Monday, March 05, 2012

Photographing Birds is Hard. Very Hard.

Giving Me the Eye

Today was the day that three important factors finally came together for me: a bright clear day, the red hawks in the area and on a tree I was familiar with, and me walking along with my E-3 plus 50-200mm with the EC-14 tele-extender. Racked out, the combination is about 300mm at f/5, twice as long as my M.Zuiko 40-150mm and a bit brighter wide open. This combination gives an effective focal length of 600mm, which is a pretty considerable reach for everything else I've taken with this combination, except for these hawks.

I've been smitten with the hawks since finding them flying about my work area mid-February. Since that time I've been attempting to photograph them. I've been trying to photograph them sitting because when they take to wing I'm so taken with them in flight that I forget momentarily to try and track them with the camera I have in my hands. Being an absolute beginner at this I need to practice photographing them at rest. Once I get that part nailed down then maybe I can move on to photographing them in flight.

Once again I had to heavily crop the results, but not nearly as much as last Wednesday. Still and all I'm not that pleased with the results. The photos are not as sharp as I would like and know the 50-200mm is capable of producing. I chalk the poor results up to my obvious inexperience as well as taking these all hand held. The next step is to try this with either a monopod or my tripod used as a monopod to keep the camera as still as possible. I need to reduce hand-produced motion blur and probably stop down from f/5 to f/7.1 (a full stop). And I need to learn better technique for getting closer without spooking the birds. This time I was able to actually stand back twice as far as I did last Wednesday before this one took to wing and left me with my jaw hanging open. They are such beautiful birds, especially in flight.

Red Hawk Looking Straight On

The last photo is the one I took last Wednesday with the E-P2 and the M.Zuiko 40-150mm 'R'. I include it for comparison.

The Annoyed Hawk
Taken 29 February

Bird photography is one niche where equipment can really cost you, upwards of $5,000 or more for a specialist lens such as Canon's or Nikon's 500mm, or Olympus' 300mm 1:2.8 which will set you back a cool $7,000. As much as my wife loves me, my photography, and birds, she'd divorce me in an instance if I spent as much as what a down payment costs on her new car for a lens just to photograph birds. So I'll learn to live with what I've got and hone my bird photograph skills before contemplating bigger, stouter lenses. And buying her her new car. That would probably help a lot.

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