Swallows Taking Flight

During some recent visits to Hendrie Valley I had the opportunity to capture a selection of handheld images of swallows taking flight. All were taken using Pro Capture H with my standard small bird settings of 15 Pre-Shutter Frames, Frame Limiter set to 15, and 60 frames-per-second.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 261 mm, efov 522 mm, f/8.4, 1/4000, ISO-1000, cropped to 4035 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 4.8 metres

There are not nearly as many swallows at Hendrie Valley when compared to Windermere Basin Park. They do tend to favour some particular trees for their nest locations. This creates some reasonable predictability in terms of photographic opportunities.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 261 mm, efov 522 mm, f/8.4, 1/4000, ISO-1000, cropped to 3801 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 4.8 metres

Swallows launch into flight extremely quickly so it can be challenging to coordinate shutter release timing.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 261 mm, efov 522 mm, f/8.4, 1/4000, ISO-1000, cropped to 4401 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 4.8 metres

A productive Pro Capture H image run of swallows taking flight typically yields 2 or 3 usable photographs. There is always a feeling of accomplishment when a good run has been captured.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 261 mm, efov 522 mm, f/8.4, 1/4000, ISO-1250, cropped to 4320 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 4.7 metres

To help ‘freeze’ wing positions I usually use a shutter speed of 1/2500 to 1/4000 with small, fast birds like swallows.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 261 mm, efov 522 mm, f/8.4, 1/4000, ISO-1250, cropped to 4345 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 4.7 metres

When taking flight, swallows can be erratic in terms of their flight path. Even when a bird is facing what appears to be an obvious flight direction it can launch sideways or even backwards.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 261 mm, efov 522 mm, f/8.4, 1/4000, ISO-1250, full frame capture, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 4.7 metres

I often need to muster all of my shot discipline to avoid fully depressing my shutter release when a swallow launches in an unexpected direction.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 195 mm, efov 390 mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-640, cropped to 3305 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 4.8 metres

In these situations I often fall prey to my impulses. Most times when I’ve let my impulses get the better of me, I know I’ll have 15 photographs to delete.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 280 mm, efov 560 mm, f/8.4, 1/4000, ISO-1000, cropped to 3333 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 5.1 metres

On rare occasions I may have a bit of luck and get a usable image when a swallow has launched in an unexpected direction. An example is illustrated above.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 195 mm, efov 390 mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-640, cropped to 3761 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 4.8 metres

I know a number of photographers that prefer to use 30 frames-per-second, rather than 60 with Pro Capture H. They feel they get a sufficient number of photographs and thus save some time in post as they cull through their photographs.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 195 mm, efov 390 mm, f/8, 1/2500, ISO-640, cropped to 4036 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 4.8 metres

I’ve tried 30 frames-per-second a few times and I’ve never been happy with the selection of images that this frame rate produces. I’d much rather shoot at 60 frames per second, and spend a bit more time in post to get the body and wing positions I want.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/4000, ISO-800, cropped to 3882 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 7.4 metres

Like many photographers I find swallows to be challenging subjects to capture in flight. Pro Capture H is extremely effective capturing photographs of these little pocket rockets taking flight.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 359 mm, efov 718 mm, f/8.7, 1/4000, ISO-800, cropped to 3657 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 7.4 metres

Many images can have a simliar look… but that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of capturing them.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 308 mm, efov 616 mm, f/8.5, 1/4000, ISO-1250, full frame capture, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 5.6 metres

Photographing swallows taking flight with Pro Capture H is like opening up a box of assorted chocolates without a flavour legend. You’re never sure exactly what you’re going to get.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 308 mm, efov 616 mm, f/8.5, 1/4000, ISO-1250, full frame capture, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 5.6 metres

The photographs are almost always ‘tasty’… but just like biting into a new chocolate, I’m always hoping for that really special image. And, when I manage to get one…

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 308 mm, efov 616 mm, f/8.5, 1/4000, ISO-1250, full frame capture, Pro Capture H, Subject distance 5.6 metres

It still takes my breath away. All of us who love to photograph birds knows that feeling. It’s what keeps us coming back for more.

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. This is the 1,025th article published on this website since its original inception.

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