This article shares some photographs of small birds taking flight. All photographs were captured hand-held using the E-M1X Pro Capture H mode (i.e. 60 frames per second) during a two-hour photo session at Hendrie Valley. During my short visit I captured Pro Capture sequences of nine species of birds. Six species are featured in this article.
Click on images to enlarge.
As bird photographers can attest, capturing images of small birds taking flight is a challenge at the best of times. The action happens so quickly that most of us would not be able to react fast enough to capture it.
One of the technology features that I love with my Olympus OM-D E-M1X is the Pro Capture mode. This allows a photographer to capture subject movements before they fully depress the shutter on their camera.
On the morning that all of these images were captured I had two simple objectives. The first was to photograph the sunrise. The second was to use the Pro Capture mode on my E-M1X to specifically capture small birds taking flight.
Hendrie Valley has a couple of areas where small birds tend to be reasonably plentiful this time of year, so it was a great location for my second objective.
A number of Olympus cameras, including the recently announced OM-D E-M5 Mark III, have the Pro Capture feature. The amount of customization with camera settings does vary by camera model. Photographers specifically interested in bird photography should certainly investigate the Pro Capture technology to see if it fits their style of shooting.
Since July I’ve been using Pro Capture on a regular basis and have come to rely on it. I can’t imagine using a camera that didn’t have Pro Capture for my bird photography. It is that good… and that easy to use.
There are a couple of key decisions that a photographer must make when photographing a small bird taking flight. The first is whether the objective is to only capture just the initial stages of the small bird taking flight. If this is the case, the bird can be positioned close to centre frame with a single auto-focus point placed on the bird’s head or body. Auto focus point placement depends on how much the bird is moving about.
The number of pre-shutter frames will likely be set at close to the maximum allowable by the Olympus camera model. The number of post shutter frames will probably be set at a small number.
On the other hand, a photographer may want to capture the small bird taking flight, as well as some frames of it airborne. If this is the case the bird will be placed on one side of the frame, thus allowing for flight room across the frame.
A good number of pre-shutter frames will be selected, but the number of post shutter frames will need to be increased to allow for the airborne images.
Small birds taking flight tend to have extremely fast wing movements. This necessitates the use of a fast frame rate in Pro Capture, as well as a fast shutter speed. For example, I use Pro Capture H with my E-M1X… with a frame rate of 60 frames-per-second.
If a photographer wants some wing blur to be visible, a shutter speed of 1/2000 works pretty well. For more ‘frozen’ wing positions a faster shutter speed such as 1/3200 or 1/4000 would be recommended.
Now that the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III has Pro Capture mode, this technology is available to photographers at a more affordable cost. I know that many folks will still focus on sensor size when choosing a new camera. And, for their type of photography buying an APS-C or full frame camera may make absolute sense.
For me, being able to consistently and confidently capture unique bird images using Pro Capture mode is more than worth trading off a bit of sensor performance.
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.
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