White-breasted Nuthatch captured by D6 / 180-400VR

Just how close can your lens focus? That’s what MFD or Minimum Focusing Distance is all about. You might think this is something you only need to concern yourself with doing macro work, but it’s just as important in portraits, editorial, and wildlife photography. It’s how you can get great image size in a frame with a really short focal length. It’s MFD you combine with basic biology to create the dramatic shots with critters.

This photo of a White-breasted Nuthatch is your classic kinda shot. Nuthatches travel down a tree stashing seeds they’ve gathered in the bark. The pose you see is typical as they get ready to launch and take flight. What the nuthatch is hanging on in this photo is a peanut feeder, food being a killer way to get close physically to a critter (the basic biology). With the 180-400VR on a tripod, I simply kept slipping closer (took about 30 minutes) until finally I was within five feet of the feeder, the MFD of the lens, and was able to get this image size zoomed to just short of 300mm. What if the lens you own now doesn’t focus very close, simply at an extension tube (not a teleconverter) and you can radically make a difference.

If you have a backyard shooting gallery (for birds of course), then you don’t need a long lens to make the great shots. If this sounds like a great idea but you don’t know how to create a shooting gallery in your backyard, basic biology, or lenses, be sure to check out my class at the Wildlife Photograph Conference! But the bottom line, in wildlife photography, the speed of the lens is not as important to me but MFD is so essential!

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