Woodpecker Taking Flight

This article shares a run of Pro Capture H photographs of a woodpecker taking flight. All images were captured handheld using an Olympus OM-D E-M1X. This posting also describes some of the camera settings used.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 164 mm, efov 328 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 5.2 metres

When using Olympus Pro Capture H mode it is important to estimate the number of frames that will occur before a subject bird leaves the frame. It is also helpful to determine the frequency of repeating wing positions. This was discussed in a previous article.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 164 mm, efov 328 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 5.2 metres

In the case of this specific Pro Capture H image run of a woodpecker taking flight I was able to capture eight useable frames. These started with the woodpecker in a static position and ended just before the bird exited the composition.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 164 mm, efov 328 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 5.2 metres

To capture these eight images of a woodpecker taking flight I set my Max fps in Pro Capture H to 60 fps. I used the highest fps possible as my goal was to capture as many precise body and wing positions as possible. Larger birds like this woodpecker typically have somewhat slower wing movements than smaller birds. That means there will be a greater number of photographs in a Pro Capture H run before a repeating wing position occurs.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 164 mm, efov 328 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 5.2 metres

To limit the overall number of photographs in the Pro Capture H run I set my Pre-Shutter Frames to 15 and my Frame Count Limiter to 15. This meant that my E-M1X would spool a total of 15 full resolution images in temporary memory when my shutter release was half-depressed. When I fully depressed my shutter release those images in temporary memory would be written to my memory card. It also meant that once I pressed my shutter, the E-M1X would not capture any additional new images after my shutter release was fully depressed.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 164 mm, efov 328 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 5.2 metres

As we can see with the photograph above, not all of the individual photographs in a Pro Capture H run will be ‘keepers’ in terms of a bird’s head and eye being visible. This largely depends on the launch position and flying angle of the bird.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 164 mm, efov 328 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 5.2 metres

Using Pro Capture H does make capturing action photographs like the ones in this article significantly easier to do. Shutter release timing is still critically important. It is important to remember that my E-M1X would capture 15 Pro Capture H images in a total of only 1/4 second, when shooting at 60 frames per second.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 164 mm, efov 328 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 5.2 metres

It also takes some practice and discipline to learn to fully depress the camera’s shutter release after the bird has left the composition. Our natural instinct as a photographer is to press our shutter release as soon as some action starts… not after it has already occured.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 164 mm, efov 328 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-1000, subject distance 5.2 metres

The final critical factor when using Pro Capture H is to anticipate the flight path of the bird being photographed. Since the first frame of a Pro Capture H run locks in auto-focus and exposure, a subject bird can quickly fly out-of-focus if not travelling at a 90 degree angle to the focal plane of your camera. When all of the factors come together properly with a Pro Capture H run, the results can be amazing.

Technical Note:
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. All photographs are displayed as 100% captures without any cropping.

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 2020 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!

4 thoughts on “Woodpecker Taking Flight”

    1. Hi Ed,

      Many of the birds at Hendrie Valley are quite used to being around people so they are not as skittish. There are various trees that are adjacent to the boardwalk at Hendrie Valley that are commonly frequented by woodpeckers and other birds. I typically wear dark green/grey and stand motionless. I wait patiently to see which birds arrive at trees that are often visited.

      Tom

  1. Tom
    I am wondering why you would not have some photos in the Pro Capture set after the click of the shutter? An example might be to have 15 prior to the click and 10 after the click.

    1. Hi Joel,

      It is just a personal choice. A photographer can set up to 35 frames pre-shutter and if my memory serves up to a total of 99 for the entire Pro Capture run. There was no need for me to set a total of 25 frames for the run as this would have produced far more images than I needed… many of them would have been blank… i.e. with the woodpecker long gone from the frame. I estimated that I would get about 8-10 useable frames when using 60 fps. So, by setting my E-M1X for 15 pre-shutter frames I knew that if I fully depressed my shutter just as the woodpecker left my composition I would end up with the number of anticipated photographs. I could have set my E-M1X for 10 pre-shutter and 5 post, but then I would have had to change my shutter release timing. I tend to be more accurate with my timing if I wait for the bird to leave the frame as it gives me a bit more reaction time.

      Tom

Leave a Reply

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