There are many styles of bird photography and adding context with BIF can make images of small birds in-flight more interesting. This article features 15 consecutive photographs from a Pro Capture H image run of a downy woodpecker taking flight, and discusses adding context with BIF photography.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
As illustrated by the image above, when photographing small birds in flight we sometimes try to make the bird the hero of our image. This often means that we have to apply relatively severe crops and sometimes the resulting photograph can lose some context in terms of the bird’s environment.
A different approach is to purposely make the subject bird smaller in the frame. This enables us to include more of the bird’s natural environment in the photograph which adds context. To accomplish this we will often will compose our photograph with the bird off to one side to create a sense of anticipation of where the bird may go when it takes flight. When we compare the two photographs above we can see that the second image includes much more environmental context.
As regular readers will know my standard settings with Pro Capture H are to set both my Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Limiter to 15. This means when I fully depress my shutter release my E-M1X will write 15 images stored in temporary memory to my card, but not create any additional photographs. I also always use a frame rate of 60 fps so I can capture as many incremental changes in wing and body position as my E-M1X will allow.
When photographing small birds taking flight I often fully depress my shutter release as the bird is leaving my composition. Given that I only have 1/4 second of response time when a bird launches into flight I used the bird exiting my frame as my visual clue to end the sequence.
In the case of this particular Pro Capture H run, I fully depressed my shutter release when the downy woodpecker was about 2/3 through the frame. This creates a few more images of the bird in a perched position as we can see in the next 3 consecutive images. This slight change in technique helps to reduce the number of unusable images at the end of the run. It also provides me with a few more frames that I can study to help identify pre-launch behaviour.
As we examine this image sequence we can see the downy woodpecker going into a tighter crouch posture in order to prepare to launch into flight. In the photograph below we can see that the bird is beginning to spring forward as it launches into flight.
The next 8 consecutive frames are what I consider the ‘treasure chest’ of this particular Pro Capture H run as they provide a good selection of potentially usable photographs.
The next image is not usable as the wings of the downy woodpecker are obstructing the view of its head. When a bird is taking flight we can never be sure of what will happen with body, head and wing positions and these types of unusable photographs can be expected.
Using a frame rate of 60 frames per second helps to guarantee a good number of useable images when using Pro Capture H. For best results with Pro Capture H it is recommended that you choose a shooting angle where the subject bird will be flying parallel to the focal plane of your camera. This is important as the first frame locks focus and exposure.
The final image in our sample Pro Capture H run is illustrated above. It was was aggressively cropped and displayed as the opening image in this article.
Adding context with BIF photographs can create more interest. It is easily done by anticipating the flight direction of your subject bird, and allowing room in your composition for the bird to fly through your frame. Pro Capture H is wonderful technology for this type of photography as images will not be committed to memory until after the bird has completed the desired behaviour.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are noted. Photographs were resized for web use. This is the 1,142 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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