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Archive 2012 · Which Flash - For Birds?
  
 
Sjjindra
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p.1 #1 · Which Flash - For Birds?


When I go out on my kayak, I now take the 5DIII and 100-400 lens and in the near future (after the 5DIII F8 FW upgrade), a 1.4X III. Often when I am returning in the evening, when out on the bayou, the light is fading, but the birds are a little more tolerant of my distance, allowing an approach to within 20' to 50'. Even at high ISO, images are not best. I am considering carrying a flash to make better use of these opportunities.

I have seen some really good deals on the 580 V1, some good deals on 580 V2, and close to full price for 600 flashes. For on camera use for the above situations, what at the advantages of each of these or other flashes? Any experiences, examples, or tips.

Do you think maybe I reach the limit with this fellow (see photo).

Thanks
Steven Jindra

Edited on Nov 10, 2012 at 11:53 AM · View previous versions



Nov 09, 2012 at 04:42 PM
saneproduction
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p.1 #2 · Which Flash - For Birds?


Seems like getting your flash off the camera and mounting it on the end of the kayak would potentially get you a better look. If that is a consideration, the wireless triggering with remote control of the power settings of the new flash seems like a great idea. The other idea is to get a fast prime like the 135L for those situations. You can use your TC 1.4x III with that for 189mm f2.8 at good quality. F2 would get you down from 25,600 to ISO 3200 in those situations. It would also make framing easier due to the brighter viewfinder and focusing faster because more light will be hitting your AF array.


Nov 09, 2012 at 05:33 PM
dolina
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p.1 #3 · Which Flash - For Birds?


600ex has more power


Nov 09, 2012 at 05:52 PM
splathrop
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p.1 #4 · Which Flash - For Birds?


Speedotron. See your electrician for advice on installing in your kayak.


Nov 09, 2012 at 06:10 PM
galenapass
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p.1 #5 · Which Flash - For Birds?


I am firmly against the use of flash photography with birds (and I usually get flammed for it on these forums). I have seen it have a profound impact on reducing the number hummingbird species that will populate an area around lodges in the cloud forest of Ecuador. While this may not be applicable to your situation, you should perhaps consider what species you are shooting and if a flash is going to ruin the experience for other photographers that come after you. Having said that, I do empathize with your lack of light and I have had many, many shots ruined or missed because of this. My solution is to use the fasted glass plus a camera with the best ISO performance possible. I often rent equipment just for this reason (D3s, 400 f/2.8 etc..). But, even that does not work in many cases.

Good luck.



Nov 09, 2012 at 06:24 PM
diverhank
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p.1 #6 · Which Flash - For Birds?


I too find that it's totally unnecessary to use flash for birds and I also don't like the way the birds look when lit up by the flash.

Also, the flash limits my shutter to 1/250 which is useless for me for BIF pictures. I just don't bother taking bird pictures in poor light... I'd just come back another day.



Nov 09, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Sjjindra
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p.1 #7 · Which Flash - For Birds?


I appreciate the varied responses. I have a 200 2.8 and or 70-200 2.8, but purposely purchased the 100-400 to minimize what I carry on my kayak. I have a splash resistant Plano box mounted on a fish finder mount, in close reach, that holds the camera, lens, and the 1.4X mounted or loose. There would be room for the flash too that would mount as needed, but not another sizable lens.

I would not usually be trying for BIF in medium to lower light (not dark), but ones perched and usually hunting or eating fish (variety of heron, egrets, osprey, and an occasional turtle, gator, snake, spider, etc.). They are usually a little wary of me, but when fishing is good, I am often ignored. If disturbed, they often move 50 to 100 yards upstream and go back to fishing.

I generally try to be respectful of their turf and take as non-threatening an approach as possible, but sometimes they do get disturbed.

So what is the general consensus on use of fill flash or flash to help?

I will try to compare the lighting specs and reach of each, I have seen the original 580 for as low as $300, the 600 at $620, with the 580II falling in between.

Thanks
Steven Jindra



Nov 09, 2012 at 09:30 PM
carnac
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p.1 #8 · Which Flash - For Birds?


One more consideration - the 600 is supposed to be more water sealed (still not water proof) - might be an advantage while Kayaking. For telephoto flash use, more power is always useful, and of course a Better Beamer or the equivalent.

From the Canon web site... "Redesigned contact construction, improved flash head durability, and exceptional dust and weather resistance for reliable operation"

I would keep an eye on the Canon refurbished web page - they list 580EX II and 430EX II flashes. No 600s yet, but I'm sure they will show-up soon. I did see an open-box 600 at the local Best Buy for $555. Might have been a good deal.



Nov 10, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Roland W
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p.1 #9 · Which Flash - For Birds?


