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Jim Almquist

Improving my fox shots !

14 posts in this topic

Steve pointed out to me on my last shots that I was shooting at some very slow shutter speeds and yes there was a lot of bad shots so this weekend I am going to try again but my question is how fast of a ISO can I go without ruining my shots ? I will be shooting my 30D with the 100-400 on a tripod. My last shots were taken at 640 so I was thinking at least 800 or 1000. He will come in some time between 6:30 to 8:00 so the light will vary and will be behind my blind. With his bad eye he will be moving his head a lot so there will be movement almost all the time. I have lots of bird seed and cat food so luring him in should not be a problem grin

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Jimbo, this is gonna take awhile, so crack a beverage and settle in.

The simple rule of thumb is this: Better to shoot at high iso and get sharp images than shoot at lower iso and get blurry ones. Noise Ninja and other noise reduction software can tame a LOT of noise, and for four years I habitually shot sports at iso1600/3200 with the 20D/30D and ran parts of the images through NN and came up with some great results. And the 20D/30D sensor is better noise-wise than any other 1.5 or 1.6 crop sensor of its time.

I'm going to search for a performance image I captured with the 20D, 100-400 at 400mm and f5.6 off a monopod using ambient light at iso3200 and 1/40 sec if memory serves. It is sharp! And low noise. The only NN I ran was on part of the background.

There are two things that cause blur at low SS. One is camera movement and one is subject movement. You can control one almost absolutely and the other to some degree. Just because a person shoots from a tripod doesn't mean automatically that there's no camera shake. Punching the shutter button instead of easing it down is one factor, like pulling the trigger on a gun instead of squeezing it. A punch causes some shake even from a rock solid tripod, and at 1/40 sec you can't afford any shake on the camera end. Put the body into high-speed burst mode, ease down on the shutter and keep it depressed until the camera stops taking pictures because it has to write to the card. The beginning and end of a burst cause more camera shake than the middle, because no matter how careful you are there's still some movement as your finger first depresses and then eases off the shutter button. That's particularly important at slow shutter speeds, because you can't afford the vibration. That's why I recommend high-speed burst to clients all the time as a valuable tool on the route to sharper images. At 1/2000, who cares? At 1/30, crucial.

You also can't dictate when the subject will move or stay still, but you CAN know your subject, time your subject, and knowing how your shutter button feels, time it so you trigger the burst gently at just the right moment.

In this way, there's no difference between a moose moving slowly across a bog at sunset, a bride and groom saying "I do" in the dim but gorgeous light inside a church or a one-eyed veteran gray fox who moves a lot. I'd actually recommend leaving the camera alone for awhile and just watching the fox and learning how and when he moves, his patterns of motion and stillness.

It's totally a matter of finding the groove and getting in it. It's almost a Zen thing, like seeing a laker as a red band on the Vex/Marcum as it rises toward your lure under the ice and putting yourself in the zone. You don't even notice the half-empty glass of apple pie sitting next to you, or the fact that your wife is grousing over getting skunked, or that your truck may not start at -40F. It's all about you, your equipment, your subject, your zone.

If you worry about the results, you'll fail quite often. Worry instead about living completely in the moment. Once you master that, the results will follow.

My recommendation is to ramp iso to 1600, shoot at wide open aperture from the tripod with the best steadying technique you can manage and timing the subject for pauses using burst mode, and worry about noise/grain later.

I hope you don't mind my being this detailed. But you did ask. I'm givin ya the goods, bubba! gringrin

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Here's the aforementioned image, and the exif. No big head here, either. I post this so Jim and others see what can be done with 2-year-old entry-level or so-called "pro-sumer" technology and a little technique. It's within almost everyone's reach. While crippled and uneasy foxes don't pause as often as singers of ballads, they DO pause. Sorry to make it look like I'm tacking images on your post.

This is Big Walter Smith, a blues singer who appeared at the Snow Ball in Ely in winter 2006.

Canon 20D, Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6L IS at 400mm, iso3200, 1/40 at f5.6, monopod, ambient light, Noise Ninja run only on background musician's face.

2782179575_af541fc944_o.jpg

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That's great info Steve. One thing to add is that you'll have far less noise with a perfect exposure than one that you underexpose and have to over process.

By the way Steve, you have a slight red cast in this image. laugh

JK, it's a cool shot.

