This is the first article of the ‘’Photo selection’’ type where I describe around six photo situations with their settings that I think are worth mentioning. In the photos are species that were already posted on the blog but that I had the chance to meet again and get a better photo result.
By the time I took this photos I have managed to understand at least the basic manual settings and totally leave the auto function. It took me a while to do that because of the fear of missing a shot and because I have started as a wildlife spotter much more than wildlife photographer so getting a photo for identification was more important for me than the quality of it. I still get the same filling when I spot a new species but now I always try to improve my photos because of the satisfaction it can offer. I do not make use of artificial means in order to improve my photos though, like feeding or capturing the subjects, I still think that the experience is much more important than the final product.
I have also made an important upgrade that I will mention further in the article and that greatly helped me improve my photography.
While in a walk from my house to the beach, which is about 3 km away through the forest, a Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) landed on a wheat straw quite close to me. Because it was not a new species for me I didn’t had the strong impulse to just point and shoot so I have kneeled down to get with the camera at roughly the same level as the dragonfly. I have noticed it having something at his ‘’mouth’’ and soon realised it was eating that something. After few shoots I got a step closer for a better view and started filming this time, a clip you can watch on Youtube. It was enough for a little wind to blow to move this little fellow back and forth while he was enjoying his meal. Most of the times, actually all of the time in that period, I was using auto ISO, stayed on the lowest f-stop number and adjust my shutter to the situation. It this case it was F/5.6, 1/200 sec and resulted with a great ISO 100.
Two articles ago I have presented the day I spotted
When I photograph frogs, in this example a European Common Frog (Rana temporaria), I usually use my phone with a macro lens because they are pretty approachable subjects. This time I have decided to use the zoom lens and shoot it from a distance at 300m focal length with F/5.6 which made most of the subject to be in focus compared to the macro situation where only a part would be in focus. The difficult light situation made the ISO grow to 6400 which introduced a serious amount of noise in the final photo. Now looking back at the setting I see I could turn down the shutter speed which was at 1/320 sec in order to get the ISO value lower. This demonstrates it is good practice to go through the settings used in your photos and see what could be done better in the given situation.
This time a phone photo of an Orbweaver spider (Fam. Araneus) which made its web in the forest, close to the walking path, the leafs of the trees making for a nice background. The phone is offering me a lower f-stop number, F/2.2 for this photo and with a risky 1/35sec shutter speed I have managed to obtain a low ISO of 125 but the problem I have with phone-macro photography is with the focus. I find it hard to nail the focus especially that is so hard to see where it is on the screen, maybe someone has a tip. I was fortunate enough to get the focus on the head and thorax of the spider in this photo.
The next photo is one I consider beautiful because of the subjects position. It was this lucky situation when this European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) landed on a bench close to me, at a good level in relation with the camera and took this funny stand which made this photo great in my eyes. But this photo is also an example to why you always need to pay attention to the setting off the camera and adjust. Because I was photographing moving subjects and this starling kind of took me by surprise I had the usual F/5.6 but my shutter speed was at 1/2000 sec giving me an ISO of 4000 and lots of noise with it. The high shutter speed was definitely not necessary and could obtain a lower ISO if I had noticed and lowered it.
For the next photos and for all photos from now on I have used and currently using a new camera body, the Nikon D500. I wished for a body with more megapixels and with generally better capabilities for wildlife photography and put my eyes on a second-hand D7200 which, until I had decided to buy it, it was sold so I had just jumped on the opportunity to buy this second-hand D500 when the opportunity presented itself.
This photo of a Great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) I took in one of the first days with my new body. I was walking through the forest and this woodpecker just flew in a tree next to me and wondered arrowed for few minutes. It was not extremely active so my shutter speed was at 1/500 sec and with the fixed F stop to 5.6 I have got an ISO of 1250 which was decent for the situation. The light was again against me so the subject turned dark but nothing I could not fix in post processing.
In the repeated times I have waited, hiding or I have tracked the Red deer (Cervus elaphus) in order to get a good shot of a stag I had many opportunities to take photos of the females called hinds. This is one in which a female raised her head from grazing to check out a sound she heard giving me the opportunity to fit her between the trees. I was testing the new body and used a higher F stop, 7.1 for this one, with the shutter speed at 1/640 sec and the low light I’ve ended up with a huge ISO of 8000. It is far from technical perfection but I still like the composition in this photo.
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For all species found on my spotting adventures, take a look at INaturalist.
The gear that I’ve used for spotting and book used for identification, here.