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Thread: How to shoot flying bird

  1. #1

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    How to shoot flying bird

    Hi All,

    I'am a begineer and interested in Bird photography. I'm practicing on the same I was able to capture a bird in still position but I'm failing to take a shot when the bird is in flying action.

    I'm using Nikon D5100 with Sigma 70-300 mm lens. I'm using continuos mode with AF-C and 3d tracking. Problem here is I was not able to lock the focus when the bird is flying with 3d tracking.

    Kindly help me with your inputs.

    Thank you,
    Thilak

  2. #2
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    Have you tried manual focus? What aperture do you use? Can you post some examples?

  3. #3
    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    This is just me, but for shooting birds, I need a 400mm lens, and a lot of practice. I use back-button AF to control when the AF hunts and when I don't want it to. I also try to anticipate, and I usually shoot with both eyes open, so that the non-camera eye can help me track the flight of the bird across the sky. I also tend to go for slower-flying larger birds (hawks and herons, say, rather than hummingbirds or sparrows), to give me a fighting chance.

  4. #4

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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    Although when one reads the description of 3d tracking it sounds perfect for birds in flight, I don't know of any accomplished bird photographers who use it. The most reliable method is a single focus point in AF-C mode. With the rig that you have it will also focus better on birds flying side to side across your field of view rather than coming straight toward you.

  5. #5
    rtbaum's Avatar
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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    Kathy is right, BIF require a lot of practice and preferably a fast telephoto, aka f/2.8, aka $$$. In good light, you should still be able to capture slower birds with some practice. I usually prefocus and track the bird, I will pan in front, and snap the shot as it enters the frame, continuing to pan as I shoot. It is all about the follow through.

    Ironically, hummingbirds are proving to be pretty easy. They are easy to predict, and spend a lot of time hovering in the same spot.

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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    I don't know exactly how to shoot flying birds, but here is one example.

    How to shoot flying bird

    2006-16-06 5:06:53 PM, White-winged Tern (White-winged Black Tern, Chlidonias leucopterus)
    Shooting Mode Aperture-Priority AE
    Tv( Shutter Speed ) 1/4000
    Av( Aperture Value ) 7.1
    Metering Mode Evaluative Metering
    ISO Speed 1600
    Lens 100.0 - 400.0mm
    Focal Length 400.0mm
    White Balance Mode Auto, but changed to Daylight later in Digital Photo Professional
    AF Mode AI Servo AF

  7. #7
    PRSearls's Avatar
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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    I'm shooting Canon so I can't advise Nikon settings. Bird-in-flight is a challenging subject that takes lots of practice to develop your tracking and focusing. I normally use Manual mode (if the light is not changing quickly), a fast shutter speed (1/1200) and servo mode focusing. It helps if your lens focuses rapidly. I use a center focus point and try to keep it on the center of the bird. My main BIF are eagles; their large size make them a little easier to track although shooting with a very long lens complicates this. For 500mm or longer, a gimbal mount and sturdy tripod is recommended for best results. Shooting in burst mode can capture several wing positions that are difficult (for me) to time. Getting out and doing lots of shooting is your best option since there are no shortcuts to gaining the experience and skill to become a proficient BIF shooter. Good luck.

    Paul S

    How to shoot flying bird

    This is the 3rd (out of a four shot burst) with the eagle approaching head-on. Pretty good focus tracking in servo mode. Shooting against the light from the shore of the Mississippi river (could not change positions). Eagles were not very cooperative that day with little fishing when the light got better.

  8. #8
    darekk's Avatar
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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    Some of people use flash (for example 1/10000 s) and special equipment detecting, when bird or mammal is crossing point in focus or for example seat a frog on special platform and when that frog jumps, flash is fired.
    Here is an example book with very general guidelines, but written before AF systems, so detecting animals like birds, mammals, dragonflies using special transmitters and receivers is probably not necessary in today's times.

