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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photographing swans using Bird AI is quite helpful as it allows me to concentrate on panning with incoming birds, without worrying about auto-focusing.
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.
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.
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.
Capturing pairs of swans in flight is best done when they are banking or flying parallel to the focal plane of my camera.
When trumpeter swans are in flight they often will call out. Their open beaks can add an interesting dimension to photographs.
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.
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.
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.
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