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Everything posted by Jochen

  1. Hey ST folks, As promised to @Tulips and @Kitsafari, but I hope equally useful for everyone else; a quick & simple method that works in at least 95% of all cases when shooting wildlife. With this method you should get better results from your camera, as compared to whatever results you get when using it in auto-mode. But as always with posts like this, a disclaimer is needed as well; yes, there will be some cases where this method will not work (I'm thinking of macro shots, for example). Nothing in life is perfect. If you don't like the result you get, switch back to auto! You might get lucky. For the below; the only important parts are in bold. The rest is just info that you read maybe just this once, so you understand WHY you're doing certain steps in the process. But you can forget about it later. Here goes... STEP 1; put your camera in Aperture Mode (AV on a canon, A on a Nikon, ...) When setting your aperture, you are actually playing around with your Depth Of Field ("DOF"). The purpose is to get your subject in focus, and your background as blurry as possible. Fiddling with your aperture value has consequences on your shutter speed. To be precise; - A lower aperture value = a shallower depth of field = a higher shutter speed = more chance of getting a sharp image - A higher aperture value = a less shallow depth of field = a lower shutter speed = less chance of getting a sharp image STEP 2; zoom in on your subject Are you at the desired zoom level? Go to the next step. STEP 3; now roll to the lowest aperture value your lens will allow I say "roll" because I assume if you are in aperture mode, your camera will allow you to set the aperture value using the main wheel. I don't know how this works on all cameras that are out there. The thing is; if you would be shooting portraits, say: a person's face at the other side of the dinner table, you'd notice that it's difficult to work in aperture mode. More specifically; if you dial a too low value, your Depth Of Field might be too low, and you might notice that the person's nose is sharp, but his/her ears are already out of focus! But that's because your subject is close to your lens! The further your subject is away from your lens, the less likely you are to get into trouble with a too shallow depth of field. But now think about wildlife photography; your subject is almost never very close to you! So you can dial the lowest aperture value possible, resulting in the nicest blurry background, without having to fear your subject will be out of focus! On top of that, (as explained in step 1) your lower aperture value will give you a higher shutter speed, which in turn means you'll have less chance of hand movement resulting in a blurry shot. Isn't that all very convenient?! STEP 4; half-press your shutter button When you half-press, your camera will display, in the viewfinder (or at the back, if it's a camera without a viewfinder), the results of what he "reads". Basically what he does is he measures the light, and using your chosen aperture mode, your camera will say (for example) "If you want a shot of this, exposed correctly, then I can do that with a shutter speed of blah blah blah". To give you some examples with actual figures; - If your camera returns a value of 1000 it actually means he can get you the shot with an exposure 1/1000th of a second - If your camera returns a value of 50 it actually means he can get you the shot with an exposure 1/50th of a second STEP 5; read the shutter speed figure that your camera returns to you, and interpret that figure (is it enough or not?) This is maybe the only tricky bit. But it's actually really simple. I'll explain with some examples again. There's a simple rule to follow: - Suppose your zoom lens' maximum reach is 300mm and you zoomed in all the way to 300mm. Well then you need to get a shutter speed of minimum 1/300th of a second to be sure that you get a sharp picture (ic a picture unaffected by movement of your hands). - Suppose your zoom lens' maximum reach is 400mm but you only zoomed in on your subject to about half way (200mm). Side note; you can see at what zoom you are by looking at the dials on the top of your lens. Well then you need to get a shutter speed of minimum 1/200th of a second to be sure that you get a sharp picture. Can you see the pattern here? This is