Capturing Birds in Flight

Camera Body Features

The camera body equipment out today has made action photography much easier than it was when manual focus was the rule rather than the exception. The first handy feature to set is the continuous focus mode called AI Servo on Canon and Continuous Servo on Nikon. This setting allows the lens to keep changing the focus as long as the shutter button is depressed halfway and the subject is in the set auto focus point.

Second, Canon has a custom function that expands the auto focus point activation area to either 7 or 13 points. This is a great function, as it allows for the subject movement to remain in focus even if you don’t keep up with the movement of the bird in your primary AF point.

Drive mode is the third camera function to set. Here, the best setting is “high-speed continuous” where you get the most frames per second that your camera body will allow. While you’ll burn quite a few shots with this setting, it will allow more shots to choose from for the wing position and lighting you like best.

Lens Selection

Lens selection is a very subjective topic with plenty of correct answers. Being a Canon shooter, I’ll refer to Canon lenses, but many other brands have some comparable lenses. If you want to do flight photography handholding your camera and lens, the best choices are the 400 f/5.6 and the 100-400 IS. These are, by far, the best lenses on the market for flight photography. (Canon shooters have the advantage here, as the comparable Nikon lens, the 80-400 VR, is very slow to focus. People in my workshops have wanted to throw their Nikon lenses as far as they could when they couldn’t force them to focus fast enough.)

When handholding, try to keep your hand as far out on the barrel of the lens as possible to provide better balance while you’re panning and moving around with the subject. Also, tuck your elbows into your body as far as you can and keep your legs about shoulder-width apart. This position helps you turn your body into a tripod.

Your skill level also plays a part in proper lens selection. When you’re starting out in bird photography, it’s best to use the above lenses as opposed to “big guns” such as the 400 f/2.8, 500 and 600mm lenses. The reason is that shorter focal length lenses will provide easier tracking of the birds in the viewfinder. With the larger lenses, you have a very limited viewing range when the birds are close. You have to get them in view when they’re farther away and stay with them until they move close enough for you to take your shot. After time and practice, you’ll find it easier to focus on them when they’re close, but even then you’ll miss some shots. Longer focal lengths also allow you to work at greater distances with less change in subject position. Birds going across the frame are easier to track, particularly with a long focal length, than those coming directly into the camera, since they stay at roughly the same distance.

If you plan to shoot from a tripod instead of wanting to hand hold the camera/lens combination, a big lens will definitely do the trick. If you’re setting up a big lens on a tripod, by far the best option for a tripod head is the Wimberley head. The gimbal action is designed for action photography and makes panning with the birds easier than you could imagine if you’ve never used one of these heads. You can use a sturdy ball head, but you have to be careful with how loose you keep it. I primarily use my 400 f/2.8, sometimes with an extender, with the Wimberley head and then keep a second body close at hand with a 70-200 f/2.8 lens and either a 1.4 or 2X extender attached.

The faster the f-stop of the lens, the better, as quick shutter speeds are imperative in getting sharp flight shots. It’s best to be able to stick with a f/2.8 lens but this isn’t always an option, depending on how much money you can spend. F/4 and f/5.6 are about as slow as you want for getting quick action shots, whether the subject is birds-in-flight or any other fast-moving subject.

Advancing lens technology has made flight photography much easier, but not foolproof. Auto focus is the major development that has helped to capture action. Be aware that owning an AF lens is not a guarantee of sharp results. There is no substitute for good technique. However, auto focus does yield a higher percentage of acceptable images when you’re shooting birds in flight, especially if you have a camera body that can shoot upwards of eight frames a second or more.

ISO

Because digital cameras keep improving the quality of images you get at higher ISO settings, it’s now alright to push the setting to 200 or even 400 to get good flight shots, depending on the available light. The caution to keep in mind is that a shutter speed of at least 1/500 is needed–preferably even 1/1000 or more, if possible. Doing a little bit of testing with shutter speed and f-stop will help you determine what the ISO needs to be for you to obtain the desired shutter speed.

Lighting

As with any other subject, lighting is critical with flight photography. The best light condition for flight photography is front lighting, with the sun at your back and the birds coming towards you or across in front. The best light is still those two golden times of day when the sun is low on the horizon, but because the subject is high in the sky, you can extend your shooting time as the higher sun can still bounce nice light off the bird.

Composition

A key detail to keep in mind when you’re composing flight shots is which auto focus point is set. You need to become adept at changing the auto focus point on the fly for you to get good flight shots. As multiple birds are flying around your location, you have to be aware of which point you’ve selected for the best composition.

