Is it my lack of skill or my gear?

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Paul
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You have had a lot of advice, from a lot of people with more experience than me. So what can I add?

Just try to eliminate variables (and make your life simpler at the same time). Until you have mastered the basics to your own satisfaction; only photograph slow moving or stationary objects, only photograph in reasonable daylight (so no deep, dark woods), not above ISO 400 (some people will quibble about this, and probably everything else too!), not below f/5.6 (or even f/8 given your comments about your lens), not above f/16, not below 1/100th of a second at the wide end of your zoom or 1/250 at the long end.

You may find that you can't do all of these at the same time - the answer is a tripod. It's a big step, but if you take it, suddenly everything will become easier, especially with the comment you make about a little tremor.

If you still have a problem after all of that, your next step would be to change your lens. Come back here when you reach that point as I'm sure there will be another book full of advice!

Good luck!
 
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Andrew
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Firstly welcome to the forum and congratulations on your masters, a worthy achievement if ever there was one.

It’s a question of practice, practice and practice some more. I honed my skills with literally thousands of rolls of films and I offer the following comments which are aimed at being helpful as opposed to critical. Wildlife isn’t an easy subject to start with. the subjects are too small in the images and aren’t sharp. Are you using a tripod? Can I suggest setting up a static subject in the garden or where ever you are shooting and practice shooting that until you get the images clear, sharp and well framed. Rattle off a lot of shots, make some notes on shutter speed and aperture etc and view the results to see what works best. Use something bright and colourful as the subject, but I suggest you make sure it is flat so you can check your focus easily. Cornflake packet or similar with bright colours would be ideal. Try different zoom settings to see what looks right, go in too close and be too far out to see the differences. Once you have got your technique sorted the better images will come. Learn how to use depth of field and light to maximum effect. Your local college may run photography courses in the evenings etc but forget about better kit and photoshop until you have got the technique right and understand what you are doing and how the basics work. I hope this is helpful rather than critical.
 
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Tim
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@abiwildlifeandme I started with a camera and lens combination like that and was also disappointed with my results. Things got a lot better after I took a one year course with lots of practice and then upgraded the kit.
 
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I’ve not gone over all posts so sorry if this is just repeating things.

From the bird photos there’s two main points I noticed straight away. First is that you are too far away from the subject. Try to get much closer, even using a 600mm lens from 12 feet away a blue-tit or robin for example won’t fill the frame. When birds are as small in the frame as in your photos you’re not going to see great detail unfortunately.

The second thing was the light. Shooting a subject in the shadows or shooting into bright light is not going to give great detail and sharpness. Think about where the light is and how much is falling on the subject.

Everyone will have their own way of shooting but my go to bird settings are 1/1000 shutter, wide open aperture (f5.6 on my camera) and auto ISO. My lens is sharp wide open but most tele zooms can be a bit soft at the long end so if light is good then consider stopping down to f8 to get better sharpness. If light isn’t great and ISO is creeping up to much I’ll lower shutter speed to 1/500 or even 1/250 for birds perched on a branch etc, knowing that some shots will be blurry due to the bird’s movement, but if I burst shoot some from the burst shots will hopefully not show movement.

I also use spot metering that I have linked to the AF point (to the best of my knowledge spot metering doesn’t aid autofocus as mentioned in another post). The reason I use spot metering is that often birds don’t fill the frame and so I don’t want wide or matrix metering as that won’t necessarily give the correct exposure for the subject, but having the metering meter from my AF point (which will obviously be on the bird) should mean the subject is correctly exposed.

Good luck and practice practice practice.
 
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Martin
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I agree with gman. I often shoot with a high quality 50mm lens. Fifty mil lenses are always cheap, fast and really good and although not very good (useless really) for long-distance photography there is a lot of wildlife closer to hand that doesn't move so fast where you can practice your hand-holding, composition and camera awareness. Your results will be more encouraging for your photography and you will enjoy it more because of that. I have used aperture priority exclusively ever since the early 70's and have developed the skill of having one eye on the shutter speed all the time to avoid camera shake. For me, it's always a question of knowing what the camera is doing when I take pictures so I can balance aperture and shutter speed for the best combination.

