Author Topic: Telephoto Technique For Wildlife  (Read 1527 times)

Reyed Mia (Apprentice, DIU)

  • DaffodilGroup
  • Hero Member
  • *******
  • Posts: 1026
Telephoto Technique For Wildlife
« on: June 28, 2017, 05:43:47 PM »
Telephoto Technique For Wildlife

I still remember the first time I tried a 500mm ƒ/4 super-telephoto lens a few years back, and it wasn’t pretty. Having rented the lens for the weekend, I was overwhelmed by its size, and I was a bit self-conscious to bring it out to a local park in Los Angeles near where I lived. As I was carrying the lens and walking from the parking lot to the river where there was an egret rookery, I felt as if everybody there was looking at me. It took me half an hour to figure out how to fit the heavy lens onto the tripod, and by then I was soaked in sweat. I saw a great egret preening in the rookery about 50 feet away, so I pointed the camera toward it. I couldn’t locate the egret at all by moving the lens. All I saw was patches of green. Then the egret took flight, and, of course, I was far from being able to focus on the bird.


I have to admit that it took me years to bite the bullet and invest in a 500mm ƒ/4 lens because of its price. Instead, I rented it from and several times to make sure the focal length of the lens was right for what I needed. (Both companies are reliable.) The rental fee is quite expensive, but at least it’s not as expensive as buying the lens. I recommend that you try before you buy—but beware—the cost of multiple rentals does add up. One good thing about investing in a super-telephoto lens is that it retains value well. I purchased my first 500mm ƒ/4 lens for $5,800 and sold it three years later for $5,500.


The second thing that turns most people off is the weight of these lenses. Indeed, it’s true that not many people can handhold a super-telephoto lens for an extended period of time. A sturdy tripod and head are essential. I like to use the Gitzo 3542XLS or Really Right Stuff TVC-33 carbon-fiber tripod with the Wimberley WH-200 Head Version II for support. The fluid motion of the Wimberley head enables movement of the lens without the need to carry it. This setup is good for slow-moving wildlife or birds on a perch. When one needs to move around a lot, a monopod such as an Induro monopod paired with the Really Right Stuff MH-01 Pro monopod head (designed for heavy telephotos) is a good combo.


With the huge size of a telephoto lens, it’s easier to get scratched when you carry it out in the field. (I always cover it with a LensCoat to protect it.) I “upgraded” from a 500mm ƒ/4 lens that I used for four years to a 600mm ƒ/4, thinking that the extra 100mm would give me an edge. It turned out that I couldn’t even fit the lens with a 1.4x teleconverter mounted to my camera on the passenger seat of my car.

Narrow Field of View

Finding a subject through a super-telephoto lens is like looking through a straw. One needs a lot of practice to quickly find and lock the subject in the viewfinder. For a fast-moving subject, it’s much more difficult. I suggest going to a local park where there are waterfowl to practice tracking them with the lens.


I almost always have my 1.4x teleconverter on my 600mm ƒ/4 lens, as I don’t see any degradation of image quality. For a 2x teleconverter, traditional belief is that it degrades image quality significantly, but in recent years, I’ve seen in several online forums where professional photographers and enthusiasts posted their reviews of the performance of 2x teleconverters. The results blew me away, especially for Canon teleconverters.

Shutter Speed and Image Stabilization

We’ve been taught that, in order to get a sharp photo, the rule of thumb is to have a shutter speed of 1/focal length of the lens. So, for a 600mm lens, one should have a shutter speed of at least 1/600. However, as long as the subject isn’t moving quickly, one can obtain a sharp picture with a lower shutter speed.
Reyed Mia (Apprentice, DIU)
Asst. Administrative Officer and Apprentice
Daffodil International University
102/1, Shukrabad, Mirpur Road, Dhanmondi, Dhaka-1207.
Cell: +8801671-041005, +8801812-176600
Email: [email protected]