Swallows in Flight

Photographing swallows in flight has always been a challenge for me. The birds are so small and swift I’ve always found it incredibly hard to track them and capture any usable images.

I had some time today to visit Mountsberg Conservation Area to attempt to get a few images of swallows in flight. Rather than trying to capture them in free flight I thought I may have more luck if I photographed them near their nests.

I started the day attempting to get some images of swallows that were nesting underneath the overhang on one of the barns at Mountsberg. After spending an hour or so I had partial success with only a few usable images.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 144mm, efov 389mm, f/5.3, 1/2500, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 144mm, efov 389mm, f/5.3, 1/2500, ISO-1250
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 144mm, efov 389mm, f/5.3, 1/2500, ISO-1600
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 144mm, efov 389mm, f/5.3, 1/2500, ISO-1600

Shooting up towards the soffits was quite a challenge as the nests were in dark shade. As a compromise I tried to photograph the birds as they approached the barn and were still predominantly framed by the sky.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 99mm, efov 267mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-400
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 99mm, efov 267mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-400

Even though I only had limited success I was still encouraged, and decided to hike over to the “Swallowtown” area at Mountsberg. This clearing has a number of nesting boxes and the swallows are reasonably plentiful.

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-1100
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-1100

I watched a number of nesting pairs of birds for a while and noticed that the two birds would sometimes perch on the top of their nesting box. This appeared to be my best opportunity, especially since the occasional bird would flutter momentarily above its nesting box before landing next to its mate.

The action happened incredibly quickly and I had numerous failed attempts. After a fair amount of practice I was able to improve my timing sufficiently to capture a few decent AF-C runs at 15 fps.

The 15 consecutive images below were my best swallow captures of the day. I’ve included all of the images from the first frame through to ‘touchdown’ from the AF-C run so you can see the range of wing positions that my Nikon 1 V2 was able to capture. You’ll see a lot of action happened in only 1 second!

Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720
Nikon 1 V2 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, efov 810mm, f/5.6, 1/2500, ISO-720

As is often the case with photography patience and practice paid off!

I captured all of the images in this article hand-held with a Nikon 1 V2 and a 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens. I used matrix metering, Manual settings with Auto-ISO 160-3200, AF-C at 15 fps with subject tracking.

My intent is to keep this photography blog advertising free. If you enjoyed this article and/or my website and would like to make a modest $10 donation through PayPal to support my work it would be most appreciated. You can use the Donate button below. Larger donations can be made to tom@tomstirr.com through PayPal.

As a reminder to our Canadian readers, you can get a special 5% discount when ordering Tamron or Rokinon lenses and other products directly from the Amplis Store.

Article, all images and YouTube video are Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication or adaptation of any kind is allowed without written consent. If you see this article reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use.

One thought on “Swallows in Flight”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *