Jochen

A simple method of shooting wildlife

75 posts in this topic

I also use a method pretty similar to @xelas and @Soukous, except that I don't fix at any specific shutter speed or aperture, that is always adapted to the situation at hand. But fully manual with AUTO ISO is the way to go for MOST cameras.  I also set a maximum ISO at 3200 (usually.)  Even though my camera is ISO-invariant (and not all sensors are), I would not want to go about ISO 3200 for wildlife if I can avoid it.

 

I say MOST because I'm pretty sure that some of the bridge cameras or even lower-cost DSLRS may not have the functionality of Auto ISO in full manual mode. Also some don't have the flexibility to set a maximum ISO, which could cause problems.

 

I also think its a bit misleading for Jochen to state that DOF doesn't apply when shooting at long distances; its probably safe to shoot most prosumer lenses wide open (as they will likely be at least 5.6 aperture) but I would not always shoot a faster lens wide open (an F2.8 or F4 lens--which a beginner is unlikely to be using as they are expensive ;)) You will see a difference in DOF even at distances if you shoot a 500mm F4 lens wide open vs. at F8!

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On 7/18/2017 at 10:16 AM, Jochen said:

 

Hmmm... That doesn't make sense. When shooting in RAW your camera should ignore that setting. ;)

 

Not exactly...true that the RAW file will contain all the information of the scene regardless of the WB you choose, but the JPG that is displayed on the camera will use the WB you selected. Also, if you are using your camera's own RAW processing software--like Nikon Capture NX-D for Nikon, not sure what Canon uses--then any settings you make to WB will be carried over to the initial converted file. So of course you can tweak it during the RAW conversion but if you get it right (or at least the way you like it) in camera then its just one less step to do later.

 

@madaboutcheetah 's choice of 5000K for Nikon is probably because Nikon Auto WB tends to be too cool; I always shoot RAW with Daylight WB set to be one notch warmer, around 5300K.  But we are getting way out of beginner territory here :)

 

 

 

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I tried to help a friend discover how his newly acquired bridge camera, a Sony model, worked prior to him leaving for an African safari in a few weeks time and I have to say, being unfamiliar with Bridge cameras, I was amazed at how complicated it was compared to my Canon DSLRs. It's hardly surprising that many people are put off using anything other than the full auto settings. IMO manufacturers are trying to put too many features in to entry level cameras ( based on selling price)  but no doubt some will disagree that these are actually entry level, more like light weight compromises to heavier DSLR plus lens combinations.

 

With regard to previous suggestions I must admit I think that manual shutter speed and aperture is the way to go right from the beginning. A basic understanding of aperture, shutter speed and ISO is all that's needed and that combined with an understanding of the limitations of your camera body should get you decent results but using manual in the said Sony model wasn't as easy as it is in my DSLRs. Very fiddly swopping settings unlike a DSLR where it's the twist of two dials, it also doesn't allow some settings to be used in all modes.

 

I mentioned understanding the limitations of your camera because they are all different, even within the same manufacturer. It's only since Canon introduced exposure compensation when using auto-iso in manual mode ( only in recent models) that I have been happy to use auto ISO and even then you need to keep an eye on what ISO is being applied. I wouldn't want to take the Canon 7D2 anywhere near the numbers my 1DX2 can produce noise free images at. If you set a limit on how far the ISO will be pushed in auto mode you need to make sure that the camera isn't taking under exposed pictures and keep opening the aperture or reducing the shutter speed until the ISO read out displayed in camera drops just below the limit you have set

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Posted (edited)

4 hours ago, xelas said:

RAW

M (manual)

AF-C focusing with back-button activation

AutoISO

1/1000 sec

f 1/6.3 (on f 1/5.6 lens)

 

 

Well I don't know what to say. :blink:  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.

 

Edited by Jochen
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3 hours ago, Soukous said:

Only difference is that I usually set aperture at f8

 

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?

 

I think many people are put off by the fact that the camera is set on Manual, without properly understanding that setting ISO to Auto deals with this very efficiently.

 

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.

 

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2 hours ago, janzin said:

I also use a method pretty similar to @xelas and @Soukous, except that I don't fix at any specific shutter speed or aperture, that is always adapted to the situation at hand. But fully manual with AUTO ISO is the way to go for MOST cameras. 

