Seeking ways of tracking birds in flight with 500mm lens

Started May 23, 2013 | Discussions thread
Barry Pearson
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Re: Seeking ways of tracking birds in flight with 500mm lens
In reply to Greyser, May 26, 2013

Greyser wrote:

I shoot 500/4.5 handheld exclusively. The lens is heavy for the prolonged holding indeed. For the quick rapid shots, while on the go, it is not difficult to hold it.

I do find it difficult, but my main problem is target acquisition rather than shooting. It takes too long to get the subject in the view finder and this prolongs the time it is held in a tiring position. (As a result of responses in this thread, I am experimenting with aids for aiming and for hand-holding the lens, so I may change my views a bit).

I use very forgiving CarrySpeed two contact points shoulder strap. However, I connect it differently than suggested.

Walking around with this lens ready for use is something I haven't yet addressed! I must do so.

Years ago for comfort reasons I stopped carrying photo equipment over my somewhat narrow and bony shoulders and switched to using a photo vest. This proved to be one of the best photographic decisions I've made! If necessary I supplement this with a standard padded-strap hiking back-pack, and currently sometimes use this to carry a light-weight tripod and gimbal head and my lunch.

Except for this lens, I normally carry my currently-selected camera+lens in my right hand. (I wrap the shoulder strap twice round my right wrist, spin the camera once clockwise, looking from above, and this converts it to a hand-strap. Perhaps I'll get a proper hand-strap sometime!) I shoot like this too when hand-holding.

But I haven't got an adequate plan for walking with this lens! I don't think it will involve hanging it from my shoulders.

There is some other things what works for me, shooting the 500/4.5:

  • Always RAW
  • SR on. When you expect some shooting don't forget to wake up the camera and SR half pressing the shutter button.
  • Av or TAv. The latter is more suitable for the BIF shots. However, you have to watch out for Ev compensation: The metering in TAv is strange sometimes leading to overexposure.
  • Shutter 1/800-1/1000 at least
  • Aperture generally is set to 6.3-7.1. Sometimes I use F5.6 and F8
  • Center point AF and metering
  • ISO up to 800
  • AF.S (AF.C has never worked well for me. Also my K-5 starts flopping the mirror uncontrollably after using AF.C)
  • Continuous 7fps machinegunning as I call it. There is nothing even close to the properly composed fine art of photography, I know, but it works.

I use TAv a lot, probably for the same reasons you do. But increasingly I find the exposure too variable, even with center-weighted rather than matrix metering. (For example, airplane against trees versus airplane against sky). I guess this is why you use center point metering. So I've begun to use full manual exposure, periodically taking a shot then examining the histogram. (I started 35mm photography without possessing an exposure meter. I'm still a bit "old school"). Perhaps I'll try center point metering once I can get the aiming right - but not until then.

My tests with this lens show f/5.6 is "OK", f/6.7 (I use half-stops) is nearly at its best, and f/8 is about its best. So I agree with your apertures.

My experience is that at 7 fps (which I use all the time for this sort of thing) AF-C works better for me than AF-S. I'm currently using "focus priority" rather than "fps priority". (I don't have mirror flopping! Sounds nasty).

Don't hesitate to ask questions. I may remember something else

Thanks for such a comprehensive response! And super photos! They are the sort I'm after.

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