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I just ordered my first DSLR camera!

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Ozzydog said:

Usually, I'm on my tripod with a cable release

This is an important piece of advice.  To get the kind of shots posted by kenevenpar (great pictures by the way), you will almost certainly need a tripod.  Especially when zoomed out, any even very slight movement of the camera will result in less sharp pictures.  I'm talking here about overall sharpness of the picture, not something related to not being able to focus on the subject.  High shutter speeds will definitely help.  There are alternatives to carrying a big tripod...using a monpod, leaning against a solid surface, setting your camera on a solid surface, even techniques for proper ways to hold a camera to minimize shake.  As noted previously, there are a lot of online resources to help with this subject (one of many here).  I'd advise doing some research on this before your Alaska cruise or you may be disappointed with your 400mm shots. 

 

One simple tip that I learned a while ago...don't "stab" and release the shutter release button.  Instead, gently push the shutter release button all the way down and hold it there for a second.  This minimizes shake from the action of pressing the button (why Ozzydog mentioned using a cable release), and avoids any shake from releasing the button until after the exposure is complete.  Again, high shutter speeds will help, but you won't always want high shutter speeds (e.g. capturing blurry/dreamy water movement).

 

I'd advise doing your cropping on a computer rather than in camera. It's much easier to get a good idea of your picture on a large monitor rather than a small camera screen.  You may also wish to make some other simple changes using the computer and a good photo editing software program (exposure, contrast, color correcting/saturation).  I'm an Adobe fan but there are several good software choices available at a variety of price points and with varying degrees of ease of use.

 

Edited by bobmacliberty

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14 hours ago, Ozzydog said:

One of the responders gave you the advice that pre-focusing (in Auto mode) on the feeder (and switching to manual mode) is what I do for Hummers. I shoot in S mode - for Hummers about 1/3000th/sec. Many shots will be out of focus but some will be fine. Also Burst mode 10 frames/sec. Usually, I'm on my tripod with a cable release.

Hummer3A2A4620.jpg

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HummerIMG_2243Adj.jpg

Beautiful! Is the Program mode basically the same as Auto? The D500 doesn't have Auto as far as I can tell.

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10 hours ago, bobmacliberty said:

This is an important piece of advice.  To get the kind of shots posted by kenevenpar (great pictures by the way), you will almost certainly need a tripod.  Especially when zoomed out, any even very slight movement of the camera will result in less sharp pictures.  I'm talking here about overall sharpness of the picture, not something related to not being able to focus on the subject.  High shutter speeds will definitely help.  There are alternatives to carrying a big tripod...using a monpod, leaning against a solid surface, setting your camera on a solid surface, even techniques for proper ways to hold a camera to minimize shake.  As noted previously, there are a lot of online resources to help with this subject (one of many here).  I'd advise doing some research on this before your Alaska cruise or you may be disappointed with your 400mm shots. 

 

One simple tip that I learned a while ago...don't "stab" and release the shutter release button.  Instead, gently push the shutter release button all the way down and hold it there for a second.  This minimizes shake from the action of pressing the button (why Ozzydog mentioned using a cable release), and avoids any shake from releasing the button until after the exposure is complete.  Again, high shutter speeds will help, but you won't always want high shutter speeds (e.g. capturing blurry/dreamy water movement).

 

I'd advise doing your cropping on a computer rather than in camera. It's much easier to get a good idea of your picture on a large monitor rather than a small camera screen.  You may also wish to make some other simple changes using the computer and a good photo editing software program (exposure, contrast, color correcting/saturation).  I'm an Adobe fan but there are several good software choices available at a variety of price points and with varying degrees of ease of use.

 

Thanks. I definitely need to find a way to minimize camera shake. I would want an easy to use photo editing software program. At this time I just want to be able to crop.

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9 hours ago, cruises42 said:

Thanks. I definitely need to find a way to minimize camera shake. I would want an easy to use photo editing software program. At this time I just want to be able to crop.

