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Thread: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

  1. #1
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    I've been trying really hard to get a head on shot of a goose in flight but I'm having challenges with focusing. If I zoom in and try to focus on just a single goose it is like I can't grab the focus or if I do manage to grab focus I end up clipping the goose, or the goose is too close and I can't grab focus.

    Is there a trick to the timing for head on shots? ie; click the shutter button ahead of time?

    I've also noticed that I have trouble getting all the birds in focus in multiple bird shots and sometimes focusing is also challenging, especially when they are landing over water. I typically use an aperture of F8 and a SS of 1600-2500... Should I try a smaller aperture?


    Does anyone have any words of wisdom to share on head on shots and multiple birds in flight?

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    Re: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    You have more experience at this than I do. Your bird photos in the galleries are outstanding.
    I'm interested in the feedback you receive.
    What lens are you using?
    My gut feeling is a slower shutter speed and and a smaller aperture would help. Also play with your ISO to get the aperture smaller.

    How many frames per second can your camera shoot continuously? Particularly with autofocus enabled?

    I would need a third hand to be able to focus manually and adjust zoom at the same time.

    Lets see what others have to contribute.

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    Re: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    Hi David,

    Those photos you are viewing are not my photos.. but one day, perhaps!

    I have a Nikon D7100 (Brand new) and a Nikon 300 mm lens... My camera is very fast and I like it. I use continuous auto focus... I think it is 6-10, shots in one burst but I'm not sure... More than needed.

    Please note I do not use manual focus for birds in flight... I would need 4 hands

    Thank you for your suggestions.. I will try that.

    Quote Originally Posted by skilsaw View Post
    You have more experience at this than I do. Your bird photos in the galleries are outstanding.
    I'm interested in the feedback you receive.
    What lens are you using?
    My gut feeling is a slower shutter speed and and a smaller aperture would help. Also play with your ISO to get the aperture smaller.

    How many frames per second can your camera shoot continuously? Particularly with autofocus enabled?

    I would need a third hand to be able to focus manually and adjust zoom at the same time.

    Lets see what others have to contribute.

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    Re: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    I found several problems in trying to focus for such head-on shots:
    - very little time
    - very small focussing target, so hard to keep the focus spot on the head
    - worst possible direction for grabbing focus (a target moving perpendicular to you stays at the same distance, more or less)
    Add to that that the actual spot is often not quite centred (and smaller) than the spot indicated in the viewfinder, and it really becomes a gamble.
    If the birds follow a predicable path, you could try pre-focussing on manual and wait untill one is kind enough to pass through your focus zone...

    For the multiple birds: several targets at different distances => DoF problems...
    If you can, smaller aperture would of course help here (F16-22, if shutter speed stays acceptable), perhaps at higher ISO (you don't mention what you use now)?

    No magic recipes, I'm afraid

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    Re: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    Quote Originally Posted by revi View Post
    I found several problems in trying to focus for such head-on shots:
    - very little time
    - very small focussing target, so hard to keep the focus spot on the head
    - worst possible direction for grabbing focus (a target moving perpendicular to you stays at the same distance, more or less)
    Add to that that the actual spot is often not quite centred (and smaller) than the spot indicated in the viewfinder, and it really becomes a gamble.
    If the birds follow a predicable path, you could try pre-focussing on manual and wait untill one is kind enough to pass through your focus zone...

    For the multiple birds: several targets at different distances => DoF problems...
    If you can, smaller aperture would of course help here (F16-22, if shutter speed stays acceptable), perhaps at higher ISO (you don't mention what you use now)?

    No magic recipes, I'm afraid
    Try to anticipate where they will be and use multiple shots. Are they flying in formation or mostly small groupings? Must be hard to position yourself directly in front?

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    Re: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    Most of this guys mechanical birds are heading at him so his technique may be helpful
    http://forums.airshows.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=52448
    During my trip to the UK I was taken by my host on a shoot .... here they had beaters to get the birds to fly towards the shooters.

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    Re: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    Thank you. Revi, I will try that. John they are mostly in small groupings and yes, I have to wait for them to fly in front of me.

    Photo Nut. Thanks for the link. I will check that out.

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    Re: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    For multiple birds f8 is not enough depth of field unless all the birds are in the same plane. If scattered I would use f16. Yup... fast shutter speed and f16 equals high ISO, so good bright light is necessary to limit noise. Head on shots are the most difficult for the cameras continuous focus to keep up with but I have found that Nikon has done a good job with the software, I am not familiar with Cannon. Also a goose with is neck extended is a big area from head to tail to cover with sharp focus. I use Nikon's auto focus mode AF-A which determines whether a subject is stationary or moving and chooses either single focus mode or continuous focus mode which ever is appropriate. I like to keep things simple and let the camera do the work.

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    Re: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    I am not a BIF photographer but, I do shoot other fast moving subjects and use a technique described by Jim Nieger, a professional bird photographer and bird photography instructor from Kissimmee, Florida. Look up his website, it is filled with good information but also copyrighted so I cannot reproduce the instructions in their entirety.

    http://www.flightschoolphotography.com/

    Here is a good pointer for any fast moving subject:

    "If you pre-focus at a similar distance the camera will focus quicker than if you are pre-focused at a very different distance than the subject."

