Friday, March 05, 2010

Anyone familiar with me, this blog or my photostream on flickr knows that I try to go at least once a week for a walk in nature. Usually I visit the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen and usually I carry my camera.

I’m skilled enough to get decent fallow deer shots almost weekly and the occasional good bird shot. I’ve been doing that slightly over a year now and I was so overconfident that I thought I was pretty good at it.

Now this Wednesday I visited the Island of “Tiengemeten”. It’s a small island about 30km south of Rotterdam that is being returned to nature. Lovely oasis of piece and quiet that is so rare in this country. A dyke has been breached to create a wetland area and the island is populated by several hunderd very noisy Barnacle Geese.

But, let’s start with this shot, the common shellduck


Looks good this small, best of about half a dozen. Click trough to the big version and you see there’s a few problems with it.

Next shot:


Click on that and it will be sharper. Too far away but sharper.

Let’s look at settings. The first;

Exposure: 0.001 sec (1/800)
Aperture: f/8.0
Focal Length: 300 mm
Focal Length: 302.0 mm
ISO Speed: 400

And the second pic:

Exposure: 0.001 sec (1/1250)
Aperture: f/8.0
Focal Length: 260 mm
Focal Length: 261.4 mm
ISO Speed: 400

Substantial difference in shutter speed.

Number three:


Exposure: 0.001 sec (1/2000)
Aperture: f/8.0
Focal Length: 260 mm
Focal Length: 261.4 mm
ISO Speed: 400

I got a few more but all in all perhaps 2 dozen keepers out of more than 200 pics. Not a good result. So I started looking for help.

Now it turns out my errors had a few causes.

1. Pretty lousy fieldcraft on my side. I’ve been spoiled by a landscape with loads of cover and animals and birds used to humans. On this island I encountered about a dozen other walkers the whole day. In my weekend walks I meet that many in 20 minutes.

2. Poor understanding of my camera. “automagic AF" just doesn’t hack it. I found this: which explains a sports shooter’s setup for his D300. Most of that will be useable here.

3. No knowledge of my surroundings. Every encounter was a surprise, most flight paths were unexpected.

4. No knowledge of my models. I met at least 4 new species.

So, I now know more or less where it went wrong. I used my D300’s AF system ineffectively. I was overly optimistic on my shutter speeds and I was unrealistic in my expectations. A 370 euro zoom is no substitute for a 3000 euro zoom and a casual shot when walking is no substitute for spending 4 hours in a hide. Next step, go to a place with loads of seagulls and practice.

One final shot:


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