Monday, October 5, 2009

General Grievous And The Wrong Light Saber

The fellow in today's image sort of reminds me of one of the villains in the Star Wars films. From what I understand, General Grievous was a prototype of what became Darth Vader. A part "being" (not sure if he started out human), part robot that didn't quite work out right. The Turkey Vulture in today's post hasn't suffered the same fate as Grievous, but the shape of his head and the way his feathers make his head look sunken makes him look kind of like the Star Wars baddie. We had a chance to go out and shoot some raptors over the weekend and this guy was one of the stars of the show. The opportunity was set up specifically for a group of friends by one of the people in our photographic troupe. We try to get together as often as possible to go out, have a few laughs, take a few pictures and generally enjoy each others company. It's a pretty good group. One of the local Audubon Society Centers was contacted and one of their raptor handlers brought out a variety of birds being rehabilitated. They have a Bald Eagle, with about a six foot wingspan, but the naturalist we had said the bird was too big and too powerful for her to handle (not to mention too heavy). An owl, a falcon and a red tailed hawk rounded out the cast of characters on a Sunday morning outing. To find out about the reference to the "wrong light saber, hit the "read more".

What's a camera, but a reverse acting light saber. The Star Wars version emits light and a camera takes in light. So why did I have the wrong equipment during this opportunity? Just wanted to try something different. A couple of years ago I bought a cheap lens for a one shot deal. I couldn't see blowing big bucks for a one off. Got the shot and the lens paid for itself in spades. The lens has been sitting on a shelf for the past four or five years and I thought this might be a chance to give it another go. Nope! The lens is a 500mm mirror lens. It's a fixed F8, with no capability of feeding exposure information into the camera and manual focus. One more "gotcha" is that the DOF at the minimum focusing distance of eleven feet is a quarter inch. How many things can you have going backwards for you in one shooting situation.
The morning was looking great at the meeting spot (except for ten million noseeum bugs). Up on the top of the hill it was another story. The fog hadn't lifted at that elevation yet and it was pretty dark for shooting, so the F8 didn't help at all. The shutter speed wound up being kind of low even with having the camera steadied on a monopod. A 500mm film lens on a DSLR (750mm equivalent) and a 60th of a second shutter just doesn't make it. Add to that the fact that the birds were real troupers and turned toward each photographer and you end up with camera movement plus bird movement plus a slow shutter speed and that adds up to a mess. Well, luckily, it's "free film" these days and all that was wasted was time.
In the aftermath of this outing some lessons have been gleaned. First one would be that my eyes are getting bad and not to trust visual focus. Stay with the autofocus lenses. If you're going to pay for technology you might as well take advantage of it. When the light's too low, don't think you can out smart the laws of physics. Light acts in a specific way and you can't change it. And finally, make sure you understand the phrase "oh well". Part of the purpose of going out with a group is to get great images. A bigger part is going out with a group to have some fun. .