When photographing birds taking flight, allowing for wing movement needs to be considered. This is especially important if a photographer’s objective is not to clip the bird’s wings. This article shares a selection of 15 photographs captured during the same Continuous Auto-Focus image run. All photographs are displayed as 100% captures without any cropping.
Let’s begin by looking at 12 consecutive images from the first part of the AF-C run.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
As we can see in the first photograph in the sequence, I have positioned the bird in the bottom left corner of my frame. This is to allow for the bird to thrust itself upward and extend its wings while still remaining in the frame.
In the next frame the heron is extending its wings in preparation for its first, full wing beat.
With its wings now fully extended upwards we can see why allowing for wing movement is an important consideration when capturing this type of action.
As the heron begins its first powerful down stroke we can see it begin to rise up from the water.
As its legs leave the water they create some good surface splash details. The birds wings are now at their maximum horizontal width and are still completely in the frame.
As the heron completes its first wing beat it draws its wings across its chest. This provides us with a good view of the feather detail on the topside of its right wing.
Now fully airborne, the heron is at the start of its second downward wing stroke. We now can see a water trail forming from its legs and feet. Details of the underside of the heron’s wings are now nicely visible.
As the heron gains air speed its body is thrust more forward. You can see that its right wing is slightly clipped at the top of the frame. This is often the hardest part of capturing an action sequence as a photographer must begin to pan with the bird. I did not pan upward and to the right at quite the right speed and angle.
Often when taking flight a heron will call out loudly. Capturing the bird with its beak open is always a bonus. The photograph above is one of my favourites from the run. As you can see in the image above, allowing for wing movement is also important from a horizontal perspective.
The photograph above shows the heron’s wings at the end of its second down stroke.
To capture this sequence I had my camera set for low sequential silent shutter… which gives me an 18 frames-per-second capture rate. By comparing the heron’s wing positions from frame to frame, you can see that the tempo of its wing beats has increased.
The image above is another of my favourites from the AF-C run. There is a very slight wing clip at the top of the frame. Many viewers would not initially even notice that given the dramatic pose of the heron. One of the reasons that I enjoy using a micro-four-thirds camera for birds in flight is having a bit more vertical room in my frames. When allowing for wing movement, I am able to get in a bit tighter to my subject birds with M4/3 camera gear.
Let’s pick up the sequence at frames 32 to 34 of the AF-C run.
It is a matter of personal choice whether a photographer wants to keep firing their AF-C run as the bird-in-flight becomes more distant. Depending on my shooting angle I often end my AF-C run shortly after a bird becomes airborne.
Since this heron was flying away on a somewhat parallel path to my position, I continued my AF-C run. The result was being rewarded with a couple of images with some foot/water contact.
If you look at the EXIF data on the last three images, you’ll see that the ISO value has changed from ISO-1250 to ISO-1000. I had my camera’s ISO set to auto. As the heron flew into stronger sunlight this caused the ISO to shift slightly.
As a separate aside… my Olympus OM-D E-M1X fitted with an M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter nailed focus with all 42 photographs that I captured with this AF-C run. Suffice to say that I am quite pleased with this gear combination for birds-in-flight.
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process, and are displayed as 100% captures without any cropping. At the beginning of the image sequence the subject bird was approximately 30 metres away.
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