David Eales has really mastered shooting fast-moving subjects
I have been a reader of N-Photo for a long time now. I started to read it about the same time as I took up photography. To give me a good start, I thought that doing an A-level in photography would put me on the right course, but I came away quite dissatisfied. I have been on workshops where the pro would saturate the course with far too many people, so as a consequence no one got any input. I feel now that I am getting better – I’m not reading so much from mags and just go out and give it a go.
When I retired, I said to myself that I would buy the best camera that I could afford at the time. Over the last few years I have upgraded gradually to what I have now. I started with a Nikon D700, then moved on to the Nikon D3s, and I have now moved on to the Nikon D4s; all these cameras are great, but the D4s has the edge in terms of resolution and frame rate.
I have moved around a bit on lenses. The lenses I like are my 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8, 16-35mm f/4 and 500mm f/4, plus a 1.4x teleconverter. I have a Manfrotto monopod, a Manfrotto tripod with a geared head, and a carbon-fibre tripod with a gimbal head. As far as filters go, I’ve got a few graduated filters and a big stopper ND filter for when I shoot landscapes.
You’ve already mastered two of the most difficult aspects of photographing moving subjects, David: getting the subject sharp, and shooting them against a distractionfree background. Clearly you’ve got the right kit for what you want to photograph (we’d pick that 70200mm f/2.8 ourselves), and you really know how to use it. Shooting motorcycles tilting and BMXs in midair help convey the action in your images of vehicles.
Your photos show that your camera is very steady when you take your shots, so a good step to take next would be to try introducing some panning blur to give an extra sense of speed. You’re good at anticipating where a moving subject will be, so you will probably find you’re a natural at it! Use a fairly high shutter speed to start with, to give yourself a chance to get your eye in, and lower the speed as you progress, to the point where it’s as low as it can go while still keeping the subject sharp. Your gimbal head will be invaluable for panning shots, and it would be best to start with racing vehicles as they’ll follow a fairly predictable line – the birds will do whatever they like!
You could also try capturing other aspects of bird behaviour. Photographing birds of prey as they dive for a kill (see page 50) or capturing seabirds just as they plunge into the water would be the next step on from your flight shots, and that would present a real challenge while still staying with a theme you love.