Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just Ducky

This handsome guy was enjoying a swim in a small man-made pond, and he was fun to photograph. He swam back and forth under a small spray of water, and the water beaded up, well, like water on a duck’s back. Ducks' oily and tightly knit feathers do a good job of preventing the water from penetrating beneath the surface.

When photographing wildlife it is best to use a tripod with a true ballhead. There are many types of tripod heads available, and some are better than others.

The most basic entry-level head is a pan-tilt head, operated with two separate handles. One enables vertical movement, and the other is used for panning or horizontal movement. While these heads are functional, they limit your control and the camera’s ease of movement.

A better choice for most people is a ballhead. A true ballhead can be loosened with just one knob which allows for faster and more accurate movement and positioning. An offshoot of ballheads are pistol grip heads which can be loosened by squeezing one handle, and then they instantly tighten when you release the handle. While these have a few advantages for photographing some subjects, they are not the best choice for nature and wildlife shooting because you have less control over exact positioning of the camera.

There are many true ballheads available, and many are excellent quality that will last many years. My personal favorites are the heads made by Really Right Stuff. They are well-tooled with smooth movements and are easy to tighten exactly where you want it.

When photographing birds and other types of wildlife, an additional tool is very helpful. It is a partial gimbal head which attaches to the ballhead. A gimbal head is designed to be able to perfectly balance the camera on the tripod WITH ALL HEAD CONTROLS LOOSENED. If you have never seen these in action, you owe it to yourself to get on the Wimberley website and watch some of their tutorials.  http://www.tripodhead.com/

My personal favorite is the Wimberley Sidekick, which is a partial gimbal head that attaches to the ballhead. It weighs a little over a pound and is small enough to pack easily. It is an indispensable tool for easy panning or following wildlife on the move.

Of course it helps to have a good sturdy tripod as well in order to assure yourself of getting the best pictures possible.

Shutter Speed 1/200 sec.  Aperture f/5.6.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 400mm f/5.6L.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.   -–Thomas Carlyle

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