Backyard Pigeons

This article shares some new images of pigeons in flight that were captured handheld in my backyard, using an E-M1X with Bird AI. Unlike many downtown environments, pigeons are not that common in our residential area. I haven’t had very much luck capturing photographs of pigeons in flight in the past. My lack of past success is likely due to a combination of my own technique, limited angles of view in my backyard, and the auto-focusing performance of the camera gear used in previous attempts.

We do get occasional visits from pigeons. Over the past month or so I’ve noticed them with more regularity. Perhaps this is linked to a corresponding decline in the number of neighbourhood cats prowling in our backyard.

With various COVID-19 restriction over the past 14 months or so, it has become increasingly difficult to keep active with a camera in hand. Lately I have been paying more attention to the pigeons that occasionally visit, trying to identify patterns of behaviour in terms of flight paths. My hope was to produce an article incorporating this subject matter.

On Saturday I decided to just patiently wait on the back deck to see if any pigeons would fly into my backyard. As luck would have it, I did have a few opportuniities to capture photographs of pigeons in flight, and had some reasonable success.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 140 mm, efov 280 mm, f/7.1, 1/2000, ISO-800, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3426 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.6 metres

There was no question in my mind that I would use my E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking. My first image opportunity happened by accident. I had been photographing some birds at ground level and looked overhead to see a pigeon right above my head, less than 7 metres away. All I had time to do was retract my lens as I put my camera up to my eye and fire off a couple of frames. Both were in focus, with the image above being framed a little bit better.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 280 mm, efov 560 mm, f/8.4,1/1600, ISO-2000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3285 pixels on the width, subject distance 17.1 metres

The next opportunity presented itself when a pigeon flew in fairly low as it banked around a pine tree in my neighbour’s backyard. This was another ‘quick fire’ reaction situation. The photograph above was the best one out of my very short image run.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2500, ISO-640, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 4137 pixels on the width, subject distance 14.9 metres

Another pigeon flew in from an unexpected angle. Two more ‘quick fire’ frames yielded the image above.

My best opportunity of the day produced the three photographs that follow. The pigeon flew in low over my rear fence and swooped in to land at the base of one of our bird feeders.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 195 mm, efov 390 mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3575 pixels on the width, subject distance 10.7 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 195 mm, efov 390 mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-1600, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3857 pixels on the width, subject distance 10.7 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 195 mm, efov 390 mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-1600, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3455 pixels on the width, subject distance 10.6 metres

My last image in this article is of a pigeon flying over my fence into my neighbour’s yard. I had captured this image a few days earlier. From my vantage point the pigeon was hidden behind some bushes so was unable to actually see it taking flight. I heard its wings flapping and captured another ‘quick fire’ very short image run just as it was clearning the fence.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 235 mm, efov 470 mm, f/8.3, 1/1600, ISO-6400, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3407 pixels on the width, subject distance 14.8 metres

The common thread with all of these images of pigeons in flight is that they were all the product of ‘quick fire’ use of Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking. I didn’t wait for the tracking box to turn green for any of these opportunities. Instead, I just trusted my instincts to get the bird in the frame as best I could, and allowed the Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking to do its thing.

The biggest lesson that I learned from these backyard pigeon photographs was that the AF performance of my E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking is often quicker than the ‘green box’ AF notification. This is an important realization as it opens up more opportunities to capture images of birds-in-flight using this technology.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are noted. This is the 1,020th article published on this website since its inception.

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2 thoughts on “Backyard Pigeons”

  1. What are your best settings for BIF? I’m having great luck with stationary or limited movement birds, but focus is failing me on BIF. Note, something the developers didn’t realize is that the bird detection AI also works for Koi fish!

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