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02-28-2010, 11:06 AM   #16
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omega leader is onto something

Attached is photo of a 'village weaver'; this bird is about 15 cm (I've found a 17 cm reference on the web). The distance is between somewhere between 3 and 5 meters if I recall correctly, focal length 300mm.

K10D with DA55-300@300mm, f/6.7, 1/350 sec, ISO400
Post processing involved resizing and brightening it up by 1/3 stop

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02-28-2010, 03:50 PM   #17
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QuoteOriginally posted by seachunk2 Quote
I've been playing with the K7 and Pentax 55-200 WR lens shooting birds in the backyard from my deck. I just can't seem to get a nice shot. They all seem rather blurred. No detail. I'm not shooting with a tripod but I'm bracing myself very well against the house structure. The last batch of shots were of a red cardinal perched on the branch of a tall oak tree. I'd say the distance from my lens to the bird was about 45 feet. I had the camera set at f11, iso 200, 1/160. The WB was set to daylight. The AF red indicator was dead on the bird. I shot from ground level so the background was a clear blue sky. No EV compensation.

I'm I doing something wrong or am I expecting too much from the lens?

NO, I don't think you're expecting too much from the lens.

The thing that sticks out to me is that your shutter speed may be too slow. There's an old rule of thumb that says your shutter speed should be a bigger number than your focal length. That is, if the focal length = 200mm, then you should not shoot slower than 1/200th sec. So the first thing I'd do is boost that shutter speed to 1/200th sec or faster.

To accommodate that change, you can certainly afford to open the aperture. You don't need an aperture as wide as f/11 to shoot a bird that's 45 ft away! You can open up to f/8 or even f/5.6 and still have several feet of depth of field, which should get the job done.

You could also increase the ISO a bit, from 200 to 400.

You SHOULD add at least 1+ of exposure compensation. Point the camera at a bird on a branch with the sky behind the bird, and the SKY, not the bird, is going to determine the exposure. But you're interested in the bird. Personally I hate shooting birds in branches!

Of course, make sure you have shake reduction enabled!

I would suggest that you make some test shots with this lens. ON a nice bright day, try shooting some test subject that isn't going to move on you—an old shoe on a chair, for example, with the laces facing the camera (so you can see detail). If you can take a nice sharp photo under controlled conditions, then you know the lens works.

Will
02-28-2010, 07:17 PM   #18
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Thanks for all the information you'va all been providing. I've been reading and applying what's been mentioned and my pictures are coming out better. I went down to a small lake yesterday and there were many drake & hen mallards. They were very cooperative, coming near the shore line often. I was able to take quite a few impressive shots of the puddling ducks. Even got a few with the flapping their wings. There are several with excellent detail.
There was also a bunch that appeared under exposed but that was because I didn't compensate the exposure. These in particular were of a pair of mallards I found puddling in the stream that feeds into the lake. Yesterday was a cloudy day and I took these shots around 3:00 PM. The water was dark. I should have went -1 (kind of the opposite effect that WMPB pointed out with the sky background). I also might of had the WB set for sunny instead of cloudy (didn't dawn on me until I got home). So now I've started paying attention to the WB setting before iI start shooting and the histogram afterwards (very useful feature).
This was a real good weekend of learning about aperature, shutter speed, iso and exposure. Started adapting the histogram and been reading a K7 book by Burian and a Magic Lantern book for the Canon 7D that's really about DSLR's in general.
I know I have still have along way to go but I'm enjoying the process quite a bit. My wife been coming along on these adventures (this & last weekend) and she's getting into it also.
I'm hoping that she picks up on the trial version Lightroom program that's on the PC. Getting the hang of the software is going to be another adventure but I think I'm going to buy the license once the trial runs out.
I want to post pictures of the ducks but I always wind up with those puney pictures like those of the cardinal. I'm doing something wrong there also. One step at a time and I'm sure I'll get that under control also.
You've all been great with the feedback & advice. Just wanted to say thanks again!

Edit- I'm posting some pictures, hope it works..........the second picture was tweaked a bit on LR. That's why the corners are faded out-it was intentional.


Last edited by seachunk2; 02-28-2010 at 07:30 PM.
02-28-2010, 07:37 PM   #19
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I really think that the long kit lenses are clearer than the standard kit lens just from viewing this thread. Each lens that I've used since the kit lens has been an improvement, but not necessarily as good as the zoom/kit version.

02-28-2010, 10:02 PM   #20
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seachunk2, those last ones are getting better.. well done, however they are still under-exposed looking at the histograms... This is because your shooting towards the sun (see shadows) and the camera metering is being fooled just like your 1st example with all the sky in the pic. I have a 50-200 (non WR version) and if you get all you ducks lined up (that's an attempt at a joke!) then it can take quite good pics (for the price!)
02-28-2010, 11:54 PM   #21
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From my experience the DA 50-200 and my new DAL 55-300 are both better than the 18-55 kits and I have every version of the 18-55 except the WR.

