Cam­era tech­niques Come fly with us

Dis­cover James Pater­son’s top tricks for pho­tograph­ing rap­tors in flight and lift your bird pho­tog­ra­phy to new heights

NPhoto - - Nikon Skills -

Get­ting great shots of birds in flight re­quires a com­bi­na­tion of sound cam­era skills, good knowl­edge of the sub­ject, and a healthy dose of luck. The ac­tion of­ten hap­pens so quickly that you’re shoot­ing al­most blind, re­ly­ing on your cam­era and in­stinc­tive tech­nique to bag the per­fect shot.

The sub­ject pro­vokes fu­ri­ous de­bate on the best cam­era set­tings and gear to use (in wildlife cir­cles ‘birds in flight’ even has its own acro­nym: BIF). But if you know how to set your cam­era up to re­spond to the ac­tion, you can in­crease your chances of a tack-sharp bird photo, which is a feather in the cap for any as­pir­ing wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher.

One of the eas­i­est ways to get up close to birds in flight is to visit a sanc­tu­ary or zoo that has dis­plays. We went to the ex­cel­lent Hawk Con­ser­vancy Trust in Hamp­shire to pho­to­graph these ma­jes­tic birds of prey. At places like this you’ll see sched­uled aerial demon­stra­tions through the day, and many also host tai­lored pho­tog­ra­phy days and pri­vate ses­sions where the fal­con­ers can set up shots es­pe­cially for you.

The right kit can make all the dif­fer­ence to your pic­tures. A long tele­photo lens is es­sen­tial if you want

The sub­ject of bird pho­tog­ra­phy pro­vokes fu­ri­ous de­bate on the best cam­era set­tings and gear to use. In wildlife cir­cles ‘birds in flight’ even has its own acro­nym: BIF

to fill the frame with a dis­tant sub­ject. We used a Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 for our pho­to­graphs here. How­ever, it’s not all about the gear, as knowl­edge of bird be­hav­iour is just as im­por­tant. That’s another rea­son why shoot­ing at a dis­play is use­ful while you’re learn­ing: our bird han­dler, Cedric, was on hand to of­fer ad­vice as well as con­trol the flight path so that we could shoot from the best po­si­tion.

Even the most ex­pe­ri­enced wildlife pros will come away from a shoot like this with plenty of un­us­able shots, so don’t lose heart if you find you have a lots of soft photos. The two big­gest chal­lenges here are fram­ing and fo­cus­ing. We’ll show you how to push your D-SLR’s aut­o­fo­cus to its lim­its, and of­fer tips on how to an­tic­i­pate the ac­tion. And the best ad­vice we can give? Shoot lots and lots of frames!

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