Frustrated

JSPhotographyJSPhotography Major grinsPosts: 552Registered Users Major grins
edited April 14, 2012 in Wildlife
Am I doing something wrong? Am I asking too much from my equipment? This image was shot with my 7D and Sigma 120-400, on a tripod, at 1/500, F5.6, 400mm, ISO1600. The first is straight out of the camera. The second is processed and is as far as I can crop it becouse it is so soft. I think I should get better results than this.

i-J99JXFb-L.jpg

i-7NcvqZt-L.jpg

Comments

  • DsrtVWDsrtVW Light Stalking Posts: 1,990Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 20, 2011
    What time of day was this what were the conditions sunny, overcast morning it is not that bad but the high iso will make it a little soft too if you crop it and exposure is off some. Was this hand held or on a tripod? My Sigma 170-500mm gets a little soft at the limits of its range (low light at long range).
    It is frustrating trying to get close enough to get a good clear shot hoping the light and the subject all cooperate. But when you get it all right and the gods smile upon you it is most satisfying.
    Just off hand I would drop the iso and go for a slower shutter. I try to stay above 1/250 but I have had some keepers lower than that. Unless fill the frame with the subject high iso get a bit soft when cropping.
    Chris K. NANPA Member
    http://kadvantage.smugmug.com/
  • HarrybHarryb old and lazy Posts: 22,700Super Moderators moderator
    edited September 20, 2011
    Welcome to the frustrated club. wave.gif Every time I come back from a session and review my captures I get frustrated. :bash There always a capture that I really wanted that I didn't get or one I though I had nailed that ends up in the trash heap.

    In order to heavily crop a capture and have it stand up the capture has to be just about perfect. Every imperfection will be magnified by the crop.

    With this capture I think the focus was more on the foreground vegetation than the subject. It looks like the vegetation in front of the right shoulder was what the camera focused on. If you can check on where your focus point was for that capture check it out.

    Whenever I take a capture I will try for at least 3 exposures if conditions are optimal. If I'm shooting under less than optimal conditions I go with my experience. If under a certain set of conditions my "keeper" rate is around 20% I will take at least 5 captures.

    Even with a tripod camera shake is possible if you are not using good long lens technique. Remember if you are shooting at extreme reach any movement, however slight, will be magnified. Using a shutter release cable reduces the possibility of shake.

    Frustration is good if it motivates you to examine what happened to cause the capture to be a failure. Once you identify it, you correct it. Then you go out again and get that capture. Of course something else will come up that will frustrate you.
    Harry
    http://behret.smugmug.com/ NANPA member
    How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb? 50. One to change the bulb, and forty-nine to say, "I could have done that better!"
  • DsrtVWDsrtVW Light Stalking Posts: 1,990Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 20, 2011
    Harryb wrote: »
    Welcome to the frustrated club. wave.gif Every time I come back from a session and review my captures I get frustrated. :bash There always a capture that I really wanted that I didn't get or one I though I had nailed that ends up in the trash heap.

    Harry I think you nailed it. Frustration makes you go back out to get it right.
    Chris K. NANPA Member
    http://kadvantage.smugmug.com/
  • JSPhotographyJSPhotography Major grins Posts: 552Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 21, 2011
    DsrtVW wrote: »
    What time of day was this what were the conditions sunny, overcast morning it is not that bad but the high iso will make it a little soft too if you crop it and exposure is off some. Was this hand held or on a tripod? My Sigma 170-500mm gets a little soft at the limits of its range (low light at long range).
    It is frustrating trying to get close enough to get a good clear shot hoping the light and the subject all cooperate. But when you get it all right and the gods smile upon you it is most satisfying.
    Just off hand I would drop the iso and go for a slower shutter. I try to stay above 1/250 but I have had some keepers lower than that. Unless fill the frame with the subject high iso get a bit soft when cropping.

    This was early evenning. I would expect my 7D to handle the 1600 ISO and stay sharp. Yes, I was on a tripod. I underexposed a stop or two to increase shutter speed.
  • JSPhotographyJSPhotography Major grins Posts: 552Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 21, 2011
    Harryb wrote: »
    Welcome to the frustrated club. wave.gif Every time I come back from a session and review my captures I get frustrated. :bash There always a capture that I really wanted that I didn't get or one I though I had nailed that ends up in the trash heap.

