Birds for many will probably be where the journey into wildlife images begins. It could be the collared doves nestling on the backyard fence, hedge sparrows choosing scraps round park benches or a sparrowhawk hovering beside the street on your morning commute – they’re one of the crucial visible and ever-present forms of wildlife round us. When you start to take notice, you’ll shortly uncover extra than simply sparrows, doves and roadside raptors; you’ll uncover lots of of species surrounding us each day that you simply’d beforehand been overlooking.
I consider it’s a mixture of being straightforward to see/discover and the range of species that makes birdlife a main start line for many wildlife photographers. There’s, for many, ample birds surrounding us if you’re starting out as a photographer, after which as you progress you’ll begin to seek harder-to-find species and aspire to shoot more than simply people perched on a department or water tub.
This brings us to the primary point of my article – to help aspiring wildlife and fowl photographers take the subsequent step and advance their artwork; capturing birds in flight. I’ve listed some of my prime pieces of advice under to hopefully enable you to shoot birds in all of their mid-air magnificence!
Regulate Your Elevation
We’ve already established that birds could be one of many easiest wildlife subjects to seek out and shoot, so it’s essential to stand out and present the individuals viewing your photographs something totally different. Should you do a fast Google search of most hen species, you’ll probably discover that the majority photographs from ‘beginner photographers’ of birds in flight are shot from under; they’ve stood on the bottom, aimed skywards and brought the shot.
My first piece of advice is to regulate your elevation, when potential.
As an alternative of capturing at ground degree, search for alternatives to realize altitude – whether or not meaning scaling a tree, ascending a close-by building or just standing on prime of your automotive… the closer you will get to your subjects’ degree the higher!
This can hopefully produce a refreshingly distinctive perspective of your topic in flight, and show your viewers a special view of the species you’re photographing.
A Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) turned tangled in river weed after diving in the water to seize prey. A couple of seconds later the hen shook the vine free and flew away up the shoreline of the River Nile.
Take Word of the Background
Once you’re on the lookout for a super position from which to photograph, search somewhere that provides you a chance to shoot your topic towards a backdrop of extra than just the sky. It is rather widespread to see pictures of birds towards blue, white or grey backgrounds and also you don’t want yours to fall-in with the remaining!
For those who’re able to find a spot that permits you to photograph your topic towards a background of cliffs, countryside, buildings (or anything that’s not sky) you then’ll already be in your solution to capturing an superior picture.
At the similar time, keep in mind to not muddle your image – don’t decide a backdrop with too many objects, branches and different features; as this will distract the viewer from the hen you’re photographing.
Shoot Away from the Sun
It can be straightforward when monitoring a topic in flight via your lens, to lose a sense of where you’re turning and what course you’re capturing in. I need to encourage you to all the time think about where you’re capturing and make each try not to shoot in the direction of the Solar.
Typically it can be applicable; if you’re on the lookout for a specific type of artistic photograph – but when you’ve been capturing away from the Sun and monitor your subject in the other way (in the direction of the Solar) with out realising, then it’s possible your in-camera settings gained’t have changed and your image might be little greater than a black silhouette towards an overexposed sky.
Capturing away from the Sun will can help you embrace more vibrant and exciting backgrounds, whilst also maintaining larger levels of detail in your topic as nicely!
A Japanese Tobi or Black Kite flies low over the banks of a river in Kyoto.
Fast Shutter Velocity
It goes with out saying that the majority birds in flight are going to be fairly fast-moving. You’ll probably also be shifting your lens/digital camera as you monitor your topic by way of the sky… and it’s for these reasons that my fourth piece of advice is to shoot with a quick shutter velocity.
Use your digital camera with a fast shutter velocity to assist massively in decreasing any digital camera shake and motion blur. This can make it easier to to seize crisp, clear pictures of birds in flight simply as knowledgeable would. Capturing with a quicker shutter velocity will permit less mild into your lens, so please keep in mind that you’ll in all probability have to compensate for this through the use of a better ISO and probably adjusting to a better aperture, which leads properly on to the fifth tip…
Although it can be tempting to shoot on the highest aperture potential, resulting in a picture with a superbly shallow depth of area – it isn’t something I’m going to advocate because you’ll be drastically decreasing your probabilities of success.
Although the autofocus and focus-tracking talents of newer cameras are exceptional; should you’re capturing a topic that is relatively small and much away, there’s nonetheless a superb probability that a proportion of your photographs are going to be out-of-focus. The shallower your depth-of-field then the bigger the margin for error, and for this reason I’m recommending using a barely decrease aperture.
