Solitary Pipers, Cropping, and Megapixels

Solitary Pipers and Ya Just Gotta Crop

Birder Brains: Your key to great photographs

I just love Birder Brains.  They are good folks and full of enthusiasm and knowledge.  So when you meet one, you want to say “Hi” and connect.  But you need to be careful as they do speak a different language and have some customs that may seem peculiar by our “normal society” standards.   So here is a big tip for breaking the ice with a Birder Brain:  instead of saying “Hi” as a greeting, you say “Whaddaya seeing?”.   You will get a look back that says you understand and are worthy of their time.

The Birder Brain will then open up and point into some distant bramble and announce the bird he is spying; it always is something exotic sounding….. “Pterodactyl”  one said to me once.   Not wanting to sound like I grew up in some birdless hole, I responded, “I didn’t know their range was this far north”.

After the Birder Brain points out the obscure bird, they will usually tell you some cool facts about them.  Now is the time to compliment the Birder Brain and a standard prop is “Good spotting!”.  Yea, now you are in the swing of things.

So… the other day, I spotted a young Birder Brain in teen plumage with his mother in a mini-van nest keeping a watchful eye on the area.  “Waddaya seeing?” I asked.   “Solitaries!” was his enthusiastic response.  Huh?  “Solitaires!, In there!” he snorted.  Birder Brains are real sensitive and he picked up my confused look.  “Solitary Pipers!” he announced clearing my confusion.  “Oh” was all I could muster as he looked at me, pausing….. waiting…… It then popped into my head, “Good Spotting!” I said definitively.  He sucked in a deep breath and puffed out his chest.  He was a proud Birder Brain and will be a good one when he matures.

Solitary Pipers

I shot these little guys while seated in my car.  I pull my car along the grass about four feet from the water, put my door window up about three inches, pop a little neck pillow over, and poke my big 500mm Cannon log out towards the marsh.  Gotta turn off the engine as the vibrating car will wreck the photo even with image stabilization turned on.

Notice that even with the big magnification of a 500mm lens, birds are still small in the frame.  I am not sure how far away they were but probably not farther than 30 to 40 feet away.  While that may not seem that far away, it is very far when you are shooting a bird.  So I crop.  Most of the close-ups you see on my website are deep crops.   See picture 5 for what came right out of my camera even with the 500mm lens magnification… yes, without heavy cropping, high megapixels, and expensive glass, I could not get these pics here.

You do need Megapixels

Some bloggers will say more megapixels don’t matter and are more about marketing and sales gimmicks and, for the most part, they are absolutely correct.  If you are shooting JPGs and not doing much tweaking, you are wasting your money thinking you need a new camera with more megapixels.  However, if you are shooting birds like I do, then you will be doing a ton of cropping to turn a smudge in a frame into a picture of a bird.  When you crop, you need three things:

  1. Lotsa megapixels
  2. Sharp, sharp glass
  3. Shoot RAW

More megapixels allow you crop way down giving you the effect of having a longer lens.  Sharp glass is required because as you crop, any defects in your equipment or technique will become obvious.  RAW files have tons of information in them over JPGs and will give superior results when editing (i.e., also known as post processing).  

For taking snapshots of drunken relatives and your wonderful pet Fluffy, you don’t need megapixels, expensive lenses, or even an expensive camera.  I really mean this.  You really don’t as all digital cameras today take really good pictures.  But if you are going to crop and you want to take pictures that are special, you need megapixels and sharp glass.  Both are expensive.  Sorry but that is the truth.

The Equipment:

  • Canon 5D MkII
  • Canon 500mm f/4 L lens
  • Pillow for camera support
  • Birder Brain to point out where the heck the birds are

Location Types: Nature Reserve. Galleries: Birds and Solitary Pipers. Tags: 500mm and 5D Mk II.

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