Studebaker Bird Photography Newsletter #10
In a word, “WOW”. Now let’s cut to the chase. The reason many bird photographers excitedly anticipated the release of this camera is that we were hoping for three things:
- lightning fast autofocus for birds in motion
- a greater usable ISO range
- more megapixels
- okay I’ll add a forth. Movie mode is a nice add-on.
Let me address each item on our wish list and give my impressions on how the Mk IV delivers
- Not only does it autofocus with lightning fast precision, but after shooting nearly 10,000 frames and looking at my autofocus point selection, I have noticed that even many shots where I (the photographer) messed up and the bird drifted outside of my activated autofocus point, the camera’s sophisticated algorithms was able to predict where to focus next, and STILL nailed the shot. And the real test for autofocus . . . this camera nails birds flying directly at the camera. Yeah, it’s a dream machine. Not once have I ever had my focal point not lock on to a bird. I shoot in AI Servo mode, with the central autofocus sensor activated plus one point sensor expansion activated in the camera’s custom functions. The one point expansion dives just enough margin for photographer error in my opinion.
- I’m real picky about ISO noise. With the MK IV I feel ISO 400 is creamy smooth. ISO 800 is good but takes some minor cleaning. ISO 1600 is decent and takes real cleaning. ISOs 1600 to 3200 are decent but a little noisy for my taste and I rarely use them. So the fact that I feel comfortable shooting ISO 800 is great. On my Canon 50D I hesitated to even use ISO 400.
- 16 megapixels is enough that I can crop out 50% of my image and still have a shot usable for a magazine cover. Nice.
- The movie mode . . . well the movies this thing produces are out of this world beautiful. The only problem is that you pretty much have to manual focus because the live view focus (your only other option) searches back and forth until it locks on so is impractical to use during recording. I didn’t buy the camera for its movie making abilities, but it certainly will be a blast to use from time to time.
Central Florida Workshop Report
Cruising over a calm Florida lake in 70 degree sunny weather sure is a wonderful respite from a cold Ohio winter. Our trip’s goal was to highlight some of the unique birds of Florida, and what a better way to start than by photographing Florida’s only endemic species, the Florida Scrub Jay. As soon as we started walking down a trail through prime scrub habitat, the Jays started landing on our heads!
The afternoon was spent driving the roads around Vierra Wetlands for Limpkin, American Bittern, Loggerhead Shrike, and we were able to photograph all three along with some other waterfowl and wading birds including the seldom photographed Mottled Duck.
Day two we hired someone from the Toho Boating Club to take us out on lake Toho to photograph the endangered Snail Kite. We were able to get within minimum focusing distance to several birds and had many photo opps at both birds in flight and perched.
The real surprise and jewel of the day came when Judd Patterson found a Great Horned Owl Roost in the backyard of our boat captain during lunch break. Thanks a million Judd!
Day 3 started extremely foggy so our airboat captain (Captain Rob with Kissimmee Swamp Tours) let us reschedule our ride for later in the day. We spent the morning photographing a beautiful scene of Sandhill Cranes in the fog and then later found some Red-cockaded Woodpeckers which posed briefly for the group. When it was finally time to hit Lake Kissimmee with the airboat, conditions were perfect – nice warm light, calm wind, and cooperative Snail Kites eating snails in front of us.
hand held from airboat – cropped from horz capture
Day 4 we spent back on the airboat and photographing Loggerhead Shrike on a little setup we put together. This day Scott Vincent and I did a camera trade so we could get a feel for how the Canon Mk IV worked for flight shots vs the Nikon D300 and D2S. After the day’s shooting we concluded the Nikon bodies were great but were no match for the Canon MK IV. The MK IV is really a bird photographer’s dream camera, especially for birds in flight.
All in all, it was a great trip with very productive photo opportunities with a really nice group of photographers.
Snowy Owl Workshop Report.
I did a somewhat last minute set of Snowy Owl Workshops for a few groups of photographers this winter. Snowy Owls are such magnificent birds but are very difficult to find and even when you find them, many are easily frightened. Even if you find an approachable bird they are often on private property with uncooperative land owners. The owls themselves also move around through the winter at times so it took me much research and networking to pull it off, but we had Snowy Owls pose for us all three weekends. We were also able to nourish them to help them survive the winter, and that in turn made for some fun flight photography each weekend. Despite the hard work and cold weather, being around these amazing creatures is very rewarding and I hope to continue shooting these birds in future years as well.
And on the first weekend we also had this unexpected treat: an extremely cooperative Northern Shrike
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