Using a lower aperture signifies that more of your photographs are more likely to be in full focus, which is extremely necessary should you only have a limited opportunity to shoot your topic (very often the case if it’s already in flight!).
I do know that you simply’re still going to need that superbly shallow depth of area that I discussed earlier; and a good way to realize this whilst still sustaining a ‘safe aperture’ is just to place extra distance between your topic and the background.
One Sand Marten flies past another perched on a barbed wire fence in Essex, UK.
This can be a easy tip, but necessary nonetheless… make sure you’re working not only in steady capturing mode, but in addition a steady focus mode.
Continuous focus modes mean that your digital camera will hold assessing and adjusting your focus mechanically, based mostly on the focal points you’ve selected. This is important when photographing a fowl in flight, as a result of the space between you and the topic will regularly change.
When you’re using a Canon digital camera like me, you then’ll need to select ‘AI Servo’ mode to allow continual focus or AF-C in case you’re capturing with a Nikon digital camera.
Room to Move
An awesome rule of composition to utilise when photographing any wildlife is known as ‘Room to Move’ and it works particularly properly when capturing birds in flight.
It can be tempting to centre your topic in the body, but this could depart the viewer with fairly a static impression of the fowl and one thing that you simply’ll need to attempt to keep away from as you progress in wildlife images. As an alternative, try to depart room in front of your topic (in the course it is flying) as this helps to construct a more complete image. Afterall, images isn’t solely about what the viewer can see in the image but in addition things that your photograph makes them take into consideration and imagine afterwards.
Though it is going to be anatomically obvious (wings spread, legs tucked away…) permitting room in front of your topic or the path it’s flying-in will assist to emphasize that it is in-flight and travelling as you photographed it. The viewer is ready to look forward and achieve a better context and picture where it might be flying and gather more info in relation to the surroundings or habitat.
A Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides) takes flight in search of higher feeding spots along the shores of the Nile in Egypt, Africa.
Typically you’ll have solely a really restricted alternative to photograph your topic and especially in case your objective is to shoot it mid-flight, which is why level quantity eight is to know your topic.
I’ve talked about in previous articles how necessary it is to do your research on the species you’re photographing, to give you the greatest probabilities of finding it in the wild – from preferrred habitats to the hours of the day that they’re most lively and favourite food sources. All of this still applies!
Birds in specific have certain tell-tale indicators as properly that you need to look out for, as they will point out what a person may do subsequent. For example, in case your subject is standing on one leg then likelihood is it is quite content material for the time-being and unlikely to take flight soon, whereas if the chook has preened and just pooped then it might imminently launch itself skywards…
Shoot from a Tripod
Likelihood is you’ll be photographing birds in flight with an extended lens, as these will can help you get probably the most detailed photographs of your topic mid-air. The downside to capturing with a telephoto or giant prime lens is that they can be heavy and awkward to use when monitoring your subject.
I all the time advocate utilizing a sturdy tripod with a fluid or gimbal head for wildlife images that includes longer lenses. Using one in every of these tripod heads will assist you to comply with your subject in all instructions (a lot easier than using a Three-way head) and take a number of the pressure off of your arms when capturing – decreasing the danger of digital camera shake and helping you to supply more sharper, cleaner photographs.
A Malabar Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros coronatus) in flight with the mountains of Sri Lanka in the background.
Use a Cover
Lastly, one thing that I’ve found invaluable in capturing all forms of wildlife (not only birds in flight) is a wildlife cover.
You should purchase many differing kinds, from easy standing hides to chairs with canopies and multiple zips for capturing in all directions. No matter sort you select, a very good moveable disguise will almost all the time provide help to to get closer to the wildlife you’re photographing and allow the animals you’re near to act extra naturally. This can let you capture fascinating moments of animal behaviour and unique photographs of birds in flight, without them ever understanding you’re even there.
These are just some of my prime ideas for capturing the absolute best photographs of birds in flight – however keep in mind crucial issue will all the time be plenty of follow!
Everybody may have their own distinctive type and favourite methods for capturing pictures, don’t be afraid to break the principles, attempt new things or do issues utterly in a different way. I hope that the advice I’ve given will assist a few of you to further develop your expertise as wildlife photographers and even just give a few of you totally different ideas to think about and experiment with… good luck!
To see more of my wildlife photographs please visit www.aaronnorthcott.com or use the next hyperlinks to hitch me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: