Bee Happy Graphics FAQ
What’s the best camera for nature and wildlife photography?
As far as brand, each one has its fans, but we don’t get caught up in that debate. In the beginning, Nancy had a Nikon analog (film) 35 mm Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera and was very happy with it. At the time she decided to make the change to digital in 2005 it’s possible Nikon was asleep at the wheel - possibly thinking that digital was just a fad and because the quality wasn’t as good as film no serious photographer would ever take it seriously. For whatever reason, they let Canon get quite a jump on them. All of Nancy’s photographer friends had gone to Canon, and although when you have a large investment in lenses and equipment this is not a decision to take lightly, she also made the plunge and went to Canon. Since then Nikon has awakened and the best company is usually the one that has the latest model. But don’t restrict yourself just to the biggest two companies. Sony and a few others also make good cameras. Return to top
So if brand is not important, what is?
Well, I didn’t say brand was completely unimportant. Go ahead and do your research, talk to other photographers, etc, even flip a coin if you have to. Some people make a decision based on how the camera feels in their hand. Kay Wells, Communications Chair (and first president) of Saint Augustine Camera Club points out that you can rent camera equipment to help make your final purchasing decisions. Since there are several good companies out there, a “mistake” here probably won’t be critical. Keep in mind that whatever company you choose, you should be prepared to stick with them for a long time. What IS important is to get a good lens. Every photographer is on a budget. Everybody likes to look through the catalogue and drool, but until you are famous you probably can’t afford everything on your wish list. And every camera company makes a large range of camera bodies, from the hard-core professional to the rank amateur model that you only buy to give away as a present. To top end of the range will have more bells and whistles, and will be more rugged, but they all have the basic features needed to get a good photograph. Save up your money for a great lens (for Canon that would be the “L” series). Then buy the best body that still fits within the remainder of your budget, even if it’s several models below what you really wanted. Now start saving up your money again. Your high-quality lens will retain its value forever. In three years when you are ready to make your next purchase, even if you had been able to buy their top-of-the-line camera body, it will already be obsolete. At the end of that three years you have another important decision to make: do you finally move up to the camera body you’ve been dreaming about all these years or do you buy another high-quality lens. It’s your call. Return to top
Which lens do you recommend?
The big debate would be whether to get a long prime lens or a zoom. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Nancy’s favorite lens is the 100-400 mm f/4-5.6 image stabilized L series zoom. The disadvantages are that sometimes it’s just not long enough, and sometimes it would be great if it would let in more light. Why she picked it was the versatility (so you don’t need more than one large lens), the portability (lugging around even one of the big primary lenses to a remote location can be a chore), and the expense. The image stabilization is also a big plus when the wildlife doesn’t give you time to set up a tripod. Return to top
Is the full-size sensor really better?
No, not for wildlife photography. If the pixel count is the same, that 1.6± “crop factor”, which turns your 400 mm lens into a 640, bringing the wildlife even closer, is an asset. Sure, for landscape work that same effect would be a liability because now your expensive 10 mm lens is now as effective as a 16 mm. But then you could put the camera on a tripod and stitch together multiple shots to get the wider view. Return to top
Which picture size/quality setting should I choose?
Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that this decision is based on what you plan to do with your pictures. I’ve read articles saying that if all you want to do is put your pictures on Facebook for your friends, then you should use the small, low resolution option and save memory card space. The problem with that notion is that you never know in advance whether or not your next shot could be that once-in-a-lifetime image that is worth keeping and worth printing - even enlarging - or selling for top dollar. Memory today is (relatively) cheap, the delete button is always handy, and it is a whole lot easier to downsize your image to send to your friends than it is trying to recreate those pixels with important information that you failed to capture when you had the chance. Our advice is to always use the largest, highest resolution setting your camera has. Return to top
Do you have a preference between RAW and JPEG?
Yes. Raw files have more information which might be useful later, especially if your settings weren’t optimal. I’ve read many articles about how “real” photographers get everything right in the camera and don’t have to make adjustments later. I’m very happy for them, and I agree wholeheartedly with their reasons and concept, but in the real world that’s just not always possible. I’d hate to lose a shot because my ego wouldn’t let me keep all the information that was available while at an exotic location I might never get back to. In another article I discuss the need to compensate for the limitations of your equipment (I have no intention of delving into the limitations of the camera operator. I’ll happily leave that for others). When you record in JPEG, you are letting the camera’s computer adjust for the equipment (and operator) limitations and throw away the information it doesn’t think it needs. This computer was programmed by a guy who doesn’t have the foggiest notion where you are or what you’re trying to do. Needless to say, camera computers are really easy to fool. We recommend you shoot in RAW if you have a choice. Return to top
What suggestions do you have for becoming a better photographer?
We get this question a lot at art festivals, and have a number of suggestions (which have improved after a discussion on our camera club website with friend and serious amateur photographer Ibis Hillencamp).
- Take classes. Check with your local community college. Maybe a photography store may have classes or seminars. Some photographers and/or other photography organizations may have something in your area. Look online for training organizations and the companies that make your photography software (such as Adobe). YouTube could also be an excellent source of information.
- Join a camera club. This is great for a number of reasons. Our club (Kendall Camera Club) has two meetings a month. The first is our competition, where our work gets critiqued by experts that are not members of the club. You can learn from this even if you don't enter the contest. Our second monthly meeting is educational or informative. Then there are the field trips, where you get out with fellow photographers for tips and practice. It's good to hang out with people that more more than you do. Keep asking questions. And, as Ibis stresses, there are the social aspects, which beside being informative, are also motivational, which is important for continual progress.
- Look at photographs. Take time to study the work of great photographers. Look for different angles, check their settings, consider their composition. Ibis agrees that this can be very inspirational.
- Practice! Practice! Practice!
Where did the name "Bee Happy Graphics" come from?
Back when I met her, one of Nancy's many hobbies was beekeeping (and woodworking, and SCUBA diving, and sailing, and gardening, and photography, and scouting, and camping, and traveling, and so on ...). In fact, for a time, she was the president of the local beekeepers association, and was also on call with the police and fire departments to rescue her fellow Floridians from errant bee swarms. To sell her honey to the neighbors (Nancy's mom was actually her best salesman), she came up with the name "Bee Happy Honey". She liked the ring to it, and when she retired from teaching after forty years and began pursuing her photography full time, she just resurrected the name. Return to top