the only rule you have to remember: - If you are zoomed in to 100mm, the reading you get back from your camera when half-pressing your shutter should at least give you "100" (1/100th of a second) - If you are zoomed in to 200mm, the reading you get back from your camera when half-pressing your shutter should at least give you "200" (1/200th of a second) - If you are zoomed in to 300mm, the reading you get back from your camera when half-pressing your shutter should at least give you "300" (1/300th of a second) And so on! All this means is; the further you zoom out, the faster your required shutter speed. So if your camera gives you a value higher or equal than the shutter speed you need, MAKE THE SHOT NOW. For example; if you're at 400mm zoom, the reading you get should say at least "400". So if you get "2000", make the shot. If you get "1000", make the shot. If you get "400"; still fine, make the shot! YOU'RE DONE! This is how easy it is to get that fantastic wildlife shot, perfectly exposed, and with the blurry background. Only if the reading you get is lower than what you desire, go to the next step. In the example above; if you're at 400mm, and your reading gives you "50"... read on! (optional) STEP 6; choose a higher ISO value if needed Let's continue with that last example; you were zoomed in to 400mm, because you wanted a shot of a bird in a tree. Unfortunately that bird is in the shade, so there's not a lot of light. And when half-pressing, your camera returns "50". Basically what your camera is saying is; "if you want a correctly exposed image of that bird, I require a shutter speed of 1/50th of a second. If you would ignore the rule in step 5, and press the shutter anyway, you can be almost certain you'd get a blurry shot. Because no one can hold a camera steady for 1/50th of a second while zoomed in that far. You need a faster shutter speed, so that there's less chance of your shot being blurred. You need to follow the rule in step 5! But how do you get a faster shutter speed if there's not enough light? That bird in the tree is not going to light a candle near his face. This is where your ISO setting comes in. If you never fiddle around with your ISO setting, and/or if you always shoot in auto mode, there's a high chance your ISO is set at 100. This setting will give you the least "grainy" images. You can google around if you want to know more about ISO, but basically it's just like in the old days, when you loaded film in your camera. For us, what's important now is to realise we would rather get a sharp shot of that bird even though the final image might be a bit more grainy, instead of getting a blurred shot of said bird ...but then with less grain. I mean seriously; what good are you with a non-grainy shot when all it shows is a blurred bird?? So here's the 2nd rule you need to keep in mind; every time you double your ISO value, your camera will require half the shutter speed of what he needed before. You only need to remember this rule in case you need this 6th step. So start increasing your ISO! (this is different on all cameras; you will need to find out how to do it. It might be as simple as pushing an "ISO" button). To give you an example; - Move your ISO from 100 to 200 and that "50" reading you got in the above example will change to "100" (just half-press your shutter again after having set a higher ISO value) - Move your ISO from 200 to 400 and that reading goes from 100 to 200! - Move your ISO from 400 to 800 and that reading goes from 200 to 400! How there! Stop! No need to go even higher in ISO. Remember; we needed 1/400th of a second to get a sharp shot, as we were zoomed in to 400mm. Well, we're there! Take the shot! It should be sharp. And when you're done, don't forget to set your ISO back to a lower level. Unless you expect your next shots to be of subjects in the shade as well. More to come in a 2nd post, below.
  2. I can tell you what I did. I drove back to the lodge and called it a day. The guy next to me felt the same way. And the guy who sneezed bought us a bottle of whiskey. Which we downed before it was noon. And then we bought a second one. Also; on the way back to camp my back started hurting. Never had that before. I could barely move, or turn my steering wheel. It subsided a bit as I rolled into camp. I looked it up on the web. It was my adrenaline glands releasing too much adrenaline for my kidneys to handle.