    Of course, it is easier to shoot a single subject than shooting groups.

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    Re: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    Hi Joe,

    Thank you so much... I tried again this morning with A11 but couldn't manage a good shot and the noise was too high (early morning light) I can see when I am trying to photograph them head on that I can't grab focus.. I thought it was just me.

    For sure, I am going to try your suggestion of AF-A next time around! Sadly there are fewer and fewer geese (likely headed to Florida) so I may not manage to capture on this year but I will try and by next year my photography skills should be stronger.


    Quote Originally Posted by jprzybyla View Post
    For multiple birds f8 is not enough depth of field unless all the birds are in the same plane. If scattered I would use f16. Yup... fast shutter speed and f16 equals high ISO, so good bright light is necessary to limit noise. Head on shots are the most difficult for the cameras continuous focus to keep up with but I have found that Nikon has done a good job with the software, I am not familiar with Cannon. Also a goose with is neck extended is a big area from head to tail to cover with sharp focus. I use Nikon's auto focus mode AF-A which determines whether a subject is stationary or moving and chooses either single focus mode or continuous focus mode which ever is appropriate. I like to keep things simple and let the camera do the work.

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    Re: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    Thank you Richard. Truly appreciated. His photos are incredible (as are yours). I will check it out.

    The geese I'm trying to capture are flying over ocean waters.. Is it actually possible to pre-focus over water?

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    I am not a BIF photographer but, I do shoot other fast moving subjects and use a technique described by Jim Nieger, a profes

    sional bird photographer and bird photography instructor from Kissimmee, Florida. Look up his website, it is filled with good information but also copyrighted so I cannot reproduce the instructions in their entirety.

    http://www.flightschoolphotography.com/

    Here is a good pointer for any fast moving subject:

    "If you pre-focus at a similar distance the camera will focus quicker than if you are pre-focused at a very different distance than the subject."

    Of course, it is easier to shoot a single subject than shooting groups.

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    Re: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    I can tell from the difficulties that you're having that you've never done any skeet shooting as the panning of the target is quite similar...smooth following the subject is the key.

    Camera set-up is likewise important...with my Canon there are numerous Custom Functions regarding AF in various scenarios. I set mine to AF on a consistent subject once I lock onto that subject and I enable most of my AF points to be active. Can you do any/all of those things with your camera?

    This next thing might seem a little weird but a lot of guys use it successfully...because it is difficult to keep an active bird within your viewfinder, solution is don't use the viewfinder...use this attached to your camera and "sighted in" to your viewfinder... http://www.sportsmansguide.com/net/c....aspx?a=691313

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    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    Indeed I had to look up "Skeet Shooting" as I didn't know what it was. That said, I attended an fairground exhibition this summer, and I tried one of those fair games where you shoot a target and I managed a bulls eye on the very first shot, and it was the first time I ever tried firing a rifle. However, the targets were not moving.

    I've only had my new camera a Nikon 7100 for a couple of months and the only modes I have used are manual and aperture priority, simply because I've been trying to improve my birds in flight shots, so I have yet to learn everything about my camera. I use manual for BIF, hence the reason I haven't explored the other features.

    My camera does offer a ton of features so I expect it offers everything your camera does. I'm using single point center auto focus because I try and get the eye in sharp focus on all my birds. I have 51 point auto focus and, 21 point and 9 points...

    I can manage a head on shot with the eye in focus but not without clipping the bird (big birds like geese, gulls are just fine). When I have several geese in one shot, trying for head on in just the center bird it seems that the focus on the head is just not sharp enough. (the wings are just fine)

    Thank you for the link. It directs me to a home page full of stuff for sale, what should I be looking at?






    Quote Originally Posted by chauncey View Post
    I can tell from the difficulties that you're having that you've never done any skeet shooting as the panning of the target is quite similar...smooth following the subject is the key.

    Camera set-up is likewise important...with my Canon there are numerous Custom Functions regarding AF in various scenarios. I set mine to AF on a consistent subject once I lock onto that subject and I enable most of my AF points to be active. Can you do any/all of those things with your camera?

    This next thing might seem a little weird but a lot of guys use it successfully...because it is difficult to keep an active bird within your viewfinder, solution is don't use the viewfinder...use this attached to your camera and "sighted in" to your viewfinder... http://www.sportsmansguide.com/net/c....aspx?a=691313

  14. #14

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    Re: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    Sorry about that, I forgot where you're from...most "country boys" down here grew up with shooting sports. The specific tool I referenced is a "Browning® Buckmark Reflex Sight".

    trying for head on in just the center bird it seems that the focus on the head is just not sharp enough. (the wings are just fine)
    It's what I suggested in another post in that you're having back/front focusing issues...You can fix it using the method I described or send the body and lens to a service center and have them do it.

    Regardless...learn that camera and it's intricacies'...I googled these two>language problems in video... http://tallscamera.blogspot.com/2013...-revealed.html
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTTBp2ZyHWs

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    Re: Head on Shots and Photographing Multiple Birds in Flight

    Hi Chauncey,

    No worries. Thank you for sharing.

    Yes, I recall.. Could it possibly be the extender on my lens? If not I will take the lens to a service center.

    Will do... Thank you.

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