Gulls in Flight Challenge

This article discusses a gulls in flight challenge that I gave myself, and shares some images I captured during this practice exercise.

Like many photographers, I haven’t been going out with my camera nearly as often as I would like. With COVID-19 safety precautions in place, I’ve been avoiding many of my favourite indoor photography locations. Yesterday I created a couple of practice exercises, one of which was a gulls in flight challenge.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

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/8, -0.3 EV, 1/2000, ISO-640

Rather than simply pan with unobstructed birds-in-flight, I wanted to make my gulls in flight challenge a bit tougher. I decided I would specifically try to photograph gulls in three different scenarios. The first was to photograph birds coming into land amongst other birds… as you can see in the image above and the two immediately below.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 200 mm, efov 400 mm, f/8, -0.3 EV, 1/2000, ISO-640
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/8, -0.3 EV, 1/2000, ISO-500

The second scenario was to photograph gulls that were landing or flying quite close to my physical location. The next seven images are of this type.

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/8, -0.3 EV, 1/2000, ISO-800
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/8, -0.3 EV, 1/2000, ISO-640
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 194 mm, efov 388 mm, f/8, -0.3 EV, 1/2500, ISO-800
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 260 mm, efov 520 mm, f/8, -0.3 EV, 1/2000, ISO-1250
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/8, -0.3 EV, 1/2500, ISO-1000
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 110 mm, efov 220 mm, f/8, -0.3 EV, 1/2000, ISO-640
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 260 mm, efov 520 mm, f/8, -0.3 EV, 1/2500, ISO-1250

The third scenario in my gulls in flight challenge, was to photograph birds that were flying almost directly at me. This part of the challenge was to see how my E-M1X would perform in terms of continuous auto focus. The final six images in this article fit into this third scenario.

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-640

Just to keep things interesting, I limited myself to using the Olympus Cluster Area continuous auto-focusing mode. I shot in Manual, Auto-ISO, using silent shutter at 18 frames-per-second.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 220 mm, efov 440 mm, f/8, -0.3 EV, 1/2500, ISO-640

In order to get a reasonably low shooting angle I sat on some rocks that were close to the shoreline.

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/8, -0.7 EV, 1/2500, ISO-800

Setting some specific parameters for my gulls in flight challenge made the exercise much more beneficial. It forced me to push my handheld skills, as well as the capabilities of my E-M1X.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 240 mm, efov 480 mm, f/8, -0.3 EV, 1/2500, ISO-1250

It also helped me learn more about using the Olympus Cluster Area continuous auto-focusing mode in various scenarios.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

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/8, -0.3 EV, 1/2500, ISO-2000

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OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 180 mm, efov 360 mm, f/8, -0.3 EV, 1/2500, ISO-640

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6 thoughts on “Gulls in Flight Challenge”

  1. Great captures Tom! I’ve been playing with the C-AF Cluster as well since you mentioned it a while ago.

    I haven’t located a group of co-operative gulls (or much else) like you seem to have. I have had some ducks, but not in as good light.

    I’ve had some joy, not as much as you have as displayed here.

    You say you are shooting manual, have you tried Auto ISO with manual? Or even Shutter priority with Auto ISO?

  2. Forget about head and shoulders above my gull shots, it’s more like pedestal height above. Great shots! I was wondering how many frames were shot during this particular exercise?

    1. Hi Lewsh,

      A typical practice exercise is dependent on my available time, subject matter, and frame rate used. Sometimes I capture several hundred images to well over a thousand. In this case it was several thousand. I spent quite a bit of my time experimenting with the Olympus Cluster Area C-AF specifically with gulls flying into groups of other birds and landing among them. I also did a lot of practice with Cluster Area C-AF capturing images with an approaching gull flying in very close proximity to me. As you can imagine both of these scenarios are quite challenging for both a photographer and their gear’s auto-focusing system.

      It is important to note that my objective when doing a practice exercise like this is not to capture a high ratio of usable photographs. It is actually the exact opposite… my goal is to regularly fail with my image captures. I want to push my skills and my gear to find out when I miss capturing photographs. Then, I continue the practice exercise to work on my technique to see if I can overcome my failures. This is the only way that I can establish my current photographic limits so I can put in the work necessary to improve.

      Tom

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