Issues shooting birds in lower light

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Ad12 Contributing Member • Posts: 604
Issues shooting birds in lower light


Yesterday evening I went to a spot I like for a spot of lakeside photography. I noticed that there were small birds around. The sun was behind the peak and the light fading quite quickly. It started warm and orange, then ended blue and colder.

I took my 800d which i've had for 2 years and my Tamron 100-400 firstly, in the only good light, and as usual, the Canon missed focus. I'm really frustrated with it, but i understand there is lots of technique involved.

Next i decided a test was in order - take my XT30 which i got as a small second body, adaptor, and the Tamron 400. I was very impressed - the XT30 tracked the birds really very well. They were small little things darting about like bullets, one was grey and black, one was I believe a yellow wagtail. Despite the size and low light, most of the XT30 shots were in focus! None of the in flight 800d shots were.....despite the 800d having better light.

Anyway - I had to take the shots at about 1/1000+ i felt due to the birds rapid speed. This required ISO 10,000!! The IQ of the output was therefore a bit poor. Also, i shot at about 260mm crop focal, as despite giving less pixels on the bird, it was the only way I could keep up with the things!

I'm wondering how can i improve the images and get the ISO down, or quality up? Some thoughts I had would be

  • Maybe I could practice panning so I can lower to shutter speed for the shots where the flight is consistent. The issue was, they were darting all over the place though.
  • Maybe i should zoom to 400mm and avoid heavy cropping, this = more pixels on the subject. I need practice, as without zooming out I couldnt keep them in the frame!
  • A 300-400mm F2.8 lens would have been very helpful, shame i dont want to sell my car to find one!
  • Lastly, and i've only just got my Fujifilm so would prefer to avoid this route, a bigger sensor would have helped. My 400mm Tamron on a FF body would have given the same effective focal range as what 250mm did on my crop body, but greater light gathering. 

Any thoughts? I have a feeling i'm fighting the laws of physics here! need more light!

 Ad12's gear list:Ad12's gear list
Canon EOS Rebel T7i Fujifilm X-T3 Fujifilm X-T30 Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS +3 more
Canon EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D / Kiss X9i
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