Long Lens/Long Exposure/Image Stabilization Lesson Learned, & Follow-ups « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Long Lens/Long Exposure/Image Stabilization Lesson Learned, & Follow-ups

[Not a valid template]

I created the images for this Photomatix HDR creation with the tripod-mounted Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS lens and the EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 100. The base exposure was Evaluative Metering +2/3 stop: 2.5 seconds at f/8. Four additional frames were created as follows using the Mark IV’s Auto Exposure Bracketing feature: +/- one-full stop (around the base exposure). Note: the longest exposure was 20 seconds at f/8.

Long Lens/Long Exposure Lesson Learned

For years I have never been able to make a sharp image with a long lens and extremely long shutter speeds (in the range of one-half second or slower) even when using mirror lock-up and the camera’s self timer. I was always puzzled by that as I have seen some great fill flash images of owls created with big glass and shutter speeds of from one to two seconds. When I mentioned that to Scott Vincent on the Weekhawken, NJ “New York City Skyline” workshop that he co-led with Denise Ippolito last Saturday night he immediately shot back” Turn of Image Stabilization and you will make razor sharp images.” So I did. And I did. I was astounded at the sharpness of the resulting images. Thanks Scott! (Note that the longest exposure was 20 seconds at f/8!) It seems that the IS does in fact shift the lens elements during long exposures and cause big problems. I will however continue to leave Image Stabilization on when working on a tripod for nearly all other applications including normal bird photography and situations where the danger of mirror slap is likely, that is, with shutter speeds of from 1/15 to 1/2 second. But heck, I will experiment even there.

The image above (Enhancer Default HDR) was the favorite of most of those who responded to the last post. Except for Mary Stamper who is always on the same page as me (and Adam Felde as well). The HDR Grunge was also my favorite 🙂


[Not a valid template]

This pleasingly blurred image of a Coastal Brown Bear lunging forward to jump on a salmon was the unanimous choice of those who left comments. It was created with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens with the the 1.4X III TC (handheld at 280mm) and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 50. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop: 1/15 sec. at f/11 in Tv mode.

Lens/TC/Camera Body Micro-Adjustment: -8. This was a big change from the previous +2 after my Mark IV was serviced by Canon.

In the Bear Blurs and More post, I liked them all but agree fully that the second bear image(above) was the strongest. I like the first image for its rule of thirds composition and the effect of the blur on the grasses. I was pretty much alone there 🙂 I’ll take the fireweed blur over the moving water blur but like that one too. That leaves the walking bear as my least favorite and agree that it looks a bit strange with the head so sharp…. Thanks all for commenting.

BTW, though this is a public forum and all are invited to comment there is no freedom of speech here. It is my blog and though I am a lover of what is and am fine with folks not liking an image and with occasional criticism (see the no “What no JPEGs in the contest?” comments here), I do have my limits. Comments from unhappy campers that over-step the bounds of civility will be deleted. I do realize that there are some folks out there who love taking shots at Mr. Famous Bird Photographer and I have been fairly tolerant of comments made in that vein. I look forward to your continued participation here.

[Not a valid template]

“Hey Honey” (Nazca Booby pair courting) was created at Prince Phillips Steps, Tower Island with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens and the Canon EF 2X III TC (hand held between 310 and 400mm) with the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +1/3 stop at about 1/2000 sec. at f/5.6 in Av Mode.

Lens/TC/camera body Micro-adjustment: -12.

In Editing Practice I: Nazca Boobies my somewhat surprising favorite was the image above, “Hey Honey.” I felt that the less than ideal head angle of the bird in the front was more than offset by the obvious connection between the two birds. I did in fact keep all three of the images plus about a dozen more from that encounter. Everyone backed up their choice with sound reasoning. The consensus of the group pretty much agreed with my choice of “Hey Honey” as best. For the first time Cheapo and I were on the very same page. 🙂 Lastly, several folks commented that they did not like “Over the Top” because the bird in the background was out of focus. I am fine with that. Do note, however that front subject sharp/rear subject o-o-f is a technique that I use often when creating images that feature pleasing juxtapositions.

