Bird Photography

Started Jul 8, 2012 | Discussions
wyokid44
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Bird Photography
Jul 8, 2012

I am very interested in wildlife photography and just got a Canon 7D. Have used a Canon T2i for about two years with a Canon 300mm f4.0 L IS lens with a 1.4 Extender. I shoot handheld nearly 100% as I am usually hiking and rely on IS and shutter speed for sharpness. The bulk of my photography involves photos of birds and waterfowl which are often flying. Would appreciate any tips with regard to autofocus, metering and other settings on the 7D for this type of photography. I usually used Av to control depth of field for stationary birds and Tv for flying birds. Have a monopod, but seldom use it.

Canon EOS 550D (EOS Rebel T2i / EOS Kiss X4) Canon EOS 7D
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Howard
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Re: Bird Photography
In reply to wyokid44, Jul 8, 2012

You have a fine camera + lens & TC combo.

It is hard to give you a "rule of thumb" setting for all kinds of situations. For stationary subjects, you can get away with 1/250s or even slower shutter speeds (I've taken perched birds with a shutter speed as low as 1/60s with good results). But if they are moving at all, 1/500s or 1/1000s or even higher shutter speeds are required (depending on how fast they move). For moving subjects, use AI Servo AF mode. If you are panning, use Mode 2 of the IS (or turn IS off if your shutter speed is high enough).

And just practice and have fun! There is no substitute for practice.

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Howard
cameras: 5DII, 50D, D60, Rebel 2000 (film)

lenses: 17-40 f/4 USM L, 24-105 f/4 USM L, 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 IS USM L, 24 f/3.5 TSE L, 35 f/2, 50 f/1.4 USM, 100 f/2.8 IS USM Macro L, 300 f/2.8 IS USM II, 430 EX II, Kenko Pro 300 1.4x TC, EF 2x TC III
personal website: http://www.travelerathome.com
blog: http://travelerathome.wordpress.com

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The_cheshirecat
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Re: Bird Photography
In reply to wyokid44, Jul 8, 2012

There is no combination of settings which work for all individuals and all situations. Having already done some BIFs using your T2i you should already realize that. The best advice would be:
Learn as much as you can about your subjects

Learn the options and settings available to you with the new camera. Some are new to you and some may behave a little differently than you expect. Know before you go.

Practice using different combinations of settings to determine which work best, in particular situations

You have the ability to establish 3 presets on the 7D, use them to your advantage

Scrutinize your captures to determine what might have been done differently to get better results

DON”T rely on PP to fix what you messed in-camera – the better the original the better the final will be

Post a pic and ask questions if you have trouble figuring out what happened and how you can make your next outing more succcessful.

Get a second job and save lots more money for equipment. Wildlife and BIFs can be an expensive pursuit, often resulting in longer and longer lenses and a vast array of accessories and other equipment to support you addiction.

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I started in the 50's - my first picture was taken with a Leica and hooked me for life. I no longer use my Leicas, but I am still taking pictures. Some things never change.

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The_cheshirecat
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oops, forgot this...
In reply to The_cheshirecat, Jul 8, 2012

For BIFs I use:
AI-SERVO

Spot, center point, expanded center point or zone, all of which depends on the situation, especially the background

Manual metering, presetting before I begin shooting so the bird is properly exposed and settings are not skewed to balance the sky or other background into the shot.

Changed my AF to back-button, I feel I have more control this way, separating AF from shutter actuation.

High-speed burst (8fps)

Other considerations include a noisy picture is usually better than a blurry one, but either can result in a picture which may not have been worth taking. I try to avoid TCs when possible and practicale as they will slow AF speed which could cause a “miss”.

I have no doubt others will post with more specific settings and guidance. Remember to do what works for you and your situations.

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I started in the 50's - my first picture was taken with a Leica and hooked me for life. I no longer use my Leicas, but I am still taking pictures. Some things never change.

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krob78
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Re: oops, forgot this...
In reply to The_cheshirecat, Jul 8, 2012

You mentioned that most of your shots are BIF and not static. I've had excellent results with my 7D and these settings for BIF:

Always shoot Raw
NR - OFF
AI Servo
High Speed Continuous
Back Button Focus
CFN III AUTOFOCUS DRIVE
AI Servo Tracking Sensitivity = Between Slow & Medium
AI Servo AF Tracking Method = 1st/2nd Image priority = 0
Continuous Auto Focus Track = 1
Lens Drive when AF impossible = "Search On"
Manual AF Point Select Pattern = "0" - Stops at AF Area Edge
Display all AF Points = Disable
Focus Display in AI Servo/MF = Enable
Orientation linked AF Point = Same for both
AF Point = AF Point Expansion

Somebody posted these settings for me a year or two ago and I've used them ever since for BIF. Sometimes I'll switch my metering to spot, if the BIF has a harsh background with regard to light. Can be helpful and seems to work fairly well with the expansion point setting for the focus point.

