Cormorant Using Bird AI

This article features 18 consecutive handheld photographs of a cormorant in-flight using Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking. These images were captured in late September 2021 as part of an intensive practice exercise I did at Grimsby harbour.

The purpose of that practice exercise was to push myself when using Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking in combination with Pro Capture L. I went to the pier and positioned myself as close as legally possible (i.e. remaining behind a metal fence barrier on the pier) to birds landing on the cement structure. This put me about 35 to 40 metres away from incoming birds.

For me, an intensive practice session is when I try to photograph as many subject birds as possible in the shortest amount of time. I typically shoot at almost any bird coming in to land and often max out my buffer doing so.  My intensive practice session ends when I either fill a predetermined number of memory cards, or run my camera batteries down to zero charge.

While I’m “in the moment” of an intensive practice session I do my best to take mental note of bird positions, my reaction time, and how well I’m able to pick up… then frame subject birds, and capture runs of images. When practicing with the use of Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking and Pro Capture L, I also need to make mental notes about how well I am responding to white/green focusing boxes created by my E-M1X and listening for a Pro Capture L ‘beep’ when auto-focus has been achieved.

Each of us has our own approaches when trying to learn how to use various camera features and technologies. Putting artificial pressure on myself while attempting to remain calm and attentive during the process seems to work reasonably well for me.

As could be expected the vast majority of incoming birds were gulls. There were a few cormorants in the area but very few of them came in to land on the pier. Most of those that did were flying in at a low angle and were partially hidden behind the end of the pier as they made their approach.

The images in this article  were captured during one of the few opportunities I had that day to photograph a cormorant in-flight using Bird Detection AI and Pro Capture L. I will likely post another article featuring a selection of gull images captured during this same intensive practice exercise.

As you look through these images of a cormorant using Bird AI you’ll see that my subject framing was off a bit in a number of frames. This resulted in some clipping of wings. I’m not a purist when it comes to my bird-in-flight photography and getting in tight with a bird or otherwise clipping wings never concerns me.

Although these were practice exercise photographs, I was able to get some good captures from this particular Bird AI/Pro Capture L image run. Frame 13 is a personal favourite.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-800, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4243 pixels on the width, subject distance 39.5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4051 pixels on the width, subject distance 40.6 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4495 pixels on the width, subject distance 41.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4255 pixels on the width, subject distance 38.8 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4830 pixels on the width, subject distance 38.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4110 pixels on the width, subject distance 38.2 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4542 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1250, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4207 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1250, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 3020 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.6 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1250, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4315 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.2 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1250, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 3307 pixels on the width, subject distance 36.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1250, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4830 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1250, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 3991 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.8 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1250, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 3476 pixels on the width, subject distance 38.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1250, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4411 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.8 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1250, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 3583 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.6 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1250, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4902 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/1600, ISO-1250, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 3283 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.5 metres

I used my standard C1 Custom Mode settings of 18 frames-per-second in continuous auto-focus with silent shutter, Auto-ISO, a single AF point, Manual mode, Pro Capture L, and Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking. I had my Pre-Shutter Frames set to 10 and my Frame Counter Limiter turned off.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced using my standard process. After running my RAW files through DxO PhotoLab 4 using one of my custom pre-sets, I made some minor adjustments in PhotoShop CS6 and Nik. My final step was using Topaz Sharpening AI. Crops are indicated. This is the 1,116 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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16 thoughts on “Cormorant Using Bird AI”

  1. I really enjoy reading these articles Thomas. Thanks for sharing your great photos and the techniques and settings. I’m interested if you have tried the Pro-Capture L technique with any success on the E-M1 MkIII without the bird tracking AI? I might try this with my MkIII – I usually practice on Seagulls!

    I saw your comment above about some settings not allowing the use of the in camera AF limiter. I have had this when my lens limiter “hard switch” is already applying a limit – I usually leave the lens switch on full range setting to prevent that.

    Best regards from the UK,
    Bill

    1. Hi Bill,

      I haven’t used our E-M1 Mark III for birds-in-flight very much at all. I have large hands and I don’t find that particular body to be very comfortable when used with a longer, heavier lens like my M.Zuiko 100-400.

      Here is a link to an article that I published using the E-M1 Mark III for birds-in-flight using Cluster Area AF: https://smallsensorphotography.com/little-brother I’ll see if I can get out with the E-M1 Mark III over the next few weeks to give Pro Capture L a try with birds-in-flight.

