In Flight


     Taking pictures of a bird in flight can be challenging in several ways. The most obvious challenge is to follow the birds path long enough to get a picture with the bird in it. Hard enough in itself, but it must be done with the bird is against a pleasing background and without unwanted visual distraction. For instance; if it is sunny, the bird must not only be away from in front of the sun but also where parts of it are not shadowed so much as to have too much contrast. If the sun is not out, the background must have something oher than gray clouds or water or the picture is usually not good. That's the physical challenge. There is also the technical and artistic challenges.
    The technical challenge is to have the camera set properly for the conditions when the shutter is actuated. Modern cameras can automatically adjust for a wide range of conditions but, even so, a bird in flight usually goes beyond that range, requiring some manual adjusting by the photographer. An instance would be when exposure compensation is needed because of the bird passing into an area of brighter background. Other changes that may be needed 'on the fly' are speed, aperture and ISO. Usually the ISO setting is changed and the camera takes care if the other two.
    Now, while keeping track of all the above, there is the need to aquire a picture that has 'artistic content' or, to put it another way, is worth looking at. Subject position, background, depth of field, contrast and color all need to come together to produce an interesting photograph.
    Very seldom does a photographer get all of this 'just right', but sometimes we do come close enough.
Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern


     I've tried to capture Caspian Terns before without much success. The previous times I can remember, the sky was dull gray and even though it wasn't extremely dark, neither was it bright. The day this was taken was beautiful, a rare event this year.
    Like a lot of my posted photos, this is cropped. In the full frame the bird is about 25% the size shown here. Even at that, I had to work to get pictures with the bird entirely in the frame. They are faster than they look! So the physical challenge was met and the camera settings were good.
    Artistically, I'm also pleased. A little puffy white cloud slightly intruding into the picture would have been nice, but at least the sky is blue, the sun is slightly on the camera side of the bird and not behind it, and the white isn't blown out, the black isn't without detail and the overall color and contrast makes for a pleasing portrait in flight.
Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern


     Action! Something doing something. How very much more interesting it becomes when something like this happens. Watching and waiting for a bird to come into position when suddenly there are two, and you are ready; click, click and wow! wasn't that neat?!. But of course you are the only one who saw it, but with the photo you can relive it again and again as well as share it with others.
    And how important both of those are. When I go back through some of my pictures, it quite often causes me to pause and appreciate the experience and ponder the reasons such things are. And to share the photos, usually on the web, is a reward too. I know whenever I receive feedback that someone liked what I have done, it makes my day brighter.
Least Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper


     How I would like to tell just how I set this up and waited for it to happen. The truth is, I was taking pictures of this sandpiper as he moved around feeding when suddenly he flew right at me. Fortunately I continued to press the shutter and the auto-servo and auto-focus did their thing and voila! my genius is revealed. Or something like that. Or maybe not. I like the picture, though.
    Like a lot of pictures not planned for, this one could use a better background. The closeness and color of the rocks distract some from the bird. The camera settings were pretty much what they had to be, but the position would have been bettr with the camera more to the right. This would have put the bird against the blue water giving a nice contrast. Unless the sun is behind the camera as it is here however, that wouldn't work because of glare.
    The bird did his part well, though.
Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture


     I was on the beach, set up to take shorebird photos, when two Turkey Vultures came into view. I had a 2X doubler attached to my 500mm lens, not the best combo for flight shots, but I made the adjustments to the camera and took a couple shots. I really like this one. I missed a wingtip but that doesn't hurt anything and I didn't have to crop.
    So, in this one, three elements came together in a nice picture. The physical challenges of position and lighting were met. The two contrasting colors of the bird against the blue sky works well for the artistic side, and I managed to make a small compensation to the metering which saved the dark areas but did make the red head a little washed out. All in all, one I'm really glad to have.
Female Mallard

Female Mallard


     This was taken in my yard. It seems like taking pictures of birds flying into or out of the yard would be comparatively easy. It ain't! This was one of those rare times when the lens was right for the distance and the size of the bird. Also the bird was big enough and slow enough on takeoff for me to get it in the frame and focused before it went behind something, or turned leaving me with a shot of it's rear end. Add that the light (read sun) was in the right place and there was some.
     I have tried for many birds here at home, pigeons,doves and crows to name a few. This one of a sequence of three is the only truly satisfactory one I've gotten. Probably the biggest problem has been visual obstacles, things like trees, limbs and wires, that intervene. Second, but never far behind, is the light. Also, you never realize how fast a slow bird is or how quickly they change direction until you try to catch it in flight.
     This was a year ago and I have tried, without success, for the male several times since.
Bumblebee

Bumblebee


     This is something else! A slow? moving bumblbee. HA!
     If you try early when it's cool and they move a little slower, there's not enough light. Wait for bright sun, like I did here, and they move too fast. Use a long lens and the minimum focus distance is too long. A medium long lens is somewhat better but still too far away.
     So what that leaves is a macro lens. The one I have is a 100mm with a 2.8 maximum lens opening allowing for good speed. However, at 100mm I still can't get close enough for sizable subject in the frame, so I add a 2X doubler. Thinking I had more than enough light, I went up one stop on the lens giving me an aperature ofabout 4.5 and a speed of 1/800 second at an ISO of 640. As you can see, the wings are almost invisible, not the desired result. A little bit of wing blur is OK, even desirable, but they need to be there for the bee to look like it's flying and not just suspended in mid-air.
     I'm going to work on this some more as soon as the weather will permit. I only took about 500 shots with two cameras so maybe next time I can give it more effort.
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