The best compositions have space in front of the bird in the direction the bird is flying. Having its beak/ bill crowded against the leading edge of the shot makes for a potential throwaway image, even if everything else is right with the shot. Your subject needs room to breathe, and continually changing the AF point for better composition will provide the space you need to maintain in front of the bird.

Starting out, keep the AF point on the center point and try to get the bird’s eye focused there. This will ensure there is room in front of the bird for it to fly into the frame. While the eye will be in the middle of the frame, the majority of the bird will be behind it, so you’ll be keeping the full bird from being centered in the frame.

Technique

The farther away you can get the subject into your viewfinder, the better. If you try to focus only on a bird that’s close to your position, you’ll never get a good flight shot. As you see a bird coming in your direction, get it in the viewfinder, and track with it as it moves closer. Once it’s in the position you like (the preferred frame size and in good light), you can fire away.

When you’re panning a bird in flight, continue the panning motion even after you’ve taken the final shot. Following through will keep that last shot in focus better than if you abruptly stopped the movement. It’s the same idea as a golfer doing a follow-through on her shot or a baseball player continuing with his swing. A good way to do this is to continue shooting after the bird has passed you by. The last couple shots will be throwaways, but you’ll have included the shot you really want.

The eyes have it. As with any wildlife photo, you need to have the eye in sharp focus. If the eye is out-of-focus, then the shot is not of a technical quality suitable for publication. If possible, try to set your AF point on the eye. If you can’t do this, at least get the focus on the neck, as the neck of a bird is on the same plane as the eye.

Location

The biggest factor to keep in mind when you’re shooting flight photography is the relationship of the wind and the sun. Birds will always (well, almost always) take off and land into whatever wind or breeze there is. Getting the wind under their wings help them with lift and drag. Putting yourself in the right position to get the best flight shots means having both the wind and the sun at your back, allowing the birds to come towards you.

As you see, there are plenty of factors to keep in mind when you’re taking flight shots of birds. You have to think about how much you want the bird to fill the frame, what the background is like, and the direction of the subject in relation to the sun. Since these variables change from picture to picture, you begin to understand that creating great flight shots requires more than just getting the subject sharp. You’ll need to give yourself time and practice. In the meantime, you always have the delete button on both the camera and the computer.

My 600 f/4 sitting on a Wimberley head with my camera set to high-speed continuous and the sun and wind at my back will keep me happy for a good long time. I try to get caught up with what’s in front of me, fly with it, and become part of the action. The next stop for me will be in front of my computer, looking at lots of shots of birds in flight and, hopefully, lots of keepers.

Avoiding Digital Camera Shakes

Digital camera shakes are common with new users. This is primarily because, new users have not fully understood that the shutter-release button must not be pressed twice, but pressed two steps down. The first step locks the focus and exposure while the second step takes the photo. This pressing of the button has to be smooth, otherwise the digital camera shakes and a blurred picture is the result.

The shutter speed also plays an important role in blurring the picture. The shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter remains open to allow light to reach the digital camera sensor. It is measured in seconds or fractions of a second. An image is exposed by the combination of the lens aperture and the shutter speed. A slow shutter speed needs a small aperture (large F-stop number) to avoid over exposure. With a slow shutter speed below 1/60th of a second, over exposure is adequately controlled, but the digital camera is likely to vibrate more, giving a shaky picture.

A tripod is extremely useful to eliminate digital camera shakes. It is generally used by sports photographers who use long telephoto lens, as it helps in close-ups, landscape and panning shots, for timed exposures, for shooting at slow shutter speeds, and for taking photographs in low or dim light conditions. Shooting a fast moving subject, like athletes, or wildlife, tests the photographer`s skill and the equipment. In such cases, camera shakes are most likely to happen, and thus a monopod or a tripod is always used. Digital cameras mounted on tripods always tend to eliminate camera shakes and give sharp results.

A great feature in most high-end digital cameras available nowadays is image stabilization (IS). IS is an anti-shake and vibration reduction technology and is common in digital cameras with long telephoto zooms of 10X and 12X. With IS, sharp images can be obtained even if the camera shakes a little, a slow shutter speed is used, shooting is done in low light conditions, or a tripod is not used. IS was originally developed for video cameras. It is now available in interchangeable lens, consumer and professional digital cameras, which use optical image stabilization. Sports and wildlife photographers use a tripod and IS technology together to get the maximum sharpness of their photographs; however, many other photographers turn the IS feature off while using a tripod.

Digital camera shakes can be eliminated or minimized by the utilization of the above techniques. However, the fundamentals of taking a good shot prove to be most effective in avoiding camera shakes, in the absence of tripods, or IS technology.

