I switched from a heavy Gitzo tripod to hand holding to shoot birds over a year ago after attending a BIF workshop with David Hemmings here in Florida. I get some strange looks when I show up in Ding Darling or Gatorland...some looks of disdain from tripod users...but I just keep shooting.
I don't always get tack sharp images, but I get a lot more keepers than I did with a tripod, especially BIF shots.
Am I alone in this use of a D800e or are there more of you out there doing the same? Just curious.
One of the best devices I have ever bought for photography.
I used it with a 200-400mm for a year, then switched to using it with a new 80-400mm. I recently added a 500mm AF-S II to my collection, and it works just as well with it as it did with the 200-400mm that weighed about the same at 7.5 lbs.
I learned a lot in the workshop run by David Hemmings, but I have learned more just going out and shooting.
By the way, you do not need the camera version of the BushHawk. I have several friends who bought the spotting scope version and just taped their remote release on the side of the grip or press the shutter button by hand (that would not work with a big/heavy lens).
I bought the camera version, but I ended up taping a remote release next to the trigger button because I like the MC-30a feel and travel better than the BushHawk button. The BushHawk button is a hair trigger, and starts image capture before the camera can focus. The remote release has enough pull travel that focus happens before the shooting starts with the D800 and the 200-400mm, 80-400mm or 500mm.
Sun 26-Jan-14 12:18 AM | edited Sun 26-Jan-14 12:22 AM by pb2013
I do a lot of BIF with my D800 usually with the 80-400 AF-S (used the 80-400 AF before the AF-S came out). I sometimes use a 24-120G F4 AF-S when the critters are closer. Most of my BIF shooting is handheld and swiveling with my body from the hip/waist to track the birds.
I occasionally use a carbon fiber Gitzo tripod with an unlocked ball head. I tend to use it when the birds are far away and not moving too much since it can steady me.
BIF can frustrating especially given the high resolution of the D800. This may be because I've gotten willing to shoot when the bird is farther away. Cropping in so much highlights the motion blur.
I've found these settings seem to help:
custom setting a3: Focus Tracking with Lock-On (manual page 283). I set it to Long. While I can't swear to it, this seems to help keep the camera from refocusing a bit better, especially if the bird is flying in front of something like trees in the background.
AF-C continuous focusing with D21 or D9. A Nikon rep suggested this rather than, say, D51 or 3D. Does seem better at tracking the bird.
I usually shoot with aperture-priority exposure and keep the aperture close to wide open, maybe a stop or two down from that.
I can only imagine the 500 would be great. But so big...
BushHawk looks interesting. I'm going to check it out more. Didn't go to the Fred Miranda site since Google Chrome warned me about an invalid security certificate. BushHawk has a site - http://www.bushhawk.com/Home.htm - but at least at this moment the product section is not providing product information!
I got the same security warning with Firefox, but I took an exception and read it anyway. I have never had an issue with Fred Miranda stuff.
Interesting: I turn focus tracking lock-on completely off. I want instantaneous refocus if I get off the bird. It works fine as long as there is no busy background. A busy background blows it away. But I try to avoid busy backgrounds anyway so I can get good definition for the birds.
I also use D9 with AF-C. I find that it is much faster than the other settings. The 500mm changes focus so fast you would swear that it never changed at all. The thing is so quiet compared with my 80-400mm. That probably makes it feel faster too.
The only real issue that I have is ISO. I was using 640-800 to get my shutter speed up to at least 1250 in daylight with the 200-400mm and 80-400mm, but I switched to 1200 with the 500mm because of the additional length. I am going back to a lower setting because I am not happy with the noise. There is not a lot, but it is more than I want to deal with in post. I use aperture priority also.
I just ordered the lambs wool seat belt covers (referened in the Miranda article) for my shoulder strap that I use with the BushHawk. When the camera/lens is just hanging in front of me, it can really cut into my neck. The seat belt cover should help a lot. I ordered a pair through Amazon.
My BushHawk setup is shown below. I have a closeup of just the camera/lens on it, but I seem to have misplaced it.
Sun 26-Jan-14 12:49 AM | edited Sun 26-Jan-14 12:59 AM by ljordan316
I found the image of the camera/lens on the BushHawk. You can see how I taped an MC-30a on the side of the grip to use instead of the button that comes on the camera version.
I do use the last vertical support handle with the 500mm. I never used it much with the 200-400mm. I guess the additional length of the 500mm makes it feel better balanced if I use that handle.
The BushHawk is a high-grade of plastic or ABS. It feels flimsy at first because it is so light, but it has never let me down. By the way, I never connect my shoulder straps to it. They are always connected to the lens or the lens foot.
