Photographing birds in flight

Discussion in 'Digital Cameras' started by jmc, Apr 1, 2007.

  1. jmc

    jmc Guest

    I've finally purchased a longer lens for my XTi - the Canon 70-300mm DO
    IS ISM. Nice lens, the shorter physical length is a lot more stable in
    my small hands. I have been getting some very good pictures with this
    lens, so I'm quite happy with it, despite the high cost.

    I've been practicing taking pictures of birds in flight - raptors, for
    the most part.

    Not surprisingly, all of the ones taken with the sky as background, came
    out with very dark birds. Also, for non-soaring birds, I'm finding it
    very hard to follow them, and get decent pictures.

    Is there a tutorial on the 'net somewheres that'll help me learn how to
    take better bird action photos? How much do I compensate when the bird
    is silhouetted against the sky?

    Pictures where the bird's not silhouetted against the sky come out better:

    http://www.photosig.com/go/photos/view?id=1959314

    Thanks for any advice or information!

    jmc
     
    jmc, Apr 1, 2007
    #1
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  2. Set the camera to manual and expose for the shadows, always assuming your
    new lens has a big enough aperture to allow a fast shutter speed plus a
    large aperture. You can take a spot reading on virtually anything with the
    same or similar reflected light as the bird's feathers, even your hand.

    This will stop the sky from affecting your exposures.
     
    Dennis Pogson, Apr 1, 2007
    #2
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  3. jmc

    Ron Recer Guest

    I take a lot of photos of birds in flight using my 10D and Canon 100-400
    f4.5-5.6L IS USM lens. I turn off the IS and set the camera for ISO 400, Av
    usually at f8 but less if the light isn't sufficient for a shutter speed of
    1/2000 of a second or faster (1/2500 is better), focus set for center point
    and AI Servo, drive mode set for continuous, metering at partial (although I
    often forget and leave it set on evaluative). I turn review off. Make sure
    the sun is at your back if possible. I always shoot in the RAW mode and can
    adjust dark images when using BreezeBrowser to convert the RAW image to a
    TIFF file. I take a lot continuous frames (up to 9 at about 3 fps with my
    10D) as long as I can keep the bird in the frame.

    Then you take lots and lots of photos. If there are obstacles around you
    will find that you often take the photo as the bird goes behind the post or
    whatever. You will also get a lot of photos with only part of the bird in
    the frame or perhaps the whole bird but it is in one corner of the frame.
    At times the background will be in focus instead of the bird, because you
    didn't keep the center focus point on the bird. Keep taking more and more
    photos. The more you take the better you will get in following the flying
    bird. The smaller the bird, generally the harder it will be to photograph
    it in flight. Practice, practice, practice!

    Ron
     
    Ron Recer, Apr 1, 2007
    #3
  4. jmc

    jmc Guest

    Suddenly, without warning, Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark)
    exclaimed (03-Apr-07 1:42 PM):
    I should snip this, but everything is such great advice, and Roger, your
    pictures are just absolutely awesome!

    I think your style for the most part might work better for me, 'cept the
    shifting autofocus bit. I'm still learning my camera, and definitely
    can't manage that without looking. So I've been using the center
    autofocus. Good point about the eyes, but for now that's a bit beyond
    my skill with moving animals, I'm happy if I can just keep the birdie in
    the frame.

    Thanks to both of you - I have a couple of methods I can experiment with
    now, to see which works best for me.

    Guess I'm going to need bigger CF cards if I'm going to use continuous
    shooting. Filled up my 2GB pretty fast trying to photograph raptors...

    Roger, thanks again for the examples - it's so much better to actually
    *see* what you are talking about, and how your techniques relate
    directly to photographic results.

    ::sigh:: I gotta lot to learn...

    jmc
     
    jmc, Apr 3, 2007
    #4
  5. jmc

    ASAAR Guest

    I guess that your camera's autofocus sensors are all equivalent,
    so eventually you'll want to become proficient shifting between
    them. My D50 on the other hand has its most accurate and sensitive
    AF sensor in the center of the frame, so photographers should at
    least be aware of their camera's capabilities and limitations to be
    able to know how to use them most effectively. It's going to take
    me some time getting up to speed in this area, I think.
     
