Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day 6 of cardinal hunt | Not perfect, but nothing is

A male cardinal sits in a pine tree high above my position along Parkway Drive in Melbourne. Camera settings: 290mm (lens), 1/1600 shutter, f/6, 500 ISO.

At my usual hunting grounds Saturday afternoon, I tracked a cardinal from bush to bush. It was 90 degrees, and I was impatient. I wanted the thing to show itself - fast.

When it finally perched in a tree free from the shadows, I couldn't believe it. The bright-red male sat there, singing a high-pitched melody. I started firing away.

There was enough sunlight to allow a high shutter speed, eliminating some of the blurriness that is common with large lenses, such as my 150-500mm Sigma. I adjusted the aperture, trying different exposures in an attempt to get a sharper image. Then my lens stopped working, as it did on Day 4.

But as the lens failed, the solution to the problem dawned on me. Also a drawback of large lenses, they tend to wiggle a bit at the point of contact with the camera. The solution: Take it off, and put it back on. The issue occurs with smaller lenses, too, but not nearly as often.

After a quick fix, I assumed my position to start shooting again. At that time, I realized I was shooting at 290mm, not the full 500mm - not even close. That made the bird quite small in the final product. The photo you see above is cropped quite tightly.

When I extended the lens fully, I got only one shot - of the cardinal flying way. It figures.

Still, this was my best opportunity yet, and I didn't completely botch it - mostly, but not entirely. There is, of course, room for improvement. The hunt must go on.

Camera settings for this shot: 500mm (lens), 1/1000 shutter, f/8, 500 ISO.

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