Cardinal Leaping

This article features twelve handheld photographs of a cardinal leaping… all of which were created with an E-M1X using Pro Capture H at 60 frames-per-second. Many of us who enjoy bird photography concentrate on birds-in-flight. We sometimes forget that small birds frequently leap between branches. These images can be interesting captures, especially if the bird’s wings are at least somewhat extended.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Our first set of photographs of a cardinal leaping features eight consecutive images. What attracted me to this particular cardinal was that it was partially visually obstructed in amongst some twigs and branches.

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, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4499 pixels on the width, subject distance 7.4 metres

As photographers we sometimes don’t even attempt to capture any photographs when birds are in a visually obstructed position as it can be difficult to acquire auto-focus on them.

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, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4501 pixels on the width, subject distance 7.4 metres

I often take an opposite point of view, and specifically look for birds that are partially obstructed visually. To me, being able to capture in-focus images of birds leaping or flying in amongst twigs and branches can add some context and visual interest to photographs.

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, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4499 pixels on the width, subject distance 7.4 metres

It is always a good idea to study small birds that are perched in amongst twigs and branches to see how they are moving.

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, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4501 pixels on the width, subject distance 7.4 metres

Often birds that are leaping to branches that are lower than the one on which they are perched will keep their wings tucked in tight to their bodies.

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, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4499 pixels on the width, subject distance 7.4 metres

I don’t find this type of body position very interesting and I usually don’t bother photographing birds leaping in a downward trajectory.

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, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4495 pixels on the width, subject distance 7.4 metres

Birds leaping upwards will often extend their wings. The main challenge is that unless a photographer is shooting in a portrait orientation, the bird leaves the frame very quickly.

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, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4497 pixels on the width, subject distance 7.4 metres

Often the best opportunities are when birds are leaping laterally and have to travel 2 to 3 times their body length. In these situations they will often extend their wings which adds some interest to the images.

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, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture, cropped to 4995 pixels on the width, subject distance 7.4 metres

I try my best to position myself so the birds are leaping parallel to the focal plane of my camera. This helps ensure that the entire Pro Capture H run will be in focus.

Our second set of images of a cardinal leaping features four consecutive Pro Capture H photographs. The subject bird in these photographs was watching me while in mid-air. This adds a feeling of intimacy to the photographs.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4332 pixels on the width, subject distance 7.6 metres

Whenever I use Pro Capture H I always use a single AF point as I find this makes it much easier to get a subject bird in focus, especially when it is partially obscured visually.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4009 pixels on the width, subject distance 7.6 metres

I need to stay very aware of the bird’s movements, especially if it draws closer or moves slightly away from me as this can affect focus. As a result I often reacquire auto-focus on a subject bird a number of times before it decides to leap to another branch.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3940 pixels on the width, subject distance 7.6 metres

The early spring and late fall are often ideal times of year to capture photographs of small birds leaping in trees and shrubs since the twigs and branches are devoid of leaves. The absence of foliage obviously makes it much easier to spot the perched birds.

Technical Note:

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 1,146 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/2500, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3529 pixels on the width, subject distance 7.6 metres

How you can help keep this site advertising free

My intent is to keep this photography blog advertising free. If you enjoyed this article and/or my website and would like to support my work, you can purchase an eBook, or make a donation through PayPal. Both are most appreciated.

If you click on the Donate button below you will find that there are three donation options: $7.50, $10.00 and $20.00. All are in Canadian funds. Plus, you can choose a different amount if you want. You can also increase your donation amount to help offset our costs associated with accepting your donation through PayPal. An ongoing, monthly contribution to support our work can also be done through the PayPal Donate button below.

You can make your donation through your PayPal account, or by using a number of credit card options.



 As a reminder to our Canadian readers, you can get a special 5% discount when ordering Tamron or Rokinon lenses and other products directly from the Amplis Store. Be sure to use my discount code when you make your purchase.

Word of mouth is the best form of endorsement. If you like our website please let your friends and associates know about our work. Linking to this site or to specific articles is allowed with proper acknowledgement. Reproducing articles, or any of the images contained in them, on another website or in any social media posting is a Copyright infringement.

Article and images are Copyright 2022 Thomas Stirr.  All rights reserved. No use, duplication or adaptation of any kind is allowed without written consent. If you see this article reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Posting comments on offending websites and calling out individuals who steal intellectual property is always appreciated!

2 thoughts on “Cardinal Leaping”

  1. Your images illustrate the amazing ability of the autofocus system to track the bird in that very cluttered situation. What amazing technology! That has always been the bane of bird photography, especially of smaller songbirds which are often the most colourful and desired by photographers. Were you using the Bird AF tracking option?

    1. Hi Glen,

      I used a single auto-focus point but did not use C-AF or Bird AI. Since I used Pro Capture H at 60 frames-per-second, the first frame locked auto-focus and exposure for the balance of the image runs. To get a run of images in focus it is important to have the action occur parallel to the focal plane of the camera.

      Tom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *