Wildlife Pics: Bird

A picture from my trip to Monterey a couple of weeks ago. I rented a 70-200mm f2.8 zoom lens and a 2x teleconverter for my Canon 50D for the trip. (For those who don’t know what that is, it just doubles the amount of magnification you get from a lens, at the expense of letting a lot less light through).

I learned a few things that probably should have been obvious in retrospect.

  • Bring a tripod. Well, I already knew this, and I’d meant to bring one, but forgot it. Even the slightest bit of camera shake is a real problem when you’re zoomed in to 200 x 2 x 1.6 (1.6 for my camera’s small sensor, which magnifies things even more) = 640mm.
  • Pray to the gods of light. One of the problems with a teleconverter is that, unlike normal lenses, it actually makes the viewfinder noticeably murky and dim. It was supposed to be ‘mostly sunny’ in Monterey that day, but the sun never came out, and it ended up ‘wholly cloudy’. That kind of light is perfect for portrait or landscape photography (no harsh shadows) but it’s less clear what’s better in this case.
  • Autofocus makes us lazy. If you’re aiming at a kelp bed out in the middle of the water, even if you have the little autofocus zone indicators that my camera has, you really haven’t the faintest idea what you’re actually focused on.
  • Manual focus is essentially impossible in the same situation. Recent cameras don’t have any of the focus aids that I had when I was taking photography (split prism, microprism) which let you figure out exactly where you’re focused. If I had these, then I wouldn’t have sixty pictures of the most adorable baby seal ever, every single one of which is out of focus. The good news: you can buy a focusing screen that has these aids in it and put it in your camera. The bad news: it steals even more light, which means that I wouldn’t have been able to see through my eyepiece at all. Grr.

Well, I did get a few decent pictures. I’ll post them here every once in a while. The first one I have tentatively identified as a whimbrel, a species of curlew. This is awesome because Autumn knows at least a half-dozen tunes named after curlews, including this one.

Whimbrel Near Monterey Bay

Effective camouflage!

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