If you are up for a chal­lenge, try cap­tur­ing dy­namic im­ages of birds in flight

Digital Photograper - - Techniques -

Flight is ar­guably the as­pect of bird be­hav­iour that of­fers the most po­ten­tial for cre­ative pho­tog­ra­phy. But be­fore you can ex­press your artis­tic flair it is im­por­tant to mas­ter the skills re­quired to cap­ture sharp im­ages of birds. These days it is not un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect to be able to see feather de­tail – even in­di­vid­ual barbs – in a fly­ing bird.

At first glance the skills re­quired to cap­ture birds in flight ap­pear to echo those needed in sports pho­tog­ra­phy. How­ever, there are sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences that make this branch of wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy more prob­lem­atic. Firstly, fly­ing birds tend to move un­pre­dictably with more three-di­men­sional chal­lenges than their hu­man coun­ter­parts. Se­condly, and more im­por­tantly, their move­ment through space is much faster, with blur­ringly speedy wing­beats.

Back in the days of film, flight pho­tog­ra­phy was the realm of spe­cial­ist im­agery, or re­liant on luck. To­day, how­ever, mod­ern dig­i­tal cam­eras and lenses are up for the chal­lenge. In most cir­cum­stances, a shut­ter speed of at least 1/2,500th sec­ond is needed to ‘freeze’ move­ment and in an ideal world 1/4,000th sec­ond is bet­ter. Depth of field is also cru­cial. Although soar­ing birds of prey oc­ca­sion­ally present their wings in an even plane of fo­cus, gen­er­ally fly­ing birds re­quire the depth of field as­so­ci­ated with an aper­ture of at least f11 for sat­is­fac­tory re­sults. A com­bi­na­tion of fast shut­ter speed and good depth of field may seem un­re­al­is­tic at first, but you can use your ISO set­tings to achieve this goal.

Right FEATHER DE­TAIL Birds of prey are fast fliers and so a fast shut­ter speed and good depth of field (f11) was needed to cap­ture this kestrel

Above top KITTIWAKE AT SEA Be­ing pale birds, gulls add an­other level of com­pli­ca­tion with the back­ground chang­ing from blue sea to pale sky in an in­stant

Above PRE­DIC­TIVE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Pre­dic­tive (i.e. best guess) fo­cus­ing rather than aut­o­fo­cus was used to cap­ture this fly­ing cuckoo com­ing in to land

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