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I am interested to see what others havs to say. Personally, I have never used the sports mode on my camera.

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I shot in Sports Mode for a while, and I thought it was great until I realized it never saved my focus mode setting when I turned off and on my camera, so I switched back to Aperture Priority.  Might be different with other cameras, though.  I have a Nikon D3400.

Edited by The Bird Nuts
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Well, Sports seems to do well at closer distances (under 30 feet) for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70.  At ranges beyond that, things start to get increasingly grainy.  I was getting good shots at that range with Shutter mode already, and most of what I take is well beyond 30 feet anyway.  I may play with Sports a little more but I don't see using it much in the long run.

After 4+ years, I finally have a handle on how the controls on this camera actually work.  More specifically, I've figured out how to use this multi-function wheel that controls shutter and /or aperture and / or 'exposure compenation'.  I looked at the manual dozens of times but it does a poor job of describing how to use this wheel to switch between these settings and how the corresponding settings changes are indicated on the display.  

Mind you, I don't have a grasp yet on what settings are best for given situations, but at least I'm now confident that I can apply the same settings on a consistent basis.  I may finally be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons between Shutter vs. Aperture.

Edited by Charlie Spencer

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4 hours ago, mossyhorn said:

I shoot in manual mode. I have used shutter priority in the past, but manual gives me much more control.

I might try that now that I have a grasp on the mechanics of controlling this camera.  At this point I feel more comfortable isolating each point on the triangle so I can see what happens when I change one factor at a time.  I have an academic understanding of what altering each does, but that's not close to knowing what to change to get the results I want.  Mostly what I want is identifiable images of birds I couldn't figure out in the field; more practical than artistic.

Thanks!

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It takes way too long to set the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO for each and every shot in Manual Mode, especially when shooting birds.  That's why I use Aperture Priority and let the camera choose from a range of shutter speeds and ISO.

Edited by The Bird Nuts
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I use a Sony A7II and a Tamron 150 - 600mm lens. For sitting birds I use Aperture Priority. For BIF I use Shutter Priority to lock in the speed w about 2/3 stops over exposed because the camera will expose for the bight sky and not the bird. I live in the desert and the sky is very bright. I'm still learning to shoot birds and as you know things happen very fast. I'm not that good at it but I try.......Chris

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20 hours ago, The Bird Nuts said:

It takes way too long to set the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO for each and every shot in Manual Mode, especially when shooting birds.  That's why I use Aperture Priority and let the camera choose from a range of shutter speeds and ISO.

I respectfully disagree, I think it's actually faster to use manual to adjust exposure than it is to use exposure compensation in shutter or aperture priority. Manual mode requires pre-setting the ISO and aperture but once those two elements of the exposure triangle are set, all you have to adjust is the shutter speed to fine tune the exposure. Once in a while an adjustment to the ISO or aperture is required, but most of the time I am just turning one dial to adjust the shutter speed/exposure. Using exposure compensation requires pushing buttons before turning the dial to adjust the shutter speed...or the aperture...or the ISO, whichever one the camera feels like adjusting. Once you have manually adjusted the exposure, you don't have to worry about lighter or darker backgrounds affecting the camera's exposure. Typically, once the exposure is set manually, it needs very little adjusting but when it does need adjusting, it can be easily adjusted by turning one dial.

Edited by lonestranger
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20 hours ago, The Bird Nuts said:

It takes way too long to set the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO for each and every shot in Manual Mode, especially when shooting birds.  That's why I use Aperture Priority and let the camera choose from a range of shutter speeds and ISO.

 

38 minutes ago, lonestranger said:

I respectfully disagree, I think it's actually faster to use manual to adjust exposure than it is to use exposure compensation in shutter or aperture priority. Manual mode requires pre-setting the ISO and aperture but once those two elements of the exposure triangle are set, all you have to adjust is the shutter speed to fine tune the exposure. Once in a while an adjustment to the ISO or aperture is required, but most of the time I am just turning one dial to adjust the shutter speed/exposure. Using exposure compensation requires pushing buttons before turning the dial to adjust the shutter speed...or the aperture, or the ISO, whichever one the camera feels like adjusting. Once you have manually adjusted the exposure, you don't have to worry about lighter or darker backgrounds affecting the camera's exposure. Typically, once the exposure is set manually, it needs very little adjusting but when it does need adjusting, it can be easily adjusted by turning one dial.

