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BIRDS AS ART ON-LINE Bulletin #79 May 17, 2002

Response to questions about (Canon) flash technique,  St. Augustine Alligator Farm Photo Contest, Another great website, Important notice relayed by Linda East

From subscriber Frank of the UK: 
"I merely want to take a fill flash shot of a bird.  I Use a Canon EOS 3, 100-400mm IS lens & a 550 EX flash. With Nikon, I merely shot in aperture priority & either used automatic fill flash image or easily pressed two buttons to give me a subtle flash output such as -1 2/3 for a catchlight. Canon in Av is not the same, though I can still alter my f stop, the mode automatically gives a slow shutter speed in dim light."
AM: Do know that when you were using fill flash as described above with your Nikon gear and were working in low light, it seems that you are inferring that the camera would not drop the ambient exposure below 1/60 sec.  If this is correct, then  the resulting images would be underexposed when you dialed in -1 2/3 stops as you would need to resort to "flash as main light at that time, that is, to set the flash to "0.
"My simple question is, what is the easiest way to make a fill flash image with Canon?"
AM: In a perfect world, you would simply use Program mode, but even there, in dark situations,  the camera would show ambient underexposure and, as above, if you were using fill flash, the images would be too dark.   Furthermore, when using big IS telephotos with teleconverters, the system, at times, (and almost always with the 2X TCs), will not drop below the fastest available flash shutter speed (either 1/250 or 1/200).  I have spoken to Canon's top technical rep and he told me that the system was programmed this way so that we would not attempt to use "slow shutter speeds with long effective focal lengths..."  When I asked him if this would ever be corrected, he said that in all likelihood it would never be changed.    IMHO, this is most unfortunate as it is easy to make sharp images with big IS lenses and TCs at shutter speeds around 1/60 sec.  Having to switch back and forth between P and Av when using fill flash is a pain.
How do we get around this problem?  Simply switch to Av when you wish to use flash as fill in low light situations.  If your shutter speed falls much below 1/60 sec. then you need to use the flash as main light technique.  (This technique is well described in "The Art of Bird Photography."  You can order a signed copy off of the web site.)
Another problem that occurs when using the Better Beamer Flash Extender with big Canon lenses in Program mode is that at times, in very low light situations, the camera will indicate an ambient exposure of 1/60 sec. at f/45.    The solution is, as above, to simply switch to Av.
The real lesson here is that when using flash (especially when using flash as fill), photographers must look at the info provided in the viewfinder to check and see that things are "kosher."
On an even more basic level, when you are using Av in low light situations and things get brighter, you need to notice when the shutter speed (in the viewfinder) begins to flash so that you can either choose a smaller aperture or switch to Program.   I hope that my answers have helped to shed some light on the situation...
I ran the above by Canon Tech Rep Chuck Westfall.  Here is his response:
"There aren't any technical errors in your response, but on the other hand it doesn't present all the options. Specifically, you're correct that Program mode is not always the best option for fill-flash because of its shutter speed limitations, and you're also correct that Aperture Priority is a good choice most of the time for low-light fill-flash. In addition to these options, I would mention that both Shutter Priority and Manual can also be effective for low-light fill flash. Personally, I've always been an
advocate of Manual mode for this purpose, since it gives the photographer the maximum amount of control over both ambient exposure level and flash exposure compensation. The dual exposure level scales in the EOS-1D, EOS-1V and EOS-3 are designed to show both of these settings at a glance, making it easy for the photographer to ensure the desired effect. For example, it may not always be practical or desirable to have an accurate exposure of the background, but as long as the ambient exposure is within a stop or two of the flash exposure level, it will still contribute to the overall exposure.

By the way, the current e-mail address for customer support for film cameras is:"
From the AF's Amanda Whitaker:  The guidelines for the photo contest are as follows: Best of Show/Grand Prize: $500.00  Categories: Birds  * Reptiles * Wildlife General* First Prize: $200.00 Second Prize: $100.00 Third Prize: $50.00  A first, second and third place prize will be awarded in each category.  A $25.00 entry fee covers three entries.  This fee includes a one-year individual pass to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park.  There is no additional entry fee to annual pass holders. (Subject to change)  All entries must be 8x 10 un-mounted black and white or color
prints.  All photos must have been taken at The Alligator Farm during the 2002 season.   Each entry should bear the photographers name, address, phone number, the category, and the total number of entries. The winning photographs will be displayed at The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park and on our web site  If you would like to have your photos returned by mail please enclose a self addressed stamped envelope and label return photo on the back of each photo to be returned.  All photos not returned or picked up become the property of the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.  The deadline for entries is July 15, 2002.    All winners will be notified before Aug. 15, 2002.  All photos must be received at The St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park,  999 Anastasia Blvd.
St. Augustine, Florida 32080.
The new Community offers image critiques by a staff of five experienced nature photographers with interests in landscape, macro, underwater, avian and general wildlife photography. The community is managed by Debbie Ferrell-Smith and four Field Correspondents who provide educational direction.  The focus is to provide a free site for photographers wishing to share their knowledge and have social interaction through image critiques. An on-line Chat is held on Monday and Thursday evenings beginning at 8:30 pm central time. This site is easy to navigate and offers easy to use image hosting for posting of images to the site.
Linda East sent me the e-mail below after seeing the following image:
May 16, 2002
NANPA Ethics Committee

It has recently come to the attention of NANPA's ethics committee that some bird photographers have begun buying cigarettes for sparrows (like the white-throated in the photo), warblers, and gnatcatchers.  The birds relish an after-bug smoke, but they have never been unable to obtain nicotine for themselves since they are all underage and they do not carry cash.  Avian photographers began buying cigarettes and placing them in birdfeeders when they discovered that the birds who smoked heavily would remain in the immediate area of the
cigarette-stocked feeders, making them easier to photograph.  Also, quick moving smaller birds were greatly slowed down because of the damage the cigarettes did to their little lungs, and photographers were able to get here-to-for impossible images of these slowed-down, feathered little nicotine addicts.  The avian photographers also exploited a new and very lucrative untapped market for photographs of small birds enjoying their cigarettes by selling to companies such as Phillip Morris, Marlboro, and the American Tobacco Company.  Although the practice has not become widespread and seems to be limited to only a few unethical, bratty photographers such as Greg Downing and Ann Cook, NANPA advises that the practice of giving cigarettes to songbirds is considered unethical under NANPA guidelines.  We ask members to discontinue the practice immediately.  Please remember, there are no ashtrays in the wild, and the threat of forest fires started by a careless sparrow dropping his butt to the forest floor is a concern.  In addition, once the birds begin smoking, they will soon desire a cocktail or glass of wine too...
NANPA guidelines will reflect this change of policy immediately. 
Thanks to Ann Cook for generously granting me permission to include her image here.  Ann, who is the premier digi-scoping bird photographer in the world, staged this image after the unfortunate sparrow died after crashing into the window of her Winnipeg Beach, Manitoba home.  (Note: amazing as it may seem, the poor little bird died of natural (or at least man-made--the window...) causes, not of lung cancer...
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