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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Many Looks From Telezooms

Daniel J. Cox took an 80-400mm telezoom to the Galápagos to have a single lens that could create a tight portrait or back off to photograph behavior

This Article Features Photo Zoom
Medium shots are just as important as the wide view. Coming in tighter to your subject helps establish its identity and allows the viewer to see precisely the subject being documented. In a shot like this, you may even include more than one animal, which is what I did on Española Island, where I captured a mother Nazca booby and her large chick.

The tight portrait makes the animal's personality come alive and encourages viewers to take an intimate look into the detailed beauty of the animal itself.

When done correctly, with proper optics, you'll see the tiniest of feathers, the wispiest of lines radiating out from the pupil or calcium-based keratin flaking off the beak. Discovering the most delicate details is like solving a mystery, seeing more than you can imagine, all of it right before your eyes. Only the highest-caliber optics can resolve this.

Another helpful option for making the most of zoom lenses is to use the back-focus button on most current cameras. The key to gaining the benefits of the back AF button is to make certain you disable the front shutter AF first. The default setting on all cameras is to initiate focus by pushing halfway down on the front shutter-release button. The idea is to remove AF from the front and exclusively rely on the rear AF Start button to initiate focus.

Telephoto zooms are indispensable for wildlife photography. The ability to switch from a slight telephoto to 300mm or 400mm allows you to switch from photos showing behavior to tight portraits and back as the action is happening. On a recent trip to the Galápagos Islands, Daniel J. Cox used a new Nikon 80-400mm zoom to get the photos on these pages. For wide-angle opportunities, he carried a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 with a Panasonic 7-14mm wide-angle zoom. Thus, with two manageable bodies, he had an infinite number of compositional possibilities available at all times.

Without disabling the front AF, pressing the shutter to take the picture will refocus the lens after you already used the rear AF to set your focus. If the front AF isn't turned off, the two buttons are fighting each other and effectively canceling each other out. Using the rear AF Start button is even more important when using a zoom. It allows you to compose your subject more effectively. The rear AF Start button lets you point the AF sensor at your subject, push to focus, release to lock the AF, recompose, and shoot a more professional composition. Many photographers use a similar technique by holding the front shutter button down halfway. That works, but the rear AF is much easier because you don't need to delicately hold a button halfway.

Another advantage to the back-focus AF is being able to leave your camera in Predictive AF or AI Servo at all times. Using the back AF button is very similar to having your camera set to Single Shot AF when needed, with the added ability to change to Predictive AF instantaneously. When capturing a stationary subject, pressing the back AF button to focus, then releasing to lock, you now have replicated the camera's Single Shot AF option even though you're technically in Predictive/AI Servo. When your subject starts to run or fly and the action gets heated, your camera is already in Predictive AF; by simply pushing the back AF button, initiating Predictive or AI Servo now easily tracks your fleeting subject.

Zooms also facilitate easily getting down to your subject's level. A zoom isn't technically any better at low angles than a fixed-focal-length lens. However, it does relieve the need to jockey to and fro as your subject changes position. Getting down on your belly to get the photo can be difficult and dirty, and it's nice not to have to get up, go down, get up, go down, repeat, repeat, repeat. Maintaining your position and the ability to easily change compositions with the turn of your wrist provides many more opportunities to collect interesting images.

See more of Daniel J. Cox's photography at www.naturalexposures.com.


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