First Swallow Images of 2022

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.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/4000, ISO-640, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3468 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.3 metres

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.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 4032 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.4 metres

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.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3600 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.4 metres

This re-composition approach allowed me to get more images of the swallows after their launching into flight movements had been completed.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3276 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.5 metres

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.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3696 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.4 metres

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.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3528 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.4 metres

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.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3024 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.4 metres

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.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3348 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.4 metres

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.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3420 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.4 metres

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.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3804 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.6 metres

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.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-1250, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3852 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.3 metres

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.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-1600, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3264 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.3 metres

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).

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3480 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.3 metres

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.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3480 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.1 metres

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.

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 1,155 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/5000, ISO-1000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3120 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.3 metres

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8 thoughts on “First Swallow Images of 2022”

  1. Hi Tom,

    Very impressive!

    I just purchased OM-1 and M.ZUIKO 100-400mm, hope you can help my beginner’s questions for BIF.
    1. Do you recommend to turn 100-400mm Lens I.S. on or off when BIF?
    2. Do you recommend to enable Lens I.S. Priority is On or Off in OM-1 setting when BIF? (If I turn 100-400mm Lens I.S. on)

    Thanks!
    Kai

    1. Hi Kai,

      Whether a photographer uses the IS of the M.Zuiko 100-400 is a personal choice. I have the lens IS turned off almost all of the time. It is only when I am shooting at shutter speeds of 1/30 or less that I turn the lens IS back on. When using the M.Zuiko 100-400 I basically rely on the IBIS of my E-M1X.

      Since I have never used the OM-1 I really can’t suggest any settings on that camera.

      Tom

  2. Stunning set of pictures ,especially considering how fast and erratically these birds fly.
    Clever use of the amazing olympus pro-capture.
    I have had some success using pro-capture high and low mainly thanks to your articles on them.
    Thanks for that.

  3. Hi Tom,

    Excellent shots!

    I use an REI chair (#186011002) that I can carry on my back, but could use a bit higher-seated platform. What is your “photographer’s ladder”?

    Warm regards,

    Bill

    1. Hi Bill,

      My photographer’s ladder (Pearstone Ladder Cart) is an imperfect sitting solution as it is not as comfortable as I’d like (I need to sit on an angle when using it), but is the best option I have at the moment. In the past when I had to haul around a lot of gear when doing client video work I found this to be a good option. Having a wheeled ladder to shoot from a somewhat elevated position in industrial settings does come in handy… and having one that can also function as a gear cart made the Pearstone a good choice at the time.

      Tom

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