    Harald Lange, Tierfotografie,VEB Fotokinoverlag, Leipzig, 1983
    (don't understand this almost at all, but there are example images)

  9. #9
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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    For learning and practising, how about photographing seagulls.

    You can entice them with bread, and have hours of practise with lots of shots, as long as you keep feeding them.

  10. #10
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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    Jim Nieger, Flight School Photography, Kissimmee Florida http://www.flightschoolphotography.com/ recommends the following:

    1. Manual exposure - he recommends taking a reading on a substitute subject such as green vegetation - I would expect that meter reading off a gray card might accomplish the same thing. You would, of course, need to use the exposure meter "between your ears" to adjust the exposure for white or black birds...
    2. AI Servo AF
    3. Hi speed continuous burst
    4. Center point AF with lens focused to approximately the distance you expect to shoot (this can increase AF speed - the lens has less to move)
    5. Tracking sensitivity set to slow (not all cameras have controllable tracking sensitivity)
    6. Back button focus - exposure with shutter button. He will attain focus several times during a flight, calling it: bump focus
    7. Contrast set to -2 (impacts the camera display only - not the RAW image captured)
    8. IS on mode 2 - limiter set to longest distance (not all lenses have IS 1 & 2 or focus limiters)

    He has a whole bunch of other tips. Perhaps in perusing his website, you can find some tips...

    Jim once wrote out a set of instructions for BIF photography on another forum. I copied this and use it for my own purposes. However, Jim's stuff is copy-written and I don't think I am allowed to share it. However, I don't think that the synopsis above violates the copy-write...

    Robin's tip of practicing on seagulls, if they are available where you live is quite valid. Pelicans are also good targets since they are usually slow flyers (except in a dive for fish and the pelican is a somewhat neutral brown-gray color which is easy to attain correct exposure for.

    Prophotolife Library, Episode 11 has some information on attracting birds. http://www.prophotolife.com/video-library/

    Note: I have never seen another item like this sports-finder which rides on the hotshoe of a camera. It was originally designed for Navy Topcon 35mm camera kits that our pilots and aircrews used so that they could frame ships from the air while keeping the visors of their flight helmets in place.

    How to shoot flying bird

    This is great for acquiring birds against a blank sky or acquiring surfers against an ocean when shooting with a long prime lens.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 5th August 2013 at 11:15 PM.

  11. #11

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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    Richard ... do you have a name for that sportsfinder? Amazon threw up nothing like it Nor Ebay.

  12. #12

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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    You never did any skeet shooting did ya...mount one of these cheap ones to your hot shoe and don't bother with the viewfinder. http://www.sportsmansguide.com/net/b...34&s=169&d=125

    Your will have to "adjust" it to the center of your viewfinder, also, consider a rifle stock for the whole rig.

  13. #13
    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    Quote Originally Posted by rawill View Post
    For learning and practising, how about photographing seagulls.

    You can entice them with bread, and have hours of practise with lots of shots, as long as you keep feeding them.
    Uh... consider the ramifications of feeding/baiting. This is a controversial topic among birders. You should be aware of this if you're getting into bird photography.

    The advice to go for gulls, though is great. You don't need a long lens or food to get seagull or rock pigeon shots. They're great practice subjects even without those things.

    How to shoot flying bird
    Ring-Billed Gull. Canon XT/350D. EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro

    If there's a local zoo nearby, most zoos have "freeloader" wildlife--local wildlife that takes advantage of the food, water, and shelter of the exhibits. For me, prior to birding season, I'll hit the zoo and Wild Animal Park to practice.

    How to shoot flying bird
    Black-Crowned Night Heron. Canon XT/350D. EF 400mm f/5.6L USM

    And then eventually work your way up to the shyer, faster birds with a longer lens.

    How to shoot flying bird
    juvenile White-Tailed Kite (Elanus leucurus). Canon 50D. EF 400mm f/5.6L USM.

    I would also say you don't necessarily need an f/2.8 telephoto as much as you need a 400mm or longer lens, because fieldcraft can only get you so far, and most birders do not want to stress birds or make them abandon prey/nests by getting too close. Birding/field skills are by far the most valuable tools you'll have to getting good bird shots; and where you live and which species you're after can also affect how close you can get.