What's easy to adjust on one camera may not be easy to adjust on another.  Manually focusing my Lumix is so cumbersome that it's best left for herons and similar non-moving objects.  In fact, it's so cumbersome I avoid using it to the point I forget the capability exists.

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5 minutes ago, Charlie Spencer said:

What's easy to adjust on one camera may not be easy to adjust on another.  Manually focusing my Lumix is so cumbersome that it's best left for herons and similar non-moving objects.  In fact, it's so cumbersome I avoid using it to the point I forget the capability exists.

We're not talking about manual focusing here.  We're talking about manual mode which allows you to manually set shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.  Some point-and-shoots don't have a manual mode.  But I think auto focusing is a must for taking photos of quick birds.

Edited by The Bird Nuts
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42 minutes ago, lonestranger said:

I respectfully disagree, I think it's actually faster to use manual to adjust exposure than it is to use exposure compensation in shutter or aperture priority. Manual mode requires pre-setting the ISO and aperture but once those two elements of the exposure triangle are set, all you have to adjust is the shutter speed to fine tune the exposure. Once in a while an adjustment to the ISO or aperture is required, but most of the time I am just turning one dial to adjust the shutter speed/exposure. Using exposure compensation requires pushing buttons before turning the dial to adjust the shutter speed...or the aperture...or the ISO, whichever one the camera feels like adjusting. Once you have manually adjusted the exposure, you don't have to worry about lighter or darker backgrounds affecting the camera's exposure. Typically, once the exposure is set manually, it needs very little adjusting but when it does need adjusting, it can be easily adjusted by turning one dial.

Okay, I can sort of see what you're saying.  But it seems to me to be less work when I use exposure compensation because I can set it to +1 on a cloudy day and not have a problem when there is a slight change in lighting since the shutter speed will automatically adjust.  Or maybe I'm not understanding this correctly...

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3 minutes ago, The Bird Nuts said:

We're not talking about manual focusing here.  We're talking about manual mode which allows you to manually set shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.  Some point-and-shoots don't have a manual mode.

I realize that.  I was just using focusing as an example of how some tasks can be easier on some cameras than on others.

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1 minute ago, Charlie Spencer said:

I realize that.  I was just using focusing as an example of how some tasks can be easier on some cameras than on others.

Oh, I see.  You're right.  DSLRs are made with extra buttons so the settings can be easily accessed.

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3 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

 

What's easy to adjust on one camera may not be easy to adjust on another.  Manually focusing my Lumix is so cumbersome that it's best left for herons and similar non-moving objects.  In fact, it's so cumbersome I avoid using it to the point I forget the capability exists.

I totally agree with you, manual focus is one function that I never use on my superzoom because it's so slow and less accurate than auto focus, I seldom used manual focus on my DSLR either. As long as I preset my ISO and aperture at the beginning of my outing, adjusting the main dial, which controls my shutter speed, is super easy. 

Here's my procedure if you want to give it a try. I start by setting my aperture wide open, using the smallest f/#. I then set my ISO to 400 or 800 depending on how bright it is out. I then look through the viewfinder while pointing the camera at the grass or trunk of a tree and turn the main dial so the meter is centered in the scale and see where the shutter speed falls. If my shutter speed is 1/500 or faster I will take a test pic and see how the exposure looks. If my shutter speed is below 1/500 I will increase my ISO until I can achieve 1/500 or faster. If my shutter speed is way over 1/1000 I may decrease my ISO for less noisy results. It takes all but a minute or so to preset the camera before shooting birds, but once it is preset, it usually stays there for the duration of my shoot. Yes, I need to adjust the shutter speed if I move from direct sunlight into complete shade, and may have to adjust ISO as well, but it's not like I am walking in and out of sunshine every time I take a picture. If I move from sunshine to shade, I just preset the camera again for the shaded part of my outing. If you follow this method you will notice that you can usually take pictures of birds in the treetops or feeding on the ground without needing to adjust the exposure, the bright sky or dark shadows behind the birds will not affect the preset exposure. It's the bright background of the sky that causes the camera to under expose birds in treetops when using aperture or shutter priority and that's why you need to use exposure compensation in those situations. 