  3. I hear what you're saying, @douglaswise. FWIW I used to be one of those "angry anti-hunting people". Don't get me wrong; I still hate hunting. Or rather; I hate that it still needs to happen. The keyword here being "needs". It's what none of the angry people want to hear. It's what I didn't want to hear. But now that I'm here in the bush permanently, I see how complex the matter is, and how a small amount of trophy hunting is needed to "balance the books". I don't know what the exact situation in Zim is like though. I can only shed a light on what's happening here in the Kruger Lowveld. Once or twice a year, the private reserves "feel the heat" from the anti-hunting community. And that community does not seem to (want to) understand the difference between the reserves themselves and the ecolodges on them. The result is that these angry people call for a ban of all lodges on these reserves, while those very lodges are the only things that are slowly pushing out trophy hunting. It really is an "ecotourism vs hunting" battle. But how can ecotourism win, if you support (or ask for) a ban on it? Even worse is that lodge owners of Sabi Sands (Mr. Varty, for example) and providers of photo-safaris who use Sabi Sands' lodges, decide to get on that same "ban those lodges" train. While they very well know that their own reserve has a history of trophy hunting as well. While they very well know that their evolution to full eco-tourism was a rough ride (there was leopard- and lion baiting there, in the old days). And while they very well know that their reserve still has some way to go (just one example; theirs is the reserve with by far most landscaping going on, to make it easier for their customers to see certain key species. However this has a serious impact on a lot of other species; insects, grass-nesting birds, ... And we all know an impact at the bottom of the food chain has an impact all the way to the top). Of course it's easy for them to talk; they're by far the most commercialised of all reserves (52 lodges now). They don't need trophy hunting that much. But it's a blow below the belt. They just want to put their own reserve in a better light, and lure some more customers their side. So much for all fighting at the same side; for ecotourism. Ah... I'm rambling now. But it's difficult for me to stay out of discussions like this. Sometimes, I wish people would be able to stand in my shoes, just to feel the impact of those five horrible minutes when I was looking down on a freshly poached rhino cow, while the vet was cutting the tiny unborn baby out of the womb... But then again that's something I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy. Anyway if we are to win this bloody poaching war; we need that money, people. Preferably by ecotourism, but by trophy hunting if needed.
  4. I think you hit the nail on the head here! If you go to a shop without knowing what you need, no salesman can help you. Ah, scratch that. These days, no salesman really helps you. He will "feel" what your budget is, and gently push you above that while at the same time pushing the box over the counter that's giving him the biggest profit margin. Yes, looking at some performance indicators is important (lowest F-value the lens can go, what zoom level it has, how high it can go in ISO, ...), but beyond that testing the camera before buying it is the only way to assure yourself that you got the right tool. If you buy a camera where you have to go through 7 menus to change the ISO then you can forget about using my method, for example.
  5. Not really. See what I wrote in previous post. True. But only if your camera can deliver what you want it to do. It's a subject under canopy so there's a fair chance your wanted F4 + 1/600s would push the ISO all the way up to 3200 (which is VERY grainy and almost without detail in these bridge cameras), and still the camera might not be able to get what you need, resulting in an underexposed image. Bottom line; I still don't see why "chosen fixed aperture- and shutterspeed settings" would result in a potentially better result when compared to using a simple rule that lets you optimise settings depending on available light. Otherwise put; with the exception of subjects in full daylight; light is a rare commodity that you cannot waste by choosing the wrong (fixed) F-values and/or the wrong (fixed) shutter speed. Because if you do, it's going to have an impact on your results (a grainier image, higher in ISO, than you could have gotten ...or even no sharp image at all). Hope this makes sense.
  6. The blur is not caused by a wrong focus. The blur comes from the owl that moved slightly, or (less likely) the photographer's hands that moved slightly. These are things you can only counter with a higher shutter speed. A higher aperture value would not have resulted in a sharper image, I think. Besides, even if in this case you're right; it's a bad idea to go to a higher F-value just to avoid issues with a few wrongly focused shots. At a higher F-vaue, you'd lose much more shots because your camera cannot get the needed shutter speeds no matter how high he pushes the ISO.
  7. If it's a stabilised lens, then your needed shutter speed setting is not too far off. But the camera "took a chance", so to speak. Shutter speed should have been 1/250s. This is why choosing the ISO yourself is a better option IMHO. If you would have chosen ISO 800, the shutter speed would have been what's needed to get a sharp picture with this stabilised lens.