    ASAAR, Apr 3, 2007
    #5
  6. jmc

    Jim Guest

    A much longer lens.. a 300mm lens is hardly enough to get a decent shot
    of a bird in flight unless you are extradonarily lucky. Good God, a
    200 mm is hardly enough to get a decent pic of a bird at my bird
    feeder, a mere 15 feet away. However, if you try and we must all, use
    spot metering, aperature priority or manual and take lots of photos, at
    leasy with digital, thats cheap.
     
    Jim, Apr 4, 2007
    #6
  7. I've been practicing taking pictures of birds in flight - raptors, for
    A few tricks:

    1. Set the exposure manually. You can use the "sunny 16" rule (e.g.,
    f/16, 400ASA, 1/400; or, better, f/8, 200ASA, 1/800), or just
    meter something that's about as light as the bird. Then take a
    few shots and check the histogram to make sure you've got the
    exposure right.

    2a. If the birds are far away, set the FOCUS manually, too. Use
    infinity minus a bit, and you'll get perfect focus with absolutely
    no hunting.

    2b. I know the 30D can follow soaring birds and keep focus. (Take a
    look at:

    http://www.posted-online.com/ArizonaBirds/

    In particular, take a look at the owl series that begins on:

    http://www.posted-online.com/ArizonaBirds/Page1.html

    and the hawk series that begins on:

    http://www.posted-online.com/ArizonaBirds/Page2.html

    ) I assume the Xti can keep up, too. Make sure you're only using
    the middle focus sensor, and keep the bird in the middle of the
    frame.


    3. Some people turn off IS, but I don't think that's a good idea. I
    also don't think exposure bracketing is a good idea. You've got
    at least a 66% chance of mis-exposing the shot you want.

    4. Shotting RAW will help if you get the exposure wrong, but with (1)
    that really should never happen.

    Good luck.

    -Joel
     
    Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, Apr 4, 2007
    #7
  8. Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, Apr 4, 2007
    #8
  9. A much longer lens.. a 300mm lens is hardly enough to get a decent shot
    Yes and no. I took these shots with a 28-125 (equiv):

    http://www.posted-online.com/ArizonaBirds/

    including one of my favorites:

    http://posted-online.com/ArizonaBirds/pix/IMG_0359.jpg

    I like the context, and I couldn't have done that with a longer lens.

    -Joel
     
    Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, Apr 4, 2007
    #9
  10. 2b. I know the 30D can follow soaring birds and keep focus. (Take a
    Sorry to follow up on my own post. In response to people who have
    asked, I've posted some close-ups on:

    http://www.posted-online.com/ArizonaBirds/Page1.html
    and
    http://www.posted-online.com/ArizonaBirds/Page2.html

    and moved the other pages, so the owl- and hawk-series pages are now:

    http://www.posted-online.com/ArizonaBirds/Page3.html
    and
    http://www.posted-online.com/ArizonaBirds/Page4.html

    BTW, for a good reason NOT to use JPEG, take a look at the bottom
    picture on

    http://www.posted-online.com/ArizonaBirds/Page1.html

    ( http://posted-online.com/ArizonaBirds/pix/14.jpg - 100K ). Notice
    the blue hues around the green leaves. There was no blue in the
    original picture. Sigh.

    -Joel
     
    Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, Apr 5, 2007
    #10
  11. Beautiful gallery! According to the EXIF data, these are scans. Yes?
    There's lots of EXIF data, with fields such as "Progressive Scans,"
    "Device Attributes," etc. I don't know much about the EXIF fields; I
    thought those looked like scanner attributes.

    BTW, as a reminder:

    http://exif.posted-online.com

    will display a web page and add EXIF-data boxes for all the images.

    -Joel
     
    Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, Apr 6, 2007
    #11
  12. You remove the EXIF purposely to reduce the size, or reducing the size
    I just went through this dilemma. When I created a web page for my
    birds from Arizona, I decided to keep the EXIF data in the
    thumbnails. This increased the size of each thumbnaim from about 7K
    to about 22K. That's a really big difference, especially for people
    using dial-up connections.

    -Joel
     
    Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, Apr 6, 2007
    #12
  13. I've seen something similar , even in raw files from a D70 processed by
    RSE. Probably a bit of bloomimg/CA?
     
