Workshop report: Intro to Wildlife, Nov 2012 Kuala Lumpur

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Too close. RX100

The final workshop for this year was something a little different to my usual travel/ street or photoshop and lighting sessions: an introduction to basic wildlife photography techniques. Five curious photographers (including one who flew in from Hong Kong) discovered that wildlife photography is actually quite serious physical labor, and that rain isn’t the most pleasant environment to shoot in – but it does yield rather pictorially interesting results.

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Sleep with one eye open. OM-D, 100-300

We covered basic long lens techniques, tripod and monopod use; stalking birds and getting close; dealing with troublesome lighting and high contrast situations; animal portraiture; getting the right AF settings, and finally touching on species behaviour and what constitutes an interesting animal photograph. I even shot with a compact at one point to prove that you really can get close with the right technique – no more than 100mm. The session was split into two half days – between rain, exhaustion and other commitments it seemed like a smart thing to do – and in-between, images were reviewed and critiqued for feedback and general compositional good-practice reminders, which apply to all subjects.

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To prove you can do birding with a compact. RX100

Ultimately though, wildlife photography is polarizing: you either like it, or you don’t. There are plenty of things about it that most certainly aren’t fun – hauling heavy equipment around and being eaten by mosquitoes, for instance, or being ‘blessed’ by the birds from above – I think we all got bombed at one point or another – even physically handling the lenses requires some practice. However, the biggest challenge is inevitably patience: in the real world, you might well spend days, or weeks, on location and not see the particular species you’re looking for; the making of ‘Planet Earth’ is highly recommended for a taste into the world of the wildlife photographer/ cinematographer.

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Hidden. OM-D, 500/4P

We shot at a ‘safe’ location where the birds are captive in a large open-air aviary and relatively tame; they’ll still fly away if you get too close or move suddenly, but at least they’re still in the general area; it’s understandably completely useless to try and teach in a situation where there is no subject material! That said, if you’ve ever been curious, taking a trip to the local zoo or bird park with a decently long lens – say rent a 400 or 500mm – will tell you very quickly if wildlife photography is something you want to pursue farther or not.

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Part of the park. RX100

For the curious, I was using an Olympus OM-D with a Nikon 500/4 P generously loaned to me by one of my students on the first day (1000/4 equivalent, and an old familiar lens of mine – I used to do most of my wildlife work with one) and the Panasonic 100-300/4-5.6 on the second day (200-600 equivalent). I have to be honest and say that whilst having that much reach was great, it could often be too much; manual focusing is a lot easier than you’d expect on such a combination because the depth of field transition is quite fast. The second day was liberating from a weight standpoint; I was not envying David with his 1Dx and 600/4! That said, in a fast moving environment with say charging buffalo, I’m pretty sure I’d want the latter combination. MT

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By popular demand, I will be doing a US tour over late March/ early April, stopping at San Francisco (two sessions), New York and probably Boston. Please send me an email if you’d like more details – things are still in the planning stages, which means plans can be kept a bit fluid. Thanks!

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

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Cloverleaf. OM-D, 100-300

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The thinker. OM-D, 100-300

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Scarlet ibis. OM-D, 500/4P

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Duck with halo. OM-D, 100-300

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Lost in a manmade world. OM-D, 100-300

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Sheltering from the rain. OM-D, 100-300

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Grooming. OM-D, 500/4P

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Untitled. OM-D, 500/4P

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Vigilant. OM-D, 500/4P

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Hidden peacock. OM-D, 100-300

Comments

  1. Rick Popham says:

    Some very nice shots here — it looks like everyone had a lot of fun! I also noticed the use of the 500 4/P. Have you tried it with your D800(E)? I keep thinking about this lens and I’m interested in your thoughts on this combination.

    • Not yet, but I suspect it’s going to require some serious support to get critically sharp images – the OM-D’s stabilizer takes care of things…

      • do you think is possible to obtain images comparable with this (http://www.costasdumitrescu.com/Other/birds/20480576_wWWsP4#!i=1621496404&k=4h6qVRK) with 300 f 2.8 nikon and olympus omd?

        • Yes. Not sure if you’d get the same degree of background separation though, it depends on subject and background distance. Do note it’s all manual focus only…

      • thank you..Sure I think to the identical situation…of course..but I wasn t sure if it is possible to obtain the same amount of details and color richness with the small Olympus sensor..it isn t a possibility to use a telephoto lens with auto focus on OMD,really?or not yet :)

        • The only native telephoto we’ve got for M4/3 is the Panasonic 100-300 which is pretty good, but nowhere near the same league as the big fast teles. You could use a 4/3 lens and adaptor, but that’s clunky and AF will be hardly faster than focusing yourself. Short answer: we wait. I hear noises about a possible 300/4 or similar coming next year, though.

      • Brigitte Zaczek says:

        Min Thein wrote: The only native telephoto we’ve got for M4/3 is the Panasonic 100-300 …
        Sorry to contradict you, but the Olympus M-Zuiko 75-300/4,8-6,7 also is a native telephoto for M4/3. It cannot be compared with the Zuiko 300/2.8, but recently it surprised me by its performance, when I had left the heavy gear behind (see the owl in February of my 2013 calender at http://www.spinnst.at/BZ/Kalender_2013.pdf
        In any case, a fast 300mm M4/3 lens would be more than wellcome (or even longer?)