  8. @Zim Girl; yours is a fantastic example how the "auto ISO" method can be less than ideal. Well, maybe it behaves better on a camera where you can set both aperture and shutter speed. But still... First off; let me start by saying that photography is not an exact science. You don't need exactly 1/600s for a 600mm shot. This is just a guideline! If you've got stable hands, or if you can brace your camera in any way, then you can get away with a lower shutter speed. But the point is; the further you are from the ideal shutter speed, the more you're taking chances. In other words; knowing exactly at what zoom level you are is not necessary. I think that - after having used your camera a few days - you can easily guess at what zoom level you are, and your guess will not be far off. And if you estimate more or less correctly, you can also choose a shutter speed that's more or less correct. The trick is not to fool yourself and don't guess too low. The only time I allow myself to drift way off from the ideal shutter speed, is when using a stabilised lens. If your lens is stabilised, you only need half the normal shutter speeds, and you can even get away with 1/4th of the normal shutter speed. In your example; you would need only 1/300s and can even try 1/150s. Now, on to your examples... If I understand correctly, you zoomed out all the way, and set your F-value as low as possible. So far so good. But then it seems you relied on auto-ISO, and the camera decided to choose ISO 400, which in turn resulted in a shutter speed that's too low, which in turn might lead to blurry images (the 2nd image in particular seems blurred). Is your lens stabilised? That might be the reason why your cam decided not to go higher in ISO. Maybe it though 1/125s was enough for a 600mm shot. It guessed wrong though, the 2nd image is proof of that. What I would try in this particular case is this (if your lens is not stabilised); - set ISO manually, to 1600. This will increase your shutter speed to 1/500s. Close enough to the 1/600s required. - set ISO manually, to 800, and zoom out a bit. If you can get to a shutter speed of 1/250s at - say - 400mm, and if you slightly crop that image later in your photo editing software, your result might even be better (still lots of detail in the subject, and very little ISO-noise).
  9. I think it's more a problem that people buy a cam just before going on safari without learning how to use it. Often they think "the more I pay for it, the better the shots should be". The inverse might be the case! (in the sense that you might have to learn to work with an expensive camera before you can get any decent results out of it) And then there's also a number of people who simply don't want to learn how to use their camera. This group kinda overlaps with the people I described above; they buy expensive stuff and use it on Auto. "I paid a lot for this and now I want amazing results just by pressing a button". Story time! I'm driving guests around on Balule. 5-star lodge, wealthy people. It's after dark and we've got the spotlight on a leopard in a tree. I use my method (as described in the first post of this thread), with ISO set to 2000 and 2 stops underexposed. I fire away in burst. Tak-tak-tak-tak-tak... I show my results to some people behind me. Oohs and aahs. Right behind me sits this guy... he's got the same lens as me (70-200 IS L F2.8) but his camera body is top of the range, while mine is an old 2nd hand one. He aims and fires. Click ...clack. Click ...clack. Exposures of about a second! He instantly get s grumpy, and angry at his camera. I know this leopard. She's skittish, so I know she's not going to sit there for long. So I ask if I can quickly grab his cam and alter the settings. He gets it back within 5 seconds and I say "try again". He fires away. Frrrrrrrrr.... the thing sounded like it was shuffling two books of cards! He looks at the results, and I hear "Oh my God look at this honey! Awesome! I'm going to keep it on these settings as of now!" Noooooo....
  10. Agreed! I guess the chosen method depends on your "working environment" as well. For example; a visitor to KNP who can only get into the park after sunrise and who must exit the park again before sunset, may have as good results with the "M-mode + 1/1000s + F 6.3" method. But for me, as I'm in Kruger's private reserves and as I'm often out there when the sun's not out (yet/anymore), that method would seriously impact my success rate. And it also depends on gear! As I said; some bridge cams or entry level dSLR's may not make it easy for you to quickly change ISO. Or @xelas's example; his lens is an entry-level one that's not light-strong and that has less than optimal results if you use it at it's lowest aperture.
  11. @Dave Williams I never claimed my method is perfect for all cases. You can throw any method at me, and I also can find you some examples where the method fails. That little "zoom level vs shutter value" rule may seem a bit cumbersome but as I wrote in a previous post; a large portion of the shots we take with our lenses are on full zoom anyway, and even if not fully zoomed out; that little rule isn't an exact science. You can estimate your zoom level, and it won't hurt much if you're a bit off. I also mentioned that you can "push the limits" and divert from that little rule, by using stabilised lenses, by using a monopod or tripod etc. Awesome shot you got there! 500mm at 1/40s... amazing! But again let's be honest; how many times do settings like that result in good shots?
  12. This is very true. We mustn't forget this. Some cameras are absolute NOT intuitive when it comes to setting even basic parameters such as Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO. So no matter how simple my method is (or any other method out there); it could be that you just cannot get it done with your chosen camera.
