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Discussion Starter #1
So help me out here folks.....

For my canon xsi dslr that has a 55-250mm lens attached to it, set to AV mode, what other settings would you recommend I make in this mode to shoot birds at my feeder, 15-20 ft away from my patio door?

I don't need the background, I just need the bird to pop out. Here are 2 examples of pics I took in auto mode and not happy with, hence the reason I changed to AV mode

http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/aghapymou/IMG_0856.jpg?t=1290288793
http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/aghapymou/IMG_0860.jpg?t=1290288874
http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/aghapymou/IMG_0865.jpg?t=1290288903
http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/aghapymou/IMG_0867.jpg?t=1290288992
http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/aghapymou/IMG_0863.jpg?t=1290289049

Cheers
 

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If the camera allows you to chose a numerically low f-stop, you should use a low one to shorten the depth of field. Focus will be important.

However, even more important is to place your camera so that the background is not distracting. For that you should have a monochromatic background like all house siding or all fence boards, all grass, etc, instead of the "many" things you currently have present in these shots - trees, fences, houses, etc.

BTW, that first shot is not a bird. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
57, I know the first one is not a bird :eek: Anyone able to use their photoshop trickery to show me how cropping can eliminate the crap in the background and bring the bird closer?



 

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Are you shooting at 250mm (effectively 400mm with the 1.6x due to crop). Just how far are you from that bird - it shows up as only a small part of the frame. You'll need to get closer or use a bigger lens to fill the frame as much as possible with your subject - the bird. Looks like you are shooting on a dull day. You can likely improve the colour using photoshop.
 

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At an effective 400mm focal length on full zoom, I think you should be able to get a half-decent shot. As far as cropping goes, view the image at 100% size with your photo editor, and try cropping just the bird and the feeder i.e. draw/drag a selection with the bird and feeder framed and crop the image.

I would also recommend using a high shutter speed to freeze the action (either that, or try and anticipate when the bird will be still for a moment or two). If you're already shooting completely wide open @ F5.6, you can set a higher ISO sensitivity. ISO400/800 should still produce a relatively noise-free image.

Finally, you can try getting closer :) This may require a little patience while the bird(s) adjust to being comfortable to your closer proximity.
 

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I would get closer to the subjects. If you have the bird in 1/3 of the frame you can always crop. But when the bird is the size of a pebble not much you can do. Try shooting the feeder from different angles to eliminate busy back grounds. Or move the bird feeder.
When zoomed to 250mm you will want a fast shutter speed to avoid camera shake. at least 1/320. IS and higher ISO will let you get lower speeds if its not such a bright day.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks guys....I can't move the feeder any closer to the patio door. There is a deck in the way and if I place it any closer, the squirrels will then jump from the deck onto the feeder. Pics where taken in the morning and afternoon when the weather and light was dreary. I zoom in up to 250mm but I had the lens in AUTO. I plan to take new pics in AV mode as suggested, using F4 apperture, AND iso 400, WHAT DO YOU GUY STHINK?
 

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Bird Photos

I don't use any automatic settings when I shoot birds. Well, autofocus I do use - but not always.

Having an LCD display on a camera is a big advantage over the film days. I recommend that you use the in-camera meter as a guide, then make adjustments after looking at a photo on your LCD screen. Also, understand what brightness setting your LCD screen is set at. If it's set to Bright, then take photos that look slightly over-exposed on your screen.

Only take RAW images.

I set my camera to a fixed F-Stop and shutter speed. If I go into an area with bad lighting, I crank up the ISO setting. If I need too much gain, then I will drop the shutter speed and as a last resort, bring out the 580 flash and use High-speed synch.



Note that those little Chickadees are curious and can easily be convinced to land on your hand. The above bird is a Rufous Hummingbird male at a feeder. Yes, I have blurred out the background. The original was over 10 MB before I downsized it. I probably added some sharpening and contrast to the JPEG, but seldom modify the RAW images.
 

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Lima,

You need to move closer.... you are looking for "bokeh". You need to fill more of the frame with your subject to get that with a f4 lens.... Bokeh is easier to attain with a faster or longer lens.



(sorry for the size)

Springle's is a better example.

This is a case where you need to zoom with your feet.

I would suggest reading "Understanding Exposure" by Peterson... available at your local library.

Peter
 

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Lima,

In this shot, for example, when I download the JPEG and look at the metadata it shows a focal length of 55mm and a aperture of f/8.

You need to zoom the lens out to it's full focal length of 250mm. That's approximately 5x what this image was shot at. Cropping out 1/5 of the 800 pixel image shows approximately what the image might have been:
The other thing you need to do is shoot at the smallest aperture your lens supports. That, with the long focal length will blur the background out some.

