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Thread: Long Lens Technique: what is best?

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    Default Long Lens Technique: what is best?

    I'd like to discuss long lens technique. It is my nature to analyze and question why.

    This web site describes what I believe is the prevailing "long lens technique" method:

    Moose Peterson: http://www.moosepeterson.com/techtips/longlens.html

    The basic idea is that putting your hand on the lens above the tripod stops vibration induced by anything in the system, including the mirror slap, or wind, or you own hands.

    The physics of this escapes me.

    First a longitudinal wave traveling the length of the lens will travel near the speed of sound of the material. The speed of sound in aluminum is over 4800 meters/second and in glass over 3900 meters/second. The differential of glass and aluminum will quickly damp waves that would travel the length of the lens in 1/8000 second or so.

    Probably the largest vibration factor is rocking about the tripod attachment point. The natural frequency of such a vibration (call it a transverse vibration) will be at a much lower frequency than longitudinal vibrations. This vibration is a tortional pendulum (e.g. http://farside.ph.utexas.edu/teachin...s/node139.html ). This vibration is also analogous to a seesaw (not sure if everyone around the world knows. here is a wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seesaw ). Imagine kids playing on a seesaw and you want to stop their up-down movement. If you place your hand on the seesaw at the pivot point you will not likely stop the movement, and may not even be able to slow it down. To slow the seesaw down, you have the greatest effect if you grab and hold onto the end, either end. Same with telephoto lenses.

    So, it seems to me the best long lens technique is to grab the end of the telephoto system. Since you operate the camera at the camera end and not the lens hood end, grabbing on to the camera with both hands and placing your cheek up against the camera is the best way to dampen vibrations. Firmly holding the camera like this has two effects: 1) gives you the greatest leverage against movement by wind, and 2) greatest leverage from damping vibrations from the camera and mirror slap. Your hands and cheek on the camera also provide a damping mass against mirror slap.

    Does the two-hands on camera method work? It is the only method I use and I have produced tens of thousands of sharp images over the last decade with my 500 f/4 with multiple bodies, TCs and stacked TCs. I have tried the hand on the pivot point and personally do not think it is as effective. I would be interested to hear if others try this and what they think. Or am I missing something regarding the effectiveness of hand on the lens pivot point method?

    Roger

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    Life Time Member Doug Brown's Avatar
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    I don't work off of a tripod very often, but when I do I rest my left hand close to the lens hood (not over the tripod).
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    Danny J Brown
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    I use the technique that Artie prescribes which is to rest my hand over the base of the lens hood. As Doug just mentioned, you are not over the fulcrum but more toward the end, albeit the other end of the lens/camera combo. I also press my cheek firmly against the camera, also prescribed by the guruji and others. Yesterday, I was getting bored sitting in a windy, snowy situation waiting for a predator to come by so I tried an experiment. Because it sometimes scares wildlife when I put my hand over the base of the hood on my 500/F4, I tried photographing my Johnny Stewart coyote call, which was hanging in a tree, first by just holding the camera firmly against my cheek and second by adding the hand over the lens hood base. When I checked the photos the first one was somewhat blurry an unacceptable and the second one (Artie technique) was so sharp you could read all of the writing on the call - at 35 feet away in a snowstorm. This was only one test but it was applicable to your question above so I thought I'd share it. Take care.

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    Capt James' Suggestions for Long Lens Technique.


    1)Use a Stable tripod.

    2)You can use a ballhead but for action or birds in flight I much prefer a Gimbal Head. My first choice is the Mongoose 3.5a my second choice is a Wimberley type I or II.

    3)When using slow shutter speeds in critical non-action situations, I lock the tripod collar and all ballhead / Gimbal head adjustments.

    4) I press my face against the back of the camera body (cheek or eyebrow), right hand on the camera grip and I rest my left hand on the lens above the tripod head. Think of it this way. If you have a tuning fork and tap it on something, while only holding the end, vibration will travel through the fork causing sound. Do the same thing but this time put your fingers in the middle of the tuning fork. No sound! You effectively absorbed the vibration causing the sound.
    With a long lens vibrations are magnified. So your face and hand are doing the same thing, reducing the vibration that causes image softness. I called this Nikon's HF(hand / face)vibration reduction system before VR:).

    5)I always level my tripod, helps with the horizon and the Gimbel head will work more smoothly.

    6) I extend the lower legs as little as possible, they are the smallest, least rigid.

    7)Rather than extending each leg fully out, when possible I try to leave about 6" of each leg in the tube above.The legs will be more rigid, much less wiggle.

    8)I will "load" the tripod up, making sure the I have the legs pulled apart to their widest diameter.

    9)Wiggle down. If I am in grass I wiggle the tripod to get through the grass into the soil.

