This Great Blue Heron stopped in for breakfast, another perfect opportunity to practice with long lenses, exposure, and fast shutter speed.
HIGH ISO plus Fast FPS.
Even though the day was bright, I opted for ISO 640 on the Nikon D300s. Set to 7 frames per second (FPS) and continuous motor drive to capture the high speed of the bird as it fishes, plunging its head underwater to nab it’s prey.
Fast Shutter Speed plus Wide Open Aperture
Shutter speed needs to stay fast for 2 reasons. 1 to try to freeze the bird at high speed. 2 to reduce the camera shake you get by using a long lens like the 80-400 zoom I had. To allow for the fastest shutter speed, I was using between f5.6-7 – more wide open – helps to blur the background more, as well as give me a fast shutter speed.
Bright Subject and Dark Background
My goal with these shots was to keep the bird’s head from going too bright (white without detail). Shooting in my favorite mode- aperture priority (A on Nikon, AV on Canon), I find it easy to use exposure compensation (+/- button) to adjust my exposure to -1 stop darker than the camera chooses. I may loose some detail in deep shadows. I keep detail in the bird’s lighter feathers.
Why use Exposure Compensation
When you point a camera at something that’s overall dark, like the shadows under the maple tree where the bird is fishing, the camera adjusts exposure for you. It usually chooses a shutter speed and aperture combination that makes the dark tones brighter – more “medium”. Knowing this, I told it to subtract 1 full stop of light from the exposure, as well as choosing to shoot in RAW mode. Both of these choices help me preserve detail in the highlights – in this case my subject – the bird – and its head.
TIP: Subtract exposure in P, S, or A modes when subject is against a dark background for best exposure. (i. e. -1) Hold the +/- button and scroll the wheel to see -1 on the lcd screen.
See related posts below for more tips on BACKLIGHT, EXPOSURE & EXPOSURE COMPENSATION. Check out upcoming photography classes in Cincinnati.