This image of a landing Common Tern was created at Nickerson Beach, Long Island, NY with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/1600 at f/5.6 set manually. Lens/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: 0.
As described in the Mark III and Mark IV User’s Guides I selected the two sensors below the central sensor to place the subject a bit down in the frame. Here I cropped from our right and from below.
After a long absence, B&H now has Canon EOS-1D Mark IV camera bodies in stock.
Long Lens Flight Photography Tips
While some strong, relatively young photographers are adept at hand holding big lenses (including the 600mm f/4 lenses and the Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS), I am not in that class. Though I have hand held each of those lenses on rare occasion for a minute or two I have done the vast majority of flight photography for the past two decades with my big gun telephoto mounted on a tripod with a good gimbal head like the Mongoose M3.6 or the Wimberley V2. With lots of practice it is possible to produce some excellent images while working with a big lens and a good gimbal head and a sturdy Gitzo tripod.
This screaming Black Skimmer image was created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/1600 at f/8 set manually. Lens/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: 0.
Here are the basics of long lens flight photography:
This image of a Common Tern carry a courtship baitfish was created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, the 1.4X III TC, and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/1000 at f/8 set manually. Lens/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: +3.
After yesterday morning’s photography session with Denise Ippolito’s Creative Photography Workshop at Nickerson Beach the group watched me edit my flight images from that morning. I comment along the way as to which images I am keeping, which I am deleting and why. (It is a favorite activity on all IPTs.) Everyone was amazed at how many mis-framed images I created, images with the birds too far forward in the frame or birds with heads and wings cut off. And they were even more amazed to see how many images were completely out of focus. All courtesy of Mr. Famous Bird Photographer.
Flight photography with long lenses is very difficult even for experienced professionals (and even more difficult with a teleconverter in place…) so do not be discouraged by dozens of poor images. I try for one great one from each session often relying on the “even an old dog can hunt” principle. All in all I was quite pleased with my dozen of so flight keepers from the session. Nobody said it would be easy.
This image of a Black Skimmer flying low over the dune grasses was created with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens, the 1.4X III TC, and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 800. Evaluative metering +1 stop: 1/1600 at f/8 set manually. Lens/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: +3.
All four of the images above were made while I was seated comfortably behind my tripod. (I cannot deal with kneeling….) Sitting made it easier to acquire focus in many instances as the proximal background was eliminated. All AF systems have more trouble focusing against backgrounds than against sky.
Good luck. And remember, practice, practice, and practice and do not be discouraged by a low keeper rate.
Which is Your Favorite?
Do leave a comment and let me know which of the four images above is your personal favorite, and why.
Below is a list of the gear mentioned in today post. Thanks a stack to all who have used the Shopper’s Guide links to purchase their gear as a thank you for all the free information that we bring you on the Blog and in the Bulletins. Before you purchase anything be sure to check out the advice in our Shopper’s Guide.
Support both the Bulletins and the Blog by making all your B & H purchases here.
Why waste time comparison shopping when you know that B&H will always offer the lowest prices?
Mark IV bodies are back in stock at B&H!
And here is a list of my favorite gear:
Canon 800mm f/5.L IS lens. Right now this is my all time favorite super-telephoto lens.
Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. Man, I am loving this lens on my shoulder with the 2X III teleconverter. I also use it a lot with the 1.4X III TC which is designed to work best with the new Series II super-telephoto lenses.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV professional digital camera body. My two Mark IVs are my workhorse digital camera bodies.
And from the BAA On-line Store:
Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod. This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
CR-80 Replacement Foot for Canon 800. When using the 800 on a Mongoose as I do, replacing the lens foot with this accessory lets the lens sit like a dog whether pointed up or down and prevents wind-blown spinning of your lens on breezy days by centering the lens directly over the tripod.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
Better Beamer. Using a Better Beamer with long lenses concentrates the light from the flash and yields an increase in flash output of about 2 2/3 stops, allows you to work at greater distances with smaller apertures, reduces battery drain, weighs just 2 1/2 ounces, and holds the Fresnel lens in place with no sagging or flopping. It fits in your pocket and set up and removal is quick and easy.
ProMaster Flash Cord. This flash cord is sturdy and reliable.
Mongoose Integrated Flash Arm. The Integrated Flash Arm allows the Mongoose user to instantly attach a flash 8 inches above the camera. This goes a long way to preventing red eye, flash eye, and steel eye in many situations. Ideal for use with a Better Beamer.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
Delkin 32gb e-Film Pro Compact Flash Card. These high capacity cards are fast and dependable. Clicking on the link below will bring you to the Delkin web site. There is lots of great stuff there. If you see a product that we do not carry let us know via e-mail; we will be glad to have it drop-shipped to you and save you a few bucks in the process.
I pack my 800 and tons of other gear in my ThinkTank Airport SecurityTM V2.0 rolling bag for all of my air travel and recommend the slightly smaller Airport InternationalTM V2.0 for most folks. These high capacity bags are well constructed and protect my gear when I have to gate check it on short-hops and puddle jumpers. Each will protect your gear just as well. By clicking on either link or the logo below, you will receive a free gift with each order over $50.