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Thread: Elk in the field

  1. #1
    Dizzy's Avatar
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    Elk in the field

    I mounted the new 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G on the D90 for the first time on Monday, and after taking a number of shots that evening I was a bit more "dialed in" as to what I might expect from it. Last night I took it out to see how it would do on some wildlife shots, and in short order found our local herd of Rocky Mountain Elk out grazing in a local field.

    These Rocky Mountain Elk are relatively large animals, with weights ranging from about 300 lbs. for the cows, and up to 700 lbs. for the mature bulls. Bulls generally are around 5' at the shoulder. I am guessing that the big fellow shown below would be in the 500-600 lb. category. As a reference, the elk in these pics were anywhere from 100-150 meters away.

    This herd is "local", and has been growing steadily for the past decade, and my best estimate is that there were about 40 present last evening. In just a few weeks they will enter their "rut", or breeding season, and the larger "herd bulls" will be out battling one another for the rights to lord over the cows. The rutting season is an intense time, and in years past I could usually find them to observe the battles. Hope to again this year and get some good images of them in battle.

    Here are a couple of the better images from last evening. I took over 50 shots, and all but a few came out well. The third pic (solo her bull) is a bit grainy as it is a 100% crop, and the light was fading. I *think* I should have increased the ISO a bit for that one, as he was a long was off at the very back of the field. (Would gladly welcome any suggestions regarding getting a better image under those conditions, as this will be a regular shoot for me until late Sept.)

    Elk in the field
    1/40s f/6.3 at 70.0mm ISO 200

    Full sized original is much better: http://www.pbase.com/dizzygazer/imag...91180/original

    Elk in the field
    1/80s f/6.3 at 250.0mm ISO 200

    Elk in the field
    1/50s f/6.3 at 300.0mm ISO 0.7EV Under 200

    Elk in the field
    1/20s f/7.1 at 300.0mm ISO 0.7EV Under 200

    I don't have enough experience yet to know "good from bad", but based only the quality of images the lens produced last night I couldn't be any happier. I bought this lens with wildlife in mind, and hope to improve as I gain more experience.

    Elk in the field
    1/2s f/18.0 at 70.0mm ISO 0.7EV Under 200

    Here is one I shot quite late (near dark), but this young fellow wandered a little closer. and I couldn't resist trying, so I moved the ISO up to 1000, and took the shot:

    Elk in the field
    1/40s f/9.0 at 300.0mm iso1000

    Shot in RAW, with Processing and conversion done in Nikon Nx2.

    Comments desired, and always appreciated. Thanks for any comments, or simply for just enjoying the photo's! .

    Mike
    Last edited by Dizzy; 17th August 2011 at 03:16 AM.

  2. #2

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    Re: Elk in the field

    Beautiful scenery mike. Your shooting alot of very slow shutterspeeds. Even if your using a tripod, increasing the iso and getting those shutter speeds up will make a huge difference. (much sharper images) Just use a little noise reduction in post.

  3. #3
    Dizzy's Avatar
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    Re: Elk in the field

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve S View Post
    Beautiful scenery mike. Your shooting alot of very slow shutterspeeds. Even if your using a tripod, increasing the iso and getting those shutter speeds up will make a huge difference. (much sharper images) Just use a little noise reduction in post.
    Thank you Steve. Not sure how to do "noise reduction" just yet, but apparently it's time to learn.

    Mike

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Elk in the field

    Hi Mike,

    My D5000 has same sensor as your D90 and I have that lens too, my experience leads me to 'set it to f/8 and forget it' most of the time, unless I need slower shutter speeds or more DoF, when I'll go to f/11 or f/16, I might once have tried f/22

    The reason; in real world use (on birds), I found it to be much better (sharper and more contrasty) at f/8 than anything less. I do use it wide open occasionally (f/5.6 at 300mm) if really desparate for shallow DoF or needing more light, but otherwise I keep clear, even f/7.1 isn't as good as f/8. Set and forget!

    I therefore shoot at 400 iso as a (UK) norm, 800 or 1600 when required, 3200 and Hi 1 (6400) if desparate. Only at 800 iso (or above) and a significant crop do I need to deal with noise, using Neat Image. (That's a link to show how easy it can be and it has a link to their website)

    I agree with others, those shutter speeds are asking for blur from subject movement alone, even slow grazers, which probably explains the softness of most of the above - well that and the use of f6.3 - f/7.1 and a big crop

    Good luck and don't get me wrong; I love the lens and wouldn't swap it, it lives on the camera as the 'standard' for me shooting wildlife.

