Grackle Taking Flight

This article shares two Pro Capture H runs of a grackle taking flight from a bird feeder. The local social distancing directives in our area have recently become more restrictive. So, I doubt that I will have a chance to photograph any birds outside of my backyard for at least a month or two. So, I will continue to do some practice bird photography in my backyard.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

When doing practice Pro Capture H image runs I try to concentrate on framing my subject bird, and anticipating its flight path. I also like to learn how many photographs it takes for a bird to leave my composition, and which frames generate the most interesting wing positions.

I don’t typically concern myself with the background in practice images as I’m focused on my shutter release timing and subject framing. Our first practice Pro Capture H run contains 10 images.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800, subject distance 9.4 metres

Our first frame catches the grackle just prior to launch.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800, subject distance 9.4 metres

The bird is beginning to launch from the feeder, wings are pushing out towards full extension.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500i ISO-800, subject distance 9.4 metres

A very nice wing extension. Side lighting helps to accentuate the grackle’s colours.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800, subject distance 9.4 metres

Another pleasing wing extension image. This one has nicely spread flight feathers on the tips of the grackle’s wings.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800, subject distance 9.4 metres

Another good capture with downward pointing wings. Side lighting highlights the colours on the bird’s back and tail.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800, subject distance 9.4 metres

A rather contorted position of body, wings and legs… somewhat interesting as a result.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800, subject distance 9.4 metres

Nice view of the underside of the grackle’s left wing.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800, subject distance 9.4 metres

Clipped wings detract from this image… but the upward wing extension shows a lot of detail and colour variation.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800, subject distance 9.4 metres

The grackle begins to turn away from the focal plane of my camera.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-800, subject distance 9.4 metres

The grackle begins to leave the frame while it is still just in focus. Overall this was a pretty decent Pro Capture H practice run. It provides good information for how a grackle extends its wings. We can also note that this size of bird is fairly slow to gain speed as it launches from the bird feeder. These 10 images of a grackle taking flight were captured in a total of 1/6th of a second.

Now, let’s have a look at our second Pro Capture H practice run. This one also features 10 consecutive photographs of a grackle taking flight from a bird feeder.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 9.5 metres

Our first image shows the grackle beginning to take off from the backside of the feeder. I used a single auto focusing point placed on the chest of the grackle.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 9.5 metres

Wings fully extended upward, the grackle is about to take a firm downstroke to propel itself forward.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 9.5 metres

As the downstroke begins you can see the grackle moving forward in the frame.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 9.5 metres

The grackle’s first downstroke is complete.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 9.5 metres

The beginning of the upstroke catches some nice light. This reveals a range of colour details on the backside of the bird’s right wing.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 9.5 metres

A similar contorted wing position to the one we observed with the first practice Pro Capture H run.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 9.5 metres

The upstroke is continuing as the grackle keeps its legs dropped down.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 9.5 metres

Full upward extension showing a lot of feather detail on the underside of the wing.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 9.5 metres

One of my two favourite captures from my grackle practice runs. The flight angle of the bird caught very nice lighting across its back and wings. This reveals a good amount of colour variation and wing details.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 9.5 metres

The second of my two favourite captures. I love the forward position of the grackle’s wings. Beautiful fanning of the flight feathers on the tips of the bird’s wings, as well as nice colouring on the back of the bird.

During these challenging times when we are restricted from visiting many of our favourite birding locations, it is important to keep practicing our photographic craft whenever possible.

Technical Note:
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Photographs are displayed as 100% captures without any cropping.

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4 thoughts on “Grackle Taking Flight”

  1. Tom,

    It’s great what you pointed out — I can see different shades of grey and brown as well as the blue on the grackle head. Heck, even some sort of green speckles on the body. Nice time as any to get acquainted (reacquainted?) with your friendly backyard/neighborhood wildlife.

    Oggie
    http://www.lagalog.com

  2. Tom,

    What a superb run — I share your most favorite images in the run. These show the great symmetry and the interesting variations in the hues of the wings. Usually, we see/perceive blackbirds as such with little color variations but as your captures show, the common grackle is more colorful than we give it credit for. Also, more powerfully-built.

    Oggie
    http://www.lagalog.com

    1. Hi Oggie,

      Thanks for adding to the discussion! As you comment points out, our perceptions of black birds as having little colour variations are not always accurate. As photographers we often shun ‘harsh’ light in an attempt to avoid blown out highlights in our images. This can be important with lightly coloured or white birds such as gulls, egrets and terns.

      The flipside is that stronger, harsher light can help reveal a lot more colour variations on darker birds like the grackles in this article. This can also apply to cormorants, crows, blackbirds and other species with darker feathers.

      As photographers we need to consider lighting in a number of ways with bird photography including overall strength of the available light, its angle, and the amount of diffusion. The relative quality of light will impact various species in different ways in terms of the details contained in the photographs we are able to capture.

      Toim

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