The basics of good photography should be followed. You should hold the digital camera with both your hands. You should keep the legs apart with the knees slightly bent forward. Your elbows should be braced with your body and your body braced with some support, if possible. You should generally frame and compose the picture with the viewfinder and not the LCD screen. You should not jab but lightly press the shutter release button two steps down, and during that time, it would be beneficial to hold your breath to prevent any movement of the chest and hands. With this basic technique of good photography, you can be sure that your digital camera will not shake and no picture will be blurred.

Handy Tricks to Master Google Photos

Turn off cellular data

This is essential for smartphone users that don’t have unlimited data. Many users use Google Photos to not only back up existing photos on their cameras but also automatically back up images that were taken on their smartphones. For this reason, it is crucial to turn off back up over mobile data and also allow the Google Photos app to only back up when you are charging your phone to protect your battery life.

Upload old photos

For you to save more storage it is important to upload your old photos to the Google Photos Library. This is a simple process that only involves dragging and dropping the photos from your external storage. In the library, the photos will appear based on the date they were taken hence, making it easier for you to locate them when you need to. Your connectivity will determine how long the uploading process will take.

Free up more space on your phone

For a user without an SD card or a phone with unlimited storage, it is important to regularly free up space on your device. Google Photos does this really well by just tapping at free up device storage in the settings menu. This is a safe process because although the backed up photos will be deleted you can always access them when you are connected to the internet.

Label your photos

Labeling the people in your photos comes in handy in the future. This is because you can easily identify them by searching by their name in Google Photos. This makes it easier to find every picture of the person you are looking for. It also saves time especially when you are in a hurry.

Get free unlimited storage

Google Photos offers unlimited storage with a minor caveat. It only offers a maximum of 16MP resolution. This can be tricky while saving videos and photos at their original quality because they will eat up into all the space that there is. To solve this it is crucial saving your photos and videos at high-quality resolution. This majorly helps you free up some space.

Edit and save your photos

Google Photos has an option to edit your photos to the desired look you’re after. This feature allows you to add a background color, crop among others. You can easily remove what you don’t want on your videos or images. It is, however, important to save the images once you edit them.

Remove geolocation

Images and videos were taken by your phone nowadays have a lot of location details on them. This is good for your storage because you would want to remember all about the details. However, Google Photos uses such information to actively map out where your pictures were taken. This is not good because you do not want people viewing or receiving these photos knowing exactly where they were taken, especially when you share via emails. For this reason, it is best to remove geolocation.

Eye of the Digital Camcorder

Nevertheless, learning about how various devices operate, including the digital camcorder can be beneficial. This will permit us to better understand required repairs, and can even improve our own operation of the device.

While several various components result in a digital camcorder’s operation, the lens remains one of the most significant ones. Just think of the lens of the digital camcorder as its eye and without this “eye,” the machine could not record any images.

To begin with, adjusting the camcorder’s lens will allow it to record a crisp picture. Focusing the lens requires moving it so it correctly shoots the light beams originating from the object being shot, onto the change-coupled device. The device is an instrument used to sense images. This role resembles the ability of some film cameras to shift the lens forward and backward, in order to focus the light.

Another element found in the digital camcorder that resembles some film cameras it the auto focus feature. Typically, it consists of an infrared light beam, which the human eye cannot see. How well does it work? Usually the beam reflects off the item in the middle of the frame and then returns to a sensor located on the digital camcorder.

The auto focus component typically functions adequately. Although in special situations, you may want to switch to manual focusing. This includes the instances when your target is to focus on an item located in the frame’s side, rather than in its center.

Ridiculously like a film camera in yet another way, a digital camcorder also contains a zoom lens. An optical zoom consists of one lens piece that lets you to switch from a specific magnification, to a greater one. The vast majority of camcorders include a motor that is attached to the device. This motor allows one to switch control on the handle, to change the zoom. Accordingly, zooming becomes simpler to conduct, and smoother.

A digital camcorder can also contain a digital zoom. Instead of involving the lens of the camera, this device zooms in on a portion of the total image that the change-coupled device trapped, enlarging the pixels. A pixel is the smallest region on an electronic screen, which can include a particular color.

Shadows

In our obsession, we buy studio lights so we can get more of it, at the right color and direction. We use multiple lights to eliminate unwanted shadows! And to add highlights. We buy reflectors to fill in the shadows and we bounce our – on camera – flash off the ceiling to avoid shadows on the walls.

A quick search in any library or bookstore will show dozens (if not hundreds) of books and magazines devoted to controlling light.

So far…I’ve never run across a book devoted to capturing shadows!

