different people wish to achieve in any genre. Some birders just want a record of the birds they see, and only need enough detail to accurately identify the bird species, approximate age and sexual differences in plumage and record the sighting. I started this way, knowing nothing about birds, and as I learned more about them, the better I got at shooting them. As my hobby developed, my focus evolved to wanting to show the birds as most people never see them -- thus the expensive long fast glass and more demanding shooting techniques. Here are some examples of what I like to shoot, all shot in jpeg, cropped as noted and PP'd to taste then downsized for posting:

Red Bellied Woodpecker, K20 . Tamron SP 300/2.8 + P F 1.7x AFA + Tamron 140F 1.4x Adaptall 2 TC (714mm f6.7) 1/100, f11 (actually f16 -- f6.5 at the lens x 1.7 x 1.4 for the two TCs respectively -- the AFA automatically converts, but none of the 1.4x TCs convert aperture multipliers to the camera -- it's confusing) , ISO 250 Shot from a tripod.

For this one, I chose to risk the slow shutter speed to get added resolution and better CA/PF control by stopping the lens down. Relatively low ISO was used prevent noise from destroying feather detail -- I rarely shot the K20 or K-7 at ISO higher than 800 for this reason. Of course, with a K-5, I could have gone to around ISO 1000 and gotten the shutter speed up to about 1/400 with pretty equivalent IQ, but that wasn't a viable choice with the K20. This was cropped to 5x7 vertical from a landscape oriented shot using the full height of the image.

White Throated Sparrow. Same camera and lens/TCs combo. 1/100, f7.6 at the lens, ISO 320. This is also a vertical crop from a landscape frame, shot from 10 feet or less from a tripod

Again, a very slow shutter speed -- I wanted more DOF -- 300/2.8 lenses have razor thin DOF wide open at close to Minimum Focusing Distance (MFD)

Another White Throated Sparrow (one of my favorite birds to shoot) These are two shots from an 8 shot sequence from one of my first shoots with a new (to me) FA* 300 f2.8 + F 1.7x AFA + Tamron F 1.4x P MC4 AF TC (714mm f6.7) K 20, 1/100, f4.7 at the lens (you can see the DOF is very narrow) ISO 200

On this one, I had stopped the lens down further to f5.8 to get more DOF. 1/100, f5.8 at the lens, ISO 320

Both of these are full height 5x7 vertical crops from landscape frames and shot from a tripod. Getting an 8 shot sequence like this (these were all taken in single shot mode, not burst -- I like to pick my shots, and generally don't use burst mode, even though the camera is always set up for them since I never know when an action sequence will be called for).

Here are a few shots with a K-5, Canon FD 300 f4 L (this is an '80's vintage MF lens permanently converted to K mount) + F 1.7x AFA (which makes it a limited AF lens at 510mm f6.8). These were shot with the lens wide open on a sunny day, but in a shaded area, later in the afternoon. I used ISO 1600 to keep the shutter speeds up, a real luxury that the K-5 series bodies allow. I would usually shoot this combo handheld, but in this instance, I was set up to shoot the hummers, so I used a very lightweight CF travel tripod and ballhead + a Wimberley Sidekick (a side mount gimbal that mounts on a ball head)

The best of the hummer shots -- K-5, 1/400, f4 at the lens, ISO 1600. This was shot at @ 10 feet and cropped on the left side only to 8x10

A small flock of young Cedar Waxwings arrived to dine on berries behind the HB feeder I was set up at, and I was able to grab a shot of one of them. K-5, 1/1250, f4 at the lens, ISO 1600.

This is probably about the best shot for feather detail that I've been able to get of one of these guys. They usually shoot very smooth since their breast feathers are very finely textured. I would have preferred to shoot this stopped down a bit to get more DOF (the tail is OOF), but I would have sacrificed the ability of the AFA to AF since this lens has to be focused stopped down because it's fully manual, and anything slower than f4.5 at the lens would take me over the f8 that the AF system needs to function reliably. This is a vertical crop from a landscape frame.

I am not arguing that tripod shooting is the only way to go -- I prefer handholding, but the results are not consistently as good. There is a considerable amount of luck involved to find subjects in good enough light to allow for the shutter speeds needed to get a high level of feather detail, and very good technique is usually a necessary ingredient to get quality results. Here are some relatively recent examples that came out well -- larger birds at longer distances:

Great Blue Heron. K-5. FA* 300 f4.5. 1/800, f5.6, ISO 100

Black Crowned Night Heron. K-5, FA* 300 f4.5 + F 1.7x AFA. 1/1250, f4.5 at the lens, ISO 800 Cropped to 8x10 from the right side only

I like using the DA 55-300, as it's a very competent lens, but it's really not in the same class as the * prime ultra teles. I use mine often since it's so lightweight and the zoom capabilities are often very convenient. Here's one I really like with the DA 55-300, K-5, 1/800, f8, ISO 5000, handheld. Cropped to 8x10 from the top only.

Most people graduate to one of the * primes after starting with something like the DA 55-300. I've been shooting the premium ultra teles for years, and recently added the DA 55-300 to my collection of lenses so I can take advantage of it's excellent performance from a very compact lightweight lens.


09-02-2013, 12:33 PM   #20
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Thanks scott there are some awesome shots there. Im no going to use the tripod 24/7 but i was just seeing what would be better for when i do want to use it. Im going to go with a tripod because when i do have the tripod i generally sit and wait for the birds to come to me as they will usually come closer that way.

Thanks for everyones help
09-02-2013, 12:49 PM   #21
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I enjoyed all the bird shots from several of you.
09-02-2013, 01:23 PM   #22
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Like Scott and others allready pointed out, it all depends on your shootingstyle (deja vu, I said that too, lol).But there is also the learningcurve, we can give all the advice we want but in the end it`s you that has to decidefind out what suits you best. There are many ways to achive different goals.

What I mean is, don`t run off and buy the most expensive stuff you think you need from this thread but shoot your lens first, find your strong and weak spots and then try to solve the issues with extra gimmicks. Who knows, you might find that shooting from a car is what suits you best, then you`re better of with a beanbag then a monopod.
09-03-2013, 09:21 AM   #23
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I shoot from a vehicle a lot, I Just rest my elbow on the armrest, that works pretty well. Works even better if i have time and chance to shut the engine off and eliminate vibration, but a quick stop on the roadside doesn't often allow me that luxury...I have no idea how many hawks I've photographed by stopping, shooting out the window and taking off again because a car was coming behind me...

I guess the one thing that needs to be added to all this is probably the most important point of all, remember the 3 P's...





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