Words and Images from Ed Felker

Telephoto Fun

I only use one lens. Let’s ignore the fact that the reason for this is that I only own one lens, and just agree that my Canon EFS 15-85 is a serviceable all-purpose lens. Portraits, landscapes, sports, it does okay at just about everything. If lenses were inexpensive, I would own two more tomorrow: a low light wide angle, and a decent zoom lens. But since they aren’t, and I won’t, and in less than a week I will be shooting an event for a story and could really use a zoom, I borrowed a 18-200 lens from a friend.
So today I went for a walk with the dogs down to the river to find something to practice on. And since the great blue herons, eagles, hawks and deer decided to stay in and watch the Ravens game, I trained the camera on my usual subjects, my Hungarian Wirehaired Vizslas.
I definitely need more practice with the lens. I need to figure out what it can do well, what it can’t, and how I can get the most out of it. I probably won’t figure these things out by Saturday when I need it, but what I figured out already is pretty valuable.
I think the greatest thing about a zoom lens is you can take many pictures quickly before the subject even knows you’re looking at it. This is particularly helpful with dogs and wildlife. When I’m close to my dogs, I can sometimes get nice portraits, but it’s virtually impossible to get anything candid because they’re focused on me. But from twenty yards away or more, I found I got many more candid photo opportunities.
They all seem a little grainy to me, and I was using ISO400, aperture wide open. It was very shady, and I know a telephoto lens is going to be a bit of a light hog, but I’m confused a little about the grain. Maybe someone smarter than me can comment with an answer here.
Still, the angles I was able to get as Winnie and Finn ran up or down the hill far ahead of me made for some interesting shots unlike those I typically get, and I look forward to continued experimentation.

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11 responses

  1. rhwoodman

    Good shots for a first-time telephoto user. I have a Canon EOS Rebel T1i with two lenses: 18-55 and 55-250. I use both lenses, but I tend to use the 18-55 more.

    I’m not sure what caused the graininess that you are seeing in the photos. Were you shooting manually, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, or were you using the auto presets (Full Auto, Landscape, etc.)? Why did you choose ISO 400 instead of 800?

    January 15, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    • We have the same camera. I was shooting aperture priority. I almost always do because I feel like the one thing I want to be able to control quickly is depth of field. So like in these shots when I want the subject to be in focus and the rest of the scene not so much, I open the aperture all the way. Anyway, I don’t know why I use 400 ISO, if there is enough light I just usually start there. If I’m shooting full sun I’ll go to 200, but my starting point seems to be 400 most days. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

      January 15, 2012 at 6:49 pm

  2. rhwoodman

    I started out using the auto presets, but I quickly switched to manual. A coworker who is also a photographer (she runs a photography business on the side) showed me how much better things could be if I used Aperture priority, and that is how I shoot most photos now. This is a great blog, and I look forward to seeing more of your work and learning more about how you photograph.

    January 15, 2012 at 7:17 pm

  3. Some great shots, we really should get the dogs together and explore. You should find a way to get a lens like the 18-200… That one is a very reasonable price. It was my only lens for my 7D when I had it and for the most part I was very happy with it, especially with the reach it gave me. I now have more range than that but it’s spread between 2 lenses, one of which is a beast to haul so it has not made it into the woods yet. I miss the wide range found in one lens, and may have to remedy it. Or even something with just a smidge more like an 18-135 that would actually give you something closer to 200mm on the further end with your chip.

    I anycase, whenever I am in the woods, and tend to be shooting the dogs I am usually higher than ISO 400, it’s usually more like 800, and 1000 is not unheard of, to allow for a faster shutter. I am not a genius when it comes to explaining technical stuff but I would imagine that the cameras ability to hide/eliminate grain is based on the chip/sensor inside the camera NOT so much the actual lens/glass. Sure a wider ap will allow you to shoot in lower light without bumping ISO up as much, but it does not affect grain as far as I know. Case in point the 50mm prime I shot some pictures with today… I shot wide open at 1.4 and it’s reaaally smooth even though my ISO was 1250 (wow just surprised myself there when I actually looked it up and found that).

    Hope that helps, keep shooting with it you will get the hang of it. What are you shooting this weekend?
    Anna
    http://www.akginspiration.com

    January 15, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    • Thanks Anna. Boy I’d love to see what that 1.4 can do! I bet that’s a fun lens. Yeah I will shoot in more varied environments with this lens and see what the results look like. But with similar settings, I don’t think I get anywhere near the graininess with my other lens as I do with this, for whatever reason.

      As for this weekend, it’s a surprise! Stay tuned. I am hopeful (unless it rains) that I’ll get some very cool shots!

      January 15, 2012 at 7:31 pm

  4. Posted another idea on facebook… either way I don’t think a little grain will detract too much from a nice shot. Some even go for the grain these days, as a throwback to film. I posted a fireside shot of Luna on facebook taken today with that lens.. And all of the shots on her recent blog are with it.

    http://akgvizslainspiration.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/new-headshots-for-the-new-year/

    I really love it I think it works well with my style, especially with the dog portraits. I am about to pull out a second body though to shoot while out and about so I have more reach, I miss my 18-200.

    Looking forward to seeing what you are shooting.

    January 15, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    • Those are fantastic, Anna!

      I agree about a little grain, I especially don’t mind it in black and white. I just want to understand it better, you know? Oh well, the great thing about digital is you get to experiment for free!

      January 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm

  5. I think your shots are fantastic, and the graininess didn’t look too bad to me. But then, I’m just a hobby shooter myself. If you ever want to try a fast 1.4 50mm telephoto, I have one you can use. It takes GORGEOUS portrait and low-light shots (food in particular look AMAZING), and the depth of field is stunning.

    Anyway, glad you’re enjoying the lens.

    Cheers,
    Scott

    January 16, 2012 at 7:16 am

    • Thanks, Scott! I am enjoying and very much appreciate the loan. That 1.4 lens sounds very expensive, I might be nervous to borrow that. But maybe next time I’m shooting something at your distillery I could play around with it. I bet it is wonderful with interior shots of people. Interior shots are my worst.

      January 16, 2012 at 7:45 am

  6. Jena

    I think they’re beautiful pics – I don’t really notice the grain too much. I have the same body as you, and just got an awesome telephoto (70-200 f/2.8) and am still learning. Have you tried it in shutter priority just to play with your speed instead – maybe while bumping up the ISO at the same time? I always thought you got more noise/graininess at higher ISO. I love the shallow depth of field, especially for portraits, but it can be harder to isolate your focus at a greater distance. So maybe more depth of field could help? Are you using a tripod or does the lens have IS? I don’t notice much blur/camera shake, which is impressive with a zoom.
    I know none of this is helpful, really. I really have no idea what I’m talking about. I think they’re great pictures. Look forward to seeing more.
    And I think it’s time to start researching some bigger zooms for yourself. As much as you enjoy taking pictures, and with your artistic eye, it will pay for itself with enjoyment at the very least.
    Cheers,
    Jena

    January 16, 2012 at 9:58 am

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