Why do you shoot the way you do? I wonder how many photographers really sit down and think about that. It’s a pretty big deal when you get right down to it. I know a lot of what I’ve done in the past wasn’t well thought out at the time. It was done on the basis of expediency, based on the equipment I had at the time and limited knowledge of the art of photography.
Today’s image of a Spectacled Owl is an example of lessons learned by making hundreds of mediocre images before finally getting a few that work.
First and of critical importance is aperture. Generally, wider is better. With super telephoto lenses that often means as wide as possible. This shot at an effective 600mm was done at f/5.6, maxed out. With many wildlife shots the background will be busy with lots of texture, highlights and shadows. Anything you can do to soften a busy background will be helpful. Pop the subject out from the background. And yes, there are masking techniques you can do in post processing, but if you can achieve the same or better effect when the shutter clicks, don’t make your life more difficult that it already is.
Another major point is using manual focus. Sometimes the animal is the closest thing in the frame and autofocus will work fine. But often you will get a situation like this, where there are branches or other objects in the foreground. As you frame the shot, the camera will try to focus on these objects. I’ve missed some possibly great shots that way. My method now is to slow down, frame the shot, adjust the critical focus exactly where you want it, and only then click that shutter. There are times when things are moving fast and you just have to go for it, machine gun the shutter and hope for the best. But slowing down and fine tuning usually makes for a better outcome.
The other thing about slowing down and carefully framing the shot is that you get better detail. With today’s 24 megapixel and higher sensors it’s easy to use a shorter lens than what’s optimal and crop the image in post. Or to just shoot fast and try to find a good crop later. While it’s better to get the shot than miss it entirely, detail matters. Use the right lens and minimize cropping. The detail will be better, even at web page resolutions.
Facts about the Spectacled Owl, Pulsatrix perspicillata.
- Size can be 17” to 20” (43 – 52 cm). Males can weigh up to 1.5 lbs (700 g) and the larger females can weigh 2.20 lbs (1000 g). They are typically the largest and dominate owl species in their habitat.
- Their native habitat is tropical rainforest. They range from southern Mexico through central America, Brazil and northern Argentina.
- The males make a tapping or hammering noise, while females make a whistle or hawk-like scream.
- Spectacled Owls are nocturnal hunters. Like many owls they eat a wide range of mammals and insects. They are fond of rodents and serve a useful role in keeping the population of vermin under control. They will sometimes kill and eat larger mammals such as skunks and opossums. They have also been known to eat crabs, bats and smaller birds.
- Females lay one or two eggs. The young fledge at 5 or 6 weeks and stay with the parents for a year. They mature in 3 to 5 years and can live as long as 35 years in the wild.
Animal Info courtesy http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/
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