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Mirror slap and scaring wildlife

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Hi all,

I recently took my 20D along deer hunting, thinking an SLR would be the perfect solution to photographing all the chickadees, jays, nuthatches, and red squirrels that come around looking for handouts. These birds come in very close, especially the chickadees and nuthatches which will eat out of my hand and sometimes land on my head.

However, I was disappointed with the number of keepers I got with the 20D. A majority of photos featured some degree of wing motion as the birds reacted to the mirror flap. This was independent of shutter speed, ranging from 1/100 sec. to 1/3000 sec. Of course the faster shutter would freeze the wing motion more than the slower, but the wing would almost always be in some stage of flight and not in the nice pose I intended to capture. There is obviously enough of a delay between the mirror slapping and the shutter actually opening to allow the bird to react to the sound of the mirror.

In a slightly different scenario, other birds less interested in my snacks would be scared by the mirror flap 15 ft away or so and leave the area. It's frustrating with the less common birds to wait for hours for an opportunity and then only get one shot because the camera scares them off.

I'm wondering if anyone else has shared in this frustration or has come up with a clever way to overcome it. Maybe a way to muffle the mirror flap, or a certain brand the it is quieter than others . . . or do you just have to settle for getting 1 decent pose for every 10 tries.

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matt, the 20D is known for the loudness of its mirror/shutter slap. The 30D, 40D and 50D all are more quiet. The Rebel series makes a quiet little "snick," while the 5D makes a pretty quiet "clunk." The "1" series bodies vary as well, but the 20D is the loudest I've shot.

Mostly when I'm that close to birds I'm shooting from a blind, which serves to muffle the slap quite a bit.

You also can have a camo fleece sleeve sewn that you slip the camera/lens into. You can wrap a tight strong rubber band around the end of the sleeve and the lens hood to keep it in place, and it extends back down the barrel of the lens, widening as it goes and covering the camera. It's open at the back so you can get your eye/face in there to look through the viewfinder and work the camera.

Aside from providing excellent camo and keeping the camera invisible to the birds, the fleece muffles the mirror slap. I have one made out of PVC that I fashioned from the leg of a cast-off piece of camo rain gear, and even that thin PVC quiets the mirror slap somewhat.

It's also a good idea to get in the habit of firing a burst of five or six shots. The first one catches the wing flutter but if the bird isn't scared away, subsequent frames throughout the burst catch it perched naturally. The images in the middle of the burst tend to be sharper, too, because your hand shakes slightly when pushing down and letting up on the shutter button, while it settles down and introduces less shake during mid burst. Not likely an issue at 1/3000, but for sure an issue at 1/100.

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