Here it is: http://phototwynog.co.uk/shop
Today is something of a milestone in my “career” as a wildlife photographer. Of course it’s not a career, it’s a hobby, but to me it is my work: no less important than any of the jobs I have done for money. Because I think of it like this I have for the last few months been struggling to set up a website to showcase what I am doing, and to make a little money. I don’t anticipate coming near breaking even on what I spend on trips, what I lose on buying and selling gear, or what I spend on consumables, but it will give me a great buzz to know that I can make a little money from my occupation. As to the time I spend – there are very few things which are as fulfilling to me now as the time I spend in the field.
So, today I have a functioning website with a “Shop” and a few things for sale. I would not have got here without the help of Chris Robertson who, luckily for me, lives in our village and who years ago took over the village website from me. I have to say he makes a better job of it than I ever did – he’s more patient, I think:http://www.cilycwm.com/
That’s not the only reason I’m celebrating today. Since I got my new lens I’ve learnt several very important things about top-end photography.
If you hate photo tech talk you may skip the next bit, but before you go here is a picture to make you feel good. It was taken at Dinefwr Park, Carmarthenshire, a few days ago.
The first thing I’ve learnt is about Image Stabilisation or Vibration Control as some makers call it. I only know what Canon do but the other manufacturers are following the same path. The first IS lenses appeared in the mid-nineties, and Canon’s iconic off-white L lens series of telephoto lenses all had simple IS systems. The 300 f2.8 lens I bought was one of these. For the last few years most of my telephoto pictures have come from the 100-400 f4 -5.6 IS Mk 2 lens – deservedly one of the most popular Canon have produced. I knew it had a good IS system, but it wasn’t until I tried it out alongside one of the earlier prime 400 lenses (400 f4 DO IS) that I understood how important good 4 stop stabilisation is.
I tried both lenses with a x2 extender and to my surprise found that the 100-400 + x2 gave a better result at f11 than did the 400 prime at f8. The older lens couldn’t do IS with the extender. It is when you use extender lenses that the benefits of the later mk2 lenses become clear. Not only does a 4-stop IS system allow you to use slower shutter speeds and therefore get more light onto the sensor, they also help greatly with composing and focusing the image when hand holding.
Another thing I have learnt in the last few weeks is that a similar situation exists with the camera bodies. Canon EOS DSLR cameras pre about 2005 cannot use autofocus at apertures smaller than f5.6. That means if you put a x2 extender onto a 400 f4 lens, making it into an f8 lens, you will not be able to use autofocus unless you have one of the mark 3 or mark 4 camera bodies. My lovely 70D for example cannot autofocus at f8, and for this reason alone I am planning to upgrade to the newer 80D.
The last thing I have learnt only recently is about cropping. Some years ago I bought a x1.4 extender to convert my 100-400mm to 140-560mm. I took some pictures at 560 and then compared them to the same view without the extender – at 400mm. When I cropped the 400 image to the same size as the 560 image I could not see any difference between them, so I concluded that extenders were a waste of money and time. Despite this many of those writing on the internet about extenders value them for their ability to “compose the image” in camera. I couldn’t see why that was important. I crop almost all my pictures to get the best composition, regardless of what they look like in the viewfinder.
The same situation applies to the choice of full-frame or crop-sensor camera. My 5DS 50 pixel camera for example has a neat in-camera crop which you can apply to the image in the viewfinder, enabling you to see what the same image in a crop-sensor camera would look like. So why use a crop sensor? Leaving pixels and resolution out of it, the reason is the same for using an extender: The image in the viewfinder is bigger. The viewfinder becomes a telescope. So what? I can achieve the same end result with the full frame camera. Now this is where I get to the “eureka” bit: it’s true, I can get the same image at a similar resolution using a full-frame and without the extender, but will it be in focus? It’s simple – all that waffle about “composing in camera” means is that it’s easier to get the image in focus. If your autofocus frame is sitting on the head of the creature you want to photograph, unless you can see it clearly you won’t know whether its focussing on the eyes or the ears or even that branch behind its head.
At last I feel I have the combination of reach and portability which will enable me to get clear pictures of more distant objects. In 6 weeks I will be heading north to find those eagles, and the one thing I can be sure about is that they will not want me near them!