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  1. #1
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    Default Sony DSLR used for nature photography (Touring)

    There are a whole bunch of us that become photographers and birders etc when we drive our 4x4 out of town. We buy pretty expensive cameras and long zoom lenses that are equally expensive. On the 2 week trip I suddenly expect to be a professional photographer. My personal experience is that the success rate is pretty low. I do have some experience since my first Minolta in the early seventies. I am pretty technical and understand the light triangle pretty well. I recently bought an older professional camera secondhand. (Sony A99) What a monster despite a 300 page manual and countless U-tubes. It is a highly complex package and rather difficult to figure how to get the most for your expectations.

    I am trying to get a group of like minded people together to share what practical lessons we have learned about our too fancy cameras. We can share lessons learned and maybe become better photographers, birders, cat hunters etc.

    In your opinion, is this the right platform? Facebook does not work for me at all.

    As a sample, birds in flight is a huge challenge. To find the right setup for you and your camera, is an even bigger challenge.
    If you are shooting from a car, open the window and switch off the car.

    Every suggestion here is open for debate.
    My setup that works rather well for me:


    I save this to Memory 1 to be able to return there quickly.

    Start off in Manual mode with auto ISO. That allows you to specify f-stop and speed each for it's own reasons, and the camera will vary the ISO to get perfect lighting. You can also limit the max ISO. You must watch the proper lighting all the time and slow down shutter speed to get the correct lighting if needed. Set your electronic view finder to manual and to show live settings. If in auto it will adjust itself and trick you into believing the lighting is set correctly. ISO must be as low as possible to limit grain.

    On your long lens you will want to set max aperture. It gives a nice shallow depth of field. (Blurred background) If you need more depth you can go to f8. You may run out of light though.

    Set the speed at 2 x focal length minimum. That will minimize blurr if you hand hold a long lens. (On my 500mm lens I start off with 1/1500sec and easily move up to 1/4000sec for small quick moving birds like sunbirds.) Fast speeds are the best way to limit blurry photos. (Out of focus photos)

    Set exposure area to centralised. That will get the exposure on the bird better. It will ignore most of the blue sky behind it. (Consider over exposure by +1 to further compensate. Have this feature within easy reach. You need it regularly.)

    Autofocus continuous.

    Set the autofocus area to centralised. It gives you a better chance of catching the bird in flight without grabbing all sorts of things way off target. (When the bird is amongst branches and leaves I use spot focus. You can force the camera to focus on what you want. It does take longer as you must aim better. If the bird is up there with nothing to interfere you can set it to the whole available focus area. It will aquire focus much quicker.) These changes need to be quick, so set up focus area to a handy programmable button.

    Frame rate at about 5 frames per second works well for me. I do short burst to extend the time to buffer overun some what.

    I shoot RAW & Jpeg. That is a lot of data and it limits your buffer time. The newer cameras produce excellent Jpegs. Consider shooting in Jpeg alone as it makes some nice features available and the buffer lasts 3 times as long. If you are not going to sit for hours tweaking your photos, drop the RAW.

    Tracking in the Sony is spectacular but it takes a substantial bit out of your frame rate. Set the stickyness rather low, then it will not jump to the the branch or other bird running across your picture.

    I use max stabilisation, but it does not solve all your bad habits.

    Shoot with the sun and wind in your back. Your lighting will be best and big birds land and take off against the wind and into your face. Move around to improve your background.


    Please comment or argue. Let us see if this creates some interest at all.
    Last edited by Pieter de Waal; 2023/11/02 at 10:00 PM.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Sony DSLR used for nature photography (Touring)

    I think I do very much what you do, although the language is very different.

    A few things I have changed:
    I don't set maximum ISO anymore. I'd rather have noise than an under-exposed photo.

    I don't shoot RAW + jpg anymore. The reason is that the jpg conversion settings are applied to the image playback, and some of those settings affect exposure. And I never really used the .jpg's anyway.

    As for finding like-minded people, have you considered joining a photography club? There are many.
    You should be able to find one fairly close to you by searching PSSA's website.
    Beat-up rat rod of a '96 Nissan Patrol that bears the evidence of many wonderful adventures (and a few stupid indiscretions).

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  5. #3
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    Default Re: Sony DSLR used for nature photography (Touring)

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Connan View Post
    I think I do very much what you do, although the language is very different.

    A few things I have changed:
    I don't set maximum ISO anymore. I'd rather have noise than an under-exposed photo.
    Thank you for commenting. So it seems I am on the right track.

    The newer cameras have a whole system there. When it runs out of ISO it will start bringing your shutterspeed down.

    The cameraclub idea can work. I belonged to one more than 40 years ago.

    regards

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