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TOPIC: Photographing Birds in Poor Light

Photographing Birds in Poor Light 3 years 8 months ago #166

  • Andrew Browne
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I'm currently on Bruny Island Tasmania, staying at Inala.
The weather is poor and overcast, not ideal conditions for bird photography esp when under a tree canopy or worst still in a temperate rain forest.
Does anyone have references or advice for bird photography in poor light conditions!
Or do I just stay inside and read my book!
Regardless after 2 1/2 days here have got some great shots of a Grey Goshawk male, white morph.
Cheers AB

Cheers AB

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Re: Photographing Birds in Poor Light 3 years 8 months ago #167

  • Les Peters
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Hi Andrew,

When the light is poor, I tend to bring my own light along , by which I mean it may be time to use a flash.

If you use something like a Better Beamer, you'll gain around 2 to 3 stops extra light over what you have if you use an unassisted flash. "Beamers" generally cost around $40. They aren't a bad thing to use when you are photographing birds even if there is plenty of light. I tend to pull the flash down around one and a half stops, when it will lessen any high contrast, making the light more usable. At this strength the flash isn't usually notiable in the image. I don't like black backgrounds you can get if you are heavily reliant on a flash. However, this doesn't seem to trouble most people.

Nikons have a bit of an advantage when using flash, since they will sync to 320th of a second and, depending upon the setting, they use the flash to illuminate the centre of the frame and what's in focus, while allowing the natural light to fill the background. The higher sync speed is due to using a metal, rather than a cloth shutter - which is also why their shutter noise is quite loud.

I hope the weather improves for you.

Cheers,
les

PS I have a preference for photographing birds in the soft light you get from lightly overcast days. You get nicer modeling light on your bird, making it look more three dimensional.

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Re: Photographing Birds in Poor Light 3 years 8 months ago #168

  • Andrew Browne
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Thanks Les, I don't have a flash at this time but will need to consider adding it to the kit for future outings.
The rain and overcast weather has persisted, but hopefully clearing up as the day goes on. Unfortunately only have one day left.
Have abandoned the forest areas, and the faster moving birds and set myself a hide with my camera tripod mounted in an open area frequented by Flame, Scarlet and Dusky Robins. When they are about they,re quite cooperative settling relatively still on a perch and I'm getting a few good shots at lower shutter speeds. The light works well with their colours.
Cheers Andrew
Cheers AB

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Re: Photographing Birds in Poor Light 3 years 8 months ago #169

  • Lindsay Cooke
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Hi Andrew, Pleased to see you were able to have some success with your photography on Bruny Island. I have just returned from Victoria's high country where, during the last few days the conditions have also been unfavorable. Some tips on low light photography are available on the web, ie, http://www.apertureacademy.com/how-to-tack-sharp-wildlife.php While not always appropriate to every individuals equipment, there are some elements of information that are useful. I shoot hand held with a 500mm f/4 IS lens, which is quite heavy, and where possible use a monopod to assist in stability and as a shoulder pole for carrying. My camera will take images with quite a high ISO which assists with shutter speed. But I rarely exceed ISO 1600, because of image noise, I try to keep my aperture to 7.1 ish which can also dramatically reduce the shutter speed. However the outcome can be positive if I persevere and take multiple shots of my subject, with shutter speeds as low as 1/250 there are going to be discards, but it is rare if several are not "keepers".

As Les suggested overcast/soft conditions can be an advantage to the resulting image.

Information on Better Beamer configuration can be found @ http://www.naturescapes.net/articles/reviews/getting-the-most-from-your-better-beamer-flash-x-tender/ The range will also be affected by the output power of your flash unit.

Cheers Lindsay

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Re: Photographing Birds in Poor Light 3 years 8 months ago #170

  • Andrew Browne
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Thanks Les and Lindsay. I appreciate your input. I've posted x4 of my photos from Inala on the Birdlife Photography Front Page and am very happy with the results from my new 600mm lens. The lighting problems and lots of available time, gave me ample opportunity to play with various camera settings to obtain sharp images and appropriate depth of field. I think this forum is a great innovation that will with time be utilised by more members. Cheers Andrew
Cheers AB

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Last edit: by Sonja Ross.

Re: Photographing Birds in Poor Light 3 years 8 months ago #183

  • Warren Wilson
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Andrew,

I recently spent time on Bruny Island trying to photograph close up portraits (faces) of the unique white wallabies. Like you, I found the light very poor due to the weather. Although some average keepers, I was spectacularly unsuccessful. Since then I've worked very hard to master the use of flash and a Better Beamer. I'm now moderately confident and use this set-up nearly all the time for birds etc in poor light. Although a very steep learning curve (particularly at my age) I've enjoyed it and upped my keeper rate. I'd recommend considering this technique. Some examples (if you're interested) on the BLP site. Also good luck with your 600mm.... quite a weapon!!

Warren Wilson :D

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