Friday, 21 November 2014

A natural perch can improve your common bird-shot

Hi friends,
It's a trusted rule that you can get more chances to see and shoot birds
in the morning and afternoon.

No debate.
But you never know when or where a bird oblige you...

It was a hot humid noon in the month of July.
We ( me and two of my friends) were desperate to shoot any bird comes first coz It was long since we shot a bird. Suddenly we saw a flock of Munias foraging nearby grassland. Munias are commonly seen bird here and bold too. So we decided not to stalk them to get a good shot. We chose a perch in a tree shade coz it was really too hot. We waited @ our desired perch for few minutes (a good 30 minutes) and we got our shot as they came to rest for while. Thus, me and my company made this image.

Scaly-breasted Munia

"Scaly-breasted Munia"
Jalpaiguri, WB
Canon 40D, Canon 400mm 5.6L
1/400, f 7.1, iso-800, hh


Zitting Cisticola

 The Zitting I shot in a paddy field in the month of December (though I took this image in the morning) and that too resulted coz I waited patiently choosing my perch in the field.

Canon 40D, Canon 400mm 5.6L
1/800, f8, iso-320, Monopod
Happy clicking....

Monday, 8 September 2014

Bird Photography Basics...Part iv

Shooting birds within limited 'reach':-

Siberian Stonechat, Canon 300mm f4 + Canon 1.4 tcii,  1/320, f8 , iso 320
I think, we all photograph birds because, we love and admire them and in doing so, we often feel the crisis of a long telephoto lens so that we can shoot the bird from a certain distance without frightening/disturbing it. Approaching a bird hastily in its habitat often result in disappointment coz after one or two try the bird flies away. A good 500mm is not enough (many people regret even after having a 600 or 800mm!) in this case and many of us don’t have that big gun; hence we only compromise with 300mm or 400mm (not talking of 2.8 monsters)  lenses!

Canon 300mm f4 + Canon 1.4Tc ii, 1/640, f11, iso 400, +0.3 Ev, HH

Getting a desired bird shot using 300/400 mm focal length is tough enough but, you can do very manageable photography within you limited reach by simply learning some good "field craft" like.... stalking. The photograph of the Small Pratincole (right) I took after crawling 50 mt. on the sandy river bed. With the passing time, the bird found no threat out of me and it allowed me.

Stalking means approaching a bird on foot. Stalking may give you some extra pleasure despite all its hostility (sweat/cold) coz, it gives the primitive feel like ‘hunting’. Bird stalking can be done  by kneeling, standing or by crawling (as I did above). There are following things to be done on or before stalking.....

ü  Before stalking make sure that your camera is ‘on’ or set on your desired settings.

ü  Do not wear loud colored clothes. You'll be easily spotted if you wear a red shirt or so. 

ü  Leave your backpack, water bottle etc. behind because, you may get exhausted quickly due to some extra weight.

Temminck's Stint     Canon 400mm 5.6L, 1/640, f8, iso 800

     ( I made this image simply by waiting flat on the mud-field where the bird was feeding. It accepted me in the environment and  came so close that I couldn't focus at times )

ü  Don’t approach the bird in a straight way, rather take a zig-zag way.

ü  While approaching, do not aim your lens + camera at the bird or don’t look at the bird’s eye directly.

 ü  The bird you approaching may take you as a potential threat and if it stops feeding, rises it’s head/neck looking around; stop approaching! After sometime the bird will start feeding again and then you can go in quietly without making any sudden movement.

 ü  During your approach stop for a while and photograph. It ensures that you are not missing a record shot of the species.

ü  Finally you will be ignored by the bird and then you can take your desired shot.

Citrine Wagtail  Canon 400mm 5.6L, 1/500, f8, iso 400

(I saw the Wagtail
making meal of 
insects attracted 
by the Water Lily. 
I simply laid on
belly choosing a
flower and got this!)

     Every bird has its own tolerance zone. Big birds fly from far away and small birds let you go much closer. Do not harass any bird by chasing it. Birds around humanity are much easier to approach than those who are not in contact with human beings. Kingfishers, Stonechats and many other birds have their personal liking for a particular perch in a particular area. Watch them carefully and sitting quietly near their desired perch  may result in a great photograph. Happy clicking....

Siberian Stonechat   Canon 300mm f4 + Canon 1.4 Tc ii, 1/200, f8, iso 400



To be continued......

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Bird photography..Basic know-how, Part-iii

Choosing a good lens helps lot.....