    10)I take my left foot(just more comfortable to me) and place it on the inside bottom of the tripod leg to my left. I then place my shin/knee on the outside of the same tripod leg.

    11)I prefer spiked legs for grassy locations. For boardwalks I will put cane caps on the bottom of the legs, they help in preventing vibrations from traveling up the tripod legs from the boardwalk. I do the same for mud, it's a little wider foot print.

    12)Balance camera/lens combo on chosen head.

    James

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    James,

    I use the same techniques as you give in your 12-step technique, except:

    Quote Originally Posted by James Shadle View Post
    4) I press my face against the back of the camera body (cheek or eyebrow) and rest my left hand on the lens above the tripod head. Think of it this way. If you have a tuning fork and tap it on something, while only holding the end, vibration will travel through the fork causing sound. Do the same thing but this time put your fingers in the middle of the tuning fork. No sound! You effectively absorbed the vibration causing the sound.
    With a long lens vibrations are magnified. So your face and hand are doing the same thing, reducing the vibration that causes image softness. I called this Nikon's HF(hand / face)vibration reduction system before VR:).

    I'll argue the tuning fork analogy. I bet the main effect of placing your finger in the middle of the fork is your finger touching the sides and away from the center of the fork is what is dampening the sound. If you had a smaller finger or larger tuning fork so your finger had less effect away from the center point, the dampening would be less. You would need to press harder to get an effect. But if you moved your finger to the tip of the tuning fork, the lightest touch will dampen the vibration. I believe it is your face and one hand doing most of the vibration reduction.



    Quote Originally Posted by James Shadle View Post
    10)I take my left foot(just more comfortable to me) and place it on the inside bottom of the tripod leg to my left. I then place my shin/knee on the outside of the same tripod leg.
    I'll do this too, except as shutter speeds lengthen, your body imparts vibrations, so for longer shutter speeds, I'll not touch the tripod.

    Roger

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    Co-Founder James Shadle's Avatar
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    By placing my left hand on the lens, over or near the center point of the tripod head, it does dampen vibration and also increases your panning accuracy.

    Roger said:
    I'll do this too, except as shutter speeds lengthen, your body imparts vibrations, so for longer shutter speeds, I'll not touch the tripod.

    What if it's windy:)?
    The above is correct, when using very slow shutter speeds with long lenses your body can impart vibrations(heart beat, tremble etc.).

    In cases like that(when mirror lock up and cable release are impracticable), I place my left elbow on the tripod base or head while I keep my left hand on the top of the lens. This really steadies the hand.






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    I always put my left hand on lens just above lens foot firmly and face pressing rear of camera , I was surprised to see pin sharp images at 1/20 , here is one example http://www.birdphotographers.net/for...ad.php?t=52309

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    Attached Images Attached Images
     
    Here is a Lilac Breasted Roller image obtained at close range with Canon 500 mm f/4 L IS lens plus a 2x teleconverter at f/8. Exposure: 1/10 second at ISO 400 with mirror lock-up. This is a full height image. This was imaged from the top of a safari vehicle using a Wimberly mount. I was following the bird as it jumped around. Why did I not just up the ISO? I did this on purpose to illustrate slow shutter technique and the advantage of image stabilization. I used the 2 hand on camera method. I would wait for the bird to be in a good position then press the shutter button to raise the mirror and about a half second later, fire the shutter. The light was deep twilight and I would not consider the light great; I got better lilac breasted roller images in beautiful afternoon light on that trip. But the point is two hands on camera also produces stable pointing and damps vibrations.

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    BPN Viewer Charles Glatzer's Avatar
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    Roger,

    I turn the lens hood attachment knurled screw straight down, grasping it with my index finger I pull down slightly on both the screw and camera while placing my cheek against the body. Sort of like trap shooting.

    I find this is often better than placing my hand atop the lens when fatigued, excited, or simply higher than my shoulder is not always best. I find no one technique optimum for all conditions. If you see the image shake in the viewfinder best to change your technique.

    Try my suggestion above and let me know if it works for you, it has for many.

    Happy Holidays to all,

    Chas

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    Danny J Brown
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    Quote Originally Posted by Charles Glatzer View Post
    Roger,

    I turn the lens hood attachment knurled screw straight down, grasping it with my index finger I pull down slightly on both the screw and camera while placing my cheek against the body. Sort of like trap shooting.

    I find this is often better than placing my hand atop the lens when fatigued, excited, or simply higher than my shoulder is not always best. I find no one technique optimum for all conditions. If you see the image shake in the viewfinder best to change your technique.

    Try my suggestion above and let me know if it works for you, it has for many.

    Happy Holidays to all,

    Chas
    Sounds like a good technique, Chas, because I have sat staring a a nervous heron, deer, turkey, etc. trying to get a perfect shot and the last thing I want to do is raise my hand up and place it over the top of my 500/4. I always keep the keeper screw on the hood pointed straight down anyways so I'll try your stealth technique.