Happy Shooting!

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wyokid44
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Re: oops, forgot this...
In reply to krob78, Jul 8, 2012

Thanks everyone for all the good advice and tips for shooting BIF with the 7D. I had used the AI SERVO for BIF with my T2i with center spot focus previously and did set it up for center spot expansion on the 7D also which is a new feature for me.

Using the the three presets on the 7D is a good idea too for responding quickly with the right settings for BIF.

Have not used the back button for autofocus, but am assuming that I just press AF-ON on the back of the 7D to activate it???

The list of settings for BIF photography is great and just what I need to get up to speed with the additional capabilities of the 7D. It is much appreciated!!!

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Y0GI
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Re: oops, forgot this...
In reply to wyokid44, Jul 8, 2012

wyokid44 wrote:

Have not used the back button for autofocus, but am assuming that I just press AF-ON on the back of the 7D to activate it???

BBF is not quite that simple. You also need to take AF away from the shutter half-press. More info here: http://www.learn.usa.canon.com/resources/articles/2011/backbutton_af_article.shtml
EDIT: Go to page 3 of the article for specific recommendations for settings.

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Yogi

When you get down to the nuts and bolts of photography, the results depend on the 'nut' behind the camera!

See the 'Gear List' in my 'Profile' for my current equipment.

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borno
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Re: oops, forgot this...
In reply to Y0GI, Jul 8, 2012

+1 on the back button AF. I tried it a couple years ago and after trying it for a day, I was converted. : )

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MrScary
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Re: oops, forgot this...
In reply to borno, Jul 8, 2012
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Philip Lanoue
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Re: oops, forgot this...
In reply to Y0GI, Jul 9, 2012

Y0GI wrote:

wyokid44 wrote:

Have not used the back button for autofocus, but am assuming that I just press AF-ON on the back of the 7D to activate it???

BBF is not quite that simple. You also need to take AF away from the shutter half-press.

Correct, you do need to take AF off the shutter. Use the shutter for taking the picture and metering only.
And I don't use the AF On button for BBF. I use the * button.

I find it's location easier to quickly put my thumb on, plus it's a larger buttion which makes it easier to mash down on.

Using the pump and reaquire method of focusing with the * button for BIF has worked well for me with the 7D.

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Y0GI
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More tips and tutorials
In reply to MrScary, Jul 9, 2012

http://www.ophrysphotography.co.uk/pages/photographingbirds1.htm
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1029&message=34707770
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1019&message=41336890
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When you get down to the nuts and bolts of photography, the results depend on the 'nut' behind the camera!

See the 'Gear List' in my 'Profile' for my current equipment.

Check out WilbaW's beginner FAQs at - http://snipurl.com/RebelFAQ

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Greg Lavaty
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Re: Bird Photography
In reply to wyokid44, Jul 9, 2012

I am also very interested in wildlife photography and like you I also shoot hand-held almost all the time. I have been using the 7D since it came out and have found that for static birds I use only the center AF point, often in spot AF mode. For action shots I use either the center AF point (not in spot mode) or the full 19 AF points. When the background is fairly clean I use the 19 point mode, which I have been very happy with. When the background is more cluttered I find that I do better with only the center point. It can be challenging to track a flying bird with just the center point but with practice you can get good at it. I get good results like this every day and that is using a 700mm lens (500mm f/4 w/1.4x TC).

Greg

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Greg Lavaty
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Re: oops, forgot this...
In reply to The_cheshirecat, Jul 9, 2012

Changed my AF to back-button, I feel I have more control this way, separating AF from shutter actuation.

I am just curious as to why you think you have more control this way? I hear people say that all the time but never really could see an advantage to doing it this way.

Greg

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Greg Lavaty
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Re: Bird Photography
In reply to Greg Lavaty, Jul 9, 2012

Having had a chance to read the other replies to your question I would like to add a couple of things. I do shoot at 8fps pretty much all the time, why not use the speed that you paid for? I only shoot jpeg so shooting a burst isn’t much of a pain at all. For static birds I use single focus and for action shots I use Ai-Servo mode only.