    In order to heavily crop a capture and have it stand up the capture has to be just about perfect. Every imperfection will be magnified by the crop.

    With this capture I think the focus was more on the foreground vegetation than the subject. It looks like the vegetation in front of the right shoulder was what the camera focused on. If you can check on where your focus point was for that capture check it out.

    Whenever I take a capture I will try for at least 3 exposures if conditions are optimal. If I'm shooting under less than optimal conditions I go with my experience. If under a certain set of conditions my "keeper" rate is around 20% I will take at least 5 captures.

    Even with a tripod camera shake is possible if you are not using good long lens technique. Remember if you are shooting at extreme reach any movement, however slight, will be magnified. Using a shutter release cable reduces the possibility of shake.

    Frustration is good if it motivates you to examine what happened to cause the capture to be a failure. Once you identify it, you correct it. Then you go out again and get that capture. Of course something else will come up that will frustrate you.

    Thanks for jumping in Harry. My focus is set at center point and I put it right on his eye. Notice that is in the center of the straight out of camera shot.

    I have hundreds of shots that are all similar. I worked this guy for a week. Every year I take a week off work and head up north for the rut. This was my 4th year. I got this shot while sitting in a ground blind. Earlier in the week I was standing using my monopod and the results are similar. I thought with him closer and on the tripod I would have nailed it.

    Technique - I had my left hand out on the barrel to steady. I didn't use my remote release, I will next time.

    I think I'm heading back out this weekend. It is a 250 mile drive from my home to elk country.
  • puzzledpaulpuzzledpaul low down bum Posts: 1,525Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 21, 2011
    What focus mode were you using?
    Has the lens / body combo been checked / micro adjusted?

    pp
  • JohnDCJohnDC Major grins Posts: 379Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 21, 2011
    To begin with, the image is too underexposed. Did you auto-expose with the exposure compensation set to under-expose the image? By centering on the darkest part of the image, the rest of your image should have been much lighter than seen in your unprocessed image--over-exposed, not under-exposed. Processing an overly dark image to make it lighter will increase the noise in the image--thus reducing the sharpness, too. Digital does not work like film. Under-exposing does not richen the colors. To the contrary, under-exposing will lose information in your pixels and constrain adjustments. Use your histogram, and expose to the right, but without burning out the whites. Consult the professional websites on this topic. If all your settings are correct, and you still get under-exposed images under these circumstances, you should get your camera checked--it's not working properly.
  • JSPhotographyJSPhotography Major grins Posts: 552Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 21, 2011
    What focus mode were you using?
    Has the lens / body combo been checked / micro adjusted?

    pp
    I'm pretty sure it would have been AI Servo. He was not moving though(except maybe some very slight raising of the head as he bugled, Would not have moved much in 1/500).

    Micro adj - no. Not sure how to do that.

    I did do some checking of the lens when I bought it on my 40D. Did the shoot a yard stick thing and it appeared to be correct. I have allways had a bit of a question about this lens in the back of my mind but I have shown it to two camera shops and they both said it was fine.
  • JSPhotographyJSPhotography Major grins Posts: 552Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 21, 2011
    JohnDC wrote: »
    To begin with, the image is too underexposed. Did you auto-expose with the exposure compensation set to under-expose the image? By centering on the darkest part of the image, the rest of your image should have been much lighter than seen in your unprocessed image--over-exposed, not under-exposed. Processing an overly dark image to make it lighter will increase the noise in the image--thus reducing the sharpness, too. Digital does not work like film. Under-exposing does not richen the colors. To the contrary, under-exposing will lose information in your pixels and constrain adjustments. Use your histogram, and expose to the right, but without burning out the whites. Consult the professional websites on this topic. If all your settings are correct, and you still get under-exposed images under these circumstances, you should get your camera checked--it's not working properly.

