Birds In Flight

This time last month I was in Chester down by the river Dee. We were actually there taking shots of friends of ours from York City Rowing Club involved in a “Head Race” against other clubs from around the country – I’ll be posting a selection of images from this event in the not too distant future.

However whilst I was standing on the river bank I couldn’t help but be distracted by the birds flying low over the river. Now, I have little experience of trying to capture birds in flight, but I thought it was the perfect opportunity to give it a go. I had my 70-200mm lens already mounted and set the camera to high-speed continuous shot, AI Servo mode, F4 and ISO 800 – this was giving me shutter speeds of around 1/4000 to 1/5000. With my EOS 7d able to capture 8 frames per second it wasn’t long before I had racked-up 100+ shots. However my keeper-rate wasn’t great. I reckon I had ten or so useable images, of which the two below were the best:

Banking Right

Hovering Over The Dee

The main difficulty I found was with my panning technique – the birds were just moving too quickly for me to keep up, also the little critters refused to fly in a straight line and were dodging and weaving all over the place. I think my keeper rate would have been improved by sacrificing a little shutter speed for a narrower aperture – I think something like F6.3 or even F7.1 would have given me a more useable depth of field and something a little more forgiving from a focussing perspective. I must remember that for next time.

Overall, although I enjoyed the challenge, I came away (and especially later after I had reviewed the shots) thinking that this type of photography is a little too hit and miss for my tastes. I’m sure, as with most things in life, that if I was to practice more often that I would achieve better results and almost certainly increase my hit rate of useable shots. However I still can’t help feeling that regardless of how experienced or skilful one becomes with this type of photography, that the results will always owe as much to luck as to judgement…..but then maybe I’m being a little unfair, what do you think?

For those who follow this blog regularly you will know that I’m involved in a photography competition run by the Digital Lightroom. The current round is “Movement & Motion” and birds in flight would make a great subject for this theme. It’s still not too late to enter as the closing date isn’t until Friday 19th April. So why don’t you check out the details of the competition on The Digital Lightroom and give it a go – there are prizes to be won!

© Mark Simms Photography (2013)

10 Responses to “Birds In Flight”

  1. John

    Really nice! You’re spot on, about the panning — especially with birds. It’s a tough technique even when something is moving in a straight line! These are really good shots — and the second shot, with the gulls, and the boats in the backgroud is just beautiful.

  2. caleephotography

    Great shots, Mark! I especially like the first one 🙂 If I could take pictures like these, I’d definitely enter the competition!

    • Mark Simms

      That’s very kind Camilla and much appreciated….as I say though, more luck than judgement with these 😉

  3. Mark Simms

    That’s very kind Camilla and much appreciated….as I say though, more luck than judgement with these 😉


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