    Cheers,

  5. #5
    Dizzy's Avatar
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    Re: Elk in the field

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Hi Mike,
    My D5000 has same sensor as your D90 and I have that lens too, my experience leads me to 'set it to f/8 and forget it' most of the time, unless I need slower shutter speeds or more DoF, when I'll go to f/11 or f/16, I might once have tried f/22
    The reason; in real world use (on birds), I found it to be much better (sharper and more contrasty) at f/8 than anything less. I do use it wide open occasionally (f/5.6 at 300mm) if really desperate for shallow DoF or needing more light, but otherwise I keep clear, even f/7.1 isn't as good as f/8. Set and forget!
    I therefore shoot at 400 iso as a (UK) norm, 800 or 1600 when required, 3200 and Hi 1 (6400) if desperate. Only at 800 iso (or above) and a significant crop do I need to deal with noise, using Neat Image. (That's a link to show how easy it can be and it has a link to their website)
    I agree with others, those shutter speeds are asking for blur from subject movement alone, even slow grazers, which probably explains the softness of most of the above - well that and the use of f6.3 - f/7.1 and a big crop
    Good luck and don't get me wrong; I love the lens and wouldn't swap it, it lives on the camera as the 'standard' for me shooting wildlife.Cheers,
    Thank you for sharing the tips Dave, and I will absolutely put the suggestions into practice tonight, as I'm sure the herd will be right back in that field.

    FWIW, I had thought the slower shutter speeds were better due to the low light, and the distance. I also could tell (from zooming in on images just taken) that there was some movement in them due to the lower speeds, so I tried to balance getting max. light in with having a fast enough shutter to not have them appear blurred (antlers were the worst at staying still). The last pic was shot at near dark, and I was just thrilled to see that the camera could still capture a decent image at that low light level.

    I had used the higher F/ number to get a greater depth of field, as the elk were spread out over a area that was about 50 meters deep, and I wanted to get the whole herd.

    I've been shooting in Manual as in Aperture mode I don't know how (yet) to make the camera increase the shutter speed, and it set's a shutter speed that seems far too slow. In Manual mode, if I got the shutter speed too fast the images would appear to dark for lack of enough light for proper exposure, so I'll have to play with it a bit tonight and see if my lens shows the same F/8 preference as yours does.

    Have put the wife on notice that I'll be out tonight; the elk don't usually show in that field 'till about 90 min. before dark (dark is about 8:30), and afterward will drive up to my local observing spot (about 4500' in elevation) and try to get some better Moon shots, as it rises at about 9:30 tonight.

    Cheers! Elk in the field

    Mike

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    Re: Elk in the field

    Mike- Can you get into those trees without them seeing you ? You'd be much nearer. Low light (you say that the last one was taken when it was almost dark) and photographing anything that moves is a non-starter-I gave that up a while ago. The aperture will need to be opened up to it's widest so you lose dof ,the shutter speed goes below an acceptable speed for handheld-usually 1/60 sec. but some manage at 1/30th,so you help out with the ISO going very high which gives a lot of noise.. Aren't they there in good daylight ? Unless you have good light it will be worse when they're rutting because of their clashing movements.

  7. #7
    Dizzy's Avatar
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    Re: Elk in the field

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnC View Post
    Mike- Can you get into those trees without them seeing you ? You'd be much nearer. Low light (you say that the last one was taken when it was almost dark) and photographing anything that moves is a non-starter-I gave that up a while ago. The aperture will need to be opened up to it's widest so you lose dof ,the shutter speed goes below an acceptable speed for handheld-usually 1/60 sec. but some manage at 1/30th,so you help out with the ISO going very high which gives a lot of noise.. Aren't they there in good daylight ? Unless you have good light it will be worse when they're rutting because of their clashing movements.
    Hi John,

    I've been shooting the pics from an established viewing area (nice and flat, carpark, etc.), but I do think I could weasel in quite a bit closer to them providing permission was granted by the landowners to the adjoining properties. These are fully wild critters, and although they meander in and out of the rural areas, they are still quite wary of possible dangers/threats.

    They do become more active in the early morning and late evening hours, and tonight the plan is to arrive a bit earlier in hopes of catching them in better light. I've been using my tripod, but it is not quite robust enough to manage the weight of the camera with the heavier 70mm-300mm, so I've also been using the remote shutter release to reduce vibrations. Hand-held shots are right out unless they are in pretty close, and in that case the 18-105mm might be more appropriate.

    Will try to do better this evening. I've heard from some friends that a few of the bulls have been spotted trashing the rhododendron's in local yards; now that would make a great pic if caught in the act!

    Mike

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