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Dealing with camera shake using long lenses for BIF/BOW.
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Dec 17, 2013 23:16:16   #
birdpix Loc: South East Pennsylvania
 
One of the most important factors that affect the quality of images for many photographers using lenses longer than 200mm is camera shake. The longer the lens, the more apparent this problem becomes. No one can handhold a camera without having those small muscle tremors that can affect image quality. Few tripods are truly “rock solid”.

How do we know we are having a problem with camera movement? If the subject in your image is just a little out of focus but nothing else in the image is in focus either, then camera shake is a real possibility. If you can see ghosting or smearing along contrasty edges in the entire image, then it is camera movement. For birds, one thing I look at is the catch light in the eye. The reflection of the sun should be round and if it is oblong and nothing else either at the same distance or anywhere in the image is in focus, then it is camera shake and not subject movement.

Dealing with camera shake, when handholding, may be as simple as learning to release the shutter properly. Many people in the excitement of the “shoot” jab the shutter button down causing the camera to jerk up or down. I teach people to place their finger half on and half off the shutter button and to roll their finger over it to release it. You can roll your finger a little to initiate focus and then roll it a little more when you want to take the picture. It is just like firing a rifle: Take a breath and slowly release it as you roll your finger over the shutter release.

Long lenses, especially for handheld birds in flight, require high shutter speeds. The rule of thumb that states that you should use a minimum shutter speed of 1 over the focal length just doesn’t work. I like to say that you need to at least double that. Don’t forget that with a crop sensor, you need to factor that in. So a 400mm lens on a 1.6 crop body is effectively a 640mm lens. I get my best results with the 500mm on a 7D at 1/2000 and above. Image stabilization (or vibration reduction) is of little value at these higher shutter speeds and with some lenses seems to slow down focus acquisition and tracking. IS/VR was not designed to compensate for the gross, erratic motions of following a bird in flight. However, when the light is waning and we are forced to use longer and longer shutter durations then it is worth a try.

Use proper panning technique with Birds in Flight. For more in depth info, see my previous post here on the BIF/BOW section at: http://www.uglyhedgehog.com/t-88437-1.html

For birds that are more stationary when handholding, find something to brace the camera on. Leaning against a tree, a fencepost, or a wall, for example, can help reduce camera movement. If you are shooting from the car, turn it off. Use a bean bag on the window sill or, if you don’t want to spend that kind of money, get a pool noodle, cut it to length, slit it half way through lengthwise and put it on the edge of the partially rolled up glass. Make sure you and anyone else in the car sits still!

Although tripods can really stabilize a camera, really big lenses need really heavy, strong, expensive tripods. That’s great in a stationary setting but who can carry a 20 lb tripod with 15 lbs of camera and lens plus all of our other gear around all day? So we get a lighter weight tripod, or the best we can afford. Even just pressing the shutter button can introduce vibrations. With a long lens and big lens hood the breeze can move things around too. Use a remote shutter release, either cable or radio or use the self timer so you are not touching the camera when the shutter goes off. Many tripods have a hook under the head. This is so that you can tie it down. Hang your camera bag or some other heavy object from it and that will dampen any vibrations. Use Image Stabilization or Vibration Reduction. What? Despite what you may have heard, you CAN use IS with a tripod! The movements induced by a gusty wind are exactly the kind of vibrations that IS is designed to handle. Canon even recommends it. Most modern lenses are tripod aware. Canon lists only 4 lenses in their lineup that are not tripod aware. Unfortunately, this list includes the 100-400mm L zoom that some of us use so be aware of that. I’m sure Nikon has similar features. These techniques are doubly important when using long lenses with tele-extenders.

Learn to reduce camera shake using one or more of these techniques and you will be well on your way to getting the best pictures possible out of your investment!
500mm lens at 1/400, f/8. Look at the eye in the download and you will see the catchlight is oblong indicating camera movement. It was a calm day and the bird was stationary.
500mm lens at 1/400, f/8. Look at the eye in the d...
500mm lens with 2.0 tele-extender on a Canon 7D. That's an effective focal length of 1600mm! Tripod mounted, locked down, 1/320, f/13. Manually focused using live view, radio remote shutter release.
500mm lens with 2.0 tele-extender on a Canon 7D. T...

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Dec 18, 2013 10:10:24   #
Puglover Loc: Lakeside Ca.
 
Birdpix, Beautiful photos!!! I want to thank you for the information. I have been taking pictures of hawks. I would have been thrilled a year ago with some of the pictures I have posted here in the last month but they are never as sharp as I wish they were. Their heads are usually sharp but I always have some blur in the wings when they are flying. I am going to try doing everything you have said and see if I have more luck.
Again thank you

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Dec 18, 2013 18:23:53   #
birdpix Loc: South East Pennsylvania
 
Puglover wrote:
Birdpix, Beautiful photos!!! I want to thank you for the information. I have been taking pictures of hawks. I would have been thrilled a year ago with some of the pictures I have posted here in the last month but they are never as sharp as I wish they were. Their heads are usually sharp but I always have some blur in the wings when they are flying. I am going to try doing everything you have said and see if I have more luck. Again thank you
Terri, Your problem doesn't sound like camera shake so much as too slow a shutter speed. If the head is in focus and the wing tips are blurred then you need to bump up your shutter speed. Even so, having some wingtip blur can give a sense of motion. Post a few pictures so we can see.

