Watch that birdie!

Shoot­ing birds of prey in flight is a great test for the prow­ess for any cam­era and any pho­tog­ra­pher, as Chris Ge­orge dis­cov­ers

NPhoto - - Contents -

Pull out your long lens and find a great lo­ca­tion to pho­to­graph birds in flight

For­get sports, if you want a real test in ac­tion pho­tog­ra­phy, try get­ting a great shot of a bird in flight. Un­like at a sta­dium or race cir­cuit, you have to track down your feath­ered sub­ject in the first place, then try to freeze its move­ments against a dis­tract­ing back­ground. This is a true chal­lenge for both you as the pho­tog­ra­pher and for your SLR.

How close you can get will de­pend on the species, but with al­most all birds you will want to get the long­est lens that you can sen­si­bly af­ford – and

The Red Kite is a Bri­tish con­ser­va­tion suc­cess story. It was a com­mon scav­enger in towns and cities in Shake­spearean times, but had al­most dis­ap­peared from the UK by the 1990s

due to the crop fac­tor, you will need a big­ger fo­cal length with full-frame SLRs than you will with DX mod­els.

Lo­ca­tion is prob­a­bly just as im­por­tant as the equip­ment and set­tings that you use. We chose to shoot Red Kites as they can be found re­li­ably if you go to the right spot (see op­po­site) in the UK. But find­ing the birds is not enough, you also need a good van­tage point to shoot them from to see them in flight.

You want to avoid shots of the birds feed­ing on the ground, or against a bland, fea­ture­less white cloud­scape. To avoid a sil­hou­ette, your best bet is to get up on a hill, so that you can shoot these big birds as they ride the ther­mals – and so that as they dip you can frame them against fields or trees. To avoid these back­grounds be­com­ing dis­tract­ing you need to use your lens wide open, min­imis­ing the depth of field. This is a bonus, as you will need to use a fast shut­ter speed (we rec­om­mend us­ing 1/2000 sec). But the dis­ad­van­tage of the nar­row band of depth of field is that your fo­cus­ing will need to be even more ac­cu­rate. A smooth pan­ning tech­nique is needed to track the birds, along with the choice of the right AF set­tings.


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