Green-tailed Sunbird, Canon 40D + Canon 300mm f4 L + Canon 1.4 Tc ii,
1/160, f8, ISO 640
Now you've shot many images with your current gear and learnt a lot about photographing birds. In the wild, you've faced a lot of problems like...low light, dense vegetation, adverse weather, hyperactive subject etc. and found your images not usable in many cases. In critical conditions like above, your lens + camera failed to lock focus quickly or failed to pull  maximum out of shadowy or cloudy conditions.

If the situation is like above, then it's time to upgrade. A body upgrade is always possible but you've to think for a good lens first. Get a decent OEM lens ( at least 300mm) with maximum aperture f4 ( 2.8 long lenses are too costly and good choice also ). I upgraded to a canon 300mm f4 L after using a Sigma 170-500 for years. It worked wonder with Canon 1.4 tc and I got the working focal length of 420 mm with max. aperture 5.6.

Small Pratincole, Canon 40D + Canon 300mm f4 + Canon 1.4 Tc ii,
1/640, f8, ISO 320

Advantages of shooting with OEM lenses gives you better colour, contrast, sharpness, bokeh, and a better control over the whole image( like pulling maximum details in shadow/dark areas). It always gives you lightening fast ( lenses with USM/ AF-S) focus lock compared to non-OEM counterparts. 

Ruddy Shelduck, Canon 40D + Canon 300mm f4 + Canon 1.4 Tc ii, 1/2000, f8, ISO 500

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Bird Photography...Basic Know-how, Part ii

Red-collared Dove

Canon 1000D + Sigma 170-500
@ 350mm, 1/320, f9, ISO 400

Trust your gear you have :-

Let me assume.... you've decided to do some bird photography and simply building your lens/camera line-up. Now, you are thinking which camera/lens to buy. I would recommend to buy any popular camera system that prevail in your country/state. In doing this, you need a lot of money and if money is not your problem then you may not be interested in my saying below. If, due to restricted budget, you are taking every step cautiously and hence couldn't zeroed on what to get first- a 'pro-body' + cheap lens or a 'big telephoto prime' + entry-level body; then believe me no pro-body or a big lens will make you a great bird photographer. It's the only 'you' behind the lens/camera make you a great photographer!

So, grab a good camera and lens within your budget. It may be an entry-level DSLR or a third party zoom lens from Sigma/Tamron, like 150-500, 150-600.Some people may discourage you saying that this camera isn't capable of shooting birds in action or that lens is soft beyond 400mm etc. You may find tons of actual reviews of these popular lenses before you decide.But my view in this regard is "just trust your gear you have". If you have full faith on your gear and in your ability then you can do marvel despite some limitations.

I took these images below with a Canon 1000D + Sigma 170-500 which were considered outdated when I purchased them and learnt a lot by trial and error and from mistakes I made.

Little Egret

Canon 1000D Sigma 170-500 @ 300mm
1/1600, f7.1, ISO 200

Kalij Pheasant

Canon 1000D Sigma 170-500 @ 500mm
1/160, f8, ISO 1600

                                                                                      To be continued.....

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Bird Photography......Basic know-how, part-i

Photographing birds can give immense pleasure and fun but at the same time it's very challenging too.Today, if you've a decent DSLR and a lens covering focal length 200/250/300mm or a mega zoom point & shoot; it's more than enough to start shooting birds. In the long run you'll learn automatically which camera or lens to get or discard. So, don't worry if the next guy to you shooting with a big gun!

It's the best way to start taking photographs of birds those are readily available. i.e your back-yard birds.You can make some habitat shots or some close-ups of  rather co-operative birds.

Little Cormorant in habitat
Canon 1000D + Canon 55-250
1/400, f5.6, ISO 400

Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker
Canon 1000D + Canon 70-300 IS
1/640, f8, ISO 800

Photographing birds in your early days of shooting has its own problems like, where or when to look for birds! But you can mange these basic problems by acquiring little knowledge about your subject and its habitat. By knowing it you can double or triple your chances of encountering your favourite subject.

White-throated Kingfisher
Canon 1000D + canon 55-250
1/500, f5.6, ISO 100

Common KF
Canon 1000D + Canon 55-250
1/200, f5.6, ISO 200

 Few Tips:- 
.Morning and afternoon are the best time to watch/shoot birds coz, at that time they remain busy feeding themselves.
.Look in a wintering forest instead of a dense vegetation; it increases your chances of seeing and shooting.
.Visit your local Wetlands/ Rivers/ Sea-shores; they have great potential for migratory and resident birds. 
                                                                                                                  To be continued....

