I had a really great--but really frustrating--day bird hunting this past Saturday. Great, because I saw more pretty cool birds than I've ever seen in one outing. Frustrating, because I didn't get a single real *Keeper* out of the lot. The birds were ALL just too far away for my 70-300 lens. Basically, what I learned is: I NEED MORE REACH!!!! Of course, the PROBLEM with that is several-fold: 1. I have no money. This, I find, is a real hindrance to buying more lenses. And with two kids in college and no contract jobs scheduled anytime soon, I'm not optimistic that condition will change soon. 2. Just as there is really no such thing as "enough" money, there is no such thing as "enough" reach for wildlife photography. So I could buy a 400mm, but then I'll want a 500mm...it will never end. 3. Did I mention the money it takes to buy longer lenses? I did? Oh okay, then never mind. It's a two-fold problem, not several-fold. So, here's my question--Should I: --Buy a teleconverter? If so, what's a good, NOT expensive (approx. $200 or less) choice? Am I just going to lose in image quality what I gain in reach? I'm tending to have to crop pretty severely on a lot of my shots (other than the songbirds). --Buy some cheap interim lens, like the Tamron 200-400, which I've seen used on keh and the like for about the same price as I'm willing to spend on a converter. But I've always assumed that lenses that long and that cheap are just that...cheap. --Do nothing except suck it up and just quit trying to get photos of things like egrets and hawks until I can save the money for a decent longer lens...which will be, at the very best, late fall/early winter of this year, and more likely sometime in 2014. --Something else that I don't even know enough about to ask? I realize that ANY sub-$200 "solution" is really no solution at all, just an interim way of getting a little more. But I guess my REAL question is--does a teleconverter or a "cheap" alternative longer lens REALLY give you any "more" or do you lose in overall quality just as much as you gain in length? Here are a few of the photos from Saturday. Keep in mind, I KNOW these aren't that good; C&C them if you like, but I'm posting them more as examples related to the above questions. Also, there are several things I could do a little better with my existing lens; I am still learning what settings work best when I go out on a bird shoot, and on Saturday I missed a lot of shots because I just didn't have my settings right. I put it on Aperture Priority and I think I should have maybe used Shutter priority instead; I lost a lot of shots because my shutter speed was down too low. I also had my ISO set too low much of the time, but part of that was because the weather conditions kept changing completely. One minute it would be really overcast and kind of dark and within ten minutes it would be bright sunshine. And I would forget and leave my ISO on the wrong setting. Coastalconn had mentioned Auto-ISO with a set "maximum", but I didn't think to do that. Next time I will. Anyway, some of the pictures: They are pretty much ALL pretty heavily cropped, but most of them have very little exposure correction done in post. I did that intentionally to try to keep the noise more attributable to ISO and cropping factors. 1. The hawk was nearly directly overhead at times, but pretty high up in the sky. 2. Egrets: They were downriver, probably about a football field length, maybe a bit more, 150 yards possibly. Then they took off and flew across the river (photo 3)--definitely one of the instances where a higher shutter speed would have helped. I should mention: I could possibly have gotten closer, except that the river was way down and the bank had turned into this wet quicksand--the further I tried to go downstream the more I became afraid I was going to get sucked down into the sand...I should ALSO mention: turns out, I'm going to have to buy new hiking boots. The soles of my current ones have come almost completely separated from the tops. Discovering that WHILE trudging through the wet sandy quagmire was not really enjoyable. 3. Egret flying: REALLY wish I'd had the presence of mind to set the ISO and shutter speed correctly. D'oh. 4. Belted Kingfisher: I had no idea we even HAD kingfishers around here, so I was quite excited by this little guy! But the closest he ever got was probably still about 50-75 yards away. I really think I could have had a decent shot of him with a little more reach. I also saw another bald eagle, but I may not have even gotten a decent shot of him with a 400mm. And several more hawks (one of which I'm now wondering whether it was a hawk or a juvenile bald eagle, since it was flying around WITH the eagle). There's more on my Flickr page, although I'm about to remove some of them because they just aren't worth displaying at all.