Using flash for wildlife photography. Does it work?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by anubis404, Feb 23, 2009.

  1. anubis404

    anubis404 TPF Noob!

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    I've seen some wildlife photographers using flash for shooting wildlife. I'm going to order a telephoto lens, but I want to know if flash helps any. All of the wildlife photographers I've seen use flash were using bare flash. If I were to start using flash while shooting wildlife, should I use a bare flash or a bounce card/softbox to soften the light? Does flash even help shooting wildlife?
     
  2. AUZambo

    AUZambo TPF Noob!

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    It seems you'd have to be pretty close to the wildlife for a flash to do any good. What kind of stuff will you be shooting? You can check the specs for a flash to see what they say is the maximum distance the flash can reach.
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    It certainly does work...but there are some things to think about.

    Firstly, you don't want to hurt or scare the animals...that should be your first concern (besides your own safety, if you are shooting bears or sharks or something).

    It obviously depends on what you are shooting...but a lot of wildlife is shot from farther away, rather than close up...which is probably why you want a telephoto lens.
    Flash, like other light, falls of over distance. You need a lot more flash power to light something up that is 100 feet away than you do for something that is 10 feet away. It actually falls off at an inverse square to the distance.

    This is most likely why you see them using bare flash rather than a softbox or something....they need all the power & distance that they can get...and flash modifiers greatly reduce the range. Also, when using flash as fill...you don't really need to soften it anyway.

    Actually, the one flash modifier that I would recommend for shooting telephoto shots...is the Better Beamer...it gives you more range with your flash. Better Beamer
     
  4. EOS_JD

    EOS_JD TPF Noob!

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    Flash is generally used not to actually light the wildlife but to provide a nice catchlight and add (as Mike says) a little fill. You don't require a huge amount of power therefore as the flash is not going to normally light your subject.

    Obviously it depends what you shoot and where you are doing it. In low light you may require flash to freeze your subject.

    Experiment and see what you require but do try not to frighten the poor things :)
     
  5. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    pretty much what BiG Mike said!
    spooking the animals is always a risk with flash - so you have to judge when to use it. Some animals won't really bat an eyelid at it whilst others will be far more scared by it. I would say that its best used during the day and late dawn, early evening - not in full dark (since in the full dark you will most likley blast out the night vision of your target and certainly send them running blind.
     
  6. bdavis

    bdavis TPF Noob!

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    Just a note, bumping up the ISO will push the flash farther, but will also add noise to the image... :(
     
  7. Village Idiot

    Village Idiot No longer a newbie, moving up!

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  8. anubis404

    anubis404 TPF Noob!

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    The lens I'm waiting on is an 80-200 2.8. I am not going to be shooting anything dangerous. It will mostly be birds (the birds around here get within 15-20 feet of you on a daily basis) or animals in zoos. I definitely will not be using flash in zoos.
     
  9. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    why not?
    pretty much this whole set: British Wildlife Centre 3 1000 - a set on Flickr
    was shot with flash on fill (it was a cloudy day so it was that or horrid high ISO). With something like a lumiquest softbox the lighting works well.
    Also (I hate to say it) but the 80-200mm will be way too short for small birds unless you are intending to use hides and feeding stations to get them really close! (under 10feet)

    If birds is your main intent bird photography starts at 400mm and a 400mm prime lens (or a 300mm f4 with 1.4 teleconverter) would be the best starting point for that sort of photography.
    I have used a 70-200mm f2.8 IS lens for birds with a 2*teleconverter (with flash support - not essential but the combo needs very good lighting and I was in not so good lighting for the combo - f8 was where I was shooting to keep the sharpness as much as possible)
    examples with 100% crops: little birds photos test - a set on Flickr

    An 80-200mm with a 1.4 TC is a great zoo lens - but just does not have it for true wildlifing (at least its not an easy lens to use for it).
     
  10. anubis404

    anubis404 TPF Noob!

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    So I've heard, but I'm going to try anyway. This lens will be mostly for zoo stuff. I just happened to have a flash and wondered if it would work.

    EDIT: 10 ft? Jeez, I though that with the crop factor I was going to get at least 15, hopefully 20 feet out of this lens.

    Examples with no TC:

    http://www.pbase.com/alexlim/image/100371269
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/22054127@N06/2394535647/in/pool-nikkor_80-200
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/35545794@N04/3297059121/in/pool-nikkor_80-200/
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2009
  11. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    small birds are - well - really tiny!
    definatly give it a go (I do when I get the chance) but don't avoid feeders and hides (even the pros with 600mm lenses use such apparatus to help them get shots!)
     
  12. anubis404

    anubis404 TPF Noob!

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    I wont. I doubt I'm going to get any shots of small birds, but we do have quite a population of crows and pigens around here.
     

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