    Learn to be a birder if you want to photograph birds.

  14. #14
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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    A lens with fast and accurate auto focus is, IMO, more important that image stabilization. The Canon 400mm f/5.6L is a top ranked BIF lens, despite no IS, because of its fast and accurate focus and its very good IQ even when shot wide open.

    On a bright day, ISO 400 (which most of today's DSLR cameras can handle with ease) should give you 1/3200 wide open at f/5.6 and even faster if you are shooting a white bird (slower for a black bird) which is a pretty easy shutter speed at which to hand-hold a relatively light lens like the f/5.6L.

    However, here is a link to a shoulder pod I developed and fabricated for my 400mm f/5.6L lens.

    How to shoot flying bird

    http://rpcrowe.smugmug.com/Photograp...2870&k=FsRJDzT

    I made it with hand tools at minimum cost for materials available from any home improvement store. It weighs just over a pound (~455 g.) and can easily be disassembled for travelig...
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 6th August 2013 at 04:41 AM.

  15. #15
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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    Most everything everyone has already said. I am still working on my BIF but I found helpful to play with Sports Mode (to start) then Aperture priority and Shutter priority to see what settings worked well or not, and to practice on big flying birds and if seagulls are around they are great birds to practice on.

    Love that Heron shot Kathy!

  16. #16
    inkista's Avatar
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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    Quote Originally Posted by Christina S View Post
    Love that Heron shot Kathy!
    Thanks! The "Mombasa Lagoon" at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (as the WAP is now called) was rather like shooting fish in a barrel that day. Here's what that thorn tree looked like from a distance:

    How to shoot flying bird

    Lots of egrets (mostly cattle egrets). I had an opportunity to catch a BiF about two to three times a minute. Zoo shooting is much much easier than in-the-wild shooting--even when you're shooting wildlife vs. exhibit critters.

    Unlike nearly every bird photographer I know, I tend to shoot aperture priority rather than shutter priority. I'd rather have a blurry photo than have the camera refuse to take the shot because I don't have enough light for the shutter speed I've set; and I'd rather get the fastest shutter speed possible for a given aperture. I think partially, too, it's that I generally have a LOT of sunshine to reckon with in Southern California, and if I'm tracking a hawk that's circling me, the lighting in the frame will vary wildly.

    I do use iso settings in the 400-1600 range often, because I'm shooting with a non-IS 400mm prime and need to be up and over 1/500s or 1/1000s most of the time. I also set the Custom C1 mode on my 50D to be "birding mode": ISO defaults to 800, center-weighted metering, back-button autofocus with the */AF-ON buttons reversed, high-speed burst, and servo (although sometimes I do get frustrated with servo and shove it back to one-shot). I rarely use back-button AF for anything else other than event shooting, so it's nice to be able to turn it on/off with a simple dial twist.

    Randy--maybe we're shooting different hummingbirds. The Anna's that are prevalent here in San Diego like to swoop and divebomb me a lot. I've only really ever gotten one while it was hovering, and the window was relatively short. (I discount feeding shots--those I got a fighting chance).
    Last edited by inkista; 6th August 2013 at 08:09 PM.

  17. #17
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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    And thank you for sharing Kathy... The Mombasa Lagoon" at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is now on my list of places to visit

  18. #18
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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    Feeding shots are the only way that I can capture the little buggers. This (these?) ruby throated hummingbirds have been easy to pattern. They visit the feeder every 5-10 minutes and hover, feed, hover, feed, etc. It is just a matter of prefocus and wait.

  19. #19

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    Re: How to shoot flying bird

    With the restricted view from the driver's seat one is limited to an 'after the event' shot but apart from 'feeding' this is the best I have got ... I suppose it is also a feeding shot
    "The Brave One" who took the bread out of my wife's hand while parked at the beach.
    How to shoot flying bird

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