 

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By the way - lessons I've learned the hard way. Always carry two cameras and two lenses. I've had both fail while on a trip. On my last trip (Caribbean) I decided to buy and take a small mirrorless Sony camera (it's so much lighter to walk around with). I got careless in Saint Martin and the camera was stolen. I hadn't followed my own advice to ALWAYS carry two cameras. So, I not only lost the camera and the images on the memory card but I had nothing to take pictures with for the balance of the trip.

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, cruises42 said:

Thanks. I definitely need to find a way to minimize camera shake. I would want an easy to use photo editing software program. At this time I just want to be able to crop.

 

I have been shooting for most of my life, both cameras and guns. (Gives a new dimension to point & shoot 🙂). One technique that carries over between the two was mentioned by bobmacliberty which is the smooth release on the shutter. Another is "sniper mode". You support the camera against your face with your elbows held in against your body (not too tightly for either), take a breath and let it out. At the end of the breath, hold it long enough to snap the picture. The idea is to eliminate as much body-induced motion as possible. Another tip is usually associated with shooting action where you are trying to catch the peak moment. Burst mode. Camera shake is an oscillation that moves back and forth, up and down or a combination of those. At some point the camera.is nearly motionless at the peak of the oscillation before moving back in the other direction. Shooting a burst of images gives you a chance that one of the images will be captured at that nearly motionless peak.

 

Or a tripod... 😉

 

Dave

Edited by pierces

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13 hours ago, Ozzydog said:

By the way - lessons I've learned the hard way. Always carry two cameras and two lenses. I've had both fail while on a trip. On my last trip (Caribbean) I decided to buy and take a small mirrorless Sony camera (it's so much lighter to walk around with). I got careless in Saint Martin and the camera was stolen. I hadn't followed my own advice to ALWAYS carry two cameras. So, I not only lost the camera and the images on the memory card but I had nothing to take pictures with for the balance of the trip.

I'll have my new D500, my husband will have the D3400, and we'll take our Panasonic P&S and an underwater camera (in case it rains a lot).

 

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12 hours ago, pierces said:

 

I have been shooting for most of my life, both cameras and guns. (Gives a new dimension to point & shoot 🙂). One technique that carries over between the two was mentioned by bobmacliberty which is the smooth release on the shutter. Another is "sniper mode". You support the camera against your face with your elbows held in against your body (not too tightly for either), take a breath and let it out. At the end of the breath, hold it long enough to snap the picture. The idea is to eliminate as much body-induced motion as possible. Another tip is usually associated with shooting action where you are trying to catch the peak moment. Burst mode. Camera shake is an oscillation that moves back and forth, up and down or a combination of those. At some point the camera.is nearly motionless at the peak of the oscillation before moving back in the other direction. Shooting a burst of images gives you a chance that one of the images will be captured at that nearly motionless peak.

 

Or a tripod... 😉

 

Dave

I tried practicing these today. So far I didn't have good luck with smooth release (my shutter seems to be so sensitive, I start pressing it and it takes a picture when I'm not trying to). Didn't do that well with sniper mode either but I'll keep trying. A lot of times I'm trying to take a picture of a moving bird so I'm reacting quickly and moving the camera along with the bird. 

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10 hours ago, cruises42 said:

I tried practicing these today. So far I didn't have good luck with smooth release (my shutter seems to be so sensitive, I start pressing it and it takes a picture when I'm not trying to). Didn't do that well with sniper mode either but I'll keep trying. A lot of times I'm trying to take a picture of a moving bird so I'm reacting quickly and moving the camera along with the bird. 

 

The technique I describes is better suited for situations where you need to use a longer exposure that you normally would hand-held when light is bad and you find yourself without a tripod. 

 

As for moving birds, perhaps "skeet mode"? 🙂

 

Dave

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Practicing is great. But being prepared for what you are going to shoot is also important. The camera settings for a bird sitting still  (large or small?) in good light is way different from shooting large birds in flight.

My experience with photography while away on a cruise is that I rarely encounter subjects that warrant great photography skills.