  13. Given the changing light conditions throughout the day, I think choosing a fixed WB setting will lead to more "mistakes" than letting your camera choose a WB value. Cameras are pretty good at this, these days. I'm quite certain the number of images I need to "correct" is lower now, compared to if I would be using a fixed WB value. And when I do have to correct, it's typically a whole series of shots that I can do with a few mouse clicks. For example a typical case is when shooting snow; the camera's pics may look blue. Well, in Lightroom I correct one shot, and then apply those settings in one go to all shots. Done! But with a fixed WB value you cannot use that fast correction method. The further your chosen WB value is from the truth (example; the further your shots go into the golden hour), the more you will need to adjust the WB. But you cannot use one WB setting to correct them all.
  14. That method is better than what Xelas and Soukous use. Their fixed aperture and shutter settings cause their ISO to be pushed up in cases where normally it wouldn't have to. But let's be honest here; if you know how to shoot in full manual, and you know how to correctly set aperture as well as shutter speed for everything that crosses your lens, then you are no rookie. I'd say in your case; you know your stuff and you don't need my method. Or any "method"! See my 2nd post in this thread. I did warn that there are exceptions. But as you said; who will encounter these exceptions? Probably not a "beginner" who uses my method. He won't have an expensive zoom lens (ic one that can push F-value so low that you get into trouble with your DOF)
  15. Why would you use that aperture? That's a value I would use for a landscape shot, to get both foreground and background in focus. Don't you want blurry backgrounds? Your cam will indeed adjust ISO as to get to the aperture and shutter values you desire. But with your desires settings you force your camera into higher ISO modes way sooner than I would have to (using my method). And at one point, your camera will be at his limits with this method. While with my method I can keep going until way after sunset.
  16. Well I don't know what to say. Honestly, I'm baffled by the settings you use. Full manual?? That's like the most difficult way of shooting ever. And the settings make absolutely no sense. I mean I don't mean to disrespect, or mock the method you're using, but... - Why use 1/1000s shutter speed? You're hardly ever in situations where you need that, unless you have a 1000mm zoom. Well I assume in daylight your pics will come out all right. But in situations where there's not enough light (dawn dusk, spotlight, but even a subject under a canopy) this setting will make your camera switch to a higher ISO level way sooner than it would normally need to do that, leading to more grainy images. - Too bad your lens isn't allowing lower aperture values than F5.6, but why choose a value that's even one stop higher (F6.3)? This will lead to less blurry backgrounds (which is not what you'd be going for), while at the same time wasting more shutter speed (or to be precise; since your shutter speed is set to a fixed figure, your camera will again need to go into higher ISO modes way sooner than normal). Seriously; don't dismiss my method just yet. Try it! Maybe you're a bit overwhelmed by all the info I wrote. But only the bold parts are important. This would be the short version; 1. Set camera to AV mode (*) 2. Zoom to your subject 3. Look at your zoom level (or without taking your eye off the viewfinder, estimate your zoom level. Doesn't even need to be that precise. Besides a lot of shots you take will be at full zoom anyway, and then you know at what zoom level you are) 4. Roll the F-value to lowest your lens will allow (*) 5. Half press. Read the returned shutter speed 6a. Shutter speed higher than zoom level? Take the shot. (ex; 1/500s is higher than 400mm) 6b. Shutter speed lower than zoom level? Push ISO up, repeat steps 5 & 6a Note that (*) are steps you only need to do once. Edit; note also that I'm not saying your method doesn't "work". It will probably give you decent shots in lots of cases. What I'm saying is; your camera could have gotten way better results in every circumstance. I suggest you try both methods side by side, even when just at home in your garden.