Shopper’s Guide

Below is a list of he gear used to make the three mages in this 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.

Remember: you can earn free contest entries with your B & H purchases. Eleven great categories, 34 winning and honored images, and prize pools valued in excess of $20,000. Click here for details.

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:

LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sale value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders 🙂
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.
Be sure to check out our camera body User’s Guides here.
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.
A Guide to Pleasing Blurs. Everything that you wanted to know about creating pleasing blurs and more!
BIRDS AS ART Camera Body User’s Guides. Why spend $2-5 grand on a camera and not learn to use it properly and efficiently?

15 comments to Long Lens/Long Exposure/Image Stabilization Lesson Learned, & Follow-ups

  • The question is – do you subscribe to this theory?

    Not sure; as I have always left IS on all the time there is nothing for me to compare to…. IS surely does not make images made at fast shutter speeds any worse so why bother to have to remember to turn it on and off? artie

  • More detailed information on the use of image stabilization with individual lenses and the information on image stabilization turning off on the newer lenses can be found here. The latter apparently applies only to the newer lenses. Jim

    Thanks for the link Jim. I still have never seen any evidence that this is true: “Later IS models are able to sense the use of a tripod and automatically disable the IS, if necessary.” artie

  • Hi Art – my question relates to IS generally. I have heard several times that IS ceases to have ANY effect when shutter speeds of 500 and over are used.

    Jed, Not to be a pain, but what is your question? artie

  • avatar cheapo

    It’s no surprise to me that you preferred the courting couple Artie, it’s a super moment of natural history, and that also makes it a real seller. I missed the blurred bears post! Curses! That one is epic! I would have it on my wall in a second! My architect bro in law might like those building images, but not me. It looks like a prison. ;¬)

    Cheapo. They were all courting. 🙂 artie

  • avatar Jim Cash

    I was shooting a telephoto landscape picture on a very windy day with a 100-400 zoom at 400mm, on a tripod, from about 1/4 to 1/15th second. The wind was sometimes causing the lens to vibrate enough to keep from getting a sharp image. I was hoping the IS would help to stabilize the vibration of the lens, but it seemed to make the image wander and jump around too much whenever the wind slowed down a little, as I was watching through live view. It seems that there wasn’t quite enough movement for the IS to work well. I got several shots that were not very sharp.

    Then I got an idea to try something. Just before tripping the shutter with a remote cord with IS on, (in live view mode), I jiggled the lens a little, tapping it with my finger, and then immediately fired the shutter. Amazingly that shot was tack sharp, much sharper than any others that were made using IS or not.

    I’m not sure if this fits into this discussion, but maybe … there has to be some movement for the IS to work, and the wind was not quite enough, so I created some more and the IS worked great.

    The old IS on the 100-400 is different, I know.

    That is an interesting but strange tale. I do not know enough about how IS works to comment. It is always good to experiment when things are not working. In general if working in the wind you want to work with your tripod lowered, hang some heavy stuff from the tripod hook, and place some heavy stuff (like a bean bag) on top of the lens…. With what I know now I would surely experiment with IS on and IS off at slow shutter speeds but my understanding is that IS is designed to help with mirror slap. It would be a good idea to post your story on the BPN thread here. artie

  • avatar Joel Haas

    Wonderful discussion. Hope I can archive it. Thanks so much for this “blog”

  • avatar Nick Sharp

    Hi Jay,
    No, I didn’t ask CTS how the lens could detect a tripod being used. Apparently, I am not very technical. I am all ears for Artie’s thought on this.

    Sorry guys 🙂 artie

  • avatar Jay Gould

    Nick, did CTS say how the IS detects that the lens is on a tripod? Is is simply because the unit is not moved for a period of time and that causes the electronics to turn off IS until there is movement? If so, are they saying that the mirror slap is insufficient movement to activate IS?

    Most interesting! Artie, your thoughts on how the lens “detects” that the camera is on a tripod greatly appreciated.