    Ed Ruf (REPLY to E-MAIL IN SIG!), Apr 7, 2007
    #13
  14. jmc

    ASAAR Guest

    I don't think it's a jpeg produced artifact. You often get color
    fringing when objects have an intensely bright background, such as
    the sky, and better lenses produce less of it. The blue in this
    shot is probably so easily noticed because it covers a greater area
    due to being considerably out of focus. I've noticed CA having
    several different colors, sometimes blue, sometimes purple, yellow
    or orange. The glossary entry (link below) mentions that CA often
    increases when a lens is used at its widest, and that the commonly
    noticed "purple fringing" is probably more due to the sensor's
    microlenses than a result of the lens's design.


    http://www.dpreview.com/learn/?/Glossary/Optical/chromatic_aberration_01.htm
     
    ASAAR, Apr 7, 2007
    #14
  15. : On Sat, 07 Apr 2007 18:23:11 GMT, in rec.photo.digital Paul Furman
    :
    : >Dr. Joel M. Hoffman wrote:
    : >>
    : >> ( http://posted-online.com/ArizonaBirds/pix/14.jpg - 100K ). Notice
    : >> the blue hues around the green leaves. There was no blue in the
    : >> original picture. Sigh.
    : >
    : >Nice shots but I don't know why a jpeg would produce those blues... that
    : >doesn't sound right?
    :
    : I've seen something similar , even in raw files from a D70 processed by
    : RSE. Probably a bit of bloomimg/CA?
    : --
    : Ed Ruf ()
    : http://edwardgruf.com/Digital_Photography/General/index.html

    I can get that effect with 5D if I use a cheap, long lens wide open and the
    foliage is backlit.I always thought it was Chromatic Aberration. Just out of
    focus like the rest of the area.
     
    \(The real\) Douglas, Apr 7, 2007
    #15
  16. : >> ( http://posted-online.com/ArizonaBirds/pix/14.jpg - 100K ). Notice
    Hmm. It's with the Canon 17-85 IS USM (f/8, 1/640, ISO 500), not a
    great lens, but not a cheap one, either.

    A long time ago someone posted a digital way of eliminating or
    reducing CA, but I've lost the link. My guess is that whatever
    digital magic does this won't work with out-of-focus CA, but I'd be
    curious to find out. If someone has access to this anti-CA filter,
    feel free to play around with the image and post what you learn....

    -Joel
     
    Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, Apr 8, 2007
    #16
  17. jmc

    Minjerribah Guest

    :>: >> ( http://posted-online.com/ArizonaBirds/pix/14.jpg - 100K ). Notice
    : >: >> the blue hues around the green leaves. There was no blue in the
    : >: >> original picture. Sigh.
    : >
    : >I can get that effect with 5D if I use a cheap, long lens wide open and
    the
    : >foliage is backlit.I always thought it was Chromatic Aberration. Just out
    of
    : >focus like the rest of the area.
    :
    : Hmm. It's with the Canon 17-85 IS USM (f/8, 1/640, ISO 500), not a
    : great lens, but not a cheap one, either.
    :
    : A long time ago someone posted a digital way of eliminating or
    : reducing CA, but I've lost the link. My guess is that whatever
    : digital magic does this won't work with out-of-focus CA, but I'd be
    : curious to find out. If someone has access to this anti-CA filter,
    : feel free to play around with the image and post what you learn....
    :
    : -Joel
    :
    : ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    : EXIF data for any image or web page: http://exif.posted-online.com
    : ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    :
    Look for "Flo's tools" This Frenchman has produced a really nice set of very
    useful tools which are camera make independent, they just need a PS
    compatible program to use as a host.
     
    Minjerribah, Apr 8, 2007
    #17
  18. Yes, I don't keep it in thumbnails. But for the actual image, say 700
    pixels on the long side and probably 50k-100k in size, I leave EXIF and
    IPTC data in. I want the location and date and any people identified to
    stay with the photos if they're saved and passed around. Of course
    that's dependent on the type of photography I do; for many other
    subjects it doesn't seem that useful (beyond the date and geographic
    location anyway).
     
    David Dyer-Bennet, Apr 11, 2007
    #18
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