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Opinion(s) Needed
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Aug 9, 2018 09:41:17   #
AzPicLady (a regular here)
 
Every time you get the urge to purchase a new lens, put yours on the camera and go out and spend time shooting. After awhile you'll get to good with your current lens and so happy with it, you won't want a new one! Spend the $$ on going somewhere to photograph!

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Aug 9, 2018 09:55:47   #
DK
 
A comment that makes me grit my teeth is the person who tells me, "You take really great pictures, you must have have a really good camera." It is not the camera or the equipment, it is the photographer that creates the photo. I read a study once where they gave famous photographers cheap point and shoot cameras and average individuals top of the line equipment. The professionals still created the best images with the cheap point and shoot cameras. Practice, Practice, Practice. Experiment and study is how you develop as a photographer.

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Aug 9, 2018 10:12:57   #
kaitoo212
 
I agree! When your living and working on a budget you try to maximize the equipment you have even though we all want better gear!
Daniel

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Aug 9, 2018 10:15:44   #
Bill_de (a regular here)
 
Shootist wrote:
my bad!


No, you're good. I'd be happy to call this mine ... but it's not, it's yours.

FWIW - this was done in Elements 15.



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Aug 9, 2018 10:17:48   #
suntouched
 
I don't see a problem with your image-it's very sharp, colorful, but it lacks the WOW factor (that I think you are looking for). In my opinion, the outstanding images that I have seen of birds are all about the lighting- back lighting, side lighting, time of day etc. Without that you end up with an average image. Along with the lighting it helps if the bird is doing something unexpected rather than the expected static pose. Would another lens/camera help? Maybe but it seems you have good enough. Although having said that sometimes a change jumpstarts creativity.

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Aug 9, 2018 10:39:51   #
DWHart24
 
As some others have stated above, the Nikon 200-500 will definitely give you better results. I purchased this lens earlier this year and was amazed at how sharp it is across it's focal range. I also own the Sigma 50-500. Your skill definitely has a lot to do with getting great photos, but equipment does matter depending on what you are shooting. You know the old saying, you get what you pay for...

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Aug 9, 2018 10:45:34   #
jaycoffman
 
It's always the gear--go for it! Ok, Ok, I actually agree with the others on this one. Your shot is excellent so if you're not liking what you're doing you need to think again about how you would like to present your images to yourself, to others to ... Is it that you're tired of birds just standing there? Could you look for birds in a more natural setting? Birds in flight or landing or taking off... You get the idea--think about the overall image rather than the technical perfection. If you decide you'd like to present the birds in a different way then you can start on the quality of the image. That's just one perspective but it's how I go about shooting and thinking about my subjects.

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Aug 9, 2018 10:56:38   #
willaim
 
I agree with rpavich. Shoot more and spend less.

You can buy expensive equipment, but that's not going to help make better pictures.

BTW, those photos look very good to me.

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Aug 9, 2018 11:04:13   #
CatMarley
 
Shootist wrote:
Going back over bird shots I have taken, the best observation I can make about them is that some are good but very few (if any) are outstanding. While technique in both taking the shot and PP are always going to be a work in progress for me, I am wondering if I am at the point where my ability is being hampered by my equipment. I am considering trading in my Sigma 150-600 mm f 5-6.3C for a Nikon 200-500 f5.6. Attached is an image typical for what I consider my best efforts in shots and PP. Your opinion please, am I just having a GAS attack or would a better lens up my game?

Image shot with Nikon D7100 and Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3C. Focal length 600mm, f6.3, 1/320 sec, ISO 200. PP with PhotoNinja with final touchup in GIMP and cropped to 2027x1351pix size.

Sorry, I was using a Nikon D7100 vs the D750, my bad!
Going back over bird shots I have taken, the best ... (show quote)


If this was at 600 mm it was an effective 900 mm with a crop sensor, so your distance from the subject was rather extreme. Distance itself is a degrading factor, just by water vapor, and heat in the atmosphere. What I think you may be disliking about this image is it is bland and static - not the fault of your equipment - but of the subject and the distance and lack of context. It might just as well be a photo of a stuffed bird - it lacks sparkle and any signs of life. Equipment is not the answer. A live animal is not interesting or beautiful unless it is alive and doing something. Look at wildlife images you find interesting or "outstanding". I think you will find they all tell some sort of story about the animal = they have "life" and context.

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Aug 9, 2018 11:06:42   #
saxman71
 
That is an acceptably good blue bird shot. Several other members have taken that image and noticeably improved it through better processing. I have no idea what program you use to post-process your images, but it might be possible that is what you should concentrate on to make your images the best they can be.

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Aug 9, 2018 12:03:42   #
JeffDavidson (a regular here)
 
Fill lighting so that eye is not all black (just a suggestion). Although I have the Nikon 220-500mm, your photo does not appear to be hampered by your lens choice.

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Aug 9, 2018 12:07:43   #
dsmeltz (a regular here)
 
Shootist wrote:
Going back over bird shots I have taken, the best observation I can make about them is that some are good but very few (if any) are outstanding. While technique in both taking the shot and PP are always going to be a work in progress for me, I am wondering if I am at the point where my ability is being hampered by my equipment. I am considering trading in my Sigma 150-600 mm f 5-6.3C for a Nikon 200-500 f5.6. Attached is an image typical for what I consider my best efforts in shots and PP. Your opinion please, am I just having a GAS attack or would a better lens up my game?

