Seeking ways of tracking birds in flight with 500mm lens

Started May 23, 2013 | Discussions thread
Ian Stuart Forsyth
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Re: Seeking ways of tracking birds in flight with 500mm lens
In reply to Barry Pearson, May 29, 2013

Barry Pearson wrote:

MightyMike wrote:

Stop over thinking it, practice makes perfect, don't expect great results at very close range, even the camera can't keep up at such close range. pace yourself, pick a target in the distance, start with that and slowly work your way to more difficult subjects. if you can track planes at an airshow at 300mm then birds flying at 500mm will come to you with a little practice. again stop over thinking it, get out and shoot, you'll figure out the right technique as you go. also don't stop tracking when you fire the shot(s) you've got to track and shoot simultaneously.

It is not as simple as that. My 300mm weighs one kilogram, and is near my personal limit for reliable hand-holding, certainly for any extended period. (I'm 66 - this is not about to change for the better!) The Sigma is three kilograms and beyond my comfort zone, so it is unsteady in my hands. Obviously the field of view is smaller. Birds are smaller, and move unpredictably - I know in advance where the airplane is coming from and mostly where it is going.

I will be able to improve a bit, but I doubt to the extent that I can reliably track a bird in flight as it stands. Hence this thread - in 45 years of using Pentax SLRs, this is the first time I have felt out of my depth and in need of outside expert help just to handle a camera + lens.

EDIT:

Oh brother are you using a gimbal head... good luck with that... tracking is so dang freaken easier when hand holding! the only thing a tripod will do for you is keep the weight off your arms at the serious expense of flexibility... its really only good for still subjects or slow linear moving subjects, IMO a waste of money.

I'm having success with motor sports. The following is just one of many I took at Oulton Park on 18 May with K-5IIs and 300mm f/4 on a gimbal. Linear - yes. Slow moving - no!

Uncropped and unPhotoshopped.

More in a recent gallery.

And this panned downward with my 60-250mm f/4 and K-5IIs on a gimbal:

Cropped but unPhotoshopped.

More in second half of another gallery.

I would recommend you practise with the 300 F4 as it will help aid in learning to track birds. At this time 99% of my BIF photos are taken with ether my  300 F2.8 pentax K5 or 200-400 F4 and Nikon D800

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