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Partly, it was lucky for me I have a newspaper background. Resolution and quality is lower in newsprint than in the 300 ppi glossy mags, so my standards were lower, and I felt very free to experiment.

And through that experimentation I found out just how good these sensors were a couple years ago, and even better now. If there are limits, they are only limits of our imagination.

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Steve I think is right on in his recommendations. Shooting sports from November until March my cameras NEVER come off either 1600 ISO or 3200 ISO. I am always looking for more shutter speed.

Mike is also correct and it is one of the hardest things to convince people of and that is DO NOT UNDEREXPOSE at high ISO trying to get a bit more shutter speed. You bring out a tremendous amount of noise when you cheat and underexpose a bit thinking you can just bring it up in post. NO NO NO! It doesn't matter if you are shooting RAW or JPEG.

I did a number of tests last winter and found a couple of things out about high ISO.

1. Underexpose any shot RAW or JPEG and you will get a lot of noise. Noise Ninja or equivalent will not save you, they make your shot look like mud.

2. My 20D and 30D produce cleaner high ISO files than my Mark IIN. Get under 1600 ISO and there is not much difference.

3. I had cleaner files at 3200 ISO and much of the time, depending on lighting at 1600 ISO with JPEG than I did with RAW. My guess is it has to do with camera processing of JPEG and some of my custom function set ups. But it was a bit of a shock to me. So much so that I ran the same test every venue I shot over a 3 month period and the results were the same, cleaner, less noise at 3200 ISO with JPEG. Sorry guys won't get into any debates on RAW vs JPEG. I do what sells prints and gets me results.

I sell a lot of sports posters of basketball, volleyball, swimming all the indoor sports and most of them are 1600 and 3200 ISO. Those posters are printed at 20 x 30 and 24 x 30 and if you nailed the exposure you would be very hard pressed to see it was at a high ISO.

So don't be afraid of using 1600 or 3200 ISO if you need that to get enough shutter speed to stop motion blur. I promise it won't hurt, thats why they gave us those nice features. Learn to use them correctly and you will end up with nice results. The more you explore the outer limits of your camera the more comfortable you will be with its capabilities.

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Ditto everything Dan and Mike said.

Well, almost. The performance shot I posted was shot RAW. gringrin

Anyway, one of the reasons I like to shoot high iso is that I can more easily expose "to the right," which means using manual settings or exposure compensation to move the historgram to the right so the shadows/mid ranges are a bit overexposed. Take a test image, check the histogram on the back of the camera, and if there's room to the right of the histogram on the scale, move EC so the overexposure moves the historgram to the right, but not far enough to cut off the histogram or produce "blinkies" in the histogram, which indicate blown-out highlights.

Going to the right just short of blowing out highlights produces less noise in the mid range and shadows, and is a prime reason to bump up ISO.

I'll take an image exposed "to the right" at iso3200 over an underexposed iso400 image every time.

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And here is a 3200 ISO JPEG from this past spring. ISO 3200, 1/400s, f2.8 with a Mark IIN and 70-200/2.8. I don't believe I used Noise Ninja.

And to clarify a bit with digital sensors you want to try and expose snugged up to the right whether you shoot at 100 ISO or 3200 ISO. smile It just becomes more critical at higher ISO's, I think that's what you're saying Steve.

355984538_woivn-XL.jpg

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. . . you want to try and expose snugged up to the right whether you shoot at 100 ISO or 3200 ISO. smile It just becomes more critical at higher ISOs.

Yup. ISO100 or 200? Who cares. ISO400 and up? Vital! Well, unless you're shooting a Mk3. But who in here has that kind of money? grin

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I just want to say thanks for all the good info that everyone has contributed and will absolutely kick up my ISO. You also made me open my 30D manual just so I could find out why I could not set mine to 3200. Custom function 8 was turned off so we now have that turned on so I can give that a try. The one other thing that I am not sure of is whether I would use noise reduction on the whole shot or everything but the fox ? The noise reduction software that I use is Noiseware by Imagenomic.

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If noise is present, it's going to be much more evident in the shadows. Considering the fox isn't that dark and noise probably won't be that evident, you may be better off with selective noise reduction. Remember, where ever you use noise reduction, you'll also soften the image a tad.

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Actually you can use noise software to sharpen your image as well. I use Noise Ninja often that way. What you have to be careful of is it is easy to oversharpen and if you underexposed slightly you can really bring out the noise. its a very fine line between enhancing the look of the image to making a mess of the image.

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