Swans with Bird AI

This article discusses photographing swans with Bird AI and shares a selection of photographs captured handheld at LaSalle Park in Burlington Ontario.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 140 mm, efov 280 mm, f/7.1, 1/2000, ISO-250, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 17.3 metres, cropped to 3066 pixels on the height

Nothing has changed in terms of how I use my E-M1X’s Bird Detection AI subject tracking. I still utilize the tips that were detailed in a previous article. 

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 175 mm, efov 350 mm, f/7.1, 1/2000, ISO-250, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 18.7 metres, full frame capture

I’ve become more and more familiar using this technology over the past few months. It is now at the point that I rarely even think about using any other auto focusing mode when photographing perched birds or those in flight.  Obviously Pro Capture H is an exception since I always shoot at 60 frames-per-second, and C-AF +TR is not available.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2000, ISO-400, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 57.2 metres, cropped to 2493 pixels on the height

I’ve had little opportunity to try Bird Detection AI with small birds in flight. My current thinking is that using Cluster Area C-AF may be a better choice in that particular situation. Hopefully I will be able to get out with my camera gear more regularly to test this out during the upcoming spring birding season.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 293 mm, efov 586 mm, f/8.5, 1/2000, ISO-500, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 36.5 metres, cropped to 4586 pixels on the width

If I have enough light, I always use my M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom in conjunction with the M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter. This set-up provides me with an equivalent field-of-view of 280-1120 mm. I find this perfect for my particular style of bird photography. My M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter will likely be used most often with distant perched birds, or when I want to use Pro Capture H with these subjects.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-250, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3696 pixels on the width

I find the long end of that EFOV range of 1120 mm is still very practical and usable for birds-in-flight, especially with medium to large sized birds.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 280 mm, efov 560 mm, f/8.4, 1/2000, ISO-400, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 52.5 metres, full frame capture

All of the photographs in this article were captured in about an hour and 15 minutes. I ended up with hundreds of potential keeper images and deleted the vast majority of them as I had more than a sufficient number for this article and for other projects.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 140 mm, efov 280 mm, f/7.1, 1/2000, ISO-320, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 18.6 metres, cropped to 4445 pixels on the width

Like any other bird species it is important to understand the typical flight paths used by the swans that frequent LaSalle Park. Most of the birds congregate on one specific piece of shoreline. They are acclimatized to people, making the birds very approachable.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 140 mm, efov 280 mm, f/7.1, 1/2000, ISO-320, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 14.9 metres, full frame capture

As the morning progresses various swans will fly in from the north. By about noon most of the birds have arrived. The majority of the swans fly in as pairs, or occasionally as small groups of 3-5 birds.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 140 mm, efov 280 mm, f/7.1, 1/2000, ISO-320, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 14.7 metres, cropped to 4583 pixels on the width

Photographing swans using Bird AI is quite helpful as it allows me to concentrate on panning with incoming birds, without worrying about auto-focusing.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 175 mm, efov 350 mm, f/7.7, 1/2000, ISO-400, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 19.1 metres, cropped to 2983 pixels on the height

If the objective is to photograph an individual swan in flight, a photographers reaches a ‘decision point’ when they must select one of the incoming birds and adjust their panning.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 308 mm, efov 616 mm, f/8.5, 1/2000, ISO-640, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 35.9 metres, cropped to 4180 pixels on the width

I find using Bird Detection AI subject tracking to be very effective in these situations as the tracking box will easily move over to the selected bird.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 381 mm, efov 762 mm, f/8.7, 1/2000, ISO-800, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 46.5 metres, cropped to 4866 pixels on the width

I allow Bird Detection AI to track with incoming birds when they are off in the distance. Having an EFOV of 1120 mm is very helpful in this regard. I typically half-depress and hold the shutter release to lock auto-focus a second or two before I anticipate capturing my image run.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 413 mm, efov 826 mm, f/8.8, 1/2000, ISO-1600, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 63.6 metres, cropped to 3312 pixels on the height

Capturing pairs of swans in flight is best done when they are banking or flying parallel to the focal plane of my camera.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 321 mm, efov 642 mm, f/8.6, 1/3200, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 42.7 metres, cropped to 2856 pixels on the height

When trumpeter swans are in flight they often will call out. Their open beaks can add an interesting dimension to photographs.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 321 mm, efov 642 mm, f/8.6, 1/2000, ISO-800, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 49.4 metres, cropped to 4101 pixels on the width

Photographing swans landing on ice can yield some great photographs of them ‘walking’ along the surface of the ice as they try to maintain their balance as they skid along.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 140 mm, efov 280 mm, f/8.6, 1/3200, ISO-640, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 52.2 metres, cropped to 3969 pixels on the width

Once the ice melts later in the spring, these large birds can kick up a lot of water spray when taking off or landing. I’m looking forward to capturing some of these moments in the weeks ahead.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Cropping is noted where applicable with each image.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 308 mm, efov 616 mm, f/8.5, 1/2000, ISO-500, Bird Detection AI, subject distance 38.7 metres, cropped to 4245 pixels on the width

How you can help keep this site advertising free

My intent is to keep this photography blog advertising free. If you enjoyed this article and/or my website and would like to support my work, you can purchase an eBook, or make a modest $10 donation through PayPal. Both are 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.

Word of mouth is the best form of endorsement. If you like our website please let your friends and associates know about our work. Linking to this site or to specific articles is allowed with proper acknowledgement. Reproducing articles, or any of the images contained in them, on another website or in any social media posting is a Copyright infringement.

Article and images are Copyright 2021 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. Posting comments on offending websites and calling out individuals who steal intellectual property is always appreciated!

Leave a Reply

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