Swans3A2A4771Adj_pe.jpg

LtlGrHer3A2A4124Adj_pe.jpg

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Please help! I can't seem to get a clear picture of anything. It's also not clear when I look through the lens. Also, especially if you zoom in on a picture everything is very grainy. Both these pictures were taken in S mode, AF-C , Group-area AF, shutter 6400, Auto Iso. I clearly have no idea what setting to use. There is a swallow flying over the pond about to catch a bug (right side of photo).

DSC_0590(9).JPG

DSC_0550(8).JPG

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The first picture looks like it is focusing behind the swallow?  Swallows, even at a distance are hard to catch in flight.  Is your GRP autofocus the one with 4 boxes in the viewfinder.  1/6400th of a second is really fast, you don't need it that high for this type of picture.

 

The second photo, I would us a single focus point 100% of the time.  The picture is a bit dark so it is hard to see, but it appears the camera is focusing on the twig.

 

Look at your EXIF data.  I'm guessing with a 6400 shutter speed your ISO is very high, which will give you noise or grain.

 

Without knowing what the light was like, for these I would use Aperture mode, aperture in the 5 to 8 range,  with the D500 take it off auto ISO, and dial in the ISO below 2500 (lower is better if there is enough light).  With the branches in the second picture, you need single focus, aim for the bird's eye if you have time before it flies off.

 

If you post the exif data for both photos, we can probably help even more. YMMV, just my $.02 worth.

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Shooting at a distance at a small fast-moving bird is a fool's errand. Especially with small telephoto lens. Flying birds - look for big ones.

Start by shooting the bird sitting quietly of a branch.

Joining a camera club is GREAT advice. Mine is uppermerioncamera.org

Gull3A2A4950Adj_pe.jpg

Nat_GrBl Heron IMG_1823Adj.jpg

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12 hours ago, kenevenpar said:

The first picture looks like it is focusing behind the swallow?  Swallows, even at a distance are hard to catch in flight.  Is your GRP autofocus the one with 4 boxes in the viewfinder.  1/6400th of a second is really fast, you don't need it that high for this type of picture.

 

The second photo, I would us a single focus point 100% of the time.  The picture is a bit dark so it is hard to see, but it appears the camera is focusing on the twig.

 

Look at your EXIF data.  I'm guessing with a 6400 shutter speed your ISO is very high, which will give you noise or grain.

 

Without knowing what the light was like, for these I would use Aperture mode, aperture in the 5 to 8 range,  with the D500 take it off auto ISO, and dial in the ISO below 2500 (lower is better if there is enough light).  With the branches in the second picture, you need single focus, aim for the bird's eye if you have time before it flies off.

 

If you post the exif data for both photos, we can probably help even more. YMMV, just my $.02 worth.

Thanks, I appreciate your help! Yes, the autofocus was the one with 4 boxes in the viewfinder. How fast do you think I should try for the shutter? I'm not sure how to access the exif data (the instructions I Googled didn't match up with what I was seeing). 

I thought that if you used shutter priority the camera would automatically adjust aperture and ISO. I found that all my shots were really dark so I changed the ISO. Is that the best thing to do?

I will give Aperture mode a try.

 

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12 hours ago, Ozzydog said:

Shooting at a distance at a small fast-moving bird is a fool's errand. Especially with small telephoto lens. Flying birds - look for big ones.

Start by shooting the bird sitting quietly of a branch.

Joining a camera club is GREAT advice. Mine is uppermerioncamera.org

Gull3A2A4950Adj_pe.jpg

Nat_GrBl Heron IMG_1823Adj.jpg

Not sure if there are any camera clubs in my area. Will have to check it out.

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Posted (edited)
52 minutes ago, cruises42 said:

I thought that if you used shutter priority the camera would automatically adjust aperture and ISO. I found that all my shots were really dark so I changed the ISO. Is that the best thing to do?

I will give Aperture mode a try.

 

I'm not familiar with your particular camera, so I can't be sure, but I'd think you'd have a way to increase or decrease the target exposure.  If you are doing birds in flight, aperture priority might result in to slow a shutter speed.  You'll need to experiment.  With birds, shutter speed really depends on how much they are moving, as well as how much zoom you are using.  You normally want to freeze the bird motion, so a flying bird takes a faster shutter than a walking bird, which takes faster than a bird sitting totally still.  The other factor is a slow shutter with a long zoom can result in blurriness.  This normally isn't an issue with birds in flight because you will always be using a fast shutter, but on the ground there may be times where the ideal shutter speed would be slower than what you can hand hold.

