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slimngrizzly

Waterfowl photography?

8 posts in this topic

This has maybe been asked a hundred times, but for those of you who photograph ducks and birds a lot, what size lenses are you using most often? Do most of you use auto or manual focus? Thanks for any tips!

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ok, I'll jump in here,, I am new to bird photography, but have the gear (or so I'm told) for bird photography,, I use a 100-400 L series lens,, I'm told it's a dandy lens for birds. I have taken a few with it, and was pleased, when I get home, I'll try to post what I've managed thus far.

Sue

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I use a 300mm F/2.8 with a 1.4x TC... Its not always the reach, but more about ones ability to adapt to the surroundings and have knowledge of the species you are photographing.

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slimn, a minimum of 400mm is generally considered necessary for good avian photography, but as buzz said, developing excellent woodscraft skills and patience can be an effective substitute for very expensive long lenses.

Also, many of those who photograph birds and want longer and longer lenses are focused on portraits of the birds in which the bird fills a large part of the frame. Those can be very nice, and take a bit of time to learn how to capture effectively. More attractive to most regular folks, however, are images with the bird/animal not so large in the frame, pictures that show a lot of the creature's environment. We call those environmental portraits, and they are most effective when the environment is attractive in its own right and bathed in wonderful light.

The zoom Sue mentioned is a dandy for tight portraits and environmental compositions alike, and is tremendously adaptable. Many have been the times I've been able to zoom out and widen the view at a moment's notice and get a prettier picture than I could have if I'd stayed at 400mm. There are lots of good zooms out there by several different manufacturers.

What's your price range?

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Sigma 150-500mm, about 99% of time at 500mm. Always on auto focus, manual focus - at least for me - is way to slow to get birds in flight in focus.

I'd love to have the Nikon 200-400, but since it costs about twice what I paid for my truck it's going to have to wait a while.

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I'm using a 100-400 and happy with it and depending on what I'm shooting will determine manual or auto focus.

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Thank you for the pointers! I have a Canon with a 75-300mm. I was out taking pics of cans and ringbills over the weekend and I was using a cheaper 2x teleconverter. My auto focus didnt work with it... and all the shots I got were JUST out of a sharp focus. It was very disappointing! Anyway Im guessing thats what I get for trying to get "closer" with a cheap add-on! I would have had some beauties with the regular lens on auto focus im guessing. Live and learn I guess.

Thanks again!

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Hey Slimn,

Where in West Central MN are you? I do a good deal of waterfowl photography (when I get the chance). I'd be happy to compare notes with you.

My guess is that you are probably dealing with a combination of issues that are leading to sharpness degradation that you're reporting. One is the lens/converter combo, extenders tend to magnify any imperfections in the lens and degrade sharpness. Most reports I've heard on 2x extenders is that they degrade image quality fairly significantly. I shoot with a 100-400L and sometimes use a 1.4x adapter and notice some degradation in image quality. Also, it can be difficult to achieve and maintain focus on moving birds, especially when you are focusing manually. As though these two factors weren't enough, it can also be difficult to maintain the type of stability necessary to obtain crisp images at the longer focal lengths you are describing. Were you using a tripod for the shots? If not, this would be my first suggestion...if you have one available.

Like I said, I'd by happy to trade notes sometime. Mike

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