Any tips on heavy lens/birds in flight?

Started 2 months ago | Discussions thread
N Deacon
N Deacon Contributing Member • Posts: 848
Re: Any tips on heavy lens/birds in flight?

Bill Ferris wrote:

Jean Lestrale wrote:

... and like shooting skeet, you have to lead the target so you can stop and fire just as it's in position.

Respectfully, that's poor technique for bird in-flight photography. Better technique is to frame the bird a few seconds before it will be close enough for a photo. Pan and follow with the bird positioned within the frame with a cluster of focus points over the bird's head, press and hold the autofocus activation button to allow the camera to acquire and track focus, and start shooting when the bird is filling a reasonable amount of the frame.

Leading the bird with it out of frame or not covered by any autofocus points and then stopping panning to take a photo will result in missed composition and focus almost every time.

I shoot birds in flight or running around handheld with a 500mm F/4 a LOT. I would just like to endorse what Bill has said in this and his previous post. Firstly, forget all the gadgets - if they worked, all bird shooters would be using them but in reality none of us are. That says everything, really? Your best chances of getting a flying bird in the frame are to use your eyes or binoculars, spot an approaching or crossing bird while it is still some way off and then acquire and track it while it is still relatively small in the viewfinder. Keep tracking, start firing early, and concentrate on keeping the lens moving as you fire. Most misses will be above, below or behind, but if you keep tracking and shooting you have a good chance of a few useable results.

The most important thing is to practice - a lot. Relatively slow, common birds such as gulls or geese that you may be able to find in a park or similar setting are good target practice, and even after decades of shooting I still get rusty at times and send some time acquiring and tracking (not necessarily shooting) easy targets. The more I practice, the better results I get and the lighter the camera + lens feel. I find it useful to shoot with both eyes open, especially for faster moving targets. With practice, opportunity and a little luck you will improve. Eventually, even very fast flying small birds are not entirely out of the question - provided that you can acquire and track them early (although I must admit that by the end of this common swift shooting session my arms were screaming at me) and you are prepared to delete a lot of near misses

Common swift, very small, very fast and very erratic flight. Shot handheld with 500mm F/4 + 1.4x teleconverter and a crop frame camera - in combination, a 1050mm equivalent field of view.

 N Deacon's gear list:N Deacon's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon D7200 Nikon D500 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR +7 more
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