 

For large birds in flight I've had luck with shutter speeds between 1000 and 2000 (you can see the blur in the Egret shot below where 1/1250 wasn't quite fast enough for the wingtips) , smaller birds need faster and as @Ozzydog said are VERY hard to capture.  Getting them in focus with a long lens is really hard.  Since your in VA, you might be able to find Canada Geese or Turkey Vultures to take some practice shots of.  Herons and Egrets are great if you have any in your area.

 

 

13 hours ago, kenevenpar said:

Without knowing what the light was like, for these I would use Aperture mode, aperture in the 5 to 8 range,  with the D500 take it off auto ISO, and dial in the ISO below 2500 (lower is better if there is enough light).  With the branches in the second picture, you need single focus, aim for the bird's eye if you have time before it flies off.

As others have mentioned, aperture will depend on light.  Large aperture lets in more light, but you loose depth of field.  A bird in a narrower aperture photo might be on focus, while a wide open one that is otherwise identical might not be.  I like the f/6.3 to f/8.  I think that is a good range to start in.  I know I've used up to f/11 for birds in flight on a really bright day, and wide open when the light is poor.

 

My Canon allows me to set limits on auto-ISO, so that it will not exceed a certain amount.  That lets me go back and change settings rather than having the camera try to "fix" a dark image by cranking up the ISO beyond what I consider acceptable.  I'm not sure with your camera, but it might be worth looking into rather than going full manual on ISO.

 

And I agree... focus on the birds eyes.  For a sitting bird, a single focus point on the eye will normally give the most pleasing image.

 

Just my 2 cents; your probably approach a quarter worth of advice by now!

 

A2T1A0305-2.jpg

A2T1A0862.jpg

Edited by AL3XCruise

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9 hours ago, cruises42 said:

Thanks, I appreciate your help! Yes, the autofocus was the one with 4 boxes in the viewfinder. How fast do you think I should try for the shutter? I'm not sure how to access the exif data (the instructions I Googled didn't match up with what I was seeing). 

I thought that if you used shutter priority the camera would automatically adjust aperture and ISO. I found that all my shots were really dark so I changed the ISO. Is that the best thing to do?

I will give Aperture mode a try.

 

 

In S mode, the camera will adjust aperture.  If you are using auto ISO, it will also try to adjust that, some times to extreme.  To confuse you further, you can set limits on the auto ISO, so it only goes to a predetermined maximum.

 

In A mode, the camera will adjust shutter speed, with the same caveat about auto ISO.

 

i rarely use auto ISO, but know that many do.

 

I really like the D500 viewfinder and the brightness of the information.  I learned how to quickly adjust aperture if my shutter speed is dropping too low, without taking my eye off the viewfinder.  I can also adjust my ISO without taking my eye off the viewfinder, but that is much less frequent than adjusting aperture.

 

EXIF data is easily viewed on you computer.  Your photo editing software should have the option to show file data.  This information can be extremely helpful (or extremely boring).  For the 2 pictures that were dark, I would guess that the aperture was wide open (low f number).

 

 

 

 

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When using Auto ISO, most DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras allow you to set a cap on the maximum ISO it will automatically adjust to. Many will also allow you to set the minimum shutter speed at which the camera will bump the ISO upwards. I use my camera in Aperture mode most of the time with the minimum shutter set to 1/30s. If I am chasing grandkids, I set the minimum shutter speed to 1/250s or 1/500s.

 

Another tip I found while shooting my grandson's football games was that Manual mode allows me to set the aperture and shutter to suit my needs and auto-ISO takes care of variable light while following the action. Semi-Manual?

