I recently started photographing birds (songbirds to raptors)with the D800 and the Nikon 300mm f/4 coupled with a Nikon 1.4 TC for a 420mm reach at 5.6.
I set it for shutter priority at 3x the inverse of the focal length at 1/1250th of a second; set ISO at 100 minimum with a maximum ISO of 4000, AF-C, dynamic 21 point focus points.
Question 1: While in shutter priority at 1/1250, very often i need to be able to quickly vary the aperture from f/5.6 to f/7.1 or f/8 for additional depth of field. How can I do that? I really am not concerned that my ISO will increase upward to 4000 when necessary.
Question 2: What has Nikon decided in its programming priority on what to change once in shutter priority. Does the aperture change at the expense of a lower or higher ISO; or does the ISO change at the expense of a lower or higher aperture?
Question 3: What is the ideal focus point setting for birds that move rapidly: d9, d21, d51, 3D, Auto, or S setting?
I thank you for your help in advance and Happy New Year to All!
#1. "RE: D800 BIRDS: Shutter Priority Question" In response to Reply # 0
>Question 1: While in shutter priority at 1/1250, very often i >need to be able to quickly vary the aperture from f/5.6 to >f/7.1 or f/8 for additional depth of field. How can I do >that? I really am not concerned that my ISO will increase >upward to 4000 when necessary.
One way to achieve that would be to use Manual rather than Shutter Priority, with Auto ISO enabled. Then, you can choose the shutter speed and aperture that you need and the camera will vary the ISO (either up or down) to give a correct exposure.
>Question 2: What has Nikon decided in its programming priority >on what to change once in shutter priority.
In Shutter Priority, the camera will vary the aperture as its first move. If you have Auto ISO enabled, the camera will still vary aperture first, but will raise the ISO once maximum aperture for the lens is reached.
>Question 3: What is the ideal focus point setting for birds >that move rapidly: d9, d21, d51, 3D, Auto, or S setting?
I tend to use Dynamic Area with 9 points. That's on a D3s - it may be different on a D800 with it's newer AF system.
>I thank you for your help in advance and Happy New Year to All!
#2. "RE: D800 BIRDS: Shutter Priority Question" In response to Reply # 1
Manitou Springs, US
Hi Sol, I've been shooting birds for years now -- mostly on the wing. Brian's recommendation is exactly right. After trying many combinations I found that I got more good shots with my camera on manual, usually at f/8, 1/500, and auto ISO than with any other combination. On the wing you need a reasonably high shutter speed, but you also need enough depth of field to take account of small focusing errors as you track the bird. The only exception seems to be with my D800 and the new 70-200 f/4 VR III. I can get tack-sharp shots with that combination even at f/4.
#4. "RE: D800 BIRDS: Shutter Priority Question" In response to Reply # 0
I use similar AF settings to those provided. I use AF-C mode with Single point for perched subjects and Dynamic 9 point for birds in flight.
I usually use Aperture priority for birds and watch the shutter speed. I know the aperture that will be required, and work within a range for shutter speeds. Typically it is a minimum of 1/1000 sec depending on light levels with 1/1250 or faster preferred. But backgrounds are very important so controlling Aperture for both DOF and backgrounds are important.
I often move to Manual exposure mode with a fixed ISO for birds in flight. With Auto ISO or any other auto exposure mode, the background can have an influence on exposure. If the subject is in constant light, I can correctly meter for the subject and then lock in that exposure so it stops changing inadvertently. Obviously that is not the case if you are shooting subjects with different light levels.
Auto ISO and high ISO are not a panacea. You have significant loss of dynamic range and color as ISO moves higher. And you need to have enough light on the subject to create texture. So I prefer to manually control ISO if I have that option. For a walk through the woods, auto ISO may be fine, but for a fixed location I would typically avoid auto ISO or keep it very conservative.
Great bird images may still need fill flash or flash to create a catch light. Flash using a auto ISO is problematic.
#5. "RE: D800 BIRDS: Shutter Priority Question" In response to Reply # 0
Fairfax Station, US
I shoot birds, small to Bald Eagles, with the D800, D3s, and D300s and use similar settings on all of them and most frequently use a 200-400 f/4 and 1.4TC. AF-C, Dynamic area 21 points I do not use Auto ISO, rather I shoot in aperture priority and use f/5.6 as a starting point. I then adjust my ISO to give me a minimum 1/2000 sec or higher shutter speed for the lighting conditions and background.
#6. "RE: D800 BIRDS: Shutter Priority Question" In response to Reply # 0
What Eric said was spot-on.
Catch light, if you are not familiar with the term, refers to the little dot of white, which appears in the eye of the bird. In sunny locations, you can often get this, but most often, you need a bit of flash added, to put it there. This light gives "life" to the bird. From having photos in local fairs for many years, I know that judges will hardly give an award to photos with no catch light.
Another point I would like to offer. When you are taking a light reading, it depends on where you are taking the reading. Sometimes, photographers will get a meter reading, which gives a nice background, but an underexposed bird. I like photographing bald eagles. The challenge there, is a big dark body, but a white head. If you meter off the head, you may overexpose and "blow out" the head details. Metering off the body may give you a black body, with dark head.
The solution in cases like this, may be to examine exposure adjustment. When I shoot eagles, I expose from the body, but have the exposure reduced by some amount, from maybe .7 to 1.7. Your Nikon manual will talk about this.
