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Anything outdoors!  Tornadoes, eagles, blizzards, or auroras.  If it is in the sky, running through the woods or swimming in the water, I'm there!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

From A Far: the frustrating side of wildlife photography at 500mm - Red Fox and Eagles

Snowy owls 1, Bill 0.

What I thought we be a slam dunk at finding a reported pair of snowy owls in my back yard basically turned out to be a series of interlocking circles totaling about 100 miles when I never got more than 10 miles from home...with no owls sighted. Thankfully a semi-cooperative red fox and my weird ability to find bald eagles saved the day.

I shoot a Sigma 50-500 on a Nikon D300 body for my wildlife. My budget doesn't allow for a 600mm f4 right now so I make do. Most of the shots you see on here are hand-held so they are a little blurry at times plus the lens is flat-out soft at 500mm. My point is most of the time I am looking at some critter which you may not have even noticed as you drove by. Case in point was today when I spotted a red fox a few hundred yards away. I pulled over (remember I LOVE shooting from the vehicle as the animals do see a car or truck as a threat as they do a human on foot), shut of the vehicle (why add more vibration?) and started clicking away. There was another guy out looking for owls also as we had passes each other a few times while driving the township roads. When he passed me he looked out into the field where I had my lens pointed. He slowed to a stop but only sat a few seconds before moving on. I assume he never picked out the clump of dirt which didn't belong. With my current lens I have far more misses than keepers (at least by my standard). I shoot 50, keep 2...or something like that. That is the frustrating part.

So, this weeks blog has before and after shots. What they look like as they come off the camera, and what they look like after they get the Lightroom and Photoshop treatment before ending up on here.

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What the average hawk image looks like with nothing done. 500mm no crop. I do add a monopod to the tripod ring on the lens and rest the barrel of the window. It helps quite a bit as compared to just hand-held shooting at that distance. A faster shutter speed also helps but I really prefer to keep the ISO down. Snow actually helps as it brightens up what light there is.

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The fox of the day.

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Fox at 500mm

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The fox image cropped and sharpened.

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Cropped and sharpened

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Fox making it's escape into a large wildlife area filled with cattails.

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Cropped and sharpened

Now for some eagles.

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One bit of advice when taking shots of eagles. Really work on focusing on the eyes. One thing which will really make your images pop is bright, sharp eyes. I will spend most of my post processing on the eyes. I can make a mediocre shot good and a good shot great.

Such is life when shooting from a far.

Weather wise not much going on. Just clipper system after clipper system bringing down piles of arctic air and a little light snow. Funny as I have gotten into a daily routine of comparing our temps to those in Barrow, AK. Yeah, you wimpy Alaskans go and enjoy your -4 high lol.

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