Young male lion (Panthera leo) standing in gentle rain

Photo Details: Young male lion (Panthera leo) standing in gentle rain after feeding on a recent kill, Kruger National Park, South Africa. The image has been heavily cropped and played around with in PhotoShop, but I like the lion’s expression, the visible rain drops, and damp mane — all against a backdrop of typical winter colors in the African bushveld.

Camera: Canon Digital Rebel (Canon EOS 300D); Lens: Canon EF 300mm f/4L USM; Aperture: f/4; Shutter Speed 1/500; ISO 400.

Additional Info: This image was one of the first I took with my Canon Rebel, bought in 2003, during a trip to Kruger Park to put my brand new digital SRL through its paces. I used a Canon 300mm f/4 lens that I subsequently sold (to my regret) because it didn’t have image stabilization (IS).

Although I’m a fan of Canon IS lenses and believe the technology certainly helps when hand-holding in situations where it’s simply not feasible to use a camera support, I’m coming to appreciate that long lenses deserve to be placed on tripods or other supports if one hopes to get the most out of them.

One of the books I enjoy browsing is The Art of Photographing Nature, by Martha Hill (former picture editor of Audubon magazine) and photographer Art Wolfe. Many of Art’s wildlife images featured in the book were taken with slow ISO slide film using long lenses, at shutter speeds in the 1/15 to 1/60 range, yet are pin sharp — because he always uses a tripod.

My replacement for the 300 f/4 was the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM tele zoom lens, that I’ve also subsequently sold. Although I got some good pictures with this lens, many were also disappointing — mainly because I expected too much from it.

With a lens of that focal length plus a digital camera that eliminates film costs, it’s simply too easy to attempt shots that one would never try if paying for film — then be disappointed with the results. Using a tripod or vehicle support also slows you down, forcing you to think a little more about composition. Yes, you will miss more shots this way, but the ones you do get should ultimately be more rewarding, while making you more appreciative of your telephoto lenses.

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