This article discusses photographing woodpeckers with Bird AI, one of the Intelligent Subject Tracking options with the OM-D E-M1X, and shares some images.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
Woodpeckers can be difficult subjects to photograph as they tend to keep moving along branches as they search for food. This makes it a challenge to keep focused on their heads/eyes.
The E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI makes photographing this particular species significantly easier as it automatically tracks the body, head and eye of birds. The auto-focus area is continually adjusted based on the position of the bird and visibility of its head or eye.
Woodpeckers will momentarily pause to check their surroundings. This provides photographers with quick opportunities to capture some images. As the bird looks up and provides a good view of its head and eye, Bird Detection AI immediately shifts its auto-focus to the bird’s eye.
Rather than having to fiddle around moving auto-focusing points, a photographer can concentrate on composing their image and timing their shutter release.
Occasionally a woodpecker will be positioned ‘free and clear’ away from small branches and other obstructions. This makes capturing images easier as long as a photographer can track with the bird as it moves about. Photographing woodpeckers with Bird AI enables more reliable image captures even with these types of photographs.
I’ve had modest success photographing woodpeckers in the past, but nothing compares to photographing woodpeckers with Bird AI in terms of the number of keepers I was able to capture.
I did some experimentation trying to ‘thread the needle’ when photographing woodpeckers with Bird AI. It did quite a good job ignoring obstructions around a subject bird, and focused in on the head/eye of the woodpecker. There are limitations of course, based on the density of the obstructions. The next three images provide additional samples.
The more I use my M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom for bird photography, the more impressed I am with this lens. The added reach, especially when using the M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter, opens up so many more photographic opportunities.
It is sharp throughout the zoom range and can be shot wide open when fully extended, even with the MC-14, generating excellent results.
Photographing woodpeckers with Bird AI is one of those experiences that caused me to better appreciate the importance of auto-focus performance with perched birds. Far too often we are fixated with auto-focus performance with birds-in-flight and overlook this other important aspect of bird photography.
The image above is one of my favourites from my visit to Hendrie Valley on that particular day. You can see that I was shooting past obstructions in the foreground… but what really makes this image is the catch light in the eye of the woodpecker. Acquiring excellent focus on a bird’s eye is what the E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI does in spades.
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear and technology as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are noted where appropriate.
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