 

Dave

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Don't get too frustrated yet - the small birds are a very difficult thing to start with a new camera - when in flight, they require generally being a LOT closer (or a lot more lens reach), and seriously good panning skills.  No matter how good a camera's focus system is, asking it to find a tiny, poorly lit subject that represents less than .001% of the entire frame and choose that to focus on...well it just isn't going to happen!  That swallow needs to fill at least 10% of the frame to reasonably expect a camera's focus system to know it's an intended target, and that would still leave you cropping quite a bit.  Better if you can get it up to 30-40% of the frame, but then that requires really knowing how to pan with a fast moving bird - fast shutter speeds are helpful, but good panning can make an even bigger difference.

In general, for a small, very fast bird, shutter speeds can be as low as about 1/1500 to around 1/4000...that will usually freeze the motion of the fast wings enough for a clean, detailed shot, presuming you are keeping the subject in the frame and on the focus points as you pan with him.  For a sitting bird, shutter speeds can be 1/500 to 1/1000 without too much problem, even with long focal lengths...the slower you go, the more you need to have good stability with long lenses and good technique to avoid too much vibration when tripping the shutter.

Shoot the larger birds first, until you're getting the hang of your camera...practice on the easy birds - like gulls - they're one of the best beginner birds because they tend to fly slow and hover often.  When you want to get into the small, fast birds, you really need to be looking at a minimum of 300mm on a crop sensor body, to up to 600mm, and then really need to work on tracking and panning to keep up with them - try to get them to at least 15% of the frame or so.  It sounds a little counter-intuitive, but the shallower the depth of field, the better for small birds in flight - because a very small subject especially against a busy background gives the focus system too many potential things to focus on - when the DOF is shallow, there are few things in focus at the same distance as the bird, so the focus system can more clearly distinguish and lock onto the small bird - most of what's in the background ends up nicely blurred out.

 

I enjoy shooting martins, swallows, and such in flight, but really couldn't pull it off until I had been shooting birds in flight for a good few years:

 

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11 hours ago, pierces said:

Another tip I found while shooting my grandson's football games was that Manual mode allows me to set the aperture and shutter to suit my needs and auto-ISO takes care of variable light while following the action. Semi-Manual?

 

I've used this technique a lot.  As mentioned above, the shutter speed is normally determined by the motion of the subject, the aperture is typically the set either where the lens is the sharpest or where your desired depth of field is, and the camera can fill in the rest with ISO.  Of course, if the ISO gets to a point where I don't like the results, I open the aperture more. 

 

I'm not sure the logic cameras use in shutter priority modes to determine when they will change aperture vs change ISO and how much it varies by camera.

 

9 hours ago, zackiedawg said:

he small birds are a very difficult thing to start with a new camera - when in flight, they require generally being a LOT closer (or a lot more lens reach), and seriously good panning skills.  No matter how good a camera's focus system is, asking it to find a tiny, poorly lit subject that represents less than .001% of the entire frame and choose that to focus on...well it just isn't going to happen! 

 

The first time I tested out a super zoom lens (100-400 Canon) I somehow managed to get a pretty good shot of a carpenter bee in flight 25+ feet away.  I did use manual focus.  But from a practical perspective, I find myself struggling with anything smaller than a Seagull in flight, though on occasion if a small bird/insect moves slow and predictably (or hovers) I've gotten OK results.  Still, I would agree it takes a LONG time to develop the skills needed to follow small and fast targets through a long lens; big birds can be enough of a challenge!

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Posted (edited)

Thanks everyone for all the information. I will try to get out and practice but I have so much to do the next few days before we leave for our 14 day Alaska cruise. It is extremely frustrating that I don't have more time to work with this camera. I hope I can get some decent shots. Any tips on settings for wildlife viewing (whales, sea otters, birds) and landscape would be appreciated. We will be getting internet service so I'll have access to all the above information you gave me.

What exif information were you most interested in seeing kenevenpar? Also can you crop in-camera? I really liked that I could do that with my D3400.

The reason the swallows take up such a small part of the frame was because they move so fast and erratically that when I was fully zoomed in at 400  most of the time I just got a picture of the pond and no bird. So I zoomed less to get the swallow actually in the photo.

If I am using S or A mode at how do you decide what to set ISO at? 

