My long birding lens is a 100-300mm whose lowest f stop is f4. That’s it. For my camera, there is no faster lens this long. This IS the faster lens. The other one was f4.8.
If you don’t take pictures and use lenses, you probably have no idea what an f stop is, but for the rest of you, you know that an f stop indicates how “open” the lens diaphragm is and thus, how much light will let in … and therefore, how bright the picture will be.
Are you still with me? To make this even more interesting, the bigger the opening is, the smaller the number is for that f stop. Do not ask me why. Whoever invented cameras way back when made that decision and the numbers make no sense. You just memorize them, or at least you did when I started photography … fifty years ago.
Despite the fact that almost all cameras work well in automatic and if your eyes are like mine, probably better, some of us persist in trying to take pictures based on the lens aperture or “film speed.” There is no film, but it used to be film speed. Today, it’s ASA or something like that. I let the camera take care of that.
In the manual camera in which I began my photographic hobby, there was no battery. No electronics of any kind. There wasn’t even a light meter. We used handheld light meters. Also, there was a piece of paper inside the Kodak film box that told you what settings to use for different kinds of light. We called it “the paper meter” and it worked surprisingly well. There were only three things (other than what film to choose) you needed to learn: f stop (lens aperture), shutter speed (how long the shutter stays open), and of course, remembering what speed the film is. Because if you forgot, it messed up your pictures and in those days, you had to pay for all that blurry, unusable film. Photography was expensive.
I had to rebuild all my bird feeders today. One had been knocked to the ground so often, it was no longer round. You just couldn’t get the top or bottom to fit. The flat feeder allowed the seeds to become mush as it has been raining all the time. Or it may just seem that way. It was disgusting and I finally threw it away. We do toss a lot of seed over the fence for the ground feeders. If you peer over the deck rail, you’ll see all the ground feeding birds there. Hard to take pictures of them, though.
So this is about light. Not the light in the picture, but the light I didn’t have enough of when I took the pictures. Not to mention the nearly dead battery that I hadn’t changed before I shot. The battery marker was flashing orange — a bad sign because when the battery is nearly dead, there’s not a lot of zest to the camera — and it’s an f4 lens which I had inadvertently set on aperture — which was definitely wrong for such low light.
The light was very low. It was a few minutes past sunset. There was light, but not much. My 50mm f1.8 lens would have done fine. Even an f2.8 lens might have been okay. But that lens didn’t do it and every single picture I took of a very lovely Cardinal was blurry. Twenty shots, twenty blurs. Some so blurred I just deleted them and seventeen probably need to be dumped, too.
So there’s starlight in all of us, but not enough to take a clear shot after sundown in mid-winter with a 100-300 f4 telephoto lens. And if your camera needs a new battery? For heaven’s sake, just put one in. If the bird flies away, so be it but the pictures you take with your nearly dead battery aren’t going to be great anyway.
Four pictures here from the same chip. The photo of the two juncos was sharp, but I had to crop it a lot to make it square and then do a lot of stuff to get rid of the noise from cropping so tight.
Photography is all about light. The two pictures of Cardinals are impressionistic because they weren’t sharp enough to show otherwise. Blessings upon the creators of filters and especially Topaz. This is as good as it gets when you don’t have the light. Sometimes, you can’t take the picture, no matter how much you want to.
And now, the Juncos. They really didn’t want to be square, but I did it anyway!