When looking through the camera and panning around the yard or living room in auto, aperture, or shutter priority modes, you will see the scale is stationary and the numbers fluctuate depending on the brightness of the background. In manual mode, you will see the scale changing as the background changes but the numbers remain constant. If the lighting in your yard/room hasn't changed, then there is no need to change the exposure. 

A simple test is to set an object in the middle of your living room and take a photo of that object from all four sides of the room in aperture mode and compare exposures. Chances are all four photos will be exposed differently, the photo taken with the windows in the background will be darker than the photo taken with the windows behind you. Then preset your camera in manual mode and take another four pictures from the four different sides of the room. All four shots in manual mode should have similar exposures since the lighting on your subject hasn't changed.

I know I am not explaining this as well as I'd like, but I hope it'll help in understanding why I no longer use aperture mode. I'm not suggesting that manual mode is better than what works for you, I'm just trying to explain why manual mode works better for me.

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I do know that with AP mode, earlier this week I was able to get the best shot I've ever managed of a bird with some branches obscuring him.  I don't know if it made focusing easier or if it was due to having it at 8 flattened out the depth.  Either way, I only took a couple of shots.

https://ebird.org/checklist/S65055196

I do want to play with lonestranger's settings.  Maybe if it warms up this weekend...

Edited by Charlie Spencer

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4 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

I do know that with AP mode, earlier this week I was able to get the best shot I've ever managed of a bird with some branches obscuring him.  I don't know if it made focusing easier or if it was due to having it at 8 flattened out the depth.  Either way, I only took a couple of shots.

https://ebird.org/checklist/S65055196

I do want to play with lonestranger's settings.  Maybe if it warms up this weekend...

Adjusting the exposure manually isn't going to be much help with focusing issues, Charlie. Using f/8 for your aperture will help getting more of the area in focus, but it won't help much if the camera focuses on the branches out in front of the bird (and it will produce slower shutter speeds and/or higher ISO noise issues). Your hermit thrush photos didn't focus on the branches but instead found the opening through the branches so it could focus on the bird. Shots like that are hard regardless of what camera or exposure settings you're using. Zooming in as much as possible can help in finding the best opening to focus through, otherwise it's hit or miss as to whether the focus catches your intended subject or the surrounding branches.

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Well, I didn't do anything different from previous attempts at shots like this.  Maybe the opening the branches was just big enough this time.  Maybe I just got lucky this time.

Unless the bird is hanging out of the edges of the frame, I always zoom as much as possible.  I usually have a monopod and am told I have steadier-than-usual hands.

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On 2/26/2020 at 3:55 PM, lonestranger said:

If my shutter speed is 1/500 or faster I will take a test pic and see how the exposure looks.

I almost never use the camera's display to view pictures.  I've just taken it for granted that the screen is too small and of too low a resolution for me to accurately judge how the photos are coming out, esp. in terms of ISO / noise.  I'll have to figure out how to use it effectively.

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Here's an explanation of this morning's manual exposure setup and the shots I took afterwards. Using my Nikon P900 superzoom point and shoot, I set the mode dial to M for manual, this mode only manually adjusts the exposure or the brightness/darkness of the photo, it does not affect the automatic focus which I always have set to a single center point focus. I then dove into the menu and set my ISO to 400 before raising the camera to my eye. Using the display button on the camera, I had previously set the display to show the camera's settings and the exposure meter/scale so I can see the settings I am adjusting in the bottom of the viewfinder. Since my aperture fluctuates from f/2.8 to f/6.3 as I zoom out, I set my aperture to wide open at the long end of the zoom at f.6.3 using the dial on the back of the camera. I then pointed the camera at a branched area and turned the main dial on top of the camera to adjust the shutter speed and balance my exposure according to the metering scale in the viewfinder. This gave me a shutter speed of 1/250, aperture f/6.3, and ISO 400 when the scale was centered so I took a test shot.

DSCN9630.thumb.JPG.6600dfd02741d6e7814f1f562a82f815.JPG

 

 

I thought that was a good starting point so I turned the camera to the cars in the parking area, I zoomed out for a wider angle and took another test shot. My camera shows a quick preview of the image I took in the viewfinder so I could tell the photo was overexposed without having to look at the image on the rear display.