Take your photographs of wildlife with good quality lenses even if they are not entirely what you need for the job. When you feel you are good enough, then is the time to invest in really good long-distance glass. It's an incentive and something to look forward to.
 
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I have not read all the posts so probably all said already.

If your Tamron is a cheap version this will no help.

I find that the really good bird photos are taken with high end equipment. But very decent shots can be achieved on much cheaper equipment.

Getting as close as possible to bird is essential. This probably means a hide.

Camera settings are important but advice varies considerably. I tend to shot wide open if necessary with a speed of at least 1/1000 and limit iso to 3200 or 1600.

If you struggle to handhold, try a tripod with a gimbal.

Bird photography is far from easy, it needs a lot of practice.
 
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John King
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I really believe that a good tripod will add a lot of value to whatever lens you may wish to use. Looking at these critically they are unsharp, not with lack of the lenses capability, but due to camera shake. Especially the butterfly. OK, so if you did use a tripod there is still some movement present. Perhaps a more robust one would help but in a lot of cases a tripod's benefit is cancelled out by not using a remote release. In a lot of cases it is not the equipment that is a problem, but the way it is used.

My lens of choice to walk about with is a Nikon 24/120 and that is very sharp, but if I am able I will always use some form of support. One of my other lenses is a Nikon 70/300 AFD that has a mixed reputation, but on a tripod I have never had a unsharp image due to camera shake. Optically it is also very good and when I am using film, a 12x16 print is certain if I use it on a tripod. The same applies if I fit it on my D700. Actually some say the Nikon 70/300 AFD is the same optical computation as the Tamron, the only difference being the Tamron focuses closer.

A cheap but very effective support that is more convenient than a tripod, is a bean bag, My daughter made me one when she was 12 yrs old - she is now 48. It hasn't got beans inside but hard dries peas, all sown into a cloth bag about 6x6 inches which is quite full. That has served me well over the years. It was the only thing that kept my camera still when I was using a 600mm mirror lens!
 
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Graham
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Thanks everyone. Sorry for the late reply, I didn't get the email notifications that you'd commented!

I feel I know what I'm doing with composition, rule of thirds etc. I don't know why I didn't apply it in these shots haha.

I am doing an online photography course - we've gone on to different types of photography, but personally I think I would have benefitted with more of the basics.
It's exposure/ sharpness that is bugging me at the moment. (I'm not too fussed at the artistically stunning stuff at the moment, I just want some nice quality record shots so I know what I have seen). I have a heart condition which makes my hands shake more than normal, so I think I'm fighting an uphill battle!
I am hoping the weather cheers up soon and I can get out and practice soon. I have played around with MF and Av and Sv a bit, but need to get better.

Thanks for all your comments.

A monopod could go a long way to overcoming this. Cheap, light and portable.
 

Fuji Dave

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A monopod could go a long way to overcoming this. Cheap, light and portable.

That is what I own and use, plus great to use as a walking stick to till I need to use it on my cameras.
 
OP
abiwildlifeandme
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Abi
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If its the cheap 70-300 Tamron (around £ 100) then its not great, and sharpness / focus would immediately crease with a better lens.
I expect it is the cheap one, I got it as a bundle with my camera body and a wide angle canon lens
 
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Tony
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I expect it is the cheap one, I got it as a bundle with my camera body and a wide angle canon lens
I'm on the upgrade side of the fence.
The camera should be able to produce high quality images but the lens, not so.

If you have a budget for a replacement lens, let us know and we can surely advise on what's best for your money.

Also, do you have a copy of the canon image conversion software? It's called DPP (Digital Photo Professional).
It's a free download from canon uk all you need is your camera serial number. I use it all the time but then, I don't edit my pictures as such, just correct them.

Good luck.
 
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Andrew Cliffe
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If you have access to other lenses within your family or friends circle, maybe borrow, in a safe socially distanced way. Otherwise when people are allowed to meet up, maybe someone on TP would like a day out with the camera and you could try their lens. Or rent one for a weekend from Lensesforhire.
 
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abiwildlifeandme
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Abi
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If you have access to other lenses within your family or friends circle, maybe borrow, in a safe socially distanced way. Otherwise when people are allowed to meet up, maybe someone on TP would like a day out with the camera and you could try their lens. Or rent one for a weekend from Lensesforhire.
You can rent lenses? What a fab idea! I'll definitely look into that. Thanks so much.
 
