The Story of the Shot and the ‘Boom’ Factor

Canon EOS- ID X Mark III EF500mm f4L IS II USM +1.4x III

Taken at f9.0 700mm 1/1250 ISO 25600

Last Friday started off wet, overcast and dull. The forecast said the contrary – well, at least it said it’d brighten up later in the day. That’s like dangling a carrot in front of this old donkey!

So, it was off to RSPB Bowling Green hide two hours before sunrise in the hope that the forecast was wrong. Oops! That was a mistake. I got there to be met by intermittent rain, heavy skies and everything as dull as ditch water. Not a promising start.

The big problem with setting up before sunrise in these conditions is that you have to use a torch, which in itself is not a problem but is a bit of a pain in the posterior when you realise you’ve left it at home! No worries… iPhone to the rescue. The rain stopped and I looked out into the murk outside the hide and there were one or two waders and a handful of dabblers but because ther was no light to speak of they were hard to make out. Coffee is always welcome on these occasions…the thermos is a must. Outside for a quick smoke with coffee in hand then back inside with the crazy idea of firing off a couple of shots in the direction of the waders. Totally bonkers I know but it’s at times like this (waiting for just a smidgen of light to kick-start the day) that you can find out what you gear is really capable of.

I often shoot mid-range ISO (3200 – 5000. Sometimes at 10000 if it’s really dull) to get high shutter speeds. But today was so dark, overcast and virtually lightless (is that a word?). The waders were standing in the water (as waders tend to do!) but I couldn’t make out whether or not they were moving. I set my shutter speed at 1/1250 at f9 and auto ISO in the hope that I’d get a decent amplification of any available light. Rarely do I preview my shots in the field, rather waiting ’til I get home. I’ve missed so many fleeting moments in the past due to checking the preview screen instead of staying glued to the viewfinder…this time was no different. Afterall, I didn’t expect much. My gear was the Canon flag-ship 1DX MKIII coupled with the superb EF500mm f/4L IS II USM plus a matched 1.4x III extender.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, after a couple of hours the light improved and the sun popped out for a while. So generally a good day after all with some decent images and some great conversations with a couple of fellow ‘togs in the hide.

At home after a quick bite to eat I thought I’d quickly check out the day’s shots. And first of all the image taken in near darkness of the waders. I nearly fell off my chair! The auto ISO had ramped itself up to 25600! And the image was staggering in its clarity, detail and lack of noise. I’d heard stories about how good the 1DX MKIII was at high ISO but I never expected it to be so fantastic. I’m sure that the reflection of any light from the water in the image helped things along a bit but this absolutely blew me away. Don’t forget that this shot was taken in near darkness with the birds only showing as a black silhouette against dark water.

I quickly ran the image through my usual software with little processing then sat back and zoomed in and out of the image trying to find fault. Remember, this was taken at ISO 25600 and I think you’d be hard pressed to find fault under the circumstances. As an aside. I really couldn’t see much through the viewfinder at the time because it was so dark, I’d already lined up the shot and everything was tightened up on the tripod, but the auto focus locked on immediately and I knew the camera had picked up something.

Take a look at the shot at the start of this post and judge for yourself. I’ve always been a Canon shooter and never had reason to go elsewhere. I’ve also had the 1DX MKIII body for sometime now and it has never let me down. Match it with Canon’s outstanding glass and it’s world class. The ergonomics are what you’d expect…I don’t waste time fiddling about with dials and buttons playing photo roulette! Handling the 1DX MKIII is a bit like wearing that favourite bit of clothing – it’s so comfortable you forget you’ve got it on.

See you around folks…happy snappin’

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