Swallow Mid-Air Interactions

This article shares some images of swallow mid-air interactions that were captured during an extended swallow in-flight practice session. As noted in a recent article, my swallow eye/hand coordination was in desperate need of practice. So I recently spent over 4 hours at Windemere Basin Park photographing swallows in free flight using Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking with my E-M1X.

Most of my practice session was spent dutifully trying to track swallows in my viewfinder as they flew erratically. During a practice session I don’t pay too much attention to the actual quality of the images being captured as it is really a skills development exercise. Most of my swallow images were of birds that I would typically consider far too distant to yield usable photographs.

After reviewing a small portion of my practice session photographs I decided that readers may find a few of them of interest. One particular image run of 17 consecutive photographs is featured in this article.

My preferred approach with typical birds in-flight is to use Pro Capture L in combination with Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking. Swallows are not typical subject matter so all of the photographs in this posting were captured using Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking only, along with C-AF +TR at 18 frames-per-second using silent shutter.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 307 mm, efov 614 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-2000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3024 pixels on the width, subject distance 18.7 metres

When following an individual swallow as it dipsy-doodles about sometimes another bird will pop into the frame. Responding quickly can sometimes yield some interesting individual frames as we can see above.

If you’ve ever tried to photograph swallows in free flight you’ll no doubt have seen very brief swallow mid-air interactions. Unless a photographer is already tracking with a particular bird when a second bird enters into the frame, it can be very challenging trying to capture swallow mid-air interactions.

The following 17 consecutive images were severely cropped as the birds were approximately 35 to 37 metres away (~115 to 121 feet). I was already tracking with one bird when the second swallow appeared above the bird I was following.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2404 pixels on the width, subject distance 36 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2401 pixels on the width, subject distance 35.2 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2402 pixels on the width, subject distance 35.7 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2402 pixels on the width, subject distance 35.6 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2402 pixels on the width, subject distance 35.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2402 pixels on the width, subject distance 36.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2404 pixels on the width, subject distance 36.8 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2404 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2404 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2402 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2402 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2402 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.2 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2402 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.1 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2402 pixels on the width, subject distance 36.9 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2402 pixels on the width, subject distance 37 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2400 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/6400, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2402 pixels on the width, subject distance 37.6 metres

Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking enabled me to stay locked on the birds as these swallow mid-air interactions played out. As you can see a lot happened in less than one second!

Our final example of swallow mid-air interactions was a single frame that I didn’t even realize I had captured until I started going through my RAW files. I love the emotion depicted in this image.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-2000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2997 pixels on the width, subject distance 21.7 metres

Sometimes practice sessions can yield some unexpected tiny treasures!

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 1,157 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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4 thoughts on “Swallow Mid-Air Interactions”

  1. So the bird tracking AI kept pace with swallows!! ?
    I find the different “takes” on bird AI on the big olympus camera confusing but you seem to make it work while all the youtube kings reject it as rubbish unless they are paid by olympus.
    Then they say its ok but ………..

    1. Hi Stephen,

      It took me a while to figure out what I was doing wrong with Bird AI when I first got the firmware update for my E-M1X. I’ve written some articles on this topic. These can be found under the ‘Birds in Flight’ menu listing.

      I really don’t pay any attention to most of the camera reviewers out there as they don’t have access to new camera gear long enough to really learn how to use it properly.

      At the end of the day I couldn’t care less what reviewers write about Bird AI and the E-M1X. I’ve been shooting with my E-M1X bodies for almost three years and I still absolutely love the camera. I think Bird AI is fantastic technology and I use it for the vast majority of my birds-in-flight and perched bird photography. If reviewers aren’t able to get Bird AI to work well for them, it isn’t the fault of the camera.

      Tom

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