 

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"! :lol:

 

 

2 hours ago, janzin said:

I also think its a bit misleading for Jochen to state that DOF doesn't apply when shooting at long distances; its probably safe to shoot most prosumer lenses wide open (as they will likely be at least 5.6 aperture) but I would not always shoot a faster lens wide open (an F2.8 or F4 lens--which a beginner is unlikely to be using as they are expensive ;)) You will see a difference in DOF even at distances if you shoot a 500mm F4 lens wide open vs. at F8!

 

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)

 

 

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@Jochen I did try your method out of curiosity but it's not for me although I can see where you are coming from with the shutter speed. When using a zoom lens it's particularly cumbersome as you have to check the lens barrel to see the focal length. Might be OK for a static subject but not for something thats moving and where you need to get your shot away quickly. The shutter speed vs focal length is only a rule of thumb for hand holding too. 

This shot was taken with a 500mm lens at 1/40th of a second because I was resting the lens barrel on a window sill.

35638621840_7f70fcd30f_b.jpgTawny Owl by Dave Williams, on Flickr

I only used f4 because due to the very low light I wanted as much light hitting the camera sensor as possible to keep the ISO down to ISO1250. There was no noise reduction applied because my camera body can handle that figure with ease, like wise @xelas has a Nikon body and they are even better than my Canon ones in low light. More often than not I tend to use a smaller aperture for better depth of field too so f8 is a good start point if you want to get as much of your subject in focus, it's also a fact with lots of zoom lenses that they are sharper with a smaller aperture. The more expensive prime lenses cope much better wide open.

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2 hours ago, janzin said:

Not exactly...true that the RAW file will contain all the information of the scene regardless of the WB you choose, but the JPG that is displayed on the camera will use the WB you selected. Also, if you are using your camera's own RAW processing software--like Nikon Capture NX-D for Nikon, not sure what Canon uses--then any settings you make to WB will be carried over to the initial converted file. So of course you can tweak it during the RAW conversion but if you get it right (or at least the way you like it) in camera then its just one less step to do later.

 

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.

 

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1 hour ago, Dave Williams said:

I tried to help a friend discover how his newly acquired bridge camera, a Sony model, worked prior to him leaving for an African safari in a few weeks time and I have to say, being unfamiliar with Bridge cameras, I was amazed at how complicated it was compared to my Canon DSLRs. It's hardly surprising that many people are put off using anything other than the full auto settings. IMO manufacturers are trying to put too many features in to entry level cameras ( based on selling price)  but no doubt some will disagree that these are actually entry level, more like light weight compromises to heavier DSLR plus lens combinations.

 

With regard to previous suggestions I must admit I think that manual shutter speed and aperture is the way to go right from the beginning. A basic understanding of aperture, shutter speed and ISO is all that's needed and that combined with an understanding of the limitations of your camera body should get you decent results but using manual in the said Sony model wasn't as easy as it is in my DSLRs. Very fiddly swopping settings unlike a DSLR where it's the twist of two dials, it also doesn't allow some settings to be used in all modes.

 

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.

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Posted (edited)

I guess its a question of "your mileage may vary".  I leave mine as I said, at Daylight adjusted up one notch warmer (in my Nikon cameras you can tweak the WB settings in camera) and I very, very rarely change it; or need to correct it in post.  If I used Auto for wildlife, I'd be changing every image. 

 

True, if I were shooting in the snow or night photography I'd probably change it as well. And certainly for indoor photography I'd likely switch to Auto. But for my safari and everyday shooting, Daylight works for me.

 

I can only say that my images tell the story :) but as I said, it may depend on your camera, shooting style, and preferences. 

Edited by janzin
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21 minutes ago, Dave Williams said:

@Jochen I did try your method out of curiosity but it's not for me although I can see where you are coming from with the shutter speed. When using a zoom lens it's particularly cumbersome as you have to check the lens barrel to see the focal length.

 

@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? ;) 

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I think the main problem with this thread is that everyone contributing probably uses a DSLR and is keen on photography .... unless someone can say differently. They are the ones that should be giving advice as well. Nikon and Canon are very similar in the way the bodies work and I'm sure other manufacturers of DSLR's are too but this thread has come about as a result of a request for advice about whether to buy a DSLR or a Bridge camera and I have to say, I advised a bridge camera for someone who doesn't want to get too involved with photography but having tried one I found it more complicated than a DSLR. 

