First Swallows of 2024

The first swallows of 2024 have arrived, and to me signal the official start of the spring birding season in my local area. These first swallows of 2024 reconfirm the importance of eye/hand coordination, as well as being aware of bird behaviour.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 449 mm, efov 898 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-640, cropped to 4333 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 8.3 metres

All of the images featured in this article were captured handheld at Grimsby Wetlands, offer referred to as “Biggar Lagoon” by locals.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 429 mm, efov 858 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-500, full frame capture, Pro Capture H, subject distance 8.1 metres

As regular readers know the main focus with my bird photography is capturing birds-in-flight, as well as those taking flight.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 391 mm, efov 782 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-640, full frame capture, cropped to 2826 pixels on the width, subject distance 8.1 metres

If Lady Luck smiles upon me, and I happen to catch some birds interacting it is a great bonus for the day.

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 4496 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 12.4 metres

From my perspective, capturing a bird taking flight or coming in to land, almost always results in a more interesting photograph than a standard bird ‘fly-by’ 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-640, cropped to 3577 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 13.4 metres

Having some additional reach when photographing small birds is a welcome bonus that the M.Zuiko 150-600 zoom brings to my bird photography this season.

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 5014 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 12.3 metres

An additional 50% reach without any loss of light extends in-field opportunities significantly.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 358 mm, efov 716 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, cropped to 3811 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 7.3 metres

When photographing birds taking flight it is important to consider the background for our action images… and find an appropriate shooting angle. This helps position a bird against (hopefully) an unobstructed, monochromatic background.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 358 mm, efov 716 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1600, cropped to 3189 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 12.7 metres

Finding a combination of some interesting backlighting and an active bird often results in photographs with some added drama.

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-4000, cropped to 3737 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 7.5 metres

I quite enjoy capturing images of birds taking flight that result in unusual body positions.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 449 mm, efov 898 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-640, cropped to 3648 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 8.3 metres

Being able to include some natural habitat to a photograph adds some interesting context to our bird 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-320, cropped to 3508 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 19 metres

On occasion birds can be very expressive with the body movements, and the level of concentration that we can see in their eyes.

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 3672 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 12.2 metres

It can be more difficult to keep a bird in focus when it is flying towards our cameras when using Pro Capture H with a camera like the E-M1X… as the first frame locks focus and exposure. The risk is sometimes overshadowed by the reward of an interesting capture.

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-320, cropped to 3185 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 23.2 metres

A friend and I spent a couple of hours at Grimsby Wetlands, in the early afternoon, photographing the first swallows of 2024. Some photographers would consider this the ‘wrong’ time of day for bird photography.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 150-600 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 373 mm, efov 746 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-640, cropped to 3024 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, subject distance 7.4 metres

As long as I can find active birds… it is the ‘right’ time of day. The photograph above was my favourite capture from my first swallows of 2024 photography visit to Grimsby Wetlands.

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 my standard Pro Capture H settings for all of the images featured in this article. A single, small AF point was engaged, using a frame rate of 60 frames-per-second. My Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Limiter were both set to 15. This is the 1,379 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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4 thoughts on “First Swallows of 2024”

  1. Thanks, Thomas, for clarifying this. I did not recall that Pro Cap H is the setting without re-focusing every frame. Hence, I should give this setting a try with my OM-1. Your results are very convincing.

    1. Hi Wolfgang,

      I’ve never used an OM-1 or OM-1 Mark II, but I believe that the frame rate when using what I would refer to as ‘Pro Capture H’ (there is a different term perhaps with OM bodies) is 120 fps so you could capture even more incremental body movements with your OM-1 than I can with my E-M1X.

      Tom

  2. Hi Thomas, thanks for the amazing captures of the first spring swallows. I know you are very happy with your Pro Capture settings for BIF and I was just wondering if you experienced any downsides using your 150-600 lens. As I understood the fps are limited to 20 with this lens, which is less than half my PL 100-400 could deliver. Thanks, Wolfgang

    1. Hi Wolfgang,

      There are three factors that can affect frame rate… the focusing mode used, physical limitations of a lens, and the physical limitations of a camera. My E-M1X is limited to 18 fps when using continuous auto-focus regardless of the lens used. So, if I used your PL 100-400 on my E-M1X I would still have a continuous auto-focus frame rate of 18 fps. If I used an OM-1 or OM-1 Mark II those cameras can shoot with continuous auto-focus at 50 fps. My M.Zuiko 150-600 is limited to 25 fps with continuous auto-focus.

      All of the images in this article were captured using Pro Capture H with an E-M1X using a frame rate of 60 fps with the first frame locking focus and exposure for the rest of the image run… so continuous auto-focus frame rate for these photographs was a non-issue.

      Every piece of photographic gear comes with advantages and trade-offs. Having 50% additional reach, incredible Sync-IS, improved image quality over the M.Zuiko 100-400, and more flexibility with a shorter minimum focusing distance make the M.Zuiko 150-600 a very versatile lens in terms of in-field performance. Given the camera bodies that I prefer to use (a pair of E-M1Xs), whether I could shoot at higher continuous auto-focus frame rates with another lens on a different camera body is a non-issue for me.

      Tom

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