    No clue 🙂 artie

  • avatar Nick Sharp

    Thanks for the good information. I just called Canon Technical Support. They said whenever a tripod is used, turn off the IS. They did say that my two telephoto lens (70-200 f/4 L IS and f/2.8 L IS II) were able to detect a tripod being used and it will turn off the IS itself.

    As far as I know the info above is 100% incorrect.

    We have been leaving the IS on all time with mode 2 for the two lens mentioned above for bird and landscape photography regardless of shutter speed based upon your advice. Looks like we are not using IS at all with the tripod. We did get sharp images often times and have been thinking the IS helps a lot.

    Next time that I have to 70-200 II on the tripod–the weekend after this for sure–I will check on the IS…. IAC, I will physically turn it OFF for exposure greater than 1/2 sec. and keep a close eye on images created between 1/30 and 1/ sec.

    Did Canon advise you to leave IS on all time? I am as clear as mud. Your help is always appreciated.

    Canon does not advise me of anything. At times, I consult one or two of their great tech reps here on Long Island, Chuck Westfall and Rudy Winston. artie

  • avatar Jay Gould

    Hi Artie, you have identified an interesting issue for those shooting long SS landscapes to obtain water blurs while the rest of the image is hopefully very sharp. While you are commenting on the issue of IS with long lenses, I wonder if the same issue applies to a very long exposure with a short IS lens, and the IS should also be turned off? Experiments to definitely follow!

    The image above is quite cool and would look great enlarged on a long narrow wall. I put the side of a notepad against the image and I think it needs a tweak of CCW.

    Thanks very much for IS long exposure tip; thanks too to Scott Vincent. 🙂

    I think that the image is actually very close to being perfectly square. The bit of sky in the urc throws off the eye…. If you look at some of the edges of the building and the edge of the frame it looks pretty darned close to me. artie

  • Art I think the new IS 2 lens automatically turn off image stabilization when mounted on a tripod, it seems like I read that somewhere but offhand I can not direct you to the article where I read it. Jim

    Jim, Not to be a pain but there is no such think as an IS lens (new or old). Are you talking about IS Mode or about the Series II super-telephoto lenses? If the former (and surely with the latter as well) then your info is incorrect. IS never turns off on its own; it can only be turned off by moving the switch. artie

  • avatar Don Burd

    Thanks for the info on turning off IS for longer exposures This explains why my 20 sec. Moonrise shot came out soft focused.

    Don’t forget; the earth moves more than enough to blur any image of the moon with even a relatively short exposure like 1/2 sec…. artie

  • avatar Stan Cunningham

    Thanks Art, good to know and appreciate all you share.

    You are most welcome 🙂 artie

  • Hey Artie, After years of you teaching me and others so much, so glad I could help you with a new tip and to get some great images! It was great that you could join Denise and me on the Creative Manhattan Skyline Workshop – we had a blast! Can’t wait for the next one!

    Thanks again Scott! artie

  • avatar Nick Sharp

    My wife and I took some fireworks pictures on 7/4/11. She used a Canon 1D4, a 70-200 f/4 L IS, and a 1.4X III combo. I used a 5D2, a 70-200 f/2.8 L IS II, and a 2X III combo. We both used the same tripod and ballhead, cable release, and mirror lockup. All our pictures took about 4 to 5 seconds at f/7.1 or f/6.3 with AV mode. I forgot to turn on the IS on my lens and her lens IS was on and it was mode 2 (for pan). All her pictures are a bit sharper than mine.

    After reading your post about long lens and long exposure, I am now confused. Should we use IS for long exposure? Perhaps the 2X III is a bit softer than the 1.4X III?

    All things being equal, images made with a 2X TC will never be as sharp as similar images made with a 1.4X TC. Period. With excellent technique, however, you should be able to make professionally sharp images with 2X TCs, especially with the relatively new, sharper versions. (Note: that statement applies to both Canon and Nikon 2Xes). At this point I would strongly recommend that IS be turned off when creating images with shutter speeds of 1/2 seconds or longer. Due to the nature of fireworks photography it is likely that your images were not affected by IS; only the relatively bright fireworks are being recorded on the imaging sensor….) Let me know if that helps you to become less confused 🙂 artie