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Jul 24, 2015 22:34:18   #
Nalu Loc: Southern Arizona
 
If I am correct, you wrote this article back in 2013. I have read it numerous times, trying to get the best information to help my attempts at capturing BIF's, and I appreciate what you have offered. I am using a 400mm DOII on a 7dII with both 1.4x and 2X canon extenders. Specifically, my question is, with the newer series of lenses out with (I think) more sophisticated IS systems, I am wondering whether you still feel it is best to turn IS off when shooting at shutter speeds necessary to capture flying birds, like 1/2000th, as well as on a tripod, or does it make a difference.There are a bunch of variables associated with this effort: different cases with different sensor sensitivities, IS 1,2, or 3; different sensor arrays, etc. Do you tink things have changed with newer equipment to update some of the guidance you have provided in your article on "camera shake". I have been doing a lot of reading, and for instance, Author Morris seems to be of the opinion that regarding IS, just leave it on (IS 1 for static shots, IS 3 for BIF. He doesn't seem to comment on different case settings, at least I have not been able to find anything so far.

Its been two years since your article on this. Any updates based on newer equipment, or do you feel that from your perspective, things are pretty much status Quo. Appreciate you thoughts.

Thanks

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Jul 24, 2015 23:41:10   #
RRS Loc: Not sure
 
Let me throw my two cents in. What is now working for you? What have you changed and what results are you now seeing? I shoot with a great bunch of guys and gals too, we all share with each other. There are a few in this group that are always on the cutting edge and we get to see first hand what's out there.As for IS, your a Canon shooter, there has been a new IS choice added. As for using the IS, I still turn it off even with the longer Canon primes when shooting BIF.The majority of my BIF shots are done in Winter time with temps down to zero at 1/1250 and faster so I don't really need it and it saves on the battery too. Shooting off a gimbal head I still turn it off even though Canon says you can leave it on. W hen hand holding I do turn it on. What has changed over the years of shooting BIF is my ability to learn bird flight patterns and to stay focused on the birds eye.

You do have good reach with your 400mm and the crop factor helps too. I have read a lot and also used both the 1.4 and 2.0 series III Canon extenders and my findings are that I much prefer to use the 1.4 about 95% of the time due to IC. I will resort to the 2.0 on a long shot of a static bird like the GSO.

Read and re-read and see what works for you and experiment on your own. About how many BIF shots do you do in a year. The more I did the better I have become and yes I am using the newer Canon lenses with 3 options for IS and I am pretty much using what you said when I do use it. Have fun...Ron

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Jul 25, 2015 17:22:32   #
birdpix Loc: South East Pennsylvania
 
Nalu wrote:
If I am correct, you wrote this article back in 2013. I have read it numerous times, trying to get the best information to help my attempts at capturing BIF's, and I appreciate what you have offered. I am using a 400mm DOII on a 7dII with both 1.4x and 2X canon extenders. Specifically, my question is, with the newer series of lenses out with (I think) more sophisticated IS systems, I am wondering whether you still feel it is best to turn IS off when shooting at shutter speeds necessary to capture flying birds, like 1/2000th, as well as on a tripod, or does it make a difference.There are a bunch of variables associated with this effort: different cases with different sensor sensitivities, IS 1,2, or 3; different sensor arrays, etc. Do you tink things have changed with newer equipment to update some of the guidance you have provided in your article on "camera shake". I have been doing a lot of reading, and for instance, Author Morris seems to be of the opinion that regarding IS, just leave it on (IS 1 for static shots, IS 3 for BIF. He doesn't seem to comment on different case settings, at least I have not been able to find anything so far.
Its been two years since your article on this. Any updates based on newer equipment, or do you feel that from your perspective, things are pretty much status Quo. Appreciate you thoughts.
If I am correct, you wrote this article back in 20... (show quote)
First a disclaimer: I do not own any lenses with the newer IS mode 3 so all of my comments are without personal experience.

Mode 3 would seem to be a good choice for BIFs with some caveats. My understanding is that it comes on only when the shutter is pressed and, if it detects panning motion, acts as if it is Mode 2. If one is shooting large birds that fly in a regular pattern horizontally in front of you, then it will work well. If you are shooting erratic birds that require you to move the camera in a diagonal direction then IS mode 2 will not be much help. In everything I have read, Mode 2 will ignore the camera motion in horizontal or vertical panning and will still compensate for the perpendicular motion. Nowhere have I seen any indication that it will compensate for panning in a diagonal direction.

So, I guess I am saying, at least for me, the jury is still out. I will continue to recommend high shutter speeds and the use of IS only when handholding at lower speeds.

What I find frustrating is that there is very little good, current information out there. Canon even gives conflicting statements. The Canon-USA website states that mode 3 will act like mode 2 when it detects panning motion. The Canon-Europe site says that it acts like "Normal" IS and makes no mention of it detecting panning motion. So which is it?

This question is of interest to me as I hope to upgrade my 100-400 Mk I to the newest version which does have Mode 3 available and up to 4 stops of benefit.
Ed

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