Evolving Shooting Philosophy

Sunrise Mule Deer Bucks

You may remember that I had finally settled on the settings that I was going to include as part of my custom modes on the mode dial on my Canon camera. Well those settings were blown apart yesterday morning. I had settled on Aperture Priority set to F8, Auto ISO capped at 3200, exposure compensation +1… and a new setting that I found in the auto ISO menu section that allows a photographer to boost shooting priority to a faster shutter speed which I decided upon because of the difficulty dealing with the massive pixel density of the 90D. I boosted that to the maximum value of three stops in hopes of avoiding slow shutter speeds in low light that might not be sufficient to overcome camera and subject movement.

All was well and good shooting in the low pre-dawn light of the mountain mornings and

Mule deer bucks in the early morning sun

in the persistent overcast conditions that we’ve been experiencing as of late. Enter the sun… yesterday was a beautiful brilliant sunny morning and there were deer everywhere! I shot well into the morning as the sun rose higher in the sky. It was definitely brighter, no where near the harshness of the mid day sun but bright enough for me to want to recheck my settings and exposure values. Well it turns out my camera was still shooting at ISO 3200 with shutter speeds of a 2500th and even faster!

Sunrise Mule Deer Bucks

There is no way that I am going to need a shutter speed of 1/2500 of a second to shoot deer in bright light that are mostly standing still looking at me! Even if you consider eliminating camera shake, using the rule of reciprocal with a focal length of 400mm and a crop sensor, your starting point would be a 540th of a second. I double that speed these days to account for the amazing pixel density that modern cameras are capable of so the next increment using that theory would be 1250th on my camera with my settings. Back in the day I used to shoot bike races at 1000th of a second and those riders were flying!

Sunrise Mule Deer Bucks

So I pondered that problem for a while and realized that is was just not going to be feasible to allow the camera to guess at what I would like for shutter and aperture values. The only way to solve the problem would  be to use manual mode for the shutter and aperture. I’ve already decided that with my 100-400 meter lens, the optimum aperture for wildlife photography is F8. Starting with the resulting 1250th benchmark factoring for camera shake, I compensated for the two stop image stabilization available on my lens and dialed back to an 800th of a second, plenty fast enough to capture any action my docile deer friends might be engaged in. I’m happy with the +1 exposure compensation I’ve been using to achieve ETTR exposures and optimize the signal to noise ratio.

The only exposure value I’m going to allow to float is the ISO. I previously had it capped at 3200 but I have removed that allowing the camera to go all the way to 25600. The reasoning behind that is if I have to unexpectedly leap out of my truck and grab a shot in a hurry without having time to mess with settings, at least I’ll get some kind of properly exposed shot… it may be noisy but I will at least capture something to mark the moment to put on Instagram!

Fortunately I was able to test out my new c1 setting today and I’m pretty darned happy with the results! I got some pre-sunrise shots followed by some captures in light similar to what I experienced yesterday. I purposely did not mess with the c1 settings so as to make sure to test my expectations. On a normal day I might decide to use c1 as a starting point and make adjustments to my shutter speed based on changing conditions and subject activity. Hope you enjoy these captures of my friends the “Three Amigos” 🙂

2 thoughts on “Evolving Shooting Philosophy

  1. Beautiful photos and beautiful colours! Can’t wait to explore the great outdoors once the pandemic crisis come to an end. It’s been such a long time. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 😀 Aiva

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