Buyers are seduced by those huge optical zoom ranges but you also need to be aware, particularly on African safaris that the zoom can be next to useless if the subject is distant because of the light distortion due to heat haze. They are of course lighter and more portable than a DSLR/Lens combination and also tend to be a lot less expensive. Maybe using the auto modes are the best way to go if your future interest in photography is limited to having lots of lovely memories captured in camera but some simple rules would be to continually take test shots and check the results to make sure conditions haven't changed. Maybe just use the exposure compensation setting which is marked +/- on a button on most cameras. You can adjust your picture to make it slightly darker or brighter but when you are checking the image on the screen on the back of the camera be aware if you are wearing dark sunglasses ! The Sony body I was looking at had various "Scene" modes too, I have them on my little Olympus Tough and I find them very useful as they produce pretty good results.

Oh, and lets not forget tablets and phones. On our recent safari I took a spare DSLR body for my wife to use but in the end she preferred using her iPad which actually takes superb pictures when it comes to landscapes and portraits.

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@Jochen , my (our) settings are not that awkward as it looks from the first sight. I will add comments to my original post; note that I have prefaced my post with words "safari in Africa"; when we are going to other environments like rain forests of Costa Rica, then my starting settings is different.

 

RAW - no need to comment although if one tweaks the settings right, also JPEG can be very close to useable

M (manual) - because I want to leave as less of decision to camera as possible

AF-C focusing with back-button activation - you have not touched this one but for getting sharp photos is almost as important as the shutter speed

AutoISO - I do delete all my blurry photos, but I might keep some grainy ones

1/1000 sec - remember, it is Africa, and my subjects are more often birds then mammals; if I would photographed mammals only then the starting shutter speed would be 1/500 sec

f 1/6.3 (on f 1/5.6 lens) - because I do not use pro lenses, and 1/3 stopped down gave me a visibly sharper result

 

Now, I have said this is a starting point. Early morning or late afternoon, the shutter speed goes down; large mammals the aperture goes up (smaller). But it is what with my gear (D7200 + 200-500 or 300+TC14) I can rely on to get plenty of sharp photos, even when there is a sudden movement on the subject side, or the light conditions do change. 

 

Going through our photos, majority of them have been taken with that exact settings (I am talking wildlife photos). I mean, 1/500 vs. 1/1000 is one stop; today sensor can give you that same IQ at say ISO 800 vs. ISO 400. But there is no harm in shooting at faster shutter speeds. Again, I am talking about average safari goer, a person that objective is first to get sharp photos instead of blurry ones, and only secondly to shoot at dusk or dawn times, or in deep shade.

 

Just my personal experiences, that is all. I see no benefit of using A (aperture) mode over M (manual) one, even more, with fixed ISO value I would have to control the metering at all times, by controlling the shutter speed and the ISO value. Too much when the action starts, plus I am already at the age when memories started to play tricks :).

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3 hours ago, janzin said:

I also use a method pretty similar to @xelas and @Soukous, except that I don't fix at any specific shutter speed or aperture, that is always adapted to the situation at hand.

 

Indeed so, @janzin . This is my starting settings (remember I am using D7200 and D610 both with U1 and U2 modes). It is much easier to have one fixed starting setting to remember and then to change it according to actual light and needs. I do limit the AutoISO but at its max. native value. That is because I am photographing only for my fun (and for posting on this forum) and occasional grainy photo if having an interesting subject on it is always better then a blurry one or severely underexposed one :D.

 

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@Jochen I'm one of the bridge owning, DSLR novices with entry level Nikons and consumer lens that your advice is aimed at and I love it. We went out yesterday to a place called Dunham Massey which is as close to a walking safari as I can get in my neck of the woods :-)

 

Using your advice we photographed deer, swans, some ducks and the odd resting dragon fly with our D5100/D5300 and our 18-140 and 70-300 lenses. When I get my new SD card connector for my new iPad I'll post the results. I found the technique very easy and as you say you get a feeling for how much you have zoomed in without looking after a while.  

 

Thanks again for posting the technique. 

