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Thread: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

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    Harpo's Avatar
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    Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    These two were taken handheld with 70-200mm, cropped and it was drizzling out. Cannot crop further or it becomes more blurry. These eagles on the downed tree were across the stream approximately 50 yards away.

    Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    This one was taken about 100 yds away with the 70-200 plus 2x TC III on a tripod, IS off.
    Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    My biggest frustration was that I was not able to get any of these tack sharp like I see many of your photos turning out despite fiddling with different settings on my camera. CIC please...

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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    What post processing have you used?

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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    I would try same shots with tripod ,remote switchand or self timer. I would not give up ,sometimes a blind (to get closer) and your 200 without 2 x converter might help, I am sure others more experienced than me can help. good luck and keep posting efforts .I love the birds of prey

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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    Much more information is needed Mike, I can't read any Exif in the file so we need shutter speed, aperture and did you use mirror lock and/or remote release. Weather conditions also affect long distance shots - was there enough breeze to slightly sway the tripod and/or the subjects, was there any haze around etc. I'm no expert but these are the basic things that have to be addressed for shots like these but hey, if you haven't time to set up properly then shoot away, 'Is better to have tried and failed than not.......etc'

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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    Dito on what post processing has been done.
    #1 and #2 look like camera shake to me?
    #3 Not sure why this would not be sharp if a tripod was used correctly (though has the same blur character as the other two). Did you time the shutter (or use a relaease cable) or just press it while the camera was on the tripod? Was the lens attached to the tripod head or was the camera attached? Maybe the problem lies with the TC! All speculation of course in the absence of any other info.

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    Harpo's Avatar
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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    Should have mentioned it here like I did on my other post... minimal PP on iPhoto. Im not a PP guru like most of you yet.

    First two photos were handheld. Wasn't expecting to see them at that time so I didnt bring the tripod with me from the parking lot. (lesson learned!) I was crotched down and snapped it at the end of a breath in trying to stabilize the camera as much as I could from the other end of the shoreline. Any closer, Im wet. Exif for the first two: 1/1000, f/3.5, SP, 200mm, ISO 200. First pic is cropped from #2.

    3rd pic, EXIF: 1/60, f/20, AP, 400mm, iso 400 taken from a deck with tripod, IS off, remote trigger

    Thanks for the advice.

    On other days, I took more photos of eagles at the same location using the tripod. Pics did not come out better than these.

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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    Hi Mike,

    Are these jpg or RAW captures?
    I ask because I am thinking that a lack of sharpening applied in PP, especially if you haven't applied any after the downsize to 640px.

    Taking the picture is like exposing the negative in film. PP is like making a good print from the negative, if you don't put much effort in, the result is going to be 'lacklustre'. PP is the second half of the whole process, NOT, as some would have you believe, what bad people do to a picture because they "didn't get it right in camera".

    The other thing I must ask, especially seeing the third shot above, is what focus point(s) and modes were you using? The rock behind the birds is definitely sharper than the eagles or their perch.

    UPDATE:
    That said, I just spotted the aperture and shutter speed; 1/60s and f/20 - really? Are you in "P" (program) exposure mode or something?

    I work in aperture priority, set an aperture I know is best for my lens (which isn't yours btw), but that is f/8 or f/11, then I use a manually set ISO to achieve a shutter speed as high as possible; typ. 1/500 - 1/4000, well over a thousandth if they are flying. In the conditions you appear to have here, I'd be at 800iso, or more if really dull.

    Cheers,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 7th August 2011 at 02:31 PM.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    Hi Mike,

    One more thing, in addition to the UPDATE I added above.

