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Those pecksy birds!

Perry_95 7 59 1 Wales
26 Dec 2010 7:28PM
Okay the title may be a little cheesy, but i am in a bit of a pickle. I am finding that i want a fast shutterspeed when photographing birds, does it matter that the f value then gets higher? does then raising the iso help to solve the high f value? does having a lower f value affect the detail of the bird? as in colours and crispness of the image? please help.


If it is any help i am shooting with a pentax k-x and a 50-200mm lens, so i find i am cropping the images later on the camera or computer Smile

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chris.maddock 16 3.7k United Kingdom
26 Dec 2010 7:39PM
I think you may have your understanding of the f-number the wrong way round. A small number is a large aperture, eg f4, and a large number, eg f22, is a small aperture.

Because a smaller f-number is a wider aperture it will reduce the depth of field (distance range over which the results will be sharpest), thereby making accurate focussing more important. Also, most lenses do perform best stopped down a couple of stops from wide open, eg an f4 lens will be better at f8 than at f4.

Exposure is a combination of all three settings - shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Since you cannot reduce the shutter speed without getting subject movement (or camera shake, or both) and ideally do not want to open the aperture too wide for the reasons above, then increasing the ISO is, as you've correctly surmised, the only solution available to you. However, don't increase it more than you really need, otherwise you'll get noisier images which will also affect the sharpness.

User_Removed 8 4.6k 1 Scotland
26 Dec 2010 7:42PM
The aperture (f-stop) does not affect the general image quality but a larger aperture (smaller f-number) will reduce the depth of field.

For most of my bird photography I use ISO1600, shutter speed of 1/2000 if handheld or slower on a tripod and am usually happy if that allows me to use an aperture of f/5.6 or f/8.

Focus on the bird's eyes for best results.
Perry_95 7 59 1 Wales
26 Dec 2010 7:48PM
okay thank you, as i am very new i am finding it all very confusing, you have both made it very clear and im sure it will make it easier to capture those birds i keep missing!
User_Removed 8 4.6k 1 Scotland
26 Dec 2010 7:49PM

....as an example, the above image was shot at ISO800, shutter 1/800 and aperture f/14

That was using a 70-300mm lens at 300mm handheld, which is why the depth of field, even at f/14 is quite shallow (see how the background is out of focus but the eye and most of the plumage is fairly sharp)

27 Dec 2010 11:16AM
A tip when wanting to shoot with fast shutter speeds is to set the ISO to the maximum that you are happy processing, then using shutter speed priority set that to the minimum you can get a sharp shot/freeze the action with, note you will need about 1/1600 for BIFs and upto 1/4000 with small birds in flight.

If your cameras autofocus isn't upto it the manually prefocus on a spot and wait for the birds to pass through that plane, and if your camera keeps reducing the shutter speed because there isn't enough light, try using the settings in Manual mode and check the exposure level with a test shot.

A large aperture number will give a good depth of field, but you may find you are on your smallest aperture number, try not to worry to much about aperture settings, its ISO, Shutter speed, focus, correct exposure as well as getting to close to your subject that are important.

Example below using manual prefocus setting2009-apr-18-127b.jpg

Perry_95 7 59 1 Wales
27 Dec 2010 12:21PM
Yes i had a practice this morning and found that indeed may of the images are blurry. i will try pre focusing next time i try (later on) and if anybody was wondering the main birds i am picturing are tits, robins, starlings, pigeons and crows (in order of preference) i willl sometimes see buzzards and woodpeckers aswell because i live next to a field.
cheddar-caveman 14 1.1k England
27 Dec 2010 7:21PM
Well you are certainly cutting your teeth on probably the fastest of our common garden varieties! Once landed they shouldn't pose too much of a problem but in flight they will! A nice bright day will help to get your shutter speed up while maintaining a resonable aperture, and as has been said, get the ISO up around 800 at least.
Perry_95 7 59 1 Wales
27 Dec 2010 10:09PM
its hard atm, because of the cloudy and snowy weather
mohikan22 14 2.3k 2 United Kingdom
27 Dec 2010 10:29PM
THIS THIS was shot at ISO1600 1/160th at f4.0 on a cloudy grey overcast day today.
tomcat 12 6.4k 15 United Kingdom
28 Dec 2010 11:43AM
I have P.M'd you Perry

patjohn 7 1 England
30 Dec 2010 5:44PM
these tips are great i am just starting out to take bird photos
LazFair 8 6 1 United Kingdom
2 Jan 2011 1:53AM
this is great - I'm just beginning to attempt some birdie photos too! Didn't realise the ISO had to be so high. As for birds in flight - I think I need to sharpen my own reaction time to get them flying!
mohikan22 14 2.3k 2 United Kingdom
2 Jan 2011 9:54AM
Didn't realise the ISO had to be so high

it doesnt HAVE to be so high ,again depending on the light/weather/situe. But you CAN if needed, providing you havea good compromise with light to not have so much "noise"
Rev2 8 302 2 England
2 Jan 2011 9:58AM
There's no substitute for good light for BIF and my advice is to wait for a nice sunny day, buy 2 loaves of bread and go to your local park or reservoir and practice on ducks, geese and gulls in flight. I'm not sure if your Pentax will give desirable results at high ISO settings so I would stick to ISO400 or lower and aim for a shutter speed of around 1250/sec which should do it for large, slow flying birds.

This Swift was taken at 1/1000 sec, ISO400, f/6.3 hand held although I would have preferred a shutter speed of 1/2000 or more but I didn't want to push up the ISO as detail would've been lost.

Good luck and post your first shots so we can see how you're getting on.

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