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1 hour ago, ld1 said:

@Jochen I'm one of the bridge owning, DSLR novices with entry level Nikons and consumer lens that your advice is aimed at and I love it. We went out yesterday to a place called Dunham Massey which is as close to a walking safari as I can get in my neck of the woods :-)

 

Using your advice we photographed deer, swans, some ducks and the odd resting dragon fly with our D5100/D5300 and our 18-140 and 70-300 lenses. When I get my new SD card connector for my new iPad I'll post the results. I found the technique very easy and as you say you get a feeling for how much you have zoomed in without looking after a while.  

 

Thanks again for posting the technique. 

 

@ld1 Great to hear it works for you. Can you clarify when you say you are a Bridge owner. Did you then decide to go down the DSLR route and why did you do so? Is it less complicated to use? 

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@Dave Williams I have an old Canon bridge camera which I bought some years ago for Safari purposes. I moved to DSLR because my brother was upgrading his Nikon and so I bought his original D5100 body and 18-140 lens off him, more as a favour than a need and he'd been on at me to make the move. I think he thought I was wasting photographic opportunities on Safari! We then bought a D5300 and 70-300mm for my other half, but I still use the 18-140 D5100 set up (although we do swap them about). Of course the lens is not a serious one for Safari but I really like the results I get from it as it's versatile enough to go from a landscape to an animal portrait and Mr R has the 300m for a little more reach. Lugging several lens and bodies on a walking Safari isn't my idea of fun. 

 

Like many Bridge owners I didn't buy it (actually I didn't buy it at all I used Tesco points) for  its versatility. It was more about the zoom and video capacity of the Canon. I never used it in anything other than auto. What I did like about it and still do is the quality and ease of use for video.      It never really occurred to me to use the shutter, aperture and ISO setting. I find the 5100 clunky switching between photo and video as the VR messes video up without abut of fiddling. That's not really what I want to be doing as a pack of wild dogs sale past in hot pursuit of lunch. 

 

So I suppose I am an accidental DSLR user now. I do prefer the photos but Photography isn't the be all and end all of a Safari for me. So the advice from @Jochen suits my needs/level

of ability/interest. 

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Posted (edited)

On ‎7‎/‎18‎/‎2017 at 9:16 PM, Jochen said:

 

Hmmm... That doesn't make sense. When shooting in RAW your camera should ignore that setting. ;)

 

But it will set temperature at that when he opens the photo in Lightroom or Photoshop, I believe.

 

However, for quite a few years I have left temperature to the camera - cameras are so good at doing it on their own now I think.

 

5000K should be just a tiny bit warm for that time from an hour to two hours after dawn or before sunset @madaboutcheetah  Most of my better shots end up at 4500 - 4900K - not I think coincidentally.

 

Anyway, we are making Jochen's simple lesson more complicated guys! :P Even @Jochen is complicating it now.

@xelas I suspect you just caused @Kitsafari to roll her eyes around so far we can only see the whites now. Her brain started sending distress messages at the word "variables" and by "M" had completely shut down. :D 

Edited by pault
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@pault how well you know me. 

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but please continue the discussion guys - as it seems this thread has not only been useful for bridge/DSLR beginner camera user, it is also serving as an interesting discourse of the different methods for DSLR. I'll just subsconsciously ignore those stuff that makes no sense to my brain. 

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9 hours ago, janzin said:

I guess its a question of "your mileage may vary".  I leave mine as I said, at Daylight adjusted up one notch warmer (in my Nikon cameras you can tweak the WB settings in camera) and I very, very rarely change it; or need to correct it in post.  If I used Auto for wildlife, I'd be changing every image. 

 

True, if I were shooting in the snow or night photography I'd probably change it as well. And certainly for indoor photography I'd likely switch to Auto. But for my safari and everyday shooting, Daylight works for me.

 

I can only say that my images tell the story :) but as I said, it may depend on your camera, shooting style, and preferences. 

 

If you have been doing this for some years, try Auto for a day or two next time (you can batch change them back to your preferred temperature if it's the disaster you expect) and see how many you tweak compared to how many you tweak with a fixed setting.  I say a day or two because obviously you need a large sample size to prove anything. But as you say, it may depend on......... x, y, z and the phase of the moon. (And, most importantly perhaps, I have never used Nikon - maybe the pics do tend to run a bit cool for safari, like my Canon shots run a bit magneta - or rather, anti-green - but I don't think I can adjust that in-camera because it only happens when there is a certain amount of green).