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You can rent lenses? What a fab idea! I'll definitely look into that. Thanks so much.
You can, but depending on how long you plan on renting one out for it can be cheaper to buy a lens and then sell again, if bought wisely in the first place.
 
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Graham
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You can rent lenses? What a fab idea! I'll definitely look into that. Thanks so much.
It's up to you of course, but personally I would just spend £99 and get the nifty fifty 50mm f/1.8. LINK It's such a good and versatile lens which opens up lots of creativity and can encourage further development into photography. You'll then be in a good position to know what lenses (and camera) to properly invest in.

Camera Price Buster is a good place to check out all the available gear on the market.

 
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It's up to you of course, but personally I would just spend £99 and get the nifty fifty 50mm f/1.8. LINK It's such a good and versatile lens which opens up lots of creativity and can encourage further development into photography. You'll then be in a good position to know what lenses (and camera) to properly invest in.

Camera Price Buster is a good place to check out all the available gear on the market.

And this is a good place to check used prices (y)

 
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Alan
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Nifty fifties are IMO a totally different proposition on APS-C due to the crop factor. A nifty fifty equivalent on APS-C would be a 35mm (or there abouts) and these tend to be a little more expensive than the bargain 50mm's. But of course with lenses like this shots like the ones in the OP would be extremely difficult as they just don't have the reach and good long lenses can be expensive.

I am always a bit phased when people recommend nifty fifties to APS-C users but if the op or anyone else thinks this is a good way to go then so be it.
 
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Tony
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Given the OP has stated "Mainly Wildlife" I'm not sure anything less than 200mm is going to be any use.
Admittedly it would be an easy lens to learn how to set and use the camera with but largely redundant after that.
 
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Nifty fifties are IMO a totally different proposition on APS-C due to the crop factor. A nifty fifty equivalent on APS-C would be a 35mm (or there abouts) and these tend to be a little more expensive than the bargain 50mm's. But of course with lenses like this shots like the ones in the OP would be extremely difficult as they just don't have the reach and good long lenses can be expensive.

I am always a bit phased when people recommend nifty fifties to APS-C users but if the op or anyone else thinks this is a good way to go then so be it.
I agree, a nifty fifty on a crop sensor is too long for ‘general’ photography imo and borders into being more of a portrait lens.
Given the OP has stated "Mainly Wildlife" I'm not sure anything less than 200mm is going to be any use.
Admittedly it would be an easy lens to learn how to set and use the camera with but largely redundant after that.
Agreed, I’d even say 300mm on a crop body is probably the shortest you want to go for wildlife. YMMV (y)
 
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Tony
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The other likely problem will be the cameras ISO performance.
 
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Paul
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Lots of good advice in here already - but my thoughts:

You've arguably chosen the most gear-centric type of photography - wildlife is tricky, small wildlife even more so, small wildlife in the UK, ooof! :D

Yes, practice will help - but shooting small, flitty birds, in British woodland in February is technically challenging for your camera.

You really need a fast lens to get as much of the limited light in as possible, longer mm to fill the frame better (those birds are small!). They also tend to focus faster.
The body is fine for now; there's always better, but a top-of-the-line body with a bargain basement lens will fare much worse than a good lens on a decent body.

I'd look at a second-hand 400mm f/5.6. It's not ideal - f/2.8 would be perfect (but ££££) - but it will give you more reach, and the wider aperture will help.
Hiring lenses is great, I tend to limit it to holidays, but be prepared to reluctantly hand it back at the end of the hire period and instantly looking on eBay and on here for second-hand ones! :D

Thankfully, brighter weather is coming - so wait for some better light, and ideally find some bigger birds/animals :D
 
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Tony
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Yes, practice will help - but shooting small, flitty birds, in British woodland in February is technically challenging for your camera.
You got that right.
Small flitty birds in woodland would be a challenge for my R5 and a 400mm 2.8.:)
 
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Darran, Daz or ****
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When I bought my Canon 450D I also took up the offer of the Tamron 70-300 as well.
As AndrewC has said the cheap version is not very good and it baffled me for a while thinking that perhaps it was me.
Lenses are something we invest in and tend to keep them for many years while we may change bodies a few times.
Personally for wildlife I would suggest at least a Canon 100-400L MK1 (still around £600 used) or a Tamron 100-400 which can be bought for a good price via the likes of einfinity.
For me, the wake up call was when I was on a meet via the forum and another member let me try out their Canon 70-200L f/4.
Eventually if you really enjoy bird photography, either a Sigma or Tamron 150-600 would be ideal.
I spent a small fortune in my early days with buying the wrong lenses because I didn't believe that good money needs to spent on them.
 
