Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chasing the best setting on a D7000

Still chasing after the best way to mate my $15 re-branded Sigma lens to my state of the DX art D7000.
After some Internet searching I discovered that bird photographers who know what they are doing use both the user1 and user2 setting on the D7000 mode dial. One setting for bird in flight (BIF) and one for bird posing prettily on a branch (BPPOAB since I don't know the official birder twitter abbreviation). If the bird takes off one quick turn of the mode ring gets you into the right settings.

One birder whose blog I forget since I didn't bookmark it listed his settings. Since he has the latest and greatest Nikon lenses with super fast lens motors and image stabilization they didn't work all that well with my fifteen year old lens. But they served as a starting point and I could modify them for  some success under some conditions.

The BIF settings for the geese images below are:
manual mode  1/1600 sec and f8
auto ISO (the variable for exposure) Max6400 but at 400 for the cloudy lighting
RAW plus jpg fine
Cl for 3 fps and 12-14 images is a burst with my class 6, 20mb/s, 16GB SanDisk memory card.
WB sunny (minor mistake)
Auto focus Continous with 21 focal points.

My wife and I had gone for a spring county ride with Goose Pond-- as it turned out still frozen over no birds--as a general destination. On the way and at the intersection of US51 and WI60 we found a partially flooded corn field with several hundred geese. I walked out in the mud, and collected geese image mainly walking away from me as I came too close. I waited around for about 30 minutes to the point where I know my wife was getting bored hoping some part of the flock would do something interesting.  Then with my usual perfect timing I started back to the car.

Part way back I heard the geese take off.  I missed the images of them getting ready but did catch some of them just above the ice. The lens locked in and I took a 25 plus series of well focused photos.  Four examples from the series below.  Click on the image for a larger version

All the images were converted using RAW Therapee. While not perfect the current alpha builds are stable enough for RT to become my converter of choice.

Bottom line--is everything great?  No. At times the lens/camera locks on to the background like in the first crow image in my last post. Even worse, the lens/camera can not lock at all and pulls back to the shortest focal distance. It sits there not trying to auto focus until I point the camera at something close. So things are not totally great but as I pointed out before the cost/performance ratio is very acceptable.

For my 'birds kindly posing' photos my setting are difference.  We were also looking for sandhill cranes on the day I took the geese photos.  I did see a pair at Schoeneberg Marsh but the pond was frozen over and they move out into it as I walked across the big open field beyond the parking lot.

While I did get a few focused 'landscape with birds' images I did learn that using any of the continues focus modes with my Promaster lens wasn't going to work. The birds might be posing nicely but this photographer wasn't rock steady.  Might have worked with an image stabilized lens but because of  camera shake the focus drifted all over the place.

Again with my sense of non-perfect photo timing, the photos I took the next day would have been far more interesting if I'd gone to Tiederman's pond first. There are two ponds within a couple blocks of each other. I was at the second shooting the crow sequence when two hikers came by and told me they had seen these cranes on the ice doing a mating dance. I hurried over but by then the cranes were all danced out.

I'd approached them slowly afraid to frighten them off.  Totally unnecessary.  A woman and her young daughter hiked by and I thought I'd give the daughter a treat by pointing out the cranes. Found out that this pair were permanent nesting season residents.  Last year they had hatched a  baby crane is this thicket but something got it. The baby crane before that was more lucky and grew up to fly south with its parents

With this photo I used the single servo focusing, the simplest mode on the D7000.  Set the focus box on the bird's eye, push down the focus/exposure level to look everything is, recompose in the viewfinder, and take the image. Worked quite well and I;m going to stick with it for focusing.

Do other stuff over again and I would have shot at f11 rather than f5.6 for a sharper image. But I did drag out all the detail there was to be had in this one using the Contrast by Detail feature in Raw Therapee. For this feature alone, every RAW photographer should have RT on her/his computer.

Click on the images below and view the original size to see how it brings out the feather detail on the bird's head.

With CbD enableded

With CbD disabled

1 comment:

  1. I own a Nikon D7000, and like you I searched the net for bird settings. It seems that's a popular search. In my search I did come across a few tips, and made some changes that improved my birding experience significantely!
    If u do not have VR or OS (image stabilization) in your lens, you may want to still use the AF-C (continues is best for action, birds in flight)
    Also the most helpful tip was going into Menu: pick the camera logo and scroll down to High ISO NR (put it on NORMAL). Then scroll right below to ISO sensitivity settings (arrow to right, put ISO sensitivity 200 min), Auto ISO sensitivity control ON, Maximum sensitivity 800). So keep ISO between 200-800 during day, at night up the max iso to 1600. Only nights. Then last piece in same section Minimum Shutter Speed (put it at no less than 1/800 sec). If you want to really catch a bird in flight up the min shutter speed to 1/1250 or 1/1600 sec. That should don the trick. Then you should pick the Aperture-priority setting, it allows fast shutter, and keep it at f8 to get best focus. If u can't get eyes focused meter of their stomach/back as last option. Then put ur meter on multi segment the 4 squares wrapping the little dot, and single dot or 3D for tracking. Hope this helps..