"Today is the tomorrow that yesterday you spent money like there was no"
#7. "RE: D800 BIRDS: Shutter Priority Question" In response to Reply # 6
Actually, the potential metering problems you allude to are reversed. Spot metering (without any exposure compensation) off the white head of the bird will lead to an exposure more towards middle gray for the head and, as a result, an underexposed body. Metering off the dark body will result in the camera exposing the dark body for middle gray, and the resultant greater degree of exposure will lead to an over-exposed head and loss of detail.
#9. "RE: D800 BIRDS: Shutter Priority Question" In response to Reply # 8
I use a d800E and 600 f4 w/wo 1.4 teleconverter. I use vareying shutter speeds depending on what I am trying to do, ie show motion slower speed, stop motion higher speed. I shoot manual with either auto iso for BIF or fixed iso for perching and sometimes BIF. Generally I use anywhere from 9 points to 51, AFC. spot metering. I use a mongoose gimbal and rrs tripod. I usually use f8 but will open up the lens for isolation at times. As long as I get the focus point where it should be, the image is sharp. Played with 3d but got less keepers. Hope this helps.
#10. "RE: D800 BIRDS: Shutter Priority Question" In response to Reply # 8
<Just curious what do you do on a cloudy day without a Better Beamer flash fill? >
This one's tough. You are not going to get the same kind of image on a cloudy day that you would with some direction to the light. That doesn't mean you stop photographing - although with some subjects you might.
One approach is to go for motion blurs - especially with wading birds.
Another approach is to just increase the ISO and plan a softer image - that's a look that can work for some images.
You can also shoot subjects in flight for a high key approach - blow out the background by dialing in exposure compensation to correctly expose for your subject.
A flash and Better Beamer will not necessarily light the subject, but they can provide a catchlight and add some life to your images.
#11. "RE: D800 BIRDS: Shutter Priority Question" In response to Reply # 10
I have recently become interested in using flash with bird photography with some success. In fact I wish I'd tried it sooner. I was quite surprised at the distances my SB-800 would reach and the noticeable absence of silhouette. I am going to purchase a Better Beamer, my Christmas photography spending got a bit out of hand!
I refer you to my recent post and one of yesterday showing some flash assisted bird images and below are recent pictures taken at a local reserve with the D7000 + 300mm f4 and SB-800 flash.
#12. "RE: D800 BIRDS: Shutter Priority Question" In response to Reply # 0 Thu 03-Jan-13 05:16 PM by walk43
Many times when I take bird pics I am not satisfied with the detail I get. But if you don't look for 'natural' art and will be satified with just an artistic picture, here is what I do sometimes when the pics are too soft. See pic below as an example.
In the 'paint.net' free software download, is an option for "effects/artistic/ink sketch". I have used it many times and really like some of the pics I have 'saved' when they are too soft. I also have a really good 'pencil sketch' of my grand daughter in black and white that is adorable and is in a 16x20 matted frame!!
My point being that it does not have to be a 'true photo image' to be an interesting framed wall hanging. Some may disagree....
"My most rewarding photos are those that capture something I didn't 'see' in the frame....so just SHOOT."
#14. "RE: D800 BIRDS: Shutter Priority Question" In response to Reply # 11
New York, US
Richard, those are gorgeous photos of waxwings! I would think you would benefit from using the Better Beamer notwithstanding the 300mm lens? After all if you are a long distance from your subject, isn't that where the Better Beamer comes in handy?
If anyone uses the better beamer, may I ask what FLASH BRACKET you use?
#17. "RE: D800 BIRDS: Shutter Priority Question" In response to Reply # 14
I just use it attached to my flash head - and the flash on the hotshoe.
I'll probably end up getting a RRS bracket later this year - that will match my other gear. Especially with larger lenses - like the 200-400 and larger - a flash bracket lets you rotate to vertical orientation while keeping the flash above the camera.
I often need to use a paper shim to position the Better Beamer. When you rotate to a vertical position, the shim usually needs to be removed and the flash re-positioned slightly.
For handheld photography just mounting it on the hotshoe works fine. It's usually pretty good for tripod photography with horizontal orientation, but vertical orientation is difficult without a flash bracket.
#18. "RE: D800 BIRDS: Shutter Priority Question" In response to Reply # 8 Thu 03-Jan-13 08:22 PM by jamesvoortman
Standard SB800 provides a bit of fill out to nearly 60 feet I often use it for small garden birds at around 15 to 30 feet (5 to 10 meters).
The purpose is not for the flash to provide all the lighting, just to light up the darker bits, provide a catchlight, and emphasize the colours. If your bird is not sitting in natural sunlight the eye will probably not have a catchlight and may look dull.
Some tips. At full power the duration of the SB800 flash is about 1/1000 sec so it can freeze action in a telephoto shot if it is providing most of the light but it may not freeze the action in a fill-flash scenario where ambient light produces most of the image since your shutter speed will be limited to the maximum sync speed for your camera body. This is typically 1/250 sec on the higher-end bodies and a bit slower than you might typically choose for shooting with a long lens. At less than full power, the flash duration is even shorter. (D70 had an electronic shutter with a max sync speed of 1/500 - unusually fast but really nice for telephoto flash photography)
Do not be tempted to use Auto-FP high speed sync flash for bird photography. Although it sounds impressive, it will worsen matters rather than improve them. This setting allows faster shutter speeds than the max sync speed by reducing flash brightness and extending flash duration to a period longer than 1/250 sec. Compared with the max sync speed, Auto-FP high speed sync will weaken flash output and may increase blur due to subject movement...BTDT.