danob [D. L. O’Byrne]

In Flight Photography:

Traditionally, it has been a very challenging area of photography due to the high speed of the subject. Modern autofocus
cameras however, have reduced the difficulty of capturing these images considerably. We will discuss a few techniques that will
apply equally well to those with autofocus or manual focus systems. As usual we will go over some technical information first.
Telephoto lenses in the range of 300mm f4 - 400mm f5.6 are ideal lenses for flight photography due to their lightweight and power.
Generally, shorter lenses than 300mm will not be powerful enough and those longer than 400mm, will either be too heavy or
difficult to aim due to their field of view. A motor drive is essential as flight photography will have a high "trash bin" percentage
and likely only a few frames will be worth keeping. Firing a series of shots will increase your odds of getting a few keepers as
not only must you get sharp photos, but also wing position will have a bearing on esthetics. Digital SLR Cameras have the added
advantage here as the sensor on most are smaller than standard 35mm Film cameras and give an extra magnification factor of
from 1.3 1.5 or 1.6 on most of the common models from the premier makers such as Canon Nikon etc and come with built in
drives for such action shots. If your camera system is manual focus, you will need a lot of practice to gain the skill necessary to
capture birds in flight. Generally, there are two schools of thought on using manual focus for flight photography.

The first involves pre-focussing the lens at the distance you want to take the photo. This distance is decided by following the
subject a few times to determine the best image size and distance. About 1/3 of the frame will give a pleasing image. For this
technique to be successful, the subjects flight path must be fairly predictable. Once the bird begins flying, you follow it with the
lens out of focus, and once the bird just begins to come into focus, you fire the motor drive. The idea being, that by the time the
shutter is released, the bird will have flown into the plane of focus. Obviously, this is a bit of a crapshoot! Servo modes on the
best cameras aid this considerably. The second method is to try and keep the subject in focus continuously as it approaches,
and fire at will. This is difficult to do, but practicing on fast moving cars, etc. will help in gaining the skill.or go to a local lake etc
where scavaging gulls etc can be easily enticed to go for tit bits. The last technical item is that of shutter speeds. For a typical
large bird such as a heron or gull, to freeze the motion you will need at least 1/250 of a second shutter speed.
(Wing tips may still be blurred) Higher shutter speeds are required for a couple of reasons. The first is simply to stop the motion
of the bird, and the second is to stop the erratic movements of you, the photographer. Since our subject is moving and we are
also moving, getting a sharp image can be a problem. One way to deal with this is to minimize erratic movements by the
photographer. There are a few ways of doing this. When releasing the shutter it is important to continue panning and not to stop
once the shutter has been released. This follow through will make the process smoother and produce sharper images than if you
stop panning once the shutter button has been pressed. Tuck your elbows snugly against your body with the camera pressed
firmly against your face and swivel from the waist