But, isn’t it the shadows that define mood?

Picture in your mind, a photograph of a smokey New Orleans, jazz club. Was your mental photo in color or black and white? Probably black and white, but even if it was in color, was the room well lit – OR STEEPED IN SHADOW?

When your subject is a little – shall we say, hefty – how do you tell them to dress for their portraits? In white? Or in black?

In case you’re new to photography, and know absolutely nothing about fashion, I’ll tell you – it’s black. Why? Because shadows define shape! If they are wearing white, all the shadows cast by their excess weight are clearly visible. Wearing black, the shadows aren’t that visible and thereby a person look thinner.

When you study the various lighting patterns, you’ll see they are almost all defined by the shadows – not the light! Rembrandt, broad light, narrow light, split light, butterfly and so on…it’s the way the shadows appear that determine the pattern. Without shadows, all lighting patterns would be the same!

Wrinkles are defined by the shadows. That’s why lights are always positioned directly in front of models – to eliminate any wrinkles. The same for blemishes. We mostly notice pock marks because of the shadows.

So, when you are doing a portrait session, consider the shadows. What kind of mood are you after? Do they have wrinkles or blemishes that need to be filled in? Do they have a wide face that can be narrowed by shadowing one side?

Photographs are on paper and are two dimensional, so the best photographers look for ways to include shadow. Can YOU add shadow to give the portrait depth and dimension?

When you start to think about shadows as intensely as you do about the light, that’s when your photography will move to the next level.

It’s the shadows that create the illusion of depth and shape and it’s the consideration of shadows that can turn a snapshot into ART. People will know they are looking at something special but they won’t know why, because shadows truly are the forgotten element.

Organize Your Photo Memories

There are several easy options for people to enjoy the long lasting memories that photographs can provide. First rule — taking photos is only half the work, to finish and get full enjoyment, you need to get the film developed. With digital cameras, be sure to label photos when saving to a disc or computer. Once saved, digital photos can be developed online or at your local discount store.

Step one is a great start, but many of us are guilty of letting those photos gather dust in a box or sit on the computer never to be viewed again. Why not take the extra step and organize them in a presentable way to keep on a bookshelf, coffee table or even to bring to work to share with friends? There are options today that make this easier than ever.

Some choose to keep photos only on their computer. If this is the case, make sure to name them appropriately so when you come back, you know what the picture is. This includes location, date and people. Try putting photos into a slide show via your computer’s software system so you can click through each series.

For most, viewing a picture on a computer is nothing compared to seeing it in hand. Affordable photo albums are available at many stores and come in many shapes and sizes. Pick one that is appropriate for your photos and start organizing in the order of your choice. Add personal touches like printing labels or adding decorative stickers.

If this still seems like a hassle, you’re not alone. Whether you’re a bride longing for a beautiful album instead of a DVD full of photos from the big day or someone who simply wants a classy and memorable gift to give someone you care about, http://www.togetherbook.com is an easy way to create stylish photo albums.

Here’s how it works: You send the company your physical photos and choose a cover color and optional stamping and slipcase and they do the work for you. Books are available in 4 by 6-inch and 5 by 7-inch sizes, hold up to 100 photos and start at $29.99. Each book is customized with care to order. The patent-pending binding process will preserve photos for lifetimes to come.

Get More From Macro Photography

  1. Macro photography. If you do not have a tri-pod (which I seldom have with me) try balancing the camera on some part of your body. I have heard the suggestion of the face. But I found using anything to steady the camera will do. I have used my knee, arm, a rock, or even just the intent of focus works.
  2. Use LCD Display – When I first got my camera I would use the viewfinder to take all of my pictures. This was a carry over from my film camera days I think. Then as I learned more about the digital camera I discovered that my pictures come out better if I use the LCD display. This setting uses up the batteries faster but the results are worth it.
  3. Turn off the flash – When taking pictures with a point and shoot camera like the one I use (a 3.5 mega pixel), I discovered the flash distorts my colors. The flash seemed to give an orange cast to my pictures. The best pictures are produced with a low, natural light. Of course using the flash can produce effects you may want. But that is for another article.
  4. Step Back – I recently discovered that when the flowers are really tiny, the macro photography setting works best from farther away. So step a little back and zoom in to get the best focus on that tiny flower. As we nature lovers know, some wild flowers are amazingly beautiful when you bring them up close.
  5. Play with the brightness – One last tip. This tip is for after you get your pictures home. Use your photo editor to enhance the photo to look the way you envisioned it in the park. They can sometimes even look a little better. I find that if I lower the brightness, and raise the contrast, I get some very impressive results.