I would think you should stay with a 580EX or 580EXII if you do not think you will ever need the extra feature of radio control of multiple flashes. The power gain of the 600RT is not all that much more than the 580 flashes. Using a flash as fill and getting a good balance with other things that are lit by the fading natural light can produce some nice shots. And when you do keep the flash exposure down to close to the environment light level, the flash has less potential impact on the birds. You may have success with ETTL for the flash exposure, but it may try to expose the background and wash out the bird. But you can always use manual power, and just get good at setting it for different estimated distances.

The maximum flash sync speed of your camera may limit what you can shoot well, but the 580EX and EXII can do a high speed sync mode that cuts the light level, but allows higher shutter speeds to work. You can find information on high speed sync from a variety of sources, but here is one that covers it well, and also talks about shooting birds: http://www.rpphoto.com/howto/view.asp?articleID=1026

You should learn more about a "Better Beamer", which is an add on lens and support that can focus the light of a flash into a beam, which extends the effective range by several stops. It may be a little awkward to handle in a kayak, but if you have your current setup working for you, you can probably manage the flash and a Better Beamer.



Nov 10, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Psychic1
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p.1 #10 · Which Flash - For Birds?


580ex, 580exII or 600ex with a Better Beamer.

Morris is the MAN that knows how to shoot birds with a flash. http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1164482



Nov 10, 2012 at 12:38 AM
 

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Liquidstone
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p.1 #11 · Which Flash - For Birds?


galenapass wrote:
I am firmly against the use of flash photography with birds (and I usually get flammed for it on these forums). I have seen it have a profound impact on reducing the number hummingbird species that will populate an area around lodges in the cloud forest of Ecuador. While this may not be applicable to your situation, you should perhaps consider what species you are shooting and if a flash is going to ruin the experience for other photographers that come after you. Having said that, I do empathize with your lack of light and I have had many, many
...Show more

+1.

Personally, I avoid using artificial lighting with birds.



Nov 10, 2012 at 01:05 AM
3iron
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p.1 #12 · Which Flash - For Birds?


Better Beamer is certainly the way to go. It will light up your birds and frustrate you at the same time. Check what Morris has to say, as he certainly has a lot of experience with it.
Best wishes.



Nov 10, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Sjjindra
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p.1 #13 · Which Flash - For Birds?


I have been going out on the local bayous a little over a year and feel I have been making progress in recognizing the comfort zone limits and the signals of different species. If I do try a flash I will be sensitive to the effects on different ones and desist if the reaction is too disturbing. I will do more research on the hardware and the ethics of such use.

It requires both hands for the camera and lens and the shots may be anywhere within 180 degrees at most any elevation, so a flash will have to be hard mounted to the camera.

Thanks
Steven Jindra



Nov 10, 2012 at 02:26 AM
uz2work
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p.1 #14 · Which Flash - For Birds?


I bought a Better Beamer about 10 years ago. I have not used it a single time. I'm not even certain as to where it is, but I'd guess it is probably still in its original packaging.

I decided not to use flash for wildlife/bird photography for a number of reasons. Some of those reasons involve practical and technical considerations. Using a flash limits one's ability to shoot at high shutter speeds and to shoot in bursts, and I find that having a flash attached to a camera with a long lens makes the rig more unwieldy. I also agree with some of the others that, when trying to produce aesthetically pleasing photographs, there is no substitute for good natural light, and I do not find the look of wildlife pictures taken with flash to be particularly pleasing.

Most important, perhaps, are the ethical considerations. I don't claim to have good knowledge of bird physiology, but many who do say that the eyes of birds need an extended period of time to recover from a flash. During that recovery period, their vision is significantly impaired, which means that, during that time, not only are they more vulnerable to becoming victims of predators, but they are also unable to secure their own food. As humans, we often fail to consider that, for animals in the wild, every day of their lives is a struggle for survival, and even seemingly small things that we do can reduce the chances of that survival. Long ago, I decided that I want my wildlife subjects to behave as they would if I were not around, and, when my presence and efforts to get pictures start to influence what the subject is doing or what it can do, that is when I decide that getting the picture is no longer important. Thus, even if there is only the slightest chance that my use of a flash is going, in some way, to lead to harm for the subject, getting the picture is no longer something that I want to do.

Les



Nov 10, 2012 at 02:56 AM
galenapass
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p.1 #15 · Which Flash - For Birds?


This little guy was "flashed" by a photographer, then zipped away and hit a window in the process. Fortunately, after sitting stunned for about 10 minutes, he finally flew away. I presume/hope that he was OK.








Nov 10, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Sjjindra
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p.1 #16 · Which Flash - For Birds?