      Like you, I have to put my lens focus limiter on full range. Even then I have issues with the AF Limiter, so I’m thinking it must be a camera setting that is causing some conflict. It’s probably something very minor.

      Tom

  2. Hi Thomas,

    Thanks for your postings and discussion. Why have you used such a slow shutter speed, 1/1600s, with these cormorants? The lack of sharpness in many images is very clear.

    Kind regards,
    Mark Davidson

    1. Hi Mark,

      These were test images done using my standard default BIF shutter speed of 1/1600. The purpose of the test was to do some very intensive practice using Bird AI in combination with Pro Capture L. My main subject matter for this intensive test were gulls, not cormorants. This exercise was intended to practice eye/hand coordination and shutter release timing.

      Tom

        1. You’re most welcome Mark.

          I will be using additional photographs from that intensive practice session for some other upcoming articles. The subject birds will be gulls in those future posts. I think those photographs are more consistently sharp at a 1/1600 shutter speed than were the cormorant images. One of the things that I’ve learned through these types of experiments is that I really need to be on top of my technique when using a combination of Bird AI and Pro Capture L. When I use this combo properly it generates excellent results. Like most things photographic, ongoing practice is required to maintain skill level.

          Tom

  3. Hi Thomas,
    does the E-M1 has also the Pro Capture technique on board or is it only with the E-M1X?
    Regards
    Klaus

    1. Hi Klaus,

      The GetOlympus website shows that both the E-M1 Mark II and E-M1 Mark III have Pro Capture L and Pro Capture H. The E-M1 is no longer listed on the company website so I have no idea on that particular model. To find out if the E-M1 has Pro Capture go into the Menu and look under the gear icon, then go to C1, then L Settings and H Settings.

      Tom

  4. Hello Thomas,
    Thank you for sharing your photography technique and achievements so freely. What you do is very impressive.
    Do you ever present your work from the small sensor capture as a displayed print and if so what size do you enlarge to without attracting too much distortion?

    1. Hi Chris,

      We do our own printing in-house. We’ve had no difficulty with prints 24″ x 32″. I know folks like Matt Suess (an Olympus Educator) have done much larger prints than that.

      Tom

  5. Nice photos! However, I’m a unclear on how Pro-Capture was used for these photos. I’ve used Pro-Capture when a bird is relatively stationary, and clicked the shutter when it moves, usually upon take-off. However, these images seem to start with the bird in motion. Could you explain the steps you took to make that work?

    1. Hi Steve,

      Pro Capture has 2 different settings in the menu. Pro Capture L provides continuous auto-focus and will also allow for changes in exposure. The maximum frame rate with Pro Capture L is 18 frames per second. I use Pro Capture L when I want to photograph birds that are already in full flight.

      Pro Capture H locks auto focus and exposure based on the first frame of the image run. The maximum frame rate with Pro Capture H is 60 frames per second. I use Pro Capture H when photographing birds, butterflies or other insects taking flight.

      Tom

  6. Hello Tom,
    What a fun project! A good technique to try.
    Do you use AF limiter and if so, what settings?
    Are you shooting in manual mode? Sometimes when shooting BIF I use shutter priority at 1600th and auto iso.
    Do you have any other settings on your E M1X that facilitate your great outcome?

    1. Hi David,

      I always shoot in manual mode with my E-M1X or my wife’s E-M1 Mark III.

      Here are some links to some of my earlier articles that may answer some questions for you:
      https://smallsensorphotography.com/primary-bif-setting
      https://smallsensorphotography.com/combining-imaging-technologies
      https://smallsensorphotography.com/bird-photography-settings

      I haven’t used AF Limiter yet. All of my bird photography settings are contained in 4 different Custom Modes on my E-M1X. I may have some kind of conflict in my C1-C4 settings that for some reason doesn’t allow the use of AF Limiter. Since using this isn’t a huge priority for me I haven’t made the time to figure out what the issue may be.

      Tom

      1. Tom,
        I may have encountered that “conflict ” also but also have not figured it out. Thanks for the links! They will be helpful.
        Have you ever experienced the inability to AF tracking been unable to “see” a bird up against an open sky? How have you solved it? That was my attempt to use the AF limiter.
        Fun eh?

        1. Hi David,

          I’m glad the links will be helpful for you.

          I’ve never had an issue with my camera being unable to auto-focus on a bird against an open sky… unless I have done something wrong like inadvertently engage the focus clutch, or use the wrong AF limiter on my M.Zuiko 100-400 lens.

          tom

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