BIF shooters, please help

Started Mar 15, 2014 | Questions thread
R2D2 Forum Pro • Posts: 17,694
Re: BIF shooters, please help

dzba wrote:

Depending how you look at it, I've been blessed, or cursed, with a chance to photograph bald eagles at distances varying from 20 yards to 300 yards.

Hi Mike,

You are really really fortunate to live in an area with these kinds of shooting opportunities! Wow. And the advice that's been posted so far has been excellent.

The main challenge that I see here is to get your camera set up to give you the best outcome possible... as long as you do yourpart, he he

I'm posting pics to show what my results have been.

You'll be doing better than this in no time! It just takes a bit of practice. The camera is capable. The lens is capable. You are capable.

These birds are surprisingly quick for their size

That's for sure. Amazing creatures. You may think that 5 fps is pretty quick, but these guys are on a whole different level! (birds in general are that way). Doesn't it feel sometimes like the camera is just like molasses in your hands!

and when the action happens I'm not quick enough to get everything right. I have improved a great deal in the last 6 days of shooting these magnificent birds.

And you'll be getting better and better. Let's get that camera set up for BIFs first though...

A local pro advised me to shoot to open up my lens to 5.6 and bump the ISO up to attain a minimum of 1/2000 shutter speed. He feels that even though the sweet spot on the lens is between f7 and f10 I'd be better off opening up the lens so I can gain shutter speed. In the past, when I've used ISO over 200 I start to see noise and don't like what I'm seeing above 400.

Smart guy. And you'll do very well to listen to that advice. It's exactly what I was going to start with.

In full sunlight like you were in, set your ISO to 400 for starters. Bump it up to ISO 800 if you can't keep your shutter speed at or above 1/2500.  Sure BIFs can be shot at much slower shutter speeds, but your keeper rate will increase as your shutter speed does.  No need to go higher than 1/3200 though, as you would be better off putting that extra speed toward lowering your ISO at that point (law of diminishing returns).

Open your aperture to f/5.6 (for now) to maximize shutter speed. At this stage, shutter speed is more important than lens MTF. At some point, you may want to stop down a (little) bit once your tracking gets better.

I like to set exposure manually, which improves consistency. It's up to you. You may feel more comfortable with Aperture Priority at first. Watch for the "blinkies."

Set your focus to AI Servo and use the center AF point to acquire focus. Some folks like to use all point AF for birds against the sky, but IME your keeper rate will be higher with center point once your tracking improves. And you'll get way fewer misfocused shots when the birds are on the water or against trees.

Turn off image stabilization for moving subjects (unless they're far away). I know it's been debated hotly, but IME it will always be working against you, and it will also slow down AF acquisition. Just try it like this. You can always turn it back on if and whenever you want.

Put that AF point on the subject's eye and keep it there. Follow the subject's flight path as closely as possible, and follow through. Prefocusing to an approximate distance first will help in initial subject acquisition.

With your particular lens, give it at least a second to lock on before pressing the shutter.

Position yourself to put the sun at your back whenever you can.. And like others have mentioned, for BIFs shoot in good light. Keep that shutter speed up!

Hope that helps for now. Holler if you have more questions. Keep practicing!


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