During a recent visit to the Hendrie Valley Sanctuary I was photographing terns in flight and fishing. While capturing a typical AF-C run I was lucky to be able to photograph a tern retrieving a fish in mid-air. The photographs in this short article are aggressive crops so I apologize in advance for the image quality.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
When a tern fishes, it usually swallows its catch while in flight. Depending on how the tern is grasping the fish with its beak this may involve the tern flicking the fish up in mid-air slightly so it can grab it head first, allowing the bird to swallow it.
I’ve been lucky capturing this in-flight behaviour a couple of times in the past. Hoping to capture this action again, I was shooting in AF-C with subject tracking at 20 frames-per-second. In the following frames you’ll see the tern mishandle its catch, drop it in mid-air, then retrieve it while diving after it. The 14 frames shown in this article were captured in 7/10 of a second – so this action happens quickly!
In Frame 6 you can see the tern has dropped its fish in mid-air.
In Frame 8 the tern starts its mid-air dive to retrieve the fish.
In Frame 12 the tern is in a full dive and moving rapidly.
Given the speed of the tern’s mid-air dive I had trouble keeping it properly framed during my AF-C run. I put the image above in this article so readers would have an unbroken view of the action sequence.
In Frame 14 the tern has retrieved its fish.
There’s no doubt that the Nikon 1 system has some shortcomings due to its small 1″ CX sensor in terms of dynamic range, colour depth and low light performance. On the other hand, being able to capture images like those in Frames 8 through 12 by being able to shoot at 20 frames-per-second in AF-C is one of the reasons why I love shooting with Nikon 1.
All photographs were captured hand-held using Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6, and the Nik Collection.
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