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Technical Questions

Bird Photography at ISO 100

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jniemann
 
Posts: 78

Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Thu Aug 07, 2008 12:43 am


Hi people - I had a guy leave the following (sarcastic) comment on my Bird Photos Gallery:

"I Hope to find 1 pic taken with ISO 100"

I didn't realize that not using ISO 100 was such a crime. I usually take bird shots at ISO 200,400 or 800. After all, they are moving targets, I don't have f/2.8 SuperTeles, and conditions are not always favourable.

Is his comment reasonable ?
Should I try shooting Birds with a lower ISO ?
Are there Bird Photographers out there that use ISO 100 ?
Or is this guy just talking crap ?

dougj
 
Posts: 2276

Re: Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Thu Aug 07, 2008 2:15 am


I do some birding - I think the only bird I ever shot at ISO 100 was a stuffed one sitting in the bright sun. ISO 100 is usually impractical for most birding, I spend most of the time at 400-1,600, the aperture needs to be stopped down a little for DOF, and the SS high enough to stop the twitches and other motion. My priorities for birding: 1) aperture for DOF & sharpness (5.0-7.1 is optimal for me), 2) SS to eliminate/reduce motion blur, 3) adjust the exposure with ISO, it's a balancing act.

I checked your bird gallery - nicely done, you have some very good shots and I think your settings are fine for the most part. There is a little bit of motion blur on a couple of the slow SS shots, to be expected and it's only a minor nit.

Fast lenses - Even if you had f/2.8 lenses, for many shots the DOF would be too shallow. I think you're using an XTi, so at 300mm focal length, f/2.8 and 10m distance to the subject the DOF is only 0.1m. This leaves very little room for inherent inaccuracies in AF, shift by you or the bird, and you need to get a side shot to get the bird completely in focus. Your 70-200 f/4L IS is probably the highest image quality zoom lens Canon makes today. I've shot with the 70-200 f2.8L IS version for several years, it's a great lens, but the IQ of the f/4 IS version is a bit better and its latest generation IS helps improve stability. So no worries with your equipment.

The XTi, as with many other cameras, does an excellent job at higher ISOs. The dynamic range is fine and noise levels are either non existent, tolerable, or can be cleaned up a little in post process if you are up in the 800-1,600 range. One key is to get the exposure as close to correct as you can, pulling an ISO 800 shot up in post processing by 2 stops will reveal a lot of shadow noise.

I think the person that left the comment doesn't know a lot about ISO or the challenges of birding. I think he would be hard put to tell the difference between shots taken at 100 and 400.

I hope this helps, and it's just my opinion.

jniemann
 
Posts: 78

Re: Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Thu Aug 07, 2008 3:23 am


Thanks Doug. I appreciate your comments. Just thinking about it some more - I can't imagine photographing a Rainbow Lorikeet @ ISO 100 with a 300mm lens - those guys jump and twitch all over the place and they fly real fast. Maybe you could do it in full sunlight on a bright Summer's day :)

If I'm already getting motion blur at higher ISO's, then going to ISO 100 is a bit silly.

Also, I often use NeatImage to clean up noise when I notice it. But I usually only notice noise with ISO 800 or higher.

dougj
 
Posts: 2276

Re: Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Thu Aug 07, 2008 4:09 am


One passing remark - comments always make stop and think, especially ones like that. It gives me a chance to do as you did - question what I do & how I do it, and that's usually a good thing.

Keep shooting and building your bird gallery :mrgreen:

veto
 
Posts: 3

Re: Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Wed Dec 10, 2008 5:22 pm


Perhaps the comment of using ISO 100 refers to the NEED for a quality level beyond your intended purpose. Bird photographers have always had the quickness, the flitting around, the low lighting problems, it is how you address these problems that demonstrate your level of committment to quality. If ISO 1600 gets you a shot that looks good at low magnification and falls apart as it ramps up and that is what the buyer wants, you have nothing in the end. On the other hand if you like what you are doing and your expectations are fulfilled, no problem.

gemmf
 
Posts: 903

Re: Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Sat Dec 20, 2008 8:39 am


I've checked my images and I have quite a few that I've taken with ISO 100. :)

dougj
 
Posts: 2276

Re: Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Sat Dec 20, 2008 9:15 am


Out of curiosity, I used ExposurePlot to analyze about 220 keeper bird shots from this year.
ISO = #
800 = 123
400 = 64
1,600 = 25
200 = 6

The BIF shots are usually at the lower ISO due to the presence of light. I shoot tree branched and canopy birds as well, and the light is usually pretty low. The aperture range is mostly f/4 - f/8, no surprise as I frequently use TCs on f/2.8 lenses.

