Wed 08-May-13 12:35 AM | edited Wed 08-May-13 01:25 AM by nrothschild
A comment about the exposure...
The image I posted of the Prairie Warbler showing the leg geometry was almost the same exposure as you used. I shot manual exposure with iTTL flash, f/7.1 1/250s ISO 250. My flash was set to -1 eV flash exposure comp.
My image was actually an out-take. I shot almost 200 frames of that bird and when I shot that I was having great difficulty keeping up with exposure as it bounced around between some trees in very different light.
The yellow breast is a little hotter than I wanted and it would have been better at f/8 or f/9, and 1 2/3 or even -2 eV flash comp. That is more in line with the later images that will be my keepers.
I think you set up Auto ISO, with ISO set to 100, f/8 and 1/250s minimum shutter speed?
I can't do that with my D300 but if I had your camera I would have done about the same. I would, however, have set my flash comp to at least -1 eV and possibly -1 2/3 if that bird was generally fully out in the light.
I generally shoot 1/250s for two reasons... first I always shoot flash with song birds, and that shutter gives me max flash power, and the fastest recycle. I can go to 1/320s and only lose about 1/3 or maybe 1/2 stop of flash power but I got in the 1/250s habit. Not sure about the D800.
I don't have much luck with FP mode due to the distances.
Second, most of my birds are not usually out in nice light like my image here. They are usually in shade. Most birds seem to be more interested in hiding from hawks than posing for me in sunlight. In most cases, I'm lucky to get an ambient exposure at 1/250s at any aperture (usually shooting f/5.6 max with a TC) and ISO 400. And over time I've learned that ISO 400 f/8 1/250s is a very common eV level for me and ideally I want ISO 400 or less. You have at least a stop more latitude on that.
The downside is subject and camera motion, as Richard suggests. I just accept a lower yield in that way because in the end I usually get what I want. A lot of people are not comfortable at the 700mm I shoot at that shutter speed, and I would not argue that. This is just my way of doing things, right or wrong.
Now, the important point is that if you are going to hang around 1/250s, especially to power that flash, it argues even more strongly than we talked about in your tripod thread for a tripod on the beefy side. Just something to think about. Unless VR is going to bail you out- I don't consider that because I don't have it on my 500/4. And VR won't bail you out if the bird moves.
I think you did great, considering you have a lot to think about, just getting started with that lens. If there isn't much downsizing than I think the image is pretty sharp even if it could have possibly been a tad better. You just need to work on toning down the flash.
In general, the brighter the light the less flash you need. But if you are topping out your ISO such that the ambient is underexposed then you need to increase flash because then the image is relying on the flash. But those images will tend to look flashy and won't be your best work anyway. The best work will always be where nice light lit the bird and very toned down flash just filled in the shadows.
You might also consider reducing exposure comp a third or two in that bright light. It's good light for the training you are doing but tough light on the bird. Although I shoot manual exposure most of the time (birding) I am generally about 1/3 to 2/3 stop down per the meter.
Depends of course on the balance between the bird and the background and that varies enormously. The camera is mainly metering the background, not the bird. So you have to deal with that when you get into more difficult lighting.