Sunday, 16 February 2014

A quick review of Kenko 1.4x Pro 300 DGX Telecoverter coupled with Canon 400mm 5.6L on a 40 D

It is impossible to have a single bird photographer who doesn't wish for longer lens or the longest possible reach within budget. Frankly speaking, I'm also a budget photographer and hence always look for a cheaper way to photography (Read 'Bird Photography') coz it costs a lot.
This time I was thinking of using a 1.4 tc with my canon 40D+ canon 400mm 5.6 combo ( 400x1.4x1.6= 896mm). As canon Tc would not auto-focus and report exposure + aperture correctly, I thought of using a Kenko Tc which would report and auto-focus on my 40D @ f8.

Keep in mind that I'm sharing 'my personal experience' with the Kenko 1.4x pro 300 dgx Teleconverter.

Just sharing my Flickr page for the sake of viewing my work and reading exif data if you like.  :) 

Black-faced Warbler
Canon 40D + Canon 300mm f4 + Canon 1.4Tc ii
1/125, f7.1, ISO 800

Gear Reviewed:-
I'm going to share my experiences with Kenko 1.4x pro 300 DGX Teleconverter in general and my experiences using it mounted on a Canon 40D + Canon 400mm 5.6L.

Technical Details of the Product :-
Sharing their own link....

And flipkart link to have an idea about the price here......

Test Details:-
Few month ago, I've tested this Kenko tc casually on a Canon 100-400mm 5.6L+ Canon 550D/ 60D, owned by friend of mine and on my Canon300mm f4 L (non-IS) which I was using with Canon 1.4xTc ii and found that Kenko gives better focusing speed and accurate focus locking when used with Canon 300mm f4 than Canon 100-400mm 5.6L.
Image Quality is also superb (almost Identical with Canon 1.4xTc ii) when used with 300mm prime.
With Kenko, 100-400mm suffers IQ and focus locking . Kenko 1.4x pro 300 DGX is faster than Canon 1.4 Tc ii while using with Canon 300mm f4.

But on 2nd Feb'14, I thought to give Canon 40D + Canon 400mm 5.6L + Kenko 1.4x pro 300 combo a hard field test. So I borrowed the Kenko Tc from a friend and used it in a bird shootout  @ Gajoldoba Wetland, WB. My setting was 40D with Lens + 1.4 Tc @ f8 and to surprise it auto-focused!!

The shooting condition was purely HandHeld on a small fishing boat and my experience is mixed one. We started nearly @ 8.30 in the morning and the Sun was covered due to heavy mist.
In poor light condition the lens +tc combo hunts and failed to lock focus but the bare lens focuses quickly.In good light (Sunny) the lens + tc combo hunts little and confirms focus but not too quick as the bare lens do.
In my opinion it is not suitable to use the Tc (though it auto-focuses) if you are keen on getting some action shot.
If the subject is static and you are mounted on tripod then OK.The tc takes sharp image with canon 400mm 5.6, means you loose little IQ. Same result is obtained regarding focus on a 550D.

Pros & Cons:-
.Very good when used with primes having aperture f4 or faster.
.Unlike Canon Tcs, Kenko Tc can be fitted to almost every lens.
.Not so good when used with lenses having max.aperture 5.6. But you can live with it. I never used it with any other zoom except 100-400mm 5.6L.

Build Quality:-
Build quality is OK but I like the feel and handling of Canon Tc most over Kenko.

Value for Money:-
I must admit that it's a value for money Tc coz without breaking your bank you can have a tc which gives almost identical IQ when used with f4 or faster lenses.

I tested my 400mm 5.6L coupled with Canon 1.4tc ii (manual focus) and it produced amazingly sharp and great looking images with superb contrast & colour. But Kenko gave a little lesser.
Kenko gave me superb  focus locking speed on 300mm f4. Must say it's better than canon 1.4 tc ii in this regard.

A good value for money Tc and produces almost identical IQ if coupled with f4 or faster lenses.But on Canon 400 5.6 it needs good bright light to lock focus and to be accurate.

Recommended for f4 or faster lenses.
You can be happy with the result when shooting static subject (bird) using it with Canon 400mm 5.6L. Best result can be obtained out of this combo if you use a tripod (I guess). Some BIF can be made if the bird is big enough.

The image below is almost 50% crop and minimum PP is done so that you can judge the result of this combo.

Ruddy Shelduck
Gajoldoba, Jalpaiguri, WB
Canon 40D + Canon 400mm 5.6L + Kenko 1.4 Tc  @ 560 mm
1/800, f8, ISO 400