Sunday, August 15, 2010

For the Birds!

I had the privilege of shooting with legendary bird photographer Stu Freedman and with Ron Goodlin yesterday. I was invited along because Lance couldn't make it (thanks, Lance!) and had a chance to meet the man who founded the GTCCC and who's been shooting pictures since before I was born. Stu is 86 years old and going strong! I was tired out from the morning shoot, and I'm a mere child at 63!

You know you have to be secure in your abilities to post a blurry, out of focus shot and not worry about it. 1/3 second, handheld. What do you want at 6:00 am?
Stu showed us some bird photos he's taken. He shoots with a 400mm zoom, and hand-holds most of the time. So I snapped on my 2x extender and my 70-200mm f/2.8 and figured if he could do it, I could too. WRONG.

After 300 exposures, the best in-flight shot I could manage was this one:

and it absolutely SUCKS. I had to enhance it in Photoshop to see any detail at all. This is HARD!

I did manage to get this image, of a gull from close up.

On a tripod, without the telextender, at f/2.8, ISO 800.

Ron sent me an email a few minutes ago, bemoaning the fact that he too was unable to get any good in-flight shots, despite the fact that he was using substantially better lenses than I was:

Here's Ron with his little 600mm f/4.

My favourite image of the morning was this one:

Again without the telextender. 1/60 sec handheld at 200mm, f/8. "VR" does work! (vibration compensation in the lens).
or this one:

I call it "The Choir". They sure made a lot of noise! On the tripod, with the 400mm wide open.

I'm sensing a pattern here. I was able to get some fairly good shots of birds sitting still, reasonably close, but nothing moving and far away (the flock of geese was a lucky accident). Maybe long lenses are not for reaching out and touching from a distance, maybe they're about filling the frame from closer up...

I put a couple of dozen shots up on my Smugmug page (click here). Some of them were Richard Martin-type shots of thistles and flowers, which I do better than birds! That's all I got out of 300 exposures...