The tape at the joints is to cover the dangling connectors to keep them from making noise while I trek through the woods. The whole thing is not so elegant, but it sure gets the job done. I don't leave the house without it.
Another strap that would probably work well with the BushHawk is the OP/TECH USA Utility Strap because the loop connectors float on the strap...allowing the padded part of the strap to stay on your shoulder top when you lift the BushHawk/camera/lens into shooting position. I just ordered one to give it a try.
The BushHawk is always flat except for the knobs for adjustment and the lens foot clamp.
I have Op/Tech connectors on my lens with mating connectors on my straps. I can quickly change straps as a result. The connectors also make it easier to strap the BushHawk on or take it off in a hurry.
Once I get the wool seat covers on my strap the Op/Tech connectors will be even more important so I can keep the covers in place on my back and shoulder.
A strap that connects to the tripod mount hole in the lens foot would not work unless a hole is exposed when the lens is on the BushHawk. The lens foot clamp normally covers all of the tripod mount holes in a foot.
You can put an Op/Tech connector loops through a lens foot instead of the lens strap connections if the foot has openings. I do that on my 80-400mm RRS foot because the lens has no strap connections on it.
The 200-400mm and 500mm lens have strap connectors on the lens barrel. Connecting the shoulder strap to those barrel connectors allows the whole thing to hang snugly against your body when not in use. See the image below.
I've been using my D800 and new 80-400 for BIF and have at least tripled my successful picture rate from the old 80-400, which was almost useless for BIF. I've tried BIF with my 200-400 but it's just too much lens to swing around. On the other hand, I still use my 600 on a tripod for BIF, where the birds can be expected to come in low on a relatively straight path. For me, those are usually shots across a marsh or body of water. But I find I've come to rely on hand-holding the new 80-400 more often, especially for peeps and terns.
Larry Jordan introduced me to the Bushhawk a year ago when we did some BIF and other photography in FL.
I was surprised at the very short learning curve to use the Bushhawk. If you are going to be in a set location for a long time, maybe a tripod;
But my first choice for BIF and other birding shots is a Bushhawk. It is small, ight and very packable in a suit case. As Larry said the bushhawk trigger is sensitive and taping on the camera manufactuer's remote release is a good solution. I have also made several minor modifications to my Bushhawk as Larry has done. That is one more good thing about the Bushhawk, it is easily modified to each individual's need.
Larry has shot thousands of great BIF shots with his Bushhawk. Look at his website.
Tom, you are right. I did not check the BushHawk website before my OP. I bought some new parts through the BushHawk website last year, and I had friends do the same. I just assumed they were still in business.
I just searched, and I can't find the thing for sale new anywhere. The company may have stopped producing them.
I bought mine through David Hemmings during a BIF workshop with him in Fort Myers, FL in 2012. He was a dealer for BushHawk at the time.
You might try contacting David at one of the following:
I found another shoulder brace model on Amazon that might work just as well as a BushHawk (see link below). It has a shoulder pad built in, but I see no obvious was to tape an MC-30a to the thing. Maybe someone more creative than I can show how it could be done. I would not use a brace that did not place the remote release down where I can easily trigger it with my right hand. Lefties have their own issues. The BushHawk lens mount clamp can be reversed to accomodate lefties.
I have been using a Manfrotto CF tripod and Jobu gimbal with my D7100 and Sigma 150-500. Despite the fact that gimbals are touted as being good for tracking BIFs, as a practical matter, I, like you, have found that hand holding is the easier way to track them and to respond quickly to take-offs (unfortunately, birds don't seem to announce their intention to fly) or erratic movements. Moreover, shooting BIFs with one's gear on a tripod can sometimes require that the photographer step around a tripod leg while tracking the subject...not an easy feat in my experience and one that can lead to missed shots, or worse, toppled equipment. That said, since many of the wading birds found in Florida are slow movers, or often stationary for long periods, the use of a tripod and gimbal is valuable for tack sharp images. Sometimes I carry my Nikkor 70-300mm on my D90 back up camera to facilitate a quick response to BIFs especially those that are coming toward me.
I don't have a D800 but I do have a Bushhawk and a Novoflex shoulder pod that I've used for years. I have put Manfroto quick release mounts on mine to make set up smoother, and a plate on the pistol grips to pop on a mono pod when a bit of extra stability is needed.
even back in the '90s I got strange looks and "special" attention in airport security.
Well, I'm a little lazy on using my tripod so I usualy shoot birds in action hand holding and Its surprising how many sharp pictures comes out. Of course AF-C, right speed and technic and I use a 70-200mm F2.8