Edited by cruises42

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If you are near the coast use seagulls as bird practice.

 

They are plentiful, not too small and reasonably predictable in flight, or even just on the ground/water.

 

This would allow you to go through, and get familiar with, the various capabilities of your camera, and to help choose those that you are most comfortable with.

 

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12 hours ago, cruises42 said:

What exif information were you most interested in seeing kenevenpar? Also can you crop in-camera? I really liked that I could do that with my D3400.

The reason the swallows take up such a small part of the frame was because they move so fast and erratically that when I was fully zoomed in at 400  most of the time I just got a picture of the pond and no bird. So I zoomed less to get the swallow actually in the photo.

If I am using S or A mode at how do you decide what to set ISO at? 

 

Exif - You said you were at 1/6400, so the other two pieces of the equation - Aperture and ISO.

 

You can crop in camera, but I never do.  It is so much easier, faster and accurate in software.  I also never delete photos in my camera; some I follow feel that it can damage the memory card(s).  I don't know about that, but it certainly takes a lot longer than on my laptop.  Also, the D500 eats up battery.  Editing and deleting in camera just uses that much more battery.

 

As others have said, it is extremely difficult to get swallows or other small fast moving birds in flight.  If I am totally bored waiting for other wildlife action, I may play around practicing panning an trying to get these birds.

 

For ISO, I want it as low as possible.  If there is not much ambient light you will need to go higher.  If it is before sunrise when I usually start taking pictures, I start at 2500 and work my way down as more light is available.

 

What I am trying to say, is that proper exposure is based on letting the correct amount of light in to the sensor by adjusting three things; ISO (sensor sensitivity), Aperture (lens opening), and shutter speed.  The D500 does a good job with higher ISO, but I still try to keep mine at 2500 or lower, and I would prefer it to bee 100 - 400; I have seen good results at 6400 from some photographers.

 

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23 hours ago, Docker123 said:

 

If you are near the coast use seagulls as bird practice.

 

They are plentiful, not too small and reasonably predictable in flight, or even just on the ground/water.

 

This would allow you to go through, and get familiar with, the various capabilities of your camera, and to help choose those that you are most comfortable with.

 

Nope, not near the coast...Northwest corner of the state.

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8 hours ago, kenevenpar said:

 

Exif - You said you were at 1/6400, so the other two pieces of the equation - Aperture and ISO.

 

You can crop in camera, but I never do.  It is so much easier, faster and accurate in software.  I also never delete photos in my camera; some I follow feel that it can damage the memory card(s).  I don't know about that, but it certainly takes a lot longer than on my laptop.  Also, the D500 eats up battery.  Editing and deleting in camera just uses that much more battery.

 

As others have said, it is extremely difficult to get swallows or other small fast moving birds in flight.  If I am totally bored waiting for other wildlife action, I may play around practicing panning an trying to get these birds.

 

For ISO, I want it as low as possible.  If there is not much ambient light you will need to go higher.  If it is before sunrise when I usually start taking pictures, I start at 2500 and work my way down as more light is available.

 

What I am trying to say, is that proper exposure is based on letting the correct amount of light in to the sensor by adjusting three things; ISO (sensor sensitivity), Aperture (lens opening), and shutter speed.  The D500 does a good job with higher ISO, but I still try to keep mine at 2500 or lower, and I would prefer it to bee 100 - 400; I have seen good results at 6400 from some photographers.

 

For the swallow picture it was F5.6, ISO 2500, 1/6400 and 155mm.  For the bluebird it was f6.3, ISO 2500, 1/6400 and 400mm.

How do you crop in camera? On the D3400  you just zoomed, press i, trim and done. That is not possible with this camera. I have never used any software, I believe we may have something on the computer but I don't know what it is.  I will have to get into that but for now I'd like to crop in camera. I have been deleting in the camera. I use Snapbridge so the photos will download to my iPad and phone and the computer (icloud). I can go in and delete from iPad or phone but ones that go to the computer are still there and then I would have to delete them separately. I do have a lot that I delete. 

Do you think P mode would be good to use for Alaska scenery? Also any hints about taking photos through glass?

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