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Bird Photography In Overcast Conditions
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Feb 1, 2019 21:13:00   #
CHARLESTON 1979
 
I live in northern Oregon. Much of the fall and winter months have overcast/rainy conditions. I use a Nikon 7500 with a 200-500mm lens. Getting the right settings for shooting birds, particularly small ones that flit around, stumps me. Suggestions for settings?

Thanks for your help.

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Feb 1, 2019 21:29:14   #
BassmanBruce
 
I live in Michigan and we have the same winter conditions. My only suggestion is using a flash for supplemental light.
Sorry, it doesn’t answer your settings question but it’s the best I’ve got.
Have fun!

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Feb 1, 2019 23:00:53   #
whlsdn
 
CHARLESTON 1979 wrote:
I live in northern Oregon. Much of the fall and winter months have overcast/rainy conditions. I use a Nikon 7500 with a 200-500mm lens. Getting the right settings for shooting birds, particularly small ones that flit around, stumps me. Suggestions for settings?

Thanks for your help.


Unless someone capable jumps in while I'm composing a reply, you'll still be waiting for specific and knowledgeable answers after I post mine, I'm afraid. I had plenty of bright sunshine this morning when I came across this bird, yet with my old Canon 60D and a used Tamron 18-270 this is the best I did. It may have been that he/she was not only giving me the evil eye, he may have been ruffling feathers at me as well. Either that, or I missed the manual focus point a bit...and the tree does look awfully sharp on beyond her.
Details: f/8 - 1/400 sec - ISO 100 - 270 mm (Notice the vignette due to the EF -non S- lens.)


(Download)

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Feb 1, 2019 23:38:24   #
imagemeister (a regular here)
 
CHARLESTON 1979 wrote:
I live in northern Oregon. Much of the fall and winter months have overcast/rainy conditions. I use a Nikon 7500 with a 200-500mm lens. Getting the right settings for shooting birds, particularly small ones that flit around, stumps me. Suggestions for settings?

Thanks for your help.


You could use a Rogue Safari light condenser for the pop-up flash. Otherwise, using a bodypod or monopod would help allow getting your shutter speed down.

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Feb 2, 2019 01:02:23   #
a6k
 
Well, first, I object in principle to using a flash on any wild creature, birds included. Also, at telephoto distances, the flash may not be useful anyhow.

Keeping the shutter speed "down" is OK if the bird is going to hold still but usually, in my experience, they don't. Their heads and even their bodies are usually moving, stopping, moving. I think 1/500 even with excellent image stabilization is about the limit. I prefer 1/800. Since birds often behave in that jerky way, burst mode may help; it might catch that moment of stillness that your reflexes would have missed and thus allow a lower shutter speed (longer exposure).

The obvious, if unsatisfying, answer, is to use higher ISO than is otherwise ideal. Long lenses are already at small apertures and stopping down at least one more stop is often best for fine detail on eyes, feathers and such. I have also found that the focus distance for the eye is not often where the body and wing feathers are. That call for depth of field AKA smaller apertures.

Even in full sun, 1/400 and F=8 is the correct exposure for ISO 100. If ambient light is lower then the choices are slower shutter, larger aperture if available or higher ISO. In my experience, ISO up to 3200 is useful if not ideal. Often, even in the best light, birds will be in shadow.

I have found that post processing can do more to improve noise from a high ISO more than it can from an out of focus picture or a motion-blurred picture. We do what we can.

Full frame cameras can do better than crop frame cameras with high ISO. Lower pixel density is usually associated with better high ISO performance, too. One-inch sensors are usually not as good as crop frame which are not as good as full frame in this regard. There are some exceptions but the generality is based on physics, not prejudice.

So my advice is to manually set the shutter and the aperture and let the ISO go where it must. YMMV.

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Feb 2, 2019 01:06:47   #
CHARLESTON 1979
 
Thank each of you for your suggestions.