        • Forgot about that one – thanks for the reminder. But that f6.3 maximum aperture really puts me off…no doubt the T stop is even slower than that, which pretty much restricts it to daylight only. And at the criminal prices one asks for the lens here…you’re better off buying a second hand Nikon 300/4 AFD and an adaptor. At least it has a tripod mount :)

  2. Dennis Miller says:

    Would love to read an essay/post of some tips for capturing good images under the conditions you described (and in particular, in a rain forest). AV? Shutter priority? Auto-ISO? Different suggestions for different setting (white bird, black background and vice versa). If there is a post already, could you point me to it?
    Thanks,
    Dennis

  3. Enjoyed your bird photographs very much. I used the OMD reasonably extensively in South Georgia and the Falklands recently as my other, other and was again amazed at the clarity and colour of the images. Hauling two Nikon bodies and lenses and a tripod just about killed me. I will be glad when Olympus produce some good long lenses so I can save what is left of my back, knees and neck.

    • Thanks Paul. I hear noises about a 300/4 on the way…in the meantime, there’s the Nikon 300/4 AFS or the Panasonic 100-300 – manual focus on the OM-D isn’t as difficult as it looks.

  4. I hadn’t seen your wildlife shots before, I guess that’s because I think, wildlife, hmm, ok, just a bunch of pictures of birds. These however are something else, rich tones, beautiful textures and deep colours, but it’s those ‘poses’, the curves and little moments that go way beyond the technical. Really special Ming. I have a new appreciation of shooting birds now.

    • Thank you. I used to shoot a lot of wildlife at one point – just stopped because I ran out of species and got tired of being a blood donor to the legions of mosquitoes…

  5. Brigitte Zaczek says:

    Congratulation for these wonderful photos. I am specially amazed about the image quality shot with OM-D in connection with the 500P. Could you please tell me the brand or name of the adapter you used? As much I like the OM-D I have not yet found a satisfactory tele-solution with it for my birding “safaris” and the Nikon AF 600/4 with D800 or D4 are getting heavier every year for me and my back (I am 70). With kind regards from Vienna.

    • Thanks Brigette. I’m using a cheap no-name adaptor I got off ebay that also allows aperture control for G lenses, but much higher quality ones are made by Voigtlander, Novoflex etc. The 70-200/2.8 and OM-D makes a pretty interesting combination of reach and speed too; if not, a 300/2.8 would be ideal. The 500/4P is very light for its speed and reach – in any case, all of these combinations will be manual focus only with the OM-D.

      • Brigitte Zaczek says:

        Thank you for the fast reply. May I ask some more amateur questions? I am an olympus user since the OM1 in 1972 and still own the E-5, which is disappointing in poor light situations. Unfortunately AF of the Zuiko 300/2.8 does not work properly with the OM-D. I am waiting impatiently for Olympus to provide a satisfactory adapter or new body solution for all my expensive Zuiko glass sitting here unused. In the meanwhile: would there be an M43 adapter for the Nikon 300/2.8, which would work with AF?
        Thank you for your time!

  6. Thanks for the warning, Ming, I’ll stick to street and landscape……

  7. Wonderful Pictures! Looks like a wonderful time!

  8. Very impressed with the quality of the OMD shots. However, the RX100 pics look much weaker. Would you say that’s the typical difference you get between the OMD and the RX100?

  9. Yes, I have the adapter. Bought another OMD too. All I need is that 500/4P … just kidding, that’s a little bit much!
    But what I didn’t know was just how well you could make the whole setup work. Thought you weren’t to keen on adapters with the OMD.

  10. Sorry I’m confused. You used the Nikon 500/4P with the OMD? With an adapter? If so which one? Did it allow control of the aperture?
    Or have I missed something?

  11. Looks like great fun. Can we talk you into making a stop in Chicago??

  12. DH in SF Bay area says:

    Gorgeous!

Trackbacks

  1. […] image from my recent Introduction to Wildlife workshop, and a very tricky metering situation – more importantly, do you know why, and what to do in a […]

  2. […] Reports from previous workshops can be seen here – Amsterdam/ Prague, NYC/ San Francisco, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong/ Macau, Kuala Lumpur one, two and three. […]

  3. […] Reports from previous workshops can be seen here – Amsterdam/ Prague, NYC/ San Francisco, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong/ Macau, Kuala Lumpur one, two and three. […]

  4. […] Reports from previous workshops can be seen here – Amsterdam/ Prague, NYC/ San Francisco, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong/ Macau, Kuala Lumpur one, two and three. […]

  5. [...] in this review were shot at one of my favorite testing and workshop locations in Kuala Lumpur for long lenses – the KL Bird Park. It’s an enclosed [...]

  6. [...] image from my recent Introduction to Wildlife workshop, and a very tricky metering situation – more importantly, do you know why, and what to do in a [...]

  7. [...] I think considering some examples would be useful at this point. Let’s take a few of the images from my recent Introduction to Wildlife workshop: [...]

  8. [...] I think considering some examples would be useful at this point. Let’s take a few of the images from my recent Introduction to Wildlife workshop: [...]

  9. [...] image from my recent Introduction to Wildlife workshop, and a very tricky metering situation – more importantly, do you know why, and what to do in a [...]

  10. [...] image from my recent Introduction to Wildlife workshop, and a very tricky metering situation – more importantly, do you know why, and what to do in a [...]

  11. [...] image from my recent Introduction to Wildlife workshop, and a very tricky metering situation – more importantly, do you know why, and what to do in a [...]

  12. [...] image from my recent Introduction to Wildlife workshop, and a very tricky metering situation – more importantly, do you know why, and what to do in a [...]

  13. [...] image from my recent Introduction to Wildlife workshop, and a very tricky metering situation – more importantly, do you know why, and what to do in [...]

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