Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

April 11, 2010

How I Did It

Filed under: Birds, technique — richditch @ 6:54 pm
Burrowing Owl from car window

Burrowing Owl from car window

I know – the title of this post is a line from Young Frankenstein: the great Mel Brooks comedy staring Gene Wilder as the descendant of the Doctor Frankenstein who assembled and animated his monster.

I took this shot while shooting the Burrowing Owl from my previous post, just to illustrate how I work from the driver’s seat of my Toyota RAV4 for some bird photos. Some birds that spook quickly when you try to approach them on foot are a lot more tolerant when you stay inside your vehicle and use it as a blind.

I had seen this owl atop the small mound of dirt as I drove slowly past on a low volume paved road about 25 miles south of where I live. There was no cover between the road edge and the bird, and it was evident from tire tracks that the farmers working this area sometimes drove in at this point. So as I sat parked along the edge of the road I set up my monopod between the door and edge of the driver’s seat and mounted my Nikkor 300/2.8 AF-S lens with TC20E 2x converter and Nikon D200 camera on top. I use a small Bogen head on the monopod that allows one direction of tilt, and on top of the Bogen head I’ve got a quick release platform from Really Right Stuff that clamps on the RRS plate on the foot of my lens. The monopod takes all the weight of my camera gear and positions the camera where I can view through it from my seat.

With the lens in place I very slowly worked my car closer to the owl, stopping as soon as I had a clean composition. Put n park, with the handbrake engaged and the engine off, I was able to get some initial shots.

Then I started up again and worked a bit closer for the image previously posted.

Note that I’ve folded in my outside rearview mirror here. That gives me more clearance to rotate the lens towards the front of the car.

Image taken with Nikon D70, 18-70 “kit” lens, ISO 400, 1/200th second at f/16.



  1. I love that you share how you get your shots. I aspire to be a photographer one day and its great that people like you are willing to share and mentor. Keep up the great work!

    Comment by Idaho_Birder — April 11, 2010 @ 8:14 pm

  2. Wow, that’s so cool, thanks for sharing. Can I ask about the usual photos? You often have a lens and then a x2 sort of thing (I may have that backwards, because I didn’t just check). Could you explain in short what that means, please?

    Comment by bardiac — April 12, 2010 @ 3:51 pm

  3. I use a teleconverter (aka tele extender or doubler) almost all the time with my 300/2.8 lens. This is an optical multiplier with many elements that goes between the camera body and the lens and effectively make my 300/2.8 into a 600/5.6 lens. I use a Nikon brand named the TC20E. It is expensive and heavy and optically matched to Nikon’s long focal length lenses. Since the objective of the prime lens remains the same the light reaching the film/sensor is reduce by two stops (which the internal meter deals with). Some image quality is lost with any converter, but when used on a professional grade lens of high resolution like the 300/2.8 the results are still quite good. There’s also a 1.4 version (makes the 300/2.8 into a 420/4 lens with less loss of image quality), and a 1.7x in the Nikon product line.

    Other major brands have 1.4x and 2x converters in this product lines as well. There are also lower cost 1.4x and 2x converters available from the independent optics suppliers like Sigma and Tokina, but they generally aren’t optically matched to the prime lenses.

    Comment by richditch — April 12, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

  4. Thanks for explaining! I thought that was what it meant when I googled the tc20e thing, but I wasn’t sure I was understanding.

    Comment by bardiac — April 12, 2010 @ 5:56 pm

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