shooting wild animals - digitally

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Nov 9th, 2005, 01:08 PM
  #1
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shooting wild animals - digitally

Hi,
I recently received my Fz30 (it's amazing) and have already taken a few practice pics. of my dog 'Tony' on the beach and will be heading up to the Roger Williams Zoo this weekend to shoot some animals for safari prep. - any tips? What's the best mode to stop action? i.e. a deliriously fast, zig zagging, running dog on the beach/daytime. Also, where is the cheapest place to get memory cards - don't need brand names.
Thanks ahead;
Sherry
p.s. I relocated this message in hopes of exposure - sorry for those who have previously seen it.
cybor is offline  
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Nov 9th, 2005, 01:24 PM
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Newegg.com is a very reliable, good-price place for memory cards. I would not recommend the very least expensive -- go for the high-speed card. (I used Kingmax 512mb and was very pleased with the speed.)
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Nov 9th, 2005, 02:06 PM
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Thanks.I went to their site. Looks like really decent prices as compared to what I seen elsewhere. great tip.
Sherry
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Nov 10th, 2005, 03:39 PM
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Stop action equals shutter spead. Faster shutter the more stop. Also, flash will stop action, although hard to use in sunlight. You will have to take the FZ30 off of "auto" to set higher shutter speed. (I'm pretty sure, I don't have the FZ30) To check the shutter speed of a taken pic, it probably will show you the picture's EXIF data. EXIF data shows you a lot of stats about the image (that you took).
SanDisk cards are also considered tops.
regards - tom
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Nov 10th, 2005, 05:23 PM
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Thanks Tom, Your right, I believe the auto needs to be off to adjust the f stops - are you talking f stops and memory speed? The auto will adjust them as (it) feels appropriate when left on. I just can't seem to believe that the auto would adjust appropriately for every given situation unless these buggers are much more advanced than I could ever imagine. When I took my running dog's photo on auto his flying ears ended up looking like streaky blurs - I think that the auto adjusted to F4 in the sports mode. So using manual at times seems to make sense. This does however lead me to another question - would raising the f stops not allow as much light in? If I'm getting this right the f stop would act quickly to open and shut to stop action and therefore cut off some of the light supply - am I mixed up with that theory? If I'm reading you correctly, how does one overcome the lack of light/contrast? I did notice on some of the people's photos who are using the Fz30, that light (lack of) seems to be a problem.
Also, when speaking of memory cards, it seems that I will need so much memory as I will be on Safari for 12 days/Nairobi/9 days Seychelles - 3 1/2 weeks of good photo ops. - Does anyone know of an inexpensive,light, downloader. I will probably never use that many memory cards when returning home but don't want to schlep anything too big/heavy/expensive when traveling. Thanks your advise.
Cheers;
Sherry
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Nov 10th, 2005, 05:46 PM
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ecost.com has good card prices
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Nov 10th, 2005, 09:43 PM
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I like Dealram.com as a place to find the cheapest prices on memory cards:

http://dealram.com/prices/30/1GB.html

I looked at the specs of your FZ30, and it looks like it has a variable aperture zoom lens from f2.8 to f3.7. So, at the long end of the telephoto, the largest aperature you can get is the f4 you were getting in sports mode. So, the camera was doing the right thing.

Aperture and shutter speed work together. Aperture is how wide open the shutter opens when the camera takes a picture. The bigger it opens, the more light it lets in. Shutter speed is how long the shutter is open. The longer the shutter is open, the more light it lets in, and vice versa.

So, in order to get a proper exposure, you must have the correct combination of shutter speed and aperture. In general, the camera is going to do a pretty good job of figuring out the proper exposure. The light meters in modern cameras are very good.

When you're in sports mode, the camera is going to favor a really fast shutter speed. Since shutter speed and aperture have an inverse relationship, this means you'll need a large aperture - hence the f4 aperture your camera used in photographing your dog. When I say that aperture and shutter speed have an inverse relationship, I mean that when one parameter lets in less light, the other parameter must let in more light. So, if the amount of light you need (exposure) is a constant value, then you need a bigger aperture when the shutter speed is fast, and a smaller aperture when the shutter speed is slow. And, vice versa. (Remember, smaller aperture numbers mean a bigger opening, and large aperture numbers mean a smaller opening. Therefore, f4 is a big opening.)

O.k., so what does this all mean? Well, it means that sports mode is probably the right mode for what you were doing and when your camera shot at f4, you were probably getting the fastest shutter speed possible for the amount of light you had. Though, another way to achieve this is to use the Aperture Priority mode. What Aperture Priority mode does is set a constant aperture number, and the camera varies the shutter speed to let in more or less light according to the light meter. You can set it to f4 all the time, and since f4 is nearly the largest aperture you can get at the long end of your lens, you'll get the fastest shutter speed possible.