    OK, as I mentioned I did underexpose a little to help bump up shutter speed. I think it was a stop and a half. I didn't think that would have an effect on sharpness as much as shutter speed.
  • Spinner of TalesSpinner of Tales Retired and loving it Posts: 490Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 21, 2011
    I am no expert by any means but when shooting wildlife with my Canon 50D in low light conditions especially when I know in my mind I am likely to crop the pic I avoid anything over a 400 ISO.
    I know there are folks who use the high ISO's with success but it does not work with me and I shoot primarly wildlife.

    Spinner :D
  • JSPhotographyJSPhotography Major grins Posts: 552Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 21, 2011
    I am no expert by any means but when shooting wildlife with my Canon 50D in low light conditions especially when I know in my mind I am likely to crop the pic I avoid anything over a 400 ISO.
    I know there are folks who use the high ISO's with success but it does not work with me and I shoot primarly wildlife.

    Spinner :D

    Thanks Spinner, my goal is to get an Elk shot as good as yours, very nice work.
  • clickin girlclickin girl Major grins Posts: 278Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 21, 2011
    I have a canon 7D as well and have trouble with high ISO in lower light. I have asked around and this tends to be a problem for a lot of people. The consensus is that the 7D does not handle high ISO's well in lower light, too much noise!
  • zoomerzoomer Major grins Posts: 3,688Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 21, 2011
    Lower your shutter speed to 200-250 and lower your ISO, try to get it to 400 or lower.
    Take a nice bright exposure so you don't have to bring the exposure up in post, which greatly increases noise.

    As you said focus right on the eye using continuous focus, same as you would use for shooting birds....if there is any chance the animal may be moving such as in the shot you posted. If the animal is static no need for the continuous focus.

    I may be wrong but my guess is that the lens itself will never be sharp at 5.6 at 400. That is wide open for that lens. Do a test in good light on your tripod....400mm F5.6 against 400mm at F8. Check the results for sharpness.

    It kind of looks like the grass in front of the elk is sharper than the elk...hard to say for sure. Check for front focus of your lens.

    So you have a few things working against you here.
  • pathfinderpathfinder Drive By Digital Shooter Posts: 14,027Super Moderators moderator
    edited September 21, 2011
    How was this image captured? Raw or jpg?

    Zoomer made a very good point also, do not expect consumer zooms to be at their very best when shot wide open.

    Was this image processed in ACR or Lightroom? Both offer a lens correction for most Sigma lenses. I own a Sigma 150-500 and it is not as sharp as my Canon f4 IS L, but if processed in LR3 with the lens correction profile used, it definitely looks much better.

    While lower ISOs are usually preferred, in the darkness of a forest on an overcast day, 100 or 200 ISO is definitely not going to hack it. A properly exposed ISO 400 or 800 image should be just fine, if it is not under exposed.

    Here is an image cropped from about 1/3 of the area of a 40D sensor, shot at ISO 800, handheld ( braced on a rock ) with a Tamron 200-500 mm non-IS lens. F8 - 1/250th - It is one of many dozens of frames I shot that afternoon of this deer in the shadow of a rock wall. It is tack sharp. Not all of them were, needless to say.

    My 14 inch by 21 inch print displays individual hairs on the deers ears - there is grain visible, but not obtrusive.

    A full sensor image from a 7D will do much better than a 40D. I know my 7D certainly does.

    I never shoot my Tamron 200-500 or my Sigma 150-500 wide open if I have any other alternative and that includes raising my ISO up one of two stops. I always stop them down to f8 or f11 if I can.

    A Canon 300 f2.8 or a 500 f4 will be much better at its widest aperture, but you are talking about lenses costing 3-5 times more money. Bigger and heavier too, which I why I walkabout with my Tamron 200-500 often... Light, small, fits on the car seat beside me, whereas not so much with my larger glass.

    Here is a frame from a 7D at ISO 800, shot with a Canon 100-400 IS L ( not my favorite lens by far) , handheld from a boat at f8, 1/800th. Not the greatest capture of an eagle, but grain is not the most limiting factor in this image by far, even at ISO 800.

    We're so spoiled - listen to the sports shooters shooting HS foorball at night at ISO > 3200 and higher.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • JSPhotographyJSPhotography Major grins Posts: 552Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 21, 2011
    I have a canon 7D as well and have trouble with high ISO in lower light. I have asked around and this tends to be a problem for a lot of people. The consensus is that the 7D does not handle high ISO's well in lower light, too much noise!

