Another post with guest photographer Patrick Murray. I particularly like these images. Why, you ask? Well, I like the fact that while my husband had an incredible Red-tailed hawk flying right at him, he was focusing on me in the background. 🙂
But, for the budding photographer, there are several lessons here. First, there is the “someone just handed me their camera and asked me to take pictures with it” lesson. Had I planned better, I would have taken my husband’s camera, with which he is slightly more familiar. Or, I would have at least turned off the back-button focusing setting on my camera, which was something my husband wasn’t used to (I am a huge fan of using back-button focusing instead of pressing the shutter button ½ way to find focus, but that’s another subject).
I did think to put my camera in Aperture Priority mode (where you pick the aperture and ISO and let the camera pick the shutter speed) and set the aperture for what I thought would be a pretty good depth of field for someone who might not always focus exactly where I wanted him to. However, I failed to change the focus point selection to a single focus point, which probably would have made it a little easier on my husband.
But then, he might have focused on the birds instead of me and I wouldn’t have gotten quite the same kick out of it. 🙂
I also set the camera in single-shooting mode when we started the raptor experience for my husband’s aunt and uncle. This was appropriate because they were holding owls on their gloves who can’t fly. These owls don’t move fast enough to justify continuous shooting mode.
But, this created a problem when we switched to flying the birds–he was getting finger cramps trying to press the shutter button fast enough. Being in single-shot focusing mode also didn’t help. Of course, since he wasn’t remembering to use the back button to focus anyway, using the continuous focusing mode wouldn’t really have helped in this case. I guess that takes us to point 1.
I forgot I was enumerating the lessons, so let’s review. If you’re handing your camera off to a novice and expecting them to do all the shooting of an up-close and person raptor experience:
- Turn off back-button focusing if you normally use it
- Set the focus point selection to a single focus point
- Use an aperture setting that provides an appropriate depth of field (like f/8ish)
- Select a high enough ISO setting that the shutter speeds won’t get too slow for the action shots
- If the birds are perching, use single shooting mode
- If the birds are flying, turn on high speed continuous shooting and continuous focusing
- Try to stay out of the background
- Be prepared to do a lot of editing.
Of course, if you’re not assisting in the raptor experience, you can take the photos yourself.