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Feb 2, 2019 01:31:58   #
Katydid
 
We have alot of those days here lately. Some days are just too hazy to get clear photos. When the sky is bright gray-white, I have to use exposure compensation to over-expose to get the birds features but then get an even whiter sky. I have to increase the ISO which really isn' t the greatest solution either. It is amazing how much easier it is when there is some blue in the sky! I would love some solutions, too!

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Feb 2, 2019 02:11:32   #
larryepage
 
There is a pretty significant difference in color temperature between sunlight and overcast sky. At noon, light on a sunlit subject is somewhere around 5400K-5600K. Before and after noon, it gets lower (and redder). Light from an overcast sky is somewhere around 7000K, or maybe somewhat higher. This light is much bluer and has less red, making many colors, including the colors of many birds, much less intense and more drab looking.

If you post process your images, this is easily adjusted. In any case, you can change the white balance on your camera to the appropriate setting so that you can judge immediately. This is one reason that I always try to shoot with the WB set at least approximately correct in the camera.

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Feb 2, 2019 05:40:03   #
jradose
 
CHARLESTON 1979 wrote:
I live in northern Oregon. Much of the fall and winter months have overcast/rainy conditions. I use a Nikon 7500 with a 200-500mm lens. Getting the right settings for shooting birds, particularly small ones that flit around, stumps me. Suggestions for settings?

Thanks for your help.


use manual mode, shutter speed I/500 sec, make sure image stabilization is on (on the lens), f/5.6, auto iso, and shoot away.

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Feb 2, 2019 07:04:53   #
mborn
 
jradose wrote:
use manual mode, shutter speed I/500 sec, make sure image stabilization is on (on the lens), f/5.6, auto iso, and shoot away.


I would use a shutter speed of 1/1250 at least f5.6 auto ISO

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Feb 2, 2019 07:39:30   #
Architect1776 (a regular here)
 
CHARLESTON 1979 wrote:
I live in northern Oregon. Much of the fall and winter months have overcast/rainy conditions. I use a Nikon 7500 with a 200-500mm lens. Getting the right settings for shooting birds, particularly small ones that flit around, stumps me. Suggestions for settings?

Thanks for your help.


If flash is not an option meter on the stump or some neutral object. Set that manually into the camera and leave it. As long as the same light is on the bird it will be properly exposed.
1/500 sec. should be your goal 1/250 minimum. Adjust ISO for this at f8. Yes it might go a bit high but proper exposure/sharp trumps a slight bit of noise (grain).

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Feb 2, 2019 08:01:51   #
joer (a regular here)
 
CHARLESTON 1979 wrote:
I live in northern Oregon. Much of the fall and winter months have overcast/rainy conditions. I use a Nikon 7500 with a 200-500mm lens. Getting the right settings for shooting birds, particularly small ones that flit around, stumps me. Suggestions for settings?

Thanks for your help.


Overcast is the best time to shoot birds with flash.

Get a third party (less expensive) flash compatible with your camera, guide number 60 meters. Attach a "Better Beamer" to the flash mounted on camera. The Beamer will extend the flash about 2 stops and reduce cycle times when not using full power.

Set the camera shutter to the max sync speed, and flash to manual approximately 1/4 to 1/8 power. Flash duration will help freeze motion. If shooting multiple subjects quickly in different lighting set the ISO to auto, otherwise set it to highest level producing acceptable image noise.

This works for me in my back yard shooting at distances of 15-30 feet. Check my 500px link for some example shots.

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Feb 2, 2019 08:41:27   #
Richie G
 
I love a overcast or cloudy day,it makes the colors pop (flowers-Birds).My go to shutter speed for birds is 1000 with the f-stop wide open,if i need more DOF i will stop down one stop .ISO Auto.

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Feb 2, 2019 08:44:06   #
BebuLamar (a regular here)
 
f/5.6, 1/1000, ISO800.

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Feb 2, 2019 08:48:40   #
jwn
 
some times when I cannot get the settings exact, I will take a shot on "A" and see what the camera thinks, todays cameras are smart. If not for the lack of AF choices the camera gets it right.

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