Fill Flash for Birds at feeder

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Bob Howell, Aug 31, 2004.

  1. Bob Howell

    Bob Howell Guest

    I have a new canon 400mm f/5.6 lens and Rebel G and want to take pictures of
    birds around feeder but every where around the house is shade, deep shade.
    Will I be limited to Tripod?I also have 2x tele extender. This gives great
    shot at about 18-30 feet. The lens cleaned me out. SWMBO will limit funds
    for awhile. Where could I read up on flash attachments that would provide
    fill flash? Books, Web sites? My plan is to place it on the patio and focus
    on one of several perches, then sit 10-15 ft away on screen porch to

    Bob Howell
    Bob Howell, Aug 31, 2004
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  2. Bob Howell

    Alan Browne Guest

    For natural light shots in the shade you will definitely need a
    sturdy tripod and mirror lockup would be an asset too.

    Flash, in your situation, will give pretty harsh shots (eg: lit
    up bird/feeder with black backrounds).

    Guide Numbers: The GN gives the max power available from the
    flash. It is simply the distance * aperture; or rather the max
    distance you can shoot at is the GN/aperture. (Watch the units,
    for most they are given in meters. Just be consistent).

    The slower the film, the more power you need in the flash. Let's
    take the limit case of 30 feet (9 meters), and let's say you
    shoot at f/8.0 ... then for an ISO 100 film you would need 8 * 9
    = GN 72 (meters). Not many flash units like that.

    So, open up to f/5.6 (not the sharpest part of the lens) and a GN
    of 5.6 * 9 = 50 which is just within the capability of the better
    flash guns ($$$) such as the Canon 540EZ. But at this setting,
    the discahrge will be 100% every time.

    So, change the film to, say ISO 400, and then the batteries won't
    get so abused ... or you can crunch down the aperture a couple
    stops to sharpen the image a bit.

    Now, if you can get the flash closer (regardless of where the
    camera is), then you can get away with a smaller less expensive
    flash or slower film or less cycle time or smaller apertures...or
    whatever combination you contrive.

    There is also a device called a better-beamer that you can attach
    to your flash to concentrate the light on the target when using a
    long lens. This will give you about 1.5 to 2 stops extra margin.

    Hope that helps.
    is a very good resource.

    Alan Browne, Aug 31, 2004
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  3. Bob Howell

    S Lee Guest

    Alan Browne choreographed a chorus line of high-kicking electrons to
    spell out:

    Bob, the 2x converter is going to make things two stops darker, so
    you might want to avoid it here if possible... 800mm nice, f/11 not.
    If Bob has the EF 400 f/5.6L it does a pretty nice job wide open,
    so no big worries there.
    I've used the 400 f/5.6L and a 550EX to shoot various critters in
    the trees around my house... with ISO 400 to 800, f/5.6, the 550EX gives
    pretty decent fill coverage at 30 feet or less. The Better Beamer would
    have been nice to have though.
    Barring the new 580EX, the 550 is the strongest and most expensive.
    Its power can mostly be had for less with the Sigma EF500 (?) flash,
    though that's still going to put the OP down about $225 or so. Or, get a
    medium-strength flash for the camera and buy a couple of $20-30 optical
    slave flashes. Put the slave flashes up close to the feeder and trigger
    them with the on-camera flash...

    More Canon flash tips:
    S Lee, Aug 31, 2004
  4. Bob Howell

    Alan Browne Guest

    Good point, I wandered right by ...

    wide open is soft (even if this lens is superb it can do better a
    couple stops down), and at this limit the flash will discharge
    100% each time.
    The BB is a bit clumsy.
    That's the better solution, closer in and perhaps difused a bit.
    Didn't know that one.
    Alan Browne, Aug 31, 2004
  5. Bob Howell

    Ted Azito Guest

    A car headlight bulb or a floodlight on the bird feeder might be
    effective, if it didn't drive the birds off. Try it and see. Also,
    don't discount a garage sale flashbulb solution remotely mounted. eBay
    hasn't affected prices of consumo shit that you can bugger up for
    creative uses. I just bought another Polaroid 80A for Bokehmaster
    building for $2-and it included a working flash gun. Not a Winklight,
    a flash gun. Takes big bulbs OR AG-1Bs.
    Ted Azito, Sep 1, 2004
  6. Bob Howell

    columbotrek Guest

    Build a blind to hide in and leave it there a week or two. Birds get
    used to it. I like the remote control idea with the tripod. Birds may
    not even care about a camera on a tripod with no human around. A
    specular flash will be fine for birds. Gets some high lights off of
    their feathers. A far side reflector can help fill in shadows.
    columbotrek, Sep 1, 2004
  7. Bob Howell

    Bob Hickey Guest

    If it's that dim, I'd use the tripod to hold the flash a few feet from the
    bird and a slave to trigger it. That way you can hand hold or get a monopod
    to hold the camera. With 100 film the background prolly won't come out at
    all, and you'll get a good separation. Birds aren't bothered by flash. A
    small auto lite or two can prolly be had for 5 or 10 bucks.
    Bob Hickey
    Bob Hickey, Sep 1, 2004
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