Cardinals taking flight from twigs

This article shows some examples of cardinals taking flight from twigs. This photographic scenario can be difficult to handle. Often the auto-focusing of our cameras can get confused between a subject bird and the surrounding branches or twigs. It also can be challenging in terms of timing our shutter release. The Olympus Pro Capture H mode is a very good solution.

We have a couple of short Pro Capture H image runs captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1X in this article. Our first selection contains five consecutive images of a male cardinal taking flight from twigs.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 220 mm, efov 440 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 5.8 metres

In our first sample photograph we can see some twigs in the foreground that could interfere with the auto-focusing performance of a camera.

With the Pro Capture H mode the first frame locks focus and exposure for the balance of the run. From this perspective we don’t have to worry about our camera losing focus on the subject once it is initially acquired. Pro Capture H mode spools a series of photographs in temporary memory as long as the shutter release is half depressed.

We do need to be aware that if the cardinal doesn’t fly at a 90-degree angle to the focal plane of our camera then its flight path could take it out of focus. The exact flight path that a bird may take is obviously out of our control. All we can do is plan our image run using our best assessment.

Let’s look at the balance of the image run.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 220 mm, efov 440 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 5.8 metres
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 220 mm, efov 440 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 5.8 metres
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 220 mm, efov 440 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 5.8 metres
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 220 mm, efov 440 mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 5.8 metres

As we examine the four images above we can see that the male cardinal took flight at not quite a 90-degree angle to my camera. This caused the bird to go slightly out of focus in the last two photographs. Overall we did get some useable frames, even with the busy background.

Our next set of sample images of cardinals taking flight from twigs involves a female bird. When composing these types of images it is important to try to anticipate the flight path of the subject bird.

The first thing to consider is the density of the twigs and branches that surrounds the subject bird. This will dictate the likely flight path of the bird. In the photographs that follow you’ll notice that I positioned the female cardinal a bit lower down in the frame as I was anticipating her to take a more vertical flight path.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 212 mm, efov 424 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 6.3 metres
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 212 mm, efov 424 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 6.3 metres
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 212 mm, efov 424 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 6.3 metres
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 and M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 212 mm, efov 424 mm, f/6.3, 1/2000, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H Mode, subject distance 6.3 metres

The E-M1X’s Pro Capture H mode gave me quite an amazing feeling of confidence when I was capturing these photographs of cardinals taking flight from twigs. I knew at a 100% confidence level that I had captured some great images of this female cardinal the moment I fully depressed the shutter release on my E-M1X. There was no need to even check the images on my camera’s rear screen. Life doesn’t get much better than that when photographing birds.

Technical Note:
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Photographs were cropped to 4200 pixels on the width, then resized for web use.

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4 thoughts on “Cardinals taking flight from twigs”

  1. Hi Thom
    The AF on this camera is quite good. May I say that testing the AF in twigs can be challenging, particularly on large camera sensors (FF). I found lately after doing a wedding for my friend, that I had images with power lines; electric posts; fences; badly place sun shadows on the ground. I found a tool that is quite amazing, its the “erase tool” in Luminar 4, in a few strokes it did for most a perfect job, at the first trial. I never had great success using this tool or the clone tool in all the other softs, unless I spend a lot of time keep trying , most of the time with mixed results. I tried Luminar 4 (30 daqys trial) for its sky replacement feature, but found its erase tool even more usefull for me. I just a few months ago got a Fuji X-T2 and since I spend a bundle on a 14mm F2.8 & 50-140mm. It took me a while to get use of the EVF, and the low battery number of shots. I now carry 5 batteries, with 3 being cheap watson 20$usd. I still love and use my Nikons.
    Have a nice day
    Luc

    1. Hi Luc,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with Luminar and your Fuji X-T2 gear! There certainly is a growing list of tools that we can use with our photography. I think the key has always been for folks to find what works best for them… then spend the time so they can use those tools to the best effect.

      Tom

  2. Tom,

    I thought your blue jay images were spectacular then comes along these cardinal freeze-frames. Incredible, incredible, incredible — especially the lead image like a feathered ballet dancer flapping her feathery shroud. You’re absolutely correct that having your Olympus gives you that confidence to capture something special even if the action is really so fast to follow with our naked eyes. Thanks for the images — they’re relief from all this scare about being locked down in our corner of the world.

    Oggie
    http://www.lagalog.com

    1. Thanks for the comment Oggie… much appreciated!

      It is quite amazing how technology can transform certain types of photography or subject matter into something accessible and practical to achieve.

      In Canada we are also undergoing major ‘social distancing’ efforts. Conferences, sporting events, and other large social gatherings have all been cancelled. Schools in our province are going on March break next week… and that is now extended for 2 additional weeks. People are being encouraged to work from home if at all possible. Whether all of these ‘social distancing’ efforts were instituted soon enough remains to be seen. If our various levels of government did take action in time, we should see a different infection curve and and magnitude of illness than other countries have experienced.

      We’re doing everything we can to be part of the solution. We’re staying home and severely limiting any social contacts. I’ve already told clients that I won’t be doing any onsite work until mid-April at the earliest. I will be monitoring this and extending dates if needed.

      On the photography front, I’m planning to significantly reduce my ventures out to capture new images over the next 3-4 weeks. So, I will be concentrating on files that I have not yet made time to cull through in detail. I will also focus my efforts on two eBooks that are the furthest along in terms of their development.

      Hopefully I will be able to keep the website reasonably stocked with new material for readers.

      Tom

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