Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 25/07/2011

Play to your strengths

That’s very easy for me to say when I have at my disposal one of the top digital SLRs and accompanying lenses (but of course a lot of my earlier work was just as good… well, wasn’t it?) and my strengths certainly come over in today’s photo. To say I’m pleased with the photo is a bit of an understatement, especially as it’s of one of my favourite Owls (they all seem to be my favourite – perhaps I’m turning into Bruce Forsythe – good game good game), Verreaux’s Eagle Owl – which I managed to spot on the Masai Mara.

I don’t normally talk too much about the technical details of the photo, as I don’t think they’re relevent. Sure in the early days I wanted to know as much as anyone the shutter speed, f-stop, ISO of a specific image but then came to realise that whilst some of this information my help understand how the final image was taken (ie blurring of waterfalls, depth of field etc) unless you can be assured of exactly the same conditions, at exactly the same time of day, etc etc then they are of little use. However, to contradict myself, (and why not, I may as well carry on in the tradition of my other posts) I will talk about the various data points today – there is however a point to this (trust me).

Taken with my 1D4 (a-w-e-s-o-m-e (running joke – refer back to ALL previous entries!)), and the 600mm lens, with a 1.5x converter as well as a macro extension tube to ensure I could focus within the minimum focusing distance I used Manual Mode on the camera to set the aperture to 1/160 second at F4. I didn’t use any flash and was using center-weighed metering, at ISO 2500. So what’s the point to all this mumbo-jumbo? Well, the effective focal length of the lens, taking into the crop factor of the camera was 1170mm; the rule of thumb for sharp images is 1 over the focal length which in this case should have been 1/1200 second in other words fast. It’s testimony to the camera’s image stabilisation which I do use with the tripod as my unsteady hand can still make it wobble, that I managed to get such a clear crisp image, that and the ability to use high ISO.

Despite what looks like a well lit owl, the bird was in deep cover at the top of a tree, with only a modicum of light bouncing on the trees behind (hence the very vivid backdrop) – showing how well the camera copes with such situations. So ladies and gentlemen, please be upstanding, I give you the Canon 1D4 and the 600mm (no, not literally – I was proposing a toast to the aforementioned bits of kit – not a give away).


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