Cedar Waxwings Taking Flight

This article features a selection of handheld images of Cedar Waxwings taking flight… captured at Hendrie Valley during a visit last week. This was the first time that I’ve been able to capture a good number of images of this particular bird species in flight.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, cropped to 2707 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 21.1 metres

There was a group of about a half dozen Cedar Waxwings in a relatively compact area adjacent to one of the ponds at Hendrie Valley. This provided me with a good number of photographic opportunities.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-800, cropped to 3381 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 21 metre

All of Cedar Waxwings were constantly flitting about from tree to tree feeding on berries that were still on the branches. Short fights and squabbles over food were common, and contributed to the constant bird movement.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-800, cropped to 3182 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 15.5 metres

When I returned to the same spot on the following day, there wasn’t a single Cedar Waxwing to be found. As is often the case in nature, when the immediate supply of food is exhausted, birds just move on to a new food source. So it’s critical to take advantage of whatever image opportunities Mother Nature provides.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-800, cropped to 3896 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 17.1 metres

My new M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS performed wonderfully. For all of the images featured in this article, I shot with the lens fully extended to 600 mm (efov 1200 mm). This gave me the reach I needed so I could get a reasonable number of pixels on the subject birds. This was one of the fundamental reasons why we bought the M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-800, cropped to 3636 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 19.8 metres

It was a bit challenging at first to find these small, active birds in my EVF, with my zoom lens fully extended. The Cedar Waxwings were moving around so quickly I simply didn’t have time to zoom out, find a bird, then zoom back in on it. So, I had to get my eye/hand coordination at a 600 mm focal length (efov 1200 mm) up to speed as quickly as possible.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1250, cropped to 3730 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 21.3 metres

A technique that I use in this type of situation is to stay put in one spot so I can have a consistent physical frame of reference for my eye/hand coordination. By observing the birds I then decided on a shooting zone that would provide me with the highest number of opportunities. It is also important to keep this observational area to a maximum of 45-degrees. I’ve found that anything wider than that is too difficult to effectively monitor.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, cropped to 3302 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 21 metre

After about 15 minutes photographing under these parameters I found my mojo again and was able to locate the birds in my EVF fairly quickly. at 600 mm. I still missed some opportunities, but successfully captured more than I missed.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, cropped to 3515 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 27.3 metres

An earlier article discussed the benefits of using singe AF with the first frame locking focus and exposure, rather than using Continuous Auto Focus. Photographing these Cedar Waxwings was an ideal situation for the use of single AF. For example, using this approach allowed me to capture Cedar Waxwings flying inside some bushes as you can see with the images above and below.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, cropped to 3019 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 26.4 metres

I used Pro Capture H technology at 60 frames-per-second for all of the images in this article. This proved to be ideal. Even if I only acquired focus for just an instant, I could still fire off a quick image run and get a useable photograph or two.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-800, cropped to 3156 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 20.8 metre

The birds being positioned on branches and twigs introduced a lot of visual obstructions, which made things more difficult. Pro Capture H allowed me to capture a sufficient number of photographs showing incremental movements of subject birds. This helped me get some useable images where the head of the bird was clearly visible amongst the twigs and branches.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1600, cropped to 2959 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 18.9 metres

While the Cedar Waxwings did give me some unobstructed shooting angles, they were few and far between. I actually like capturing images of birds-in-flight in more difficult environments like this one, as I enjoy the challenge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-800, cropped to 3018 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 21 metres

The backgrounds for my images were  often extremely busy with branches and twigs. This resulted in some odd looking shapes and lines at times. I didn’t let that bother me and stayed focused on the Cedar Waxwings.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-800, cropped to 3201 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 20.8 metres

I specifically looked for birds positioned adjacent to some open flight paths in amongst the branches and twigs. The photograph above is a good example. These open areas made for better compositions… and also added some environmental context to my images.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-640, cropped to 3567 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 15.7 metres

I love using Pro Capture H with a single, small AF point. This allows me to focus on a bird, even if only a small part of its head or body is visible from behind some branches. Then when the bird takes flight, as seen in the photograph above, I can still capture an interesting bird-in-flight image.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, cropped to 3244 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 14.8 metres

The excellent image stabilization of the Sync-IS in the M.Zuiko 150-600 zoom was a huge help in capturing these photographs. It allowed me to quickly get a single, small AF point on a subject bird and keep it anchored there until it took flight.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-640, cropped to 2721 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 21.8 metres

Sometimes we underestimate the importance of Sync-IS. Gaining a few stops of image stabilization in situations like this one, makes a significant difference. When there is precious little time to find and acquire focus on a subject bird, Sync-IS can be the difference between getting our shot… or missing it.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1250, cropped to 3156 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 21.3 metres

When I left the house with my camera gear that morning, and headed off to Hendrie Valley, I was wasn’t planning to do any field testing for my upcoming M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS hands-on review article.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, cropped to 3850 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 21 metre

As it turned out, photographing this small group of Cedar Waxwings taking flight was a great way to demonstrate how the M.Zuiko 150-600 mm performs at 600 mm (efov 1200 mm) with small subjects.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, cropped to 3222 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 20.1 metre

I’ve only been shooting with the M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS for a couple of months. During this short time I’ve already been able to capture hundreds of images that I would have struggled with had I been using my other lenses. I spent less than an hour and a half photographing these Cedar Waxwings taking flight… it was both a challenge and a joy.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured handheld with the camera equipment noted in the EXIF data. All images were created from RAW using my standard process. I used Pro Capture H with my standard setting for all of the photographs featured in this article. I used a single, small AF point, with a frame rate of 60 fps. Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Limiter were both set to 15. This is the 1,375 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 600 mm, efov 1200 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, cropped to 3224 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 14.8 metres

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2 thoughts on “Cedar Waxwings Taking Flight”

  1. Thanks for all the information and great photos. I’m not able to get out like I once could but I can look at photos posted by others. I always enjoy yours and this was an article full of them.

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