Swallow Pairs in Flight

This article shares a selection of 22 images of swallow pairs in-flight, captured handheld during a practice session at Windemere Basin Park in Hamilton Ontario. Some of these photographs appear to be of mated pairs, while other images captured some aggressive interactions between the birds.

All of these photographs were severely cropped as the birds were not as close as I would have liked. I’m still trying to hone my eye/hand coordination with these pocket rockets. More practice is required before I’ll be able to get more pixels on subject birds in free flight.

Our first six photographs are from the same image run illustrating a pair of swallows appearing to show some aggression toward each other.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-1600, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2486 pixels on the width, subject distance 30.5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-1600, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2705 pixels on the width, subject distance 30.8 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-1600, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2596 pixels on the width, subject distance 32 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-1600, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2582 pixels on the width, subject distance 33 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-1600, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2565 pixels on the width, subject distance 33.3 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-1600, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2615 pixels on the width, subject distance 34 metres

Many of the photographs of swallow pairs in-flight that I was able to capture were single frames or very short bursts of 2-4 images. As noted in a previous article, as I was practicing my panning with a subject bird another swallow would sometimes flit into my frame. Whether I was able to capture the two birds came down to my response reaction time.

The following 9 photographs were created primarily from short bursts.

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 2742 pixels on the width, subject distance 24.4 metres
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 2238 pixels on the width, subject distance 24.4 metres
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 2107 pixels on the width, subject distance 24.1 metres
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 2071 pixels on the width, subject distance 25 metres
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 2724 pixels on the width, subject distance 24.5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 236 mm, efov 472 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-2000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2275 pixels on the width, subject distance 18.8 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 236 mm, efov 472 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-2000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 1557 pixels on the width, subject distance 19.1 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 236 mm, efov 472 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-2000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2175 pixels on the width, subject distance 19.2 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 236 mm, efov 472 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-2000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2526 pixels on the width, subject distance 18.8 metres

The final 7 photographs in this article appear to be of a mated pair of swallows in-flight. They flew proximate to each other without any obvious signs of aggression.

As is my standard practice when using Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking with my E-M1X I used a single AF point, with a frame rate of 18 frames-per-second, utilizing silent shutter.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-3200, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2632 pixels on the width, subject distance 23.7 metres

I filled three 64GB memory cards during my extended 4 hour swallow in-flight practice session. I wasn’t shy about capturing some images, but my primary focus was on panning with the birds and keeping them in my viewfinder for as long as possible.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-2500, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3260 pixels on the width, subject distance 24.1 metres

Quite often the birds were very distant and there wasn’t much point filling my memory cards with extremely small subject birds. I still panned with the swallows and practiced periodically tapping my shutter release to engage the green AF box on the birds.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-2500, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3124 pixels on the width, subject distance 23.6 metres

When using Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking with my E-M1X I’ve found it to be beneficial to practice my eye/hand coordination as well as my shutter release technique.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-2500, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3381 pixels on the width, subject distance 24 metres

Another potential benefit of simply panning with the birds and concentrating on keeping them in my viewfinder is getting a feel for the rhythm of the swallows’ flight paths.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-2500, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2802 pixels on the width, subject distance 23.7 metres

I often choose swallows flying directly into the barrel of my lens and pan with them as they suddenly veer to the side. Some birds will do long sweeps, while others will veer back and forth.  When possible capturing swallows in-flight with a front quarter view can yield interesting wing/body positions and give images more of a 3D perspective.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-2500, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2590 pixels on the width, subject distance 23.7 metres

Photographing swallows in free flight takes patience and discipline. It also helps to stay calm and very focussed mentally. During my practice session I occasionally captured some image bursts of other birds in flight like cormorants and red winged blackbirds. Compared to trying to photograph swallows in-flight, these other species were a piece of cake… another benefit of practicing with swallows in-flight!

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/8, 1/6400, ISO-2500, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 2857 pixels on the width, subject distance 23.7 metres

After my intensive 4 hour practice session photographing swallows in-flight I was a pretty tired puppy… both physically and mentally.

I did notice that my eye/.hand coordination was somewhat better at the end of the session as was my shutter release timing.  Both are not where they need to be for these little speed demons… but my time was well spent.

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 1,158 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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4 thoughts on “Swallow Pairs in Flight”

  1. All of your swallow images in this and previous posts are outstanding! I’m happy to have discovered your web site and have been pouring over your entries with much enthusiasm!

    I believe you have already answered this question (I apologize for the repeat, but I can’t seem to track the original question and your response in the comments), but how do you calculate subject distance in your exif data?

    Thanks for your detailed and comprehensive entries!

    1. Hi Dan,

      I’m glad that you’ve been enjoying the web site’s content.

      I use Windows Explorer to store all of my images and photography files. To get the estimated distance to subject, I right click on a finished jpeg file… then left click on Properties… then left click on Details. The information is then visible.

      Tom

  2. Wow! I haven’t seen many of these pairing photos except those of birds fighting for food. Maybe I have not looked at enough bird photos. Thanks, Thomas.

    BTW: it has been almost 25 years since I visited Hamilton, ON. Things must have changed quit a bit!

    Tony C.

    1. Hi Tony,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photographs. Things have changed a bit over the years. From what I could find doing some research, it looks like Windemere Basin Park was constructed in 2006.

      Tom

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