Pern's Ponderings

Check here periodically for my musings on photography. In this space, we'll explore how I achieved particular photographs, tips and tricks to get the most out of your camera or even just my thoughts on the world at large. 

Winging it

An osprey hunts over a salt pond in Narragansett, R.I., on a warm summer morning.

We've all done it. We've all bought a fancy new electronic device and then tossed the instruction manual aside to start playing with it. Inevitably, we get comfortable using the most common features and end up forgetting about the rest. 

Typically, I'm the type who reads the manual cover to cover. I love to know all the features and doodads on my devices to try to get the most out of them, and my camera is no exception. 

That said, I recently realized that even though I'd read my camera manual front to back, I rarely used many of its features. I tend to shoot almost exclusively in Manual mode on my Canon 70d, mostly because I like to have complete control over my image. 

Ninety percent of the time, I'm better off shooting this way because it forces me to really think about every facet of the composition of my image, including the shutter speed, aperture and ISO. 

However, for months I've been struggling to get a strong shot of one of my favorite subjects - the ospreys that nest near my house in flight.

I've used a Tamron 2x SP AF Pro Teleconverter coupled with my Canon 300mm lens to try to extend the reach of my camera, but that presents its own set of challenges, including camera shake and the need to use manual focus. 

I've also found that as the birds swoop from high in the blue sky down into the darker hues of the green grass surrounding the pond, it's difficult to change shutter speed, maintain focus and track the osprey in the viewfinder simultaneously. Inevitably, I ended up with shots that were overexposed, underexposed or just a hair too soft for me to really be pleased with the resulting image. 

This week, I decided it was time to branch out and begin using some of the neglected features of my camera, most notably the shutter priority mode. This allowed me to select a shutter speed fast enough to stop the motion of the osprey in flight, while the camera handled the heavy lifting of adjusting the aperture to ensure the frame was exposed properly. 

On this particular morning, the osprey was hunting close by in the pond - close enough that 300mm was long enough and I was able to leave the teleconverter in my bag. This allowed me to use autofocus and get the full range of apertures I needed to capture the image.

When I looked on the LCD screen after the osprey completed its pass, I smiled knowing I'd finally gotten the shot I'd been hunting for these past few months. Then I kicked myself for not branching out and using all my cameras features sooner! 

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by Brian Pernicone