  17. All right so just wanted to share with you all the event that I was involved in last week. It was called "Tracking the Silent African Giants". The purpose of all the events was two-fold; 1) Rhino darting and tagging. As much as possible in as little time as possible. Of course we had to find them first. And if we found them in group we could only do one individual (we did not want to give the other individuals any extra stress by going after them again). The reason for this part of the event; to make it more difficult for the poachers, obviously (more info below). 2) Put GPS collars on elephants. We had a total of eight collars. One had to replace a collar that no longer worked (on a cow). The seven others had to be put on "new" elephants, preferably bulls, no cows. This was because the organization on behalf of whom we worked (Elephants Alive) researches bulls. Up to now there has been lots more research on cows than bulls, but more about this in another post that I'll put online later on. So this series only covers the rhino tagging. The even took place in Balule and Klaserie private reserves. These reserves have open borders to Kruger National Park, I think you all know. Thanks to a larger budget for anti-poaching measures, the private parks (Sabi Sands, Timbavati, Klaserie, Umbabat and Balule) are doing much better when it comes to protecting rhinos, compared to the National Park itself. An estimate is that there are five times more rhinos in the private reserves. But that estimate could maybe even paint a too positive picture of the National Park. If I drive around in the park, I can't find any active rhino middens, or even drag marks / scent trails. However, the fact that things are better in private parks does not mean that they have it easy. Certainly not a reserve like Balule, adjacent to the R40 asphalt road (west boundary), close to two major villages (Phalaborwa, Hoedspruit), with a railway line in the middle, with a border next to a military base, etc... it even has an unfenced border with a local community!
  18. I didn't look at my watch but on average I think it lasted only 15 minutes or so, for rhino as well as elephant. Not sure about all private reserves, but since most rhinos that I encounter in Sabi Sands and Timbavati have ear notches, I assume it's done there as well.
  19. That might actually work! Set the F-value low -> Set your shutter speed to the same level as your zoom (my little rule above) -> Let the camera handle the rest (it should set the ISO to the needed level to attain the desired shutter speed.
  20. Hmmm... That doesn't make sense. When shooting in RAW your camera should ignore that setting.
  21. Hey my ST friends! I'm so sorry for staying away for such a long time. It's just that my attention was needed elsewhere, so I had to make some choices (I know ST's got this power to "suck you in" and then you spend waaaaaay too much time on this board ). Never thought I'd be gone that long though. Never thought that it would take such a long time to "find our feet" here in South Africa either. Well, we're still not 100% there but at least we're getting closer to the goal. So for those who were not aware; that's right, my wife and I sold our house, said goodbye to our careers in Belgium, and are now slowly but surely making South-Africa our new home. What a ride it has been though. We learned so much! Good and bad lodge owners. Good and bad rainy seasons. Good and bad government services. One day, I'm writing a book of all we experienced. But right now I'm not going to be bothering you with stories like for example the four months it took me to get my PDP ("Professional Drivers Permit", needed to be allowed to drive people around on public roads). You'd start throwing vases, you'd invent new curse words, and quite possibly you'd chew up your keyboard. What I <AM> going to share with you is lotsa photos, for instance of the rhino darting & elephant collaring operation that I was involved in recently. Met some great people, top-of-the bill being Ian Michler. He's everything I thought he would be, and more! Eco-hero 100%! And what I'm also going to share with you is an offer for a safari trip, with myself as a guide of course, taking place at the end of this year. Yup, my wife and I are going to start doing this more often; guide small groups of people, and explore both highveld and lowveld. For now using other people's accommodation, but later also using our own place. Yes yes yes, that's on the list too. As I said; we're getting there! Anyway... hope you are all still alive & kicking?! Ciao, J.
  22. Hey Harry, I don't because I shoot RAW. So if my camera gets it wrong (which actually rarely happens) I can still set my WB to whatever I like in Lightroom.
  23. Hey daar, Carole! Lang geleden! I guess, if relevant to the discussion, I might throw in a few stories.
  24. I never do, to be honest. Because that auto-ISO is almost always wrong. Instead, I anticipate, and set my ISO beforehand. For instance on a day like today (clear sky, full daylight, winter - so hardly any leaves on the trees), I'd set it somewhere like ISO 250. But if I would be walking in a forest, under a thick canopy of leaves, I'd push it to ISO 1600. Sometimes, if I'm not sure, I measure beforehand. I'd aim at a spot where I would expect one of my subjects, half-press, and read. Not enough shutter speed? Push the ISO and test again.
  25. The lengthy explanation might be. But I can assure you, if you just follow the simple steps and memorise those few rules in bold, you'll do just fine!

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