Seeking ways of tracking birds in flight with 500mm lens

Started May 23, 2013 | Discussions thread
MightyMike Forum Pro • Posts: 38,002
Re: Seeking ways of tracking birds in flight with 500mm lens

Barry Pearson wrote:

Yesterday I found myself way outside my capability. I took delivery of a Sigma 500mm f/4.5 lens on Monday, and yesterday I tried it in the field for the first time at a (UK) bird reserve on my K-5IIs

My "birds in flight" shots are mostly just empty sky! I found it mind-bogglingly hard to switch from seeing birds in flight with my "bare" eyes to getting an eye to the viewfinder and tracking them there. Typically they were out of scope before I had even found them via the viewfinder.

I have little experience of birding, and this is the longest lens I have ever used, so perhaps it is a case of "keep practicing for enough years"! But I wonder if there are any shortcuts? How do other people do this? (Or is this the wrong lens for birds in flight?)

1. Perhaps I can avoid using the viewfinder? I live in England and I've never handled a gun, but perhaps front and rear gun-sights could be used? (Rear sights attached to the flash-shoe, front to the lens-hood).

This is a good idea when using a live view camera, not really necessary with an OVF camera

2. I tried using my O-VF1 optical viewfinder for the Pentax Q on my K-5IIs, but it makes the scene smaller and less clear, and that appears to be the wrong way round. (I suspect it has other possibilities that I haven't thought of yet!)

See above

3. Perhaps I could use a 2-eyed method. Have a frame as a non-optical eye-piece for my left eye to the left of the viewfinder (which I use with my right eye). Then have a frame at the "10 minutes to the hour" position on the lens hood to identify the subject size that will appear on the sensor. (I have hopes for this, but it needs a bit of work before I can try it).

you're over thinking this!!!

4. I found a website for Ikodot, but I think it is addressing a different problem, for example street photography with a Leica. (And I don't know if they are still around).

still over thinking it

I'm mostly OK with motor sports and airplanes in flight at airshows, where I use a 60-250mm zoom or at most a 300mm. But those are much more predictable than birds in flight! Here I'm a beginner.

Please help!

(Yesterday wasn't a complete disaster. I'll reply with a photo that I like).

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.


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.

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Mike from Canada
"I am not a great photographer! God is a great creator! All I do is capture His creation with the tools He has provided me."
'I like to think so far outside the box that it would require a telephoto lens just to see the box!' ~ 'My Quote :)'

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