This article features a selection of images of the first swallows of 2023 to arrive in our area of Southern Ontario. During the past few years I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time photographing these pocket rockets with some success… so I was looking forward to their arrival this spring.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
During my first few outings I focused on my eye/hand coordination and panning technique while the swallows were in free flight. I quickly realized that I was woefully out of practice. Using Bird AI Subject Detection was a definite help, but I still had a lot of work to do to improve my general lack of reflex response as the swallows darted about.
On two occasions last week I spent 3 to 4 hours per session doing nothing else except practicing my eye/hand coordination and panning with the swallows. It took a lot of my concentration and I was noticeably tired after these two practice sessions.
I did improve my eye/hand coordination and panning to a certain extent, and was able to get the occasional image run of 3 to 5 consecutive photographs. As you can see in the next 4 consecutive images, I was unable to get a sufficient number of pixels on the swallows most of the time. This resulted in very severe crops… which I dislike doing.
Swallows in free flight can make excellent practice subjects if one can muster up the patience to stick with it for several hours. This type of practice is difficult, but it can help make photographing other larger and slower birds-in-flight much easier. It can also help focus our observation skills.
Having some success photographing swallows in free flight does create feelings of accomplishment… even though the resulting images I managed to capture were of marginal use.
My preferred approach photographing swallows in flight is to use Pro Capture H when the swallows are around nesting boxes, or taking flight from tree branches.
During the past couple of days I’ve been experimenting with my Pro Capture H technique with these first swallows of 2023. So far the birds have been cooperating and I’ve been able to adjust my approach a bit.
This has helped create a somewhat broader assortment of photographic perspectives, as well capturing additional wing and body positions. More on that in an upcoming article…
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. My standard Pro Capture H settings were used for some of the images in this article, with my Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Count Limiter both set to 15. A single AF point was used as well as 60 frames per second. Other images of swallows in free flight were captured handheld using Bird AI Subject Detection with AF-C +Tracking, with a single AF point engaged.
For those readers who are interested in calculating equivalent field-of-view, multiply focal lengths for Olympus M4/3 cameras by a factor of 2. This is the 1,272 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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8 thoughts on “First Swallows of 2023”
What great work you do and thank you! I just began my EM1X journey a couple years ago. I noticed when shooting a bald eagle in flight last week that my tracking focus kept “getting stuck” on a stationary background of trees. I was using a 40-150 f2.8 and a mc14 tc. Are there some settings that I might change to help with that and stay focused on the moving bird?
My standard approach for birds-in-flight is to use Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking with only 1 AF point engaged. I combine this with Pro Capture L so I can be selective about the body and wing movements that I want to capture with a flying bird. I have my E-M1X set for 18 fps using silent shutter and Continuous Auto-Focus + Tracking. I have my Pre-Shutter Frames set to 10 with my Frame Limiter turned off. I’ve not had any issues with my E-M1X getting ‘stuck’ on a background element. Not sure what settings you are using with your E-M1X.
Thanks. I have made a few adjustments. Even though I was using tracking, it was not on bird!
I will give this a try .
Absolutely give it a try!
I am heading to Magee Marsh for 3 nights.
Since pro capture is new to me, I am going to add that capability later.
Thanks for the help!
Always a pleasure to try to assist.
Great photos of a very difficult subject. You clearly have talent and dedication!
I’m glad you enjoyed the images Mark!