This article shares my first swallow images of 2022, all of which were captured handheld at Windemere Basin Park in Hamilton Ontario. It was a very blustery afternoon with wind gusts of about 70 kilometres per hour which made photographing swallows in free flight even more challenging.
I quickly came to realize that my handheld skills with this particular species were in definite need of some serious practice. So, I focused my photographic efforts with the use of Pro Capture H for all of the images in this posting. These photographs were all captured in about 90 minutes.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
My goal was to create some images of swallows with interesting in-flight wing positions showing them after they had launched into flight. This meant that I had to adapt my typical use of Pro Capture H with my E-M1X.
I used a single auto-focus point and after acquiring focus and half-depressing my shutter release, I recomposed my image with the swallow barely visible on the extreme right hand edge of my frame. Birds typically take flight into the wind and this was the case with the pair of swallows I chose to photograph.
This re-composition approach allowed me to get more images of the swallows after their launching into flight movements had been completed.
As I got more comfortable I recomposed my frames with the swallow completely out of the frame. In order to get my shutter timing correct I used ‘both eyes open’ technique so I still watch the swallow taking flight even though it was not in my composition and not viewable in my EVF until after it took flight.
Rather than try to photograph a range of different birds I selected a specific nesting box that was being frequently visited by a pair of swallows.
This allowed me to observe the specific flight paths that these two birds were using when they took flight, as well as their approaches to the nesting box.
Their take-off flight paths were reasonably predictable which allowed me to recompose my images with the birds not visible in my viewfinder. I would wait for them to fly through my frame before I fully depressed my shutter release.
I was shooting Pro Capture H at 60 frames-per-second with my Pre-Shutter Frames and my Frame Limiter both set to 15. That meant I had 1/4 second of shutter release response time which proved adequate for my purposes.
Depending on the individual Pro Capture H image run and my shutter release timing, I usually ended up with between 3 and 5 potentially useable photographs per Pro Capture H burst.
I purposely did not use my M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter as I wanted to limit my focal length to 400 mm to help maximize my depth-of-field. Using an aperture of f/8 also helped in this regard. When shooting with M4/3 gear using a 400 mm focal length with an aperture of f/8, at a distance of 8.4 metres from a subject bird delivers about 4 inches of depth-of-field. Anticipating the flight path of a swallow is an important factor to get birds in focus when using Pro Capture H.
I initially was using f/6.3 and 1/4000 settings with my E-M1X, but changed that to f/8 and 1/5000 to help ensure adequate depth-of-field and to help reduce wing blur. You can see some minor wing blur with the right wing of the bird in the above image. I plan to increase my shutter speed slightly with future swallow in-flight photography this season.
One of the benefits of using Pro Capture H for these images was being able to get more pixels on the subject birds as I could shoot from a predetermined distance of a little over 8 metres (~26 feet).
Given the erratic wind conditions there was no discernable flight path the birds would use when returning to the nesting box. I was able to capture a few swallow images of the birds approaching to land. Hopefully future shooting conditions will create more predictable bird approach paths for my follow up visits.
As regular readers know I hate using tripods and always photograph birds-in-flight handheld. Since my Pro Capture H swallow technique will focus on pre-selecting a nesting pair of swallows, I’ll be bringing my photographer’s ladder with me for subsequent visits. This will allow me to comfortably sit from a somewhat elevated position.
When photographing specific birds-in-flight it can be beneficial to adapt your shooting approach based on weather and observed bird behaviours.
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 1,155 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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