Seeking ways of tracking birds in flight with 500mm lens

Started May 23, 2013 | Discussions thread
Barry Pearson
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In reply to Barry Pearson, May 24, 2013

All the replies are interesting, and some are pointing me in directions that I will try. So thanks to all.

Some suggestions are probably ruled out by factors that I hadn't made clear. In particular,  I'm not a sporty person or particularly strong, and at 66 years old I am unlikely to become such a person!

I've shot airshows and motor sports for years, typically with either my 60-250mm f/4 or my 300mm f/4. I bought a gimbal head originally for motor sports, where I wanted to relieve the weight of these lenses when possible. I've tried panning with it with some success, but accept that it is harder than hand held panning in many cases. I've talked to people at airshows using gimbals, whose opinions range from "it was a big mistake bringing a gimbal with me today" to "it works for me"!

I'm trying to juggle some inconvenient facts: birds are smaller that airplanes and vastly less predictable than bikes and cars! Extrapolating from my successes and failures with planes and bikes led me to the conclusion that I needed to use equipment and techniques that were well beyond what I've been using so far.

I always have my 60-250mm f/4 with me. And where it is suitable, I will use it, because I love it. But it is near my limit for hand holding for long periods, even with the battery grip that enables me to get a better grip. And it often doesn't have the reach, even in airshows, etc.

In a sense the Sigma 500mm was a compromise: I wanted a top quality long range zoom (perhaps like the Canon 200-400mm f/4 with built-in teleconverter), but weighing about one kilogram and costing no more than £1000 and with a Pentax mount!

So I now have to work out how to use the above tools in any given situation, and identify what extra situations I can now handle. Hence this thread.

I'll report back here when I've tried some of things suggested. Once again, thanks for helping someone a bit out of his depth.

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