 

@Kitsafari  Believe it or not, I struggle to keep my brain engaged with anything technical regarding photography too. If I can focus long enough I can understand it, but I find it hard to focus. I still don't know how to operate video on my cameras.

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1 hour ago, pault said:

 

If you have been doing this for some years, try Auto for a day or two next time (you can batch change them back to your preferred temperature if it's the disaster you expect) and see how many you tweak compared to how many you tweak with a fixed setting.  I say a day or two because obviously you need a large sample size to prove anything. But as you say, it may depend on......... x, y, z and the phase of the moon. (And, most importantly perhaps, I have never used Nikon - maybe the pics do tend to run a bit cool for safari, like my Canon shots run a bit magneta - or rather, anti-green - but I don't think I can adjust that in-camera because it only happens when there is a certain amount of green).


 

 

I've actually done it more than once in recent times...by accident :D Sometime for whatever reason I might have set it on Auto and then forgot to change it back. Every time I've been unhappy with the results.  This is on both my Nikon D810 and D500. That said, its not a disaster...and they don't look horrible...just a bit cool for my taste. 

 

Interestingly, my Nikon V2 and J5 (mirrorless) both give excellent results with Auto white balance, and those I leave on Auto at all times! So much may depend on the sensor as well as the internal camera software.

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I am a huge fan of auto ISO too.  Sadly my big old 1DMKIV doesn't allow exposure compensation in auto ISO, but it is basically my go to ISO setting for wildlife regardless of that.  My strategy for moving things like wildlife is:  I generally shoot in Tv and let the aperture and ISO float.  Why?  Well my canon 100-400 is not a wide aperture lens so 99% of the time it is going to be wide open.  Fortunately it is sharp wide open and there is enough depth of field for most subjects so being wide open doesn't really matter to me.  Like Xelas for me back button focusing is essential, but it always causes total mayhem when I pass the camera to someone else to use.  

 

By being in Tv I can control the camera dependent on the subject:  e.g. trying to shoot white fronted bee eaters I am going to need probably 1/2000 or maybe even more.  If a Goliath heron floats past then I can dial way back with one twirl of a wheel.   Aperture and ISO I will leave up to the camera.  If I am on a boat or vehicle with a long lens my camera is pretty much always set like that.  If I notice the ISO is getting higher than I am willing to accept then it is probably time for a sundowner or to get out a wide angle and look at the sunset.

 

But if it is anything that is not moving or not likely to move then either I am in manual or Av.

 

I don't mean to hijack this totally excellent tutorial, but Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is arguably the best and very understandable primer in photography - I re-read it at least once a year and recommend it to anyone with an interest in learning about photography basics. He does a very good job of breaking complexity down into easy to understand concepts.  Buy that, read it and experiment.  Like Dave has said, modern cameras are capable of total overwhelming complexity but the basic principles haven't changed since the camera was invented. The menus and complexity of my little OMD EM1 are actually ridiculous.  I like that, but I totally understand why Olympus menus get vilified at times.  

 

I too have so many people come through here saying "ah, I will never learn all these settings".  Meanwhile they are teachers/scientists/accountants etc and all quite capable of understanding - its probably just that they haven't taken the time to experiment and learn the basic fundamentals.  It's only three things and their relationship to each other; aperture, shutter speed and sensitivity to light.  

 

Annihilating (okay, maybe a bit strong a word!) backgrounds has it's place, but not all the time.  There is somewhat of a belief that blurry backgrounds give a 'pro' look.  Take this shot by Kaley (one of our field guides) from yesterday morning.  Kaley has an old rebel body (like ancient thing) that Julia gave him and an old but good 300mm F4.  He (like many) is really struggling with settings, but he is getting there.  But look at this image (ISO I00. f5.6 ss1/500): 

596f7855e8e32_Kaley19th-1.thumb.JPG.8fca5e020d3256dcd6775c9bec03f582.JPG

 

He could have been at F4 but to be honest for me the image is actually made by the context.  If he had even more depth of field it would have been even better to me.  he probably couldn't really have gone much lower with the SS with that lens/body combination and contorted around in the drivers seat (he, like all good guides is far more concerned about his guests getting the shot than himself).  As it stands all that means nothing.  Viewed on facebook at 1800px wide on a laptop from 24" it is still a spectacular photo.  I am looking at the background, the fact that it is out of focus slightly and the waxy looking rocks and thinking "he REALLY needs a better body".  I am in the minority!  The other three sitting here in our office are actually making gaspy mooning type noises.  If he had been using a f2.8 and turned the background to total blur it would just not be the same.  

