This article features a good selection of handheld images of swans at war, fighting in a back section of one of the ponds at Hendrie Valley. All photographs were captured using the E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, along with an M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom lens fitted with an M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter. I used ‘pulse shooting’ for all of the photographs.
These photographic opportunities presented some interesting challenges. All images were captured handheld with my M.Zuiko 100-400 mm zoom fully extended to 800 mm (efov 1600 mm) using an aperture of f/13. ISO values ranged from ISO-4000 to ISO-5000. My E-M1X estimated that the swans at war featured in this article were between 134.7 metres (~442 feet) to 153.4 metres (~503 feet) away from my shooting position.
On my drive to Hendrie Valley that morning I decided to shoot using the M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter for the duration of my visit. Mother Nature smiled down and gave me a number of photographic opportunities with swans that morning.
As you examine the swans at war images you’ll notice a third swan in many of the photographs. This is a female bird that had just finished mating with one of the male swans at war. When the interloper moved in closer to the female, the fight erupted.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs are displayed in the order in which they were captured.
Let’s have a look at our first group of 22 consecutive images. You’ll notice that these swans at war consistently go for each other’s necks, as this is the most vulnerable part of their bodies.
I shot using 18 frames-per-second in C-AF +TR (continuous auto-focus plus tracking). This mode is required when using any of the E-M1X’s Intelligent Subject Tracking functions such as Bird Detection AI.
As you can imagine the first part of this swans at war fighting was pretty intense as the two birds pressed for superiority. Fortunately the birds stayed parallel to my focal plane so I was able to get some decent compositions.
As one swan became dominant the other bird was forced down into the water. This created about 8 photographs that were difficult to interpret. One bird was partially submerged and the back of the dominant bird was to my camera. So… I didn’t bother to include those images in this article.
Let’s pick up the action with three more consecutive images.
My next consecutive image in the series wasn’t really usable from a composition standpoint. The head of the bird on the right hand side of the photograph was out of the frame, and the dominant bird’s head had dropped down and was partially hidden behind the other swan’s body. Two white bodies with no heads fully visible made for a boring image.
The last eight consecutive images show the dominant swan chasing the submissive bird until both birds are in behind some low level branches. I kept shooting even with the branch obstructions just to see if I’d get anything useable.
As far as I could tell I was the only photographer at Hendrie Valley that morning who even bothered trying to capture any photographs of these swans at war. Since the birds were more than 134 metres away (~440 feet) I suppose most folks just didn’t have sufficient reach with their camera gear.
Being able to shoot handheld with an efov of 1600 mm enabled me to capture these images. That’s one of the many things that I love about my Olympus gear… it expands what is possible to create with a camera.
Using Topaz Sharpening AI helped deal with potential diffraction caused by shooting at f/13 with a M4/3 camera.
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced using my standard process. After running my RAW files through DxO PhotoLab 4 using one of my custom pre-sets, I made some minor adjustments in PhotoShop CS6 and the Nik Collection. My final step was using Topaz Sharpening AI. Crops are indicated. This is the 1,111 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.
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