Last edited by Igilligan; 03-01-2010 at 08:40 AM.
03-01-2010, 09:28 AM   #22
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You're still under exposing by a stop or even more. I suspect you pc screen is too bright.

Someone mentioned 1/fl as a rule of thumb, it shoul dbe more than that as you're dealing with a cropped sensor so it's now 1.5/fl. So at 300mm you should be shooting at 1/450th second to be safe.

Increase exposure comp, images are far, far too dark.
03-01-2010, 10:09 AM   #23
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alfisti Quote
Someone mentioned 1/fl as a rule of thumb, it shoul dbe more than that as you're dealing with a cropped sensor so it's now 1.5/fl. So at 300mm you should be shooting at 1/450th second to be safe.
Nah, it's okay to remember the traditional rule: 1/focal length. The focal length of the lens isn't any longer on a cropped sensor; you just don't capture as much of the scene. And shake reduction helps, too, so with shake reduction enabled, you can actually get by using a slower shutter speed.

But it's a rule of thumb, not a rule of physics. IF shutter speed = 1/focal length, and your shots are still blurry, then by all means, make the shutter faster and see if it helps. Some people have better camera-holding technique than others. And of course, remember also that the rule of thumb is designed simply to offset the effects of camera shake. It's NOT intended to offset the effects of subject movement! So if you're shooting an athlete with (say) a 50mm lens, don't expect 1/50th sec to be anywhere near fast enough! 1/50th sec is the approximate minimum shutter speed you need to shoot a parked car and have it come out without blur. If the car stops moving, you have to use a faster shutter.

Will

p.s. I was wrong above about the technical issue. See comments by Alfisti and Marc above, and my followup post.


Last edited by WMBP; 03-01-2010 at 11:36 AM. Reason: added postscript
03-01-2010, 10:21 AM   #24
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
Nah, it's okay to remember the traditional rule: 1/focal length. The focal length of the lens isn't any longer on a cropped sensor; you just don't capture as much of the scene.
Agreed SR helps but the above is incorrect. Try holding a superzoom with a 12mm lens that's equivilent to 700mm at 1/15th of a second and get back to me
03-01-2010, 10:31 AM   #25
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
Nah, it's okay to remember the traditional rule: 1/focal length. The focal length of the lens isn't any longer on a cropped sensor; you just don't capture as much of the scene.
True, but the effects of shake don't depend on actual focal length - it's strictly a function of FOV. As should be clear from simply thinking about it a little - you're moving the camera the same amount regardless of lens, but the narrower the field of view, the more that amount of motion will be noticeable. One doesn't have to know the first thing about what focal length is to grasp this, thus suggesting the effect is really one of FOV, not FL. It's just kind of historical accident that we've become accustomed to associating the two so strongly, to the point of using FL as a stand-in for FOV as is the case here.
03-01-2010, 11:32 AM   #26
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QuoteOriginally posted by seachunk2 Quote
There was also a bunch that appeared under exposed but that was because I didn't compensate the exposure. These in particular were of a pair of mallards I found puddling in the stream that feeds into the lake. Yesterday was a cloudy day and I took these shots around 3:00 PM. The water was dark. I should have went -1 (kind of the opposite effect that WMPB pointed out with the sky background).
NO, perhaps not. This gets a little complicated, but let me try to sort it out in a general way.

First, the reason I suggested adding exposure compensation if you're shooting a bird in a branch with the sky as a background, is that, unless you were using spot metering on the bird, then the camera's meter is going to be heavily influenced by the bright sky, and you'll end up with a shot that's got the sky correctly exposed but the bird too dark. In that case, the problem is the high dynamic range of the scene. And you have to risk (or accept) blowing out some of the sky in order to get the bird correctly exposed.

But you do NOT have to compensate in the opposite way if the dark bird is setting (floating) on a dark background. The dynamic range of your duck shots is not so great. Put your meter on matrix or spot metering. It should then be able to read a scene like this pretty well.

And now it gets complicated.

You've obviously learned that the camera's light meter reads the scene on the assumption that it's overall a middle gray. One very important consequence of this is that you need to ADD exposure compensation for bright scenes. The classic example is photographing a landscape full of bright, white snow. If you want to keep the snow bright and white, you have to add 1-2 stops of exposure compensation. If you're taking a closeup portrait of a bride's white dress (where the white dress fills most of the frame), you'd want to add a stop or so of exposure compensation. Some people describe this as deliberately "overexposing" the scene. I don't like to talk about it that way, because you're not overexposing at all, you're trying to get a correct exposure. I simply call it "biasing the meter".

