Frustration: What I Learned on Saturday

Discussion in 'Nature & Wildlife' started by sm4him, Jan 15, 2013.

  1. sm4him
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    sm4him Where's the Bacon?!?

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    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. :D 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. :D

    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.
    [​IMG]


    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. :D
    [​IMG]


    3. Egret flying: REALLY wish I'd had the presence of mind to set the ISO and shutter speed correctly. D'oh.
    [​IMG]


    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.
    [​IMG]


    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.
  2. Mr_Mac
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    Mr_Mac New Member

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    I don't know, Sharon, I looked at the others you had uploaded to Flickr and it seems that you did actually capture a couple of keepers like No. 1, the hawk in flight. As for the rest, we can never have too many lens options but we can always have limited funds! That's what makes life so darned much fun! ;)

    Mac
  3. SCraig
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    SCraig Well-Known Member

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    I shoot birds with a 500, and sometimes a 500 with a 1.4 TC on it. It's never enough. The keys to getting good bird shots are patience and more patience, not necessarily more lens.

    YOU have to get closer to THEM, and they don't want you to do that. One very slow step at a time with a pause in between. The pause is where I normally take a shot since I'm getting closer all the time and the shots should be better. If they don't fly off you should eventually get close enough, but you have to be patient.
  4. Mully
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    Mully New Member

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    One solution is the plan a trip where there are lots of birds and rent a good lens.... maybe a bird vacation, my friend did this when he went to Africa and was glad he did.
  5. CMfromIL
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    CMfromIL Active Member

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    Well, for $129 you could get a ghillie suit. Then just simply slither up to where the birds are unnoticed, and use your current lenses.

    Kids 4 Piece Light weight Ghillie suit

    :lmao:

    And seriously, I have the canon 1.4x teleconvertor. I don't notice a degredation in image quality, but I do lose a whole stop when I use it. If I used the 2x, I would lose 2 stops.

    Outside though I don't think that would be a huge issue. You can get them used for pretty decent. Try calumet camera or B&H for their used stuff.
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  6. sm4him
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    sm4him Where's the Bacon?!?

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    Thank you Mac, I appreciate it. But I assure you, I couldn't hang any of them on my wall--or I *wouldn't* anyway. They might look reasonably decent at web resolution on a screen, but printed at any size beyond just a 4x6 maybe, the quality definitely suffers.

    ^^Says he with the 500mm and 1.4TC. ;-)
    Just kidding--I know patience is key, and so are the ninja tracking skills. I'm pretty good at that with songbirds and insects, and that's exactly what I do--one step, pause, watch, take a shot. Step, pause, take a shot. But there IS a limit to what you can really accomplish with a maximum length of 300mm; otherwise nobody would spend the bucks on longer lenses.

    Well sure, a vacation would solve a LOT of things for me. :lol: But did I mention the part where I have no money? :D
    Actually, I'm thinking seriously about renting a lens just to use in my normal, local spots and try out. But I'll have to wait until probably sometime in February to do that, since I'm in the middle of a big project and can't really take a day or two off right now.
  7. sm4him
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    sm4him Where's the Bacon?!?

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    That thing is AWESOME! But my family already thinks I've gone around the bend because I dress all in camo to go out and shoot birds. They would have me institutionalized if I bought one of those. :lol:

    Unless someone comes along and talks me out of it, I'm really thinking I might buy a TC. I guess if I hate it, I can always resell it to the next schmuck who's decided they just MUST have more reach. :biglaugh:
  8. KenC
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    KenC Well-Known Member

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    I know someone who does a lot of wildlife photography and uses a Sigma 150-500 (f5-6.3, I think). It's still expensive, but it's a lot less than anything else that would give you even close to that much reach with good IQ. Just a thought ...
  9. jrasche2003
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    jrasche2003 New Member

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  10. SCraig
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    SCraig Well-Known Member

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    I didn't always have a 500mm lens. Before that I used a 70-300 zoom. That lens is still my go-to lens for most things so, yeah, I know the limitations of 300mm.
  11. sm4him
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    sm4him Where's the Bacon?!?