When you take a picture up close with your digital camera the macro setting is one method to use. Usually you can find this setting by looking for a little flower. The flower has the letters MF next to it.

Macro photography may seem a little hard at first but the rewards are well worth the effort. I hope these tips will help you to bring nature into a close-up focus. Enjoy those beautiful wildflowers, roses, daisies or even insects in a different light.

Become Snap

For some, a love of photography can turn into a profession. If you’re looking to take your photography to the next level, it’s a good idea to first build up a portfolio of work, and then submit your work to the many dedicated photography websites or competitions. There are hundreds of amateur photography forums and websites where members can submit their work for critical appraisal by other members. Such websites also offer advice and tips on photography techniques.

Another way to get recognition and even payment for your photographs is to submit your shots to magazines. Either choose a general photography magazine to do this, or try specialist consumer magazines. For example, if you are a keen skier, submit your ski shots to a winter sports magazine; or if you enjoy fishing, try an angling magazine. Local papers are also a good place to submit photos, as they are often on the lookout for pictures to accompany their stories.

When submitting your photography to magazines, it’s important to remember that photography is an extremely competitive field and that you will be up against professionals. Therefore, don’t get disheartened if your shots aren’t accepted at first – just keep on shooting and continue submitting; in the world of photography, persistence pays.

Amateur photography competitions are another great way of getting your photography seen, and can win you fans, prizes and even commissions or customers. A good idea is to start small; your local photography club will probably hold various contests; also keep an eye out for other competitions that are within your field of expertise. There are hundreds to enter, and they tend to have set themes – covering everything from travel to sports, nature to nautical and portrait to planes.

The ‘Million Places on Earth’ competition, for example, is offering a top prize of one million dollars for unique location images from anywhere in the world. Other competitions include Embassy Suite Hotels ‘Happiness in Motion’ competition, which carries an all expenses paid trip to Hawaii as their top prize; while UKplus are also holding an online photography competition with a top prize of £1000 for photographs taken within the UK.

Commercial Photography

Photography, being an art is more of a relaxation and a fun activity rather than a nine-to-five job. It is something you do to enjoy anyway, so it is not ‘work’ but fun. However, if you wish to take up photography seriously as a profession, more specifically, laying your foundation in commercial photography, you may have to do a little better than that. You will need to get acquainted with some technical fine points of photography as well as also learn to get clients and keep them happy.

Getting clients means knowing how to get work. This involves knowing how to sell your skills, by making people know about it, and that your services are available. So you need to know how to market yourself. Once you are out in the open, with a gradual building of a reputation of a photographer who does not disappoint his clients, you can start reaping the benefits of repeat business from your expanding client base.

One of the main steps in marketing yourself is to build an impressive portfolio of your work. And the Internet is, as if, a god-gifted pudding in the plate of aspiring photographers, who wish to make their mark. You will find numerous opportunities and a platform to advertise your work, as much as uploading your work in image gallery websites. This can help you fetch some good projects.

And there is more to Commercial photography! You need to set an appropriate price range for your services. Of course, you need to do sufficient market research to find out what the other photographers are charging and how good their services are. As a new-timer, you may have to start at lower rates than what is charged by the more experienced ones.

Vivitar Digital Cameras

Vivitar digital cameras have gotten good press through a variety of venues, including introductions to the celebrity mainstream. Entertainers at The Sundance Film Festival and even the MTV Music Awards enjoyed some of Vivitar’s line of cameras, which made for some great PR for the company. The bottom line is that Vivitar digital cameras are popular because they are affordable, easy to use and produce great pictures.

Make A Splash With This Special Vivitar Camera

One of the coolest Vivitar digital cameras of late has been the ViviCam 6200w because of its waterproof capabilities. The body of the camera is armored in rubber and is waterproof up to 30 feet under water, which makes it a great companion for snorkeling, swimming pool and diving fun!

Other great features of the ViviCam 6200w include resolution at a respectable 6.0 mega pixels as well as a two inch color screen on the back of the camera to preview your picture shots. With built-in flash, support for up to 1 GB memory cards and even great imaging software support, this camera has quickly become a favorite for active digital camera enthusiasts.

Be Your Own Star With The DVR-530

Among the Vivitar digital cameras are three DVR representations and the DVR-530 just stands out. What is so great about this model is that not only can you record your own movies; you can also play MP3 music files and take some great pictures. With a decent 5.0 mega pixel along with 4x digital zoom and a large 2.5 inch display screen to view your movies and pictures from, you will love this DVR model. Add great software and 1 GB flash card memory along with a few bells and whistles and you have a winning combination for those home movie fans.