Kingfisher In Flight

The extreme crops of a kingfisher in flight featured in this article were captured handheld using Pro Capture L and my E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking function. The subject bird was approximately 75 metres away. I would not normally even bother trying to photograph a small bird-in-flight at this distance. These images were captured as a quick test.

The seven photographs of a kingfisher in flight featured in this article are from the same image run. The M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom lens and the MC-14 teleconverter were used at a combined focal length of 545 mm, efov 1090 mm.

The original full frame capture (re-sized for web use) along with an extreme crop of approximately 1800 pixels on the width, are displayed for each photograph.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, full frame capture
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 1800 pixels on width
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, full frame capture
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 1802 pixels on the width
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, full frame capture
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 1802 pixels on the width
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, full frame capture
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 1802 pixels on the width
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, full frame capture
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 1802 pixels on the width
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, full frame capture
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 1801 pixels on the width
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, full frame capture
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 545 mm, efov 1090 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-640, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 1801 pixels on the width

I’ve found that trying to photograph a kingfisher in flight is a challenge at the best of times. This quick test produced the best results that I have been able to achieve thus far of a kingfisher in flight. I was surprised with the results given the distance of the bird,  and the relatively small number of pixels I was able to get on the kingfisher.

Obviously these extreme crops are not particularly usable, but they do make me optimistic about using the combination of Pro Capture L and the E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking to photograph smaller birds in flight. Whether I’ll be able to capture a kingfisher in flight at a closer distance remains to be seen.

My EM-1X’s Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking did a great job recognizing the kingfisher in flight. It locked on to it when I half-depressed my shutter release and tracked with the bird, recording 10 images in temporary memory as I shot in Pro Capture L. Then, when I fully depressed my shutter release those 10 Pre-Shutter images were written to my memory card, as well as additional post shutter frames. I used my standard Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking settings, including a single AF point.

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. Photographs are displayed as full frame captures that have been resized for web use. Crops of the original images are indicated where appropriate.

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8 thoughts on “Kingfisher In Flight”

  1. Hey Thomas,
    Might I ask you how your are using Bird Detection AI (without ProCapture) ?

    At time 4:00 min of his YouTube video “Bird Detection AF for Olympus M1X”, Tim Boyer reports that he was “fighting the system” – Tip #4 Give it time to work.

    “Being so used to moving the camera around and getting the AF point on the eye by moving the dials and moving the AF points around with the joystick”, he found that “it didn’t work” so he now rather holds the camera steady and gives it time to find the bird and draw the AF confirmation box, with much better results, he says.

    One of my favorite targets being eurasean coot suddently starting to run on water, the green AF box often only appears when the bird has stopped, sometimes only after 5-10m run, and only in case its path remained right in front of me – but what to do when it runs side to side ?
    So I rather went for a much more agressive way, if I dare say, clay pigeon shooting style, while doing my very best not to loose balance and fall in the water while panning – which nearly happened yesterday (ooch, must be cold …) as soon as my periferic vision has detected movement – trusting the AF system which, surprisingly enough, provides me with some rewarding results – IMO and to my standard of appreciation, indeed.

    So, back to my question ….

    What would your Bird Detection AI strategy be for, say, pigeons coming from behind, that you wish to shoot while curving around at a 12-20m distance range and when they land against the wind in front of you – so, maybe not too much time to rely on “system to work”, I fear.

    My scenario perhaps is less perturbating for the AF system as I (regretfully enough) don’t have the skills to move the AF points around with the joystick in such a short time as I find it to be hard enough to frame and, hopefully from time to time, keep the bird in the EVF long enough to shoot.

    Whatever your strategies can be, I would wish to approach the results you share in your posts.

    Keep fit, and enjoy
    Vic

    1. Hi Vic,

      Here is an earlier article that I wrote about how I use Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking: https://smallsensorphotography.com/bird-detection-ai-tips.

      I have had plenty of occasions where I need to grab focus and shoot very rapidly. In these cases as soon as Bird Detection AI draws a white box on the subject, I quickly half depress the shutter release and blast away. I have my E-M1X set so it isn’t supposed to fire any C-AF frames unless it has focus. It does still miss some, but often grabs a sufficient number that I’m pleased with the results even though I didn’t give the technology ‘time’ to find the bird’s head.

      With your scenario, if I had birds coming from behind, I would half turn and try to get Bird Detection AI to draw and white box around it… then pan with the pigeon as is swooped in front of me. I was actually out today photographing swallows in flight with Bird Detection AI… but haven’t checked my images yet. It will be interesting to see what I was able to get with these pocket rockets.

      I’m not sure how Tim has his E-M1X set up. Many people have all of the C-AF or a grouping of them activated. I find this is counterproductive as all I ever use is one C-AF point. According to a review of the EM-1X by Imaging Resources, the camera doesn’t use any of the C-AF point to acquire focus anyway. It processes the image in its entirety with one of its quad-core processors. I found that using any more than one C-AF point can confuse the camera.

      With your Eurasian coot example, as soon as the E-M1X draws the white box I’d start firing frames to see what would happen. Often taking a risk will work: https://smallsensorphotography.com/strikeouts

      I use Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking for all of my bird photography except Pro Capture H. It’s hard for me to explain what I do as I don’t even consciously think about it any more.

      Hope this has helped.

      Tom

      1. Hi again Thomas,

        Thanks for taking time to answer and quote precise references of some of your former posts (which I all read and found full of inspiration)

        I like to hear which settings skilled bird photographers are using as it often opens a window to a different approach/reflection and possibly highlight something I might use but didn’t understand or even didn’t know about, no matter if that particular setting works for me or not provided I can figure out why and when they are using it.

        I am confident you will take advantage of this new stay at home order to finetune some of your skills, just the way athletes are used to mentaly practice jumps or whatever discipline.
        Take care
        Vic

        1. Hi Vic,

          I’m glad that the additional references were helpful for you! I’ve always viewed using a camera similar to playing a guitar… there’s more than one way to get the result one wants. Just like there is often more than one way to play a specific chord, there are many ways for each of us to use our camera gear.

          Tom

  2. Hi Tom,

    Here Kingfishers fly like a bullet in canals or small river bed and I never managed to capture one in flight, just too fast for me but may be I should have more confidence in my equipment and give it a try.

    I think your skills at the usage of AI Subject Tracking and Pro Capture would make Olympus engineers super proud.

    Regards,

    Mauro

    1. Hi Mauro,

      Thanks for sharing your observations about kingfishers. The images in this article were my first reasonably successful attempt to photograph them. It will no doubt be more challenging to capture images when they are flying closer to me, and with busier backgrounds! I’m game to give it a try to see what will happen. We are likely entering a 4 week stay at home COVID order tomorrow so I’m unsure when I can continue my experimentation.

      Tom

  3. Great work Tom! Many folks have been photographing birds for many years (me included) and have never done that well. It is a “nemesis” bird for most of us.

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