Sunday, March 2, 2014

Birds in Flight

Saturday I had a chance to practice shooting birds in flight. I've taken a few stabs at this before, but it takes quite a bit of practice (for me anyway) to have any consistent success at anticipating their movements, keeping them in the narrow angle of view of a (heavy) telephoto lens, and keeping autofocus sensors positioned to grab the eyes, not to mention exposing for the bird's tones rather than the sky or changing landscape background.

The following photos won't all make it to the nature section of my main website (let alone to anyone else's gallery), but I feel good enough about them - and the progress I'm making, gradually - to share them here.

You will see "flight path sequences" where I followed a particular gull or heron to try to catch it in attractive and interesting poses. I began the shooting with a Canon 300mm/2.8 L IS II attached to an Extender 2X III. (The Roman II and III are just version numbers for those into exact gear used. The camera was a 1DX.) The net is a 600mm focal length, 12x greater magnification than the 50mm focal length usually considered "normal" for a "full frame" DSLR (24x36mm sensor dimensions).

The next shot makes me think of a heron slingshot.

Here the background is busy, but the positioning of the wings and body is about as nice as I could have hoped for, and the light is attractive, really bringing out the blue of the feathers and the contrasting orange of the feet. I had to crop this shot quite a bit, so I don't think it will make the kind of sharp large print that I enjoy doing, but then photography doesn't always have to be about finest possible detail, even though I love when an image that has other more important properties also happens to offer details for the eye to explore. (There are reasons that photographers go crazy over high quality lenses and try to master the careful technique that's necessary to really exploit their capabilities.)

I'm sure that some viewers, recognizing the object behind this gull, will dislike the image for that reason. I don't mind, I like the juxtaposition of the graceful bird with the ugly-in-most-circumstances cracked concrete. I think it makes an interesting abstract composition. Feel free to disagree in the comments section!

Some of the birds were starting to fly closer to me. At this point I removed the 2x extender and shot with the bare 300mm.

Ooh, this one below has two shadows. Doctor Who fans know what that means!

The beautiful colors in the water are reflections of the "ugly" concrete tower that is seen above, midway through this page.

And that concluded my outing. I hope you enjoyed tagging along.



  1. These images are breath taking! You seemed to also capture the various birds' personalities and expressions! Amazing!!

    1. Thank you! Sometimes birds seem to convey a lot of personality in their movements and body language, and it's fun to try to capture some of that!


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