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Nature Photography ...

20 Sep 2012 1:53PM
I am looking to get into Nature Photography and I am looking to invest into equipment - I have currently a Nikon D90 - with 3 lenses - a 50mm, a 24-85mm and 70-300mm - I am finding when using the 70-300mm the images in a distance are not as clear as I would like... I know these lenses I own are a little old - none of them have VR - the question is would VR help with these photos?

Also if I wanted to shoot in Manual mode - what would be the best settings for shooting animals at a distance - one doesn't want to get to close to some of these wild animals.


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Pete Plus
17 18.8k 97 England
20 Sep 2012 2:06PM
In the old days of film a 50mm lens gave a magnification roughly the same as the eye. If 50mm is the same as the eye a 300mm is 6x magnification, and a 500mm is 10x magnification. The higher the magnification the bigger the distance subject becomes.

So you need to decide what magnification will get you close enough. For some animals 300mm is fine, but you're obviously shooting things that are further away. One option is to continue using what you have but perfect focus and hand holding techniques so you get a really sharp image and then crop it using your image editing program to make the subject bigger in the photo. If there's any subject movement, camera shake, or lack of sharp focus it will be magnified by the lens and then by the cropping - so you have to be spot on.

VR will help when hand holding. Another option is to use a tripod with an easy flowing head. Professional wildlife photographers use special heads that allow full movement . VR doesn't work on a tripod and camera manufacturers suggest you switch it off.

A budget way to get increased magnification is to buy a 2x converter. This doubles the magnification of the lens and is cheaper than buying a prime lens of same magnification.

One other thing to be aware of is with crop sensors like your D90's is there's a 1.5x effective increase. So your 50mm effectively becomes 75mm. It's not a true 75mm it just produces images with printed magnifications that would appear to be taken with a longer lens.
20 Sep 2012 2:26PM
How does one work on getting better focus?
NEWDIGIT 7 401 United Kingdom
20 Sep 2012 2:31PM
All Petes comments very valid however remember if you go down the converter route you loose aperture and consequently low level light situations become tricky.
As for manual setting this obviously depends on light available, speed of animal movement or lack of it, if light is a problem up the ISO your camera should easily cope with 1600 plus.
As for VR there are many conflicting opinions as to its usefullness so I would not rush out to buy say a 70-300 with VR just for the sake of it.
Rather spend the money on a "good" tripod and head combination
thewilliam 9 6.1k
20 Sep 2012 2:33PM
Read the instruction manual and set the most suitable focussing mode.

I'd second Pete's suggestion to shoot from a tripod whenever you use a long lens.
20 Sep 2012 2:47PM
I have a tripod - but as of right now it is a pretty old one - someone gave it to me over a year ago when they upgraded ...

I have been doing most of my shots the past year off tri-pod - maybe I should go back and start using it - to improve my over all shots. I guess I have it in my head it is about the quantity when doing a shoot - I guess I need to focus on quality now more then quantity ...

I will start doing some research on tri-pods and see what I come up with ..

wsteffey 11 13 United States
20 Sep 2012 3:07PM
I have a 70-300 mounted permanently to one of my cameras, and I would not even try to handhold it at anything over 125mm without VR. With VR, 300mm is workable with good light and a fairly high ISO. I have found a tripod is too bulky for mobile field work, but a monopod is a good compromise. Adjusted just right, I can stick the end in my jeans pocket and get a moderately steady yet handy base. If I don't want to carry even the monopod I carry a small bean bag. Plop it down on any steady surface, give it karate chop for form a crease and it will hold my camera steady.
20 Sep 2012 3:29PM
I have a monopod as well - just got to use them a little more ...

thanks for the ideas - I tend to try and lean the camera against a tree or poll if there is one around to use ...
Pete Plus
17 18.8k 97 England
20 Sep 2012 3:39PM

Quote:How does one work on getting better focus?

Sometimes autofocus misses the exact point. Try switching to manual and see if you can do better. Also lens sharpness. Is your lens really good?A good test of focus and sharpness is to pin up a sheet of newspaper and photograph it from a distance. Can you get the print as sharp as possible?
LenShepherd 10 3.6k United Kingdom
20 Sep 2012 3:40PM
There are 3 challenges with this type of photography.
The first is keeping the camera and lens steady enough - links like this can help http://www.naturephotographers.net/ejp0801-1.html
The second is the suggested safe hand held shutter speeds are for framing subjects from about 8 feet wide to infinity.
If you focus closer, as on a bird, you may need 2-3 shutter speeds faster (depending on framing) than at longer distances.
A third issue is that some birds and animals sometimes move very fast and you need higher shutter speeds.
A good tripod can be a huge help - for all but very expensive lenses VR is often best switched off on a tripod.
Hand holding using VR can definitely help.
User_Removed 8 4.6k 1 Scotland
20 Sep 2012 4:44PM


Also if I wanted to shoot in Manual mode - what would be the best settings for shooting animals at a distance - one doesn't want to get to close to some of these wild animals.



Don't forget that "wild animals" covers an enormous range of size and approachability, so no lens and bank of settings is going to suit everything. You would shoot a wee lizard quite differently, for example, from shooting a moose.

I tend to do most of my wildlife photography with either a Nikkor 70-200mm lens or a Sigma 150-500 lens. Both are pin sharp if well-supported and, although both have VR/OS, I rarely have them switched on. Your 70-300mm is a good compromise.

Three tips I would give you:

1. Improve your fieldcraft. It is far better to get close to your "quarry" than to rely upon massive lenses.

2. Work at the highest ISO setting at which your camera gives acceptable results. Try 1600 on your D90. This allows you to use a higher shutter speed which has two benefits - reducing the potential for tripod shake and freezing subject movement.

3. When practicable, focus on the animal's eyes.
3 Apr 2013 9:50PM
Well I am back at trying to gain photos of wild animals once again - I have been out pretty much everyday the past 3 weeks and gotten some good shots of birds and squirrels -

I also invested in a new camera body over the winter - I no longer have the D90 - I now have the Nikon D7000 - still working with the 70-300mm lens that I had before - so far so good - but I have been using the camera hand held - I will be trying with my tripod with a remote to see if the photos come out sharper it they are more stationary like the Barred Owl I have seen a few times when I am out.

Let's see what I can find - I have uploaded some of what I have taken online here in my portfolio.
StrayCat 14 19.1k 3 Canada
3 Apr 2013 10:41PM
Andrew, without VR a tripod is essential. Set your camera and lenses on autofocus, and set the focusing mode on the camera at "Spot." Set the mode dial on top of the camera to "Aperture Priority," and if possible, focus on the subject's eye; this can be difficult with moving, and/or very distance subjects, but with practice your pictures will become better. Think of it as aiming a rifle, same thing, hold it steady on the subject and learn to squeeze off the shot. Most beginners tend to snap the shot, and thus jerk the camera, spoiling the shot. Many pros use a roll of the finger on the shutter button. Go out and take hundreds of shots, concentrating on these techniques, and I guarantee your pictures will improve.


PS: Set an aperture of anywhere from f2.8 to f8.0 to start. If the light is bad, crank the ISO up to give you a faster shutter speed. You should be good up to 1600 ISO with the D90 before you start getting noise/grain in your images.
4 Apr 2013 3:53PM
Well I am all set to go out today and see what I can get ... so far it seems the easier to capture are squirrels - I have some posted online for all to see ...

Take a look if you like and tell me what you think ...
Carabosse 15 41.1k 270 England
4 Apr 2013 11:19PM
Nice pics! Smile Some of them could perhaps do with being a touch sharper.

Do you shoot in RAW?

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