Guyana’s Wildlife along the Rewa River

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I just returned from an amazing trip to the Amazonian jungle of Guyana. Together with friends and local guides I spent a month on the Rewa river searching for wildlife. Aside from many birds, insects, snakes, frogs and lizards, we got rewarded with outstanding sightings of tapirs, anacondas, capybaras, harpy eagles, an ocelot, a jaguar, giant river otters and even a puma.

Anaconda (Eunectes murinus) basking in the sun

Large anaconda (Eunectes murinus) curled up on a dead branch above the river taking in some sun light (Nikon D800, 105mm/f2.8, 1/750s, f8, ISO 1250).

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Nikon D800 examples of bird photos with high ISO settings

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Here are some examples of bird photos taken with the Nikon D800 and the 600mm or 300mm lens in Finland. The weather and light conditions were very poor, so high ISO settings between 1600 – 3200 were necessary.

Photo of a female Great Grey Owl on the nest.

Photo of a female Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) taken with f4.5, 1/250 and ISO 3200 late in the evening (5575 x 3721 pixels).

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Using Nikon D800 for flying birds

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Over the last three weeks, I’ve been using the Nikon D800 to shoot birds on my vacation in Florida. Here are my unscientific and personal findings for shooting birds in flight from tripod and hand-held with some example photos below:

  • Auto ISO sensitivity control is bliss if you don’t use manual exposure mode. For birds in flight or any other wildlife in fast action, I normally have it set to: ISO sensitivity 100 (= minimum), Maximum sensitivity 1600, Minimum shutter speed 1/1600-1/2000. For slower moving or more static animals, 1/640 seconds seems to give good and sharp results. Of course if you have enough light go as fast as possible.
  • When using CF a general AF problem is that the focus point is often not on the eye. This is not specific to the D4/D800’s new AF system (Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX). So just shoot and hope for the best.
  • The new AF system seems to be very fast and hunt less than the previous one, especially when the background is the sky.
  • With the new AF system I don’t need to overexpose +1 or +2 when shooting flying birds against the blue sky as with the old AF (Multi-CAM 3500DX).
  • You don’t need more than 4fps to capture wildlife in action (I already knew this before and couldn’t understand all the fuss about it being slow).
  • Having so many pixels at hand is really helpful, since it is easier to catch a bird in flight when it is further away, then just crop to get the right detail. This is a huge advantage over the D4 and I think far more relevant than the 4fps versus 10fps.
  • If you only want photos that are sharp down to pixel level, be prepared to have to throw away many of your shots (Be aware that this makes sense only if you plan to crop or print in gigantic dimensions).

Photos of flying birds using a tripod

All photos below were taken with the Nikkor 600mm/f4 VR mounted on a Gitzo Tripod GT5541LS with a head by Dietmar Nill.

Flying Great Egret (Ardea alba) with fish in beak

Flying Great Egret (Ardea alba) with a little fish in its beak. Taken at f5.6, 1/1600, ISO 640

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My First (Bird) Photos with Nikon D800 and 600mm f4

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Only few talked about it being good for wildlife, most said it’s only for landscape, architecture or studio. Many would have preferred a lower pixel count and questioned whether it’s going to be of any use. But when shooting birds, especially small song birds, you never get close enough or can have enough pixels. So I didn’t listen, took the risk and pre-ordered mine on the day it was announced, the new Nikon D800.

In the meantime its sensor got tested by DxOMark and became their new king. Two days ago mine came by mail. I took some test shots to see if some of my lenses needed AF fine tuning, already that revealed how good the camera will perform. It also showed what an incredibly sharp lens the 600mm f4 VR is (see photos further down on page). Yesterday and today I went out to test it and came back with a few shots of a male and female Goosander (Mergus merganser). After looking at the results, pixel peeping included,  I am a very, very happy and excited new Nikon D800 owner. But see and peep for yourself:

Photo of a female Goosander (Mergus merganser) taken with the new Nikon D800

Uncropped photo of Merganser (Mergus merganser) taken with the new Nikon D800 and the 600mm VR f4. You have 7360 x 4912 pixels available for cropping!

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