This article shares 15 consecutive photographs from a complete Pro Capture H image run and discusses my Pro Capture thought process. All images were captured handheld using an E-M1X fitted with an M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom lens and M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter.
Typically when I capture a Pro Capture H image run I deem it to be successful if I end up with a couple of usable images. In this particular case the Pro Capture H run yielded a total of 5 decent photographs. Let’s have a look at those 5 images before discussing the thought process behind them.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
I like the sense of timing in the image above, with the grackle’s digits on its right foot just about to leave the surface of my pergola.
To me, getting a bird launching into flight is always an appealing photograph as they document the miracle of flight.
Getting a nice spread of flight feathers is also something that I like to capture in a photograph. There is slight wing movement in this image, which depending on a photographer’s preference either enhances the feeling of motion, or detracts from the photograph.
I love the feeling of intensity and purpose in the image above.
What makes this photograph interesting in my mind are the details and colour highlights on the grackle’s wings.
So, those are my ‘keeper’ photographs from one Pro Capture H image run. As is my typical approach with smaller birds, I used 15 Pre-Shutter frames along with a Frame Limiter setting of 15. I always use Pro Capture H with a frame rate of 60 frames-per-second.
The image above was the last one in the 15 image sequence. I fully depressed my shutter release just before the grackle was about to leave the frame.
Now, let’s have a look at the entire Pro Capture H run and discuss the thought process that went into it.
The first thing you’ll notice about the first image in this 15 frame Pro Capture H run is that I have positioned the grackle in the extreme bottom right-hand corner of the composition. I did this for a couple of reasons. In my thought process I anticipated that the grackle would fly from right to left at a slight upward trajectory. I also wanted to allow a sufficient amount of free space to capture the bird’s wing movements as it took flight. The amount of space needed will vary by species, but typically 2 to 2.5 times the height of the bird is a good guideline.
Obviously birds do not always take flight on an upward trajectory. As photographers all we can do is quickly assess various flight obstructions and open air to make our best guess. In this case I had observed other grackles’s flight paths, noting the upward movement. Also, a downward or parallel flight path was somewhat unlikely as the grackle’s wings would have hit the wooden struts on my pergola.
If you look closely at the body position of the grackle you’ll notice that it is beginning to crouch. This is a ‘tell’ that it is planning to take flight. The next few images will capture the grackle building some kinetic energy in it body position so it can launch.
In the photograph above we can see that the grackle is beginning to launch into flight. It is extending its neck slightly and its body is becoming more elongated as it releases its kinetic energy.
The next four consecutive images capture the grackle completing its launch into flight.
In the photograph above you’ll notice that the grackle’s eye is close to the centre point of the composition. As you visualize your Pro Capture run it is important to imagine this exact moment in your mind’s eye. If the bird is well past the centre point of the composition, you may need to reduce the focal length of your lens to better frame the subject bird.
The photograph above demonstrates the importance of leaving a sufficient amount of ‘free space’ to allow for wing movement in your thought process. Compare this photograph with the first one in this Pro Capture H image run. In the first photograph the grackle looks tiny by comparison.
The image above is typically the specific moment that I’m trying to grab with a Pro Capture H run.
As we can see in the photograph above, sometimes some unintended wing clipping can occur. The fact that the grackle’s head is up against its right wing makes this image not particularly usable anyway. Now, let’s have a look at the final three photographs in this Pro Capture H run.
In this case I correctly anticipated the flight path of the grackle in my thought process. This helped the Pro Capture H image run yield a few more usable photographs than is typical. The size and speed of the subject bird can have an impact the number of usable photographs created by a Pro Capture H run.
My approach is to try to fully depress my shutter release just before the subject bird leaves the frame. This takes some practice, and a bit of luck. The 15 photographs in this article were captured in a total of 1/4 of a second. As mentioned earlier, I always use Pro Capture H using a frame rate of 60 frames-per-second as my objective is to capture as many discreet body and wing positions in the least amount of time.
While I use 15 Pre-Shutter frames and a Frame Limiter setting of 15, this may not necessarily be the best settings for you to use. Experimenting with your technique and timing will help you determine if you need to add more Pre-Shutter frames. Or, if you need to capture some post shutter release frames.
Hopefully explaining my thought process behind this Pro Capture H image run was of some assistance.
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.
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