Now, what if you are photographing a pile of coal in a coal cellar? In theory, you would want to bias the meter negatively in this case, lest the coal end up looking lighter in your photo than it appears in reality. BUT THE THEORY DOESN'T WORK SO WELL WITH DARK SCENES when you are shooting digital. Why not? Because of the way that digital sensors work. You have to read the classic "Expose to the right" article at Luminous Landscape for the details. The basic idea is that the camera's digital sensor distinguishes more shades at the right end of the histogram. What this means is that, shooting digital, you always want to think about biasing the meter to the right, so long as you don't blow important highlights. If I'm shooting a coal cellar, I'd want my histogram's hill to appear in the middle—not off to the left.

Yes, that would mean that the picture would initially appear to be overexposed, especially when I view it on the computer. That's okay. Because of the nature of digital capture, if you somewhat "overexpose" the pile of coal to start with and then correct on the computer by pulling the histogram back to the left, you'll end up with a better photo—with more detail in the darks—than if you exposed the shot in a nominally correct way to start with.

Anyway, if I'm shooting ducks at the lake on an overcast day, I will often ADD a little exposure compensation, in order to move the histogram to the right. Then I might pull the histogram back a bit to the left on the computer. IN Lightroom, I'd do this by boosting the black slider, and/or by pulling the exposure slighter to the left, and/or by pulling brightness slider to the left—or possibly with tone curves. Depends on the photo.

There is one last thing to be considered here. Our eyes can see greater dynamic range than the camera can, and our brains to some extent compensate for our eyes in a way that our brains don't compensate for photos. What this means is, you may want a dark scene (ducks on a lake on an overcast day) to appear in the photo a little brighter than perhaps they really were.



QuoteQuote:
I also might of had the WB set for sunny instead of cloudy (didn't dawn on me until I got home). So now I've started paying attention to the WB setting before I start shooting and the histogram afterwards (very useful feature).
I'd recommend shooting raw with white balance set to auto, and forgetting about white balance after that.
03-01-2010, 11:51 AM   #27
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Alfisti and Marc,

I accept correction on the technical matter of the effect of camera shake on a crop-sensor camera. Thanks.

I've always liked to remember the rule of thumb as "shutter speed must equal or exceed focal length" without including the word "reciprocal" in there. Rules of thumb need to be easy to remember. If the rule of thumb is "shutter speed should be equal to or faster than the reciprocal of the focal length times 1.5," well, it rather loses its value as a rule of thumb. And for us Pentax photographers, I think it's safe to remember it the traditional way. I have certainly found that the traditional rule works for me when I'm on vacation shooting wildlife. Indeed, I've found that I can use the traditional rule even after adding a 1.4x teleconverter. I guess it's shake reduction that makes up the difference. It's certainly not that I'm as solid as a rock.

I apologize for muddying the waters with a technical mistake. The bottom line for the OP is: if the ducks still aren't sharp, you have to consider the following:
  1. Your shutter speed isn't fast enough
  2. You aren't holding the camera still (try a tripod or learn how to squeeze the shutter button without moving the camera)

The issue here is camera shake—not focus. These recommendations assume that you've focused properly. It's often possible to tell, by looking at a photo, whether the problem was camera shake or focus, as long as it wasn't both.

Will
03-01-2010, 12:58 PM   #28
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Using a consumer zoom wide open doesn't help either, try stopping down a little.
03-02-2010, 03:27 PM   #29
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QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
I've always liked to remember the rule of thumb as "shutter speed must equal or exceed focal length" without including the word "reciprocal" in there. Rules of thumb need to be easy to remember. If the rule of thumb is "shutter speed should be equal to or faster than the reciprocal of the focal length times 1.5," well, it rather loses its value as a rule of thumb.
Agreed. Luckily in practice, we can simplify. Since it was just a rule of thumb, being off by a factor of 1.5 doesn't necessarily ruin it. And for all anyone knows, the old rule may have been overly optimistic or overly conservative by at least that much, depending on how steady your hands were, how sharp you need the photo to be, and what percentage of attempts you need to fall within that area. Another recent thread suggests it was probably optimistic even for FF at least when one considers the possibility of pixel peeping - a shutter speed good enough for a 4x6 print might not be good enough for viewing at 100%. SR suggests you could probably improve on that a couple of stops. Throw in the "crop factor", and it's really hard to say how it all washes out, but there's propbably no harm in continuing to think of 1/FL as being an appropriate goal to shoot for.

Experience will tell you what kind of success to expect at that shutter speed. I find in practice I'll have "very high" success (90% of shots "sharp enough") at that focal length, but I'm still pretty successful a stop or two slower. I think that's a more productive way to think about it - keep the 1/FL metric, but simply adjust your expectations of *how much* success you're likely to achieve at that shutter speed according to your own experience.
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