    I think I have to dissagree with this. I think the 7D is very good at higher ISO. I shoot equestrian indoors all winter at 2500 ISO with no issues. The 7D is much better than my 40D at high ISO that is for sure. That was why I didn't think 1600 ISO was going to be a big deal.
  • clickin girlclickin girl Major grins Posts: 278Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 21, 2011
    May just be my shooting! But I have a real bad problem with noise in low light.
  • JSPhotographyJSPhotography Major grins Posts: 552Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 21, 2011
    Here is the only way I know to check focus. My center point box was a perfect fit around the 24. Am I good?

    i-HprBF5v-L.jpg

    You need a cropped image?

    i-mKPSxKz-L.jpg
  • SamSam San Jose CA Posts: 7,418Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 21, 2011
    OK, I see unacceptable image sharpness. Some things I would look at are:

    f stop for that lens at 400 mm I would try to shoot at f8.

    Make sure your image stabilization is off.

    Make sure the tripod is sufficient for the camera and lens weight.

    Test this lens in your back yard, or wherever you need to get distance.

    I would use any ISO I needed to get the shot. Better to have an in focus sharp image with some noise than a blurry one. I would also prefer to use a faster shutter speed, but there are always compromises to be made.

    Overall I think something is wrong, just what needs to be determined.

    Sam
  • JohnDCJohnDC Major grins Posts: 379Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 22, 2011
    If it were my photo, I'd zoom into the sub-pixel range to look for evidence of the cause of the softness. If there is motion blur (of the subject or the camera), you will see the directional smear of highlights and other points. If it is noise from processing to compensate for a 1.5 stop under exposure, you will see the grainy noise. If it is dirt, fungus, or condensation on your lens, you will be able to see the first two by carefully examining the lens you used. Condensation will sometimes show as halo-type effects around highlights. Regarding under-exposing to increase shutter speed, the pro-level photographers cured me of that mistake, which I used to make, too. I think that is what Sam meant when he said use any ISO to get the shot. In any case, that's the advice I got. The noise you get from boosting the ISO is easier to fix than motion blur or the noise you get from trying to fix the under-exposure in post-processing.
  • PhotoGUY123PhotoGUY123 PhotoGUY123 Posts: 20Registered Users Big grins
    edited September 22, 2011
    I'm not a pro photographer, yet. Just an advanced amatuer (with 30 years experience with film and recently digital.) Another thought is using the self timer and then not touching any part of the camera or lens to lessen camera shake. Also, did the two companies who looked at the lens do any tests of the elements or did they just shoot a few frames and say the lens was okay? It may be slight misalignment of the elements somewhere to cause the softness (think Hubble and NASA---when it was fixed the photos were truly amazing).
  • puzzledpaulpuzzledpaul low down bum Posts: 1,525Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 22, 2011
    Here is the only way I know to check focus. My center point box was a perfect fit around the 24. Am I good?



    You need a cropped image?

    i-mKPSxKz-L.jpg

    Well, to my eyes, it looks like 22 is more blurred / oof than 26 - which, if so, could indicate that its main focus point is above 24?

    If going to repeat this, do you have something with higher contrast detail?

    I've used a slightly different approach when doing this sort of thing.
    Cam/lens on tripod, mlu, cable release.
    Subject being something (normal) with a high contrast feature

    I then start at one extreme of MA ... say -20, take 5 frames, re-acquiring focus with AF between each shot, de-focussing after each 'test' shot by placing hand in front of lens (not touching) and half pressing release - remove hand, re-acquire focus.

    Repeat for -10/0/+10/+20 ... make notes of frame Nos for each set (or whatever narrower initial range you think appropriate)

    Review (I use DPP) - pick sharpest of each 5 frame set, evaluate/compare these 5 ('best of set') frames against each other.

    Use results to repeat test over a narrower range.

    Don't think anyone's mentioned LIve View.

    I'd also consider taking some test shots (using all usual long lens techniques mentioned above) at the relevant iso/aperture using manual focus.