 

All our guides (except Kebby the junior) have decent cameras that we have bought them.  Kaley (with the most complex and 'best' set up) probably struggles the most with settings.  JohnD has a good bridge camera but also struggles.  Israel has a basic bridge (with a ginormous zoom) camera that seems to only shoot in full auto.  Israel gets the 'best' shots - in terms of focus and all the other technical aspects being right. 

 

I suspect that for 90% of users on 90% of general safari situations a bridge camera on auto is going to get the desired results and memories of the trip.

 

In a guest discussion around the fire last night one guest was amazed by how his "little camera" (his words, not mine) gets everything sharp.  It does.  Because that small sensor and fixed lens have a massive depth of field.  This sometimes helps a lot.  

 

I guess my point is that we sometimes get over obsessed with (literally) the details.  For me at least the best way to learn something is by doing it.  Reading a book like Bryan's really helps grasp the basics.  After that then go to a zoo or sit in the garden snapping birds.  You will soon learn what works and what doesn't for you.  

 

For me I am more of an instinctive person - my head doesn't work with "setting, reading and evaluating and adjusting" - I need to be relying on muscle memory, normal brain (poor in my case) memory and having been in a similar situation before.  Only practise and experience gets me there.  I guess validation of this is that there are so few really, really good bird photographers (as an example) that haven't spent years and years perfecting their art - it all happens so quickly and needs muscle memory to track moving birds in a viewfinder with a long lens - this is the converse of say some 20 year old super talented portrait taking savant who has all the time in the world to get the shot.  I am a firm believer that the best way to get better at photography at the end of the day is to take hundreds and hundreds of pictures.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As has already been mentioned, this discussion has evolved some way beyond simple tips for beginners. But it is fascinating (to me anyway) to see how similar are the settings that so many of us use.

 

Of course the settings I posted are what I would call my startup settings; so that when I grab my camera from the bag (or seat) it is ready for just about any situation. Of course I make adjustments as I am shooting to take account of light conditions and subject matter, but as I almost always have a 300mm lens attached as default and the most likely subject matter will be a bird these settings work for me.

 

Taking a step back for a moment, I think one of the real problems for most novice photographers - and it is usually worse for those with bridge cameras - is the fact that very few of them come with a proper manual any more. 

For my Nikon DSLRs the manuals are just about OK, but very brief, definitely assuming that you have some prior knowledge. 

For most bridge cameras there is no manual, other than a quick start guide. All you get is a URL where you can access a manual online.

I bet many people do not bother and of those that do bother, how many of them will actually download it and print it?

 

Olympus are pretty good. You can write to them and ask them to send you a hard copy of their user manual - which they will do at no charge. But, when it comes it is just a printout of the pdf document, scaled down to A5 size.

 

At some point manufacturers seem to have concluded that most of their customers never read the manual, so why bother printing one.

 

 

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6 hours ago, pault said:

Anyway, we are making Jochen's simple lesson more complicated guys! :P Even @Jochen is complicating it now.

@xelas I suspect you just caused @Kitsafari to roll her eyes around so far we can only see the whites now. Her brain started sending distress messages at the word "variables" and by "M" had completely shut down. :D 

 

I agree 100% with @pault and I do apologise to @Jochen and all the readers that have been take astray by my comments.

 

Bottom line of my post was that in 90% of cases, a DSLR type of camera with an average hobby long zoom lens will produce a decently exposed, and sharp photo if using the mentioned settings! It is like an A (auto) mode where shutter speed is short enough to counteract any movements of the wildlife side and on the photographer side, and to compensate the average focal length used. The aperture, again, do its work just fine; most of the hobby lenses anyway does not go under f/6.3. And the Auto ISO will do the job of making the photo being properly exposed.

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