I also second the recommendation for "Understanding Exposure"
 

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Discussion Starter #12
The first shot was taken with the zoom all the way out on my 55-250mm lens with me being 6ft away from the bird



The following were taken using the new nifty fifty ( 50mm f1.8 ) I just bought







My intent was to make the subject pop and have a blurred background. I was told to stand close to the subject and as you can see, I tried different aperture numbers, shutter speed and ISO. Please advise

cheers
 

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The first shot was taken with the zoom all the way out on my 55-250mm lens with me being 6ft away from the bird
0.6s sec @ f/5.6, ISO 400, 250mm
You've got the right idea but the light was not favorable. At that time, here in Ottawa, it is dusk and though you bumped the ISO up to 400 the exposure was 6/10 of a second. The rule of thumb is that your shutter speed should be 1/(focal length) to freeze action. So to get that shot a shutter speed of 1/250s would have been required. Having a "cropped" sensor (1.6x) in the Xsi means that the actual shutter speed required would have been 1/400s. The Image Stabilization (IS) on the lens should have helped somewhat (2 or 3 stops). Think of aperture, shutter speed and ISO as a triangle with each along one side. A correct exposure will always have the same perimeter but in order to increase shutter speed you need to decrease aperture (not possible in this case) or increase ISO. Photography works in "stops". Every 1 stop increase doubles and every 1 stop decrease halves. For aperture the "full" stops are f/1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16 & f/22. Every decrease in f-stop doubles the amount of light. It is more straight-forward for shutter speed. With a constant aperture and ISO halving the shutter speed (say 1/60 to 1/30) doubles the light. Likewise doubling the ISO doubles the amount of light reaching the sensor (actually doubles the sensitivity to light of the sensor)

The following were taken using the new nifty fifty ( 50mm f1.8 ) I just bought

1.0s, f/5.6, ISO400
Again, the image is blurred as you have a 1s exposure where a 1/50s exposure should have worked. This time with a static subject it's camera shake and a tripod (or monopod) would have worked. Your aperture is f/5.6 so perhaps you switched from the 55-250 and didn't notice that you were still set to the minimum aperture for that lens (the cameras tend to do that and it is a pain). If you were shooting at the 50mm's widest aperture of f/1.8 that would have been f/5.6 -> f/4 -> f/2.8 -> f/2 ->f/1.8 (the last is 2/3 of a stop) so you would have had 3 & 2/3 more stops the camera could have used on shutter speed: 1s -> 1/2s -> 1/4s - 1/8s -> 1/12s so you still wouldn't quite have been at the right shutter speed but doubling the ISO to 800 would have given you 1/24 and again to ISO 1600 1/48.


My intent was to make the subject pop and have a blurred background. I was told to stand close to the subject and as you can see, I tried different aperture numbers, shutter speed and ISO. Please advise
cheers
0.8s @ f/5.6, ISO 800, 50mm
Again, almost a second shutter speed. Virtually impossible hand-held. You've bumped up the ISO but you're still shooting at f/5.6.
 

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1/125s @ f/1.8, ISO200, 50mm
Something went horribly wrong with the exposure on this one. You're at f/1.8 and are well above the 1/<focal length> so you should have had a nice picture but the metering on the camera screwed up or you might have accidently hit the exposure lock button (I've done that :-( ). The nice thing about digital is you only have to pay for the images you print and you can view the images on the LCD and reshoot if necessary (of course, with kids that's not usually an option). So go nuts and press that shutter and fill the card up. Look at what works and eventually your "keeper" rate will increase.
1.6s @ f/5.6, ISO 200, 50mm
Again 1.6s exposure - camera shake and the subject was moving (do they ever stop at that age?). If you bumped the ISO up to 1600 and dropped the aperture to f/1.8 you might have gotten the shot. Or, press the lightning bolt button and use the flash.
1/6s @ f/5.6, ISO 800, 50mm
1/6s so probably camera shake and possibly a mis-focus. A lower aperture would have helped but your ISO is probably as high as you'd want to go to not get unacceptable noise.

Shooting the "nifty 50" wide open at f/1.8 is tricky. Focus is critical as the depth of field is narrow. On the Rebel series the center auto-focus (AF) point is the only one that can be reliably used to focus at aperture wider than f/2.8
 

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Here's one of the first pictures I took with the 50/1.8 wide-open. Even using the center AF point I didn't get the left eye focused and you can see just how shallow the depth of field is
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Gordonb....I want to thank you for taking the time to review my pics, I really appreciate it. I don't know where you are here in Ottawa ( am in orleans ), but perhaps if you have time sometimes, I'll like to meet with you to show me what am doing wrong by taking some pics outside somewhere and have you correct them?

These I took this Sunday morning. I used the 55-250mm lens in the AV mode, and I started at F4 in some of the pics and went up to F8 to see what happens. I kept an eye on the shutter speed, to make sure it's at least half the focal length at all times, I also used a tripod throughout. Your thoughts



 
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