Pigeons In Flight

This article shares some new images of pigeons in flight, captured handheld at the Burlington Bay lift bridge. I’ve made a few attempts to photograph pigeons in flight at this location in the past with only a modest degree of success.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 385 mm, efov 770 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200, ISO-400, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3093 pixels on the width, subject distance 31.3 metres

There are some interesting challenges at this location in terms of capturing pigeons in flight. The first is the limited area between the Burlington Bay lift bridge and the Lake Ontario shoreline.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 385 mm, efov 770 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200, ISO-320, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2993 pixels on the width, subject distance 33.6 metres

This physical distance limits the amount of time available to get a pigeon in one’s viewfinder and lock focus on it. Another issue is the height of the lift bridge where the pigeons nest, as well as hydro towers in the area.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 169 mm, efov 338 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200, ISO-250, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3537 pixels on the width, subject distance 11.5 metres

Since the pigeons often take flight from elevated areas on the lift bridge or the hydro towers many of the image opportunities are belly shots. I don’t find this particularly visually pleasing unless I can capture the pigeons with some backlighting to highlight their flight feathers.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200, ISO-500, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3700 pixels on the width, subject distance 9 metres

My preference is to try to capture pigeons in flight when I can get more of an angle view so the bird’s head and eye are clearly visible. This means that I need to acquire focus quite quickly after the birds have launched into flight from the lift bridge. Or, pick them up as they rapidly approach the lift bridge at a lower elevation flight path from the Lake Ontario shoreline.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200, ISO-500, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3725 pixels on the width, subject distance 9.1 metres

Both of these choices mean that I needed to capture many of my pigeon in flight images when the birds were less than 20 metres away from me. Sometimes they were less than 10 metres away.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200, ISO-500, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3523 pixels on the width, subject distance 9.2 metres

Obviously this further compresses the time available to find the birds in my viewfinder, acquire focus on them, and fire my image run.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 150 mm, efov 300 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200, ISO-500, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3231 pixels on the width, subject distance 9.6 metres

Pigeons are reasonably fast flyers when out in the open. Since there are some peregrine falcons that make their year round nest at the lift bridge the pigeons in this area tend to fly to their nests with a degree of urgency.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 236 mm, efov 472 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200, ISO-320, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2488 pixels on the width, subject distance 18.5 metres

It has been a while since I attempted to capture images of pigeons in flight at this location. I decided to use Pro Capture L in combination with Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, and had good success with this approach.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 236 mm, efov 472 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200, ISO-320, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3108 pixels on the width, subject distance 18.9 metres

Time recently spent practicing with swallows in flight likely had a positive impact with these pigeons in flight photo attempts.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 236 mm, efov 472 mm, f/6.3, 1/3200, ISO-320, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3135 pixels on the width, subject distance 19.2 metres

I went to the lift bridge with the specific objective of capturing some pigeon in flight images. Given that, I was more discerning with my choice of subject birds in flight and spent more time waiting for specific photographic opportunities than I would have done if this had been a practice session.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.  Crops are noted. Photographs were resized for web use. This is the 1,160 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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2 thoughts on “Pigeons In Flight”

  1. Great work. Just out of curiosity, what are pros and cons comparing current system and Nikon V series with Nikon 1 70-300 CX. Thanks.

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