DSCN9631.thumb.JPG.0737db4fa397b8de2ec69b0f3fa3390f.JPG

 

I knew that 1/250 for a shutter speed was way too slow for a bright sunny day so I used the top dial to crank the shutter speed up to 1/640 and took another test shot.

DSCN9632.thumb.JPG.c2d9d2909e283c8bcf6091b808fd2d0f.JPG

 

 

I was getting closer but the image was still overexposed so I used the main top dial again to crank the shutter speed up to 1/1250, which is a preferred shutter speed if the ISO isn't too high , and took another couple of shots. I was satisfied with this exposure, and was now ready to take some pictures of birds.

DSCN9633.thumb.JPG.47ca4b7091da4f0fa4d3e143dfecf1f2.JPG

DSCN9634.thumb.JPG.3e849abbb0d7a32e770787773b68d915.JPG

 

 

There was a goldfinch and a chickadee both perched in the same tree.

DSCN9636.thumb.JPG.4c597e6996607f3425795e337a0cb803.JPG

 

 

I zoomed in a bit on the goldfinch first, which decided to turn it's head away from the camera just as I was pressing the shutter button, which is typical of birds and no setting on the camera can change that. 🤪  Note that the goldfinch has both bright sky and dark shadows behind it and it's situations like this that result in fluctuating exposures in aperture or shutter mode where the camera can easily mess up the exposure because of changes in the background's brightness/darkness. The lighting on the bird is consistent and therefore the exposure shouldn't change, but the camera may not realize that in aperture or shutter mode if the background brightness/darkness changes. 

DSCN9637.thumb.JPG.aa90711c9d38783d3ccfd6c0749f046a.JPG

 

 

I then turned the camera on the chickadee next which has dark shadows that would most likely influence the camera to change it's exposure settings from that of the goldfinch photo if it were in aperture or shutter mode.

DSCN9638.thumb.JPG.c6d553efec5bd552b48d21ad652cd7d5.JPG

 

 

There were no birds in the shadows at the time but this red squirrel shows how the exposure looks without changing any settings, or having the camera change the exposure if it were in aperture or shutter priority. It looks natural to the scene and shows how the squirrel looked in the shadows. 

DSCN9639.thumb.JPG.fe83525152d8389b06f5a6b34903fbea.JPG

 

 

A few minutes later one of the squirrels jumped up on the branch in the sunlight so I zoomed in a bit closer and I took one last photo.DSCN9640.thumb.JPG.8e8da6ba8620d4a1f4bfa2d132e365fc.JPG 

 

 

So, it took me less than two minutes to take some test shots and dial in an exposure that I liked, 1/1250 shutter speed, f/6.3 aperture, and ISO 400. After that, all I had to do was point and shoot. I didn't need to adjust my settings once, no exposure compensation was needed, but if I did need to adjust my exposure all I'd have to do is turn the main dial one way to brighten the image or turn it the other way to darken the image. I guess what I am trying to emphasize is the fact that if the lighting on the subject(s) doesn't change, the exposure settings don't need to change. In manual mode the settings stay the same until you change them, in aperture and shutter mode the settings are constantly changing at the camera's discretion and/or background's brightness/darkness. In aperture and shutter modes the camera will often select the right exposure, and exposure compensation can always be dialled in when needed, but I prefer to have consistent exposures and settings that won't fluctuate with bright sky or dark shadowed backgrounds.

Manual exposure may seem scary or overwhelming if you don't know what you're doing, but once you try it you'll realize that it's not really all that hard. While I do encourage manual exposure for bird photography, I know that it's not for everyone and am not trying to force anyone into trying it. I am simply trying to point out why it's my choice and how easy it is for me to use. I also think that manual exposure is one of the best teaching tools for those interested in learning the basics of exposure. 

This ends todays lesson. 

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Posted (edited)

I took this Killdeer two days ago at f5.9, 1/500, ISO 400; cloudy afternoon, with the white balance set to match.  I'm not happy with the granularity.  I assume that's due to the ISO selection.  It would probably print satisfactorily, but I don't print my photos.  They only get shared on eBird, and I only view them on my computer, usually at full size.