I believe I'm convinced. The flash is out then, particularly for birds. Much of the enjoyment I receive is watching and then photographing and/or video of their doing what they do naturally, and then sharing with others who cannot/ will not get out. I can't say that I have completely eliminated disrupting them (as in their flying or running off), but I have reduced it from an initial 3 out of 3 approaches to maybe 1 out of 3 now and am continuing to learn the indications of their discomfort. It is not an exact science for sure.

I may start a new thread, in the Nature and Wildlife section, on recognizing the indications that your close enough. I've had some smaller herons and egrets be okay with me sitting 20' to 30' away for 30 minutes while they fish, but 5' closer and they're out of there.

Do you think maybe I reached the limit with this fellow (see photo)?

Thanks (both technical and ethical).






Edited on Nov 10, 2012 at 11:59 AM · View previous versions



Nov 10, 2012 at 11:27 AM
PetKal
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p.1 #17 · Which Flash - For Birds?


Liquidstone wrote:
+1.

Personally, I avoid using artificial lighting with birds.


I am on that wagon as well.......never use flash on living creatures, not only because I feel I do not have the right to disturb them in such manner for the sake of my hobby, I also in most instances do not like the look of flash lit pictures.

High ISO capable cameras such as 1DX and 5DMkIII and/or f/2.8 (or better) lenses certaily help a lot.

In addition, low light wildlife photography can have its own aesthetic appeal if we free ourselves from the "birder" cliche whereby every feather fiber needs to be seen. We can often find alternative approaches to such photography by learning/getting ideas from portrait and landscape shooters.



Nov 10, 2012 at 11:56 AM
Sjjindra
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p.1 #18 · Which Flash - For Birds?


Petkal

i was considering buying a 2XIII extender to use with the 70-200 and just remove it in lower light. But Canon's promise of focusing at F8 made the 100-400 with 1.4X more attractive and got me to thinking about a flash, thus this thread. I am now considering installing another mount and Plano splash resitant box to carry either my 200 70-200 2.8 II or the 200 2.8 VI lens for when the light drops? Maybe a 300 2.8 will be in my future one day.

You hit on another good point too. I'm a more technically inclined person, but have little talent in the artistic composition and framing aspect of this hobby. I can go with my 5DIII and 100-400 lens and my 9 year old grandson with an XT and 50-250 and he will consistently get the most pleasing shot of the day. But more and more, I do find myself sitting back and looking at the big picture (in life and photos), so maybe there is hope yet.

Thanks



Nov 10, 2012 at 12:42 PM
PetKal
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p.1 #19 · Which Flash - For Birds?


Steven, 300 f/2.8 IS MkI would be a very good low light lens. Moreover, the lens performs really well with MkIII TCs.

70-200 f/2.8 IS MkII as well as 200 f/2.8 prime are also fine lenses for low light photography as long as you can get close enough to your target.

For low light, anything f/4 is just barely acceptable, f/5.6 is a problem, f/8 is a non starter.
The problem is not just in shutter speed........also, AF suffers a lot in low light with slow lenses.



Nov 10, 2012 at 12:53 PM
uz2work
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p.1 #20 · Which Flash - For Birds?


PetKal wrote:
In addition, low light wildlife photography can have its own aesthetic appeal if we free ourselves from the "birder" cliche whereby every feather fiber needs to be seen.


While I agree with the thought expressed in the sentence quoted above, a bit of semantic clarification should, I think, be added. There is a significant difference between a "birder" and a "bird photographer". Neither group, in general, has high regard for the other, and those in either group often are offended to be considered a part of the other group.

"Birders" are the people who often are seen with binoculars and spotting spotting scopes. If they take pictures, those pictures are often taken with point-and-shoot cameras and with minimal regard for technical merit. Their pleasure comes from seeing the birds and identifying the birds that they have seen. On the other hand, the "bird photographers" are the ones with tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. The bird photographers often sneer at the birders for invading "their territory", and the birders are often critical of the bird photographers for their lack of ethics related to their desire to "get the shot" without regard for their impact on either wildlife or the environment.

For the OP, when I started to make serious attempts at wildlife photography, I felt a need to come home with photographs, and my finger was often active on the shutter regardless of light quality, regardless of where the subjects were, regardless of what they were doing, and regardless of how they were posed. The result was that I usually came home with tons and tons of pictures that, at best, would qualify as snapshots. Somewhere along the line, my thinking changed. While I still enjoy coming home with pictures, if the conditions aren't right for taking the pictures that I really want to take, I am more than happy to enjoy being outside and to enjoy being able to watch whatever the wildlife may be doing. Now, I often come home after an outing without having taken any pictures at all. I take fewer pictures, by far, than I once did, but the pictures that I do take are the ones that I really wanted to get, and I enjoy the experience regardless of whether I've taken many pictures or none at all.

Les



Nov 10, 2012 at 01:31 PM
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