You can get f2.8 at the wide angles, which is a very large aperture. Bear in mind that the larger the aperture, the smaller the depth of field. So, with larger apertures like f2.8, you get the effect of having everything in the plane of focus in focus and everything else blurred. You see this effect in portraits where the subject is in focus, but the background is out of focus.

So, how do you stop the motion of your fast moving dog if you're already at the fastest shutter speed for the given light? You'll have to practice panning the camera along with the dog. Being able to smoothly track a moving target allows you to capture the subject without the blur. Bear in mind that the background will be blurred and the dog's legs will probably be blurred, but most of the subject will be in focus and it's a very cool effect anyway. (Substitute "cheetah" for "dog" when you get to Africa.)

Here's an example of a shot captured while panning:

http://www.bergoiata.org/fe/felins/H...%20Cheetah.jpg

I don't know this photographer or the details of this photograph, but I'm willing to bet he shot with a large aperture (f2.8-f4), a fast shutter speed, and was panning the camera along with the cheetah as it ran.

So, take your dog out and practice tracking him with the camera. It takes a lot of practice to get good. Birds in flight are even harder since they can move in more directions. And, really, this is only necessary for fast-moving subjects. Subjects that are just walking along don't require you to pan.



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Nov 11th, 2005, 04:03 AM
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Lifelist:
What an amazing photo! And thanks for taking the time to answer Cybor - I too just got my FZ30, and am very happy with it so far. I printed out your answers so I can "study". Thanks!

Cyn
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Nov 11th, 2005, 05:48 AM
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Dear Lifelist,
Thank you so much for answering my questions. I appreciate that you did so in a way that a novice like me can understand. My intent actually was in thinking that if I could capture even some detail of the very fast Tony dog that I may be able to get a cheetah in motion (if presented with such an opportunity - visions of safari granduer) - you clearly read my mind - you must have grand thoughts as well. More than likely, as cool as it is, I'll get a lazy cheetah laying on my jeep all day like one of the trip reporting safari goers of late. For now, I shall practice my panning and playing with f4 + f2.8. Do you or anyone else feel that with the IS built in to the camera, that I can stop action without a tripod?
Thanks tnale,Tom and Rizzuto for your imput on memory cards and other valuable info. as well.
Peace;
Sherry


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Nov 11th, 2005, 07:26 AM
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IS won't help you stop action of a moving subject. What it does is reduce the amount of camera shake and allow you to handhold the camera at slower shutter speeds.

One of the disadvantages of slow shutter speed is that it tends to exacerbate any shaking of the camera. Most people can't be rock steady with their hands for a long while, so when you hold a camera, it tends to shake a bit. You also get more shake if you're not on a stable platform (e.g. on a bobbing boat, car with the engine running, etc.) This is why when you're shooting, you should have the driver turn off the engine and try not to bounce around too much. You should also try to stabilize yourself by using something as support, like the window sill of your safari vehicle. Hence, the reason that bean bags are recommended for closed safari vehicles. Bean bags give you somewhere to the put the camera and help keep it steady.

When you have a slow shutter speed, the shutter is open for a longer period of time and thus any shake on your part is going to show up more. What IS does is stabilize the camera (well,just the lens, actually) through the use of gyros and reduce the amount of shake translated to the camera. If you're shooting with a fast shutter speed, then camera shake isn't a big deal since the shutter is open for such a short period that your shaking won't affect the picture quality.

The rule of thumb is that you need a shutter speed equal to the inverse of the length of the lens in order to eliminate camera shake. So, your FZ30 has a max focal length of 420mm. You'll need a shutter speed of 1/400 of a second or faster to get sharp pictures at the long end. With IS, you can generally gain two stops - so that means you can get sharp pictures at 1/125 of a second. However, 1/125 isn't quite fast enough to freeze action. So, although IS has eliminated your camera shake, you still aren't fast enough to stop action. (For a cheetah going at full speed, you're going to need 1/500 of a second at a minimum unless you're panning with him)

Another reason to practice your smooth panning and tracking. You don't want to jerk the camera around or be unsteady since that'll translate into shaky pictures.

So, what does this all mean? Well, it means that IS will allow you to shoot at slower shutter speeds and still get sharp pictures. Without IS, shots taken with a slower shutter speed will tend to be a bit blurry/unsharp. What it doesn't do is help you stop subject movement or get a faster shutter speed.

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