P1080846.JPG

EDIT: Actually, it looks pretty good here.  It looks grainier on my monitor; here's a screenshot:

image.png.fc5e3a46152d4ac9e4a6e1f721b1a5f3.png

Bizarrely, here's another Killdeer I shot three months ago with the exact same settings, although this time I was in Shutter mode:

P1070873.thumb.JPG.58f5ecf8735cfc22cf507510c8afb2b8.JPG

Edited by Charlie Spencer

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Posted (edited)

Oops, PLEASE IGNORE THE THIRD PHOTO ABOVE!  I posted the wrong one, and the comments are inaccurate.

As I was trying to say, this Killy was taken at F5.6, 1/320, ISO 100.  I'm pretty sure it must have been in Prog. Assist mode or even full Auto, since I wouldn't have dreamed of setting that combination of parameters on my own.  I'm happy enough with it that it's my current wallpaper.  I guess i don't understand the relationships yet, esp. how I got a shot that sharp with a shutter speed that long.

P1070783.thumb.JPG.65a3a654686435d20c6db433b93ef68c.JPG

Screenshot as it looks on my monitor:

image.png.4c2e9e71435a66c7484b378b620214e0.png

Edited by Charlie Spencer

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The first thing I notice about your two killdeer shots, @Charlie Spencer, is that the lighting in the second photo is a lot better than the first photo. While fast shutter speeds are desirable to prevent blur from subject movement and/or camera shake, slow shutter speeds with lower ISO settings can achieve excellent results if your subject is still enough and you are steady enough. Good image stabilization in the camera helps too, but the quality of light can make or break a photo, which I believe is what has happened when comparing your two photos. The better lighting of the second killdeer photo brings out details that just aren't there in the first killdeer shot with the poorer quality lighting.

As far as white balance goes, that's the one setting I hardly ever take off auto. I have locked it into a specific setting on occasion, but that was usually for my creative attempts at more artistic shots. I know it can be a great tool for achieving desired results, but auto white balance is the one camera setting that I trust the camera to get right.

Just my 2 cents worth. Don't worry, no invoice will be sent. 😉

 

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2 hours ago, Charlie Spencer said:

esp. how I got a shot that sharp with a shutter speed that long.

Not really that long (unless you were at an extreme equivalent focal length, more than say 1000mm and you possibly have inbuilt  body stabilisation ). I often take photos of birds in flight at 1/500.

Random thoughts (I have been following the thread but not sure how to be helpful).

It is probably difficult to discuss the topics here because of the major differences between cameras, mainly compact versus DSLR/mirror (which are then classified as amateur/enthusiast/pro).

Regardless of camera type a major factor in achieving good results is the amount of camera control available, particularly for birds.

I have used Nikon since the early 80s (nothing against other brands) and have stuck to "enthusiast" versus "pro" mainly because of the user settings available.

I have U1 set for relatively stationary birds (single point focus, slower shutter speed) and U2 set for birds in flight (multi-point focus, faster shutter speed and some exposure compensation), all of which can be adjusted very quickly on the fly with the dedicated buttons available. In a second I can switch from one to the other and it is incredibly useful.

I use "auto ISO" set  to 25,600 because editing software is so much better now at removing noise, DXO Prime and Topaz Denoise  (for me noisy photos are preferable to blurred photos).

If you can dedicate a control button to "focus" you will never go back.

I use manual focus quite often, such as warblers surrounded by branches, especially in low light - I use auto-focus to get close and then fine tune with manual focus.

My main suggestion for anyone intending to get fairly serious about birds is to acquire a camera body with lots of control (for example I have a Nikon D3200 which has an excellent sensor producing wonderful IQ but it is really not ideal for birds unless they are posing). There are lots of camera body options available and even with a lens of modest focal lens range the results will probably be more satisfying than a compact camera, especially in less than ideal light.

I suspect the outstanding photographers on this forum have probably stayed away because this is such a complex topic and needs to be more specific.

Another thought - the 500 page manuals with cameras today can be intimidating but once your camera is set up you can move on.

Just my $0.02 (no invoice).

Would be happy to respond to more specific questions (to compensate for my ongoing underwhelming ID contributions).

Just about to post and noticed lonestranger has beaten me to the punch.

 

 

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