"A Sand County Almanac"

"THERE ARE SOME WHO CAN LIVE WITHOUT WILD THINGS AND SOME WHO CANNOT."
"FOR US IN THE MINORITY THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE GEESE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN TELEVISION.".....Aldo Leopold




"LOOK DEEP INTO NATURE, AND THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING BETTER".....Albert Einstein


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Photographing Wildlife From A Vehicle

The newest addition to my modest collection of lenses is the Tamron 150-600mm zoom.  Naturally, it is almost always set at 600mm when I am pursuing wildlife.
 
Because this lens is relatively new to the market I have been asked what technique(s) I use to obtain sharp photos with it.  I hope this  post will help folks taking photos of birds and wildlife.

When the subject is in motion, such as a bird in flight, I hand-hold the camera without any type of support other than resting my elbow on the door frame of the vehicle...




Hand holding a 600mm lens requires the photographer to consider a number of factors.  First, the ISO must be set high enough to permit fast shutter speeds (1/1000th sec. or higher) to freeze the motion of the subject.  Second, the auto focus should be set to utilize multiple focus points. I prefer to use 21 points for subjects in motion.  Third, auto focus should be set to "C" continuous.  This setting means that as long as you hold the shutter release button half way down, your camera will continue to focus on the moving subject even as it streaks across your viewfinder. The camera will select any of the 21 focus points to maintain focus as you pan the camera to keep the subject in the viewfinder.

When the subject is stationary I prefer to use some type of support for the camera and lens.  If time permits I put my mono pod between the seat and the door and then lean against it to provide stability...


Bean bag type supports have long been used by wildlife photographers shooting from their vehicles.  I have recently been experimenting with a new device called the "Puffin Pad"...


This light-weight item is made of closed cell foam and offers cutouts to fit over the window glass or the door frame itself.  I have been favorably impressed with the versatility and ease of use of the Puffin Pad. The tundra swans shown below were taken using it...

 
As was the short eared owl...
 
 
The next photo, of a red tailed hawk, was taken hand-held.  I came upon the hawk just as it finished devouring a rodent and, because it seemed ready to fly, I did not take the time to use any support other than resting my elbow on the door frame...
 
 
The same conditions existed when we came upon this short eared owl...


For stationary wildlife I normally use "A" aperture mode.  In this mode one selects the aperture setting, in this case f-8, and allows the camera to select the shutter speed.  This technique works fine if one has set the ISO high enough to allow the camera to use a satisfactory shutter speed.  In this case I selected f-8, I allowed the camera to determine the ISO up to a limit of 3200 and to select the shutter speed, in this case 1/320 sec. 
 
The next image was taken using the mono pod.  I knew the bird would remain in a particular area, giving me time to set up the mono pod...
 
 
I take photographs almost exclusively from my vehicle due to mobility issues.  There are advantages to photography from a vehicle, even for able bodied persons.  Most animals do not see vehicles as a threat, and if one parks and waits quietly, life returns to normal fairly quickly. Almost all wildlife reacts to a human on foot by fleeing, especially if the human is approaching it. These tundra swans were circling overhead because they did not perceive my truck as threatening...



One issue to always keep in mind when using a telephoto lens is that any flaw in your technique will be magnified by the longer lens. There is no substitute for practice. When I am waiting for a bird or animal to appear I take photos of rocks, branches, almost anything to test my exposure settings and to practice my technique.  Remember to quiet your breathing, try to take the photo between breaths, and gently roll your finger over the shutter release.  Do not push it, or jab it, in your haste to take the photo.

Read as much as you can.  Try different techniques, keep those that work for you and discard the ones that don't.  Every outing should be a learning experience. Finally, don't take your photography too seriously.  Relax, enjoy being where you are.  If you didn't get the shot you wanted...tomorrow is another day.


1 comment:

  1. Très belles photos, et magnifiques rencontres!
    C'est toujours un plaisir de visiter ton blog qui montre toute une série d'oiseaux que nous n'avons pas en France!
    bravo!

    ReplyDelete

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