Different results for different folks and conditions...

jniemann
 
Posts: 78

Re: Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Sun Dec 21, 2008 1:38 am


gemmf wrote:I've checked my images and I have quite a few that I've taken with ISO 100. :)

I was going to make some smart remark about your lenses being faster than mine, but I see that not only are many of your shots ISO 100 (or thereabouts), but you also shot them at f/5.6 !!
I guess you have shown that there is no excuse :) :oops:

Anyways, your bird shots are superb !! My hat is off to you ...

Cheers.

jniemann
 
Posts: 78

Re: Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Fri Dec 26, 2008 8:52 am


I Officially have an ISO 100 Bird Shot now :P
Image
http://www.pbase.com/jniemann/image/107448099

gemmf
 
Posts: 903

Re: Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Thu Jan 01, 2009 10:50 am


jniemann wrote:I was going to make some smart remark about your lenses being faster than mine, but I see that not only are many of your shots ISO 100 (or thereabouts), but you also shot them at f/5.6 !!
I guess you have shown that there is no excuse :) :oops:

Anyways, your bird shots are superb !! My hat is off to you ...

Cheers.


Hahaha, Cheers! :D

shawnkraus
 
Posts: 352

Re: Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Sat Jan 03, 2009 11:35 am


ISO 100 would be great if the lighting was always perfect and the birds were always soaring rather than flapping their wings or if the birds were stationary. These things don't always present themselves.

sheila
 
Posts: 1303

Re: Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Mon Jan 05, 2009 5:08 am


Nice work, Judd. Some folk have no idea about ISO speeds. As anyone who knows anything about digital photography, you constantly adjust the ISO to suit the circumstances, light and speed of bird (or animal for that matter). When a person comments on "why did you take that shot at 1000 ISO when a slower ISO would have sufficed", I comment "because I can" and possibly because I actually forgot to change it :oops: I shoot with a Canon 5D which handles high ISOs very well.

This lorikeet was taken using ISO 1250 with no detrimental effect that I can see

http://www.pbase.com/sheila/image/74848801
and this one, taken with my Canon 20D at 800 ISO which handles ISO to a lesser degree than the 5D

Image
Sheila
Sheila Smart
Canon 5D Mark III; 17-40L; 24-70 f/2.8L; 70-300 f.4-5.6 L USM; 135 f/2L; 100 f/2.8 macro; 8-15 f/4 L fisheye

Blog: http://sheilasmartphotography.blogspot.com/

jniemann
 
Posts: 78

Re: Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Mon Jan 05, 2009 5:59 am


Thanks Sheila,

Admittedly, the shot he left the comment on was one of my worst shots - it was ISO 800 and particularly noisy, with nothing really going for it compositionally, either. It hurt my feelings a little initially, but I'm over it now, in fact this whole discussion has made me re-think a lot of my technique (in a good way), which is positive.

Anyways, I love those Lorikeet shots you posted - especially the first one. Rainbow Lorikeets make fabulous photographic targets, but they don't always 'co-operate' - they move real fast and hide behind eucalyptus leaves etc, so its hard to get a clear shot at them. However, you seem to have coaxed some interesting poses out of them.

I just got myself a 5D. Its a big step up from the 400D !! The 5d has nice big pixels on its sensor, which is why its so good with high ISOs.
In terms of noise, the 5D's ISO 800 is like the 400D's ISO 200 (or maybe ISO 100)

I think I'm going to take a bird shot at ISO 50 (L) just for a bit of a challenge :)

Cheers,
Judd

dougj
 
Posts: 2276

Re: Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Mon Jan 05, 2009 7:08 am


Great shot Shelia! Judd - good luck with the 5D, it's a great camera.

FWIW, the way I frequently approach camera settings for birds is via 3 steps: 1) Aperture for DOF, 2) Shutter speed to stop/permit desired motion, 3) ISO to set exposure correctly, and I try to stay near the camera's base ISO, or a low ISO value. These don't always hold true, but they're good starting points in most cases. Panning shots during daylight provide considerable latitude for settings.

A couple of recent shots

200mm, f/5.6, 1/30 ISO 1600 + fill flash
Image

200mm, f/4, 1/400, ISO 400
Image

sheila
 
Posts: 1303

Re: Bird Photography at ISO 100

Post Mon Jan 05, 2009 10:26 am


We are very lucky, Judd, in that we have a bird feeder on our balustrade and the lorikeets have become very tame over the years. Sometime I walk up our garden and suddenly have one land on my head :) Don't worry too much about comments. Recently someone called Joe (of course no email address) said he didn't know why I had so many "fawning comments" in my Guestbook as he thought my images were very poor. Nuff said.

Cheers
Sheila
Sheila Smart
Canon 5D Mark III; 17-40L; 24-70 f/2.8L; 70-300 f.4-5.6 L USM; 135 f/2L; 100 f/2.8 macro; 8-15 f/4 L fisheye

Blog: http://sheilasmartphotography.blogspot.com/

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