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    Lifetime Member Jay Gould's Avatar
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    Interesting discussion; regarding the keeper screw Jim in teaching me his HH techniques has the keeper screw at the top and uses it as one would sight a rifle when you first lift the lens to your eye if your do not already have the bird in the lens on te first "look". You know you are very close so all you have to do is lower the rig below you eye and sight down from the flash mount to the keeper screw, nail the bird, and then raise the rig to your eye.

    The more I practice the less I have to do this as most of the time by not taking your eye of the bird and simply raising up the rig the bird is in the view finder.
    Cheers, Jay

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Gould View Post
    Interesting discussion; regarding the keeper screw Jim in teaching me his HH techniques has the keeper screw at the top and uses it as one would sight a rifle when you first lift the lens to your eye if your do not already have the bird in the lens on te first "look". You know you are very close so all you have to do is lower the rig below you eye and sight down from the flash mount to the keeper screw, nail the bird, and then raise the rig to your eye.

    The more I practice the less I have to do this as most of the time by not taking your eye of the bird and simply raising up the rig the bird is in the view finder.
    Jay,

    Goggle... Trap Shooting. There are plenty of instructional vids on youtube.

    Chas

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    Lifetime Member Jim Neiger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Gould View Post
    Interesting discussion; regarding the keeper screw Jim in teaching me his HH techniques has the keeper screw at the top and uses it as one would sight a rifle when you first lift the lens to your eye if your do not already have the bird in the lens on te first "look". You know you are very close so all you have to do is lower the rig below you eye and sight down from the flash mount to the keeper screw, nail the bird, and then raise the rig to your eye.

    The more I practice the less I have to do this as most of the time by not taking your eye of the bird and simply raising up the rig the bird is in the view finder.
    Jay,

    You are mistaken. I put the screw straight down to keep it out of the way and out of my vision. I use a line of sight from my eye to the subject and then pop the camera and lens up to my eye in the same line. No sight on the lens is needed or used. Shadle uses the screw as a sight from a tripod. Perhaps you are getting the techniques mixed up.
    Jim Neiger - Kissimmee, Florida

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    Thanks Roger for the imformation and starting this discussion. Thanks to everyone who added to it. Very useful.
    I have a question: If using a tripod setup do you use a cable release and if so what hand do you hold it with? If you don't use cable release how do you avoid camera shake when depressing the shutter release?

    Thanks Ray

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    Danny J Brown
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    I wouldn't want to spend $100.00 on camo for a 500/4 and then have a big, silver knob sticking up on top.:) Skittish Missouri birds notice everything!!!!!!!!!!

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    BPN Viewer Charles Glatzer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Rozema View Post
    Thanks Roger for the information and starting this discussion. Thanks to everyone who added to it. Very useful.
    I have a question: If using a tripod setup do you use a cable release and if so what hand do you hold it with? If you don't use cable release how do you avoid camera shake when depressing the shutter release?

    Thanks Ray

    Except for landscape or possibly animalscapes I find a cable release more of a detriment to most wildlife photography than an asset. Simply rolling your finger over the shutter rather than stabbing it will negate most of the problem. BTW- Live Preview locks up the mirror, and/or you can use the self timer as well.

    Chas

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    Michael Bertelsen
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    I have been using James Shadle's long lens steps with my 300-800mm Sigma and have found it to be much better than my old style. I would like to mention that spreading the legs of the tripod so that there is a very slight bow in the legs has helped me get sharper images also. I used to work as a tool maker and when using a milling machine vibrations can cause big problems when milling longer peices if metals.
    We would place our hands or even a small bag of sand to dampen the vibrations.
    Does somebody want to try a bag of sand on their lens.:D

    Michael Bertelsen
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    BPN Viewer Charles Glatzer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Danny J Brown View Post
    I wouldn't want to spend $100.00 on camo for a 500/4 and then have a big, silver knob sticking up on top.:) Skittish Missouri birds notice everything!!!!!!!!!!
    Top or bottom... if you think it effects the subject you could always cover the knob with camo tape.

    Chas

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray Rozema View Post
    Thanks Roger for the imformation and starting this discussion. Thanks to everyone who added to it. Very useful.
    I have a question: If using a tripod setup do you use a cable release and if so what hand do you hold it with? If you don't use cable release how do you avoid camera shake when depressing the shutter release?

    Thanks Ray
    I agree with Chas. The only time I use a cable release is when I'm doing some landscape where the subject won't fly or run off. For example, a moon rise. For any wildlife, I have both axes of the Wimberly loose so I can follow action and use my hand on the camera and finger on the shutter butting. I squeeze not poke the shutter button.
    The image I posted above of the lilac breasted roller was done this way.

