Saturday, December 19, 2009

Shooting in Tough Lighting Conditions

Winter Storm Clouds over Georgia Strait

Yesterday, I was out at my favorite shooting location again. Thankfully it was very quiet afternoon, at least in terms of human created sound, as there were plenty of birds talking. I was one of only three people in the sanctuary yesterday afternoon, which was great for me as a shooter, because many people just walk the trails, which can scare away the more timid birds. I saw, several Eagles, Great Blue Herons, European Starlings, several different types of Sparrows, Black Capped Chickadees, Red-winged Blackbirds, American Robins and more. It was a real treat to be one of only a few people in the sanctuary, allowing me to really focus on the birds and just enjoy the fresh ocean air.

I arrived early in the afternoon, just after 1PM, but it was a dark day, which wasn't helped by the fact that we are approaching the shortest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere. Most of the day I was shooting at ISO800 or higher, sometimes with shutter speeds as slow as 1/125s, which makes it hard to capture small birds, because they move too quickly. Camera shake was also an issue, since shooting as such slow speeds with a 300mm lens does not produce the sharpest images. The shooting conditions changed when you went to shoot birds in flight though, the clouds make great diffusers, but also make it hard to achieve proper exposures on objects against them. I had to play around with a lot of exposure compensation, sometimes shooting 1-3 stop over the cameras suggested metering.

As I noted before, I was able to see several eagles during the afternoon, and one few very close several times, which was a good thing, because I had to play around with exposure compensation a few times before getting decent results. Considering the shutter speeds, and slower auto focus on days like that, I'm not so sure having a teleconver on my 300mm F4 would be a good idea. Of course, on a brighter day, it would be fine, but there are times when I wish my lens was a little faster at focusing, or a wider aperture.

Overall it was a nice afternoon, although I discovered that I am going to need some new hiking boots, since mine seem to have sprung a leak. That was the only bad part of the day, having a wet right foot. None the less, I came out the sanctuary with more than enough good shots, and I mostly, enjoyed myself.