    #1 is 'over cropped' on #2 (and #2 is obviously a crop too ), you can't really expect to get good quality using so few pixels of the original image. You need a longer lens, or get wet

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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    Hmm, I think you were fighting a losing battle with a combination of circumstances by the looks of it Mike Fine drizzle will continually scatter the light coming from the image which the eye might not notice but the camera sensor will as it snaps a moment in time, and I believe the image in the second shot was also degraded by the wide aperture. Zooms are not noted for their critical sharpness, especially when at near max zoom and used wide open. In the third shot I think a touch of diffraction may be creeping in at f20, not particularly noticeable normally but the converter doubles the effect. However, it is a pleasing shot and might benefit from a touch of sharpening. Just my opinions of course Mike and I may be wide of the mark

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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    Another possible problem, if you used autofocus: Bird feathers seem designed to outwit any autofcus, and your camera will grasp any opportunity to focus on a straight line behind the bird instead..

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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    Thanks for your comments. Im sure learning as I go. This trip was my first time shooting in RAW, as i have used "L" up to now. and the first two in Shutter Priority mode, the third in Aperture Priority. Being my first time trying RAW, Im not exactly sure what I need to do yet as far as converting the image to jpeg or tiff before posting. I decided to go with RAW with the intention of upgrading to Aperture or Lightroom when I got back, but it seems my computer needs more memory first. So, I did the changes in iPhoto.

    As for the settings, I tinkered with various settings as I went based on what I was seeing on the screen, and these images came out better than the others thats why the settings seem way off from what you guys are telling me you would have used. Its clear I need to try to get my head wrapped around the ISO triangle and know what works best at certain times and understand it better. What I did do was set it at P mode to get a feel what the camera is suggesting then adjust from there. It was hit and miss.

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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    We all learn by 'hit & miss' to some extent Mike, so you are in good company!

    It did occur to me after my previous post, that if you can lock your mirror up, that can reduce shake too.

    PP, yes unfortunately, whilst you save on darkroom costs these days, you get more than clobbered with the need for a good computer with plenty of RAM memory to achieve the processing. So once you have all that sorted and are able to deal with you RAW files, you will be surprised at the difference it makes. JPEGs are only ever a compromise and just as you might in a darkroom, you can get a much better individual result with the full RAW file.

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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    Thanks Shreds... Guess I need to just focus on one thing at a time and hopefully when I can upgrade the computer and move onto a better PP program, I would have mastered the camera!

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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    I'm, bowled over that you can get photos of eagles sitting there like that -Bald Headed and Golden, I assume. I have to travel 600 miles to see eagles (into Scotland-Sea eagles and Golden eagles). Yours are obviously regularly there wherever you were so what's good is that you can return and on a good light day rather than a drizzly day (unless you were just visiting from miles away)I've read through the advice here ,I'll probably duplicate something but here's what I'd do. First off it's a real bonus to be able to take shots like this using a tripod .I shoot in Av - Dave says Av too and as he says, f8 or f11. They're not moving ie/ not flying or flapping their wings so you don't have to worry about a high shutter speed but you want one that deals with slight movement and one of the them is cleaning itself. 1/500-1/800. sec. would cope with that. You can only set your AF point (use the centre one,it's the most accurate) on one of them (that's why you need f8 at least and nothing wider open than that so they're both sharp There's no contrast if you focus on the white or the black or the brown so manual, as Dave says but you have no choice re. auto v manual,the 2 X will take away the auto function anyway. What I didn't see above and what I do is to have the drive set to 'high' - 3.7 fps. with the T2i (It's called the 550D here in the Uk and a great camera-very close to the 7D and with video I see-why not try that mode too ?) Using the 3.7 fps. means you can't have mirror lock up. I'd go 2/3s under exposed too and use Centre weighted-spot's fine for a small bird but these are large and there's two of them-spot,I think,is just 3%. Always fire at your camera's 3.7 fps. for wildlife and generally one of the shots will turn out well. After a burst check the histogram and adjust accordingly.As for ISO, a decent day will allow you to keep that down to less than 400..The cameras these days are very good the T21 has twin Digic 4 processors- but I still prefer to keep below 400 but if getting the shot means going up the scale then so be it.

    Do you use a ball head ? - they're superb and don't cost much either. I have the Manfrotto 488RC4 but they don't make it anymore but if you can get one they're very good-Ebay maybe ? Its so easy to direct your lens and you have it (or the camera) on a quick release plate for when you want to put another lens on also with a quick release plate attached.