    Roger

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    I often track subjects with my 500 on a full Wimberly and with 1.4x and 2x TCs. The field of view gets really small, especially on 1.6x crop bodies. I've attached some small telescope finder rings to my flash bracket and put a black tube in it for pointing. I have the sight positioned so I can look through it with my right eye while my left eye looks through the viewfinder (I'm left eyed; use left hand for only 3 things). So when following a bird in flight at high magnification, I can look through the sight to acquire or re-acquire if I lose the subject. I'll post a picture of it the next time I have it set up. I've thought about putting in a rifle scope in place of the tube.

    Roger

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    BPN Viewer Charles Glatzer's Avatar
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    With much practice you should be able to keep your eye on the target and put the lens directly on the subject. IMO additional gadgets atop the lens only take time away from acquisition, as you must first visually find the gadget and then the subject. My years of trap and upland shooting have greatly added to my ability to acquire and track subjects with long lenses.

    As I mentioned above check out the trap shooting vids like this one, it will give you some good in-sight ;)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ak99sFroHI4

    Chas

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    The idea of resting your hand out near the lens hood is also akin to techniques used by long range target shooters. They go to great lenghts to dampen barrel vibration including resting a finger on the forearm of the rifle which is supported by sandbags usually. But they also use similar technique (when not using a bench rest) to hand holding a big lens. There are many similarities between techniques for shooting a gun and a camera....the results are quite different though! This is probably what prompted the idea for the brush hawk system. I'm surprised that no one on this forum seems to use it or mention it.

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    BPN Viewer Charles Glatzer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joel Eade View Post
    The idea of resting your hand out near the lens hood is also akin to techniques used by long range target shooters. They go to great lenghts to dampen barrel vibration including resting a finger on the forearm of the rifle which is supported by sandbags usually. But they also use similar technique (when not using a bench rest) to hand holding a big lens. There are many similarities between techniques for shooting a gun and a camera....the results are quite different though! This is probably what prompted the idea for the brush hawk system. I'm surprised that no one on this forum seems to use it or mention it.
    Joel,

    I had a bush hawk for a short time, found out I could do just as well without it.

    Chas

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    Lifetime Member Jay Gould's Avatar
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    Thanks Jim, it was James. :o
    Cheers, Jay

    My Digital Art - "Nature Interpreted" - can now be view at http://www.luvntravlnphotography.com

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    Roger- As I see it, the problem with two hands on the camera is that this provides you with maximum leverage to torque the system with any (inevitable) body movement at the camera end.

    I have been following Artie's technique which relies on holding the camera with one hand and using your other arm/hand as a strut to create a triangle between the tripod top and the bottom of the end of the lens. In addition to this, what works for me is to relax and only lightly hold the system- tensed muscles produce small vibrations that are transferred to the lens/camera. I find this is hard to do when you are excited and "revved-up" during a session of photography and I really have to think about it!

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    I have been following Artie's technique which relies on holding the camera with one hand and using your other arm/hand as a strut to create a triangle between the tripod top and the bottom of the end of the lens. In addition to this, what works for me is to relax and only lightly hold the system- tensed muscles produce small vibrations that are transferred to the lens/camera. I find this is hard to do when you are excited and "revved-up" during a session of photography and I really have to think about it![/quote]

    I donb't understand where you put your other hand in this technique. Could you elaborate

    thanks Ray

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    Ray- Have a look here (all will be revealed as you scroll down).

    http://www.birdsasart.com/bn254.htm

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    Quote Originally Posted by John Chardine View Post
    Roger- As I see it, the problem with two hands on the camera is that this provides you with maximum leverage to torque the system with any (inevitable) body movement at the camera end.
    John,
    But that isn't my problem. I don't have a problem with sharpness on long lenses. I experienced sharp images at all levels, from high shutter speed to 1/10 second at 1000 mm (500 f/4 +2x).

    What is evident from this thread is that people have a variety of methods and they all give good results. So it does not appear that some methods are wrong, and perhaps its more a case of what feels best for an individual (like being left or right handed).

    Roger

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    Thanks John

    Ray:)

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    Hi Roger

    Very interesting thread although I don't have a long lens (yet..) to test any of these methods. In response to your original question, is it possible that placing the left hand at the fulcrum (above the tripod) is a stable reference point that provides feedback to help stabilise your body (probably subconsciously) and hence reduce any motion induced by your left arm holding the camera..?

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    Allen Johnson
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    This is outstanding! Kudos!!

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    BIG thanks for this thread - today I was shooting in very poor lighting conditions, already at ISO 3200 and shutter speed was leaving much to be desired. I decided to change my technique up a bit and found that by using Artie's method my images have become much sharper.

    For the past year or so I've been placing my free hand on top of the lens, but I got much better results by holding the lens from underneath and bracing my arm against the tripod leg. THANK YOU!

    Charles

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