This article discusses photographing coots diving… shares some new images… and provides some insights to help anticipate this behaviour. All of the images featured in this article were captured handheld using an E-M1X with an M.Zuiko 100-400mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom lens, and utilizing Pro Capture H.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
Like many birds, coots tend to congregate together, including when they are feeding. Coots are plump, chickenlike birds with a rounded head and a sloping bill. They are commonly found feeding on aquatic plants and frequently dive to obtain vegetation.
The head and neck of the bird in the above image are tucked in close to its body. This indicates that the bird is not intending to dive for food.
We can see that the coot in the photograph above is creating a bit of a wake, indicating that it is swimming forward. This is another sign that the bird will likely not be diving. In my experience coots tend to stop swimming and remain stationary for a few moments before they dive. The photograph above also shows the head and neck of the bird in a tucked in position.
When photographing coots diving it is important to also pay attention to the direction of the bird’s head, and the angle of its bill. A general rule of thumb that I use for bird photography is that a bird’s bill/beak will point in the direction and angle that they will be moving. Coots tend to dive when their heads are pointed straight forward, and their beaks are angled sharply downward towards the water.
Notice the extended neck and raised head of the coot in the above photograph. Also look at the angle of the bird’s bill, pointing almost straight down to the water. This a clear signal that the coot is contemplating making a dive for food.
Now let’s have a look at a complete run of 15 consecutive Pro Capture H images of a coot diving for some vegetation. You’ll notice that as the bird goes into its dive that its neck and head become extended away from its body.
I find that photographing coots diving is an excellent way to practice my shutter release timing, as the diving action happens very quickly. The 15 consecutive images above were captured in a total of 1/4 of a second.
Obviously photographing coots diving results in opportunities to photograph the birds feeding. They will often shake their heads vigorously with vegetation in their mouths, so a decently fast shutter speed like 1/2500 is recommended.
Coots have short, stubby wings and are awkward flyers. They usually spend most of their time swimming on the surface of the water and there are typically very few opportunities to capture images of them in flight. While photographing coots diving, the image opportunity above appeared so quickly all I had time to do was fire off a Pro Capture H run. Fortunately I was able to capture a few decent frames.
Not every raising of a coot’s head will result in images of coots diving. Sometimes when photographing coots diving, you may also get the occasional opportunity to capture some images of them flapping their wings while floating.
Depending on the camera you are using you may need to start your image run as soon as the coot gives you a clear sign that it may be diving. If your camera has Pro Capture you will need to decide on the number of Pre-Shutter Frames and if you are going to use the Frame Limiter or not.
If you use Pro Capture H like I did, it is a good idea to re-acquire focus every 3 to 5 seconds to help ensure that the coot will still be in focus. Remember that the first frame sets auto-focus and exposure for the rest of the run when using Pro Capture H. I can’t comment on the OM-1 since I’ve never used that particular camera model.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. I used my standard Pro Capture H settings and had my E-M1X’s Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Limited both set to 15. I shot at 60 frames-per-second, and used a single, small auto-focus point. For those readers who are interested in calculating equivalent field-of-view, multiply focal lengths noted by a factor of 2. This is the 1,256 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
How you can help keep this site advertising free
My intent is to keep this photography blog advertising free. If you enjoyed this article and/or my website and would like to support my work, you can purchase an eBook, or make a donation through PayPal. Both are most appreciated.
Our eBooks include Images of Ireland, New Zealand Tip-to-Tip, Nikon 1: The Little Camera That Could, Desert & Mountain Memories, Images of Greece, Nova Scotia Photography Tour, and a business leadership parable… Balancing Eggs.
If you click on the Donate button below you will find that there are three donation options: $7.50, $10.00 and $20.00. All are in Canadian funds. Plus, you can choose a different amount if you want. You can also increase your donation amount to help offset our costs associated with accepting your donation through PayPal. An ongoing, monthly contribution to support our work can also be done through the PayPal Donate button below.
You can make your donation through your PayPal account, or by using a number of credit card options.
Word of mouth is the best form of endorsement. If you like our website please let your friends and associates know about our work. Linking to this site or to specific articles is allowed with proper acknowledgement. Reproducing articles, or any of the images contained in them, on another website or in any social media posting is a Copyright infringement.
Article and images are Copyright 2023 Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication or adaptation of any kind is allowed without written consent. If you see this article reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Posting comments on offending websites and calling out individuals who steal intellectual property is always appreciated!