Technical: Canon EOS 7D, 1/2000 sec, focal length 135, f29

Shooting the moon, at least I assume it’s the moon is a problem. The moon is brightly lit by the sun. And, no, you cannot use any kind of flash. The exposure is therefore like shooting in daylight. The problem is that moon is far away [I bet you knew that] and usually only fills a small portion of the image frame. The camera will tend to meter and overexpose the moon resulting in a bright spot with no detail or texture. I have written on the exposure in previous posts. I would start at f11 and 1/250 sec. If you want to make the shutter slower then you must make the f stop a larger number [or smaller opening].

During an eclipse things are just that much more difficult. Lately I have used a tripod and then gone to manual exposure. I will adjust and inspect each image for sharpness and exposure. With the LCD and a large memory card, the experiment can be checked right on the spot.

Here David got a simple crescent. I have been fortunate enough to get an eclipse in New York where the ambient city lights enhanced the cloud cover so that I got clouds as well as the moon in eclipse. The exposure requires a lot of juggling and a good tripod. For a reference see my post of 11/22 and 11/23/11 where I discuss the sun and moon.


Technical: Ektachrome slide no data

Paris in the ‘80’s. Slide film. One ISO. The only variables were the shutter speed and f-stop. There are so many errors present in this shot that I made. Cropping is interesting as the trees lead to the Arc de Triomphe. After that, it’s downhill. My eye was curious to see the foreground people. There is too much sky. The horizon should move upward. More people (remember National Geographic) but then you have to decide if the foreground is focused or the monument is the key element.

You could go HDR nowadays. Lately, I have done this on occasion, taking several shots and planning to stack them in Photoshop. I just keep forgetting to Photoshop post processing. I can imagine a vertical panorama shot to emphasize the long Parisian boulevard.

There is telephoto compression and the long Champs Elysees is foreshortened. The color balance is off and needs correction. The Arc de Triomphe is not in focus. This may be partly due to weather, heat, and haze. On a warm summer day these effects will blur objects far away. The photographer and lens may not be at fault. The only way to reduce this problem is to move closer. But then you lose the telephoto effect. I would do this over, if I were there again.


Technical: Nikon D200, 1/250 sec, f5, focal length 135mm

The king around the feeder for me is the cardinal. Its red color is majestic. The blue jay and the cardinal were most skittish. They would land for a moment and be gone almost before I could react. I began to keep an eye on the nearby trees. The bird would sit among the cover and get courage to fly to the open feeder. I began to anticipate when they would swoop in. Voila! I got a cardinal in mid swoop. The feeder was in the open because the squirrels would climb and/or leap from any nearby branch to cling to the feeder and clean it out in minutes. There was even a cover on the post to prevent the squirrels access by climbing up the post.


Technical: Nikon D200, 1/1000 sec, f5, focal length 150mm                     Technical: Nikon D200, 1/1000 sec, f5, focal length 150mm

Timing is everything. This is a female snowy woodpecker. It has no red on the back of its head. I got her landing, not too bad. And, five frames later, she flew away. I really missed the critical moment of hovering. I admit I did have my finger on the motor drive. In five frames the beginning and end were ok but not great. I will also say that I was not sitting behind the camera for hours. I was editing images and would look up to catch the action. The birds were not active every moment. There seemed to be periods early in the morning and at around 4PM when there was a lot of action. During the afternoon and around lunchtime there was sporadic activity but not continuous. With the tripod and the camera pre focused it only took a moment to try to dial in critical focus. Some of the shots were just made as I saw the activity pick up. Once more I make the point that the motor drive is helpful but not always.


Technical: Nikon D200, 1/1000 sec, f5, focal length 150mm

I want to make a couple of points here – color and focal length. The day is grey. The subtle brown tones don’t add much contrast. So the purple finches red heads add a spot of color. (Yes, I know I said red. The guidebook identifies them as purple finches.) The focal length is medium at 150mm. I would have tried 400mm but this would have been too much work. You can’t anticipate movement and motion well. By the time you swing the camera around you have missed the action. By the way, I am on manual focus and shutter priority. VR is turned off on the tripod. If you don’t turn off VR the motor in the lens will hunt and kill your battery life. Here is where custom settings are necessary.

Birds in Fight

Technical: Nikon D200, 1/500 sec, f5, focal length 160mm

I was getting pretty good shots. So now experiment. It’s about pushing the limits and seeing what you can do. This image was shot at 1/500. I even went to 1/2000. The image at this point (1/2000) crossed over with unacceptable noise. But I think that 1/500 or 1/1000 is about right. The nicest images are those with the tail feathers spread and the wings in hover position. And it’s better when there is some action going on. Cropping closer, I could delete the feeder and make this more abstract. The noise would probably not be acceptable.


Go Away

Technical: Nikon D200, 1/250 sec, f5, focal length 160mm

Go away! I have spoken of the problems of weather, light, and shooting through window glass. Motion. The slow shutter speed gave motion blur to the wings beating. And the bird in motion is too much for 1/250 to capture sharply even though the birds are roughly in the same plane of focus. The action is the point not detail in the feathers. I immediately set this image aside. Technically it has its faults.

Bird Feeder

Technical: 0039 Nikon D200 1/250 sec, f5, ISO 200, focal length 160      Technical: 9815 Nikon D200 1/250 sec, f5, ISO 200, focal length 185                     Technical: 1010 Nikon D200 1/1000 sec, f5, ISO 1000, focal length 145

Here’s an exercise. Try to shoot birds in flight. I have many shots now of birds perched on the feeder. Flight is another subject. Advice: shoot at high shutter speed, use a tripod, pre focus, and have lots of patience. I used a tripod, which I mostly eschew. It does limit mobility and composition. But holding a telephoto lens is a chore. I used the bird feeder and focused on one of the lower screws as my pre focus point. I set the camera focus on manual so I could fine tune. I used shutter speeds of 1/250, 1/1000, and then 1/2000. The action is caught pretty well at 1/2000 but there is the noise/ISO to contend with. My ISO ran to 1000 and then 1600. The images were sharp. At 1/250, the wing motion was harder to stop. The images are obtained primarily by patience. In 1000 images, I got about 50 take home shots. You would never do that with film, but hey, it’s digital. You cannot just set off the motor drive. It will not reliably capture good images. Most images have no movement because the timing was off. Or the image will capture the wings in a strange position. Hence there is a low rate of success. The tripod is crucial. I  could pre focus and then wait. While waiting I made up this post.

For a really great set of photos see 11/14 post hummingbirds by cousin David. It’s posted again below.


This post is not for the faint hearted. If you keep your camera in a bag or case until you are ready to shoot, or if you always have your lens cap on, this post is not for you. Read on at your own peril. And make sure to look at the gallery and slide show.

Pushing the limit. I have always been cavalier about my gear. For instance, if you have the camera in your bag with a lens cap on, you will miss the picture. I avoid tripods where possible. I keep a UV filter on the front of the lens. Purists will say this will degrade the image. But, where rain is concerned I do try to take some precautions.

However, we were in Argentina at Iguazu Falls, the equivalent comparison to Niagara Falls in the US. We would be there just one full day because of missed plane connections. And the morning dawned with pouring rain interrupted by steady rain. And there was fog. Yeah, it was once in a lifetime and it was for one day. After breakfast we set out in the rain to see the falls. Our hotel was a short wet walk away from the path that led to scenic overlooks. And later, we were scheduled to ride in one of the riverboats underneath the falls. They give you waterproof bags to put your gear into. But if it’s in the bag, you can’t take a picture.

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