Monday, August 21st, 2017

Using Long Lenses

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Using a telephoto lens to get in close to the action or sneak up on a subject from a discreet distance is terrifically exciting, and can yield great pictures. But the high magnification of long tele and zoom lenses accentuates the effects of camera shake caused by your inability to hold the camera and lens absolutely still. The effects of wind, moving or shaking floors, residual vibration from camera mirrors flipping up just prior to exposure, atmospheric haze, and heat waves can also add problems.

Cold, tired, been drinking stimulants (coffee, tea, or cola)? They add to your problems. Avoid them all if you can and don’t despair.

When handholding your camera and lens, start with a fast film, ISO 400 or higher. This will allow you to use higher shutter speeds (1/1000 sec and above) and minimize the effects of shake in a variety of lighting conditions. Use the proper stance: arms closely tucked into the body, elbows partially supported by the chest or abdomen, lens and camera balanced by the left hand and arm.

Practice supporting and focusing the camera with your left hand, aim the camera slightly above the subject, take a deep breath, let the view drop to the proper composition while exhaling, and gently press the shutter.

For support, find a fence post, parked car, or folded jacket. Lean on it or rest your camera on top of it while shooting. If you have such a support, a 1/30 second exposure isn’t an impossibility, even with a 500mm lens. You’ll be using slower shutter speeds more often than you’d like. The minimum shutter speed rule of thumb for hand-holding a long tele or zoom lens is this: Slowest safe shutter speed = 1 over the lens focal length.

For example, if you’re shooting with a 500mm f/4 lens, the limiting shutter speed for a handheld shot would be 1 /500 second at the correct aperture for a good exposure. This rule applies to a properly-braced photographer standing on solid ground.

Chest braces, rifle stocks, and similar devices aren’t as practical as a lightweight monopod or tripod. A monopod is easy to carry, and you can set it up just about anywhere.

It won’t allow you to set shutter speeds as slow as you can get away with using a tripod. But it will let you shoot safely–that is, without a serous risk of image-softening shake–at speeds two or three steps slower than you’d have to use if you were shooting handheld. That may make it possible to shoot in lower light, and/or to use a slower, finer-grained film.

Get a monopod that can be raised to your eye level, is quick and easy to set up. If you shoot a lot of verticals, you may want to add a good swivel ball head for maneuverability.

A tripod is the best device for insuring minimal effects from vibration with a long tele or zoom lens. With a sturdy one, you can use slower shutter speeds and lower ISO-higher resolution films. If you own a shaky tripod, tie a three to five pound weight to the center column for added stability.

Physically long teles should have tripod-mounting collars to attach the lens at the proper fulcrum to the tripod rather than the camera. You can also use a secondary support for the camera like Bogen’s Long Lens Support. This telescoping brace attaches to most tripod legs via a universal clamp at one end and a swivel ball head for the camera at the other. The brace makes it more difficult to change camera position, but it considerably lessens the effects of vibration.

If you’re on shaky ground, tripods won’t help. They’ll actually transmit the motion right to the lens and camera. It’s better to handhold the camera if you can set a reasonable shutter speed, and let your body damp the vibration.

Atmospheric haze and heat waves can’t always be eliminated, but using a haze or polarizing filter can help cut through the haze and increase color saturation and contrast. Also, use your lens hood, or shade the lens, to minimize the possibility of flare.

Few techniques in photography require more expertise and skill than the successful use of a long tele or zoom lens. If you want to become more proficient, practice, practice, practice!


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Where there is no vision, the people perish.
Proverbs 29:18

The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
Psalm 24:1-2

He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
Psalm 104:10-13

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Matthew 6:26

How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number living things both large and small.
Psalm 104:24-25

Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.
Ansel Adams

When you photograph people in colour you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in B&W, you photograph their souls!
Ted Grant

While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.
Dorothea Lange

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
Ansel Adams

Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.
Henri Cartier-Bresson

You don’t take a photograph, you make it.
Ansel Adams

Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.
Matt Hardy

Nothing happens when you sit at home. I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times…I just shoot at what interests me at that moment.
Elliott Erwitt

Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.
Imogen Cunningham

You’ve got to push yourself harder. You’ve got to start looking for pictures nobody else could take. You’ve got to take the tools you have and probe deeper.
William Albert Allard

If I saw something in my viewfinder that looked familiar to me, I would do something to shake it up.
Garry Winogrand

I always thought good photos were like good jokes. If you have to explain it, it just isn’t that good.
Anonymous

Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.
Ansel Adams

It can be a trap of the photographer to think that his or her best pictures were the ones that were hardest to get.
Timothy Allen

 


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