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Want to capture bird in flight but always miss the frame

Vineetgarg_99
New Contributor
I am using Canon 750D with Sigma 150 - 600mm f5-6.3 DG lens, tried to capture flying bird but never get success to capture them in frame or get in focus. As hand held panning is difficult due to heavy weight of Sigma lens, I bought 2nd hand canon 400mm f5.6L lens to free panning to cover subject on frame. Using continuous mode in AI servo with single point focus spot metering. Please suggest what and how to do that.
2 ACCEPTED SOLUTIONS

diverhank
Respected Contributor

@Vineetgarg_99wrote:
I am using Canon 750D with Sigma 150 - 600mm f5-6.3 DG lens, tried to capture flying bird but never get success to capture them in frame or get in focus. As hand held panning is difficult due to heavy weight of Sigma lens, I bought 2nd hand canon 400mm f5.6L lens to free panning to cover subject on frame. Using continuous mode in AI servo with single point focus spot metering. Please suggest what and how to do that.

Wow...hard to know where to begin on your question. To fully answer your question, one has to cover the entire course on how to capture birds in flight which as you found out is one of the harder forms of photography.

 

Like everything you need to build up your skills...you don't start at 600mm or even 400mm to acquire and lock target, especially with a single point focus.  Even experts don't do single point unless they have to.

 

Focus points: 

1. start out with all 19 points.  You will have some successes and a few failures (camera focuses on wrong part).

2. reduce the number of points slowly as you get better.  At your skill level, I think 9 point is your best bet.  There is no reason to go down to a single point for BIF, except for a few cases where you want to precisely nail the eye.

 

Focal length and techniques:

 

1. What you want to do is to start out at 150mm range then work up to higher focal range.  The higher the FL, the harder it is to acquire target.

 

2. Technique is to hold the camera an inch or so below your eye level so you can see the scene without looking through the viewfinder.  Your aiming eye should be right next to the viewfinder.   Same with camera on tripod, the camera is a bit lower than your eye level.

3. Pre-focus on the distance you think the bird is going to be.  This will decrease focus time...spare lens from hunting.  I use the back button focus so when I press the shutter button it doesn't refocus on me and ruin my preset focus. But it's not a prerequisite.

 

3. When the bird flies by you track it with your eye then switch over to the viewfinder.  With the pre-focus, you should be able to see the bird right away. I usually keep both eyes open so the eye not through the viewfinder can see the scene better.  Press the focus button, acquire focus and continue holding the focus button to track the bird.  The 9 point or more will help you if you miss centering the bird, which is really easy to do.

 

With practice, you won't miss the focus too much.  It's impossible not to miss some from time to time but I rarely ever misses all of the shots...especially the shots that count.

 

Good luck 🙂

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Diverhank's photos on Flickr

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TTMartin
Respected Contributor

@Vineetgarg_99wrote:
I am using Canon 750D with Sigma 150 - 600mm f5-6.3 DG lens, tried to capture flying bird but never get success to capture them in frame or get in focus. As hand held panning is difficult due to heavy weight of Sigma lens, I bought 2nd hand canon 400mm f5.6L lens to free panning to cover subject on frame. Using continuous mode in AI servo with single point focus spot metering. Please suggest what and how to do that.

Using spot metering it is amazing you have any properly exposed photos. Use Evaluative Metering.

 

Also for birds in flight don't use single point focus. With a 19 point AF system you want to use the Zone AF or even the all 19 auto AF point selection. In AIServo 19 auto AF point selections starts off with the center AF point, but, hands off the focus to the other AF points if the subject moves off the center.

 

For birds in flight you want at least a 1/1600 shutter speed.

 

Wear camo or subdued clothing it will let you get closer to the birds.

 

Ideal poisition is upwind of the birds and sun at your back. Up wind because birds normally takeoff into the wind and then they take off towards you.

 

16586885_10158181984085693_1517571621069334547_o.jpg

 

A00A8938.jpg

 

 

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diverhank
Respected Contributor

@Vineetgarg_99wrote:
Above BIF capture is really great, please share the setting, it will further improve my skill.
Which lens and body you are using?

There are no right or wrong ways to do anything...rather there's an easier or harder way to do it for you. It's different for each person.  To me, the pictures of birds flying shown are the easy ones...any method will work for an experienced shooter...the shots that require split second timing are the ones that will require the easier way.

 

Try a single point focus and spot metering on these and see how well you can do it... The first picture - 2 butterflies were dancing a courtship dance in the open.  This was one of the hardest Autofocus job I had ever done...no way I could've done it with a single focus point.  The second and third ones are easier but still hard because of split timing.

 

13052117814_efdf7796b2_b.jpg19211647438_1c3fef9248_b.jpg26387903211_35efdf3a1a_b.jpg

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Diverhank's photos on Flickr

Quote: Above BIF capture is really great, please share the setting, it will further improve my skill.
Which lens and body you are using?

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These were done with the Canon 6D and the Canon 100-400 II.

Settings vary greatly day to day, hour to hour, but generally I am at a SS of 1600, f 7 or so and ISO of maybe 400.

I was watching some Tree Swallows one day. They are very fast, very erratic and not very big. So, I thought I would give them a go..........I was surprised I was able to catch them.
 
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IMG_3520 PSCRNW.jpg