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Lots of good advice in here already - but my thoughts:

You've arguably chosen the most gear-centric type of photography - wildlife is tricky, small wildlife even more so, small wildlife in the UK, ooof! :D

Yes, practice will help - but shooting small, flitty birds, in British woodland in February is technically challenging for your camera.

You really need a fast lens to get as much of the limited light in as possible, longer mm to fill the frame better (those birds are small!). They also tend to focus faster.
The body is fine for now; there's always better, but a top-of-the-line body with a bargain basement lens will fare much worse than a good lens on a decent body.

I'd look at a second-hand 400mm f/5.6. It's not ideal - f/2.8 would be perfect (but ££££) - but it will give you more reach, and the wider aperture will help.
Hiring lenses is great, I tend to limit it to holidays, but be prepared to reluctantly hand it back at the end of the hire period and instantly looking on eBay and on here for second-hand ones! :D

Thankfully, brighter weather is coming - so wait for some better light, and ideally find some bigger birds/animals :D
Good advice, the only thing I would say is that the OP has health issues that means they struggle to hold lenses steady. Fast primes are heavy and more difficult to hold (y)
You got that right.
Small flitty birds in woodland would be a challenge for my R5 and a 400mm 2.8.:)
I’d have thought that combo would have had no issue? :eek:
 
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Tony
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Good advice, the only thing I would say is that the OP has health issues that means they struggle to hold lenses steady. Fast primes are heavy and more difficult to hold (y)

I’d have thought that combo would have had no issue? :eek:
Ouch!
 

Fuji Dave

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Some folk might disagree but when I had the 1100D Canon, my most used lens was the EF-S 55-250mm f4-5.6 IS STM. It was a great lens and light on my camera, my biggest mistake getting a lens for my wildlife was a 150-600mm for me ONLY it was to heavy to carry about.
 
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Some folk might disagree but when I had the 1100D Canon, my most used lens was the EF-S 55-250mm f4-5.6 IS STM. It was a great lens and light on my camera, my biggest mistake getting a lens for my wildlife was a 150-600mm for me ONLY it was to heavy to carry about.
I got sick of carrying the 150-600mm and went to M4/3 with the EM1-II and 100-400mm (200-800mm eq) and it was a great combo, AF and Iq was very good. I’ve now gone sony with the 100-400mm and whilst IQ is better (the GM lens is a cracker) weight is starting to creep up and you know when you’ve been hand holding the lens for a while. I don’t have the patience to have a ‘proper’ setup with tripod and gimbal ;)
 

Fuji Dave

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I got sick of carrying the 150-600mm and went to M4/3 with the EM1-II and 100-400mm (200-800mm eq) and it was a great combo, AF and Iq was very good. I’ve now gone sony with the 100-400mm and whilst IQ is better (the GM lens is a cracker) weight is starting to creep up and you know when you’ve been hand holding the lens for a while. I don’t have the patience to have a ‘proper’ setup with tripod and gimbal ;)

My biggest lens I'll use for wildlife will be my FE70-200 f4, as when I start to get back out I know just where to go for good wildlife shots.
 
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My biggest lens I'll use for wildlife will be my FE70-200 f4, as when I start to get back out I know just where to go for good wildlife shots.
I wish I could get that close. I was taking shots of Robins and Long tailed tits in my garden and the closest I could get was about 12-15ft away and with a 100-400mm I was still having to crop VERY heavily. I’ve bought a 1.4x TC now so hoping to give that a go this week.
 

Fuji Dave

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Shoreham and then Swanbourne Lake are fantastic.
 
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Jeff
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Before you spend a lot of money on lenses that may or may or may not fit the bill take a look at the Olympus section on here .. a used omd1-mkii can be had for circa £500 and a new 100-400 for £1100 . That will give you ultra fast shooting and weigh 2kg all up
 
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