Thursday, July 26, 2007
This one is for the birds!
I have attempted on many occasions to catch birds-in-flight. Notice the word "attempted" as the rate of successful images is not that great. If you have the appropriate gear and combine with the good techniques you should be able to get some quality images.
I don't want to understate the difficulty of capturing birds in flight, even the fastest digital SLR in the world may have some difficulty capturing birds in flight. For best results you would probably want to try using a Canon EOS 1DS Mark III paired with a Canon 500mm IS lens. Okay, some of you might not have the budget for a $4500 camera body and a $5500 lens. Luckily there are some more affordable options that provide some decent results. For this particular photo shoot I was using my Canon EOS 20D ($1500) and using my Canon 100-400mm f5.6 Image Stabilized lens ($1500).
Summary of challenges:
Lighting – you must have enough light to obtain the fast shutter speed to stop the action. If the light is too bright, you subject might be overexposed. Try for mid-morning light.
Camera – Fast lens, Image Stabilization, Camera with a large buffer and burst mode
Lens – Large zoom or fixed lens 400-600mm, fairly fast glass (f4-f5.6) and image stabilization. These lenses are quite expensive.
Shutter Speed – Must have a fairly high shutter speed depending on the wing flaps of the bird you are photographing, smaller birds flap their wings fast and generally larger birds flap their wings less or glide. I think most stop action of bird wings will require a minimum shutter speed of 1/1000.
Continuous Shooting (burst mode) – the ability to shoot 3-10 frames per second Focus – ability to focus quickly and track the bird in your viewfinder. This is sort of like looking through a telescope while tracking a jet airplane.
See images of birds in flight (Trumpeter Swans - Monticello, MN)