Despite living most of my life in what might seem like rural midwestern states like Nebraska and Oklahoma I have spent comparatively little time on actual farms interacting with, you know, real live farm animals. I’m basically a city slicker even though I have a master’s degree (albeit in a field that has nothing to do with agriculture) from one of the nation’s top agriculture schools, so when I found out I would be going to a local farm to be interviewed for a short public broadcasting video I thought it would be fun to bring the ol’ 50mm lens with just for kicks. Since my D7100 is now basically my backup camera and my D200 spends most of its days giving the dust in our house an object on which to settle I figured I would bring the former with me lest my new D750 have an unfortunate encounter with some dairy cattle.

As soon as we got to the location I realized the critical flaw in my plan: there was almost no space in which to move around, thus making a 50mm lens on a crop sensor camera wholly impractical and almost useless:


I tried to get a few shots of the cow you see above along with her friend, but there was almost no room to move back which made getting anything interesting in the picture an exercise in futility. That, and these animals wouldn’t hold still at all making it next to impossible to get any good pictures with the gear I had. Ironically the image at the top of this post was the first one I took and the only one that turned out from about 20, but in the end it’s not about how many pictures you take but how many keepers you get. And since I got one I’m happy with how things turned out :)

One side note about this picture worth mentioning: since getting my D750 I have been shooting with Auto-ISO and I really like it. Listen to the audio clip (click the play button below the featured photo) to hear a bit more, but suffice it to say if your camera has this feature you might want to give it a try. Even on my D7100 which can’t handle the crazy ISOs of my D750 I have found it to be quite useful.


  1. Simon —
    Well, your blog took a somewhat bucolic bent today with ‘Elsie’ as your subject. Real shallow depth of field with a f1.8 aperture. But, what was most helpful was your discussion of auto ISO. Setting the minimum shutter speed to 2x focal length and then set aperture. What effect does use of a) camera flash; b) mounted flash; or, c) off camera flash have on using auto ISO? Hmmm…I look forward to giving this a try with my D7100!

    • Good questions about flash, David. To be honest I’m not sure! You’ve officially got me scratching my head there, though I would assume that the camera would maintain a low ISO and just use the flash to compensate instead of raising the ISO. I’ve really enjoyed shooting my D7100 with auto ISO lately since it has kind of removed the need for me to think about shutter speed, and if you give it a try I’m sure you will enjoy it too :)


    • Interesting, Albert. Thanks for sharing your opinion, and I’m curious why you decided to disable Auto-ISO. Either way is fine, but I always like hearing from people who do things their own way to see if there’s something I can learn from them :)

      • Very simple, I want to control the ISO so that I can select my own Shutter speed and F number without any intervention by the electronics of the camera, while using Aperture mode/Shutter mode.

  3. Simon —
    Given the comment made by Albert, I will DEFINITELY take some Auto-ISO shots tomorrow when I travel to Benjamin, Texas to meet with a client. I will take some shots full manual and jot down my “guesses” for aperture, shutter speed and ISO to see how they turn out. I will then set the Auto-ISO and compare what the camera chose (and the result) versus my selection. I will let you know what happens. Have a blessed day!

    • That’s a really good idea, David. I like the concept of deciding things yourself and then letting the camera make a few decisions, and then comparing both processes to see how things work out. I think I’m going to give that a try myself now that you mention it…

  4. By the way, I set my Aperture 90 F/8/11/ and manually adjust my iso accordingly

    • What lens do you typically use when shooting, Albert?

      • In response, D7100 with an 18mm-200mm DX Nike. My ISO set at 640/400/250/800 based on the subject I am shooting always with a set f/8 or f/11 based on the DOF I like

        • Thanks for sharing, Albert. I always like finding out the approach different people use. At those smaller apertures do you ever find that your shutter speed is too slow to capture the images you are going for?

          • Not really, I use these speeds all the time, only changing them if I am shooting with ND filers, landscapes-sea/rivers/ponds etc.
            Macro shooting I use ISO 100/125/500 at F/5.6 or F/2.8. Manuel f/32 at these #s. Remember in macro 1:1 you lose 2 stops of light accordingly
            In historic buildings I set my ISO to 1600 + based on the lighting conditions and leaving my Aperture as indicated previously. No tripod..

            • That does help explain things a bit, Albert. When I’m out shooting nature, architecture, or other non-portraiture situations I do prefer to have a bit more control over the operation of my camera. Like you I will often use manual exposure and set the aperture, shutter, and ISO myself instead of letting the camera decide what it thinks I want.

              Do you have any of your photos posted online? (Instagram, Flickr, etc.) It would be fun to see some of your work.

              • In response. I have not been able to sort out those images I would like to post on, my to be website down the road.
                I usually post on Facebook for friends/family who are in photography

  5. Simon —
    Drove to Benjamin, Texas today and was able to test the Auto-ISO against manual settings. Here is what happened: It was a cloudless, bright sunny day. There was a lot in town where a bank had once stood. In the middle of the lot, where the bank had been, was a iron vault surrounded by stones. So, I decided to take photos of it with the sun almost directly overhead. Nikon D7100 with Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens. Results —

    Manual setting; Auto-ISO off
    f16 ISO 100 Shutter 1/400 — subject too dark;
    f16 ISO 100 Shutter 1/250 — not bad, but still murky;
    f16 ISO 100 Shutter 1/80 — Perfect!

    Manual setting; Auto-ISO on
    f16 ISO 100 SHUTTER 1/80!!!!! Auto-ISO picked the optimum shutter speed!

    Now, I realize that there will likely be times that the camera will make a mistake as to shutter speed in the Auto-ISO mode. However, I see where this can be a definite advantage. Based upon my limited test, I will continue to use Auto-ISO and explore this more. Thank you for the tip, Simon!

    • That’s fantastic, David! I’m so glad this technique was helpful for you. Did you by chance set a minimum shutter speed, such that instead of making the shutter any slower the camera would instead start increasing the ISO? Either way I’m glad it helped you get some better photos. Keep up the good work!

  6. As a livestock and farm landscape photographer, I can definitely identify with your troubles of encouraging the animals to stand still for a good photo!

    • Elise, I don’t know how you do it with those livestock photos. Those animals just don’t ever want to cooperate! :)

      • A lot of snapping and plenty of frustration when they won’t look at me or look away at the wrong time! Sometimes, snapping with fingers works to get them to look in the right place and perk their ears up. Food is good, too. Especially with dogs. Treats in one hand, taking picture with the other….

        • Hahaha! Elise I’m picturing you with your camera in one hand and some dog treats in the other, trying to get the animals to do what you want. I admire you for being able to do what it takes to get the shot!

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