Practicing bird-in-flight images with gulls

If you’re like me you likely have captured hundreds, if not thousands, of images of sea gulls in flight. It’s not that these birds are all that photogenic, but practicing bird-in-flight images with gulls is a good way to maintain our skill level.

I recently went down to Grimsby harbour to do just that. It was a very windy day and many of the gulls were fishing off the side of the cement peer.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 270mm, efov 728mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-320
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 270mm, efov 728mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-320

Some birds, like the one in the above image, would watch small fish swimming next to the pier, then dive straight off the dock down at them.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 246m, efov 663mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 246m, efov 663mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-160

Most of the birds would flap their wings vigorously as they tried to hover against the wind while searching for fish below.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 234mm, efov 633mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-280
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 234mm, efov 633mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-280

This allowed for some interesting wing positions to be captured, especially when shooting in AF-C at 15 fps using subject tracking with my Nikon 1 V2.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 246mm, efov 663mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 246mm, efov 663mm, f/5.6, 1/3200, ISO-160

Some typical ‘fly-by’ images were also possible to capture.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-250
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-250
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-250
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-250

There are two schools of thought when it comes to images of birds-in-flight. Some folks like to frame the subject so that is not cropped at all, like the image below.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-640
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/4000, ISO-640

While other folks prefer to have parts of the wings or tail cropped in the frame to add a sense of drama and immediacy to their images.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 229mm, efov 618mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 229mm, efov 618mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 229mm, efov 618mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-200
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 229mm, efov 618mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-200

I enjoy taking either style of image with shooting conditions and my creative mood the deciding factors.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 229mm, efov 618mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-200
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 229mm, efov 618mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-200

Getting out a couple of times a month to practice taking bird-in-flight images is something I think we all should make a habit of doing – even if the only subjects we can find are common sea gulls. It helps prepare us for those moments when we have the opportunity to capture an image of a more unusual species.

Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-160
Nikon 1 V2 + Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-160

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Article and all images Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication of any kind, or adaptation is allowed without written consent.

9 thoughts on “Practicing bird-in-flight images with gulls”

  1. Thomas, thanks for the idea of practice shooting on flying gulls. I think we have some of those here in Northern California! I have really appreciated your articles on how to use the Nikon 1 system. So much so that I have purchased the V3 along with several lenses. I think I would like to have another Nikon 1 body (so I don’t have to switch lenses so often). Do you think Nikon will be coming out with a V4 anytime soon?

    1. Hi KathleenM,
      You’re welcome – I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I expect that a Nikon 1 V4 will be launched no later than the first quarter of 2016. It will likely have the same 20.8MP BSI sensor that is in the J5 which is a significant improvement over the Aptina sensors used in previous Nikon 1 models.
      Tom

  2. Tom,
    These are great flight images. You are very skilled with the Nikon 1 and at flight photography. These images, captured with a small sensor mirrorless camera, rival many captured with DSLRs and show that it can be done if you know your camera. I think the Nikon 1s are the most sophisticated of the mirrorless cameras for photographing action. Glen

    1. Hi Glen,
      I’m glad you enjoyed the images – and thanks very much for the positive comment! I am enjoying shooting BIF more and more as I become more familiar with my Nikon 1 gear.
      Tom

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