Wednesday 22 October 2014

Waterbuck Wink

I was trawling through my archives tonight, making space for new files by deleting files that are now 2+ years old that I haven't touched yet, when I came across this photo.

The species depicted is a Common Waterbuck, found throughout much of Southern Africa. The photo was taken in the Kruger National Park late one afternoon in March 2012 - a few minutes after sunset.

There are two things I want to point out here. The first is obviously the pose - I had a couple that just showed this female's facial portrait outline. They were deleted. This one, a crucial moment in this sighting, is something quirky and I kept it. She was merely trying to ward a fly off by batting her one eyelid, but the photo takes on a whole new implied meaning with this expression, don't you think?

click on the photo to view at proper resolution and sharpness
The other thing of note - is the ISO setting. The light was pretty much gone, and to get sufficient depth-of-field I needed to stop down the aperture. For some reason I had a high shutter speed too, so this necessitated the ISO setting.

Nikon D3s
Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II
1.4x teleconverter
f8.0  |  1/1250 SS  |  ISO-9000

I love being able to make images at these ISO settings, images that are actually usable! Just recently a photo of mine was accepted by Gallo Images, a high profile stock library in South Africa that's affiliated with Getty Images in the USA, which was taken at ISO-7200! The low light capability of the Nikon FX sensor enables me to really push the limits when it comes to photographing in the dusk hours of the day.

Some of you may be thinking that it looks better because it's a downsized and processed photo. There's some truth to that, as downsizing reduces apparent noise and I did run some selective noise reduction on the background - but the clincher for me is not whether there is noise/grain, but what amount of fine detail, contrast and dynamic range is captured at these settings and in these conditions. Here is a 100% crop of the eye, meaning it was cropped down to this resolution of just below 800px wide, no downsizing done and zero other processing done except for my RAW exposure adjustments in Lightroom.

click on the photo to view at proper resolution

Yes, there is noise present, but there's also oodles of detail for me to work with.
Folks - trust your cameras! Trust the technology that went into making the sensor and the electronics that convert the light captured into a usable image. Push yourself to make images at times that you previously put the camera down because of "lack of light".

Until next time!

Morkel Erasmus


  1. Lovely! I never go beyond ISO 1600 but then my D300s is 5 years old.
    Do you prefer 500 or 600? Pros and Cons?

    1. Hi Vikram - you would do well to invest in a camera with a newer sensor, the new stuff is awesome. Even the D7000 had very good high ISO performance. I had to choose between the 500 and 600, and went for the 500 due to weight, mobility and maneuverability benefits.

  2. Darn! You have amazing photography. You trully inspire us weekend photographers that wish we lived for the art instead of working for the weekend. Ivan Cordero

    1. Hi Ivan, thanks for your kind comment. Would it make you feel better if I reveal to you that I too hold down a full-time job and shoot mostly on weekends and when I have safari trips lined up (which is at most 5 weeks of the entire year)? :)

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