I recently went to LaSalle Park in Burlington Ontario to photograph some birds-in-flight using Pro Capture L mode with my Olympus OM-D E-M1X. This article features 25 consecutive images of some swans in flight, along with some commentary about using Pro Capture L for these photographs.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
The two significant differences between using Pro Capture H and Pro Capture L are frame rates and continuous auto-focus. The frame rate with Pro Capture H is 60 fps, compared to 18 fps with Pro Capture L when using an Olympus OM-D E-M1X. Frame rates with Pro Capture can vary by Olympus camera model.
Pro Capture L uses continuous auto-focus, while Pro Capture H uses the first frame of an image run to lock focus on the balance of the photographs.
I’ve found that Pro Capture H is extremely useful when photographing birds, especially smaller ones, taking off or landing at a designated spot.
Pro Capture H is not quite as practical with birds-in-flight as subject birds need to be flying at a 90-degree angle to my E-M1X for them to stay in focus.
Both Pro Capture modes capture and spool photographs in temporary memory when the shutter release is half-depressed.
When the shutter release is fully depressed, these images are then locked in and written to the memory card.
A photographer can set the number of pre-shutter release images, and post-shutter release images, that will be captured.
In the case of the photographs featured in this article, I had Pro Capture L set to 20 frames pre-shutter release, and the total number of frames set to 25. This gave me 5 frames after I fully depressed the shutter release.
I started tracking this group of swans for several seconds as they approached from a distance.
By half-depressing my shutter release I was able to capture a ‘rolling sample’ of 20 images as the swans continued to fly in towards me. I could simply wait for the action that I wanted to photograph to happen. Pro Capture L takes the guess work out of photographing birds-in-flight in terms of capturing specific bird behaviour.
When photographing birds-in-flight using Pro Capture L, it is important to remember to wait until the specific action you are anticipating has occurred. Fully depressing the shutter on your Olympus camera (i.e. E-M1X, E-M1 Mark II, E-M5 Mark III) will then lock in those photographs and write them to your memory card.
My objective with this photo run was to concentrate my image captures during the time period just before swans begin to sink lower into the water after touching down. Photographing birds-in-flight using Pro Capture L allowed me to be patient and just wait for the anticipated action to happen.
I really enjoyed using Pro Capture L to photograph birds-in-flight as this mode provides a couple of important benefits.
One of the biggest benefits is memory card management in terms of more selectively capturing critical images.
As birds-in-flight approach, a photographer can pan with them. Then by half depressing the shutter release on their Olympus camera, store those photographs in temporary memory.
A photographer does not have to write those images to their memory card until they know the desired action has occurred. If the birds veer away or do something else unexpected that makes the potential run unusable, the photographer can simply decide not to fully depress their shutter release. The images stored in temporary memory would then be deleted. This can save space on the camera’s memory card, preserve buffer, and reduce time in post when editing photographs.
Photographing birds-in-flight using Pro Capture made it easier for me to more accurately follow the incoming birds. There were no viewing interruptions in my viewfinder caused by the shutter being actuated as I was storing images in temporary memory.
Being able to pan with a bird while capturing images in temporary memory has some very interesting possibilities depending on the bird species being photographed.
For example, terns will periodically do a mid-air shake to help dry themselves off after diving into the water to fish. Capturing these mid-air shake images can be difficult as it typically requires guessing about when to begin an AF-C image run. With the Pro Capture L mode a photographer can pan with the tern and wait until the bird actually completes its mid-air shake… then fully depress the shutter release. This would write the temporary images to the memory card and the photographer would be confident that the specific behaviour had been captured.
All of the images that you have viewed thus far in this article, including the one above, were all captured before I fully depressed the shutter on my E-M1X.
This action sequence of these swans in flight was captured in approximately 1.4 seconds in total. Not only that… there was absolutely no stress or pressure involved with capturing these photographs. All I had to do was pan with the birds, half depress my shutter release… and wait for the action I wanted to photograph to actually happen. Once the behaviour happened I fully depressed my shutter release to write those temporarily stored images to my memory card.
I will definitely be using Pro Capture L on a regular basis when photographing birds-in-flight.
In fact, photographing birds-in-flight using Pro Capture L may very well become my preferred setting for specific species of birds like terns, herons and ospreys.
Photographing birds-in-flight using Pro Capture L is like betting on a horse race after you know which horse has won. You track a subject bird with your shutter release half depressed and simply wait for the desired behaviour to occur. Once the bird actually does the behaviour, you then fully depress your shutter release to write those photographs stored in temporary memory to your SD card. No guessing. No muss, no fuss.
Photographing birds-in-flight using Pro Capture L is something folks interested in bird photography should try. You may, or may not, like this capability. But, it is definitely worth checking out. For my style of bird photography I can’t imagine not having at least one camera with this incredible technology.
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.
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