    It would be nice if you could get a bit nearer and shoot without the 2X. The 2X can degrade a photo a bit - not so with the 1.4 X.
    You have a superb lens so try again taking all the tips from here. I can tell you Mike, I envoy you those opportunities. Good luck.

    Hans..The 700-200 doesn't come with a tripod collar so it's the camera that's sitting on the tripod. Canon must consider the 1.9 pounds weight not heavy enough to require a tripod collar yet they are available as an extra but pricey.I'd be happier with one.

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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    Ref. the last paragraph re. a tripod collar,I'm assuming this is the f4 IS ..the f2.8 IS , being a heavy lens, does come with a tripod collar.

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    Harpo's Avatar
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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    thanks John for the insight and advice. I traveled to Alaska from the East Coast for a week long trip, but plan to go back someday. It was a family vacation celebrating my parents wedding anniversary, so I did not feel I had as much freedom to head out as much as I wanted to when the weather/light were real good for pics.

    On the day I got the 3 eagles on the tree, I happened not to bring my tripod with me. I'm hitting my head with my tripod for that especially when realizing that taking handhelds with the 70-200, while it can be good, did not give me the kind of clarity and sharpness I needed for that particular kind of shot. Live and learn. The area is called Eagle Beach- its one of the Glacier fed rivers that Salmon frequent, hence quite a few eagles! It was amazing.

    On that day, I ran into another photographer who lives a couple miles from that spot. She said a few days earlier she caught 15, yes, fifteen, eagles perching on that particular dead tree all at once at high tide. The challenge taking pics here in AV or TV mode was that the birds were very unpredictable (at least to someone not familiar with their behavior). I had a few situations I was in AV, then while attempting to focus, it suddenly takes flight! Got a few blurry pics that way in flight. That local photographer said she started out with a T2i, then moved up to a 5d and it took her quite awhile to get to know the best times to take pictures there, best settings and finally produce some great shots.

    The couple other days I could go back, most of the eagles were further out and I was not able to get close enough (low tide and they were on the silt way out there)

    I used a good travel tripod on this trip with a ballhead. I rented a 70-200mm and 2x TC, and it was the first time I used these lenses. It came with a tripod collar. So this trip came with alot of "firsts" related to photography. Im still learning to understand and get to the point where I will have a pretty good idea which setting I should be using at certain times. I did alot of experimenting with different settings here. Ill have to try the 3.7 fps. I wish I could go back now after getting all the advice here and try again!

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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    Quote Originally Posted by Harpo View Post
    Thanks Shreds... Guess I need to just focus on one thing at a time and hopefully when I can upgrade the computer and move onto a better PP program, I would have mastered the camera!
    Hi Mike, perhaps you could team up with another photographer that is really good with PP? You shoot and they clean up the images. You could learn PP faster and they can offer tips on the best way to get the shots from the PP viewpoint. At liest until your PP skills improve?

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    Re: Eagles... struggling to get them tack sharp

    Mike- try not to go beating yourself up (like I did when I started out and messed up photographing seals blending into the rocks) If you're on a learning curve then to try that shoot in drizzly conditions ,the birds a way off, no tripod (people go out without Cf cards, lenses I even heard of someone forgetting the camera ) then it was never going to be easy.When you're photographing birds good light is so important in helping get that shutter speed up and 1/500-1/800 sec. would have got any take-off, they don't have the speed of smaller birds. Anyway- enough of that- all's not lost, you don't have to wait till you go that 3500 miles again to the Alaska -the bald eagles are in your State in many counties here. http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/ind...eir_wings.html

    http://www.hawkmountain.org/

    Just choose a good light day. You may need a lens with a longer reach than the 70-200mm. The Canon 100-400mm which I have, is very good but definitely needs good light - maybe someone who has a different one to this one might like to alert you to it. Hiring 400,500 or 600mm primes will be costly and they're heavy and certainly the 500 and 600mm need hefty tripods/ball head even a gimbal heads to support them.

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