A tripod is just as important to sharpness as the lens and closeness. But if you have a camera with an Optical image stabilization system, that is good for an additional 2 f stops or 2 steps of shutter speed. Canon is well know for their IS technology. Here is some background:
The ability to increase your shutter speed would be a major help with moving bat wings. But I have never seen a sharp bat wing on the move that did not include a lot of Flash illumination... You will need to lure them closer with a stone tied into a handkerchief. They will follow it down to the ground, thinking it is a large moth. But the odds of getting it in frame are lower as they fill more of the frame, they are always on the move. The best bat pictures involve luring the animal into a area set up for photography with Flash units that can pump out the light and motion sensors to trigger it, so you can use high shutter speeds.
Merlin tuttle is the ultimate expert in this field:
Perhaps his online photo gallery has the species you are interested in. And while these images are not free (proceeds for their use in publication go to Bat conservation), they may may give you the kind of detail you need to create your on pose based upon some of your own( blurrier) photos.
Your post was very helpful. It sounds like what you're saying is that if you
were to photograph bats, which are about the same size as the small birds you
refer to, you would use the 400mm lens? I used a 70-300mm zoom but it just
wasn't close enough. The bats were about 40' overhead.
I'm not much of a person to take classes, generally just like to learn by
doing. I've bought a few books. A lot of what most photographers need is not
applicable to me. I'm not looking for the photographs to be the end product.
I want to use the photographs as references for illustrations. So it's
immaterial to me whether the background is in focus or fuzzed out if the thing
I'm trying to capture is the veining in the wings of a dragonfly. The rule of
thirds, bokeh, and a lot of the other terms aren't applicable. I'm wondering
if it's better for me to spend my $ on a telephoto lens than a better tripod,
for example. I don't want sharpness in the photos as much as I want close-in
detail (or are they really one and the same?)
----- Original Message -----
From: Bruce Bartrug
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Thursday, July 31, 2008 9:33 PM
Subject: Re: [SCIART] TAN: recovered terns
...But knowing how to get close enough to the birds one wants to photograph
is the key to getting good photos of any bird, including flying terns. Robert
Capa's imperative to struggling war photographers -- "If your photos aren't
good, you're not close enough" -- also applies to wildlife photography in
general, but especially birds in particular, as they are quite small animals.
I have a 400mm lens that I've mostly used from blinds to get within the 10 to
15 feet one needs to get decent photos of smaller birds. In this particular
case I noticed a whirl of terns at a certain juncture along a rock jetty, one
that occurred about an hour before high tide in the mouth of a tidal river. At
this time in the tide cycle, bait fish are periodically forced to the surface,
either by larger fish (mackeral, bluefish, striped bass?) or by the currents.
This lasts about an hour, and during this time I could stand on the top of the
jetty and take photos of the birds as they glided along waiting for the fish to
resurface, or whirled and dived on a school of hapless minnow-sized fish. So I
was usually about 30 feet to 30 meters from the bird I was photographing...