New camera; Hello World!!!

Almost all of my something-thousand observations so far have been iPhone photos. While I have become a wizard at taking iPhone photos, my lack of a "real" camera has held me back significantly in the area of "fast, far away, flying things." Part of the reason I am so into bugs is they're a lot easier to get close to than anything else (and let's be real, most plants are pretty boring :P). I like birds, but I have avoided getting really into them because I had no way to getting reliably good photos of them. I have a mount that lets me take photos through binoculars, telescopes, etc, but it was such a pain to use for birdwatching I just kept it on the microscope. And when it came to butterflies or dragon/damselflies, I have been best off just finding them asleep in my yard. During the day, I'd get clearer shots of the Loch Ness Monster.

Early this year I signed up for the Audubon trip to Malawi. I knew I needed a real camera for this trip or I'd regret it forever. So in July I bought the Nikon Coolpix P900, aka the best birding camera you can get for $500. It has 83x optical zoom AND does great macros. I tried to use the camera a couple times and was overwhelmed by having no idea how to use it, so I signed up for a half-day workshop on nature photography in September. The class was excellent, completely demystified all the functions of the camera, and gave me the confidence to use it.

So of course I tried it out a couple times but didn't really get much birding practice with it until I actually landed in Malawi earlier this month. Over the course of the trip, I gained a reputation among the group as being a really good photographer (???), probably because I was regularly able to grab a few shots of briefly-sighted birds that were good enough for the guides to ID from them.

Today (I guess yesterday, since it's almost 2 am) I was at the Blair Woods Sanctuary (love that place!), and after volunteering I spent a couple hours wandering around with my camera. I still need to figure out which ISO to use for any given outing, but oh man, I've been going through the photos I took today and some of them I can't even believe came from me.

For example, here is an example of a spreadwing damselfly from a few months ago:


Here is another spreadwing:



So yeah, expect me to be posting a LOT more often! (is that even possible??)

Publicado el noviembre 19, 2017 07:46 MAÑANA por nanofishology nanofishology


Fantastic! I totally agree that having good photo equipment makes being a naturalist even more rewarding than it is inherently.

Publicado por hydaticus hace más de 6 años

Yeah, a superzoom camera with gps is a way more effective way to post to iNaturalist than a cell phone and may well be the very best solution for anyone who is not too specialized. It can just switch so quickly between macro and telephoto that time to number of submissions is amazing.

I eventually upgraded to an interchangeable lens camera and the upgrade from a superzoom really is less than from the upgrade from a cell phone to a camera. With a DSLR/mirrorless camera you have to make hard choices. Using a macro lens, you can take better insect/plant photos but at a cost of not getting good bird/mammal photos. With a telephoto prime lens you can be great with birds and mammals but lacking wide angle capability is a pain. Maybe a 70-400mm lens can be as flexible as a superzoom - at that cost and weight it better be.

The only system I have seen which may make as much sense as a superzoom for most people is an olympus tg-5. You lose telephoto but get amazing macro, gain the ability to go underwater, and don’t look suspicious carrying a giant camera.

Publicado por glmory hace más de 6 años

Oh wow, thanks for mentioning that other camera, @glmory! My first digital camera was a Pentax Optio W10 which I got before a road trip from Seattle to Ft. Lauderdale in 2006. It's waterproof, and even for an older camera, I can't believe how much better the photos are than my cell phone.
This was one of the first photos I ever took with it:
This was after a few months of practice:
This was after a few years:

The underwater photos were pretty good too, although I think most of those were taken at aquariums (gave the staff a heart attack every time) so not many underwater observations on here. Bought a cheapish Nikon waterproof after I dropped the Pentax but I really didn't like it and it doesn't have the manual zoom capabilities I rely on for point-and-shoots. I really liked that I could use the Pentax in a rainstorm and not worry about it, but it would shut down if it got too cold.

I did find another Pentax W10 on eBay, so I've got my first love back, but that Olympus is looking pretty nice and obviously the technology has come far in 10 years.

Publicado por nanofishology hace más de 6 años

Alysa, you and I share the same camera! Yippee, camera buddies! :)

I like the Nikon P900 quite a bit, although, I get pretty frustrated in low-light... And of course, the camera can be good at focusing on the branch behind the bird or the branch in front of the bird rather than the bird itself...

When you come to Del Rio, you can show me some of the things that you’ve learned about it too!

Also, plants are so not boring — @alisonnorthup would be offended to hear such a thing! ;)

Publicado por sambiology hace más de 6 años

Awesome! The focusing thing is really annoying. I "found" the manual focus option, which can help, if the bird doesn't move at all during the 5 minutes it takes to wheel down to the right setting... Low light hasn't been too much of an issue for me because I use my headlamp in most situations. My best results are focusing with the headlamp on the subject, then looking away and using flash. I do most of my shooting in the birdwatching mode with continuous captures, although it drives me insane how slow the shutter speed can be on that setting. I still have a bit to learn, but I've come a long way since I've started using it.

Publicado por nanofishology hace más de 6 años

RE plants: I have never had a plant pee on me or lay eggs all over my kitchen. To be honest they are really intimidating so I like to pretend they're not there.

Publicado por nanofishology hace más de 6 años

"Awesome! The focusing thing is really annoying. I "found" the manual focus option, which can help, if the bird doesn't move at all during the 5 minutes it takes to wheel down to the right setting..."

I shoot with the earlier iteration of the P900, the P510 and manual anything is about worthless. Nor will it accept lens filters. Don't know if you've equipped your camera with any of the various filters; UV, polarizing and others. Worth their cost for most cameras. The magic of the newer superzooms is the image stabilization software. Without it, you would need a tripod for every shot, and being able to hand shoot makes more expensive, interchangeable lens cameras obsolete and cumbersome - in a word - too much baggage.LOL. As these newer point and shoots get larger, with more controls, the better they get. I do think there is a limit to just how much lens we all really need. Course it's nice to be able to zoom in on the planets of the solar system whenever you want;-)

Publicado por billarbon hace más de 6 años

They seem to have improved the manual focus a little from what you're saying. It takes forever to use and it's super fussy, but sometimes if you don't use a manual focus option, getting a shot is absolutely impossible. I've been able to get a few nice shots in with it this past week, but it's so hard to tell when you're actually focused with the screen resolution. I just have to take a bunch of shots with slightly different focus settings and hope I hit the magic one.

I do have one of the UV filters on. Not sure what difference it makes in the pictures, but it keeps me from scratching up the real lens because I have no reservations about crawling on the ground to get REEEAAALLLLL close to my subjects.

I took some photos of the moon in the parking lot at work earlier this week, and my coworkers could not BELIEVE I had just taken them right then and there. One of them added the camera to her Christmas list because of it!

Publicado por nanofishology hace más de 6 años

UV helps with color a lot. Very easy to overexpose without, and since my camera doesn't have a lens available (no screw mount), it's easy to washout the photos. I compensate by moving the camera around alot and making the camera change settings (full auto). Sort of like taking shots at different settings, LOL. I haven't tried a polarizing filter yet (on my Panasonics) but that might make a big difference. And, yes, your lens should be capable of solar system shots further than the moon!

Publicado por billarbon hace más de 6 años

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