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    I really WAS kidding. ;-)

    I do love my 70-300, and I do know that the BEST thing you can do as a photographer is learn to use what you actually have to the best of its ability. I think I've improved at least a teeny bit in the last year or so, as I've learned to better use the equipment I have. I've seen your work, Scott--you could outshoot me if I had your 500mm and you had a kit lens. ;-)

    It can certainly be argued that I can "make do" just fine with what I have. And I can. But I also know that I'd just LIKE to have more reach, before such time as I can afford a really nice 400mm or 500mm lens. I CAN afford the teleconverter--so I'm just looking for opinions from those I've learned to trust and respect on here as to whether the TC would be a help or not.
  12. MSnowy
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    MSnowy Well-Known Member

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    The hawk is a keeper for sure.
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  13. coastalconn
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    coastalconn Well-Known Member

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    I just sold my Tamron Pro 1.4x, they just don't work well with consumer zooms. I tried it on my 70-300 Tamron VC which for all intensive purposes is the same as the 70-300 VR. I always found that cropping resulted in a better result than using the TC. Even with my big Tamron, I often get the same results as your shots, there is only so much cropping you can do. Unfortunately for us poor folk there is no good option. If you throw a TC on your 70-300 the 1 stop becomes a big deal if your trying to catch raptors in flight. So the only option left, as you know is to stalk them...
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  14. coastalconn
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    coastalconn Well-Known Member

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    Oh, on the auto-iso thing. It only works with Nikons, btw. But lately I set min shutter to 1/2000th and max iso to 400 if I am trying to catch an eagle or hawk that is far away and expecting it to fly. I shoot that way most of the time unless the light is poor than I will up the iso up to ISO 1600 on my "antique" D300...
  15. SCraig
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    SCraig Well-Known Member

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    I know you were, sorry. My comment came out more terse than I intended.

    A 500 does give more reach, no question of that, but it really isn't as much as you think. The first shot below is with my 150-500 at 500mm. The second is with the same lens and a 1.4 TC, for 700mm or a difference of 200 (same as a 300 to 500). They were both shot at 60 meters and are uncropped.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    My TC is a Kenko PRO 300 AF 1.4X DGX converter and it does work pretty well. Those aren't the best shots I've taken with it, they are just the only two I could think of that had roughly the same shot with and without the TC. To be honest it works a lot better on my Nikkor 70-300 than on my Sigma 150-500. On the 70-300 there is very little loss of IQ, but it does cost one stop of exposure. Unlike some cheaper teleconverters it does properly report the aperture to the camera.

    If you want to play with them, come to Nashville and we'll go to the zoo or the duck park and you can shoot both to your heart's content ;)
  16. coastalconn
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    coastalconn Well-Known Member

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    Scott, you know what would be interesting? If you cropped the 500+tc by like 50% or something and cropped the non TC to the same size. I'm curious if you picked up more detail with the TC or not?
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  17. acellis
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    acellis New Member

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    SM4HIM, i can relate to your frustration. You just need to get closer to your subjects. There are lots of good resources to show you how to get closer. I bought the Sigma 150-500 and am in love with it. Still i want more!! LOL... I am now working on getting my subjects closer to the lense and i've been too close for my that lense and have had to throttle back to the 70-200. I've set up blinds, branches and water features to lure them in and have portable blinds to hid near rookeries, kayaked in the marshes and done what i can to get closer to the widllife. I will be happy to post some of my recent ones if you are interested. Arthur
  18. SCraig
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    SCraig Well-Known Member

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    Kris, up close they really aren't that good. Sixty meters is a pretty long shot, and even though I used a tripod they are a little soft. But, as requested:

    Sigma 500mm alone
    [​IMG]

    Sigma 500mm plus Kenko 1.4 TC for 700mm
    [​IMG]
  19. coastalconn
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    coastalconn Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, That's pretty much the results I had gotten also, If you can absorb the stop in shutter speed, the image is maybe marginally better. If you have to eat the stop in ISO results are downgraded a bit because of noise. I sure wish someone would just donate a 500 (or 600) F4 to me :)
  20. hopdaddy
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    hopdaddy Active Member

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    I use a "Pop-Up " blind . Around $80 at wallie world (Walmart) .take a chair ,food ,tripod and a i-pad or smart phone ,with bird calls loaded . Toss some Bait out for the intended subjects ,play the sound tract ,take the shot . regardless how you do it , make the subject come to you . more than once I have had a 70-300 mm and needed LESS reach . The real key (In my opinion ) is to allow them to come to you ,and not chase a nervous subject .

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