    This'll take the AF out of the equation ... because if you don't /can't get sharp pics at any aperture / shutter speed / iso using LV + MF ... then you'll not get them any other way :)

    pp
  • JSPhotographyJSPhotography Major grins Posts: 552Registered Users Major grins
    edited September 22, 2011
    Thanks for all the input. I think I'm going with an ISO/Aperture/under exposure combination as being the problem. I shot grandkids soccer last night with the same set up and results were pretty good. I don't think it is an equipment issue. This lens really seems to be a love/hate relationship. I'll make the drive back up north and see what I can do this weekend. Weather forecast looks like rain. I can gear up to keep things dry, I'm going with the glass half full thoughts that the even light and dripping chins/antlers will yeild some unique stuff.
  • JSPhotographyJSPhotography Major grins Posts: 552Registered Users Major grins
    edited October 12, 2011
    Wel,l my follow up trip was a bust. Here are the best from te original group.
    #1
    i-73F8VRK-L.jpg

    #2
    i-NgKfwzL-L.jpg

    #3
    i-MskGShC-L.jpg

    #4
    i-fs3TVXv-L.jpg

    #5
    i-PWW8pkS-L.jpg
  • NetgardenNetgarden Beachbum Linda Posts: 829Registered Users Major grins
    edited October 14, 2011
    No.s 3& 4 are nicely done, JS. Don't be too hard on yourself. My 7D experience was also this, a classic problem, with low light, high ISO and moving subjects. I found my sharpness dropped, and with mixed backgrounds, the sharpening had to be handled with a brush tool on the animal, or you'd get noisy weed artifacts. That weedy dry grass is always not a pretty background! ;) Add to that a lens that might need manual focusing or microfocusing, it becomes a not so pleasant session. The last photos look great, a reminder that we learn more from bad days than good ones! ;)

    I know your disappointments though. I recently got the MKIV, and a bad day last week really rattled me, thinking of how much money I spent and how it seemed difficult at the moment. After years of MKIII beautys. But soon I realized I needed to get to know the camera all over again, and got back in the groove. I also spent some time on my Sigma 150-500, and ended up with a +7 microadjustment. Still not anything as good as my big primes, but it's not heavy, and I really like the colors and performance of the lens. Just wish it was sharper! The adjustment did help.
  • JSPhotographyJSPhotography Major grins Posts: 552Registered Users Major grins
    edited October 14, 2011
    Netgarden wrote: »
    No.s 3& 4 are nicely done, JS. Don't be too hard on yourself. My 7D experience was also this, a classic problem, with low light, high ISO and moving subjects. I found my sharpness dropped, and with mixed backgrounds, the sharpening had to be handled with a brush tool on the animal, or you'd get noisy weed artifacts. That weedy dry grass is always not a pretty background! ;) Add to that a lens that might need manual focusing or microfocusing, it becomes a not so pleasant session. The last photos look great, a reminder that we learn more from bad days than good ones! ;)

    I know your disappointments though. I recently got the MKIV, and a bad day last week really rattled me, thinking of how much money I spent and how it seemed difficult at the moment. After years of MKIII beautys. But soon I realized I needed to get to know the camera all over again, and got back in the groove. I also spent some time on my Sigma 150-500, and ended up with a +7 microadjustment. Still not anything as good as my big primes, but it's not heavy, and I really like the colors and performance of the lens. Just wish it was sharper! The adjustment did help.

    Thanks for the input.
  • JSPhotographyJSPhotography Major grins Posts: 552Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 14, 2012
    It was my 7D. Canon just replaced the autofocus mechanism and software. First tests look really good. I can't believe how much I have struggled the last year and a half. Maybe I'm not as bad a photographer as I have been feeling!!
  • Dick on ArubaDick on Aruba My name is Dick. So what? Posts: 3,484Registered Users Major grins
    edited April 14, 2012
    ISO 1600 can "soften" your image. Maybe F5.6 if not the best setting @ 400mm for this setup. Try F8.

    All that said: The most of the time I find myself disappointed when PP the capture I was exited about, while the other "casual" shot let my heart run faster.
    Although "soft", it's a great capture and surely a keeper. You just experienced the most common photographers syndrome called: "shit happens"
    "Nothing sharpens sight like envy."
    Thomas Fuller.

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    Website.
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