Image shot with Nikon D7100 and Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3C. Focal length 600mm, f6.3, 1/320 sec, ISO 200. PP with PhotoNinja with final touchup in GIMP and cropped to 2027x1351pix size.

Sorry, I was using a Nikon D7100 vs the D750, my bad!
Going back over bird shots I have taken, the best ... (show quote)


How do you plan the shots you take? Have you studied bird behavior so that you can predict when the subject will likely be in a position that matches the shot you want? Do you position yourself relative to your plan and your research?

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Aug 9, 2018 12:15:12   #
eurobird
 
Don't down your equipment photo's are great your should be proud of yourself.

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Aug 9, 2018 13:28:59   #
amfoto1 (a regular here)
 
Like most of the other responses, I don't think there's a problem with your lens. It seems fine and I really don't see where there would be much room for improvement.

I would recommend you shoot some tests with your 150-600mm to find it's optimal apertures and focal lengths at various distances. You probably would see some improvements stopping down from wide open, although that will require using a higher ISO. The 1/320 shutter speed you used for this shot is just about the bare minimum for quick moving wildlife. If the bird had been on the wing instead of "posed", you'd have needed a faster shutter speed.... probably 1/640 at a minimum.

Another thing... If you have a "protection" filter on the lens, try some shots without it. Might surprise you!

Many have mentioned the lack of a catchlight in the bird's eye.... and I agree. That's important to make animals appear alive. Without a catchlight, they look dead. For several reasons, I suspect your subject was in shade when this shot was taken... which might explain the lack of a catchlight. One possible solution is to use weak fill flash. When using a telephoto from some distance, that also often means using a flash extender. Here's a discussion and some examples of how that's often done: https://luminous-landscape.com/better-beamer/

In fact, I think that most of the "issues" with your images can be solved in post-processing and, if anything, that's where I'd suggest you spend some money, learn some tricks and work to improve the image. (Better editing software? Books or classes to learn to use it well?)

I used Photoshop... first simply "opening up" the middle tonalities of the image slightly using Levels (Do you use a calibrated monitor? If not, that might be necessary for really accurate exposure adjustments and may be a better place to spend some money, than on a lens). Then I used a "pencil" tool to add a catchlight to the bird's eye... That took several tries with different sizes and locations before I got something that I felt looked "right". I also "dialed back" the catchlight slightly... It's not pure white in the edited example below. Also notice how the tonal adjustments made the white ring around the bird's eye a little brighter, as well as increasing contrast slightly over the rest of it's feathers.

Because it appeared to be shot in shade, I also used Photoshop to add a weak "81A warming" filter to the overall image. Shaded subjects tend to be bluish, especially on days with a bright, clear blue sky. I was careful not to overdo this because of the bird's coloration.

The next thing I did was select the background (using the "magic wand" tool). I added slight blur to that.

Then I inverted the selection and did some SLIGHT selective sharpening of the bird and the barbed wire fence. Personally I think adding some blur to out of focus areas like the background here can make the in-focus areas appear sharper, without over-doing it. I also used the sharpening tool and blur tools in Photoshop to very selectively retouch some of the bird's feathers here and there... increasing sharpness in some of the softest areas with the one tool, while toning down some of the sharper areas slightly with the other.

It appeared to me that some sharpening had already been applied overall to the image... that was causing some excessive sharpness of some of the feather detail, "halos" and JPEG artifacts along some of the higher contrast edges, and seemed to be adding some granularity to the background. With only the JPEG to work with, I used a clone tool to eliminate some of the halo/artifact problems along various edges (under the bird's beak, under the barbed wire). If I'd been working with a RAW original instead, I might have been able to avoid both those artifacts and the background granularity by selective sharpening.

Overall, I only spend a few minutes retouching, tried to keep it to a minimum and not to overdo it. (I often see what I consider over-sharpened images being displayed online... That makes my eyes bleed! )

Depending upon what was going to be done with the image... how large and how high resolution it was going to be displayed... I might do a little more work on it. For example, the top of the bird's head is still a bit "soft", when it's viewed in larger sizes. But, overall, notice the slight increase in "pop".

Here's the result and your original to compare...
EDITED IMAGE
EDITED IMAGE...
(Download)
ORIGINAL
ORIGINAL...
(Download)

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Aug 9, 2018 13:38:36   #
swartfort
 
I know I speak of this more often than not, but it has made such a difference in my bird images....

In looking at the info you gave regarding equipment and settings, I notice that you have the aperture set at 6.3 (maximum for that lens at that focal range). I also notice that the ISO is at 200 and the shutter speed is fairly low also. I think that this combination (I don't know if this is common in your bird shots) will not always produce the sharpest image relative to the lens you are using. If you look up some of the technical data on that lens, you will find that it is sharpest at longer focal ranges if you close the aperture a bit. I realize that this will cause your ISO to increase and you risk a bit more noise. (the classic trade off right?). But, with the camera (sensor) you are using, you should be able to get clean and clear images at ISO even up to 2000 without sacrificing to much to "noise". I have attached an image shot at a higher ISO with a smaller aperture. I think it is sharp. (but my eyes are not as good as some) I'd try playing with variations of your settings before I'd succumb to GAS attacks. Best of luck.
D3400 AF-s 70-300, 7.1, 1/1600, ISO 1400, 220mm
D3400 AF-s 70-300, 7.1, 1/1600, ISO 1400, 220mm...
(Download)

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