For metering I use partial metering and have had very good luck with that.

On the tracking sensitivity I have it set right in the middle. I think doesn’t really matter much what setting you use as long as you keep it on one setting and get used to how the camera behaves at that setting.

At the end of the day you just have to play around out in the field and figure out what works best for you. Everyone is a little different.

Here are a few examples of the results I am getting just to give you some idea where I am coming from:
http://www.pbase.com/dadas115/new

Greg

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Greg Lavaty
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Re: oops, forgot this...
In reply to Philip Lanoue, Jul 9, 2012

So many in this thread agree with this idea and it really leaves me scratching my head. What is the advantage you are getting using the back button for focus? How is it beneficial to separate the metering and shutter release from the AF?

I happen to use the * button a lot to lock the metering so I really wouldn’t want to lose that. I use the AF-on button for the assigned AF point and again find this arrangement extremely useful.

Thanks,

Greg

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wyokid44
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Re: Bird Photography
In reply to Greg Lavaty, Jul 9, 2012

Thanks a bunch to everyone providing links regarding the back focus button use on the Canon 7D (Canon training and deep green photography) and also bird photography tips from the UK and other links. I am working my way through these recommendations and experimenting with the new settings on the 7D. Looks like it will boil down to user preference and user ability to adjust to back button focusing. I am going to check another wildlife forum I belong to and find out how many 7D users do back button focusing and report back. Greg, those are some nice bird photos on your site. The nighthawks are tough to photograph as they fly so fast and change directions. I also got a good photo of a nighthawk perching which is unusual according to the bird books.

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ppage
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One more link
In reply to wyokid44, Jul 10, 2012

I see you're already getting a lot of good information. Here is the link to another bird photographer's site. I hope you find it helpful as well:

http://mikeatkinson.net/index.htm

Peter

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Wyville
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Back button AF
In reply to Greg Lavaty, Jul 10, 2012

Greg Lavaty wrote:

I am just curious as to why you think you have more control this way? I hear people say that all the time but never really could see an advantage to doing it this way.

I started out with bird photography a few weeks ago, but had been prepairing myself by using the back button AF. There might be a technical reason for it that I unfortunately forgot about. I remember reading a wildlife photographer's blog who explained it was one of those issues never confirmed, nor denied by Canon.

Anyway, I myself find it to have some practical advantages. I feel that by pressing the back button and the shutter, the camera is slightly more stable in my hand because I'm squeezing it. (Although you don't need to use the back button for that.)

I also find that I think more before I press the shutter, which allows the AF and IS to kick in (my 100-400L needs some time to "settle").

Overall, I just think it feels right. By seperating the AF and shutter it makes me think more about what I'm doing. It's highly subjective, but I have heard many people who have the same experience. Odd at first, but once you get used to it, it's great.

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Wyville
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Re: Bird Photography
In reply to Greg Lavaty, Jul 10, 2012

Greg Lavaty wrote:

I am also very interested in wildlife photography and like you I also shoot hand-held almost all the time.
...

I get good results like this every day and that is using a 700mm lens (500mm f/4 w/1.4x TC).

Do you use the 500/4 with a TC hand-held?

It's not meant as critical since your results are great, but it would seem like quite a challenge to me. I find hand-holding my 100-400 at 400mm to be a bit unstable, for some reason a monopod greatly improves my keeper rate. Which is a bit of a shame, as I really wanted the 100-400L for a walk-around lens. But that's probably simply a matter of me working on my technique.

Love the results your getting. I really like the young Mockingbird images, they're not so static. Nothing wrong with static images, but a bit of interaction makes it a lot more interesting. (We had a House Sparrow with young visit our garden, which gave me some more interesting images.)

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Philip Lanoue
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Re: oops, forgot this...
In reply to Greg Lavaty, Jul 10, 2012

Greg Lavaty wrote:

So many in this thread agree with this idea and it really leaves me scratching my head. What is the advantage you are getting using the back button for focus? How is it beneficial to separate the metering and shutter release from the AF?

I happen to use the * button a lot to lock the metering so I really wouldn’t want to lose that. I use the AF-on button for the assigned AF point and again find this arrangement extremely useful.

Thanks,

Greg

Try using BBF for BIF and I guarantee it will change your life.

For many BIF and other wildlife photos all taken using BBF please check out my photo blog site which is updated constantly.
http://phillanoue.com/

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