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Photography Workshops by Christopher Dodds


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« Northern Fur Seal Pups of Saint Paul Island | Main | Quality, not quantity? »

Creating Intimate bird portraits

Crested Auklet Portrait (Aethia cristatella, CRAU) Saint Paul Island, The Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea, Alaska. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds. Canon 1DX, 600mm F4 L IS II , 2X Teleconverter III & 25mm Extension Tube, Jobu Designs Algonquin Tripod & Jobu Jr. 3 ISO 2,500 f/16 @ 1/500s Manual Mode.  PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION HERE.

Here's an intimate portrait (of what has to be my favorite bird) from my recent Saint Paul Island Workshop; the Crested Auklet. Getting close and isolating the subject against the dark cliffs requires lots of patience, but the real secret is simply approaching the cliff edge slowly so they don't flush before you even know they are there. Always remember to use a small enough aperture to maximize the depth of field, which is extemely narrow at the lens/extender/extension tube minimum focusing distance. Choose your shutter speed to freeze the birds sudden movements and any feathers blown around by the wind if there are any.

Using a sturdy tripod with a good tripod head and micro-calibrating your camera are, of course, the foundation to crisp and sharp images.

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Reader Comments (2)

Dear Christopher,
I'm a Brazilian photographer and I have followed your posts with interest.
I congratulate the beautiful pictures!
I also realized that has worn a 25mm extension tube, plus the 2x TC and would like to know the reason for the use of this accessory, it would increase the focal length of the lens? And in this case, as is the increase of?
I believe that with the use of this accessory, you are working with Manual Focus, correct?
If you can enlighten me these questions will be very grateful and would also like to share your posts on my Facebook page.
Thank you for your attention.

July 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSivonei Pompeo

Hello Sivonei,

Thank you for your kind words.

The 25mm extension tube reduces the minimum focusing distance of the lens/extender(s) combination, which increases the magnification ... ever so slightly. The primary reason for my choosing to use the extension tube is to physically connect both the 1.4X and 2X teleconverters; while version I and II of the Canon teleconverters would physically connect to each other, the version III does not.

Anytime you exceed the maximum aperture of f/8 for a pro Canon camera, or f/5.6 for all other Canon SLR cameras, you will need to manually focus the lens.

I hope this helps and please feel free to share this post on your Facebook page.

Thank you & best wishes,


July 24, 2014 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds

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