While going through some older, unprocessed files yesterday, I came across some images of swallow pairs in flight. Since swallow season ended some time ago, I thought it may be fun to share these images with readers… and contemplate the arrival of these little pocket rockets next spring!
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge
These photographs of swallow pairs in flight were captured handheld at Windemere Basin Park quite early in the spring, back in mid April.
To prepare for swallow season I like to go out as soon as the first birds arrive in our area. There are a number of swallow nesting boxes at Windemere Basin Park in Hamilton so this is a good spot to view early arrivals.
When specifically attempting to photograph swallow pairs in flight it can be a good idea to stop your telephoto lens down a little to create a bit more depth-of-field.
For example, the swallows in the photograph above were captured using a focal length of 400 mm with an E-M1X (i.e. M4/3 format) at f/8, at a subject distance of 22.1 metres (~72.5 feet).
This aperture setting provides depth-of-field of 0.77 metres, or about 30.3 inches. If an aperture of f/5.6 was used the depth-of-field would have decreased to 0.54 metres or to roughly 21.3 inches. The added depth-of-field can often make the difference between both birds being in focus.
As regular readers will know, my standard approach for birds-in-flight is to use Pro Capture L in combination with Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking. If you check the EXIF data you’ll see that I did not use Pro Capture L for these photographs.
The basic reason for this change in approach is the fast and erratic flight behaviour of the swallows. My handheld skill level is such that I find it challenging to keep two swallows in my frame simultaneously. I need to hold a bird-in-flight a split second longer in my composition to be able to use Pro Capture L effectively.
Using Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking only allowed me to respond a bit faster as the swallows were weaving back and forth in mid-air.
As is the case whenever attempting to photograph birds-in-flight, it is advisable to spend some time observing subject birds to identify ‘shooting zones’ where they are exhibiting the desired behaviour.
In this case I found an area between some swallow nesting boxes where the birds were interacting on a somewhat frequent basis. So, I panned with birds that were approaching at favourable angles, then waited to see if another bird entered my composition.
This only gave me enough time to quickly grab a few frames at a time. You’ll also notice that I did not use my M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter with any of these photographs. When trying to capture fast, erratic birds-in-flight using a teleconverter can sometimes be counterproductive as the field of view can be quite restrictive.
I had to aggressively crop the images in this article, but at least I was able to photograph these swallow pairs in flight. As is my standard practice, I used a single AF point with Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking. Since I’ve not used an OM-1 I can’t comment on Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking technique when using that camera.
Regardless of the camera gear that you may own, planning to photograph birds-in-flight follows the same fundamentals. Envision the images you want to create in your mind. Observe the subject birds and take note of where they display the desired behaviour. Then, decide how to best use your camera gear to capture that behaviour.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard approach in post. This is the 1,233 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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