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Introduction

Square Icon orangeHello to all and welcome to “Wildlife Photography –  Australia” I hope you will get some benefit from it and I hope I can make it interesting enough for you, so you will come back and check it out often.

I am Hans Bentzen, I am a nature photographer and I love taking wildlife photos, in particular bird photographs, but anything that gets in front of my lens is fair game. This site has been rebuild on a new and more modern theme, with sole purpose to making the viewer experience better. I am trying to include some information on each page to enhance the overall experience, some of which is regurgetated from other references and some from my own experience. I certianly hope I have not infringed on any copyright in this process, that is not the aim.

This website is dedicated to Australian wildlife and the aim is to keep it that way. Photographs of other animals and scenery taken on my travels around the world can be seen on Hans Bentzen Nature Photography site which is located by clicking on the HBNP link above. This site also has a prints for sale page where much of my work can be purchased.

Don’t forgwt to like and share this site, the more exposure I can get the better it is. Thank you.

[zilla_likes]

 

Bird Classification

The science of naming things is known as taxonomy and the system of taxonomy that we use today was developed by a Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus. It is a hierarchy system that has seven main levels, the first being the kingdom. All living organisms are categorized into the 5 kingdoms. The kingdoms are then subdivided into phylum, then classes, orders, families, genus, and species, respectively. Additionally some of these levels can have sub-levels, such as sub family or sub species and there are also things like superfamilies being used.

Birds are classified as being in the kingdom of animalia (animals), the phylum of chordate (vertebrates) and the class of aves (birds).  The class of aves is then further subdivided into about 23 orders and 150 families. I say ‘about’ because it seems to be very controversial and always changing as the method of categorizing evolves. Categorization was traditionally in line with physiological similarities but is now including genetic make-ups as well which adds a degree of confusion to the issue.  New discoveries and improvements in DNA technology and differences of opinion all seem to contribute to the ongoing evolution of the taxonomic system. Currently there is about 9800 species of living birds and 20000 or so sub species. The actual number of species does not change that much, unless a new one is discovered or becomes extinct, rather the arrangement of families and the number of sub species seems to be continuously changing.

Of the 23 orders (let’s assume) within the aves class there is one order that consists of more than half of all the bird species and that is Passeriformes or the passerines (perching birds). Roughly 5200 species are within this order.

Here lies the difficulty of grouping birds to categorize them for the purpose of convenience, such as on this website. To assist visitors to the site in finding a particular species, I like to organise all the wildlife into groups so they are more easily located. If one of these groups has 4 species and another has 5200, it is not really achieving what I intended.

There is an answer. There is a categorisation system that further divides the order of Passeriformes into groups not unlike the groups of non-Passeriformes. This system is used in bird identification books and also by me on this website. It groups some of the non-Passeriformes orders together and then splits the Passeriformes order to get a total of 27 groups.

[zilla_likes]

Birding Lens Selection

I have revised this old post from a previous website as it has had a lot of hits and seems to be a very popular subject of discussion among bird photographers. So here it is…

For wildlife photography and in particular bird photography a long lens with a focal length of at least 300mm is really essential. Preferably even longer, the basic rule of thumb for bird photography is to get the longest lens you can afford. Unfortunately that statement is not particularly informative, if you are trying to find out how long a focal length to get. If money was no object I would have a 500mm f4.0 with a 1.4x extender on a full frame camera as my first choice set up. This lens choice is possibly not the absolute best lens there is for the job but it is the best lens for me, when all of the factors are considered. Those factors are weight, cost, image quality and speed and of course the environment in which you are taking photos.

Firstly let’s consider telephoto zoom lenses as opposed to telephoto prime lenses. It seems that when many people start out, including me, they want to get the versatility of a zoom lens. They are handy for framing a subject and it saves a little bit of post photo editing. However from personal experience, when birding with a zoom lens, I always had the lens on the maximum focal length anyway because I would very rarely get close enough to have a need to zoom out. For that reason alone I would not bother with a zoom lens anymore. The quality of image from a modern zoom is good but not as good as from a prime in almost all cases another thing is they are usually heavier than prime lenses for a given focal length. The exception to that may be when shorter focal lengths are required, say in a zoo or a nature reserve where one can approach birds more easily, or if they are semi captive and are used to being around people. In this situation a zoom of 200 to 400mm would be very handy. Additionally zoom lenses are often not as fast as an equivalent prime lens.

When selecting the right lens, it becomes a compromise between length, speed, weight and of cause cost as to what is the best birding lens for you and your application. It also depends to some degree how you go about your birding as to what makes a particular lens, your perfect lens. I mean if you are driving along bush tracks in a vehicle with the lens perched on the door sill or if you are sitting in a bird hide with the lens on a tripod and gimbal, then weight is not a major factor. Whereas if you are hiking through the bush, then the camera/lens weight is of major importance.

Another thing to consider when looking at buying a long lens is the use of extenders. The use of an extender will multiply the focal length, but also slow the lens down by the same factor. A perfect example of the use of an extender is a comparison between the Canon 300mm f2.8L coupled with a 2x extender and compared to a 600mm f4L. The same focal length is achieved with both set ups, yet the former is almost half the weight (2875g v 5360g) and almost half the price ($7500 v $12000). It is also more versatile, easier to transport, can be hand held and if not hand held would require a lighter tripod. Admittedly the 600mm is one full stop faster (f4 v’s f5.6) and that can make a big difference in some situations but that sacrifice may well be worth it when you consider the weight and the cost savings, which are considerable. The only other consideration and it is a major one, is the image quality. The 300mm f2.8 is one of Canon’s very best lenses but when coupled to a 2x extender the quality does fall off a little. The 600mm on the other hand is not as good as the 300mm (in my opinion) but is better than the 300 and 2x extender combination. So the image quality is going to be very slightly worse with the 300mm set up. I did a three day shoot with a guy recently with my 300mm and 2x extender and he had a 600mm. He actually had a 1DX, a 600mm f4 L SII all set up on a carbon fibre Manfrotto tripod with a Gimbal mount. A very nice set up and it was okay for him as we were vehicle mounted for the best part of the trip, but he really felt it when we went on foot for any length of time. I took some shots of a purple swamphen with my camera and then some with my camera and the 600mm to see the difference. To be honest I could not tell the difference in this particular situation.

The purpose of this post is to determine what the best lens is; the lens most birding enthusiasts would aim for. Generally speaking anything from 300mm upward is suitable but most would want a minimum of 600mm, but of course the longer and faster the lens is, the heftier the price tag.

Like me, many people make a progression through the lenses until they finally get the lens they are happy with. But what happens to the lens that is no longer used, it is an investment that you don’t really have a use for anymore. I mean you can still use it but let’s face it, if you have a better one, why use it. You could sell it or hold on to it just in case? If you knew what the best lens for your needs was then you could go strait there and save the cost of the in-between lenses. You would also be using the correct lens sooner and hopefully producing more good shots. Sounds good in theory, but in practice most people have to find things out for themselves. HAPPY BIRDING!