Immature Bald Eagle, Indian Lake Estates, FL. Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens with the 1.4X II TC and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 200. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/200 sec. at f/13 in Manual mode. From the car with the BLUBB (Big Lens Ultimate BeanBag)
When photographing birds facing away from you (can you say northwest winds on clear mornings?) there are two main things to consider. First off, you will want to use extra depth-of-field if at all possible. Notice here that I set the aperture at f/13. (Wide open with the 800 and the 1.4X I TC is f/8.) I stopped down in an effort to have enough depth-of-field to render the whole bird sharp from the bill tip all the way back to the tail tip. In this case I opted to focus on the eye and recompose. An option that I do not use unless I am right at minimum focusing distance would be to use even more depth-of field and focus halfway from the tail tip to the bill tip. In this case that would have been on the upper back. (Note: depth-of-field with big lenses and TCs is 50-50 not 1/3 in front, 2/3 behind as it is with short focal length lenses.) You could always use your depth-of-field preview button to check but I do not like doing that when my great subject might fly away.
The second thing to consider is the head angle. Ideal for most over-the-shoulder poses is perfectly square to the imaging sensor. Here the head is turned a bit more towards us than the preferred 90 degrees but the HA is certainly acceptable.
Because depth-of-field (at a given aperture) increases as the distance to the subject increases, using very small apertures is most important when you are photographing small birds at minimum focusing distance; if you focus on the wing of a point blank, frame-filling Painted Bunting while working wide open the eye will not even be close to being sharp.
Before and After Photoshop Quiz
Below is an animated GIF showing the before and after versions of the image above. Please leave a comment and let me know what changes I made to the original. There are three or four relatively significant changes (in addition to the standard workflow stuff). Are you as sharp-eyed as an eagle? I will be back in a few days to see how y’all did and to let you know what Photoshop techniques I used.
Below is a list of the gear that I used to create the images above.
Thanks a stack to all of those who have been purchasing major items via our B&H links as a way of thanking us for the great free info that we provide here and elsewhere; it is greatly appreciated
And from the BAA On-line Store:
If you are considering the purchase of a major piece of photographic gear be it a new camera, a long lens, a tripod or a head, or some accessories be sure to check out our complete Shopper’s Guide.